Action movies are kind of a pillar of commercial filmmaking and while many of them have a bad reputation for good reason, a lot of them do deserve their higher profiles. To qualify for this award a movie can’t just be effects heavy it needs to actively feature fast paced action sequences, and these sequences need to more or less be the movie’s backbone. The award is not meant simply to go to the movie with the best collection of actions scenes, it’s also about finding the movie that finds the best way to house and prevent these scenes in an entertaining fashion.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: The action in Captain America: The First Avenger was mediocre at best, so it was cool to see that they vastly improved on it with the sequel. The film starts with an exciting rescue mission on a battleship, moves on to a big car chase with Samuel L. Jackson, a big fight scene/shootout on a highway, and culminates in an explosive finale where our heroes have to assault flying aircraft carriers. Captain America doesn’t have overly flashy powers, so these action scenes skew closer to conventional action scenes than most movies based on comic book characters.
- Edge of Tomorrow: There’s long been a weird sort of overlap between action movies and war movies. Both involve combat but there are certain expectations of good taste that prevent movies about actual wars to really function as true action movies. That’s where movies about fictional wars, specifically futuristic science fiction wars, come in. Edge of Tomorrow is a good example. The movie has all the trappings of a war movie, but it can function in a more entertaining way and has a lot more fun with the way it dispatches people.
- Lucy: If anyone ever tells you that the French are above making action schlock, don’t believe them; the career of Luc Besson is proof to the contrary. That’s not always a bad thing though, the dude can make some really fun (if usually very stupid) action flicks and Lucy is a pretty good example of this. The film has some very clever actions scenes which use Lucy’s wacky psychic powers to dispatch people in cool ways. Lucy’s general invincibility robs the film of any real suspense, but it makes up for it ultimately with some audacious set-pieces.
- The Raid 2: The Raid 2 has a lot of problems that ultimately made it inferior to its predecessor; it was way too long, it had a dull and rather convoluted crime story at its center, it has minimal continuity with the original film… but it lives up to its predecessor in the one way that matter: the action scenes are still awesome. Between a brilliant car chase and multiple fights scenes that most Hollywood films would kill to have, this still ultimately adds up to a pretty kick-ass action flick.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past: While it will ultimately probably be remembered more for its expanded cast and its time travel trickery, X-Men: Days of Future Past is also a pretty damn good example of modern superhero action filmmaking. With set-pieces like the opening fight scene and the finale which involves a damn baseball stadium being wielded as a weapon, this movie is probably this year’s best example of action scenes rooted in actual superpowers.