Being one of the ten best action actors is sort of like being in the top ten at the Special Olympics. All the other actors think it’s really great that you’ve put so much effort into your craft but feel secure knowing you’ll never actually compete against them. Here are the ten action actors we’re awfully proud of.
- Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan has gotten old, and as such has resigned himself to some pretty awful bottom-tier kids’ movie fare that is much less physically demanding than his older work. When he was on top, though, he was on top. The man did all his own stunts, and they were amazing. There are really few action actors who have done the caliber of work that he has.
- Tony Jaa. Lesser known and with a much smaller body of work to date, Tony Jaa is nevertheless the closest to being Jackie Chan’s equal in shear badassness. He garnered the world’s attention with his jaw-dropping stunts in “Ong-bak.” Although he was a relative newcomer, his moves rivaled anything Jackie Chan has done in his long career.
- Jet Li. Like Jackie Chan, Jet Li has been in some seriously bad-ass martial arts movies and also some serious underwhelming Hollywood films. One needs to look no further than films such as “Once Upon a Time in China” and “Fist of Legend,” though, to see why he is on our list of the ten best action actors.
- Bruce Lee. Let’s not forget the man who was first to become synonymous with bad-ass martial arts action films. Bruce Lee set the gold standard with his work in movies like “The Way of the Dragon,” “Enter the Dragon” and other films with dragon-themed titles. Who knows how far his career could have gone if not for his tragic, premature death.
- Steve McQueen. Despite the impression our first four entries on this list might give, not all action movies are martial arts movies and not all action actors are imported from Asia. Steve McQueen was an American badass who performed many of his own stunts, too. His stunts were of a different variety, though. For instance, much of the ridiculously awesome high-speed chase in the movie “Bullitt” was pure McQueen.
- Bruce Willis. He may not be the sort of actor who is pulling off his own crazy stunts like Jackie Chan or Steve McQueen, but Bruce Willis has become an icon of mainstream Hollywood action movies with his role of badass John McLane in the “Die Hard” series. Yippee ki-yay, etc., etc.
- Toshiro Mifune. Mifune is proof that action actors can have serious acting chops, too. He starred in some of the best samurai movies of all time, most of which were directed by the incomparable Akira Kurosawa. He expanded beyond those samurai roles, though, with other Kurosawa classics such as “The Bad Sleep Well” and “Drunken Angel.”
- Sean Connery. The first and best James Bond, Sean Connery would join the ranks of action actors like Toshiro Mifune who went on to prove himself in serious dramatic roles as well. But really, he was at his most awesome as the slick secret agent 007.
- Charles Bronson. Another old-school action movie badass like Steve McQueen, Bronson was a man’s man among man’s men. His “Death Wish” movies set the stage for action franchises to follow, and his role as the harmonica-playing face of vengeance in “Once Upon a Time in the West” was ridiculously cool.
- Jason Statham. With his high-energy roles in over-the-top action movies like “The Transporter” and “Crank,” Jason Statham has proven himself to be one of the most badass action actors to ever come out of the U.K. Just try to forget he was in the abominable Uwe Boll film “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.” We all make mistakes.
What Others Are Reading Right Now.
Acting, comedy and strong spirits converge in Speakeasy. When host Paul F. Tompkins interviews entertainers—Key and Peele, Alison Brie, Rob Delaney, Zach Galifianakis—about all sor …
Made Man Food Shows
We all love great food—and the people who make it! Our culinary video series introduces you to the country's best chefs and experts, so you can become one yourself. Pull up a chair …