This decade featured some of the best action movies ever made and choosing just ten is as formidable a task as any foes the heroes on this list encountered.
An argument could be made for many action movies, depending on one’s inclination (there were three “Transporter” movies, no?). A war buff might include “Black Hawk Down” (2001) or “The Pianist” (2002) while Quentin Tarantino fans would kick “Kill Bill Vol 1 amp; 2” (2003-2004) or the recent “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) onto their lists. “Master and Commander” The Far Side of the World” (2003) and “District B-13” (2004) bring audiences onto the sea and the suburbs of France while comic book fans can add the first two “X-Men” movies (2000, 2003) and “Iron Man” (2008) to a growing list of respectable movies based on graphic novels. The recent release of “Avatar” could also soon push other choices off the list. The LotR is abour 525K words long to read for the person. The language should be understandable or use of the translator can be done. With the release date, the following of the book can be done through the person.
The decade starts off with a classic (and Oscar winner) “Gladiator” (2000) brought to the screen through the eyes of director Ridley Scott. The movie successfully takes you back in time through great cinematography and excellent use of special effects. The action is paced perfectly from beginning to the end, especially the confrontations inside the coliseum, but what makes “Gladiator” work so well is having an actor like Russell Crowe give an Oscar winning performance as a soldier facing life after the death of his family. Crowe’s tortured performance goes head to head with Joaquin Phoenix playing his evil brother. This movie is old fashioned but done with everybody from cast to the crew at the top of their games. The audience is still vexed by “Gladiator” a decade later.
Originally one of the biggest risks, the producers of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy made not one but three consecutive movies before the first one came out. Gutsy. It’s easy to overlook the fact that such a huge investment has resulted in three great movies, consistent in their styles and storylines. From “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), director Peter Jackson establishes a unique look specific to the world created by author J.R.R. Tolkien. “The Two Towers” (2002) continues the epic adventure and solid action while introducing us to the evil little guy known as Gollum, a realistic special effects character that fits seamlessly with the live actors. “The Return of the King” (2003) concludes the stories as the various characters engage in battles, both internal and external, lead by the perfectly cast Viggo Mortensen. The battle sequences in all three movies are compelling and exciting. Seen as one huge trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings” is already aging like the classic epic adventure envisioned by Jackson and captured by the hard working cast and crew. Precious indeed.
“Spider-Man” (2002) brings playfulness to the movies and an innocence that works well to introduce the Marvel character to audiences. “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is even better, balancing action and character development in equal measure. Tobey Maguire perfectly fits Peter Parker in the sequel, matched by Alfred Molina as the reluctant villain Otto Octavius. The fact that mentor and student are friends before Molina turns evil helps ground the story. There are terrific action scenes, especially on a subway train. With great characters and storylines comes success.
Matt Damon as an action hero? Tired of silly over the top films like “Die Another Day” (an invisible car?), audiences were ready for a down to earth and believable hero. In “The Bourne Identity” (2002), the storyline has the hero suffering from amnesia, making him not only relatable to the viewer but also allowing the audience to discover his identity at the same time as the hero. The fight sequences feel real for a change and the suspense is maintained from beginning to end. “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) makes a gutsy move at the beginning, leaving Bourne even more alone. Paul Greengrass directs the sequel with more kinetic energy but without losing sight of the characters and the intriguing storyline. Brian Cox and Karl Urban provide a great one-two punch of cerebral and physical villains who keep Bourne on his toes. “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007) wraps up the trilogy better than expected, ending in full circle to the beginning of the first movie. The cat and mouse between Bourne and the people chasing him works in all three movies with exciting action and solid suspense.
“Minority Report” (2002) manages to touch on many fascinating issues while entertaining the audience with its thrilling action and superb visual effects. Being accused of a crime before you commit one is at the core of the intense storyline. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is bombarded with images (being scanned no matter where you go) in a world filled with advertisement that does not feel very far-fetched today. Director Steven Spielberg doesn’t allow the action to overtake the intriguing story. The hero has to prove his innocence while dealing with the loss of his son, making “Minority Report” a compelling science-fiction movie.
“The Incredibles” (2004) is an animation movie, but it is also one of the most dead-on action film ever made. Every member of the Parr family is a fully developed character, voiced perfectly by a talented group of voice actors. The action is fun and thrilling to watch as the family tries to save one another. You end up caring for them as much as any live action characters. There are numerous gags and nods to other movies and cultural characters in a script that blends humor and action. “The Incredibles” is an amalgamation of action with humor and interesting characters with emotions.
“Casino Royale” (2006) reinvents one of the most famous characters in a perfect blend of action and story. Daniel Craig effortlessly steps into the role of James Bond, whether pursuing a fast runner in Madagascar or falling in love with mysterious Vesper Lynd (radiant Eva Green). What makes “Casino Royale” tick is the blend of action in various locations around the world and the romantic tête-à-tête between Bond and Vesper, especially their mental striptease on a train. The movie does a great job at accessing how Bond became the character audiences have known for years. For the first time in the history of Bond movies, there was a direct sequel “Quantum of Solace” (2008) that continues to explore Bond’s progression as a secret agent.
“Children of Men” (2006) slowly builds up to become an emotionally haunting movie. Clive Owen fits the eerie style of the movie as Theo Faron trying to preserve a baby in a world in which human beings can no longer procreate. Director Alfonso Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki fabricate a futuristic world all too real. Cuaron establishes a couple of excellent long sequences that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Thought-provoking and poignant, the movie comments on human society without sacrificing characters and suspense. “Children of Men” leaves an emotional impact long after the final shot on the boat.
Flawed and not the best action movie per se, “Shoot Em Up” (2007) fits as one of the most insane and illogical movies of the decade. But there is something pure Looney Tunes about this non-stop action movie that features a great performance by Clive Owen (completely opposite his role in “Children of Men”), Monica Bellucci (the ultimate femme fatale) and Paul Giamatti (clearly having fun). Director Michael Davis shoots the action sequence in all kinds of weird but fresh angles. Giving up on logic is part of the fun. In the genre of action, “Shoot Em Up” starts off with a bang and never lets up until the end. There certainly are much better action movies but few can keep up with “Shoot Em Up.”
With “Batman Begins” (2005), director Christopher Nolan creates a new, more realistic vision of the Dark Knight and Gotham City. Blending suspense with the genesis of a hero storyline, “Batman Begins” allows its cast to breathe life into the characters. “The Dark Knight” (2008) harmonizes action with colorful characters brought to life by a skillful cast. Heath Ledger simply disappears as the Joker, pushing the trio of heroes to the edge of the law. The supporting cast, especially Gary Oldman, add weight to a more realistic comic book movie than audiences are used to. “The Dark Knight” is as adept with action as with character conflict, especially the interrogation scene between the Dark Knight and the Joker. The movie explores how many of the characters are really just different extensions of each other.
Why so serious? Any of these action movies will keep you entertained with their blend of thrills, characters and suspense.