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The Ten Best Action Movies of the New Millennium

Who doesn’t love a good action movie? They’re among the most fun that Hollywood has to offer, particularly when they’re of a high quality. Later on this week, a reportedly amazing new one in Mad Max: Fury Road is hitting theaters, so to prep us all for that experience (I see it later on today, so yay for that), I wanted to do a countdown of the recent best that the genre has to offer. Essentially, every action flick since 2000 was eligible, and I whittled that down to a top ten list. It’s hardly the definitely “new millennium action movie” list, but I think it’s a pretty solid one, to say the least. You’ll be able to see the list below, which could very well be amended once Mad Max: Fury Road comes to town…

Here now are my picks for the ten best action films since the year 2000:

10. King Kong – Peter Jackson’s unneeded remake of the classic action adventure turned out to be my favorite version of the story, go figure. The special effects are extraordinary and watching Kong interact with the world through Andy Serkis was a real joy. I may be in the minority here, but I absolutely loved it. It manages to stand alongside the all time classic original.

9. Kick-Ass – It hasn’t quite held up as well as the initial viewing suggested, but Matthew Vaughn’s deconstruction of the superhero origin story is a ridiculous amount of fun. The main pleasures are watching Nicolas Cage not play Batman, along with Chloe Grace Moretz giving a nomination worthy supporting turn as Hit-Girl. That initial magic wasn’t captured by the sequel, but that takes nothing away from this one.

8. Looper – Not only is this a great action flick, it’s also the best film of Rian Johnson’s career so far and a amazing time travel tale as well. It’s nearly perfect, offering up one of the best performances to date from both Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well as Bruce Willis. A modern classic, it basically demands that you honor it for its inventiveness and effectiveness.

7. Black Hawk Down – I’d have put this higher if not for the fact that it’s less fun due to the tragic real life story that inspired it. Still, this is one of Ridley Scott’s best and the most effective war movie since Saving Private Ryan. It’s so visceral and well made, you can’t take your eyes off of it one bit. Whenever I cross my fingers that Scott is about to get back on track as a director, I do it with visions of this movie in my mind.

6. Casino Royale – One of the top three James Bond films ever (I’ll probably rank that franchise before Spectre comes out, just as an FYI), the origin story of 007 was brutally effective on all counts. Establishing Daniel Craig as a Bond to be contended with, everything here works. Director Martin Campbell turned in the best work of his career here too. Just look at the opening action sequence for proof. Wow.

5. The Avengers – I’ve written a bit about how I prefer this one to Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s mainly because the action felt new and exciting here. Iron Man may be a slightly stronger film overall, but you can’t beat the action sequences, especially the first time that all of the Avengers come together. It’s almost a religious experience for moviegoers, and we have Joss Whedon to thank for it.

4. Minority Report – Steven Spielberg is an expert at entertaining his audiences while also making them think, which is part of the reason why this Tom Cruise vehicle works so well. You’re often caught up in the action scenes and Cruise’s struggle to prove his innocence (or sort of innocence, I suppose), but the heady questions being asked by the movie elevate this to top five status.

3. Kill Bill Volume 1 and Volume 2 – I’m cheating a bit here, since Volume One of Kill Bill is basically wall to wall action, but Volume Two is a more complete meal. So, in order to properly recognize Uma Thurman’s work as well as Quentin Tarantino’s direction, I’ve merged them together to become what Tarantino had initially imagined…the whole bloody affair, as it were. It’s just gleeful action all around and easy to love.

2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – The funniest action movie, perhaps of all time, is this detective tale that brought Shane Black back into the Hollywood fold. Robert Downey Jr. got to hone his Tony Stark persona here, while Val Kilmer completely steals the show in his best role to date. I could go on and on about this one, but it’s simply action-comedy brilliance!

1. The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises – Yes, I cheated again, but if you look at the last two chapters in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it forms an unparalleled action epic. You have Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and of course Heath Ledger creating iconic characters, all within the realm of the most realistic comic book adaptation to date. It stands tall, plain and simple. It’s art, as much as anything else, and that’s not hyperbole either.

Stay tuned to see if Mad Max: Fury Road is good enough to join this list!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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