Top 10 Action Movie Directors

Script written by Matt Wende Top 10 Action Movie Directors If you want to bring a stunt, chase, shootout or fight to the big screen, these are the folks you call for help. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Action Movie Directors. For this list, we’re looking at feature film directors that get us on the edge of our seats and keep us there through their masterful action sequences and fight scenes. Although there are several brilliant directors who use action in their films to great effect, we’ve had to exclude industry legends like Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, because they’re not as well know for their action movie works as they are for their efforts in other genres. Special thanks to our users Henners250 and mac121mr0 for submitting the idea at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Matt Wende

Top 10 Action Movie Directors


If you want to bring a stunt, chase, shootout or fight to the big screen, these are the folks you call for help. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 action movie directors.

For this list, we’re looking at feature film directors that get us on the edge of our seats and keep us there through their masterful action sequences and fight scenes. Although there are several brilliant directors who use action in their films to great effect, we’ve had to exclude industry legends like Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, because they’re not as well know for their action movie works as they are for their efforts in other genres.

#10: George Miller


Kicking off our list with speed, Miller first caught our attention in the late-’70s when “Mad Max” blasted onto the screen. Two sequels later, he became one of the genre’s heavy-weights, creating some of the most intense car chase sequences ever put on film. In his 2015 magnum opus, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” we again saw brilliant car chase sequences elevated to the point of cinematic brilliance through stunt-work and practical effects. If Cirque du Soleil took place in an apocalyptic wasteland, it’d look like a George Miller flick.

#9: Michael Bay


Say what you want about the guy: he knows how to shoot action. Although later works were marred by overuse of clichés, like the spinning camera, multi-shot explosion coverage, and objectifying the female gender, Bay’s body of work features some brilliant entries that deserve a place in every action aficionado’s library. With mind-blowing entries like “The Rock,” “Bad Boys,” and “Armageddon,” Bay probably would have placed higher if he’d just stopped making those damn “Transformers” movies already.

#8: Paul Verhoeven


This Dutch director hit the Hollywood mainstream in the ‘80s with one of the decade’s defining action classics, “RoboCop.” Later adding “Total Recall” and “Starship Troopers” to his résumé, Verhoeven established intensity, frenetic violence, explicit sexual content and societal sendups as his trademarks. While all of that may have the rating board’s panties in a twist, we say bring it on! In a genre that caters to indulgence, nothing’s better than a director who shows us what we want and lots of it.

#7: Luc Besson


Turns out France produces more than just delicious pastries and wine. Luc Besson is one of the pioneers of the stylized movement Cinéma du look, heavily used in his first action foray, “La Femme Nikita.” With his characteristic lush visuals in full effect, Besson then made his mark on the genre’s history with “Léon: The Professional.” Since then, he’s continued to solidify his legacy with “The Fifth Element” and “Lucy.” Apparently he’s got a thing for kick-ass women, but then again who doesn’t?

#6: Kathryn Bigelow


Bigelow quickly shouted down the notion that women can’t direct action, quickly managing to blend in as both a mainstream heavyweight and an artist. She first blew our minds with three back-to-back action classics: “Blue Steel,” “Point Break,” and “Strange Days,” with the latter two being produced by her now ex-husband, James Cameron. Later in her career, she used action to create moments of insurmountable tension and drama while also getting across clear political messages, as seen with the Best Picture and Best Director-winning “The Hurt Locker” and 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty.”

#5: Tony Scott


Posthumously hailed as one of the great action directors of all time, Tony Scott is fondly remembered for bringing some of action cinema’s most classic films to life. Not sacrificing character and story for action, Scott’s works were aggressive and exciting, and punctuated by his unmistakable shooting style. With his most notable early career work being the decade defining “Top Gun,” Scott’s career would later be filled with wonderful works, from “True Romance” to “Man on Fire.” His final directing effort, “Unstoppable,” brilliantly made a runaway train the film’s antagonist, a feat only possible by an action master.

#4: John McTiernan


Not only able but dedicated to building a tense and gripping story around his action, John McTiernan has managed to direct not one, not two, but three of the all time great action films: “Predator,” “Die Hard,” and “The Hunt for Red October.” As a pretty clear result, he has cemented himself among the greats, with action that never feels forced. Some dismiss his films as mindless blockbusters, and, okay sure, his movies may be a bit over-the-top; but that’s why we love them. As a matter of fact, we need more over-the-top action in this day and age.

#3: Michael Mann


Explosions are cool, but they’re only as good as the stories they’re found in. No one knows this better than Michael Mann, whose expertly crafted and precise sequences come organically from the films’ plots. This is seen time and again in classics like “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Heat,” and “Collateral.” In his films, Mann repeats themes and motifs, with his blend of emotion, style, violence and intriguing plot elements benefitting as a result. His ability to bring deep and dynamic characters to life is unparalleled, and causes tension that mounts to a point of ignition. What we’re left with is a gritty and raw action experience.

#2: John Woo


Making a big name for himself in Hong Kong before bringing his work to North America, Hollywood couldn’t wait to get their hands on this stylized master of the genre. His résumé from his days in Asia is impressive enough, with films like “Hard Boiled” and “A Better Tomorrow” making their mark, but most of us know him for “Broken Arrow,” “Face/Off,” and “Mission: Impossible II.” Even if you don’t know his name, you almost certainly know his work, as no one does slow-motion duel wielding gunfights like him. Also doves… lots of doves.

Before our top pick yells “action!”, here are a few honorable mentions:
- John Sturges
- Paul Greengrass
- The Wachowskis
- Robert Rodriguez

#1: James Cameron


He’s the man behind some of highest grossing and most exciting films ever. With a storied career that includes masterpieces like “The Terminator,” “True Lies,” “Aliens,” and “Terminator 2,” Cameron’s legacy is undeniable. As a director, he utilizes the excitement of action to make us laugh, scare us, or sweep us off our feet. Whether he’s warning against corporate greed, proving that humans and machines don’t always get along, or introducing yet another kickass female protagonist, Cameron is an Oscar-winning director who never fails to hit the mark – no matter how much work or money it takes. His action is the reason we find movies magical, and for that, he’s earned the top spot on our list.

Do you agree with our list? What action movie directors did we miss? For more Top 10s on your favorite and explosive heavy films published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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