Top 10 Underrated Action Movies

Written by Tom DiNardo Action movies don't always get the respect they deserve, but these films have gone underappreciated for far too long and shall be underrated no longer! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Action Movies That Are Constantly Underrated! But what will take the top spot on our list? Will it be Snowpiercer, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, or A Better Tomorrow? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: WatchMojo.com Big thanks to MikeMJPMUNCH, Andy Roehl, Andrew A. Dennison, mac121mr0, Jedimperial96 and Lionel Gilmore for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/%20Top%20Ten%20Underrated%20Action%20Movies
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Action movies don’t always get the love they deserve, but some are even more overlooked than others. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Underrated Action Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at quality action movies that either bombed at the box office or didn’t make an impression on critics for whatever reason.

#10: “RocknRolla” (2008)


With classics like “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” under his belt, Guy Ritchie’s bound to have at least one overlooked gem. Like most of his movies, this action-crime comedy contains multiple storylines that all intertwine through happenstance. Throw in charming English wit and a heavy dose of violence and you’ve got a great action film, albeit one that received mixed reviews from critics but was a hit with audiences. RocknRolla was number one at the box office in the UK when it was released and went on to gross over $25 million. That may be a far cry from the $83 million for “Snatch”, but still, Ritchie’s fifth film deserves more appreciation.

#9: “Attack the Block” (2011)

You don’t want to mess with the kids on this block. This campy sci-fi action movie is a fun twist on the alien invasion genre. Steeped in youthful innocence, it follows a local gang of hoodlums fighting off aliens with fireworks, baseball bats, and a samurai sword. But that doesn’t mean it’s not violent. Director Joe Cornish conceived of the idea after he was mugged and he interviewed kids in youth groups to find out how they’d fight an army of aliens. Plus, the acting is phenomenal for a cast of primarily teen actors. John Boyega, better known now for his role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” received high praise from critics as the main character, Moses.

#8: “Haywire” (2011)

A hero-on-the-run storyline is always a good premise for an action thriller. In this one, Mallory Kane has been stabbed in the back by her employer slash ex-lover but she can’t figure out why. Half of the movie is told through flashbacks, which makes for an interesting and unconventional viewing experience. Actress Gina Carano, an MMA fighter in real life, performs all her own stunts and the movie is all the better for it. The hand-to-hand combat scenes are fantastic, and Carano’s character kicks some major butt. At certain points, viewers are just as lost as the main character is as to what’s happening, but all the pieces of the puzzle come together in the end.

#7: “The Rundown” (2003)

It’s a rumble in the jungle, and the Rock is kicking butt and taking names. Dwayne Johnson plays Beck, a no-nonsense bounty hunter tasked with retrieving his boss’ son from the Brazilian jungle. Of course, it’s not as straightforward as that. Along the way, Beck ends up getting beaten up by a guy half his size and has an unfortunate encounter with a monkey. Johnson has undeniable chemistry with Seann William Scott, who plays the smart-mouthed bounty. All in all, the movie brings a lot to the table with its delightful back-and-forth dialogue and over-the-top characters. Plus the final scene is pretty badass.

#6: “To Live and Die in L.A.” (1985)

There’s nothing U.S. Secret Service agent Richard Chance won’t do to bring down the man who killed his partner. Chance pulls every trick in the book, and many off the book, to bring down counterfeiter Rick Masters. The dialogue is sometimes clumsy and it may have received mixed reviews but there’s no denying the acting is good. Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Masters as a cold criminal is chilling. The shoot-outs and car chases provide the excitement, but waiting to see how far Chance will go is where the suspense builds. All together, the movie deserves a look from fans that may have once ignored it.

#5: “Strange Days” (1995)

Imagine a world where you could have any experience in life from the comfort of your own home. In this science fiction thriller, Lenny Nero deals in SQUID discs - recordings that allow the user to experience someone else’s memories and physical sensations. The James Cameron-written story pulls you in from the start and keeps you on the edge of your seat with twists and turns as Nero tries to track down a prostitute’s killer. Even though it was a commercial failure, it’s hard to see why. Whether it’s Lenny’s expertly crafted dialogue as he waxes poetic about being the “Santa Claus of the subconscious” or the heart-pumping action, “Strange Days” holds its own as a top-tier film.

#4: “Ronin” (1998)

Any action movie worth its salt has at least one good car chase scene and thanks to director John Frankenheimer, Ronin has several. According to the DVD director commentary, the movie used 300 stunt drivers and in many of the scenes the actors were actually in the cars when they were shot. When not in a high-speed chase, Robert DeNiro plays a tough ex-special ops agent trying to steal a briefcase, although no one will tell him what’s inside it. Throw in shoot-outs and DeNiro blowing up a car with a bazooka and you’ve got a great, but under-seen action movie.

#3: “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (1999)

Mob movie meets samurai on the big screen in this Jim Jarmusch film. Forest Whitaker plays a mysterious soft-spoken hitman following the ways of the ancient Japanese warriors. And he soon finds himself the target of the man he once worked for. This isn’t your classic hard-hitting guns-blazing action movie. Shoot-outs are kept to a minimum and there isn’t much dialogue, but the story and its main character make for a compelling film. Plus hip-hop fans are sure to like the soundtrack produced by the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, who also makes a cameo appearance.

#2: “A Better Tomorrow” (1986)

Almost everyone deserves a second chance. But does that extend to gangsters responsible for their own father’s death? This Hong Kong blockbuster directed by John Woo struggles to answer that question, with a healthy dose of action on the side. This movie may not be considered a classic in North America, but it was a smash hit in Asia, breaking Hong Kong’s box office records. Plus, co-star Chow Yun-fat just looks so cool chewing on a matchstick, wearing a trench coat, and mowing down gangsters with a machine gun. Woo would go on to use Yun-fat in his influential 1992 action flick, “Hard Boiled”. So even if reading subtitles isn’t your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Turbo Kid” (2015)
- “16 Blocks” (2006)
- “Shoot ‘Em Up” (2007)

#1: “Snowpiercer” (2013)

More action movies should take place on trains. This sci-fi thriller is set on the never-ending “rattling ark” built to save humanity from a new ice age induced as an effort to combat global warming. The premise for the movie, based on a French graphic novel, is unique and the action scenes are epic. And we guarantee that you’ve never seen an axe-fight scene as brutal as in this one. The Czech-Korean movie did phenomenally abroad but barely made money when it was released in the U.S., despite rave reviews. Considering the movie grapples with larger themes of class warfare, population control, and climate change, Snowpiercer is much better than its North American box office numbers indicate.
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