Top 20 Action Comedies of All Time
They combine pulse-pounding action with uproarious laughs. What’s not to love? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Action Comedies of All Time.
For this list, we’ll be looking at action-comedy films that have received critical acclaim, worldwide popularity, and a lasting legacy.
#20: “Spy” (2015)
Following “Bridesmaids” in 2011, Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig were hot commodities. In 2013, they took their talents into the action-comedy genre, creating the solid, if somewhat predictable, “The Heat.” The process was eventually refined, and in 2015, the team released the far-better and more star-studded “Spy.” Most of the praise centered around Feig’s writing and directing, not to mention the uproarious performances from McCarthy, Rose Byrne, and a surprisingly hilarious and scene-stealing Jason Statham. “Spy” was a huge hit, scoring $235 million at the box office and landing McCarthy her first Golden Globe nomination.
#19: “Last Action Hero” (1993)
When it was released in 1993, “Last Action Hero” did not receive a kind response. Critics hated it, and it bombed at the box office. But time has been quite kind to “Last Action Hero,” with many believing that it was a little too postmodern for its time, especially with Arnold Schwarzenegger and “Die Hard’s” John McTiernan at the helm. The movie is a hilarious spoof of action clichés, and it upends the genre in various unique and entertaining ways. It’s especially hilarious seeing Schwarzenegger making fun of himself, his storied career, and the genre that made him famous. “Last Action Hero” was ahead of its time, and it now sits proudly amongst the greatest action comedies.
#18: “Charlie’s Angels” (2000)
No one was really clamoring for a “Charlie’s Angels” movie, especially twenty years after the conclusion of the television series. But that didn’t stop Sony from doing it, and we’re glad they did. The movie contains a brilliant and simply unbeatable cast in Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu, and it makes the right creative decision in ditching the series’ dramatic elements in favor of more tongue-in-cheek comedy. The three Angels work exceptionally well together, the supporting roles are all brilliantly cast. The movie doesn’t slouch on the action sequences, either. To the surprise of absolutely everyone, this movie reinvigorated the “Charlie’s Angels” brand for a new generation.
#17: “True Lies” (1994)
Following “Terminator 2,” James Cameron wrote and directed “True Lies” starring A-listers Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. The film follows the two actors playing a married couple in which Helen discovers that Harry isn’t a boring computer salesman as she thought, but actually a counterterrorism officer. At the time of release, this was the most expensive film ever made, and with Cameron at the helm, you better believe that we see all that money on the screen in its high octane, adrenaline-fueled action scenes. The set pieces are enormous, the action is exciting, the laughs are hysterical and the performances are all top notch.
#16: “The Other Guys” (2010)
“The Other Guys” is the fourth collaboration between Will Ferrell and writer-director Adam McKay, following “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “Step Brothers.” By this point, their process was razor-sharp and well-oiled, resulting in the hilarious and surprisingly clever “The Other Guys.” The chemistry between Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg is outstanding, and Ferrell does well playing against type as the straight-laced and mild-mannered dweeb. The movie is also rife with some great action set pieces, and a particular sequence involving Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson has to be one of the funniest things we’ve ever seen in an action-comedy. “The Other Guys” isn’t original by any means, but it’s so well made that no one really cares.
#15: “Bad Boys” franchise (1995-)
Teamed up with funnyman Martin Lawrence, The “Fresh Prince”’s Will Smith plays one of two wisecracking detectives who hunt down various criminals in this franchise. While the first two films received mixed reviews, they became highly popular thanks to multiple gut-busting scenes featuring hilarious banter between the partners. They also had over-the-top, yet mesmerizing, action sequences that only director Michael Bay could bring to the big screen, which added some welcome heart-stopping moments in between the goofy dialogue and characters. Though Bay didn’t direct the third film, which came out 13 years after “Bad Boys II,” directors Adil & Bilall, along with Smith, Lawrence and crew, were able to successfully capture the fun and action of the previous flicks to surprisingly positive reviews!
#14: “The Nice Guys” (2016)
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling aren’t exactly the hottest names in comedy, but you wouldn’t know it watching “The Nice Guys” (not to be confused with “The Other Guys”!). Written and directed by Shane Black of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” fame, “The Nice Guys” is a visually gorgeous and stimulating throwback to the drug-fueled cop movies of the 70s, full of bright colors, ugly outfits, funny hairdos, and retro cars. It’s a fast-paced, richly told story full of laughs and great character moments, and Gosling and Crowe work extraordinarily well together. In an era of bombastic superhero movies aimed at families, “The Nice Guys” was a refreshing ode to the mature, adult-oriented action comedies of old.
#13: “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)
Spy comedies are as old as time itself. “Get Smart” was enormously popular in the mid-60s thanks to the James Bond boom, and it received a film adaptation in 2008 starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. But perhaps the greatest spy comedy of our time is 2014’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” The movie was an enormous hit, grossing over $400 million at the worldwide box office thanks to its stylish visuals, unrelenting sense of fun, and the unbelievably packed cast. The church massacre going viral also helped. “Kingsman” was just like a James Bond film, only far funnier and way more violent. R-rated spy comedies are a risky venture (especially at $90 million!), but “Kingsman” proved that there is still an audience for this type of movie.
#12: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010)
After sticking to low-budget English films with Simon Pegg, director Edgar Wright broke into the mainstream (or at least tried to) with the $85 million “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” “Scott Pilgrim” was adapted from Bryan Lee O'Malley’s graphic novel of the same name, and it has to be one of the most bonafide “comic book movies” ever made. It’s proudly boisterous, and it often honors its roots with comic book-themed visuals and sound effects. Like all Wright films, “Scott Pilgrim” was critically acclaimed for its visuals, editing, and kooky humor. Unfortunately, it bombed at the box office, making just $48 million. Luckily, it has since become a bit of a cult classic, especially within the comic book fandom.
#11: “Tropic Thunder” (2008)
We can thank Ben Stiller for “Tropic Thunder,” as he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this satirical comedy about a group of actors who are thrust into real danger. The movie features some amazing performances, including Tom Cruise’s unrecognizable Les Grossman and Robert Downey Jr.’s Oscar-hungry actor Kirk Lazarus – a role that ironically earned him an Academy Award nomination, which is no small feat for a comedy film. While many of its jokes wouldn’t work well today - considering the climate in which we live - we can still appreciate the well-directed and exciting action scenes. The movie’s jungle locations are also beautiful to look at, making “Tropic Thunder” both a visual and comedic treat.
#10: “48 Hrs.” (1982)
While appearing as the breakout star of “Saturday Night Live” during one of its lowest periods, this movie helped launch Eddie Murphy’s career in mainstream Hollywood, and it deserves a spot on the list for that if nothing else. Murphy and Nick Nolte play a criminal and a cop who join forces to nab a cop killer. The movie is regarded as the first entry in the buddy-cop genre, and its influence is still being seen in the genre today. The performances are what make the movie great, with Murphy’s Golden Globe nominated role as convict Reggie Hammond being a true highlight. It’s an undeniable, influential classic.
#9: “Deadpool” (2016)
Despite the superhero boom of the 2010s, “Deadpool” was a major risk for 20th Century Fox. It was a hard R, which alienated a large segment of the superhero fandom. Barely anyone knew who Deadpool was. And those who had heard of him were still reeling from his horrid portrayal in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” But an aggressive marketing campaign and the always-charismatic Ryan Reynolds ensured its success, creating what is arguably the finest and funniest superhero movie ever made. Reynolds’ performance was widely acclaimed, as was the movie’s subversive writing and profane humor. It ended up grossing an astounding $782 million, making it the highest-grossing R-rated comedy at the time. It has since been surpassed by its own sequel...
#8: “Pineapple Express” (2008)
You wouldn’t expect to see awesome action scenes in a stoner comedy, but in this flick, it’s the norm. Featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco in a Golden Globe-nominated role, “Pineapple Express” follows two stoners as they go on the run from a drug dealer who wishes to take them out. Franco’s performance is hilarious and helped jump-start his comedy career in film. The action is relentless and – we know we said this already – but it’s much better than you’d think. There’s also a sweet friendship and a good message underneath all the blood and smoke. Directed by David Gordon Green, but produced by Judd Apatow and Shauna Robertson, it’s also developed a cult following - and for good reason.
#7: “Hot Fuzz” (2007)
The second film in Edgar Wright’s acclaimed Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, “Hot Fuzz” follows Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as cops who discover that their small town is not what it seems. Both a spoof and a loving homage to cheesy ‘80s action films, this flick features all the action clichés you love, including a developing bromance between the partners and ridiculously over-the-top explosions and gunfire scenes. The fact that this all occurs in small town England is just icing on the already hilarious cake, and proved that Wright was a director to watch out for. Also: it’s just laugh-out-loud funny!
#6: “Big Trouble in Little China” (1986)
This is the “Hot Fuzz” of cheesy kung fu movies - proudly embracing the genre while intelligently spoofing and subverting its tropes. This blending of humor and action delighted critics, many of whom praised the movie’s writing, Kurt Russell’s performance, and the direction of Hollywood legend John Carpenter. However, it also received its fair share of critiques and bombed at the box office, resulting in John Carpenter feeling discouraged with the major studio industry. Luckily, the movie received a strong following through home video and repeated television airings, and it’s now considered a cult classic. Three years later, Russell would star in the far more financially successful action-comedy “Tango & Cash.”
#5: “Drunken Master” (1978)
“Big Trouble in Little China” owes its very existence to the 1978 masterpiece “Drunken Master.” This martial arts comedy starring Jackie Chan was enormously popular at the Hong Kong box office, becoming the second highest-grossing film of 1978. It gave rise to the comedic kung fu genre of which “Big Trouble in Little China” is a part, and it helped popularize the drunken fist fighting style. It also launched a film series containing a sorta sequel-sorta reboot, various spin-offs, a prequel, and a host of imitators that desperately tried to recapture its magic. Unfortunately for them, there is no recapturing the magic of Jackie Chan.
#4: “Jump Street” franchise (2012-)
A remake of the television drama of the same name, these movies – like the previously mentioned “Hot Fuzz” – serve as both a hilarious parody of and a tribute to terrible ‘80s culture. The films follow Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as detectives who infiltrate various institutions in order to bust criminals. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, and their witty interplay is always great for a laugh. Some fantastic action scenes and cameos only add to the fun, making these films a true blast to watch, even if you’ve never seen the original show. When it comes to the buddy cop film genre, these are really some of the best in recent years.
#3: “Rush Hour” franchise (1998-)
Who knew the pairing of legendary martial artist Jackie Chan and comedian Chris Tucker would work so well? These buddy cop movies follow two perfectly opposite police officers as they thwart - what else? - various criminals and get into mischief along the way. The flicks are notable for their intricate action sequences, particularly those involving Jackie Chan, who never used a stunt double and had our jaws dropping because of it. Tucker provides some welcome laughs, and the two make an entertaining, enjoyable duo that no one would’ve expected to work. While the sequels’ critical reviews weren’t as positive as they were for the first flick, audiences certainly didn’t mind: both were box office smashes, with “Rush Hour 2” becoming one of 2001’s highest grossing movies.
#2: “Lethal Weapon” franchise (1987-)
Bringing us ever closer to the quintessential action comedy is this film series, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as mismatched LAPD detectives Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. Every action comedy fan knows these movies’ influence on the genre, with the cops’ witty banter and exciting action scenes ramping up the tension with each new entry. The performances are excellent, the dialogue is always on point, and the friendship the two cops share provides a welcome heart to all the laughs and carnage. While critics gave varied reviews for each subsequent installment, when it comes to the box office, the first three were runaway financial successes, while the 4th was one of 1998’s highest grossing films.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Central Intelligence” (2016)
Dwayne Johnson & Kevin Hart Have Fantastic Chemistry Together
“Kindergarten Cop” (1990)
Schwarzenegger as a School Teacher Is a Dream Come True
“Midnight Run” (1988)
A Classic Buddy Cop Film Starring the Always Brilliant Robert De Niro
“Bon Cop, Bad Cop” (2006)
Hilarious Buddy Cop Flick Claiming to Be Canada’s First Bilingual Film
“Johnny English” (2003)
Another Great Spy Spoof Starring Rowan Atkinson as a Bumbling Bond Figure
#1: “Beverly Hills Cop” franchise (1984-)
Clearly the action comedy genre works for Eddie Murphy, as he has starred in numerous films in this series as officer Axel Foley. While “48 Hrs.” got Murphy’s name out there, these movies are what really shot him to superstardom, as his performance was unanimously praised by fans and critics alike. The first flick was even nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award, which is almost unheard of for comedic action films. With Murphy’s star-making turn and its memorable, catchy theme song, the “Beverly Hills Cop” franchise is considered some of the best of the genre. Not only were they insanely popular when respectively released, but they are also to this day - with a 4th entry currently in development as of 2020.