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Top 10 Greatest Action Movie Franchises of ALL TIME!

VO: Matthew Wende
Written by Sean Newman Action movies have dominated cinema for decades, but among all the franchises, from James Bond, to Die Hard, to Mission Impossible, which will be crowned the greatest? WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Best Action Movie Franchises of All Time! Watch o find out who we picked for number one! Watch on WatchMojo: WatchMojo.com Big thanks to travistenbrunsel@yah for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Action+franchises
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Hold tight Mojoholics, this is going to be one fast-paced, wild ride. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 action franchises of all time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at film franchises that have consistently pushed the limit with intense, realistic, and most importantly, fun-filled action. Also, there must be at least three movies within a cinematic universe for it to be considered a franchise, so properties like “Kill Bill” are sadly ineligible.

#10: “Fast & Furious” franchise (2001-)

A fatal flaw of many action franchises is their tendency to lose touch with reality in later installments. “The Fast and the Furious” is certainly no exception, but the more ridiculous the set pieces have become, the more excited we’ve been to hop back into the passenger seat. As early as the first movie, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel gave the series a boost, adding even more flair to its already sleek style, fast cars, and faster women. But the fifth installment really kicked this franchise into overdrive. Over the years, the loveable duo has grown into a badass ensemble cast; sports cars have been joined by tanks; and the male-centric action has taken on new depth thanks to a healthy dose of female flair.

#9: “The Terminator” franchise (1984-)

Welcome to planet Earth, where a world-class bodybuilder who’s also served as Governor of California is best known for his iconic robot movies—we swear we’re not making this up. The Terminator’s butt-kicking ‘80s debut inspired a whole generation of Schwarzenegger impersonations, leaving fans desperate for more of the same. When the sequel finally landed 7 years later, they were treated to even bigger and more impressive action, as well as a heartfelt tale that took the franchise to a whole new level. Many feel that the series has lost momentum in recent years, but the Terminator legacy continues to draw in younger generations, while eager fans of yesteryear hold out hope for another sequel that’ll truly knocks their socks off.

#8: “Indiana Jones” franchise (1981-)

A whip, a fedora, and that oh-so iconic score: for many film fans, it’s a perfect combination that embodies nostalgic action adventure cinema at its very best. Everyone’s favorite archeologist hit the scene in 1981, and with him he brought an unparalleled level of badassery and style to the profession. Snake pits, Nazis, rolling boulders… oh my! This exhilarating series has it all. Even that infamous “refrigerator scene” isn’t enough to tarnish the sterling reputation of this fan-favorite franchise. Harrison Ford has proven he’s more than ready to put on the fedora again, and we’re more than ready to follow Dr. Jones wherever he happens to go next.

#7: “The Dark Knight” franchise (2005-12)

Who says great action can’t work alongside a thought-provoking narrative? “The Dark Knight” trilogy stands as one of the finest examples of superhero storytelling. Extraordinary performances may be what this series is remembered for, but that should in no way take away from the spectacular action sequences throughout. From the Joker’s hospital explosion to Bane’s plane takeover, Imax cameras, practical effects and real life stunts make for a visceral and immersive experience; it’s easy to forget that you’re not right alongside the caped crusader. As depicted by Christopher Nolan, Batman’s relentless effort to clean up Gotham’s streets will not be forgotten in years to come, and this is in no small part due the nail-biting conflicts encountered throughout the trilogy.

#6: “Lethal Weapon” franchise (1987-)

Special effects alone can’t make an action franchise great; the style behind it all is what turns a good series into a truly iconic one. In a long line of buddy cop movies, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover easily take the prize for coolest duo. The mullets, the flannel, that unforgettable catchphrase… they’re all relevant decades later. Does all this charm overshadow the action though? Not in the slightest. Director Richard Donner consistently pushed the limits of special effects and stage fighting, and as a result, the action sequences from this franchise are widely considered to be some of the most influential in the genre.

#5: Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-)

The MCU has been consistently winning over both the box-office and fans alike since in 2008. “Iron Man” garnered respect for the franchise in its infancy thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s strong performance and humor-laced action. Four years of blockbusters ensued in the form of “Phase One,” ending with the spectacular box-office juggernaut “The Avengers.” Hair-raising action on such a massive scale, and with so many familiar faces, had never been done quite like this, meaning the stakes were raised to an almost insurmountable level. The MCU has since smartly shrunk things down a bit with “Ant-Man,” keeping their patented formula fresh by varying the style of films they produce. When this decade is remembered for its superhero movies, Marvel will surely reign supreme.

#4: “Bourne” franchise (2002-)

After a decade of so-so Bond flicks, the world demanded an iconic spy series, and Jason Bourne answered. While most of the “Bourne” films stand out on their own, the initial three are what elevate it to action royalty. Bourne’s mysterious past is gripping and Matt Damon is rarely in better form. But the fundamental understanding of action displayed by directors Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass is what makes this franchise truly great. Most notably, these movies prove that shaky cam can be a good thing if properly implemented, and complex, choreographed fight scenes are worth every hour of painstaking preparation. Cool, compelling, and adrenaline fueled: Bourne knows action like few others do.

#3: “Die Hard” franchise (1988-)

In case you haven’t noticed… it’s really difficult to rank these utterly mind-blowing action franchises, because they’re all so iconic in their own right. The original “Die Hard” swapped out constant explosions for more intimate stakes, and replaced larger than life protagonists with an everyday cop. A cop who was unbelievably cool... no wink or nod to camera required. Later installments ranged from great to… not so great. But faced with continuously rising stakes, John McClane keeps his cool, in that way only he can. And that’s why “Die Hard” continues to impress... even now that our begrudging hero now fights crime with his shoes on.

#2: “Mission: Impossible” franchise (1996-)

We commended “The Fast and the Furious” franchise’s ability to improve upon itself even well into the series, but “Mission: Impossible” is the gold standard of continuous outperformance. The first three set the stage as effective and action-packed spy thrillers, but the fourth and fifth installments have individually been some of the best action movies ever made. Set pieces don’t get any bigger than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, unless you include dangling your leading man on the side of a plane midflight. Vertigo isn’t the only sensation evoked: you’re also hit with claustrophobia, fear of drowning, and more. The expanded supporting cast has only added to this series’ overwhelming appeal, providing us with a mission we’ll choose to accept time and time again.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Rambo” franchise (1982-2008)

- “Mad Max” franchise (1979-)

- “The Matrix” (1999-2003)

#1: “James Bond” franchise (1962-)

After well over 50 years on the big screen, it’d be tough for any franchise to keep fans interested. But the success of the Bond series is largely thanks to its timeless main character and consistently impressive action that pushes the envelope. This is perhaps best exemplified by “Casino Royale,” which revitalized the series in 2006 following a few less-than-well-received entries. Great action sequences, fight scenes, shootouts, car chases, classic confrontations with iconic villains, and more – this franchise consistently delivers the goods, and that’s why James Bond is king of everything action-related. 007 is always within a hair’s breadth of death… but that’s just the way we like him.

Do you agree with our list? Which action franchises have consistently knocked your socks off time and time again? For more edge-of-your-seat top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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