Best Action Movie Franchises
Here are our picks for the best action movie franchises of all time!
Honorable Mention: Jack Ryan
The thinking man's action franchise, the Jack Ryan films have taken a James Bond approach by recasting the role several times which has worked well as each actor brings something new to the different eras the character lives in. Alec Baldwin first played the part, then Harrison Ford took over for two films, making him the only one to reprise the role, next Ben Affleck was cast, and finally Chris Pine portrayed him most recently on the big screen. These are smart, well-paced action flicks with strong political thriller leanings. It's a franchise that's still going strong now as an Amazon Prime series starring John Krazinski which recently debuted on the streaming service.
The Hunt for Red October (1989)
Patriot Games (1992)
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
10. Lethal Weapon
The four Lethal Weapon films are the ultimate buddy cop movies, representing the best the sub-genre has to offer. First of all, the casting of Murtaugh and Riggs is perfect with Glover and Gibson delivering knockout performances as opposites who must find out how to work together and eventually become lifelong friends. The comedy is spot-on as most of it comes from the odd couple interacting, but the films never loses sight of the dramatic weight and tension of the story and character's personal lives.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
Stallone became a huge action star in the 1980s thanks to the film adaptation of the classic novel, First Blood. As John J. Rambo, Sly gives us a tortured American war veteran who must deal with severe PTSD as he comes home to another kind of battlefield. The later films turned him into a true film icon as he shoots his way through bad guys to rescue Americans from communist enemies. It's a deeply psychological role and Sly manages to keep what's important about the character at the forefront even when the bullets are flying and bombs are exploding.
First Blood (1982)
Rambo: First Blood - Part II (1985)
Rambo III (1988)
Schwarzenegger is synonymous with action because of his breakout role as the T-800 model Terminator in James Cameron's 1984 sci-fi horror film. In the sequel, Arnie brought even more to the role as he learns human emotion and develops attachments to Sarah and John Conner. It's a series that's had diminishing returns, but one that remains strong thanks to it's first two solid entries which are classics of the sci-fi and action genres.
The Terminator (1984)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator: Salvation (2009)
Terminator Genisys (2015)
7. The Matrix
Mixing martial arts action with a heady science fiction plot, The Matrix brings together some of the most mind-blowing action sequences due to the fact that the characters can do virtually anything in the cyber world. It's got a great cast lead by Keanu Reeves who became an action star thanks to previous hits like Point Break and Speed, but he takes it to another level as Neo, the savior of Zion and the only one who can defeat the Agents in humanity's war for survival. It's a great story with stunning action that has to be seen to be believed.
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
6. Mad Max
Mad Max is the most visually astonishing film franchise on the list, and these films have redefined both the action and post-apocalyptic genres. Visionary director George Miller brings audiences into his messed-up, future dystopian world where a man named Max must fight for survival without losing his soul. It's an odd franchise with weird characters, complex themes, and incredible action scenes. The car chases are the highlight as each film brings us closer to the edge of our seats with the boldness of the stunts, making Fury Road a truly exhilarating feast for the senses.
Mad Max (1979)
The Road Warrior (1981)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Matt Damon shocked the world as Jason Bourne, a modern amnesiac action hero who must discover the horrifying truth about who he is before those he used to work for catch up to him. It's a got an excellent supporting cast including Julia Stiles, Brian Cox, and Tommy Lee Jones, all of whom add layers and depth to this mysterious story which is full of twists and turns. The action is frantic with plenty of close-quarters combat and fervent car chases, all captured by handheld camerawork that revolutionized the genre and puts you in the middle of the action.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Jason Bourne (2016)
4. Die Hard
No action hero is as relatable as John McClane because he's just a guy who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This beat New York cop has to stop terrorists at every turn and does so with great difficulty, but he can also have a laugh at the ridiculousness of every situation he finds himself in. It's the everyman quality that makes the Die Hard films so enjoyable. On top of that, Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber remains the best movie villain ever, and the scripts are so well-written and executed that you couldn't ask for anything more.
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
3. James Bond 007
The original super-spy is Ian Fleming's creation Agent 007, a.k.a. James Bond, who's been a staple in film for decades. He's been portrayed by no less than six actors over the last fifty-six years including the charming Sean Connery, male model George Lazenby, funny man Roger Moore, dangerous Timothy Dalton, suave Pierce Brosnan, and tough Daniel Craig. It's a series that's brought us some crazy chases on land, sea, and air, great gizmos and gadgets, and plenty of unforgettable, highly quotable dialogue. The franchise has managed to adapt to the times and will continues to do so with it's 25th installment coming next year.
Dr. No (1962)
From Russia With Love (1963)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Live And Let Die (1973)
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
A View To A Kill (1985)
The Living Daylights (1987)
License To Kill (1989)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Die Another Day (2002)
Casino Royale (2006)
Quantum Of Solace (2008)
2. Mission: Impossible
Somehow Tom Cruise has been able to produce and star in every single one of these impossible missions and still manages to keep the series fresh on a thematic and storytelling level while entertaining audiences with the most amazing stunts ever captured on film. Each film seems to get better in this series which is the opposite of most of the franchises on this list, giving it staying power as it becomes more popular with every entry. Bringing in a new director for each installment gives each film it's own distinct tone and visual style which helps keep things fresh. With it's intelligent stories, likeable characters, and remarkable stuntwork, this is an extraordinary series that will hopefully continue for years to come.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
1. Indiana Jones
The best action franchise is Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford's man-of-action archeologist represents the return of the great adventure from the golden age of Hollywood, and also ushers in a new era of action filmmaking from the best director working today, Steven Spielberg. There are tons of thrilling moments in the movies from the temple heist to the tank chase and every fist fight, shootout, and whip battle in between. It's a solid series even with it's lackluster fourth installment because of the strength of the memorable characters, brilliant storylines, and amazing action. This franchise is pure escapism and brings us masterful entertainment from movie making geniuses.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)