Great Action and Thriller Movies
Whether it’s Liam Neeson fighting off a pack of wolves or a tough cop tracking down a serial killer, great action and thriller movies are full of twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat.
These films usually put the protagonist(s) in a menacing situation from which escape seems impossible.
1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The action thriller relies on high-stakes, risky situations and a resourceful hero who’s a one-man army against an indestructible villain. It also uses lots of fast cutting and witty banter.
The film deconstructions the Jesse James myth, showing a man who is normally portrayed as a Robin Hood-esque antihero as a cruel, paranoid thug and coward. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck both give outstanding performances.
2. The Assassination of Anna Deavere Smith
Playwright Anna Deavere Smith collects stories through interviews and portrays them onstage in curated displays of American character. She calls it theater-as-journalism or anthropologic performance.
Thrillers use plot twists to build suspense, while action movies include scenes of people in risky situations or high-concept themes like terrorism or trained assassins. The genre has grown into tent-pole films, including the Fast and Furious franchise.
3. The Bourne Identity
Amid the countless direct-to-video action flicks that clutter video store shelves (and which often feature an inexplicable plot), Doug Liman delivers an enjoyable, intelligent thriller.
Matt Damon stars as Robert Ludlum’s amnesiac assassin, whose life is threatened when his identity is discovered. The film borrows some characters, scenes and plot points from its print inspiration, but avoids being overly repetitive — a problem with the 1988 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain.
4. The Bourne Supremacy
The second film in the Jason Bourne series moves even more kinetically than its predecessor, with long chase and fight sequences. Its PG-13 rating and toned down language means less sex, but the violence remains heavy and calculated.
Doug Liman (Swingers) is able to present these scenes in a crisp fashion that avoids the murkiness of many other action films. Matt Damon continues to be a compelling, morally ambiguous action hero.
5. The Bourne Legacy
After a bit of a hiatus the Bourne films return with this one. Jeremy Renner does a good job of not trying to replicate Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne character.
Unfortunately, this film fails to live up to the standards set by its predecessors. Writer-director Tony Gilroy owes the franchise a lot of debt that it cannot possibly repay. A disappointing entry in the espionage thriller genre.
6. The Bourne Identity 2
While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, this second installment is still a solid thriller. Damon is again compelling in the title role, never falling into macho clichés. The standout scene is the climax, a wild car chase shot in frenetic style by Paul Greengrass.
He eschews movie star vanity to deliver a close-cropped performance. Joan Allen and Julia Stiles are on point as well.
7. The Bourne Legacy 3
As the 1970s progressed, gritty detective stories began to merge with action. This resulted in films such as Dirty Harry, which pushed star Clint Eastwood out of his cowboy typecasting.
The Bourne Legacy is set after the events of the Treadstone program that spawned amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne. This Tony Gilroy film stars Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Cross, who is forced to go on the run after the Outcome project is shut down by Eric Byer (Edward Norton)..
8. The Bourne Supremacy 4
The second film in the series sees Bourne once again navigating the shadowy waters of international espionage. He coolly maneuvers around CIA plots and turncoat agents as he attempts to recover his splintered memories.
Matt Damon stars as Bourne, an amnesiac operative trained in the CIA’s Operation Treadstone programme. The film also features Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, Brian Cox as Ward Abbott and Karl Urban as Kirill.
9. The Bourne Identity 5
The first film in the Bourne franchise was a critical and commercial success. It stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, an agent suffering from psychogenic amnesia.
Its sequels, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, were also well received by critics. The fourth film, The Bourne Legacy, starred Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, who received similar training to Bourne in a programme called Operation Outcome.
10. The Bourne Legacy 6
The Bourne Legacy is a well-rounded thriller that showcases Jeremy Renner’s talent as a conflicted hero. It ends with him skimming a map on a boat and wondering where to go next, leaving us wanting more.
Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon reunited for the sequel Jason Bourne, released in 2016. A lot of fighting happens, and it’s all a lot of fun.