How Many Of Todays Action Movie Stars Make The All Time Grade?

So I’m watching Rambo 3, which is my favorite of all the Rambo movies, and I’m thinking about which of today’s current action stars match up with the all time list of the very best action heros.

I put this question to my Twitter followers and the responses were varied. It also threw up the question about who makes up the list of the all time greatest action stars we have ever seen.

It made me think that someone really should write about this. If only we knew someone with the ability to write an article with such blind conviction that it seems like they have compiled THE finite list of the worlds greatest actions stars.

So here I am. I know it’s not Rugby League and I know it’s not even sport related. So what!

First of all I should describe what I think an action star is. Basically they need to have a few different qualities.

They need to look like they could handle themselves and kick the shit out of everyone in the room. They don’t just have to be built like a brick shithouse, they need to also look like they could do that neck breaking thing to you before moving on to killing the other 20 people in the room.

They need to be able to carry a movie. Look at Commando. That is a very simple story which basically gives Arnold Schwarzenegger a 90 minute window to kill as many people as possible. Could Dolph Lundgren have done the same job? Yes. Would it be as epic? No. Could he have carried that movie as a classic? No way in hell.

That brings me to the final issue, they need to have some sort of longevity. They need to have been in a few great movies that, when their name is mentioned, you get a picture in your head of a body of work.

The All Time Greats
For me, these are the guys at the very top of the pile. To break this list, you need to have a pretty special career.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
There is no doubt that Arnie is the reigning king of the action stars. This is a dude that played a Kindergarten teacher, and still found a way to kick the shit out of everybody!

Conan was his breakthrough into the mainstream and he then went on to be iconic in The Terminator, Commando, Predator…right there we are talking about three of the very best action films ever made. When you look at one of his flops, like Last Action Hero or True Lies, by today’s standards, they were awesome!

Forget that this man was the greatest body builder of all time, and then one of the highest grosing actors of all time, and then managed to become a politician, just on the action star scale alone, Arnie is the unreachable standard.

Sly Stallone
No one has changed their body more over his career than Sly, and you can’t put it all down to supliments (Although mostly you can).

In the first Rocky movie he was just a big dude. In the pinnacle of the series, Rocky 4, he looked like a machine. Then we have Rambo, the best being Rambo three where he was as ripped as anyone has ever been in any movie. Fast forward to Tango and Cash where he obviously decided to stay off the gear, and he was still action star good in that.

Now, at pension age, he is still rocking action movies better than a lot of today’s pretenders. That HGH is pumping!

Bruce Willis
At one point, no one took him seriously as an actor. On pure acting terms, he may be the best of the lot. His main action roles were in the Die Hard series, with Die Hard being classic, Die Hard two a flop, Die Hard With A Vengeance being a classic…..and that was the last Die Hard movie ever made. NO, NO! THAT WAS THE LAST ONE! SHUT UP!

Willis had the ability to play an ordinary dude who was also as tough as guts. He wasn’t huge and ripped like some in this list, but he was no doubt one of the great action stars of all time. I mean, he blew up a fricken comet!

John Wayne
To younger readers, it may sound strange, but Wayne was a big dude owned westerns. He was THE MAN to a generation of movie goers and has a list of great movies as long as your arm. He is obviously well before my time, but there is no doubt he belongs on the list.

Clint Eastwood
Dirty Harry went around terrorizing the scum of San Francisco for nearly two decades. He took over from John Wayne in the westerns genera and was the last of the true great hero’s of the wild west. Still not convinced?

“Get off my lawn…”

Playing a war veteran in Gran Torino, Eastwood still brought it as an old man who didn’t take any shit!

Steven Seagal 
He has the shortest movie list of all the true greats of action movies, but he has credibility for a couple of major reasons.

First of all, he is a martial arts expert who even to this day teaches some of today’s MMA fighters a thing or two. If you Youtube him you can see him teaching Anderson Silva a thing or two before dropping him in agony with a wrist lock. This guy could kick your arse in real life!

The Hollywood movie markers obviously saw the skills he had and his first real break through movie was the classic Under Siege where he played a former Navy Seal who had been kicked back to the duties of a cook on a battle ship. When that ship was taken over by a terrorist group, he took it back with the chick from Baywatch before she had an eyebrow wax!

He only starred in a few movies but they all come down to “This is Steven Seagal kicking everyone’s arse”. That is what being an action star is all about!

Wesley Snipes
Another guy with a martial arts background who could carry an action movie. Passenger 57 is a classic if only for the line “Always bet on black!”. He was good enough to carry the Blade trilogy, a series that at the time wasn’t all that well received, but if you watch it today, it stands up really well.

He started pushing that Bruce Willis area of not just being the arse kicker as well. He was great in The Fan where he played a baseballer with a crazy stalker and White Man Can’t Jump where he basically played a black man who could jump, and it was entertaining!

Jean-Claude Van Damme
The third martial artist that makes the list and one who crucially made that jump to be an action star in his own right. Bloodsport got his career rolling but Universal Soldier is his best work.

His movies are probably the worst out of the whole lot but its hard to argue against him belonging in the list. At his best he brought something different to action film’s because that he had a French sounding accent and he didn’t throw it in reverse when there was a fight to be had.

Current Action Stars
Now let me make something clear, these guys below aren’t on the same level as the guys above. The guys above are the ones that set the standards. However, these guys below, they are the only current actors that right now, as of today, would not be lost in a movie with the big guns above.

Jason Statham
The Transporter series is brilliant, and while it may seem like every other movie he has ever made is basically the Transporter by another name….no one cares!

Dwayne Johnson
The Rock should have had a far better action career. His first really big film was The Scorpion King, which wasn’t great and was kinda his Conan, but he managed to pull it off. Walking Tall was good and The Rundown (Welcome To The Jungle in the UK and Australia) could not have been carried by anyone else.

That enough wouldn’t have been enough though, and then Fast And Furious Five come alone, where he basically played an agent for the U.S. government that hunts down high priority fugitives. He nailed it! In the best action movie of the last decade, he is a star and actually shares top billing with Vin Diesel. Their fight is one of the classic fights in movie history.

Vin Diesel
I’m not gonna lie, I’m a fan, and I’ll tell you why. In Pitch Black he stole the entire movie. It is a classic that was made on a small budget and was supposed to be about an alien threat, but ended up launching a series about a bad arsed killer with shined eyes.

In the Fast And Furious movies, one again he stole the show. The first one was a classic and kicked off another franchise. When he wasn’t in them, they simply weren’t as good. You can watch One, Three and Five….and you don’t miss anything. On top of that, they are making another one. Fast Five was the best old school action movie I have seen in well over a decade. It stands tall with any action movie every made.

Sure he has had some bombs, and XXX was maybe a bit over the top, but we all remember that one and not the one Ice Cube did because, one is a true action star, and the other isn’t.

Who Didnt Make The Cut?
It is tough leaving some actors out who no doubt played some badass characters, but hey, we need to draw a line somewhere.

For instance Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee were left out because either their careers weren’t long enough and they didn’t make that jump to full on action star. Would Bruce Lee have made that jump? I think he probably would have. He could kick anyone’s arse and I have no doubt that if he had broken into action movies he would have made some classics.

Daniel Craig is a fantastic James Bond, but I felt like was its own category completely.

Charles Bronson was another who could have qualified but who just didn’t feel right being in that company. Dolph Lundgren ticks a lot of boxes and his roles in Rocky 4 and Universal Soldier were great, but there is no way he carries a movie all by himself.

Michael Biehn has been in some all time great movies such as The Terminator, Aliens, Navy Seals, The Rock, and if he is in your action movie, you are probably about to be entertained in a big way. However, could he carry an action movie all on his own? I don’t think he could.

The likes of Tom CruiseBrad PittMatt Damon and Christian Bale miss out because seriously, you can imagine all of them either not caring enough to pick up an uzi 9 millimeter or being more interested about where that kid is with their damn latte.

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