The 21 Greatest Action Stars of All Time

Action Stars

As most other men out there, I’m a sucker for action flicks. Whether it’s a classic western, a sick martial arts film or a movie with super-powered people saving the planet, I can’t get enough of the genre. And apparently neither can moviegoers as a whole.

If you check out this thoroughly researched article, it can be argued that action and adventure films “possess the biggest positive differential between the percent of films released and their genre’s market share”. While part of that has to do with a bigger budget for an action movie, which requires a larger investment and wider marketing campaign so studios can make profit, another part is that men just like the thrill and destruction that accompanies the movie. Probably because of our testosterone.

However, an action movie just isn’t the same without its leading man. A guy that we can relate to and cheer on. So with that in mind, here are the 21 Greatest Action Stars of All Time.

21. Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson


Samuel L. Jackson proved that he was a man that you wouldn’t want to cross when he gave his infamous speech in “Pulp Fiction” before he filled you with bullets. During the course of his career Jackson has teamed up with John McClane, battled snakes on a plane, been a Jedi Knight and has assembled Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in a little movie called “The Avengers”.

20. Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell


Characters like Snake Plissken and Jack Burton made the former Disney star one of Hollywood’s greatest action stars. He’s also portrayed Wyatt Earp in “Tombstone,” a superhero dad in “Sky High,” partnered up with Stallone in “Tango & Cash” and proved that he’s still got some gas in the tank as Stuntman Mike 2007’s “Death Proof”.

19. Dolph Lundgren

Dolph Lundgren


There’s a reason why Lundgren was cast in “The Expendables”. Dolph’s “Rocky IV” character Ivan Drago destroyed Apollo Creed, and literally hurt Sly during filming. He’s also portrayed He-Man and The Punisher, although in pretty bad movie adaptations of those heroes, while also starring in guilty pleasure flicks like “I Come In Peace” and “Showdown In Little Tokyo”.

18. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson



We all know that Johnson got his start as a wrestler, where he still returns from time to time and is the current WWE Champ, but if you need a go-to action star today, look no further than ‘The Rock’. Besides revitalizing franchises like “The Fast & Furious” and hopefully “GI Joe,” Dwayne has held his own in movies like “The Rundown,” “Walking Tall,” and “Faster”.

17. Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson


If you’ve followed the Irish actor’s career you know that he has a long history of being a badass. He’s portrayed historical tough guys in “Rob Roy” and “Michael Collins” and was the vengeful hero in “Darkman”. But Neeson has proven that he’s a viable action star in movies like “Taken” and “The Grey”. Oh yeah. He was also a Jedi and trained Batman.

16. Tom Cruise



Sure. Tom Cruise is a bit out there, but you can’t deny that he brings it in his action flicks. From the “Mission Impossible” franchise to “Minority Report” and “Collateral,” Cruise has proven that he belongs on this list. Heck, he’s even made flying fighter jets and driving race cars an action-packed event.

15. Jet Li

Jet Li


Jet Li is known for his insane martial arts skills. He won the Chinese national championship in the acrobatic martial art wushu when he was 11, but you know he’s a tough guy when he’s the sole member of “The Expendables” that weighs under 200 pounds.

14. Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson


Mel may have lost some of his mind as of late, but let’s not forget that this was the same guy who brought us “Braveheart,” as well as starred in classic action franchises like “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon”. And, just to prove that he’s not done, he starred in the underrated “Get The Gringo” in 2012.

13. Jason Statham

Jason Statham


Statham blazed onto the big screen in 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and since then has become one of the most recognizable action stars in modern film. Whether it’s in “The Transporter,” “Crank,” or “The Expendables” franchises, Statham has shown us time and time again that he’s a badass action star.

12. Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal


The master in Kendo and Aikido may be a former shell of himself today, but in the late 80s and early 90s, he was the quintessential action star with hits like “Under Siege” and “Above the Law”. If you need further proof on how tough Seagal was, just check out some of his films like “Out For Justice” and “Hard To Kill”.

11. Jean Claude Van Damme

The Expendables 2


Van Damme was one of the top action stars around the same time as Seagal with flicks that included “Bloodsport,” “Sudden Death,” “Hard Target,” “Maximus Risk,” and “Universal Soldier”. He made a nice comeback as the villain in “The Expendables 2”.

10. Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan


While many of us in the States know Jackie Chan from “The Rush Hour” series, he began his career as a stuntman in Bruce Lee movies. Since then, he has starred in more than 100 martial arts action films, including the “Police Story” franchise which made him a household name in the Far East.

9. Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen


The King of Cool was a big draw in the 60s and 70s with “Bullitt,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Great Escape,” and “The Towering Inferno”. McQueen was also known for doing many of his own stunts during some of his most unforgettable car and motorcycle chases.

8. Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford


Harrison Ford has portrayed two of the most iconic heroes in cinema history with Hans Solo and Indiana Jones. If that wasn’t enough, he was also Jack Ryan a couple of times and famously told terrorist Gary Oldman to get off his plane in “Air Force One”.

7. Chuck Norris



Long before the internet made Chuck Norris the indestructible force that spawned numerous jokes, he was kicking butt in the “Missing In Action” series, and of course, the TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger”.

6. Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson


Before starring in classic action flicks like “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Dirty Dozen,” and “The Great Escape,” Bronson was an aerial gunner in WWII. However, we’ll always remember Bronson as the vengeful vigilante in the five “Death Wish” movies.

5. Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee


Bruce Lee helped popularize martial arts movies in the U.S. and has become one of the most iconic action stars of all time. Today, “The Big Boss,” “Fist of Fury,” “Way of the Dragon,” and “Enter the Dragon” are all considered classic must-see films for every man.

4. Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis


Ever since John ‘Yippie ki yay!’ McClane debuted in 1988, Bruce Willis has become the go-to guy if a studio is looking for a bad-ass cop. However, he’s also done a lot of other action films in various genres like “The Fifth Element,” “Sin City,” “Armageddon,” and “Hart’s War”.

3. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood


Beginning as the toughest cowboy ever captured on film in spaghetti westerns like “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” Eastwood then became the most bad-ass cop ever in the Dirty Harry films. And if you think Clint has lost a step in his older years, check out “Gran Torino”. He proved that he was a grandpa that could still kick some @.

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger


The former bodybuilder and Governor of California is perhaps the most recognizable action star of all time. You don’t even need to say anything else on how popular of an action star Arnold is except to just mention movie titles like “Commando,” “Predator,” “The Terminator,” and “Conan The Barbarian”.

1. Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone


There’s only one actor that could top Arnold as the greatest action star of all time. Sylvester Stallone. Rocky and Rambo are two of the greatest characters ever in film. Period. But let’s not forget that Sly starred in action flicks like “Cobra,” Tango & Cash,” and “Demolition Man,” just to name a few. And, we can’t neglect that Sly was the mastermind behind one of the manliest and most explosive action film series ever, “The Expendables”.


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