Top 50 Most Underrated Action Movies to Watch

So. many. explosions.

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underrated action moviesThere are quite a number of widely acclaimed action movies to watch. Die Hard, The Terminator, Taken (the first one and none of the others) — all great examples of classic action movies that deserve their place among the top action films of all time.

But what about those underrated movies that are never mentioned when talking about the greatest films in the genre? There are quite a few of under-appreciated gems, too.

Whether it be that their appreciation was short-lived or they never really received the praise and discussion that they deserved, these movies deserve at least a little more love than they’ve gotten.

So without further ado, here are the top 50 underrated action movies to watch:

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50. 47 Ronin

Release Date: December 25, 2013
IMDB Rating: 6.3 out of 10
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki

47 Ronin is another example of a movie releasing at the wrong time and, thus, getting largely looked over. Why this movie would release on Christmas Day is beyond me, but nonetheless, 47 Ronin is a badass action movie about a band of samurai seeking revenge for the death of their leader. 47 Ronin was really the first Keanu Reeves movie since A Scanner Darkly that was actually watchable. I mean, not in every Keanu film does he actually fight a dragon.

Buy the ’47 Ronin’ Blu-Ray here.


49. Deep Blue Sea

underrated action movies

Release Date: July 28, 1999
IMDB Rating: 5.8 out of 10
Starring: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J

Putting LL Cool J in a movie is a surefire way to make the movie fail (with the exclusion of Any Given Sunday, of course). If you were to average the user rating of every movie LL Cool J has appeared in, the results are miserable. But Deep Blue Sea got a bad wrap. Personally, I think it had a lot to do with the god awful movie poster. But, Deep Blue Sea was a battle between humans and hyper-intelligent sharks. There are also some underlying themes pawing at the idea of of genetically altering natural life. The deaths in Deep Blue Sea were well created, the story was extremely tense, and the movie was just an all-around good time that deserved more praise.

Rent or Buy ‘Deep Blue Sea’ here.


48. The Grey

movies to watch

Release Date: January 27, 2012
IMDB Rating: 6.8 out of 10
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo

The Grey is more talked about now than it was leading up to and the few months following its release, simply because most people waited for the DVD (myself included). The film revolves around a team of oil workers that have to survive in the Alaskan wilderness following a plane crash. But instead of focusing on the starvation and freezing cold, the film focuses on the brutal and unforgiving pack of wolves surrounding the survivors, killing them off one by one. The film closely borders horror as it plays more on your fear of beasts than anything, but Liam Neeson’s performance is top-notch and the action is quite memorable. The film made just $19.6M in its opening weekend, and totaled just $51M in its theater run. The Grey is for the hardened action movie fans, as its story is unforgiving and bleak.

Buy ‘The Grey’ here.


47. Never Die Alone

underrated action movies

Release Date: March 26, 2004
IMDB Rating: 5.7 out of 10
Starring: DMX, David Arquette, Michael Ealy

Never Die Alone came out when DMX was still a relevant name in hip hop, and his tough-guy persona fit well with the action movie genre. Following Exit Wounds (which we’ll also get to later on in this list), Never Die Alone was directed by Ernest Dickerson, director of Juice, a few Walking Dead episodes, and Bulletproof (we’ll also get that one later). Most people wrote off this action movie because of its C-list cast (although Michael Ealy would eventually upgrade his career years later). It is a poetic take on villainy and revenge that contains violent gun battles from start to finish.

Rent or Buy ‘Never Die Alone’ here.


46. The Rundown

Release Date: September 26, 2003
IMDB Rating: 6.7 out of 10
Starring: The Rock, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken

I’ve never been a fan of Dwayne Johnson as an actor; I could never take him seriously. But, The Rundown is generally a great action movie with great fight scenes and cool ideas, mixed with a little bit of comedy. The fight scene between Ernie Reyes Jr. (he was also in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II) and The Rock is fantastic. And, surprisingly, Stiffler Seann William Scott and The Rock actually work well on screen together. Of course, Dwayne Johnson does what Dwayne Johnson does best in this movie: kick some serious ass.

Rent or Buy ‘The Rundown’ here.


45. Blade II

underrated movies

Release Date: March 22, 2002
IMDB Rating: 6.7 out of 10
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman

Wesley Snipes pre-prison was a great action star, and although the original Blade is the best in the series, Blade II isn’t far behind. It’s a thrill ride from the start to the finish, and the final fight scene between Snipes and Perlman is spectacular. I think Blade II was under appreciated because of how great the original Blade movie was.

Rent or Buy ‘Blade 2’ here.


44. Armageddon

underrated movies

Release Date: July 1, 1998
IMDB Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck

Although Armageddon was nominated for a few Oscars, its rating among fans is considerably low…surprisingly low. I’m not sure what the gripe with Armageddon is, but it’s one of Ben Affleck’s better performances, and there’s tons of action contained within. Maybe it was the cheesy Aerosmith song that got it low marks. I don’t know.

Rent or Buy ‘Armageddon’ here.


43. Independence Day

underrated movies

Release Date: July 3, 1996
IMDB Rating: 6.9 out of 10
Starring: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pulman

How in the bloody hell is Independence Day not rated at least at an 8.5? This movie had tons of catch phrases like “Welcome to Earth” and “Elvis has left the building.” Not only that, it was loaded with action. Infiltrating an alien base, killing aliens, fighter pilot sequences and more, Independence Day was a fun summer blockbuster.

Rent or Buy ‘Independence Day’ here.


42. 16 Blocks

movies to watch

Release Date: March 3, 2006
IMDB Rating: 6.6 out of 10
Starring: Bruce Willis, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), David Morse

Aside from Bruce Willis’ god awful mustache in the film, 16 Blocks was a thrill ride! It’s a unique concept which sees Willis being tasked with transporting a convict (Bey) from jail to a courthouse just 16 blocks away, but a lot can happen (and does) in 16 Blocks, especially if the convict is expected to testify against a police officer and the entire NYPD wants him dead.

Rent or Buy here.


41. Smokin’ Aces

action movies to watch

Release Date: January 26, 2007
IMDB Rating: 6.7 out of 10
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta

Smokin’ Aces is the best Ryan Reynolds film that no one really watched, with quite a few notable cast members like Common, Chris Pine, Kevin Durand (you’d know his face), and even Ben Affleck in a death scene. Smokin’ Aces had a few badass close quarters shootouts, brutally violent scenes and one of the best final scenes in an action movie. Smokin’ Aces is one of my favorite movies on this list.

Rent or Buy here.


40. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

underrated action movies

Release Date: September 14, 2005
IMDB Rating: 7.7 out of 10
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is widely considered one of the most underrated action films of all time. Even though it’s highly rated, it only GROSSED $4.2M in its run. Yikes. You wouldn’t think people would love a Val Kilmer movie so much, but he’s actually quite brilliant as a gay guy. There were some funny moments in the movie, too (Russian Roulette, anyone?).

Rent or Buy here.


39. Payback

mel gibson movies

Release Date: February 5, 1999
IMDB Rating: 7.1 out of 10
Starring: Mel Gibson, Lucy Liu, Gregg Henry

Before the world hated Mel Gibson, he was in quite a few great action movies. Payback is a lot of fun with Mel Gibson playing the anti-hero, and it contains a lot of great characters. There are some great action sequences contained within, and even though it’s slightly harder to do nowadays, it was once easy to root for Mel Gibson.

Rent or Buy here.


38. John Wick

underrated action movies 2014

Release Date: October 24, 2014
IMDB Rating: 7.2 out of 10
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, michael Nyqvist

Somehow, John Wick only brought in $42M and is rated at a 7.2. Anyone who has seen John Wick has nothing but great things to say about the brutal revenge tale, and its unfortunate that we all wrote it off when it hit theaters because it starred Keanu Reeves (and he’s typically awful). But, Reeves in John Wick is very enjoyable to watch (probably because there isn’t a ton of dialogue), and the movie is action packed. I would rate the film much higher (more like a 9.0 out of 10). We recently learned that there would be a John Wick 2, although I doubt that the second will be nearly as great as its predecessor.

Rent or Buy here.


37. The Long Kiss Goodnight

long kiss goodnight

Release Date: October 11, 1996
IMDB Rating: 6.7 out of 10
Starring: Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson

The Long Kiss Goodnight has some truly ridiculous scenes in it (like a kitchen fight scene where someone smacks Davis in the face with a gallon of milk), but Geena Davis as an action star is great all around.

Buy here.


36. The Last Boy Scout

Release Date: December 13, 1991
IMDB Rating: 6.9 out of 10
Starring: Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans

Damon Wayans had a string of movies in the 90s that were actually quite fantastic. Most of them were comedies, like Major Payne and Blankman, but he was in a couple action comedy flicks like Bulletproof (we’ll get to that later) and The Last Boy Scout. The Last Boy Scout only brought in $59.5M, but the duo of Willis and Wayans deserved much more love than it initially received. The movie follows a former football player and a murder case surrounding a football team, with Willis playing the detective that is tasked with getting to the bottom of the case. Big explosions and an interesting story make The Last Boy Scout a great action movie to watch.

Rent or Buy here.


35. Sahara

sahara movie

Release Date: April 8, 2005
IMDB Rating: 6.0 out of 10
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penelope Cruz, William H. Macy

Matthew McConaughey was a different actor 10 years ago than he is now, which is probably the reason why Sahara was so largely overlooked. Sahara is a great action adventure film though, with a great train sequence, gunfights, and some cool chases. And Penelope Cruz.

Rent or Buy here.


34. Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

underrated action movies

Release Date: January 19, 2005
IMDB Rating: 6.3 out of 10
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne

I know a lot of people would prefer I make a case for the original Assault on Precinct 13, but the 2005 version felt more underrated than the original. The idea of cops and prisoners teaming up to survive is great, but the cast of the 2005 version is well put together. Excluding Ja Rule. We prefer our movies sans-Ja Rule.

Rent or Buy here.


33. The Punisher (2004)

Release Date: April 14, 2004
IMDB Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Starring: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Ben Foster

John Travolta plays the criminal well, and Thomas Jane really stood out as an anti-hero in 2004’s The Punisher. I realize everyone will want to talk about Dolph Lundgren’s version from the 80s, but, again, the remake felt more relevant to today’s interests (naturally). Jane as a reckless vigilante out for revenge is filled with crazy explosions, gun fire and fight scenes. To me, Thomas Jane was the best Punisher.

Rent or Buy here.


32. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

underrated action movies

Release Date: September 7, 2007
IMDB Rating: 7.7 out of 10
Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster

If you make a western that doesn’t contain a lot of action, you’re not doing it right. And the 3:10 to Yuma remake of 2007 was a great western with tons of action. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Ben Foster all put on stellar performances, and although the film is rated well enough, it didn’t receive hardly any love at the box office (grossing just $53.5M in its run). If you love westerns, you’ll love 3:10 to Yuma.

Rent or Buy here.


31. Defiance

Release Date: January 16, 2009
IMDB Rating: 7.2 out of 10
Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell

While Craig was taking a break from Bond movies, he was in a movie named Defiance that surrounded Polish Jewish brothers during WWII while Nazis occupied Belarus. The brothers vow to avenge the death of their parents. It’s not only a good history lesson — although some of it is inaccurate — it’s a great action movie to watch.

Rent or Buy here.


30. Exit Wounds

steven seagal movies

Release Date: March 16, 2001
IMDB Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Starring: Steven Seagal, DMX, Isaiah Washington

This is the last good Steven Seagal movie.

Rent or Buy here.


29. Bulletproof

Release Date: September 6, 1996
IMDB Rating: 5.8 out of 10
Starring: Damon Wayans, Adam Sandler, James Caan

Action films don’t have to be straight up excitement, and some films in the genre have more comedy than others. Bulletproof was not only a good action movie, but it was a good comedy. Wayans and Sandler make the perfect duo on-screen. Not only did the movie have some truly funny moments (like the whole “Disney Lannnd?” bit), but it had some great action sequences with guns, fast cars and explosions, too. The movie didn’t fare well, bringing in just $6M in its opening weekend  and $21M total. It was most likely due to poor marketing, which included an atrocious first trailer.

Rent or Buy here.


28. Marked for Death

underrated movies

Release Date: October 5, 1990
IMDB Rating: 5.8 out of 10
Starring: Steven Seagal, Joanna Pacula, Basil Wallace

Segal owned the 90s with great action movies like Under Siege and The Patriot, but everyone seems to forget about one of his earlier films, Marked for Death. In Marked for Death, Segal pisses off some Jamaican druglords whom then mark him and his family for death. With Segal out for revenge, the action is non-stop! It’s straight action from start to finish, and one of the best revenge movies of all time.

Rent or Buy here.


27. Showdown in Little Tokyo

showdown in little tokyo

Release Date: August 23, 1991
IMDB Rating: 6.0 out of 10
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

This movie has one purpose and one purpose only — to entertain! It doesn’t get poetic or make you think, it’s just straight up action-packed fun. Lundgren and Lee against Yakuza? Magic!

Rent or Buy here.


26. Big Trouble in Little China

big trouble in little china james hong

Release Date: July 2, 1986
IMDB Rating: 7.3 out of 10
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattral, James Hong

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The 80s and early 90s were kind to Kurt Russell (whom is now pretty much not even relevant in the movie business). Big Trouble in Little China was seriously weird fun. James Hong’s character is memorable, but the action comes from Russell, who plays a truck driver that gets caught up in a kidnapping. Big Trouble in Little China didn’t try to be anything but a fun B-movie, with its cheesy dialogue and martial arts. Even though it was a fun time, the film only brought in $11.1M total in the USA on a $25M budget. Yikes.

Rent or Buy here.

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