Back in the ’80s and ’90s there was no shortage of thrilling, butt-kicking and all around bad-a– films to be had thanks to stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagul, Bruce Willis and Jean-Claude Van Damme. While many of them are still gracing the big screen, they have noted the end to their Rambo, Terminator and Die Hard days with The Expendables franchise and fans of the action-hero will notice a definite lacking in that area nowadays. Gone is the muscle bound, man of few words hero who has been replaced by the sarcastic underdog type, but there are a few who are trying to fill that space. Here are the best “new” action movie stars.
11. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise is an oddity when it comes to stardom, you either hate him or you love him and his non-imposing figure doesn’t instill the same sort of “I’d follow this guy into battle” attitude that guys like Schwarzenegger do. Regardless he has starred in numerous action flicks such as the Mission: Impossible franchise, Top Gun and Minority Report and with the fifth Mission: Impossible getting set to hit theatres, he’s keeping the classic action movie alive.
10. Denzel Washington
At 60 years old, Denzel Washington is in no way “new” to the blockbuster scene, but recent years have seen some of the best from him in terms of being an action hero. With Training Day, Man on Fire and The Equalizer all coming out after the year 2000, Washington delivered some much needed action movies in a time when the genre has been lagging.
9. Jai Courtney
Unlike the first two guys on this list, Jai Courtney doesn’t have a lengthy resume but that’s what makes him a “new” action star, and what he does have on his resume is already impressive. Not only has he already worked with number 10 star Tom Cruise in 2012’s Jack Reacher, but he also starred as a “next generation” tough guy in A Good Day To Die Hard as John McClane’s (Burce Willis) son. To top it all off he will be starring in the fifth instalment of the Terminator franchise alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, clearly the kid is an action star in the making and he’s learning from the best.
8. Chris Pine
Chris Pine’s looks could have easily got him caught up and stuck in the romantic comedy movie genre as just another good looking leading man, but luckily he has shown he is much more than that. Pine proved his action hero status as Captain Kirk in the very well received Star Trek reboot films, launching a whole new instalment in the storied franchise. He also became the American James Bond when he took on the role of Jack Ryan in Shadow Recruit and while he has continued to walk the line between action films and other genres, he could carve out quite the career for himself if he sticks with action films.
7. Mark Wahlberg
Back in 1991, no one could have convinced you that essentially the Justin Bieber of the time, Marky Mark, was going to become one of the most respected movie stars. But he did. Mark has proven his ability to kick ass and take names in several films including Planet of the Apes, Shooter, The Italian Job, Four Brothers and we have to say it because he is the star, Transformers: Age of Extinction. Whether you like him or not, one look at his filmography and you know Wahlberg is one of the best since Willis, Gibson and Stallone when it comes to shooting first and asking questions later.
6. Daniel Craig
Since the unbelievable success and fandom that Daniel Craig’s turn at 007 has created, this one really is a no-brainer. Of course his credibility as an action hero is due in large part to his role as James Bond in the continuation of the franchise, let’s not forget he was also in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Munich and Cowboys & Aliens. In fact no matter what he is in, Craig’s no bullsh-t attitude is a lot like that of Stallone’s Rambo, the quintessential action hero.
5. Christian Bale
Pretty much any of the guys on the list up until this point could have landed anywhere and while it may seem unfair that Bale comes in at such a high spot, and is the only superhero on this list, it is warranted. The guy is at the center of the most talked about superhero trilogy yet, a franchise that arguably fueled the fire that is now the eruption of endless superhero films and TV series. Of course he also did take his turn as John Connor in Terminator: Salvation which may not have been his best acting, but did center him in a classic action franchise.
4. Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel has often been criticized for his monotone, blank stare performances but lets be real, that’s what the action star is all about. We don’t care what you say, we care what you do and Vin has proved himself as a master at action-packed movies. From the Fast & Furious franchise to The Chronicles of Riddick and xXx, the guy has definitely the same type of resume as the guys from the Stallone era.
3. Liam Neeson
There was no way this guy wasn’t making the list and much like Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson is not new. At 62 years old, Neeson’s foray into the one man wrecking crew action film has only been recent since starring in the box office breaker Taken in 2008. Since then if there is any film where people are going to get shot or beaten and “a specific set of skills” is needed, Neeson is your guy. His gun-toting skills have been used again and again for many films and he shows no signs of slowing down, just keeps on delivering good old fashioned a-s-whoopings on the bad guys.
2. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Thanks to WWE Entertainment and the fact that wrestling is part acting, many wrestlers have tried to become blockbuster stars but none have come close to the success of The Rock. Everything about the guy screams “Don’t mess with me” and after the numerous people he has destroyed in his films, it is clear he is the new Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact many recognize the minor interaction between the two in 2003’s The Rundown, when Schwarzenegger tells The Rock to “Have fun” as a “passing of the torch” from the iconic action hero. After a failed attempt at family movies, he has solidified his place in the action genre with back-to-back-to-back beat-down films from Walking Tall to G.I. Joe to Fast and the Furious.
1. Jason Statham
As a trained fighter, opening a can of whoop-ass takes on a whole new meaning when Jason Statham is involved. His ability earned him a starring role in The Expendables although his success with action movies didn’t come until decades after the other guys in the movie. Since his break with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Statham has gone on to star in high-octane movies like The Transporter, Crank, Death Race and of course Furious 7. It is clear to many his major role alongside the legends in The Expendables is merely the recognition of Statham as the best new action hero.