Here Are 5 of the Best American Action Sequences of All Time

Action sequences are one of the most useful methods in enhancing the adrenaline of fast-paced action movies. They come in all shapes and sizes (car chases, fights, robberies, etc.) but they have one common objective: to make a heart pound faster.

Some of the best action sequences have come from various massive franchises, such as Die Hard, with the icicle kill in the second movie, and Mission: Impossible‘s humorous jail escape in Ghost Protocol. However, there have also been newer movies with immediately iconic action sequences such as Charlize Theron fighting hundreds of spies in a staircase in Atomic Blonde. The love for action sequences even goes beyond movie genres. It is a major part of the fantasy genre, such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, as well as sci-fi movies like the Star Wars franchise. Some action sequences have redefined the medium with groundbreaking visuals, such as Christopher Nolan’s Inception and its corridor fight: where the characters are inside a moving van while also fighting in a dream dimension, causing the corridor to move as the car falls into a river in a gravity-defying fight scene.

It doesn’t matter the genre or who is in it – action sequences have the power to stay in the mind of viewers years after being watched, and to influence the future of cinema. With quite a long list of brilliant set-pieces spanning the whole of global cinema, it may be helpful to limit our scope, so here just five of the best action sequences from American movies.

5 The Matrix

Warner Bros.

There is no denial that The Matrix influenced cinema since its release in the late ’90s. This movie did not only inspire the creation of multiple sci-fi stories but also made action sequences in a way that was never seen before. The Matrix was released during the heyday of action blockbusters, a period when new action movies were coming out every week. To stand out and become as iconic as this trilogy has (which is still producing films, with The Matrix: Resurrection) is not an easy feat.

There are multiple awe-inspiring action sequences in all the films, but the one that always comes to mind when thinking about great fight scenes: the bullet-time, “dodge this” scene. The scene where Keanu Reeves, playing his most iconic character Neo, dodges bullets fired by one of the Matrix’s agents in slow motion will be forever a part of the cinematic culture, (as well as the film’s simulation theory philosophy). Using extremely meticulous digital technology, the groundbreaking sequence has permanently redefined the use of special effects in action films.

Related: Here’s What Makes Die Hard the Best ’80s Action Movie

4 Avengers: Endgame

Disney, Marvel Studios

Arguably one of the most epic battle scenes of all time, the final fight against Thanos still has the ability to move people even today. Seeing every superhero that the audience grew to love over several movies (and years) come together to fight against the ultimate villain is something that only the MCU could have done, and surely helped Avengers: Endgame become the second-most profitable movie of all time. What’s most unique about the sequence is just how well it incorporates emotion into its action.

There are several emotional moments: watching these characters all work together, Captain American grabbing Thor’s hammer, some unmeasurable deaths, and all the female superheroes coming side by side to battle the enemy – there was no shortage of screams and tears flooding the cinema when it was released back in 2019. This action scene is so powerful and well-orchestrated that it’s become seared into the minds of fans everywhere, even after a few years and multiple additional Marvel movies..

3 Mr. & Mrs. Smith

A bored married couple is surprised to learn that they are both assassins hired by competing agencies to kill each other.
20th Century Fox

Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a fantastic combination of two of the most beloved movie genres: spy movies and rom-com. Using Angelina Jolie and Bad Pitt’s charisma and chemistry in this movie creates some exceptionally dynamic scenes between the couple who want to kill each other – quite literally.

The best and most memorable action sequence of the movie occurs when the couple finds out that they are both assassins: and that their mission is to kill each other. A great combination of their on-screen chemistry with situational comedy, this is one scene that everyone who watched the movie loves, and is known by even those who haven’t. A unique view on marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Smith has become just as iconic as the duo who stars in it. The film is still so loved that a TV series based on it is currently being developed.

2 Casino Royale

Columbia Pictures

There can’t be a list of the best action sequences of all time without the world’s most famous spy: James Bond. Picking only one scene from this 60-year franchise is truly difficult. A car chase with a military tank in the middle of a city, battling boats, skiing down a mountain while gun fighting, a car that becomes a submarine; these are only a few examples. It may be as hard to pick a favorite Bond as it is to pick only one action sequence. To receive the title of the best Bond action sequence, it has to have it all: explosions, car chases in multiple vehicles, extreme heights, a bit of comedy, and, naturally, an overwhelming amount of enemies for only one Bond.

Having this in mind, Casino Royale‘s parkour scene truly knocked it out of the park. A lengthy action sequence full of everything we love about James Bond while incorporating new elements and using the advantages of the scenario (a building under construction) has to have a place on this list. With a great plot twist at the end, one of cinema’s greatest action sequences really sealed the deal in introducing Daniel Craig as one of the best Bonds in the franchise.

Related: Daniel Craig Has Nothing Nice to Say About James Bond

1 Raiders of the Lost Ark

Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Paramount Pictures Studios

Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic movie characters of all time (with his whip, hat, uncontrollable fear of snakes, and everlasting bleeding lip); everyone falls in love with Indy the second he is on-screen. He’s incredibly adventurous and humorous to watch, charming and magnetic but also somehow realistic in his nervousness and fears. Just like his character, the Harrison Ford movies became iconic for innovative and fun action sequences. There are four Indiana Jones movies, with the fifth film finishing shooting soon, all of them with mind-blowing action sequences. Indy being chased by a gigantic rock, almost getting crushed by walls with spikes, fighting a lion and snakes in a circus train, and even dealing with aliens – Jones had a tough life.

However, one of the most iconic bit of action of all time gains its title because of a short, brief moment; it’s really a red herring of a scene, and yet it’s probably the most recognizable and memorable little action sequence for most people. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, while Indiana Jones is being chased by the bad guys, he encounters a man with a sword. This man spends quite a few moments displaying incredibly impressive sword tricks, trying to get Indy to react, which he does: he grabs a gun and shoots the guy. One of the funniest scenes in cinema history came from Harrison Ford himself: he was tired of those long action sequences with swords, and his impatience made movie magic for audiences of all generations.

Rege-Jean Page Beats Tom Hardy as Bookies' Favorite to Be the New James Bond
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