The action movie genre is always changing and evolving with new eras of filmmaking. Some critics suggest that in more recent years, the genre has been in decline thanks to a movement away from the old-school style of these movies towards big-budget CGI films. However, there are still plenty of great action films released over the last couple of decades, even if audiences haven’t found them.
Due to smaller budgets or poor critical reactions, these films have been overlooked by fans. But they deserve a chance, as they are among some of the best modern action movies you might be ignoring. Here are the most underrated action films of the last 20 years.
10 The A-Team
Joe Carnahan is a skilled action director whose films often fail to connect with audiences and critics. Such is the case with his biggest film to date, The A-Team, a big screen adaption of the classic television show. The movie follows a ragtag group of soldiers, wrongly convicted of a crime and forced to go on the run.
The film is admittedly over-the-top, but that makes for a lot of the fun. The actors are all extremely likable and inhabit the well-know characters effectively. Some of the action sequences are overblown, but it’s still a fun and mindless ride.
9 Charlie’s Angels
Charlie’s Angels is another classic television show that got the big-screen treatment, and like The A-Team, it is much better than you might have expected. The film stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu as the titular heroes on a mission to rescue a tech genius who has been captured.
Like many female-led action films, Charlie’s Angels is sometimes dismissed by a certain toxic audience. However, the movie is actually a thoroughly enjoyable film with a lot of great action set pieces. While the humor might be a bit corny, the likable cast and awesome fight sequences make it a blast.
8 Behind Enemy Lines
Owen Wilson is not the first person you might think of as an action hero, but Behind Enemy Lines proves he is up to the challenge. Wilson stars as a Navy fighter pilot who is shot down during a routine surveillance mission and finds himself being hunted in hostile lands.
The film is the kind of one-man mission movies that can either be really exciting or a total bore. Luckily, it manages to be the latter thanks to a number of fun sequences and a solid lead performance from Wilson.
Before Christian Bale donned the cape and cowl as Batman, he got some practice as the brooding action hero in this sci-fi flick. Equilibrium is set in a future where emotions have been outlawed. Bale plays a cop tasked with enforcing those laws who begins questioning his purpose.
The dystopian setting is not entirely original but provides an interesting backdrop for the excitement. The movie uses inventive choreography to stage unique and thrilling shootouts and fight scenes.
6 The Rundown
Dwayne Johnson might be a huge star now, but with The Rundown, he was just breaking into the movie world. He stars as a bounty hunter who is hired by his boss to bring home his son (Seann William Scott) who is living in South America. The two men soon find themselves on a dangerous treasure hunt.
The film is largely forgotten among Johnson’s bigger works, but it remains one of his most enjoyable. He proves to be a charismatic and impressive lead, and the action sequences are fun and wild.
5 Man On Fire
A good revenge story can be great material for an engrossing action film. Man on Fire stars Denzel Washington as a former mercenary who is pulled out of his suicidal existence when he is hired by a wealthy family to act as a bodyguard for their daughter. When the girl is taken for ransom, he goes on the warpath.
The movie is a gritty and brutal film from Tony Scott, who infuses the story with a hazy feel. Washington is excellent in the lead role and, as violent as his methods are, they can be pretty satisfying to watch.
Most science-fiction action films tend to be big-budget spectacles. Dredd went for a much smaller scale approach, but it still made for an incredibly fun actioner. Karl Urban stars as the titular law enforcer who takes on an army of criminals to bring a drug lord to justice.
Perhaps the bitter taste of Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd still lingered, as tat movie failed to reach much of an audience. But Dredd has gained a cult following thanks to its stylized feel and hardcore action.
3 Jack Reacher
Tom Cruise is still thrilling fans with his Mission Impossible films, but Jack Reacher was one franchise he had trouble getting off the ground. The film was another collaboration between Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie, and followed a former military police officer investigating a renegade sniper.
Cruise is a compelling lead as always in this entertaining action-thriller. Though much smaller scale than the Mission Impossible films, it was still filled with great fight scenes, shootouts and an impressive car chase.
Overlord is a recent Bad Robot production that many people assumed was another secret Cloverfield movie. In reality, the film was just a crazy and wildly entertaining action-horror film set during World War II. It follows a group of soldiers who sneak behind enemy lines and make a horrifying discovery about the Nazis’ experimentation.
The movie was completely overlooked on its release, but hopefully it will gain more attention from home audiences. It is a gory, violent and thrilling ride that feels like a throwback to John Carpenter films.
Upgrade is another wild film that mixes the action genre with some horror and adds a lot of black humor in for good measure. The low-budget action film follows a man whose wife is killed when a group of thugs attack them and leave him paralyzed. After getting some experimental cybernetic upgrades, he goes on a mission of revenge.
The movie is an out-of-control and hugely fun ride that failed to make much noise upon its release but thrilled those who did see it. It is funny, gruesome and a deranged joy.