Action movies date back more than a century. “The Great Train Robbery,” made in 1903, has been pegged as the first action film. Action films have worked their way into other genres, in particular Westerns, starting in the 1930s, like John Wayne’s “Stagecoach” (1939). Action movies are also highly visible in American Film Institute’s 100 Best Movies of All Time, where “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) holds the seventh place.
No matter when it was made, almost every action movie has a plot in which a hero or a hero-in-waiting encounters a series of dangerous challenges while trying to fight against a villain or evil force. By the end of the film — most of the time — the hero has prevailed. Crazy car chases and spectacular explosions are also common to the genre.
To identify the best action movie ever made, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the 1,196 films in the action genre that had at least 25,000 reviews on Internet Movie Database, an online movie database owned by Amazon, or Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. We calculated an index of each action movie’s IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes audience score, and Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score, with all ratings weighted equally. To provide context, each movie’s ranking out of the 17,276 movies in our database across all genres was also included. Data on domestic box office came from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services. Ranking context for domestic box office gross was also provided out of the 4,230 films for which data was available. Box office figures are not adjusted for inflation. Cast information comes from IMDb.
“The Dark Knight,” released in 2008, is the best action movie of all time. Here are some of the details:
Combined score: 2.9 — #13 highest out of 17,276 movies in all genres
> Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine
> Domestic box office gross: $533.7 million — #15 highest out of 4,230 movies in all genres