50 Most Popular Action Heroes of All Time

March 29, 2018 by Evan Comen

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Since the advent of the moving image, movies have become the dominant form of storytelling in the Western world. As storytelling technologies have evolved, the basic concept of the hero’s journey, and the aspects that make a hero popular, have largely remained the same.

Hollywood has managed to tell and retell the classic hero’s journey in fresh and newly exciting ways, creating action heroes whose bravery, emotional complexity, and sense of inner pain could captivate audiences for millennia to come.

To determine the most popular action heroes of all time, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed the popularity of more than 23,000 characters from roughly 1,600 action films with data from the Internet Movie Database. Characters were ranked based on the number of reviews for each action film they have appeared in. Only action heroes portrayed in films were considered.

Click here to see the 50 most popular action heroes of all time.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Correction: Due to an editing error, the most recent film appearance of action heroes in slides #22 and #12, as well as the release year of the most recent film appearance of the action hero in slide #26, was incorrect. We also failed to include Colin Farrell as among the actors who have portrayed Douglas Quaid, the #50 action hero on our list. We have corrected these mistakes. 

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

50. Douglas Quaid
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.10 million
> Most recent film appearance: Total Recall (2012)
> Biggest action hit: Total Recall (1990)
> Portrayed by: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colin Farrell

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

49. William Cage
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.01 million
> Most recent film appearance: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
> Biggest action hit: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
> Portrayed by: Tom Cruise

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

48. Marshal Will Kane
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.01 million
> Most recent film appearance: High Noon (1952)
> Biggest action hit: High Noon (1952)
> Portrayed by: Gary Cooper

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

47. Deadpool/Wade Wilson
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.10 million
> Most recent film appearance: Deadpool (2016)
> Biggest action hit: Deadpool (2016)
> Portrayed by: Ryan Reynolds

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

46. Evey Hammond
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.12 million
> Most recent film appearance: V for Vendetta (2005)
> Biggest action hit: V for Vendetta (2005)
> Portrayed by: Natalie Portman

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

45. Diana/Wonder Woman
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.14 million
> Most recent film appearance: Justice League (2017)
> Biggest action hit: Wonder Woman (2017)
> Portrayed by: Gal Gadot

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

44. Scott Lang/Ant-Man
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.17 million
> Most recent film appearance: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
> Biggest action hit: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
> Portrayed by: Paul Rudd

Source: Courtesy of Screen Gems

43. Alice
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.21 million
> Most recent film appearance: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
> Biggest action hit: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
> Portrayed by: Milla Jovovich

Source: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

42. John Wick
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.22 million
> Most recent film appearance: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
> Biggest action hit: John Wick (2014)
> Portrayed by: Keanu Reeves

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Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate

41. Dave Lizewski
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.23 million
> Most recent film appearance: Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
> Biggest action hit: Kick-Ass (2010)
> Portrayed by: Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate

40. Barney Ross
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.29 million
> Most recent film appearance: The Expendables 3 (2014)
> Biggest action hit: The Expendables (2010)
> Portrayed by: Sylvester Stallone

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Source: Courtesy of DreamWorks Distribution

39. Maximus
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.35 million
> Most recent film appearance: Gladiator (2000)
> Biggest action hit: Gladiator (2000)
> Portrayed by: Russell Crowe

Source: Courtesy of Miramax

38. The Bride
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.36 million
> Most recent film appearance: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
> Biggest action hit: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
> Portrayed by: Uma Thurman

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

37. Dr. Peter Venkman
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.39 million
> Most recent film appearance: Ghostbusters II (1989)
> Biggest action hit: Ghostbusters (1984)
> Portrayed by: Bill Murray

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

36. Max Rockatansky
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.42 million
> Most recent film appearance: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
> Portrayed by: Tom Hardy

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

35. Hiccup
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.47 million
> Most recent film appearance: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
> Biggest action hit: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
> Portrayed by: Jay Baruchel

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

34. Martin Riggs
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.51 million
> Most recent film appearance: Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
> Biggest action hit: Lethal Weapon (1987)
> Portrayed by: Mel Gibson

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

33. Sherlock Holmes
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.52 million
> Most recent film appearance: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
> Biggest action hit: Sherlock Holmes (2009)
> Portrayed by: Robert Downey Jr., Nicholas Rowe

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

32. Jake Sully
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.62 million
> Most recent film appearance: Avatar (2009)
> Biggest action hit: Avatar (2009)
> Portrayed by: Sam Worthington

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Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

31. Rambo
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.73 million
> Most recent film appearance: Rambo (2008)
> Biggest action hit: First Blood (1982)
> Portrayed by: Sylvester Stallone

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

30. Sam Witwicky
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.85 million
> Most recent film appearance: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
> Biggest action hit: Transformers (2007)
> Portrayed by: Shia LaBeouf

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

29. Jason Bourne
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 1.90 million
> Most recent film appearance: Jason Bourne (2016)
> Biggest action hit: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
> Portrayed by: Matt Damon

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

28. Caesar
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.01 million
> Most recent film appearance: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
> Biggest action hit: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
> Portrayed by: Andy Serkis, Roddy McDowall

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate

27. Katniss Everdeen
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.18 million
> Most recent film appearance: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)
> Biggest action hit: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
> Portrayed by: Jennifer Lawrence

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

26. Neo
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.39 million
> Most recent film appearance: The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
> Biggest action hit: The Matrix (1999)
> Portrayed by: Keanu Reeves

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

25. Star-Lord/Peter Quill
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.40 million
> Most recent film appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
> Biggest action hit: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
> Portrayed by: Chris Pratt

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

24. Ethan Hunt
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.48 million
> Most recent film appearance: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
> Portrayed by: Tom Cruise

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

23. Dominic Toretto
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.48 million
> Most recent film appearance: Furious 7 (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Furious 7 (2015)
> Portrayed by: Vin Diesel

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

22. Terminator
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.49 million
> Most recent film appearance: Terminator Genisys (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Terminator 2 (1991)
> Portrayed by: Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

21. Captain James T. Kirk
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.51 million
> Most recent film appearance: Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
> Biggest action hit: Star Trek (2009)
> Portrayed by: Chris Pine

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

20. Brian O’Conner
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.59 million
> Most recent film appearance: Furious 7 (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Furious 7 (2015)
> Portrayed by: Paul Walker

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

19. Ellen Ripley
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.62 million
> Most recent film appearance: Alien: Resurrection (1997)
> Biggest action hit: Aliens (1986)
> Portrayed by: Sigourney Weaver

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

18. Cobb
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 2.88 million
> Most recent film appearance: Inception (2010)
> Biggest action hit: Inception (2010)
> Portrayed by: Leonardo DiCaprio

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

17. John Connor
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 3.18 million
> Most recent film appearance: Terminator Genisys (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Terminator 2 (1991)
> Portrayed by: Edward Furlong, Jason Clarke

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Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

16. Captain Jack Sparrow
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 3.41 million
> Most recent film appearance: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
> Biggest action hit: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
> Portrayed by: Johnny Depp

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

15. John McClane
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 3.87 million
> Most recent film appearance: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
> Biggest action hit: Die Hard (1988)
> Portrayed by: Bruce Willis

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

14. Hulk/Bruce Banner
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 3.99 million
> Most recent film appearance: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
> Biggest action hit: The Avengers (2012)
> Portrayed by: Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton, Lou Ferrigno, Eric Bana

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

13. Superman/Clark Kent
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 4.01 million
> Most recent film appearance: Justice League (2017)
> Biggest action hit: Man of Steel (2013)
> Portrayed by: Henry Cavill, Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

12. Spider-Man/Peter Parker
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 4.07 million
> Most recent film appearance: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
> Biggest action hit: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
> Portrayed by: Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

11. Professor Xavier
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 4.08 million
> Most recent film appearance: Logan (2017)
> Biggest action hit: Logan (2017)
> Portrayed by: Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

10. Wolverine/Logan
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 5.08 million
> Most recent film appearance: Logan (2017)
> Biggest action hit: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
> Portrayed by: Hugh Jackman

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Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

9. Thor
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 5.15 million
> Most recent film appearance: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
> Biggest action hit: The Avengers (2012)
> Portrayed by: Chris Hemsworth

8. James Bond
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 5.96 million
> Most recent film appearance: Spectre (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Skyfall (2012)
> Portrayed by: Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

7. Captain America/Steve Rogers
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 5.99 million
> Most recent film appearance: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
> Biggest action hit: The Avengers (2012)
> Portrayed by: Chris Evans, Matt Salinger, Reb Brown

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

6. Indiana Jones
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 6.82 million
> Most recent film appearance: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
> Biggest action hit: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
> Portrayed by: Harrison Ford

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

5. Iron Man/Tony Stark
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 7.78 million
> Most recent film appearance: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
> Biggest action hit: The Avengers (2012)
> Portrayed by: Robert Downey Jr.

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Source: Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

4. Obi-Wan Kenobi
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 8.33 million
> Most recent film appearance: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
> Biggest action hit: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
> Portrayed by: Alec Guinness, James Arnold Taylor

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

3. Batman/Bruce Wayne
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 10.66 million
> Most recent film appearance: Justice League (2017)
> Biggest action hit: The Dark Knight (2008)
> Portrayed by: Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Adam West

2. Han Solo
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 13.39 million
> Most recent film appearance: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
> Biggest action hit: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
> Portrayed by: Harrison Ford

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Source: Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

1. Luke Skywalker
> Action movie reviews, weighted total: 14.55 million
> Most recent film appearance: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
> Biggest action hit: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
> Portrayed by: Mark Hamill

The qualities of actors that are the most successful at portraying action heroes in film may shed some light on what characteristics that are most common among the hero archetype. Action heroes often are stereotyped as giant, muscular fighting machines. In many cases this stereotype is accurate. Be it the many roles Arnold Schwarzenegger played following his legendary bodybuilding career, such as Conan or the Terminator, or the stoic roles played by martial artists Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Yet there is more to being a great action hero than simply having muscle. Secret agent James Bond, played by many actors, also has his gadgets, cunning, and resolve. In “The Matrix,” Keanu Reeves as Neo is a reluctant hero despite being “The One” — humanity’s hope for a better future.

Sometimes, a talented action actor can build a following. With such actors, fans will be drawn to any action movie in which the actor appears. For example, Schwarzenegger appears on our list for his roles in both “Total Recall” and the Terminator series. Similarly, Sylvester Stallone is represented multiple times for his work in the Rambo and Expendables films. The longevity of these actors’ careers is a testament to their talents in front of the camera.

While audiences still love those actors – further illustrated by the success of the recent Expendables franchise, which features multiple action actors both old and young – many have turned to the recent wave of big budget superhero movies to get their action fix. Instead of relying on a famous action star to open a major movie, studios are now looking to establish franchises with multiple likeable characters. The list features 13 superheroes who appear in multiple movies, including Wolverine, who has appeared in all nine X-Men films, and many of the stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

To determine the most popular action heroes of all time, 24/7 Wall St. ranked characters based on the number of reviews of the movies they have starred in on Internet Movie Database. Only the lead characters from movies with the action genre tag and at least 5,000 votes on IMDb were considered. Because older films are considerably less likely to have been rated by IMDb users, we assigned greater weighting to older movies by scaling the number of ratings a given movie received to the total number of user ratings received by all films released the same year. We scaled the number of user ratings for each actor to his or her position on the movie’s IMDb cast list. Actors and actresses listed the highest on the IMDb cast page for a specific movie received the full number of user reviews for that movie in his or her aggregate user review count, and actors and actresses listed the lowest on the IMDb cast page had their user reviews from that particular movie weighed down in their total review count.