Special Report

Most Popular Action Stars of All Time

Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

The checklist for a summer blockbuster today usually involves the following: iconic hero, little dialogue, over-the-top plot, characters at risk most of the time, fight scenes, plenty of explosions, and costly computer-generated images.

Those tend to be the contours of an action movie, and for Hollywood, action films mean money. Of the 15 most successful movie franchises ever, 10 of them are action-themed. Hollywood has gravitated toward these films in part because of the globalization of movies: Action on the big screen doesn’t need to be dubbed or subtitled. (These are the 50 best action movies of all time.)

Their success has meant massive riches for the stars appearing in them. To determine the 25 most popular action stars of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average action-movie ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon; a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator; and total worldwide box office for all action movies from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services – weighting all numbers equally. Data on worldwide box office for all action movies was adjusted for inflation using historical ticket price data from the National Association of Theatre Owners. Only stars with at least 10 lead roles in action movies were considered. 

In the course of their careers, many actors have become associated with more than one action character. 

Harrison Ford played two swashbuckling heroes of the 1970s and 1980s – first as Han Solo in “Stars Wars,” then as the title character in the Indiana Jones films. Additionally, he was the Cold War protagonist Jack Ryan in two films based on Tom Clancy novels. 

Tom Cruise has starred as Ethan Hunt in the “Mission: Impossible” series and Jack Reacher in the series of the same name, and after a 36-year hiatus, he returned this year as the once-cocky fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in “Top Gun: Maverick.” 

Another actor closely associated with iconic action characters is Clint Eastwood. He played the laconic loner in spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s, and the no-holds-barred cop Harry Callahan in the “Dirty Harry” movies.

Click here to see the most popular action stars of all time

Eastwood is not the only Oscar winner on our list of action stars associated with an action franchise. Others include Denzel Washington (“The Equalizer”), Christian Bale (“Batman”), Sean Connery (James Bond movies), Mel Gibson (“Lethal Weapon”), and Will Smith (“Men in Black”). (You might want to avoid the worst movie from every major franchise.)

25. Nicolas Cage
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.2/10 (2.9 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 64% (6.3 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 33% (2,449 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $3.5 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Con Air (1997)

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24. Pierce Brosnan
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.5/10 (1.1 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 52% (1.5 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 47% (927 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $3.2 billion
> Top-rated action movie: GoldenEye (1995)

23. Jackie Chan
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.3/10 (1.4 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 63% (4.4 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 46% (1,650 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $2.7 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Rush Hour (1998)

22. Mark Wahlberg
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.4/10 (2.4 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 59% (2.1 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 46% (2,613 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $3.5 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Patriots Day (2016)

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21. Kevin Costner
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.5/10 (940,592 votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 67% (1.4 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 47% (859 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $2.8 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Open Range (2003)

20. Gerard Butler
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.9/10 (2.4 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 77% (2.6 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 42% (1,892 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $1.8 billion
> Top-rated action movie: 300 (2006)

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19. Sylvester Stallone
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.4/10 (3.1 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 61% (3.0 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 41% (2,017 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $5.1 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Rambo: First Blood (1982)

18. Dwayne Johnson
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.2/10 (2.5 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 53% (1.7 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 52% (3,254 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $5.6 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

17. Liam Neeson
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.8/10 (2.6 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 70% (1.7 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 55% (2,246 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $2.2 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Taken (2008)

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16. Denzel Washington
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.9/10 (2.7 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 67% (2.5 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 57% (2,324 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $2.6 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Unstoppable (2010)

15. Chris Hemsworth
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.0/10 (2.8 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 71% (848,965 votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 54% (2,505 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $2.8 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

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14. Kurt Russell
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.0/10 (1.3 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 75% (1.6 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 62% (756 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $1.4 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Tombstone (1993)

13. Clint Eastwood
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.9/10 (925,339 votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 63% (545,477 votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 65% (787 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $3.1 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

12. Bruce Willis
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.0/10 (4.6 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 73% (6.7 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 44% (2,445 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $5.7 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Die Hard (1988)

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11. Mel Gibson
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.0/10 (1.8 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 68% (2.9 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 61% (1,260 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $4.7 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Lethal Weapon (1987)

10. Vin Diesel
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.6/10 (3.0 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 67% (3.8 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 49% (2,671 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $7.0 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Furious 7 (2015)

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9. Arnold Schwarzenegger
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.1/10 (5.3 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 63% (5.1 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 47% (1,882 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $7.2 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

8. Will Smith
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 6.7/10 (4.5 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 68% (6.6 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 45% (2,541 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $7.5 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Bad Boys for Life (2020)

7. John Wayne
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.4/10 (247,586 votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (152,908 votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 74% (235 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $1.6 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Rio Bravo (1959)

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6. Russell Crowe
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.7/10 (3.0 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (35.2 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 70% (1,935 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $2.2 billion
> Top-rated action movie: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

5. Keanu Reeves
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.7/10 (5.1 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 83% (36.7 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 67% (2,076 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $4.6 billion
> Top-rated action movie: The Matrix (1999)

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4. Sean Connery
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.1/10 (1.6 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 71% (1.5 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 67% (816 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $7.5 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Goldfinger (1964)

3. Christian Bale
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 8.3/10 (6.6 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84% (5.7 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 68% (2,104 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $3.9 billion
> Top-rated action movie: The Dark Knight (2008)

2. Harrison Ford
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.6/10 (4.9 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 74% (5.4 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 70% (1,914 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $7.8 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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1. Tom Cruise
> Avg. action movie IMDb rating: 7.1/10 (5.7 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 71% (4.9 million votes)
> Avg. action movie Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 70% (3,874 votes)
> Total inflation-adjusted action movie worldwide box office: $9.3 billion
> Top-rated action movie: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

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