This article is part of our 2016 Rewind, which chronicled the best, worst, and otherwise interesting movies and shows of 2016.
In putting together this list of the year’s sixteen best action films I soon realized that to reach that magical number I’d have to include a few lesser examples – movies great or good that happen to only feature a small amount of memorable action – so instead of doing that I decided to just cap the list at twelve. And speaking of cap…
12. Captain America: Civil War
Action in CG-heavy films doesn’t typically impress as it’s essentially animated rather than crafted and earned, but the Russo brothers have proven themselves capable of delivering excitement and thrills with their more-grounded than usual Marvel films. The highlight here is the airport brawl between numerous superheroes, and while the fight choreography is solid the film’s ability to give each character their own moment to shine throughout the clash is an even more impressive achievement.
11. Asura: The City of Madness
South Korean cinema is always a reliable source for brutal action scenes, and while there were more stylized Korean releases this year (see above) this is the one that fully embraces their love of sharp objects. Plot turns and character work occupy the film’s first two-thirds before slash-filled fights paint the walls red.
10. Hardcore Henry
The inclusion of this first-person POV POS movie on this list in no way validates it as a good movie, but it still deserves praise for much of its action. From brutal gun/fist fights to thrilling parkour chases and vehicular carnage, the action is frequently impressive and exciting when it’s not being lost amid the POV.
9. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
As smarter people than myself have pointed out, this is the first Star Wars movie to address the fact that it’s about war. (Thank you Vox, I’m still laughing at this.) As such it’s fitting that the film delivers with action sequences both small (Donnie Yen kicking Stormtrooper ass) and large culminating in a third act centered on epic battlefield action.
8. The Jungle Book
Some might not consider this much of an action film, but I’d argue its photo-realistic CG in combination with some physical reality delivers several exciting and intense sequences. Some of the chases rival the action of real-world productions on both counts, and that’s an incredible achievement (especially coming from the director of Chef).
7. The Magnificent Seven
Westerns have slowly been making a comeback over the last few years, but while there have been several great ones they typically focus the action in small bursts. Antoine Fuqua’s having none of that here and instead unleashes a fun barrage of shoot-outs and stunts against an old-fashioned backdrop of cowboys and horses.