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10 best action-comedies of all-time, ranked

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.
Warner Bros. Pictures

While straight action films like John Wick are far from extinct, it’s the action comedies that tend to become the popular box office hits. Movie fans just love to laugh at the funny parts while enjoying the accompanying action. Not every action comedy is created equal, and Hollywood has admittedly gone to the well with the buddy-cop movies a little bit too often.

This weekend, The Fall Guy is the latest action comedy to attempt to give the genre some fresh blood, even though it’s technically based on a TV series from the ’80s that has largely been forgotten. Regardless, that’s as good a reason as any to update our list of the best action comedies of all time. It would be too easy to load up this list with films from the ’80s and ’90s, when action comedies were at their peak. However, we’ve also saved some slots for more recently released action comedies that deserve some recognition as well.

10. Hot Fuzz (2007)

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz.
Rogue Pictures

Director Edgar Wright straddles the line between parody and straight action comedy with Hot Fuzz, a reunion with Wright’s Shaun of the Dead stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg’s Nicholas Angel is a stereotypical action hero who has been banished from London for being too effective as a police constable. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the quiet village of Sandford, Gloucestershire.

Nicholas’ new partner, Police Constable Danny Butterman (Frost), is an avid fan of action movies, which helps him bond with Nicholas. While Nicholas may find the quiet life of Sanford to be boring, he soon discovers a conspiracy that will give him and Danny a chance to become the action heroes of their dreams.

Rent or buy Hot Fuzz on Prime Video.

9. Tropic Thunder (2008)

Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., and Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder.
DreamWorks Pictures

Unlike Hot Fuzz, Tropic Thunder is unabashedly a parody of action movies that still functions as an actual film in the genre. Ben Stiller co-wrote the script, directed the film, and headlined the cast as Tugg Speedman, one of several washed-up action stars who sign on to appear in an adaption of the war autobiography of Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte), which also shares its name with the movie.

As part of an ill-fated plan to salvage the troubled production of the movie, Tugg, Kirk Lazarus (The Sympathizer‘s Robert Downey Jr.), Jeff Portnoy (Kung Fu Panda 4‘s Jack Black), Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), and more are dropped into a jungle to film their action scenes. What they don’t realize until too late is that they’re in an area controlled by the Flaming Dragon gang. And if the actors want to get out alive, then they’ll have to become the action stars that they’ve always pretended to be.

Watch Tropic Thunder on Paramount+.

8. Deadpool (2016)

Wade Wilson in Deadpool.
20th Century Studios

Deadpool is one of the rare superhero adaptations that outdoes its source material by being even more violent and profane than the comic itself. Ryan Reynolds championed this film for years, and starred as the title character, Wade Wilson. After working as a mercenary for years, Wade is ready to settle down with the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), until he’s stricken with terminal cancer.

Ajax (Ed Skrein) has a cure that’s worse than the disease when his “treatment” leaves Wade heavily scarred and completely insane. As Deadpool, Wade shoots off endless one-liners and jokes while unleashing his bloody vengeance every step of the way. Deadpool‘s sendup of both action heroes and superheroes is hilarious, and made this C-list comic book character into an A-lister on the big screen.

Watch Deadpool on Disney+.

7. The Nice Guys (2016)

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Writer and director Shane Black has done plenty of buddy action-comedy films, but his solo films peaked with The Nice Guys. Russell Crowe stars as Jackson Healy, an enforcer in the late ’70s who introduces himself to private investigator Holland March (Barbie‘s Ryan Gosling) by breaking his arm to dissuade him from looking into the death of a porn star known as Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio).

But when that investigation also endangers a teenager, Amelia Kuttner (Poor Things‘ Margaret Qualley), Jackson doesn’t have anyone to turn to except for Holland to help him find Amelia and keep her safe. That’s the beginning of Holland and Jackson’s unusual partnership, and it’s very enjoyable to see them playing off each other.

Rent or buy The Nice Guys on Prime Video.

6. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

The cast of Big Trouble in Little China.
20th Century Studios

No list of the best action comedies would be complete without ol’ Jack Burton and his misadventures in Big Trouble in Little China. Jack (Kurt Russell) isn’t even trying to be a hero when he inadvertently finds himself in the middle of a Chinese gang war with mystical implications.

The cursed sorcerer David Lo Pan (James Hong) needs a bride to become mortal again, and he’s got two candidates in mind: Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) and an American lawyer, Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall). Miao is the fiancée of Jack’s pal, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), and Jack’s kind of fond of Gracie, too. But Jack’s in way over his head as supernatural forces descend upon Chinatown.

Watch Big Trouble in Little China on Tubi.

5. Men in Black (1997)

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black.
Sony Pictures

Men in Black is much funnier than any of the sequels that followed, which is largely due to the hilarious interplay between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. James Darrell Edwards III (Smith) is a local cop who stumbles upon the potential end of the world and an alien threat. Agent K (Jones) sees James as a potential recruit for the Men in Black organization, which is charged with protecting the Earth from alien threats … and with protecting innocent aliens from humans.

Vincent D’Onofrio has a great villainous turn as an alien bug pretending to be human, while Linda Fiorentino’s conspiracy-minded coroner, Dr. Laurel Weaver, is such a fun side character that it’s mystifying why she wasn’t brought back for the sequels. But nothing tops watching Agents J and K banter as they save the world with style.

Rent or buy Men in Black on Prime Video.

4. Rush Hour (1998)

Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Rush Hour.
New Line Cinema

Rush Hour works as both an action flick and a comedy thanks to the unexpected on-screen partnership of Hong Kong cinema legend Jackie Chan and comedian Chris Tucker. Chan plays Chief Inspector Lee, a Hong Kong police officer who comes to Los Angeles following the kidnapping of his student, Soo-Yung Han (Julia Hsu), who is also the young daughter of diplomat Consul Solon Han (Tzi Ma).

Detective James Carter (Tucker) was supposed to be keeping Lee away from the official investigation. But after realizing how well they work together, Carter and Lee team up to save Soo-Yung and take on a Hong Kong crime lord. This film spawned two sequels, and Hollywood is still trying to get Rush Hour 4 into production.

Watch Rush Hour on The Roku Channel.

3. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Eddie Murphy sitting with his iconic jacket in an office on Beverly Hills Cop.
Paramount Pictures

Shortly after his stint on Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy solidified himself as a box office draw in Beverly Hills Cop. As Detective Axel Foley, Murphy was both a credible action hero and easily the funniest character in the movie. When one of his close friends is murdered, Foley leaves his jurisdiction in Detroit to solve the crime in Beverly Hills, California.

Detective William “Billy” Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Sergeant John Taggart (John Ashton) simply can’t keep up with Foley’s antics as he easily evades their efforts to keep him sidelined in the investigation. But Rosewood and Taggart also turn out to be the best allies that Foley has when he unravels the conspiracy that got his friend killed.

Watch Beverly Hills Cop on Netflix.

2. Lethal Weapon (1987)

Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Screenwriter Shane Black and director Richard Donner practically perfected the action-comedy genre with Lethal Weapon. It was so successful that Warner Bros. made three sequels, a TV series, and they keep trying to make Lethal Weapon 5 happen.

The reason why the first Lethal Weapon is so far above the rest of the franchise is that that it had real drama underneath the comedy. Sgt. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is so despondent over the recent death of his wife that he’s openly suicidal, which both alarms and angers his new partner, Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). But when a young woman, Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson), dies under suspicious circumstances, Murtaugh needs Riggs to watch his back as they unravel the criminal conspiracy that ended Amanda’s life.

Rent or buy Lethal Weapon on Prime Video.

1. 48 Hrs. (1982)

Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs.
Paramount Pictures

48 Hrs. wasn’t the first action comedy, but it set the standard so high that nothing’s been able to match it in the last 42 years. And the stakes are very personal for both San Francisco Police Inspector Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and career criminal Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy).

Jack was the only survivor when recently escaped criminals Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) and Albert Ganz (James Remar) murdered two police officers before getting away. Reggie has his own grudge against Albert and Billy, because they were his partners-in-crime before they betrayed him. To bring them down, Jack has Reggie temporarily released from prison. But they only have 48 hours to catch the deadly duo before Reggie has to go back behind bars.

Watch 48 Hrs. on Paramount+.

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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