Skip to main content

The best action sequels of all time

Making an action movie is hard enough. Coming up with great fight choreography, unusual stunts, or other ways to wow an audience is always a challenge. Making a great action sequel is even harder, in part because it’s difficult to avoid just doing whatever it was that made the first movie a success.

Each of the sequels on this list ups the stakes of its predecessor in fundamental ways. The action is better, the plots are tighter, and everything leaves you just a little bit closer to the edge of your seat than you were the first time. These are the best action sequels ever made.

Mission: Impossible -- Fallout (2018)

Mission: Impossible -- Fallout
147m
Genre
Action, Adventure
Stars
Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames
Directed by
Christopher McQuarrie
Watch on Paramount+

Every Mission: Impossible movie has great action, but Fallout took its key sequences to an entirely new level. This movie features an all-time great fistfight in the bathroom of a club, a car chase through the streets of Paris that is both wonderful and incredibly intense, and a final set piece that features what seems like a terrifyingly real helicopter fight.

In between, there’s the kind of zippy spy plotting these movies have become known for, as well as a genuinely great, villainous turn from Henry Cavill and his mustache.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) - Official Trailer - Paramount Pictures

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
137m
Genre
Action, Thriller, Science Fiction
Stars
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Directed by
James Cameron
Watch on HBO Max

The first Terminator plays out like a combination horror/action movie, but the sequel is all action, all the time. This time, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 is a good guy, out to protect John Connor and his mother from the more advanced unit that is chasing after them.

The final set piece here, which sees Schwarzenegger do battle with the T-1000 inside of a factory, is just one of many great sequences in the film. On top of that, T2 manages to be a fairly affecting story in which Schwarzenegger is allowed to show a little more emotion, in spite of his icy robotic exterior.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road
121m
Genre
Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Stars
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by
George Miller
Watch on Amazon

Perhaps the greatest feat of action direction in cinema history, Mad Max: Fury Road is unrelenting basically from the moment it starts. Following Max Rockatansky as he aids a group of women attempting to escape from sexual slavery, the film is essentially one extended car chase, but manages to feel deeply exciting in part because of the sheer scale of what’s being depicted.

The film’s best sequence comes about a third of the way through its runtime, and features a truly epic sandstorm that all of the central characters decide to drive right into. It’s as disorienting and beautiful as that may sound.

Mad Max: Fury Road - Official Main Trailer [HD]

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Bourne Ultimatum
115m
Genre
Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Stars
Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn
Directed by
Paul Greengrass
Watch on Amazon

The third movie in the original Bourne trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum is the pinnacle of the shaky-cam action that this movie franchise became known for. It was also the best-reviewed movie of the trilogy and was widely hailed as one of the best movies of the year it came out.

Attempts to return to Bourne in the years since have not been met with this level of widespread acclaim, but that’s in part because Ultimatum was such a perfect capper to the story of Jason Bourne. He had ridden off into the sunset, and we probably should have let him stay there.

The Bourne Ultimatum Official Trailer #1 - David Strathairn Movie (2007) HD

Fast Five (2011)

Fast Five
130m
Genre
Action, Thriller, Crime
Stars
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
Directed by
Justin Lin
Watch on Amazon

The pinnacle of the Fast & Furioussaga was reached with this fifth installment, which is essentially when all of the various tendrils of this universe come into alignment. It also helps that Fast Five is something of a heist movie in which Dom comes up against a federal agent who might just have what it takes to track him down.

The action in this installment is definitely absurd, but it manages to stay grounded enough to feel winning from beginning to end. If the Fast movies had ended after this installment, they would have gone out on the highest possible high.

Fast Five | Legacy Trailer

The Raid 2 (2014)

The Raid 2
150m
Genre
Action, Crime, Thriller
Stars
Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo
Directed by
Gareth Evans
Watch on Netflix

Although you would probably benefit from seeing The Raid first, The Raid 2 is widely regarded as one of the pinnacles of action filmmaking in the 21st century.

It has wildly inventive action choreography, as well as a thrilling mix of kung fu and other fighting styles that makes it representative of much of what action cinema has looked like in recent years. Many of the best action movies that have come out since The Raid 2 owe something to this movie, and to the sharp, smart direction of Gareth Edwards.

The Raid 2 | Official Trailer HD (2014)
Movie images and data from:
Topics
Joe Allen

Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.

The best fantasy movies on Netflix right now
The cast of Warcraft.

There should be some epic quest that Netflix subscribers can go on to get fresh fantasy movies to watch. We love Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer as much as anyone else, but these movies are over 40 years old and they shouldn't be the prime options for Netflix's fantasy section. Fortunately for fantasy fans, they aren't the only new films to watch this month. Netflix has also recently added Warcraft, the 2016 adaptation of the fantasy video game World of Warcraft. It's no Lord of the Rings, but Warcraft is still enjoyable, and the special effects are very impressive.

Most of Netflix's other fantasy selections come from its lineup of original movies including Damsel and The School for Good and Evil. Unfortunately, not all of those home-grown fantasies have much appeal beyond watching them the first time. But until we can have a wider selection in this category, these are the best fantasy movies on Netflix right now.

Read more
Don’t let these 3 July 2024 hidden streaming movie gems fly under your radar
The cast of Everybody Wants Some!! smiling for the camera.

The summer movie season is thriving, thanks to a generous collection of high-profile movies that are proving, in no uncertain terms, that the film industry is alive and well. Pixar's Inside Out 2 is breaking all kinds of records, while Lee Isaac Chung's upcoming Twisters seems bound to offer the perfect blend of artistry and commercial entertainment. Finally, Deadpool & Wolverine will end the month by finally putting the "comic book movies are dead" argument to rest.

However, if you're perhaps tired of the big-budget offerings on the big screen, or maybe are just not keen on going to the movie theater that often, streaming has several options for you. Those looking for new, underappreciated films will surely appreciate these three options, which have sadly gone ignored for far too long. Whether you're looking for horror, thrillers, or comedies, these movies are for you.
Villains (2018)

Read more
5 best dramas of 2024 so far, ranked
5 best dramas of 2024 so far ranked brody bike riders

Cinema is no stranger to drama, and audiences have already seen plenty of it this year. Over the past seven months, streamers and moviegoers alike have been captivated by the many top-tier dramas delivered to their screens, making it another promising year for the world of film.

As movie fans wait in anticipation for the next round of pictures, they can now look back at the best drama films of 2024 so far.
5. Civil War (2024)

Read more