Action stars are a special breed. The purely physical component of acting - so perpetually underappreciated - is squarely their domain. They not only put their bodies on the line for the sake of entertainment, but have to express physically what other actors tend to get across in words and dramatic close-ups. All due respect to the invaluable stunt performers and choreographers who make it all look easy, action stars often have to be well-versed in a number of advanced skills, from martial arts to military-grade weaponry to swordfighting. They save the world, avenge the family, and miraculously survive in the face of impossible odds.
There are many different types of action stars, from Bruce Willis’s wily everyman to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s over-muscled superman; from Bruce Lee’s gracefully violent martial artist to Keanu Reeves’s American counterpart; from Denzel Washington’s old-school toughness to Liam Neeson’s old-man brutality.
And though the genre has been largely defined by men, let’s not forget the action heroines, as the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Charlize Theron, Linda Hamilton, and Milla Jovovich have made careers of going toe-to-toe with anyone and anything.
Collectively, these action stars have been responsible for some of the greatest action movies of all-time. Vote up the best of the best.
- Keanu Charles Reeves ( kee-AH-noo; born September 2, 1964) is a Canadian actor and musician. He gained fame for his starring roles in several blockbuster films, including comedies from the Bill and ...more
- Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger (; German: [ˈaɐ̯nɔlt ˈʃvaɐ̯tsn̩ˌʔɛɡɐ]; born July 30, 1947) is an Austrian-American politician, actor, filmmaker, and former professional bodybuilder. He served as the 38th ...more
- Chan Kong-sang (born 7 April 1954), known professionally as Jackie Chan, is a Hong Konger martial artist, actor, film director, producer, stuntman, and singer. He is known for his acrobatic fighting ...more
- Lee Jun-fan (Chinese: 李振藩; November 27, 1940 – July 20, 1973), known professionally as Bruce Lee (Chinese: 李小龍), was a Hong Kong-American actor, director, martial artist, martial arts instructor, and ...more
- Walter Bruce Willis (born March 19, 1955) is an American actor, producer, and singer. Born to a German mother and American father in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, he moved to the United States with his ...more
- Sylvester Enzio Stallone (; born Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone, July 6, 1946) is an American actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. After his beginnings as a struggling actor for a ...more
- Jason Statham (; born 26 July 1967) is an English actor and film producer. Typecast as the antihero, he is known for his action-thriller roles and portraying tough, irredeemable, and machiavellian ...more
- Harrison Ford (born July 13, 1942) is an American actor. He gained worldwide fame for his starring roles as Han Solo in the Star Wars film series and as the title character of the Indiana Jones movie ...more
- Li Lianjie (born 26 April 1963), better known by his stage name Jet Li, is a Chinese film actor, film producer, martial artist, and retired Wushu champion who was born in Beijing. He is a ...more
- Dwayne Douglas Johnson (born May 2, 1972), also known by his ring name The Rock, is an American actor, producer, and former professional wrestler. Johnson was a professional wrestler for the World ...more
- Clinton Eastwood Jr. (born May 31, 1930) is an American actor, filmmaker, musician, and politician. After achieving success in the Western TV series Rawhide, he rose to international fame with his ...more
- Liam John Neeson (born 7 June 1952) is an actor from Northern Ireland. He has been nominated for a number of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actor, a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a ...more
- Carlos Ray Norris (born March 10, 1940) is an American martial artist, actor, film producer and screenwriter. After serving in the United States Air Force, he won many martial arts championships and ...more
- Sir Thomas Sean Connery (25 August 1930 – 31 October 2020) was a retired Scottish actor and producer, who during his life won an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards, one being a BAFTA Academy Fellowship ...more
- Jean-Claude Camille François van Varenberg (born 18 October 1960), professionally known as Jean-Claude van Damme (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ klod vɑ̃ dam], Dutch: [vɑn ˈdɑmə]) and as JCVD, is a ...more
- Daniel Trejo (; Spanish: [ˈtɾexo]; born May 16, 1944) is an American actor and voice actor who has appeared in numerous Hollywood films, often as a villain or an antihero. His films include Heat ...more
- Hugh Michael Jackman (born 12 October 1968) is an Australian actor, singer, and producer. He is best known for playing Wolverine in the X-Men film series from 2000 to 2018, a role for which he holds ...more
- Kurt Vogel Russell (born March 17, 1951) is an American actor. He began acting on television at the age of 12 in the western series The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters (1963–1964). In the late 1960s, he ...more
- Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. (born December 28, 1954) is an American actor, director, and producer. He has been described as an actor who reconfigured "the concept of classic movie stardom", ...more
- Milica Bogdanovna "Milla" Jovovich ( YOH-və-vitch; born December 17, 1975) is an American actress, model, and musician. Her starring roles in numerous science fiction and action films led the music ...more
- Christopher Hemsworth (born 11 August 1983) is an Australian actor. He rose to prominence playing Kim Hyde in the Australian TV series Home and Away (2004–07) before leaving to begin a film career in ...more
- Mel Colmcille Gerard Gibson (born January 3, 1956) is an American actor and filmmaker. He is best known for his action hero roles, particularly his breakout role as Max Rockatansky in the first ...more
- Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky; Lithuanian: Karolis Dionyzas Bučinskis; November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003) was an American actor. He was often cast in the role of a police officer, ...more
- Edward Thomas Hardy (born 15 September 1977) is an English actor and producer. After studying acting at the Drama Centre London, he made his film debut in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down (2001) and ...more
- Samuel Leroy Jackson (born December 21, 1948) is an American actor and film producer. A recipient of critical acclaim and numerous accolades and awards, Jackson is the actor whose films have made the ...more