Entertainment

The Best Action Directors in Film History  

Ranker Film
100 votes 12 voters 60 items

Who are the best action directors in film history? This is your chance to decide. Making good action movies is a difficult task. For starters, it requires a strong script, so that the action has a solid story surrounding it. Next, as all the top action directors know, you have to possess a vision for how the action sequences will work. Without that, you end up with a jumbled mess. Finally, after getting all the necessary footage, a director needs to work closely with an editor to make sure the sequences have the tight pacing they need. Accomplishing all of this is a difficult task, at best.

Some famous action directors work solely within this genre. Michael Bay is a good example. Others, like William Friedkin and Ridley Scott, work in all kinds of genres, with action just being one. Directors such as John Woo have very distinct styles that are easily identifiable across their filmographies. At the opposite end of the spectrum are people like Kathryn Bigelow, who adjust their style to the material. Regardless of the approach, all of them have displayed a firm grasp on how to excite audiences.

Vote for the action directors you think are the best in film history from the list below. Don't see your favorite? Add them to the list, then check back later to see how other users rank it. 

1
John Woo is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

A Better Tomorrow (1986)

The Killer (1989)

Hard Target (1993)

Broken Arrow (1996)

Face/Off (1997)

Mission: Impossble II (2000

 

2
James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Terminator (1984)

Aliens (1986)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1992) 

True Lies (1994)

Avatar (2009)

3
Renny Harlin is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Die Hard 2 (1990) 

Cliffhanger (1993) 

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) 

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

12 Rounds (2009)

4
Richard Donner is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Superman (1978)

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

Assassins (1995)

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

16 Blocks (2006)

5
Pierre Morel is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

District B13 (2004)

Taken (2008)

From Paris with Love (2010) 

Peppermint (2018)

6
Peter Berg is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Rundown (2003) 

Battleship (2012) 

Lone Survivor (2013) 

Patriots Day (2016) 

Mile 22 (2018)

7
Peter Hyams is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Running Scared (1986) 

The Presidio (1988) 

Timecop (1994) 

Sudden Death (1995)

End of Days (1999)

8
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)

King Kong (2005)

The Hobbit (2012-2014)

9
Sam Peckinpah is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Wild Bunch (1969) 

Straw Dogs (1971) 

The Getaway (1972)

10
Don Siegel is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Dirty Harry (1971) 

Telefon (1977)

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

11
Robert Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

El Mariachi (1992)

Desperado (1995)

Spy Kids (2001)

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Sin City (2005)

Machete (2010)

Alita: Battle Angel (2019) 

12
John Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Escape from New York (1991) 

Big Trouble in Little China (1986) 

They Live (1988) 

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

13
Kathryn Bigelow is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Blue Steel (1990)

Point Break (1991)

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

14
William Friedkin is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The French Connection (1974)

Sorcerer (1977)

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

Rampage (1987)

15
Olivier Megaton is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Transporter 3 (2008) 

Columbiana (2011)

Taken 2 (2012)

Taken 3 (2014)

16
Paul W. S. Anderson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Soldier (1998)

Resident Evil (2002)

Death Race (2008)

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

 

17
Paul Greengrass is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Bourne Supremacy (2004) 

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) 

Green Zone (2010)

Captain Phillips (2013)

Jason Bourne (2016)

18
Joseph McGinty Nichol is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Charlie's Angels (2000) 

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003) 

Terminator: Salvation (2009)

This Means War (2012)

3 Days to Kill (2014)

19
Paul Verhoeven is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Robocop (1987)

Total Recall (1990)

Starship Troopers (1997)

20
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Black Rain (1989)

Gladiator (2000)

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Robin Hood (2010)

 

21
Roland Emmerich is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Universal Soldier (1992) 

Independence Day (1996) 

White House Down (2013)

22
Tsui Hark is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

The Twin Dragons (1992) 

Double Team (1997)

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011)

23
Gareth Evans is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Raid: Redemption (2011) 

The Raid 2 (2014)

24
Rob Cohen is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Fast and the Furious (2001) 

xXx (2002) 

Stealth (2005) 

The Hurricane Heist (2018)

25
John Frankenheimer is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

Seconds (1966)

French Connection II (1975) 

Black Sunday (1977) 

Ronin (1998) 

Reindeer Games (2000)