Entertainment

The Best Action Directors in Film History  

Ranker Film
108 votes 15 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
Richard Donner is listed (or ranked) 1 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)

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

Transporter 3 (2008) 

Columbiana (2011)

Taken 2 (2012)

Taken 3 (2014)

3
William Friedkin is listed (or ranked) 3 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)

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

The Warriors (1979) 

48 Hrs (1982) 

Red Heat (1988) 

Trespass (1992)

Bullet to the Head (2012)

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

Dirty Harry (1971) 

Telefon (1977)

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

6
Robert Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 6 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) 

7
Paul W. S. Anderson is listed (or ranked) 7 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)

 

8
John Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 8 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)

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

Seconds (1966)

French Connection II (1975) 

Black Sunday (1977) 

Ronin (1998) 

Reindeer Games (2000)

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

Predator (1987)

Die Hard (1988) 

Last Action Hero (1993) 

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

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

Blue Steel (1990)

Point Break (1991)

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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

The Wild Bunch (1969) 

Straw Dogs (1971) 

The Getaway (1972)

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

Black Rain (1989)

Gladiator (2000)

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Robin Hood (2010)

 

14
Peter Hyams is listed (or ranked) 14 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)

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

The Rundown (2003) 

Battleship (2012) 

Lone Survivor (2013) 

Patriots Day (2016) 

Mile 22 (2018)

16
Chad Stahelski is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History
Chad Stahelski

John Wick (2014)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)

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

John Wick (2014)

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Deadpool 2 (2018)

18
Brad Bird is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Action Directors in Film History

The Incredibles (2004)

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

Incredibles 2 (2018)

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

The Fast and the Furious (2001) 

xXx (2002) 

Stealth (2005) 

The Hurricane Heist (2018)

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

Mad Max (1979)

The Road Warrior (1981) 

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) 

Avengers: Infinity War (2017) 

Avengers: Endgame (2018)

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

La Femme Nikita (1990) 

Leon: The Professional (1994) 

The Fifth Element (1997)

Lucy (2014)

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
Tsui Hark is listed (or ranked) 24 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)

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

Universal Soldier (1992) 

Independence Day (1996) 

White House Down (2013)