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The Best Action Directors in Film History

Updated February 23, 2020 556 votes 60 voters 1.6k views62 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. 

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  • James Cameron1

    The Terminator (1984)

    Aliens (1986)

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1992) 

    True Lies (1994)

    Avatar (2009)

  • John McTiernan2

    Predator (1987)

    Die Hard (1988) 

    Last Action Hero (1993) 

    Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

  • John Woo3

    A Better Tomorrow (1986)

    The Killer (1989)

    Hard Target (1993)

    Broken Arrow (1996)

    Face/Off (1997)

    Mission: Impossble II (2000

     

  • George Miller4

    Mad Max (1979)

    The Road Warrior (1981) 

    Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) 

    Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

  • John Carpenter5

    Escape from New York (1991) 

    Big Trouble in Little China (1986) 

    They Live (1988) 

    Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

  • Renny Harlin6
    17
    9

    Renny Harlin

    Die Hard 2 (1990) 

    Cliffhanger (1993) 

    The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) 

    Deep Blue Sea (1999)

    12 Rounds (2009)

  • Paul Verhoeven7

    Robocop (1987)

    Total Recall (1990)

    Starship Troopers (1997)

  • Steven Spielberg8
  • Robert Rodriguez9

    El Mariachi (1992)

    Desperado (1995)

    Spy Kids (2001)

    Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

    Sin City (2005)

    Machete (2010)

    Alita: Battle Angel (2019) 

  • Kathryn Bigelow10

    Blue Steel (1990)

    Point Break (1991)

    The Hurt Locker (2008)

    Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

  • Ridley Scott11

    Black Rain (1989)

    Gladiator (2000)

    Black Hawk Down (2001)

    Robin Hood (2010)

     

  • Richard Donner12
    9
    4

    Richard Donner

    Superman (1978)

    Lethal Weapon (1987)

    Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

    Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

    Assassins (1995)

    Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

    16 Blocks (2006)

  • Peter Hyams13

    Running Scared (1986) 

    The Presidio (1988) 

    Timecop (1994) 

    Sudden Death (1995)

    End of Days (1999)

  • Sam Peckinpah14

    The Wild Bunch (1969) 

    Straw Dogs (1971) 

    The Getaway (1972)

  • Guy Ritchie15

    Lock, Stock, and Twi Smoking Barrels (1998)

    Revolver (2005) 

    Sherlock Holmes (2009)

    Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) 

    The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

    King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

  • William Friedkin16

    The French Connection (1974)

    Sorcerer (1977)

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

    Rampage (1987)

  • Pierre Morel17

    District B13 (2004)

    Taken (2008)

    From Paris with Love (2010) 

    Peppermint (2018)

  • Martin Campbell18

    GoldenEye (1995)

    The Mask of Zorro (1998) 

    Casino Royale (2006)

    Green Lantern (2011) 

    The Foreigner (2017

  • Don Siegel19

    Dirty Harry (1971) 

    Telefon (1977)

    Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

  • John Frankenheimer20

    Seconds (1966)

    French Connection II (1975) 

    Black Sunday (1977) 

    Ronin (1998) 

    Reindeer Games (2000)

  • Walter Hill21

    The Warriors (1979) 

    48 Hrs (1982) 

    Red Heat (1988) 

    Trespass (1992)

    Bullet to the Head (2012)

  • Paul Greengrass22

    The Bourne Supremacy (2004) 

    The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) 

    Green Zone (2010)

    Captain Phillips (2013)

    Jason Bourne (2016)

  • Luc Besson23

    La Femme Nikita (1990) 

    Leon: The Professional (1994) 

    The Fifth Element (1997)

    Lucy (2014)

  • Peter Berg24

    The Rundown (2003) 

    Battleship (2012) 

    Lone Survivor (2013) 

    Patriots Day (2016) 

    Mile 22 (2018)

  • Olivier Megaton25

    Transporter 3 (2008) 

    Columbiana (2011)

    Taken 2 (2012)

    Taken 3 (2014)