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The Best Intelligent Action Movies of All Time

Updated February 26, 2021 3.1k votes 264 voters 6.4k views115 items

List RulesVote up the best intelligent movies, or those that are smart, clever, etc.

Action movies are always entertaining to say the least, but an intelligent action movie combines the best of both worlds: keeping the audience excited, as well as making them think. Even if you're just there to see some dudes fight and some cars crash, a thought-provoking action flick only makes the experience better. Think of it this way: you like these non-stop action films because they're so stimulating. Well, adding clever storylines or thought-provoking elements adds to that stimulation, and you leave the theater both entertained and a little smarter... maybe.

Whether a movie packs in good social commentary alongside explosions, features the top action stars, or simply creates the perfect setting for the film, plenty of aspects constitute an intelligent action movie. Take Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for example. Aside from the incredible display of martial arts, the film is renown for its cinematography and story—putting it at the top of its class. The same could be said about many of these popular action films to follow.

Check out the intelligent and action-packed films below and vote up the ones you think are best. You can also vote down any that may have missed the mark, or at least deserve to be lower on the list. Feel free to add your own picks to the list as well.

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  • The Terminator1
    71
    65

    The Terminator

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Paxton

    Released1984

    Directed byJames Cameron

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  • Gladiator2
    69
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    Gladiator

    Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix

    Released2000

    Directed byRidley Scott

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  • Inception3
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    Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

    Released2010

    Directed byChristopher Nolan

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  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back4
    74
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    Released1980

    Directed byIrvin Kershner

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  • Casino Royale5
    80
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    Casino Royale

    Alessandra Ambrosio, Eva Green

    Released2006

    Directed byMartin Campbell

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  • Alita: Battle Angel6
    84
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    Alita: Battle Angel

    Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz

    Released2019

    Directed byRobert Rodriguez

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  • #Alive7
    8
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    #Alive

    Yoo Ah-in, Park Shin-hye

    Released2020

    Directed byCho Il-hyung

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  • The Matrix8
    85
    102

    The Matrix

    Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving

    Released1999

    Directed byAndy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

    The Matrix is a 1999 American-Australian science fiction action film written and directed by...  more

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    Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu

    Released2003

    Directed byQuentin Tarantino

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  • The Dark Knight10
    67
    114

    The Dark Knight

    Christian Bale, Michael Caine

    Released2008

    Directed byChristopher Nolan

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  • Aliens11
    36
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    Aliens

    Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton

    Released1986

    Directed byJames Cameron

    Aliens is a 1986 American science-fiction action horror film written and directed by James...  more

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  • Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark12
    42
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    Released1981

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 American adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. The...  more

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  • Minority Report13
    29
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    Minority Report

    Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise

    Released2002

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Minority Report is a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction mystery-thriller film directed by...  more

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  • Blade Runner14
    53
    104

    Blade Runner

    Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah

    Released1982

    Directed byRidley Scott

    Blade Runner is a 1982 American neo-noir dystopian science fiction film directed by Ridley...  more

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  • The Fugitive15
    27
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    The Fugitive

    Julianne Moore, Harrison Ford

    Released1993

    Directed byAndrew Davis

    This film is a 1993 American action film based on the 1960s television series of the same name...  more

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  • Starship Troopers16
    27
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    Starship Troopers

    Neil Patrick Harris, Denise Richards

    Released1997

    Directed byPaul Verhoeven

    Starship Troopers is a 1997 American military science fiction action film directed by Paul...  more

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  • In the Line of Fire17
    20
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    In the Line of Fire

    Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich

    Released1993

    Directed byWolfgang Petersen

    In the Line of Fire is a 1993 American action thriller film directed by Wolfgang Petersen, and...  more

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  • Dirty Harry18
    20
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    Dirty Harry

    Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel

    Released1971

    Directed byDon Siegel

    Dirty Harry is a 1971 American action film produced and directed by Don Siegel, the first in...  more

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  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon19
    27
    66

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

    Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh

    Released2000

    Directed byAng Lee

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  • Die Hard20
    34
    81

    Die Hard

    Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman

    Released1988

    Directed byJohn McTiernan

    Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de...  more

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  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol21
    28
    80

    Released2011

    Directed byBrad Bird

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  • Total Recall22
    22
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    Total Recall

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone

    Released1990

    Directed byPaul Verhoeven

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  • First Blood23
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    First Blood

    Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy

    Released1982

    Directed byTed Kotcheff

    First Blood is a 1982 American psychological thriller and action film directed by Ted...  more

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  • Speed24
    13
    57

    Speed

    Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves

    Released1994

    Directed byJan de Bont

    Speed is a 1994 American action film directed by Jan de Bont in his feature film directorial...  more

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  • True Romance25
    12
    47

    True Romance

    Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer

    Released1993

    Directed byTony Scott

    True Romance is a 1993 American film directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino....  more

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