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17 Action Movie Stars Who Can Actually Do The Stuff They Do On Screen

November 25, 2020 17.3k votes 2k voters 74k views17 items

List RulesVote up your favorite actors who are basically world-class athletes.

There's a very special kind of excitement that arises when action movies feature celebrities who can actually fight. For starters, it eliminates the need for rapid-fire editing designed to conceal the use of a stunt double. More importantly, though, it allows viewers to get more engrossed in the characters and what happens to them. The story begins to feel more real.

It's not all about stars fighting or doing their own stunts, though. Some actors certainly go that route. Others have taken roles that befit their real-life talents or trained in specific skills so that they could show them off in movies. That, of course, is a special kind of commitment, and no one currently exemplifies it better than Tom Cruise, who adds to his skill set on a regular basis.

The following celebrities who can fight or exhibit genuine mastery in other physically daunting areas include some of the biggest names in cinema history. They've achieved popularity for many reasons, but their physical prowess undeniably played a part. Remember to vote up your favorites.

  • Photo: Invasion U.S.A. / Cannon Films

    Chuck Norris is somewhat unique among action heroes. Aside from successfully working on both the big screen (Missing in Action, Code of Silence) and the small (Walker, Texas Ranger), he has also inspired his own line of jokes that trade on his tough-guy persona. Among them: The flu gets a Chuck Norris shot every year.

    Those jokes can be made because Norris honestly is tough. He began studying judo while serving in the military back in 1960. From there, he learned the karate form known as tang soo do, eventually earning a black belt. Norris went on to become the World Professional Middleweight Karate Champion a staggering six years in a row. His expertise in the area served him well when pursuing acting work, as he was able to draw upon it to establish himself as a macho man who could do his own fighting in front of the camera. 

    Norris knew what his capabilities were and attempted to transfer them to film as meaningfully as he could. For one of his early films, Good Guys Wear Black, the actor came up with the story himself. "This was a screenplay that I helped develop and write," he said. "I peddled it around Hollywood for four years before I was able to finally make it a reality."

    Real-life action star?
  • Photo: Hobbs & Shaw / Universal Pictures

    When you think of Jason Statham, you automatically think of action. Only occasionally during his extensive career has he ventured outside that realm. The vast majority of his work has been in action pictures, including Crank, Hobbs & Shaw, The Expendables, and The Transporter

    Part of the reason he's been so successful in action is that it comes naturally to him. Statham is extremely athletic, having once been a diver on Great Britain's national team who competed in the 1990 Commonwealth Games. (Regrettably, he never quite made it to the Olympics.) Additionally, he studied martial arts and boxing as a teenager - skills that continue to come in handy as he fights bad guys in movies. 

    Although he denies any overly significant connection between his diving and his acting, Statham does acknowledge his years in the water teaching him some important lessons. He told IGN, "It teaches you discipline, focus, and certainly keeps you out of trouble."

    Real-life action star?
  • Photo: The General / United Artists

    The silent film era produced some of the most magnificent comedy stars of all time. One of them is Buster Keaton, a man unafraid of literally putting his life on the line to entertain audiences. He performed his own stunts, many of which put him in genuine peril.

    His most noteworthy stunt came in 1928's Steamboat Bill, Jr. in which the facade of a house drops on him. The only reason he survives is because he's standing where an open window is. The bit required bravery on his part, as well as a lot of mathematical precision to put him in the exact right spot to avoid getting crushed. Keaton also performed dangerous motorcycle stunts in Sherlock, Jr. and, for The General, he sat on a moving train's crankshaft.

    The thrill of seeing him go to such great lengths ensures that his pictures still have massive entertainment value to this day. Many consider him to be the best physical performer of all time.

    Real-life action star?
  • Photo: Hobbs & Shaw / Universal Pictures

    Dwayne Johnson easily ranks as one of the most notable action stars of the current day. In everything from The Scorpion King to the Fast & Furious franchise to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, he always delivers the kind of relentless action audiences crave. He's got a winning personality, to boot.

    Most people know that Johnson, under the stage name "The Rock," was a champion professional wrestler before Hollywood came calling. Less well-known is that he was a successful football player before that, and his gridiron skills paved the way for his screen success. Johnson was a member of the University of Miami's team between 1991 and 1994. He registered 77 tackles and 4.25 sacks during his career.

    From the sport, he learned the relentless drive and fearlessness that later became his hallmarks as a cinematic action hero. If he looks comfortable doing all those fights and action sequences on screen, it's because he totally is. In fact, he thrives on them.

    Real-life action star?