The Most Underrated Action Movies Of The 2000s

List Rules
Vote up the 2000s action movies that haven't gotten the love they deserve.

There will never, ever be a shortage of action films. If the film industry has a "bread and butter," it is the action movie. Superhero movies, sci-fi movies, cop movies, martial arts movies, heist movies... the list goes on seemingly forever. While everyone has their favorite uber-successful and beloved action movie, some action films have been overlooked by audiences as time has worn on. Specifically, there are plenty of films from the 2000s that deserve another look by movie aficionados.

The turn of the century provided filmmakers with more technology and wild ideas than ever before without the overreliance on CGI that has pervaded the industry of today. Put on those rose-tinted glasses and get ready for some re-evaluating as we run through some of the most underrated action flicks of the 2000s.


  • 1
    2,571 VOTES

    They just don't make movies like Shoot 'Em Up anymore. To be fair, they didn't much make movies like Shoot 'Em Up before the film came out, either. Though the 2007 picture cribs from Hong Kong action cinema and classic cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s, this flick feels entirely unique. Clive Owen runs around chomping on carrots like he is Bugs Bunny, there is a fight scene where he and Monica Bellucci have sex while he's killing assassin after assassin, and Paul Giamatti gives a performance that is more unhinged even than his antagonist from Big Fat Liar. High praise, indeed.

    Giamatti's character spends the entire movie trying to eliminate a baby, so that tells you exactly how subtle this movie is. Shoot 'Em Up manages to be 100% action and 100% comedy, leaving it with 200% worth of movie in a scant 86-minute runtime. Owen's character also gets extremely ticked off whenever other drivers on the road don't use their turn signals even though the lever is right by the steering wheel, which is something we can all get behind. Don't come to Shoot 'Em Up expecting high art and you won't be disappointed.

    2,571 votes

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  • 2
    2,253 VOTES

    In the cold light of day, Smokin' Aces has just a little bit too much going on to be a perfectly coherent film. This is a movie that wants to be too many different things at once. It wants to be a Tarantino-esque action thriller. It wants to be a raunchy comedy. It wants to have moments of serious emotional weight. Eventually, it all gets bogged down by too much ambition... but, goshdarnit, you can't help but admire Smokin' Aces for trying.

    The action is well-paced. The Clint Mansell score is an overlooked gem. And the cast reads like a Hollywood agent's Rolodex: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine, Alicia Keys, Common, Andy García, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton, Taraji P. Henson, Matthew Fox. The list seriously keeps going. When it's all said and done, the 2006 thriller ends up being severely flawed. But you'll never forget watching it, that's for sure.

    2,253 votes

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  • 3
    2,512 VOTES

    Go ahead and wash the disheartening taste of The Transporter: Refueled out of your mouth. In fact, go ahead and forget everything about the increasingly ludicrous Transporter sequels so we can take things back to basics. After some supporting roles at the turn of the century, Jason Statham was handed his chance to headline his own action film, and he didn't disappoint. While its sequels leaned into wild leaps of logic and CGI-laced action sequences, the original Transporter was classic action through and through.

    Come on... Statham's Frank Martin uses a wall sconce to stop two goons from killing him with axes. He uses his own sweater to choke two guys in a different fight scene. And that oiled-up fight where he kicks butt while standing on broken bike pedals? It's the kind of stuff that made the best Jackie Chan movies great: a guy using what's around him to beat up a sea of bad guys. Most of the action isn't broken up by a bunch of cutting. The fights just play out in front of you. It's fantastic.

    2,512 votes

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  • 4
    2,378 VOTES

    It's hard to think of a time when Dwayne Johnson wasn't the biggest actor in the entire world, but the wrestling icon spent years slowly building an acting resume that would catapult him to the very top of the box office heap. With all due respect to The Scorpion King, it was 2003's The Rundown that showcased what the Rock had to offer and foreshadowed his monumental future success. The Rundown also sees director Peter Berg at his best, years before he would become known as the guy who directed five Mark Wahlberg movies in a seven-year period.

    The action-adventure/buddy comedy sees Johnson and Seann William Scott team with Rosario Dawson in a hunt for a priceless artifact deep in the jungles of Brazil. Their journey is complicated by the manic Christopher Walken and his vicious underlings. The Rundown features plenty of hard-hitting action, early-2000s style choices, and a screenplay that actually manages to bring some solid comedy to that "action-comedy" mix. Also, there are all kinds of interesting items used as weapons in this movie: a beanbag gun, a turntable, a rope, whips, and a chair. The Rundown is just a lot of fun. And the Rock has hair, which stands out in an age where his head is always shaved.

    2,378 votes

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  • 5
    1,776 VOTES

    Jet Li is one of the undisputable all-time greats of action filmmaking. Anyone who argues otherwise needs to be taught a lesson in Hong Kong cinema. Li is an absolute legend. That being said, his best work has undoubtedly come in his home country of China. But what do American audiences best know him for? Lethal Weapon 4The OneRomeo Must Die? The Expendables franchise? With all due respect to everyone who worked on those films, it's not like those movies are of the highest quality. That brings us to Unleashed.

    Written/produced by Luc Besson and directed by Louis Leterrier, Unleashed is not your normal martial arts film. Li plays a skilled fighter named Danny who is "owned" by a loan shark and essentially is trained like a dog. It is a wild premise, and Li's action scenes more than make-up for any awkward acting. Besides, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, and Morgan Freeman are there to handle all the thespian work, anyway. If subtitles are something you really can't handle, check out Unleashed to see a master at work.

    1,776 votes

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  • 6
    1,931 VOTES

    2002's Equilibrium was that movie that looked completely like a Matrix knockoff whenever you'd walk into your local Blockbuster in the mid-2000s. To be fair, a lot of films of that era look like Matrix knockoffs from a distance, but what does this look like to you? Though Equilibrium is clearly cribbing from all kinds of sci-fi influences (most notably Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World), it is also very much doing its own thing. An entire fake fighting style known as "gun kata" was created for the action scenes, after all.

    Sometimes the fighting can be over-choreographed and goofy, but buying into what Equilibrium is selling offers a truly delightful time at the movies. And, really, if you can't find something to like in a film that features Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Angus Macfadyen, Sean Bean, and William Fichtner, then you're taking yourself far too seriously. This is a movie where human emotion has been eradicated after WWIII... just shut your brain off and enjoy the ride!

    1,931 votes

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