The Best Action Movies of 2009

The Best Action Movies of 2009There are some people in this world who don’t like action movies. It’s sad, really. To think that there are people going through this world who have never seen Bullitt or Last of the Mohicans or Heat or The Dark Knight or Transformers, among others, is extremely sad. Then again, it’s hard to blame people for their faults; after all, they likely inherited some rare genetic mutation.

Luckily, for the rest of us (the non-freaks), I’ve compiled this list of the best action movies of 2009. You’ll notice that a couple big action movies of the year aren’t listed here because, frankly, they’re not very good. So read on, provide your opinions (be civil) and pass the list on to your friends…

7. District 9

I know what many of the comments on this article will be: “How the f**k could you put District 9 at the bottom of your list? The movie kicks f**king ass!” I’ll stand by my placement. District 9 is a very good movie with special effects that overachieve their budget, strong acting and an entertaining screenplay. It also has a very exciting ending as the main character goes berserk with some bad ass alien technology.

But… having watched it twice, I can say District 9 is just a tad overrated. The main character is obnoxious, the movie’s ending doesn’t resolve much and the action doesn’t kick into full gear until very late in the story. It’s still a fun movie, but there were better action movies in 2009.

6. Red Cliff

Ever wonder what happened to John Woo? After directing such American disasters as Paycheck and Windtalkers (yeah, I don’t remember them either), Woo exiled himself to China. His latest movie – Red Cliff – makes up for his past mistakes with some truly epic action sequences. The gorgeous film provides a detailed look at the battles between two warring factions in ancient China, and Woo walks us through the deaths of tens of thousands of soldiers. The action is stylized, but the forty-minute final battle scene is just one of several intense moments in the movie.

5. Avatar

It’s official: James Cameron should never be underestimated, and studios should give him as much money as he wants and they will still make loads of money. As I write this, Avatar will be close to passing The Dark Knight‘s domestic box office take and will be about to move into the second biggest worldwide release of all time – behind Cameron’s Titanic, no less. The movie isn’t Cameron’s best movie, but it is still better than most that were released in 2009; and if there’s any movie that needs to be seen on the big screen – on IMAX, in 3D – it’s Avatar. The movie sets a new standard for visual effects, and also offers up some delicious action in the final act.

4. 2012

Yes, I’m putting 2012 above Avatar. Am I saying that 2012 is a better movie than Avatar? No. But 2012 is more exciting. Avatar has an epic battle in its final thirty minutes; 2012 is essentially one long action sequence, and it is just as long as James Cameron’s box office behemoth. Not everyone liked 2012 – and that’s understandable considering that it is pretty mindless – but between Yellowstone blowing up and Los Angeles sinking into the Pacific, Roland Emmerich presents some truly epic disaster sequences. 2012 is an adrenaline-fueled ride, and one that needed to be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated.

3. Star Trek

After the disaster that was the last Star Trek movie, no one knew exactly how well this movie would perform. Would non-Trekkies show up to embrace this younger cast, and would Trekkies accept the butchering of their prized franchise? But as soon as the strong reviews started popping up online, it became clear that director J.J. Abrams had done what had rarely been achieved with the franchise in the past: he made it cool to like Star Trek again. The movie is a fun thrill ride from beginning to end, and though it isn’t without its flaws, it is easily one of the better movies of 2009.

2. The Hurt Locker

The only movie that can naturally be classified as a drama on this list, The Hurt Locker was released in the summer to little fanfare. Iraq war movies have been a difficult genre to sell to audiences, but The Hurt Locker received rave reviews and is currently a frontrunner for Best Picture; it has already won several prestigious awards over the last few weeks. The movie captures the emotions and intensity of war extremely well, but even those looking for purely visceral action will find plenty to enjoy here. The Hurt Locker features several intense action sequences, as the main character is assigned to defuse bombs while snipers are trying to kill him from afar.

1. Taken

When I first saw the previews for Taken in 2008, I figured the movie would make about $20 million at the box office, few people would see it and that it would be a fun but forgettable action movie. Rave reviews and $150 million later, the Liam Neeson-starring thriller was one of the most talked about movies in the first half of 2009, and for good reason: while few would claim it’s up to the caliber of the Bourne movies or other big budget action flicks, Taken is an enjoyable, fast-paced adventure that overcomes its seemingly B-grade disposition in grand style. It may not be quite as good as some of the other movies in this list, but as far as pure action – Taken takes the cake.

Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions: Public Enemies was pretty enjoyable, while Fast and Furious exceeded expectations with some good car chase scenes.

The Worst Action Movies of 2009

A few big action movies didn’t make the cut. Here’s why:

  • Terminator Salvation – The movie looked great, but director McG doesn’t understand how to establish action scenes. The movie’s screenplay is terrible, and as a result so is the acting.
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Great special effects, but a ridiculous story and too many over-the-top moments made this movie more cluttered than awesome. Oh, and all the robots looked the same.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Terrible special effects, a rushed screenplay and lack of character development made this prequel laughably bad.
  • G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra – Corny visuals and corny dialogue were only two of the problems with this Stephen Sommers disaster.

For more action movies, go here.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Top 10 Movie Lists
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