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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  • JDW

    How the f**k do you think District 9 is an action movie? 😉

    Can’t argue with much else (especially keeping Avatar lower – the action was quite ordinary apart from it being in a huge 3D world) except for even talking about Terminator: Salvation at all!

  • @JDW Ha! I appreciate your passion. As for District 9, you raise a valid question, but most people going to that movie were expecting action, the character is on the run for much of the movie, the film ends with a big blow-sh*t up action sequence… action movie. :o)

  • JDW

    Does that make Surrogates an action movie?

  • ROTFL. Trust me – I thought about Surrogates when making this list.

  • Isaac

    What about Ninja Assassins come on now that movie was f**king epic
    now so great in the acting but that movie was freaking bad ass

  • Piero

    I’ve seen both Taken and 2012 and they’re great movies. As soon as I get a chance Avatar will be next.

  • Hi Piero, great! Glad you liked both.

    @Isaac – I haven’t seen Ninja Assassin yet.

  • ts2mars

    hey man i general agree with most of your reviews and i think this is a great site. i value your opinion as much as imdb and rottentomatoes ratings haha. but man…2012 should not be on this list. it wasn\’t horrendous but for how much action there was in the movie it was pretty boring (not to mention they used the same exact sequence of plane barely escaping impending doom like 10x). i would put transformers ahead of 2012 since well, the effects/action were just as good as the first one despite its stupid everything else.

  • Transformers had great effects/action, but I was extremely bored by the movie, whereas I got into 2012 quite a bit. 2012 wasn’t for everyone, though.

  • kishan

    erik,you asshole u dont know anything about movies,u kept x-men origins in the worst movies section,man r u out of ur mind..

  • Ryan

    You guys are all fucking retarded…. ninja assassin should have been number one followed by avatar bar none end of story

  • Rizwan

    X Men Origins was definitely a good movie. Only if you had watched the earlier versions, i guess you have not seen the earlier ones or may be your choice is way more different then what i think.

  • @kishan – Wolverine is a bad movie, there’s nothing more to say.

    @Ryan – I haven’t seen Ninja Assassin yet.

    @rizwan – thanks for your comment, but I have seen the other X-Men movies. The first two were excellent… the last two, not so much…

  • andrew young

    how can any of you think District 9 is a good movie

  • emv1031

    Whoa…. how on earth can anybody put 2012 in the top 10?? I would place it in the worst movies of all time. C’mon people, special effects don’t make a good movie. The guy escapes an apocalyptic disaster driving off in a freaking limo! Not like mutants or extraterrestrial robots depict reality, but leaving that aside 2012 compiles as much bad acting as a movie can hold (don’t even get me started on the Russian guy). I have always liked Cusack and believed he’s underrated (he was pretty good in Runaway Jury) but on this particular flick it’s two hours of my life I won’t get back. Plot… bad…. acting… bad… special effects nothing out of the ordinary. Terminator get’s saved by Sam Worthington and C. Bale so impossible to have that on the worst movies list.

  • It’s all about expectations, emv1031. I was expecting 2012 to be a dumb, bloated visual effects rollercoaster, and it was. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was expecting great (or even decent) things of Terminator Salvation, and it didn’t come anywhere close to meeting them. And I’m a big Christian Bale fan, but did not dig him in Terminator.

  • weakkkk

    what a crap list putting taken as number that was a mediocre at best. just cuz ppl went to see it doesnt mean its quality..just well marketed ..not to mention the rest of the list.. i dont mean to be an asshole..i just feel like you didnt put much though into this…only what you could remember getting media attention..

  • So what would you put at a top action movie list of 2009? There weren’t many other action movies in 2009, and what isn’t mentioned here was crap.

  • Erik Samdahl

    Are u fucking serious!?!?!?!? District 9 sucked a lot of dick. Im serious. That shit was wack. I regret wasting my money on that piece of shit!!! How can you even put that on the top 10.. FUCK!!!! unbelievable.serious

  • ninja

    ninja assassin needed to be number 1,erik go watch ninja assassin and reorganize your list,ninja assassin is seriously number 1.

  • tbag

    i completely agree to district nine not at all being an action movie, as for surrogates making the cut if it had, has 10x’s the action district 9 did but wasnt good. Ninja Assassin had more action scenes than any of these movies.But taken by far the best

  • @ninja and @tbag – District 9 turns into an action movie at the end. Ninja Assassin had tons of action, but I wouldn’t say it was that great – but the reason it’s not on this list is because I hadn’t seen it at the time of writing this article.

  • Grant

    Taken? Are you serious? Wasn’t this standard? Top action movies of all time suckas –,

  • Grant, this is a list of action movies in 2009; I agree there are much better action movies out there, but not in 2009.

  • Where would Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes be on this list?

  • Jezza – that’s a very good question. Sherlock Holmes probably should be on here, though at the time I considered it more of an adventure-comedy than an action film.

  • Carson

    you sure you watched the movies dude? 75%of your list suck … what the hell is Red cliff/? its a fuckin borin movie man

  • alvin


  • dumbass

    how the fuck do you not think transformers was the best movie ever and some asian bullshit was better, your an idiot

  • giz on haters faces

    nice list erik, fuck the haters, you have a dope list and this is why
    taken -baller movie, they kept the story more realistic then most gay action movies + Liam Neeson is boss, i would have put this as a top suspense movie, but since it included so much constant action it dumbs down the suspense. Making Taken a suspenseful action movie. I might add that it was fairly original.
    district nine- was totally dope, and dont give me any shit that that wasnt fucking action 1 there was constant violence and suspense 2 multiple guys get obliterated by a laser gun 3 a dude gets his head ripped off along with his other limbs, Honestly i would have considered this for the top because of peter jackson alone, The props, special effects, and realistic, gritty feel it gives, is truly powerful. This captures emotions, while a movie with non stop action but gay as fuck props, sets, effects, and actors, wont make the list. While some idiots think that thats what real action movies are.
    avatar- is definitely not a top movie the action was quite corny but none the less entertaining. Unfortunately and fortunately, depending how you look upon this, avatar copied almost identically, the last samurai,yet the last samurai was a dope movie.
    2012 – i personally didnt like the movie but like you said above its not for everyone, yet it was action packed almost from the very beginning
    Wolverine- was the worst movie of 2009 for sure, x men fans if you are satisfied with this movie then you really need to re watch the first two x men and up your standards. The plot was cool, but the script was actually used in college classes of what not to do, also the part where W is ripping down a ladder… that was cat shit special effect, those were helmet wearing special effects, not dope and awesome special effects that the fans deserve
    transformers- was just ok, slightly comedic, more of a adventure than action yet its like pirates of the Caribbean they should have only made one film
    terminator- fortunately for me i dont remember half of this movie because it was garbage. Im sorry poor mr bale did this role,(your still a royal badass christian)

  • Jonas

    I think any person here that posted a comment that was attacking the author, or his ideas is should watch a little less action movies at all. Why can not anybody just start a normal, human discussion with interesting views, statements and ideas that everybody can profit from it? Because some people or most here, just lost a part of their brain while their were watching movies. Well, anyways, I think the list here is pretty decent and well thought out. Avatar could have been maybe on 7 or 8 since it’s a story every screenwriting student could write. I totally agree with the worst movies and I have no idea why some people think District 9 was a bad movie. Some of you guys might wanna go to some screenings and listen to screenwriters, directors and so on in their future, to learn about it and not just bla bla bla

  • Thanks, Jonas!

  • kat

    dude that is really fucking reattarted transformers two was fucking amazing and no all the robot did not look the same you must be fucking blind 🙂