Taken 3 exceeded even the most optimistic expectations this weekend by grossing nearly $40 million. That's pretty impressive considering it's the third Taken movie since 2008 and reviews were absolutely scathing. It's further evidence that audiences love a good action movie, and even a film that plays like a half-hearted remake of The Fugitive can rake in huge money. In honor of Taken 3's release, we asked our readers to vote for their favorite action movies of all time. Unsurprisingly, every single one of the Top 10 films came out of a franchise that arrived in theaters between 1979 and 2002. Here are the results.
By this point, the Die Hard series is basically about a superhero named John McClane who is impervious to death. He can take down a flying helicopter by ramming a car into it or face down 20 men with machine guns and walk away with barely a scratch. But back in the original 1988 movie, he was merely a New York cop trying to visit his visit his wife in Los Angeles when terrorists take over her office building. He bleeds. His feet hurt. He seems like a real person that just happens to find himself in an extraordinary situation.
Every aspect of the movie is perfectly constructed. The screenplay has been hailed as a masterpiece and most every action movie director that made a film after this owes a debt of gratitude to John McTiernan. The series is slated to wrap up with one final movie where McClane travels to Japan and once again finds himself somehow entangled with the Nakatomi corporation. It'll be a nice way to bring the series full circle.
It's been 24 years since Terminator 2: Judgement Day hit theaters, and somehow the special effects still look impressive. At a time when floppy disks were still widely used, James Cameron and his team created a liquid metal robot that could walk through walls and transform into anything from a random street cop to the floor of a mental institution. It's hard to imagine a tougher killing machine, though Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played a less advanced Terminator, came back in time to destroy it. After nearly a quarter century and constant screenings on basic cable, it's impossible to turn the channel when this one comes on. And just pretend those awful, non-James Cameron sequels don't exist.
Steven Spielberg was coming off the debacle of his John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd comedy 1941 when he teamed up with George Lucas to make a movie about a whip-wielding archaeologist that races against the Nazis to track down the all-powerful Ark of the Covenant. The movie wildly exceeded expectations, grossing $388.9 million and leading to three sequels of varying quality. Disney now owns the rights and is said to be contemplating future films, though whether or not Harrison Ford will be involved remains to be seen.
Sylvester Stallone was one of the hottest actors in Hollywood when he signed on to star in this 1982 adaptation of David Morrell's novel about a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran that comes home with severe emotional trauma. A small town sheriff in Washington state sees him as a dangerous drifter, kicking off a horribly violent series of events when he attempts to arrest him. The sequels grew increasingly ridiculous, though Stallone says he is going to wrap up the series this year with a movie appropriately called Last Blood.
Danny Glover was just 41 when the original Lethal Weapon came out back in 1987, but he played a grizzled cop on the verge of retirement. He gets partnered with a recently widowed, suicidal young hotshot (played by Mel Gibson) that gets them into all sorts of trouble since he has absolutely no fear of death. It's a dark premise, but director Richard Donner also brought out a lot of laughs. The formula lead to three sequels, though they went pretty downhill after the stellar second one. Any talk of a fifth one ended when Mel Gibson went completely insane.
Before The Matrix hit theaters, everyone knew Keanu Reeves as the guy from Speed and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. If they knew the The Wachowskis at all, it was from their 1996 lesbian heist movie Bound. But after The Matrix came all three of them discovered it would define their careers forever. The story of a computer programmer who discovers that his whole world is a shared illusion became a cultural phenomenon in 1999. People saw it over and over, flooding early message boards and AOL chat rooms with their theories. The sequels were four long years away, and let's just say neither of those received many votes in this poll.
The team that made 1987's Predator is filled to the brim with all stars. It features two future governors (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura), Carl "Apollo Creed" Weathers and it's directed by John McTiernan, the man who sent on to make Die Hard and Die Hard: With a Vengeance, clearly the two best of the saga. There was no way that team was gonna fail, and their movie about an elite group of soldiers that battle a killer alien while trying to free hostages in Central America is freakin' awesome. Not even a bad sequel and a cheapo mashup movie with Alien can minimize that.
When The Bourne Identity hit theaters back in the summer of 2002 Universal Studios, even in their wildest dreams, probably didn't think they were kicking off a franchise so massive it would eventually run on two parallel tracks and gross enough money to feed a small continent. It all started with this adaptation of Robert Ludlum's 1980 novel about a government agent whose memories have been erased. It grossed $214 million and generated two immediate sequels. Damon recently signed on for a fourth chapter, and Jeremy Renner also has his own Bourne movies going. That's a lot of Bourne, but if Universal thought it would be profitable they'd throw another three or four of them out there.
The insane success of Star Wars in 1977 left studios scrambling to get their own science fiction films into the theater. That lead to the dreadful Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but also to the brilliant Alien by director Ridley Scott. The 1979 movie tells the story of a group of seven astronauts in the distant future that wake up prematurely from stasis and discover that a parasitic alien has wound up on their spacecraft. It's a greasy, ugly creature, but it's also incredibly smart and it picks them off one by one until Sigourney Weaver, playing the lone female crew member, blasts it out into open space. If she had any idea what horrors awaited her in the sequels she would have probably blast herself out too.
The second movie in a trilogy has the strong potential to be the strongest. The first movie, which often has a limited budget, has to establish the setting and backstory before it can dive into the main action. The third movie is often the work of an exhausted team quickly running out of steam, leaving number two as the best of the bunch.
This is arguably the case with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, George Miller's post-apocalyptic movies starring Mel Gibson as a former Main Force Patrol officer trying to survive in a dusty, hellish version of Australia. By this point, he's increasingly desperate, even losing his dog, but he agrees to help a besieged group of people defend their turf against a group of motorcyclists. The long-awaited fourth film is coming out this May, but with Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson.