10 Best Action-Adventure Movies That Still Hold Up

Of all the great action-adventure movies that have ever been made, these are the ten that hold up best, ranked in order from best to tenth best.

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

Over the years, audiences have been thrilled by action-adventure movies. They are popcorn flicks, bringing edge-of-the-seat excitement while telling cool stories, many times in amazing locales.

Of all the great action-adventure movies that have ever been made, these are the ten that hold up best, ranked in order from best to tenth best.

1. Raiders Of The Lost Ark

raiders of the lost ark action-adventure


The original Indiana Jones, after 42 years, still holds up today the best action-adventure movie ever made. George Lucas, who also is the mastermind behind Star Wars, first thought of the Indiana Jones concept back in 1973, right after he finished another of his popular early films, American Graffiti. As a kid, Lucas loved serial films like Buck Rogers and had always wanted to create one of his own. We are thankful he brought Indy to life.

The film stars Harrison Ford, an actor Lucas was all too familiar with from American Graffiti and Star Wars. Ford brought the swashbuckling of Han Solo to his famed archeologist and a sense of adventure that has carried Indy through four films with a fifth (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny) on the way.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936 and follows our hero as he battles Nazis, who are on the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant, which the Nazis believe will make their army invincible. Indy finds himself teaming up with his ex-flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) to try to stop the Nazis from getting their hands on the Ark.  

2. Die Hard

Die Hard movie
Bruce Willis in Die Hard


Before Bruce Willis got the plum gig as John McClane in the action-adventure Christmas film, Die Hard, he was a “barely known” trying to make a name for himself on the TV series, Moonlighting, opposite Cybill Shepherd. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Shepherd getting pregnant at the time, Willis never would have been able to take on the role of McClane as he was contractually obligated to the hit TV series.

Die Hard, one of the 10 best action-adventure movies of all time, tells the story of Detective John McClane, who is on his way to Los Angeles from New York where he is a cop, to visit his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), who has taken a job for the Nakatomi Corporation. McClane arrives at the Nakatomi Plaza as the company’s Christmas party is in full swing.

After a brief reconnection with his wife, McClane is set into action when a group of terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (an excellent Alan Rickman) take over the building with their goal of stealing $640 million in untraceable bearer bonds. Little did they know that John McClane would have a whole lot of something to say about that.

3. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

viggo mortensen action movie


Not only is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring one of the 10 best action-adventure movies ever made, but it is epic in its scope. Peter Jackson helmed this beast, based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as the two films that followed (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) to create a franchise that has hit almost $3 billion.

This first film introduced its ensemble cast that includes Elijah Wood as hobbit Frodo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Sean Astin as Samwise, Billy Boyd as Peregrin, Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas.

The story is set in Middle-earth, where Frodo has become the owner of The Ring, a powerful object that would bring the return of power to the Dark Lord, Sauron, if he were to retrieve it. Frodo and his traveling companions decide to journey to the land of Mordor and Mount Doom, where it is said that it’s the only place the ring can be destroyed.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

mad max fury road action


In this relentless action-adventure, considered to be one of the 10 best, Tom Hardy steps into Mad Max’s shoes for Mel Gibson after the controversies surrounding Gibson at the time made him box office poison. Hardy fills the role wonderfully, though, for the film’s first 45 minutes, we never see his face clearly as he is muzzled the whole time.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the epitome of action adventure. Director George Miller has his foot on the floorboard on this one, which surprisingly relegates Max to the background as Miller is keen on introducing Charlize Theron as Furiosa. This post-apocalyptic film follows Max and Furiosa as they battle Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a warlord who simply lives to rule. Nicholas Hoult, Riley Keough, and Zoe Kravitz also star.

5. The Matrix

the matrix action scene


Artificial Intelligence started making a name for itself in the 1999 action-adventure sci-fi film, The Matrix, written and directed by The Wachowskis. The film is set in a dystopian future where AI has taken over and created the Matrix, where it has trapped humanity and is using humans as its source of energy.

The film stars Keanu Reeves as Neo, who discovers the truth about the Matrix and joins the rebellion against it. The film also stars Carrie-Anne Moss, Lawrence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano. Not only does the film offer great action adventure that continues to hold up today, but the Wachowskis brought in mind-bending special effects that became the influence for future action-adventure films. The original The Matrix film was the precursor to three sequels, all starring Keanu Reeves.

6. Aliens

Ripley leads this action movie


Although the amazing 1979 Ridley Scott Alien film started the Alien franchise, Aliens is considered to be the best film out of the group. This second film in the franchise, considered to be one of the 10 best action-adventure movies, was written and directed by James Cameron and sees Sigourney Weaver returning to her role as the badass, Ellen Ripley.

When we catch up to Ripley, she has been in stasis for almost 60 years after having fought off the alien and escaped in an escape pod. After being rescued, she is told that while she was “sleeping,” a colony has been built on the planet harboring alien eggs, the same planet, and eggs that killed Ripley’s crew. But contact has been lost with those in the colony.

Now, a group of soldiers has been assigned to go to the planet to determine what happened to the colony. Ripley, hesitant at first, finally decides to join the soldiers on their mission and the action begins. Aliens is one of the finest science fiction action-adventure films and to this day, the whole film holds up.

7. Jurassic Park

jurassic park


It has been tried in the past, mixing dinosaurs with humans on screen, but the special effects were never quite believable. That all changed when Steven Spielberg got ahold of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel, Jurassic Park, and turned it into one of the greatest action-adventure movies of all time, and one that even today knocks it out of the park.

Spielberg made you feel as if dinosaurs were real as he told the tale of John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) a wealthy industrialist who, with the help of some dinosaur DNA, has created an entire island of dinosaurs. His grand plan is to open it up as a park to all, but before he can do that, he needs to bring in professionals to help convince the park’s investors that the island and park are safe.

Enter Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to offer their professional opinions on the park. As the three arrive, so do Hammond’s grandchildren. The action-adventure ramps up as the park’s security system becomes compromised. Now, there is nothing to protect them from the dinosaurs.

8. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Last Crusade


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the third entry in the Indiana Jones franchise and one that not only offers an abundance of action and adventure but also turns up the humor a little more. Harrison Ford is back for the third time as Indy and is joined by Sean Connery as Indy’s globe-trotting father (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) Henry Jones, Sr.

Both Ford and Connery are brilliant together as father and son, their banter making for a fun time as the action and adventure play out all around them. The late River Phoenix appears as young Indy and we see how he gets his scar and his immense dislike for snakes. 34 years later, the film still holds up.

9. Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terminator 2 scene


Director (and writer) James Cameron is at it again with another blockbuster of a sequel with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. This action-adventure masterpiece has stood the test of time and probably always will. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Terminator only this time he is back as a protector and not one who is out to eliminate.

Edward Furlong is on board as a young John Connor and Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah, John’s mom. In this story, an advanced AI shapeshifting robot, the T-1000, has been sent back in time to take out John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance. He is much more advanced than Schwarzenegger’s model but finds out that it won’t be so easy to dispose of John Connor when the T-800 arrives as his protector.

10. The Princess Bride

princess bride sword fight


Action, adventure, and romance are all on display in Rob Reiner’s hit 1987 film, The Princess Bride. This fairy tale adventure stars Cary Elwes as Westley, who only has eyes for Buttercup, played by Robin Wright. The tale begins as Westley is a farmhand working for Buttercup’s family. The two fall in love and want to marry, but Westley doesn’t have the means to give her a good life. When he leaves to seek his fortune, his ship is attacked, and Westley is presumed dead.

Five years later, Buttercup is being forced to marry the horrible Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). But before she can marry, Buttercup is kidnapped by three men. The three men find themselves being pursued by “the man in black” and also by Humperdinck. When the man in black finally catches up to the three men and Buttercup, it is revealed that he is actually Westley and Westley has turned into a master swordsman.

The Princess Bride is filled with plenty of laughs, plenty of action, and plenty of adventure, all of which equates to one of the 10 Best Action-Adventure Movies that still hold up today.

  • GFR Score calculated using averages of audience and critical reactions across multiple platforms.