The majority of Australians are resigned to the fact that self-isolation is going to be the norm for the foreseeable future. Being stuck inside 24/7 isn’t ideal, but it does give you plenty of time to sloth about on the couch watching films.
If you’re an action fan like myself then this is a fantastic time to dedicate hours of your free time to watching not just the best action flicks, but also the greatest franchises of the genre. So get into your favourite trackies, grab your snacks and settle in for the long haul with these 10 incredible action franchises.
1. James Bond
Best film in the franchise: Goldfinger (1964)
The original and still the best action franchise, the James Bond films helped define the genre and created a character that has transcended the medium of film. Based on Ian Fleming’s thrilling novels, seven different actors have played the martini sipping womaniser since Sean Connery first buttoned up his black tuxedo in 1962’s Dr. No. Each actor brings a different vibe to the franchise; with Roger Moore’s efforts increasingly camp and current Bond Daniel Craig giving 007 a more realistic feel. The series is as popular as ever with the twenty-fifth film No Time To Die sure to be another hit upon its eventual release later this year.
2. John Wick
Best film in the franchise: John Wick (2014)
The Keanu Reeves renaissance kicked off with the long haired heartthrob starring as a retired assassin in the 2014 action blockbuster John Wick. After his dog is murdered and his car stolen, Wick embarks on a blood soaked journey of revenge that leads him back into the assassin’s game he thought he’d left forever. Reeves is dynamic as the soft talking killer in a trilogy of films chock full of incredible fight scenes, intriguing mythology and unique deaths. Throw in a support cast including Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and Halle Berry and you have a money making franchise set to continue with a fourth film and a television series.
3. Jason Bourne
Best film in the franchise: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Based on Robert Ludlum’s cracking novels, this franchise turned Matt Damon into an action star and revitalised his career after starring in a number of duds (The Legend Of Bagger Vance anyone?) Damon plays the titular Jason Bourne, an amnesiac CIA agent who slowly discovers he was part of a clandestine assassins program. What makes these films so good is the realistic fight scenes and well-written scripts that slowly reveal who Bourne really is over the course of the series without letting up on the action. The less said about 2012’s Jeremy Renner-starring The Bourne Legacy the better.
4. Mission: Impossible
Best film in the franchise: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Even though director Brain De Palma thought the idea of a Mission Impossible sequel ludicrous, the series has proved to be box office gold for star Tom Cruise, with a seventh and eight film set for release in the coming years. Cruise has never been better as Agent Ethan Hunt, a special operative for the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) who continually saves the day throughout the series. The action scenes have gotten more outrageous with each film (Cruise actually jumps on a plane as it takes off in Fallout) while the core cast of Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames provide admirable support.
5. Indiana Jones
Best film in the franchise: Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
Talk of a fifth film doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm after the lacklustre Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008), but if you focus on the original trilogy you can’t go wrong when it comes to good old fashioned adventure and incredible on screen action. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, an archaeologist who finds himself chasing after some of the world’s most prized artefacts. From taking on the Nazis to battling evil cults and healing his father (Sean Connery making another notable appearance on this list) with the cup of Christ, the Indiana Jones franchise is a nostalgic joy to watch.
6. Fast & Furious
Best film in the franchise: Fast Five (2011)
Vin Diesel made his career as the hot headed Dominic Toretto in the Fast & Furious franchise. Even with the tragic death of series regular Paul Walker, this franchise has gone from strength to strength. Similar to Mission: Impossible, the stunts get crazier with each entry while the addition of high profile actors such as The Rock, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell only adds to the star power of the series. The box office takings have been phenomenal, with the success leading to The Rock and Statham starring in their own forgettable spin-off Hobbs & Shaw and a ninth Fast & Furious planned for release next year.
7. Dirty Harry
Best film in the franchise: Dirty Harry (1971)
Clint Eastwood was best known for his spaghetti westerns before he became a bona fide Hollywood star as Detective Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry. With a distaste for the rules, Harry’s a take no prisoners San Francisco cop who shoots first and asks questions later. While it’s fair to say the later films are a bit naff, Eastwood invented the grizzled cop trope that would be copied in hundreds of films to come and helped coin one of the most misquoted film phrases of all time: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?” An absolute classic.
8. Mad Max
Best film in the franchise: Mad Max 2 (1981)
George Miller’s cop turned vigilante series is how you do action on a budget. The first three films star Mel Gibson as the emotionless Max Rockatansky, a beaten and battered former cop who wanders the wastelands of earth searching for fuel after the death of his family. The first two films are classics, and while 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome isn’t great, it did give us Angry Anderson in black leather and Tina Turner’s incredible theme song “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”. Although not everyone is a big fan of the 2015 Tom Hardy reboot/sequel Fury Road, it’s still a worthy addition to this action packed series.
9. Die Hard
Best film in the franchise: Die Hard (1988)
John McClane is the role Bruce Willis was born to play. As the laid back New York Detective, his every-man shtick has never been better. Forget the last two films and focus on the first three. In the explosive Die Hard he comes up against Alan Rickman’s memorable terrorist thief in a film that set the action film template. 1990 sequel Die Hard 2: Die Harder finds McClane taking down an ex-special forces group at Washington Airport, while 1995’s Die Hard With A Vengeance puts McClane with Samuel L. Jackson’s foul mouthed Zeus as the two are forced to solve a number of puzzles in New York City while attempting to stop Gruber’s brother escaping with millions in gold bullion. All three are incredible watches and a great way to spend an evening.
10. Lethal Weapon
Best film in the franchise: Lethal Weapon (1987)
After the success of Mad Max turned him into star, Mel Gibson created another memorable franchise with Lethal Weapon. Setting the blueprint for the buddy-cop film genre, Gibson’s unhinged Martin Riggs is teamed with Danny Glover’s soon to be retired Roger Murtaugh as the duo tackle drug smugglers, South African criminals, arms dealers and the Triads across four thrilling flicks. The interplay between Gibson and Glover is key to the series success while Joe Pesci as comic relief Leo Getz is the icing on the this action cake.