While 2015 was a horrible year for comedies and only a so-so year for horror movies, the batch of action films that hit theaters in 2015 were, overall, pretty entertaining. Ant-Man barely missed making our list of the 10 best action films of the year as did Everest, San Andreas, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. And Spy was left off only because we felt it was more of a comedy than action film (it made our 10 best comedies of the year list), although in any other year it more than likely would have made both lists.
The following list is in alphabetical order, however our favorites in order for the top three spots would be Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
2015’s Best Action Films:
Bone Tomahawk – Starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, and Richard Jenkins
The Plot: When a group of cannibal savages kidnaps settlers from the small town of Bright Hope, an unlikely team of gunslingers, led by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), sets out to bring them home. But their enemy is more ruthless than anyone could have imagined, putting their mission – and survival itself – in serious jeopardy.
Why It Worked: Dark and twisted but with a killer sense of humor sprinkled throughout, Bone Tomahawk is one of those hidden gems you need to see but probably haven’t heard much about. The graphic violence escalates as the film nears its climax, so it’s definitely not for the squeamish. But for those who don’t mind brutal Westerns, it’s worth seeking out this action thriller from writer/director S. Craig Zahler.
Furious 7 – Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black, Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, and Ronda Rousey
The Plot: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the returning cast across the globe in their most gravity-defying and emotional adventure yet. Targeted by a cold-blooded black-ops assassin with a score to settle (Jason Statham), their only hope is to get behind the wheel again and secure an ingenious prototype tracking device. Facing their greatest threat yet in places as far away as Abu Dhabi and as familiar as the Los Angeles streets they call home, the crew must come together once again as a team, and as a family, to protect their own.
Why It Worked: Furious 7 felt like a farewell to all of the Fast and Furious family and not just a final goodbye to franchise star Paul Walker. However, the franchise is apparently moving on without Walker which is too bad as Furious 7 was one of the better films of the series and had some of the most spectacular action sequences. It’ll be tough for an eighth film to top the action scenes and have as much heart as Furious 7.
Kingsman: The Secret Service – Starring Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Taron Egerton, and Samuel L Jackson
The Plot: Based upon the acclaimed comic book and directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of a super-secret spy organization that recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.
Why It Worked: Who would have thought Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Pride and Prejudice) would make sure a convincing action hero? Kingsman features incredible, fast-paced, must watch twice just to catch everything action, with Firth in the lead kicking some serious butt.
Mad Max: Fury Road – Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Abbey Lee
The Plot: Haunted by his turbulent past, Mad Max (Tom Hardy) believes the best way to survive is to wander alone. Nevertheless, he becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by an elite Imperator, Furiosa (Charlize Theron). They are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe, from whom something irreplaceable has been taken. Enraged, the Warlord marshals all his gangs and pursues the rebels ruthlessly in the high-octane Road War that follows.
Why It Worked: Sure, it took far too long for George Miller to deliver another Mad Max film, but the wait turned out to be well worthwhile as Mad Max: Fury Road is everything anyone could possibly want and expect from a Mad Max film. With Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and Nicholas Hoult in the lead, Fury Road is a wild ride that’s brutal, violent, and incredibly fun.
The Martian – Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover
The Plot: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.
Why It Worked: Ridley Scott’s The Martian was one of 2015’s big winners, earning $600 million at the box office as well as rave reviews. Even the fact it came along shortly after the critically acclaimed Gravity and Christopher Nolan’s less successful space thriller Interstellar apparently didn’t lessen movie audiences’ desire to head back into outer space. Mixing sci-i, comedy, and action, The Martian made science fun and even earned the support of the scientific community.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson and Sean Harris
The Plot: Ethan (Tom Cruise) and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.
Why It Worked: Love him or hate him, Tom Cruise knows how to wow as the lead in the Mission Impossible franchise. Cruise performed death-defying stunts (including hanging on to the outside of a plane as it lifted off) that helped make Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation one of the better films of the series. But what really elevated this MI was the chemistry between the cast and the snappy writing.
The Revenant – Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter
The Plot: Inspired by true events, The Revenant is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.
Why It Worked: Could Leonardo DiCaprio not only earn an Oscar nomination but actually take home the statuette for his performance in The Revenant? DiCaprio’s been nominated four times in the acting categories and once as a producer, but he’s never had the opportunity to hear his name announced as the winner. This year’s Best Actor race is wide open and DiCaprio may finally have his chance to deliver an Oscar thank you speech for his work in this riveting and brutal film.
Sicario – Starring Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, and Jon Bernthal
The Plot: In Mexico, SICARIO means hitman. In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elite government task force official (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past (Benicio Del Toro), the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.
Why It Worked: One of my favorite films of 2015, Sicario is spectacularly shot, fast-paced, and thrilling. Sicario features one of the best ensembles of the year, led by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro, and the R-rated action film is the best drug war movie since Traffic.
Slow West – Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn and Caren Pistorious
The Plot: At the end of the nineteenth century, 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) journeys across the American frontier in search of the woman he loves. He is joined by Silas (Michael Fassbender), a mysterious traveler, and hotly pursued by an outlaw along the way.
Why It Worked: It’s a shame Slow West didn’t get more attention when it opened in theaters in limited release in May because this action thriller is a terrific example of how a Western should be made. With the team of Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee leading the way, Slow West is a delightful slow burn of a film that presents the genre in completely fresh way.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max Von Sydow
The Plot: Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. When a defector named Finn (John Boyega) crash-lands on a desert planet, he meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a tough scavenger whose droid contains a top-secret map. Together, the young duo joins forces with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to make sure the Resistance receives the intelligence concerning the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last of the Jedi Knights.
Why It Worked: Opening to record-breaking box office numbers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens lived up to fans expectations and delivered a new batch of heroes (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac) to cheer for. Co-written and directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars Episode VII brought the franchise back to life by recapturing the vibe of the original Star Wars movie – something the second trilogy failed to do.