The Best Action Movies of 2015

By  · Published on December 10th, 2015

Last year featured some quality action films, but the shortage of great ones meant our list of the year’s fourteen best actually featured two trailers for 2015 releases. (I make no apologies for that decision.) This year wasn’t much better overall, but I did at least manage to find fifteen action films that made the cut.

A quick note: while American films that have only played festivals don’t count towards the list ‐ sorry Green Room, next year ‐ I am including foreign titles that as of yet have no U.S. release.

15. A Hard Day

There isn’t a lot of action in Kim Seong-hoon’s smartly-crafted and darkly comic thriller, but what is here works beautifully to raise the suspense alongside viewers’ heart rates as the story careens through numerous twists and turns. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

14. Spectre

Director Sam Mendes takes a cue from his previous Bond outing (Skyfall) and packs his latest with plenty of big action beats uninterested in logic, and while their size and scope make are appealing the film’s best sequence is a stripped down brawl between Daniel Craig and Dave Bautista. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

13. Kung Fu Jungle

Donnie Yen isn’t the lead action star here ‐ that honor belongs to Wang Bauqiang as the villain who takes part in multiple battles, each with a different focus, on his way to an end brawl with the film’s star ‐ but the 51 year-old Yen proves himself to still be a scrappy and wickedly fast fighter. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

12. Furious 7

The seventh entry in the blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise is a step down from parts 5 and 6 ‐ you know it’s true ‐ but while some of the big set-pieces underwhelm the movie manages some stellar fight scenes featuring Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, and others. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD]

11. Nowhere Girl

Mamoru Oshii’s film is an artsy slow-burn for much of its short run-time, but the third act reveals Nana Seino as the next great female ass-kicker with an extended action sequence that sees her fighting, shooting, and slicing her way through a couple dozen armed soldiers ‐ it’s a beautifully choreographed assault that reminds favorably of the South Korean gem, The Man from Nowhere. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

10. Assassination Classroom

The movie’s nuts in the best possible ways, but as ridiculous as it gets ‐ it is a Japanese film about a tentacled alien whose dedication to teaching takes precedence over his students attempts to kill him each morning ‐ it commits to the story and characters and floods the screen with energetic alien antics and gun-play. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.] [My review]

9. Momentum

I’m admittedly in the tank for both Olga Kurylenko and James Purefoy, but they’re only part of the fun here as the movie features some strong action beats that run the gamut from a smartly-crafted car chase to gun-play to several exciting fight scenes. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

8. Assassination

The second of only two period pieces on the list, this Korean hit blends a fractured national history, eccentric characters, and a terrific collection of action set-pieces into a highly engrossing feature, and it includes the most exciting wedding scene of the year outside of Wild Tales. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

7. Kingsman: The Secret Service

The team behind Kick-AssMatthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Mark Millar ‐ return with another over-the-top romp, and patriotic head explosions aside the action scenes are some of the year’s best including acrobatic kills by the razor-legged Sofia Boutella and Colin Firth’s epic church massacre. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

6. Everly

Joe Lynch’s single(-ish) location thriller is a bit too one-note for its own good, but the simple plot isn’t a detriment to the nearly non-stop action of unexpected ass-kicker Salma Hayek mowing down wave after wave of assassins, armed guards, and even a Japanese sadist or two. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD]

5. Skin Trade

Dolph Lundgren is the driving force behind this action movie with a message, but it’s Tony Jaa who delivers a tremendous series of beat-downs featuring blistering attacks with his knees and elbows, no shortage of spins, kicks and punches, and a minimal amount of wire work. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

4. Sicario

There was no more intense or tension-fueled film this year than Denis Villeneuve’s white-knuckle look at the modern war on terror, and while everything from the script, performances, cinematography, and score worked to create that fist-clenching response the film also delivers massively with pure, top-notch action entertainment. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD starting January 5th]

3. SPL 2: A Time for Consequence

Tony Jaa solidifies his comeback with this sequel in name only to the Donnie Yen/Sammo Hung classic, and together with Wu Jing (returning as an unrelated character) and Zhang Jin he shares in some of the best fight scenes to come out of Hong Kong in a while. [Currently unavailable in the U.S.]

2. Mission: Impossible ‐ Rogue Nation

From the opening stunt with Tom Cruise hanging on the outside of a plane as it takes off to various chase scenes, fights, shootouts, and underwater shenanigans, the latest in the series is once again an immensely entertaining action film that still finds time for humor, a twisty plot, and the fantastic Rebecca Ferguson. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD starting December 15th]

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller’s epic sequel/reboot was a lock for this list the moment the credits rolled on my first viewing, and subsequent watches have confirmed it as an action masterpiece thanks to stunning vehicular stunt work and the numerous action beats in, on, and around the various cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more. It is an exhilarating modern classic and easily the best action film of 2015. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD] [My review]

Honorable mentions: American Ultra, Close Range, No Escape, Spy, Veteran

Read more of our Best of 2015 coverage!

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.