Elaborately choreographed gun fights, masterful martial-arts set pieces, and fine-ass assassins get our adrenaline pumping. Whether it's a rock 'em, sock 'em, balls-to-the-wall action movie or a sweeping epic, our favorites so far this year have heart, humor or both (what's a revenge film without a heartbreaking backstory, right?) and will get you on your feet cheering for the good guys. Catch one of our favorite action movies of 2019 (opens in new tab) so far and you'll be pumped up to do your own badass butt-kicking.
Release date: January 11, 2019
No one does action quite like Jean-Claude Van Damme. His acting is rarely ever great, but he brings an earnest humanity to his characters that makes viewers root for him—plus, you'll almost always see him do the splits and show off his pert bum. In his latest, Van Damme plays a single dad who works as a bouncer in a Belgian nightclub. After being apprehended by the authorities for a bar brawl gone bad, he must choose between spying on his gang-leader boss for the police or losing custody of his young daughter.
Release date: January 25, 2019
After playing a Doctor Strange villain and the psychiatrist-cum-cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Mads Mikkelsen takes a whirl at being a good guy (sort of). In this Netflix original, he plays an assassin hoping to retire. Bu, first, he must make one last stand against a crew of cocky killers sent by his greedy boss who wants to cheat him out of his pension. Those young guns are no match for his expertise and stone-cold killer instincts (and chiseled good looks). Vanessa Hudgens plays his mysterious neighbor across the lake.
Release date: February 8, 2019
We've seen Liam Neeson fight bad guys as a Jedi master, a CIA operative and now a snowplow driver. Nels Coxman (Neeson) looks to avenge the death of his son at the hands of ruthless but bungling drug dealers. Neeson's uncommunicative, hardworking everyman and the hushed landscape of never-ending snow drifts provide a poetic foil to the bombastic shoot-out scenes between warring cartels. Equal parts action picture, dark comedy and family drama, Cold Pursuit is surprising, funny and heartbreaking.
Release date: April 12, 2019
A spin-off and sequel to the 2015 film Ip Man 3, the movie stars Max Zhang as Cheung Tin Chi, a former Wing Chun master and a man laying low after his defeat at the hands of Ip Man. While making a delivery for the grocery store he now runs, Cheung tussles with members of a local gang collecting on a drug debt. There's no more hiding as he finds himself in the middle of a power struggle between family members of a criminal syndicate. Zhang's martial arts chops are undeniable, but Michelle Yeoh's grace and power are breathtaking.
Release date: May 3, 2019
Acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou elevates the action film to arthouse epic. Lauded for his visually-stunning movies, both period pieces (Raise the Red Lantern, Ju-Dou) and martial-arts ones (Hero, The House of Flying Daggers), the sets and costumes for Shadow are almost entirely in black, white and gray—the only other dominant colors are those of flesh and blood. Set in China's Three Kingdom era, the story centers around a manipulative military commander and his body double. The fight sequences are exquisitely choreographed, including a breathtaking set piece featuring deadly umbrellas.
Release date: May 17, 2019
In this third installment of the series, John Wick (played by a brooding and sexy AF Keanu Reeves) is no longer the hunter but the hunted—declared excommunicado by the High Table that governs this universe of assassins. The Continental (overseen by the wily hotel manager Winston played by Ian McShane) is again ground zero for this dark and elegant world and the backdrop for the movie's most brutal and balletic fight sequences. Our pick for fan favorite would go to Mark Dacascos, who was a bonafide action star before his stint as the host of the OG Iron Chef. His performance is charming and provides comic relief from the relentless scowling and grunting. This is everything an action movie should be, and our favorite so far this year.
Release date: July 12, 2019
Incapacitated by a recent procedure, hard-boiled cop Vic (Dave Bautista) calls an Uber to take him to meet with an informant. Vic strong arms the mild-mannered driver Stu (Kamil Nanjiani) into his reluctant sidekick on his mission to arrest the drug dealer who killed his partner. Bringing an electric car to a high-speed chase, a near-sighted police offer to a bust and a pacifist to a gun fight—what can go wrong?
Release date: August 2, 2019
Frenemies Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are back at it— lobbing testicle jokes at one another and saving the world. And. We. Are. Here. For. It. Add indestructible cyborg Idris Elba and ass-kicking Vanessa Kirby as a MI6 agent and Shaw's sister, and you've got the movie of the summer (those Marvel movies were just plain boring).
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Joyce Bautista Ferrari is the managing editor at Marie Claire, where she bosses people around and loves to write about movies, food and design.
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