The 10 Best Action Characters of the 2010s
The action films of the 2010s have given the world some fantastic new characters, headkicks and new characters being decapitated via a head kick. Between comic book films, the Fast series and Mission Impossible’s resurgence we’ve been blessed with quality action films that go out their way to shock and awe. We’ve been lucky enough to witness the world’s longest runway (Hello Furious 7) and watch Brad Pitt get chased by insanely fast zombies (World War Z). I think The Raid: Redemption and 13 Assassins are damn near perfect, and I love how The Guest is retro and original. Also, between Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road), Mallory Kane (Haywire) and Ilsa Faust (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) we’ve been blessed with some scene stealing female action heroes.
The following post covers the 10 best action characters of the 00s. They are an odd lot who all have one thing in common. They are awesome!
I love Samuel L. Jackson in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Daniel Bruhl in Captain America: Civil War but they didn’t really get their fingers dirty in action sequences. Sure, they tortured, shot and harassed many but I wanted this list to feature characters who got in the action and wiped some folks out.
I really wanted to add Fast Five’s Gisele (Gal Gadot) and Han (Sung Kang) but their characters originated before 2011. There are many fantastic characters (John Wick, Hobbs, Lucy) who didn’t make the list, but I’m sure they won’t care because they are too busy flexing.
1. Rita Vrataski and Cage – Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski was an effortless badass who wasn’t simply a Tom Cruise love interest.She imbued a soul and personality into a character that was stuck in what seems like a very uncomfortable costume. What I love about the performance is that you 100% bought every moment of alien smooshing and Tom Cruise killing. Blunt gave humor, physicality and stoicism to a character that could have easily been one-note.
Tom Cruise did something that many A-listers won’t do. He played a big time weasel who dies many times, get squished often and takes a backseat to a badass partner. There wasn’t much ego to the role and I loved how his character changed so dramatically. After Jack Reacher I was worried that Cruise had become so ego-inflated that he was untouchable in films. However, Edge of Tomorrow was a course correction that proved Cruise had no problem sounding silly whilst being crushed by a truck.
2. Artemisia – 300: Rise of an Empire (2014)
Eva Green owned every second of 300: Rise of an Empire. She straight up went for it and seemed to be having a blast playing Artemesia. I love when actors/actresses own their roles and dive into absurdity with zero self consciousness. Green gave us a fantastic villain who is way more layered than she had any right to be.
3. Ilsa Faust – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
Rebecca Ferguson was awesome in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Tom Cruise may be the star but Ferguson stole the show. Ferguson does a solid job of holding her own and is believable as a female Ethan Hunt who can do everything Ethan can but in high heels. If you are interested, Christopher McQuarrie did an interview with Empire Online where he discussed the film for two amazing hours. In the podcast he breaks down how Elsa became such a force of nature.
4. Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Imperator Furiosa is a marvel of a creation. In the six months that Charlize Theron spent filming in the African desert she and George Miller created a character for the ages. She is a one-armed badass who has no problem going head to head with a guy called Immortan Joe. She drives a massive war rig, commands respect from her subordinates, battles Mad Max and can shoot a gun like a pro. Charlize Theron is one of my favorite actresses and I loved her in Young Adult, Arrested Development and Mad Max. In movies like Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman she was stuck in the icy villain role. In Max, Furiosa has a warmth to her that goes along with her effortless badass.
What I love most about Theron’s performance was nothing was forced. Sometimes when tasked with playing a post-apocalyptic war rig driver the actor would go over the top with bluster, bitchiness and a weird deep voice. Theron’s Furiosa wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t quite know what she is getting into. She is obviously respected by her peers and Immortan Joe respects her enough to send his entire War Boy party after her. Furiosa at times seem close to tears but has no problem skeet shooting the foes that come at her.
5. Mallory Kane – Haywire (2011)
Haywire is a badass James Bond-esque action film that only Steven Soderbergh could make. Haywire is full of fantastic action that puts Gina Carano’s skills to full use. Her MMA background is used to bone crunching effect in her fight with Channing Tatum. He walks in, complains about being hungover, throws coffee in her face and smashes a coffee cup on her head. From there we get a badass brawl that involves restaurant patrons, coffee pots and a slick armbar. It is fast, violent and doesn’t resort to choppy editing. I love how Soderbergh lets the camera linger as the actors beat the crap out of each other.
6. Shinzaemon– 13 Assassins (2010)
If you haven’t watched Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins you need to do it now. It is an insanely violent epic that features 13 Ronin battling an incredibly evil man. What I love about Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) is he is putting his life on the line to stop a tyrant. He knows what will happen if the evil lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagsaki) gains further power so he gathers some tough guys and they go to war. 13 Assassins features the best action scene of the 2010s and you will find yourself rooting for the world weary Shinzaemon.
7. Gerry – World War Z (2013)
What I love about World War Z is that it doesn’t let you catch your breath for the first two-thirds of the film, then it makes you hold your breath during the conclusion. What I like about Jerry (Brad Pitt) is how he always keeps moving and throws himself headlong into everything. World War Z was a very pleasant surprise and I’ve found myself enjoying it with more viewings.
8. Rama – The Raid: Redemption (2011)
Rama is an action god and I love the physicality that Iko Uwais added to the role. He is a nonstop ball of violence who would put the Energizer bunny to shame. What I love about The Raid is that it never stops. It is urgent, bloody, intense and thrilling. Rama is a good dude surrounded by bad dudes and he beats them all up. The Raid is action perfected.
9. “David” – The Guest (2014)
The Guest is bloody, gory and at times very uncomfortable. The goth techno soundtrack blares loudly while Dan Stevens kicks ass in a nearly monotone voice. I had to laugh as everybody chooses to ignore the oddness of Dan Steven’s character because of his clean cut looks and relaxed persona. There is obviously something wrong with him but he honeypots (Thank you The Interview) everyone into ignoring his constant violent actions. I love that a psychopath can weasel his way into suburban life because he looks like Dan Stevens. I love what director Adam Wingard had to say about the character:
The Alien and Michael Myers movies … you couldn’t really put together what they were. They were these like shapes. They were terrifying in their obscurity. That’s something that’s influenced so many people. Horror, in many ways, went way down that rabbit hole for many years. People are still riffing on those concepts, with the masks and facelessness of the killers and stuff. And I thought, What would it be like to do the inversion of that? What if Michael Myers, instead of being this shapeless guy following you around town from a distance, what if he lived in your house?
10. Alejandro – Sicario (2015)
Benecio Del Toro is the most believable badass since Maximus in Gladiator (2000). I bought everything he did and I was fully on board with his death dealing. He might be the scariest character on the list because he is driven by revenge and has ice water running in his veins. You need to watch Sicario because between Emily Blunt’s unselfishness and Roger Deakins cinematography it is an almost perfect film.