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The 12 Most Underrated Action Movie Performances of All Time

The action genre has, of course, always been known, recognized, and prized for the action, stunts, and generally all the different forms of physicality that make it what it is. But because of the genre’s main focus, it can sometimes be easy to forget how many incredible performances many actors have given in these films, fully committing to their craft even among all the crazy combat, shootouts, explosions, and overall noise. And while audiences usually expect the action to take center stage in an action movie, a good performance or two can only elevate an action film. It can add depth and substance to the story, which can make the action within even more meaningful and serious, especially when there are stakes involved for characters that the audience cares for, due to good performances.

And especially when the action itself is not up to par and not given enough care to – as it is in a lot of today’s action films, let’s be honest – an actor’s dedicated performance (or several of them) can be the bright spot that makes it all memorable. A lot of times, the acting can be more memorable than the action, funny enough. And there have been some truly legendary performances in the genre over the years, such as Sylvester Stallone in First Blood, Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional, Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Liam Neeson in Taken, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Linda Hamilton in Terminator, and many more. But there have also been many memorable ones that, for whatever reason, haven’t been truly appreciated or recognized as they should have. Let’s look at the twelve most underrated ones.

12 Tchéky Karyo – Kiss of the Dragon (2001)

Kiss of the Dragon

EuropaCorp DistributionTwentieth Century Fox

There have been many thrilling villains in the genre, like Hans Gruber in Die Hard, portrayed by the late Alan Rickman… but in one of Jet Li’s best American movies, there’s a criminally underrated one in Inspector Richard, played by Tchéky Karyo. His performance in the film is remarkable and dead serious in its detestable energy. He really commits to delivering a vile, despicable, cruel, sleazy, and just plain psychopathic corrupt cop that hunts Jet Li’s character with angry fervor and revels in psychologically abusing Bridget Fonda’s character. It’s a shame his performance hasn’t received more praise and his villain isn’t more celebrated among the pantheon of great – and nasty – action villains, as it absolutely deserves to be.

11 Dwayne Johnson – The Scorpion King (2002)

Dwayne The Rock Johnson drawing a bow and arrow in The Scorpion King Universal Pictures

The former wrestler’s film debut was a big deal in its release, being noted for the biggest payday an actor ever received for a debut role. It was more or less well-received as a fun and entertaining sword and sandals piece. But the starring performance by Dwayne Johnson, while having a lukewarm response, was not as appreciated as it should’ve been for what was a top-notch debut performance. The Rock had unmatched charisma and screen presence, genuine charm, as well as great comedic timing that made the character oddly lovable. He brought the confident energy, the laughs, the dry humor, the believable emotion, the attitude, the eyebrow lift… and he did it all with commendable earnestness. Whatever one may think of the film, Dwayne took the role seriously, and his excellent, committed performance is one of the best debuts ever.

10 Vin Diesel – XXX (2002)

Asia-Argento-y-Vin-Diesel Sony Pictures EntertainmentColumbia Pictures 

Here, we have another underrated action star debut, or really post-debut as The Fast and the Furious would officially count as Vin Diesel’s first action role. But the first XXX was hyped up to give new life to the action spy film, and it blasted through the gates in heavy metal style and with a badass lead. Critics were more or less divided over Vin Diesel’s performance, while mostly agreeing that he fit the role physically at least. But Diesel brought more than tattoos and muscles. He had genuine charisma (like another bald rival action star), exuded effortless cool and confidence, had rock star screen presence, and gave doses of tough-as-nails attitude when needed. Many actors have tried their hand at the action route, but not all were able to deliver such a confident entry as this one. Diesel is arguably among the very select few who were truly born for the genre.

9 Thomas Jane – The Punisher (2004)

Thomas Jane as The Punisher with a gun Lions Gate Films

The second iteration of this popular Marvel character wasn’t well-received upon release, but achieved cult status over the years. While most agreed that Thomas Jane did well in the role, there would come along in future iterations that would win much more favor with fans, such as Jon Bernthal in the Netflix version of Frank Castle. But this film’s reputation, coupled with Bernthal’s popularity, makes Thomas Jane not only the most underrated Frank Castle, but his performance as one of the most underrated action performances ever. Thomas really brings a huge sense of grief, wounded emotion, and deep pathos to the character. You feel it in every moment he’s on the screen. The heartbroken loss he suffered never leaves his face. He wholeheartedly embodies a broken shell of a man in every aspect of his body, face, voice, and mannerisms. And his commitment to the role was astounding, if behind-the-scenes stories are to be believed.
Related: 10 Action Best Action Movies to Introduce the Genre to Kids

8 Jet Li in Unleashed (2005)

Jet Li Unleashed Focus FeaturesRogue Pictures

This is arguably Jet Li’s most serious, dramatic, and darkest American film. He’s obviously world-famous for his martial arts skills, of which he brings in full force here. But critics didn’t give enough recognition for how well he delivers a dramatic and emotional performance in the movie, too. Perhaps he was overshadowed by his legendary counterparts Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins, who both gave brilliant and memorable performances that were praised by critics, but Li really holds his own among them. He dove into his role by studying the way dogs behave at the zoo, and his commitment is remarkable.
He gives Danny a wounded and slightly primitive soul, with a caged sadness that’s always visible but unable to go anywhere. During the scenes where he’s pushed into brutal violence at his master’s command, Li is absolutely ferocious in his animalistic anger, and truly makes you believe that unchecked violence is second nature to him until he’s told to stop. But then he brings warmth, tenderness, and innocence to his scenes of rediscovery with Sam and Victoria. Li handles all of Danny’s emotions throughout the film wonderfully, and this still remains his finest dramatic performance.

7 Gerard Butler – 300 (2007)

Gerard Butler as Leonidas in 300 Warner Bros. Pictures

Zack Snyder’s muscular Greek epic was met with a lot of conversation – and controversy – upon arrival. Its critical response was lukewarm, with the action and visuals receiving most of the praise. But not much recognition was given to the lead performance from Gerard Butler as Leonidas. It’s not just about his imposing physicality or the amount of muscles he had to amass for the role. But he genuinely brings a Shakespearean gravitas to his performance. You can have the biggest pecks in the world, but what good does it do if you’re not believable in your show of strength or can’t produce the hypermasculine aura of a hardened warrior? Luckily, Butler delivered on his task in spades. He shows genuine grit, conviction, and ferocity, and has a commanding, brave, and courageous presence that fully makes you believe he can lead his army against a million-man behemoth.
But that’s not all to his performance. He also exudes a subtle warmth and compassion as a leader, showing care and love for his soldiers, providing true empathy to one when he is grief-stricken over losing his son in battle, and always being inspirational in the face of gargantuan obstacles. Butler is completely believable and committed in every emotion, every grand speech, every show of physicality, and every loving glance to his wife, the Queen. It’s one of the finest and most epic action performances ever.

6 Anthony Mackie – Pain & Gain (2013)


This odd, unique action/comedy from Michael Bay that was based on a messed up true story of bodybuilders who committed a heinous crime was met with mixed reviews, but the performances were more or less praised by critics. Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson received most of it due to their truly hilarious and committed roles as a dimwitted bodybuilder and ex-con turned born again Christian, but the third member of the trio, played by Anthony Mackie, was left out a bit. Anthony gets to dive a bit into his comedic side and offer up a wonderfully amusing, comical, and self-serious sidekick who gets in plenty of hilarious moments, especially in his scenes with Rebel Wilson, with whom he has great, surprisingly funny, and raunchy chemistry with.

5 James McAvoy – Atomic Blonde (2017)

James McAvoy in Atomic Blonde Focus Features

Charlize Theron’s incredible action-thriller arrived on the scene with guns ablaze and cemented her as a female action icon. The praise was well-deserved, of course, but her co-star ended up in her shadow a bit because of it. James McAvoy, one of the most underrated actors of his time, gives a hilariously devilish and sleazy turn as David Percival, a fellow agent of Charlize’s Lorraine Broughton. He’s done it before, in films like Filth, and he’s brilliant at it! But with David, even though he’s less over the top than he was in the aforementioned movie, he actually finds a great balance. He’s manic and raunchy when he needs to be, but also serious, dramatic, and hostile when called for. And he exudes a depraved, debaucherous energy through it all. It’s truly one of his best “crazy” performances!
Related: The 10 Best Actors Who Perform Their Own Stunts

4 Vin Diesel – The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Charlize-Therons-Best-Action-Movies-ranked Universal Studios

And here we have another underrated Vin Diesel performance. Throughout the Fast franchise, Vin pretty much cemented a routine performance for Dom Toretto, that, while slightly monotone in its range, fit the character well and gave him a signature sense of confidence, strength, and attitude, but also great likability due to his sense of honor, pride, his “code”, and his love for family. It was a great and welcome surprise then, that by the eighth film, he had actually broadened his range for the character and gave a genuinely serious, potent, emotional, and all around awesome performance period!
From his barely kept anger and desperation towards Cipher in their scenes, some of which were darker than usual for the franchise, to his inner conflict and heavy torment at the betrayal toward those he loves, he exhibited every emotion in his face, body, and mannerisms. Who could forget that great moment when he slightly and unexpectedly let it all out as he shouted “since I’m alone!” to Cipher’s face and barely brought the emotion back in? All in all, Vin arguably gave his best performance as Dom in this chapter, and it deserved some more recognition.

3 Michelle Monaghan – Sleepless (2017)

Jamie Foxx Grills Michelle Monaghan in First Sleepless Clip (1) Open Road Films

This Jamie Foxx-led cop thriller didn’t get good reviews upon release in the dead of winter, but one of the most surprising elements of the film was Michelle Monaghan’s seriously committed performance as Bryant. She brought an unexpected amount of grit, a hardened attitude, and raw toughness to her role, which made her unusual, against-type casting totally believable. She didn’t have a sense of self-seriousness about her, or anything phoned in, or toned down the portrayal in any way… she went all in. Especially with her fight scene with Foxx, where she delivers a brutal physicality and holds nothing back in making the scene pop! Unlike other female action stars, Monaghan hasn’t played much in this sandbox, but her performance in this film proves that she should have more opportunities to show her chops in the arena.

2 Kenneth Branagh – Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Jack Ryan_ Shadow Recruit Kenneth Branagh Featurette _ EXCLUSIVE (1) Paramount Pictures

This reboot of Tom Clancy’s famous character received a lukewarm response upon arrival, with the performances being praised overall. But some felt Kenneth Branagh hammed up his performance as Russian baddie Viktor Cherevin and that his accent was rather silly. We can’t be fully sure about the quality of the accent, but Branagh fully commits to his villainous role and the guy deserves credit for that, especially when pulling double duty as director as well. His performance doesn’t feel hammy so much as full on “Bond-ian” and with a side of sleaze. He plays it earnestly and seriously, dialing up the charm every now and then, but switching to subtly sinister in certain moments. He handles the balance well, and gives off a cold Russian aura throughout.

1 Kenneth Branagh – Tenet (2020)

Tenet Script Leaks Were Avoided the Old Fashioned Way Says Kenneth Branagh (1) Warner Bros.

Ok, so in this performance of a Russian villain from Branagh, he definitely hams it up more than in his previous one. And critics took issue, not with his acting particularly, but with the overall character being “stereotypical” in its portrayal of Russian villains. But once again, you’ve got to give the guy credit for going all in! He doesn’t just go over the top at certain points, he genuinely brings a dead serious, and sometimes ferocious velocity to the extremities of his character… full on committing to the abusive relationship he has with Elizabeth Debicki’s character and their spiteful chemistry.
His seriousness in the role doesn’t waver for a second, he can be terrifying in an instant, and almost always gives off a mean streak with hints of bubbling rage swimming underneath. He brings an edge to both of his “Russian” performances and has it pretty much nailed down to a science by now.

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‘I am officially off the market’: When Margot Robbie revealed she made the ‘conscious’ decision of not dating actors

Margot Robbie revealed her decision to not date actors because of the media scrutiny that came with a public relationship of two high-profile actors
Back in 2015, A-lister Margot Robbie made a declaration that she would not be dating any actors. The actress may have alluded to her fiance Tom Ackerley, who she married the following year in 2016. In an exclusive interview with Marie Claire, she revealed that being in a relationship as an actor herself came with its own set of challenges. She believed that dating someone who was popular would add on to the media scrutiny.

Margot Robbie opened up on why she made a conscious decision to not date actorsTalking to Marie Claire, she claimed, “I am officially off the market.” She then shared the reasoning behind her decision and added, “I made a conscious decision not to date actors.” She continued to explain, “But not because I hate actors. That’s a nasty generalization to make, and that’s not the case. People take such an interest in your love life when you have a profile, it puts a lot of stress on a relationship.”
The Barbie actress continued, “So two people with profiles, I figure it’s just double the amount of scrutiny, and I’d like to avoid that at all costs.” This came after reports of her locking lips with Tarzan co-star Alexander Skarsgard started making rounds. It was reported that she was caught kissing the actor during the Sundance Film Festival.

Margot Robbie revealed she opted for a minimal lifestyle even after becoming an actorIn the interview, Robbie also opened up about how she was adapting to fame. She shared, “I have a normal 24-year-old life. If I were a waitress, I’d probably have the exact same lifestyle. I’d go to the same clubs I go to already, live in the same house with the same housemates, hang out with the same people.”
However, Margot Robbie tied the knot with Tom Ackerley who is an English producer and actor. The duo met on the sets of 2013 movie Suite Francaise where Tom was working as an assistant director. Post marriage, both of them launched their production company LuckyChap Entertainment.

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Monica Bellucci and Tin Burton at lunch in the restaurant in Selci Lama

For All Saints’ Day, the Hollywood star from Tiferno returned to his native Umbria to enjoy a moment of relaxation and then visit his parentsOn the occasion of the All Saints’ Day celebrations, the Hollywood star of Tiferno origin, Monica Bellucci, returned to her native Umbria to enjoy a moment of relaxation and to visit her father Pasquale and her mother Brunella.Flanked by her current partner Tim Burton, she went to lunch, together with about twenty old friends, at the Osteria del Musicista, which has always been her favorite restaurant, in Selci Lama.Menu dedicated to typical dishes of the area, which includes an appetizer with breadsticks lined with coppa, duck in porchetta and grilled pork livers, polenta with wild boar sauce accompanied by the very typical cappelletti in broth.To conclude, a dessert based on fried “ciaccia” with Nutella and roasted chestnuts.
Having paid the bill and greeted the restaurant owner and lifelong friend, Roberto Polchi, Monica brought home cappelletti and broth for a family dinner.

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‘Rocky’ Was Quite Different In His Original Screenplay, Sylvester Stallone Claims

Sylvester Stallone took his friend’s advice on a rewrite of the original screenplay to Rocky. A few tweaks later, he was on his way to major success.
In the new Netflix documentary Sly, Stallone discussed how he initially conceived of the project, which had a much harder edge. In the early version, Rocky was depicted as a “thuggish” character, inspired by Martin Scorsese’s crime drama, Mean Streets.

But Stallone’s perspective changed when a friend read the script and thought the boxer was too cruel for audiences to actually care about him.
Stallone recalled her crying.

“She goes, ‘I hate Rocky. I hate him. He’s cruel. He hits people. He beats them up.’”
Stallone took it to heart, and asked what he could do to soften the character.

“I said, ‘what if you stop short of it?’ Like, maybe he almost did. He could have, that’s his job, but he doesn’t?’ ‘That’d be nice,’” he added. “I said, ‘What if he had a girlfriend or something?’ ‘Yeah, that’s nice.’ So I go back, start writing that: ‘Girlfriend. Nice.’”
$117 million in box office later, a franchise was born.

Stallone also revealed that actor Dolph Lundgren sent him to the hospital during one fight scene in Rocky IV.
“Dolph Lundgren… he pulverized me,” Stallone says in the documentary. “Later that night, my heart started to swell—which happens when the heart hits the chest—and then my blood pressure went up to 260, and they thought I was going to be talking to angels. Next thing I know, I’m in intensive care, where I’m surrounded by nuns, and I thought, ‘OK, that’s curtains.’”
Stallone was in the hospital for nine days following the incident, praying for “one more round.”
“For the first minute of the fight, it is going to be a free-for-all,” Stallone told Lundgren. The Swedish actor joked in a separate interview that all he did was “obey orders,” explaining, “[Stallone] was the boss. I did what he told me.”
Doctors allegedly told Stallone that he received a blow to the ribs that made his heart rattle around in his ribcage, a condition typically seen in head-on collisions. “I did hit a bus, of sorts,” Stallone joked.

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