If the '80s were known for anything, it was the rise of the B-grade action movie to theatrical blockbuster status. From the best in Die Hard and Lethal Weapon to the quickie action flicks with names like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, and Steven Seagal, there was something for everyone who loved mindless action movies.
When it comes to Seagal, he has almost become a caricature of himself in recent years, similar in some ways to Jean-Claude Van Damme. The master of aikido, which was unique for action movies at the time, Seagal starred in everything from revenge flicks to cop movies to prison movies, before taking on the real-life role as a practicing Buddhist and a part-time law enforcement officer.
10 HALF PAST DEAD
In Half Past Dead, Steven Seagal plays a man who was arrested and imprisoned because a guy he was with (Ja Rule) started shooting at FBI agents. He is then sent to a super jail on Alcatraz and then ends up in a fight for his life when the jail is attacked by some guys looking for their gold.
This was actually a theatrical release and stands up there with a movie like The Rock but falls a bit short of that film's brilliance. With that said, there are a lot of Seagal fight scenes... albeit in a storyline that is cheesy and a bit silly. For a theatrical movie, it also isn't that slick looking, which is probably why Seagal went exclusively DTV after this.
9 EXIT WOUNDS
In Exit Wounds, Steven Seagal is a cop who doesn't just bend the rules to stop the bad guys, he shatters them and then finds new ones to break just for fun. He doesn't just go around busting up bad guys, but he also has a reason not to trust his fellow police officers.
When he learns there is a giant conspiracy behind an assassination attempt, he partners up with a gangster (DMX) to solve the mystery, take out the bad guys, and save the day. The rest of the cast is pretty good too, with Anthony Anderson, Michael Jai White, Bill Duke, Tom Arnold, Bruce McGill, and Eva Mendes.
8 ON DEADLY GROUND
On Deadly Ground was a strange movie for Steven Seagal at the time. The man was normally a former or current cop who set out to kick anyone's butt who got in his way -- and that is when he isn't killing every bad guy who looked at him wrong. In this movie, he is more concerned with the environment and protecting the Earth.
When he speaks up about the damage the corporation he works for has done to the Earth, they frame him for a crime he didn't commit. This also happens to be one of the movies that Seagal directed himself. The message is heavy-handed, but there is a great cast as well as some solid fight scenes.
7 URBAN JUSTICE
When it comes to Steven Seagal movies, Urban Justice might be the best looking and most impressive of his direct-to-video releases. In the movie, he plays a father who is investigating the murder of his son, who was a police officer. He then sets out and starts to tear through the L.A. gangs in the neighborhood where it happened.
However, once he learns that the gang members were not responsible, he sets his eyes on the police officers who might be covering up the truth. Eddie Griffin co-starred and was good but the action in this movie is all worthy of his big-screen efforts, with car chases, shootouts and Seagal's trademark fight scenes.
Machete is the only movie on this list that is not a pure Steven Seagal movie, but it is important to see that he isn't just a guy who plays a former military/current cop who sets out for vengeance in every one of his movies. In Machete, Robert Rodriguez directed a pure exploitation film with Danny Trejo starring as the title character, destroying everyone who crosses him.
Since Trejo, who has been in many movies with Seagal in the past, gets to play the hero, this gives Seagal the chance to be a scene-chewing villain -- a rarity for the action star. It also gave him a chance to get on the big screen again for the first time in eight years. Seagal is a former Federal who kills Machete's wife and ends up on the other end of the revenge plot.
5 OUT FOR JUSTICE
In Out for Justice, Steven Seagal is a police officer named Gino Felino whose partner was gunned down in the streets, while his family watched, by a bad guy played by William Forsythe. As a result, Gino sets out to hunt this man down and get revenge but finds a ton of secondary bad guys standing in his way.
There are lots of people around for Steven Seagal to beat up and/or kill, until he is finally able to track down his partner's killer for justice. If there is one scene in this entire movie to show how crazy Seagal is, look at the pool hall scene which is one of the best fight scenes in any action movie.
4 HARD TO KILL
In Hard to Kill, Steven Seagal is a police detective named Mason Storm who gets evidence against a mafia meeting. Sadly, there are corrupt cops on his team and he ends up attacked by the bad guys, who shoot him and kill his wife. He ends up living but is in a coma for seven years.
When he comes out of the coma, a nurse (Kelly LeBrock) helps him escape when the hit squad returns to finish the job and they find some training techniques to help his atrophied muscles regain their strength. The only person on the force he can trust gets him weapons and he sets out to kill everyone responsible.
3 MARKED FOR DEATH
Marked for Death sees Steven Seagal portraying a cop named John Hatcher who retires after a mission in Mexico goes bad and his partner is killed. However, when he returns to his hometown to settle down, he discovers that it is the center of a gang war. While he wants nothing to do with it, after his niece is shot he changes his mind.
This movie is nothing but action -- with shootouts, car chases, brutal hand-to-hand fight scenes, great one-liners, and an amazing villain. The final fight is possibly the best in any Steven Seagal movie. The plot is similar to Walking Tall, but this is pure Seagal and is one of the best action movies of the '90s.
2 ABOVE THE LAW
Not only is Above the Law the movie that introduced the world to Steven Seagal but it was also written by Seagal, something that wouldn't happen again for 17 years. Rumors have it that he was asked to star in the movie by a former aikido student who believed he could make anyone a movie star -- and he was right in this case.
Seagal is a former CIA agent, a master in aikido, and a man whose family has mafia ties, who now works as a cop investigating a bombing in a church. When he learns that a corrupt CIA kill squad has targeted a Senator, he sets out to stop them and based on his description, you can imagine what happens next.
1 UNDER SIEGE
Under Seige is possibly Steven Seagal's most famous action movie, and arguably his best. He is Casey Ryback, a chef aboard a battleship. Soon, a group of evil men board the ship and take over. The guy leading the bad guys is none other than Tommy Lee Jones like you've never seen him before. Seriously, the guy is unhinged and the might be the most fun Jones had in a movie.
The movie has a good mix of crazy fight scenes, brutal kills and humor, some of which is thanks to his interactions with a female sidekick in Playboy centerfold Erika Eleniak. What puts this over the top is the bad guys, with Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey battling on who steals the most scenes.