Watching a movie of a particular genre comes with certain expectations. When it comes to horror, we expect a superhuman villain, some gratuitous sex scenes, and a character tripping at the most inopportune moment. Romantic comedies simply must include an adorable meet-cute, an easily avoidable miscommunication that leads to all sorts of shenanigans, and, of course, a happy ending. Action films are no different. Fans go in expecting to see dazzling fight choreography, pulse-pounding chase sequences, and, above all, the film's star using everything in their arsenal to dispatch evil henchmen by the boat load.
Since we already ranked horror's deadliest villains, it seemed only fitting to do the same for action's biggest stars to see once and for all who's the best at busting baddies. For this list, we included kills of all shapes and sizes (including, but not limited to, vampires, zombies, and animals). For a kill to qualify it must have occurred on-screen or have been heavily implied off of it (e.g. a hero and villain are locked in a room, then the next scene shows the hero leaving the room and the villain dead on the floor). Kills that occurred outside of the runtime of the movie (e.g. past kills) were not included in a star's total. Please keep in mind that some kills are subjective and so this list is the best estimates we could tally.
Clint Eastwood, surprisingly enough, is just shy of our list with only 382 bodies to his name. Who can beat that? Here are the 15 Deadliest Action Stars, Ranked by Body Count.
Most people tend to slow down when they reach old age. They retire, travel the world, enjoy a nice cup of tea now and again, take advantage of a few senior discounts, and overall take the time to appreciate the little things in life. Charles Bronson is not one of these people. One of Hollywood's most celebrated vigilantes, who started racking up the kills as far back as 1953, didn't finally pack it in until 1999 when he shot his last bad guy at the age of 77.
Appearing in over 150 films and television series, Bronson had an illustrious career that included roles in The Great Escape, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Magnificent Seven, and The Mechanic. One of his most popular roles, however, came as Paul Kersey, a Manhattan architect-turned vigilante in the Death Wish series. As Kersey, Bronson killed 111 times in five films. His highest total for any film came in Death Wish 3 where he killed 54 baddies. Not too bad for the then 64-year-old.
Jean-Claude Van Damme, also known as JCVD, also known as the Muscles from Brussels, also known as Captain Splits (all right, we made that last one up) burst onto the movie scene in the late 1980's with films like Black Eagle, Bloodsport, Cyborg, and Kickboxer. After that, he would go on to become one of the industry's biggest action stars, showcasing his impressive martial arts skills in films like Double Impact (where he played twins), Double Team (where he took down Mickey Rourke with the help of Dennis Rodman. Yes, Dennis Rodman), and Timecop (where he played... a timecop).
Van Damme notched another fifteen kills as Colonel Guile in Street Fighter (though we didn't include the death of the franchise in his kill total) and another 76 as Luc Deveraux in the Universal Soldier films (45 of which came in the third entry alone). Van Damme also appeared in The Expendables 2, a film that features an absolutely insane 489 on-screen kills. He, however, is only responsible for one of them. Come on, Captain Splits, you can do better than that.
Chuck Norris, the man whose legend has inspired countless "facts" about his various feats of strength, comes in at number thirteen on our list. The 76-year-old (who, let's be honest, doesn't look a day over 73) first arrived on the scene in 1972's The Way of the Dragon where he fought none other than Bruce Lee. Despite boasting some pretty impressive chest hair, Norris would ultimately lose the fight, and his life, when Lee snapped his neck. Nevertheless, an action star was born.
In 2012, (at the ripe old age of 72) Norris would appear alongside the aforementioned JCVD in The Expendables 2 where he racked up 87 kills, the most in any single movie of his career. In the forty years between, Norris starred in Delta Force 1 and 2, the Missing in Action trilogy, The Hitman, and even played himself in Sidekicks. Those films, of course, pale in comparison to his tv series Walker, Texas Ranger (in which he fought a bear) and 1996's Forest Ranger where he stopped a chainsaw with his bare hand (yes, that really happened). All things considered, it's no wonder the internet took a liking to assigning him such near-omnipotent abilities.
There's a reason Nicholas Cage was cast as Benjamin Franklin Gates in National Treasure. It's because the man himself is one. Whether he's turning in critically acclaimed performances in films like Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation, or over-the-top, scene-chewing masterpieces like Wicker Man and Vampire's Kiss, the man can be counted on to (usually) give it his all. He's also a competent action star. Anyone who disagrees need only look at the 563 kills in his resume.
Cage started out slow with films like The Rock and Con Air (3 and 6 kills, respectively) before upping the ante in Face/Off and going absolutely insane in Bangkok Dangerous, Season of the Witch, Drive Angry, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, where he added no less than forty kill in each. His highest total to date, however, came in Windtalkers where he played a U.S. Marine fighting in World War II and took down 156 baddies. Like we said, the man is a national treasure.
It may seem like a distant memory now—especially considering the behind-the-scenes issues that allegedly plagued Blade: Trinity (check out Patton Oswalt's interview for more details) and the man's three-year stint in jail on tax evasion charges—but there was once a time when Wesley Snipes was one of the biggest action stars in the world. In fact, Snipes practically owned the 1990's and early 2000's, starring in action hits Passenger 57, Demolition Man, Drop Zone, Money Train, and Murder at 1600. And while he boasted an impressive kill count of 30 in Demolition Man, it wasn't until his role in Blade that his totals really began to climb.
As everyone's second favorite vampire slayer (nobody beats Buffy), Snipes used his martial arts skills and an array of guns, bombs, and, well, blades to dispatch vampires by the dozen, killing 65 in the original film, another 47 in the third, and an incredible 155 in the second. Once he was out of prison, Snipes did what any former action star would do and he joined the cast of The Expendables 3, quickly returning to form and racking up 73 kills as Doctor Death.
For anyone unfamiliar with Tomisaburo Wakayama, just think of John Wick if he killed with a sword instead of a gun. Wakayama got his start working in film in the 1950's and had more than 150 credits to his name by the time he died in 1992. He appeared in 1989's Black Rain alongside Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia, but is best known for his role as Ogami Ittō in the Lone Wolf and Cub series of films, based on a manga of the same name.
Wakayama notches over 500 kills in the series' six films alone. When the rest of his films are factored in, that number jumps to well over 600, pushing him ahead of Wesley Snipes and into the number ten spot on our list. It's a shame he passed away at the age of 62. Had he lived to keep working into his older years (just as Bronson and Norris did), who knows how much higher in our list he could have climbed.
You should never judge a book by its cover. Unless that book is Jason Statham and the cover is, well, his face, physique, voice, and the general way in which he carries himself. Simply put, the man looks like a legitimate badass and if you see him walking down a dark alley, you're best bet is to turn and run or you're likely to get a flying kick to the face and you'll only have yourself to blame. This is why it took Statham a mere four years to go from his silver screen debut in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to starring in his first action franchise with 2002's The Transporter.
Since then, Statham has become one of the biggest action stars in the world, appearing in two more Transporter films, The Mechanic remake and its sequel, two Crank films, The Expendables trilogy, and two Fast and Furious films, to name a few. All in all, the man has disposed of 706 baddies, including an absolutely bonkers 348 as Lee Christmas in the three Expendables films. Like we said, when it comes to Statham, judge away, and stay away.
Steven Seagal is another action star who rose to prominence in the last 1980's before absolutely dominating the genre in the 1990's. In a crowded field that included the likes of the aforementioned Norris, Snipes, and Van Damme, Seagal's look and martial arts style gave him a uniqueness the other stars couldn't match. Standing at 6'4", Seagal was an imposing figure who towered over the three men (none of whom cracked six feet), and his trademark ponytail further distanced him from the rest of the pack, whose hair styles were usually close-cut (although Norris was known to rock a pretty impressive mullet now and again).
Seagal was also trained in aikido, a martial art that focuses on defense and using an opponent's momentum against them, as opposed to many of the striking martial arts that dominated the action genre at the time. This unique blend of looks and style led to Seagal starring in a slew of films including Above the Law, Hard to Kill, and Under Siege 1 and 2. Overall, he has appeared in over fifty films and killed 720 bad guys (and that doesn't include his True Justice tv series, where he killed another 71).
A list of the world's deadliest action stars that doesn't include Sylvester Stallone is a bit like a dog riding a unicycle while juggling: it doesn't make sense and will make you question everything you thought you knew about the world. For the better part of two decades in the 80's and 90's Stallone (and that other guy who we'll get to soon) was the living embodiment of the action genre with starring roles in the first three Rambo films, Tango and Cash, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, and Judge Dredd, among many others.
Things slowed a bit in the early 2000's before Stallone experienced a career resurgence in 2006 with Rocky Balboa. He followed that up with the fourth Rambo film (in which he racked up 252 kills) before bringing the biggest stars of the genre together in 2010 when he both wrote and directed The Expendables. At the age of 70, Stallone's best years are already behind him, but, let's be honest, those were some of the best years any action star has ever experienced, and he will certainly go down as one of the genre's biggest stars of all time.
Chow Yun-Fat is another entry that may come as a surprise to those not overly familiar with his work, but is well-deserving of a spot on this list. The fact of the matter is the man has been killing bad guys since as far back as 1976 (when he was just 21-years-old) and has eight films with at least 4o kills each. Yun-Fat seems to be particularly deadly whenever he is paired up with a man well-known for his action films, director John Woo, as the duo is responsible for films like A Better Tomorrow I and II, The Killer, and Hard-Boiled (where Yun-Fat racked up a respectable 329 kills in total).
He has also starred in films like The Replacement Killers, The Corruptor, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which still boasts some of the best action sequences ever put to film), but his deadliest movie to date is 1995's Peace Hotel. Yun-Fat plays a retired killer whose forced to defend his hotel and ends up killing 108 people in the process. Peace Hotel would be his last Hong Kong film before he traveled to Hollywood. Not a bad way to go out.
At long last we come to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator, Conan the Republican, Mr. Get-to-the-choppa himself. Now this may come as a surprise to those who were sure Arnie would be a clear-cut number one, but while the man did own the action genre in the 80's and 90's (at least in part with the aforementioned Sly), he also took the time to make some awful comedies (does Jingle All the Way ring a bell?) and also, ya know, run the state of California. Yet despite taking a few years away from the genre that he helped define, the former Mr. Universe is still the fifth deadliest action star of all time.
When it comes to good old Arnie, there really is no need to rattle off his many accolades, but we'll do it anyway. The man was Conan the Barbarian (and the Destroyer), the Terminator, and John Matrix. He fought the predator, the devil (in End of Days), punched a clone of himself in the face (in The 6th Day), and took down an entire small army on his own at the end of Commando. He is a one-liner-spewing, skull-crushing, California-governing badass, and we are eternally in his debt for all the butts he kicked on screen.
Dolph Lundgren pretty much summed up his acting career in his sixth line of dialogue in Rocky IV (he had nine lines total). As Ivan Drago, Lundgren looks Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa directly in the eyes and says, "I must break you." And break he did, over and over again, for the next 32 years. Standing at 6'5" and weighing 240 pounds, the man was born to be an action star and he proved it by racking up 41 kills as He-Man in Masters of the Universe, another 58 in Red Scorpion, and 76 in The Punisher.
The big difference between Lundgren and the aforementioned Schwarzenegger is that while Arnie took some time to dabble in politics, Lundgren simply never stopped. The man has appeared in over 80 films and (at the age of 59) has no signs of slowing down. He appeared in seven films last year (plus the CW's Arrow), is attached to another four in 2017, and already has another five ready for 2018. At this rate, he just may jump to number three before all is said and done.
Jet Li is one of the most exciting action stars on our list, and perhaps the world. He not only cracked the 1000-kill mark, but also holds the distinct honor of killing himself 123 times, which he did in The One (although by rule, only one of those kills factored into his total). Li appeared in 25 Chinese films before making his American debut in 1998's Lethal Weapon 4. In that time, he had already notched kill totals of at least 70 in The Legend, Kung Fu Cult Master, The Legend of the Red Dragon, and High Risk.
It turns out Li was just getting started as he would add another 44 kills in War and 84 in the Expendables trilogy. His highest kill count, by far, came in The Warlords, a film that essentially put him in a war zone and let him go wild; and go wild he did to the tune of over 100 kills. Still in what looks to be impeccable shape even at the age of 53, Li undoubtedly has a few more badass roles in him.
Milla Jovovich comes in at number two on our list since she is the deadliest woman in the history of film, by far. She's got nearly all of the men beat as well, but what makes her kill count all the more incredible is the fact that all of them come in just nine films. Nine. The lesson here is the Resident Evil franchise is basically an action series on steroids, and Milla Jovovich is the certified butt-kicker at the center of it all.
After starting out relatively slow with Resident Evil, the franchise's kill totals in each subsequent film ballooned to video game proportions (which makes sense since it's, you know, based on a video game). Jovovich logs over 300 kills in Resident Evil: Afterlife, and over 600 in Retribution. Add those totals to the 200 she racked up in 2006's Ultraviolet and you've got a very big number. And this doesn't even include Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. At the rate the franchise is going, it might be a safe bet to assume she'll double her kill total in that film alone.
If you thought Milla Jovovich was a badass, she's got nothing on Jimmy Wang Yu, the man responsible for over 2000 kills in his storied career. Now before we get into Wang Yu, we would be remiss not to mention Lung Ti, David Chiang, and Shintaro Katsu, three action stars who over the course of their film careers likely logged thousands of kills as well. Many of these kills, however, are unconfirmed so putting them on the list didn't feel right. They do get honorable mentions though.
Jimmy Wang Yu's kills, on the other hand, are easier to confirm, which is why he comes in at number one on our list. Wang Yu got his start in 1965 and has over 80 films to his credit, even appearing in 2013's Soul at the age of 70. Much like the aforementioned Tomisaburo Wakayama, Wang Yu's kill count is made all the more impressive by the fact that he used a sword. He cut through 130 baddies in The Assassin, another 193 in Golden Swallow, and 286 in Invincible Sword. When it comes to action stars, Jimmy Wang Yu is the undoubtedly the most deadly.
Were you able to predict everyone on our list? Did anyone catch you by surprise? Let us know in the comments below.