When an action movie is done right, it can be one of the most thrilling experiences you’ve ever had at the theater. These are films like Terminator 2, The Matrix, and Mad Max: Fury Road, which introduce us to a hero worth rooting for and an obstacle they must overcome before the film’s end. We don’t need action films to be totally believable, so long as they dazzle our senses and offer up a worth while gun battle, fist fight, or car chase (preferably all three).
Action films are also different from a lot of other genres in that they usually need a decent budget to actually work. While a horror film can equally terrify the viewer whether the budget be $10,000 or $10 million, an action film needs extra cash for stunt doubles, destructible set piece, pyrotechnics, and believable CGI, as there’s nothing that pulls you out of an action sequence like a cheesy effect that you could’ve recreated on your MacBook Pro.
The movies listed here are certainly no Die Hard, though coincidentally, Bruce Willis does show up in a number of them. In fact, plenty of A-list actors make appearances in these atrocious productions, which only makes these movies all the more cringe-worthy to watch.
While there are plenty of sub-par action movies out there, these are the ones the critics couldn’t stand. Here are the 20 Worst Action Movies Of All Time (According To Rotten Tomatoes).
20 Point Break — 9%
This 2015 film isn’t just a terrible action movie, but it’s also a totally unnecessary remake of the 1991 cult classic starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Both films follow undercover cop Johnny Utah, who infiltrates a group of adrenaline junkies after Utah suspects them of carrying out a string of robberies.
With a much bigger budget, Point Break features its fair share of extreme stunts and impressive action sequences. But all the spectacle doesn’t distract from the fact that the film sucks all the fun and character development out of the original story. While Kathryn Bigelow's film from the '90s is an exploration of masculinity which allows the viewer to get into the heads of both Swayze’s and Reeves’s characters, the two leads in the updated version are exceedingly flat and humorless.
Watching these two films back-to-back truly proves that the premise of an action movie can indeed be ridiculous, so long as the characters feel grounded in reality and they aren’t just there to serve as pawns in an intense action sequence.
19 Bangkok Dangerous — 9%
There was a time when even Nicholas Cage’s over-the-top action flicks — like Con Air and The Rock — still managed to retain their own amount of B-movie charm. But these days, the actor appears to be in a total free-fall, with 11 out of his last 13 movies receiving overwhelmingly “Rotten” reviews. Not to mention that each character he plays is often upstaged by a hairdo that is somehow more distracting than the last.
In this 2008 action-thriller, Cage plays Joe, a hitman with a jet-black mullet who heads to Thailand to knock off a number of criminals. As the job winds to an end, Joe finds himself slowly developing a conscience, as well as a love for the city.
Much like many of Cage’s performances, Bangkok Dangerous is all over the place, jumping from bloody-action flick to exotic romance film, which all find the actor feeling slightly out of place.
18 Hitman: Agent 47 — 8%
For a film that has a very simple plot, Hitman: Agent 47 hits the viewer with an awfully lot of exposition right out of the gate, explaining the origins of the mysterious hitman who was bred to be the ultimate killing machine -- as if that somehow ensures that we will care about everything that follows. There’s another major flaw right out of the gate: the main character has zero personality, which leaves the viewer largely uninvested for the slew of action scenes that follow.
This 2015 movie was based on the popular Hitman video game series, which had been previously adapted into a 2007 movie starring Timothy Olyphant. Though both films massively failed to capture the excitement that comes with playing the games, Hitman: Agent 47 is clearly the inferior picture, proving once again that Hollywood has no idea of how to bring a video game franchise to the big screen.
17 Hot Pursuit — 7%
Released in 2015, this action-comedy stars Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara and follows a by-the-book cop who is tasked with protecting the widow of a drug boss as they travel across Texas. Though both actresses have become known for playing slightly annoying, yet always entertaining, characters in the past, the two move much closer to the mark of irritating rather than endearing the longer this movie goes on.
After accumulating a total of 147 “Rotten” reviews, the Critics Consensus for this film reads: “Shrill and unfunny, Hot Pursuit bungles what should have been an easy opportunity to showcase Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara’s likable odd-couple chemistry.”
Unfortunately, these two talented actresses are let down by a weak script that hammers the audience with the same unfunny jokes over and over again, which often revolve around the characters having accents that neither of them can understand. Not to mention that almost all the film’s action sequence leave these two female leads looking like totally incompetent nitwits.
16 The Cold Light of Day — 5%
Bruce Willis may have starred in one of the best action movies of all time, but that hasn’t stopped the actor from popping up in some of the worst reviewed movies of the past decade, earning Willis a spot in not one, not two, but three entries on this list. His first inclusion comes with 2012’s The Cold Light of Day, where Willis stars alongside Henry Cavill the year before the British actor would make his big screen debut as Superman.
The film follows Will (Cavill), a young business man who learns that his father (Willis) is a CIA agent after their family is taken hostage while vacationing in Spain. Overall, The Cold Light of Day feels like a poor attempt to recreate the urgency of the Bourne series, and, as one critic puts it, the film is an “unnecessary but inoffensive espionage thriller that you have to assume was an inch away from going straight to DVD.”
Therefore, you’d be better off re-watching Die Hard or checking out the lesser-known Man From U.N.C.L.E. if you want to see either of these actors in a worthwhile action flick.
15 Arsenal — 4%
Released earlier this year, this action-thriller follows JP Lindel, who seeks help from a street-wise detective after his brother is kidnapped by a ruthless crime lord. While Entourage’s Adrian Grenier stars as the young man who desperately wants to get his brother back, John Cusack plays the do-rag wearing detective and Nicholas Cage sports an even more embarrassing piece of headwear to play the mobster Eddie King.
Grenier and Cusack seem to be doing their best to hold up the increasingly thin plot, but Cage steals the show in the worst way possible by taking his tendency to over-act to new heights, which is only exemplified by the character’s gaudy makeup and wardrobe. The film is also brutally violent for no reason other than the filmmaker seems to like to watch people suffer in super slow motion, since the bloodletting does little to further the plot.
As one critic puts it, “2017 already has a contender for Worst Movie of the Year,” keeping in mind that Arsenal was released on January 6th.
14 Abduction — 4%
Flying high from his role in the Twilight series and his impressive body transformation, Taylor Lautner was cast as the lead in this 2011 action film much to the excitement of Team Jacob fangirls everywhere. Abduction follows Nathan Harper (Lautner), an 18-year-old who goes on the run after discovering that he was once a missing child and that his parents are not who they claim to be.
Though the film was a modest box office success — thanks largely to international sales — Abduction was blasted by critics, with Lautner being nominated for the Worst Actor of the Year Razzie award, only to “lose” out to none-other than Adam Sandler. Admittedly, the biggest problem with Abduction isn’t the acting, but with how the film blatantly rips off a number of far better action films, most notably The Bourne Identity franchise.
After the Twilight saga, we’ve come to expect this quality of movie from Lautner, it’s just a shame that far better actors, like Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, and Maria Bello are all dragged along for the ride.
13 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation — 3%
As far as ‘90s video game movies go, the original Mortal Kombat adaptation was a fairly entertaining ride, receiving positive reviews from The New York Times and legendary film critic Gene Siskel. Unfortunately, the 1997 sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, sucked all the fun out of the franchise, making for an overwhelming mindless and gloomy affair.
The story takes place immediately after the events of the first film, where the evil emperor Shao-Kahn refuses to accept the outcome of the previous tournament and plans to merge Outworld with Earthrealm. This leaves the mortal warriors with less than a week to defeat Kahn and his army of cartoonish henchman.
One of the first things you notice in Annihilation is that barely any of the actors from the first film chose to reprise their roles - they probably read the script and unanimously decided to jump ship. The martial arts sequences ended up taking a turn for the worse as well, too reliant on quick cuts and cheesy special effects to distract from the lackluster choreography.
12 Speed 2: Cruise Control — 3%
Director of the original Speed, Jan de Bont, never intended to make a sequel to his 1994 film, seeing it as the perfect standalone action flick. But after the massive success of the original and pressure from 20th Century Fox, de Bont was pitched hundreds of ideas for a follow-up film, yet somehow decided to stick with his own premise about a hijacked cruise ship that crashes into an island
Keanu Reeves wisely decided to opt out of the project, and Jason Patric was brought in to play the new action hero and Sandra Bullock’s latest love interest. Thanks to a weak script, these two characters have zero on-screen chemistry, leaving the viewer largely uninvested in anything that happens after the ship is hijacked.
While the original film currently holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Cruise Control managed to drop an impressive 90 percentage points by bringing in just two positive reviews against a total of 68, leaving many to declare it as one of the worst sequels of all time.
11 RoboCop 3 — 3%
After having his ideas largely ignored for RoboCop 2, legendary comic book writer Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, 300) was brought in again to work on the script for RoboCop 3. Once the second installment of the series proved to be a massive step in the wrong direction for this action franchise, you would think that the powers that be might heed Miller’s words when trying to right their wrongs. Unfortunately, Miller’s ideas were largely ignored for a second time, causing the writer to part ways with Hollywood until 2005’s Sin City.
Outside of simply being a cheaper retread of the first two films, RoboCop 3 was also neutered by the studio, who decided that they would scale back on all the bloody action that had become synonymous with the series in order to obtain a PG-13 rating. However, the attempt to appeal to a larger demographic massively backfired, as RoboCop 3 went on to gross just half of its budget while in theaters, killing the franchise until the 2014 reboot.
10 Texas Rangers — 2%
Garnering just one “Fresh” rating out of a total of 49 reviews, Texas Rangers is an abysmal action-western starring James Van Der Beek, Aston Kutcher, Dylan McDermott, and Usher Raymond.
The film very loosely follows the true story of a group of gunmen who ban together to take on the outlaws reeking havoc across the Lone Star state — though Texas Rangers has little concern with any kind of historical accuracy beyond dressing the leads up in ten-gallon hats and making them wield old-timey revolvers.
This really makes the viewer wonder who the intended audience was, since teenagers hardly ever flock to the theater to catch the latest western, and the stars of Dawson’s Creek and Dude, Where’s My Car? aren’t exactly going to put too many adult butts in the seats. Which means that, unsurprisingly, Texas Rangers was a massive box office bomb, bringing in less than a million against a nearly $40 million budget, and securing its spot in history as one of the worst action-westerns of all time.
9 Getaway — 2%
Whether it be a romantic drama, gritty cop film, or low-budget horror movie, Ethan Hawke has never turned in a disappointing performance - even when the film has been less than stellar. But not even the actor’s scruffy charm could save this 2013 car chase film from becoming nearly unwatchable.
Here, Hawke plays a retired NASCAR driver who is forced to speed all over town at the behest of his wife’s kidnapper. Oh yeah, and Selena Gomez ends up going along for the ride. That’s basically the entire plot of Getaway, which is ostensibly a 90-minute car chase that tries desperately to pay homage to 1970s B-movie classics like Vanishing Point and Gone in 60 Seconds.
The film misses its mark entirely, demanding that the audience take this ridiculous story 100% seriously and never once letting its foot off the gas. Not to mention that the entire film is atrociously edited together, with so much quick-cutting that even Michael Bay would leave the movie theater with a migraine.
8 Hard Cash — 0%
Hard Cash (also known as Run for the Money) was released in 2002, starring Christian Slater, Val Kilmer, and Daryl Hannah. The film follows Thomas Taylor (Slater), a recently paroled thief who thinks he’s just pulled off the perfect robbery, only to discover that the money is effectively worthless!
Kilmer pops up as a dirty FBI agent who’s tracking the marked cash, where he spends the entire film looking like he wants to fire his agent, and Hannah doesn’t fare much better throughout the film playing Slater’s sexy accomplice.
Every aspect of Hard Cash looks painfully cheap, from the sets, to the action sequences, to the picture quality — which really makes one wonder how bad these former A-listers needed cash in exchange for putting themselves in such a painfully bad film.
In their defense, this project couldn’t have possibly taken more than a couple weeks of their time, as many of the action scenes were blatantly filmed in front of a green screen, and a number of the car chases look like they’re taking place at a whopping 30 miles per hour.
7 Term Life — 0%
Vince Vaughn has had a rough start trying to break back into more serious roles. First, the actor struggled to come across as the intimidating career criminal Frank Semyon in the massively disappointing second season of True Detective. Then, Vaughn popped up in this equally bad 2016 action-thriller, where he plays Nick Barrow, a thief who must survive until his life insurance policy kicks in for his daughter.
The usually impressive Hailee Steinfeld plays Nick’s daughter, who is forced to go on the lam with her father when a contract is put out on his head. A number of other talented actors pop up in Term Life as well, including Bill Paxton, Terrence Howard, and Jon Favreau. But no amount of good acting can save this massively misguided story, which tries to be an action-thriller, crime film, and father and daughter dramedy, but none of these pieces work well separately, let alone together.
6 True Memoirs of an International Assassin — 0%
Truth be told, Kevin James is actually an extremely talented physical comedian, which would make him the ideal casting choice for an action-comedy. However, that hasn’t stopped Paul Blart: Mall Cop and True Memories of an International Assassin from being any less terrible.
The film has a promising set-up, which involves a hopeful author who gets mistaken for an assassin when his fictional novel is accidentally published as a memoir. Unfortunately, the storytelling proves to be extremely lazy, featuring one lackluster joke and unimpressive action sequence after the next.
True Memoirs of an International Assassin is yet another indication that Adam Sandler’s movie deal with Netflix has resulted in nothing but garbage entertainment, including (but not limited to) The Ridiculous Six, The Do-Over, and Sandy Wexler.
Though Netflix continues to turn out intriguing TV series, they seriously need to look elsewhere if they ever want to turn out an action or comedy film that is actually worth watching.
5 The Prince — 0%
This 2014 action-thriller follows a retired assassin who springs into action after his daughter is kidnapped, drawing him back into the life he thought he had left behind.
If you think this premise sounds exactly the same as Taken, it’s because it is. But The Prince doesn’t just rip off this Liam Neeson franchise, it basically steals from every successful action film within the last decade, making it feel as though it was made on an assembly line manned by uninspired workers.
Speaking of uninspired, Bruce Willis and John Cusack basically sleep walk through their roles while they wait for the producers to fill out a paycheck (as we can only assume a decent chunk of the estimated $18 million budget went to them -- since it certainly didn’t go into the action).
The obvious money grab didn’t go over well with the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with many calling it “hopelessly thin,” “yawn worthy,” and a “by-the-numbers affair.”
4 Life on the Line — 0%
John Travolta has already been afforded one career revitalization, thanks to his turn as Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction. But with the movies he’s been making as of late, it looks like Travolta has sadly regressed back to his Look Who’s Talking days.
Life on the Line is an unusual action movie in that it literally revolves around the conflict between electrical workers and fallen power lines. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Here, Travolta plays Beau, a lineman who spends a good chunk of the movie dodging lightning strikes, falling tree limbs, and live wires, all so he can keep the town’s power up and running.
Though the filmmakers may have tried to pay respect to the workers who really do put their lives on the line, Life on the Line is wrought with far too many cliches and sappy subplots, making it feel more like a Hallmark movie rather than the work of an Academy Award nominated actor.
3 Simon Sez — 0%
It’s been proven time and time again that if you cast a former professional athlete as the film’s lead, there’s a 99% chance that you’re making a piece of garbage.
Even after Michael Jordon appeared in Space Jame, and Shaquille O’Neal starred in both Steel and Kazaam, the makers of Simon Sez still decided to roll the dice by casting Dennis Rodman as their film’s action hero. And just in case Rodman wasn’t already untalented enough, they threw stand-up comedian Dane Cook into the mix — who was far more annoying than he was funny back in the late ’90s.
Simon Sez follows an Interpol agent (Rodman) who travels to France to locate a missing woman when he’s forced to confront a crazy arms dealer. The film is cheaply made, poorly acted, and overflowing with cliches. As one critic on Rotten Tomatoes puts it, “If you must watch it — and I shudder to imagine the circumstances under which one must — watch it in a light mood, perhaps under the influence of something.”
2 Precious Cargo — 0%
Finally, we’ve arrived at the last film that features Bruce Willis on this list. Here, the action superstar appears alongside Saved by the Bell’s Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who plays an expert thief who must steal a boatload of precious gems to keep Willis’s crime boss, Eddie Pilosa, from going ballistic.
Precious Cargo only managed to gather a total of 20 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but with the critics calling the film a “rip of and a re-run” and a “contender for blandest heist movie ever made,” we hardly think that more reviews would’ve brought that score up much further. It’s truly hard to find a redeeming quality to this film.
Even when you consider the modest budget of $10.5 million, Precious Cargo manages to look like it was made for far less, with no police cars in sight no matter how many bullets fly or cars go careening off the road.
1 Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever — 0%
They say never to judge a book by its cover, but with a name like Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, you can already tell that this film is going to be bad, really bad. In fact, this 2002 film isn’t just the worst reviewed action movie on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s actually the worst reviewed movie on the site, period.
Out of the 116 critics that critiqued this action-thriller starring Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu, not one of them thought the film would be worth anyone’s while.
The film follows former DIA Agent Sever (Lui) and former FBI Agent Ecks (Banderas) as they team up to track down an experimental weapon that can kill without leaving a trace. Unsurprisingly, the film was a box office bomb, bringing in less than $20 million against a $70 million budget, and ensuring that the director wouldn’t make another movie for the next ten years.
Unfortunately, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever can’t even be enjoyed ironically, as all the explosions, convoluted subplots, and blaring techno music are bound to leave you with a pounding headache should you actually make it through this entire 90-minute train wreck.
Which terrible action movie do you think should have made this list? Let us know!
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