Ed Travis’ Top 10 Action Films Of 2017

A Banner Year For Action Cinema, Ranked

2017 was a stand out year for action cinema. There were absolute treasures to behold from all across the globe, ranging from mega-budget blockbusters to micro-budget indie scrappers.

Action movies don’t get the respect they deserve, so this list honestly matters more to me than my overall top 10 list for 2017 cinema. Everyone does those. And how do you really compare Get Out to The Florida Project? (They’re my top 2 films, but what does it even mean to place them next to one another? They’re entirely different beasts.) Within the constraints of a certain genre, a ranked list comes into much sharper focus and means a little bit more, as all of these films objectively have something in common.

If I have already written about the film in depth with any kind of coverage or full reviews at Cinapse, I’ve linked to the piece — just click the title!

With all the usual caveats that lists are highly subjective, incomplete, and could change on a dime after publication, here’s the very best and most thrilling action cinema I experienced this year. [One last caveat is that last year I cheated and made Boyka: Undisputed my number one film of the year even though it’s technically a 2017 release. I won’t include it again this year, but rest assured… it would have remained highly ranked here].


The uncontested premiere action movie franchise going right now. With exquisite gunplay and fight choreography, a fun and original take on the assassin underworld, and wide theatrical release with a AAA cast and crew, John Wick Chapter 2 shows the world that action cinema remains relevant, fresh, and worthy of the multiplex. Chapter 2 in particular ups the ante from Wick 1 in both action set pieces and world building and easily wears the crown for the best action film of the year. [My 4K Blu-ray review].


Jaw dropping from the first frame to the last, The Villainess is a highly stylized film (which puts some people off). In my case, the style spoke directly to my soul and shot adrenaline into my veins. From first person desperation to high speed motorcycle sword fights, this builds to a remarkable crescendo of tragic violence as only Korean cinema really can.


Chapter 2 of the Baahubali saga dropped in 2017 (they’re both on Netflix and they’re really one movie) and taken in together as a 6 hour action film epic, these Baahubali films cannot be missed. Spellbinding as a peek into Indian cinema, without parallel in its ambition and sheer grandiosity, unrivaled in it’s perfectly paced soap opera-esque melodrama, Baahubali is India’s Lord Of The Rings Saga and has to be seen to be believed.


S. Craig Zahler created a monster with this methodical, slow burning descent into exploitation body horror mixed with “tough guy with a code” tropes. For about an hour, you’ll wonder why it’s on an action movie list. Then you’ll stop wondering. And the violence will be glorious. [My 4K Blu-ray review].


One of the most satisfying film watches in all of 2017, Lady Bloodfight is a pure joy for fans of 1980s style martial arts tournament films. The film follows the time tested template to a tee, but also offers a fresh and beautiful and highly physically talented new star in Amy Johnston, characters that are fun to watch, and even has something legitimate to say about female camaraderie in there too.


One of only 2 films on this list to make it into my overall Top 10 films of the year, Baby Driver has perhaps the most unique vision of all of these titles. Edgar Wright, burned by Marvel on Ant-Man, crafts a musical Michael Mann film, making something wholly original from the parts of his inspirations.


It seems no one else is talking about, amazed by, or ranking Bushwick on any of their lists. Shot almost exclusively in long takes that are stitched together to create the appearance of a single take, Bushwick is Red Dawn for 2017. It features a great hook executed remarkably, wonderful leads in Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista (who’s having a breakout year in every respect), and a monster score by Aesop Rock.


Scott Adkins forever. His character in this jungle revenge film truly lives up to that title. He murders a lot of people, is what I’m trying to say. And since I couldn’t include Boyka again this year, this collaboration with director Jesse V. Johnson is a great substitute. Savage Dog marks the beginning of a seemingly significant collaboration between these two as they’ve got both The Debt Collector and Accident Man coming in 2018. Adkins is the hardest working man in action cinema with the skill set to close the deal.


Frank Grillo’s The Driver. Locke as an action movie. Bound by story and camera placement to take place entirely in and around a car, Netflix handed an untested filmmaker Jeremy Rush the keys (with Grillo and Joe Carnahan’s production company attached) to create this specific, taut, nail-biter that further heralds Grillo’s ascendancy as one of the great on screen tough guys of our era.


I don’t even like xXx or xXx: State Of The Union. xXx 3 had my attention from jump street when it cast Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa. Then it gave Yen a killer opening set piece that slapped a smile on my face which never went away for the entire runtime. Fully self aware and all the better for it, xXx 3 is the most ridiculous movie on this list and that’s precisely why it earns its place here. The Return Of Xander Cage indeed!


Message From The King: Can’t wait for Black Panther? This badass revenge film starring T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman, flew way too far under the radar and it’s on Netflix right now. Similar to The Limey, this is an outsider trying to find out what happened to one of his family members and physically harming a lot of bad people in the process. You’ll never look at a motorcycle chain the same ever again.

Logan & Wonder Woman: Everyone has seen these movies.

Atomic Blonde: From the same action team as John Wick Chapter 2, this is a slick and stylized movie that just narrowly missed the list proper (any other year this would’ve made it). Charlize reigns.

And I’m Out.

Previous post BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 Hits 4K, Drags It Across Concrete
Next post For Your Consideration: Two Cents Finds Itself MUDBOUND