Action is one of the most popular movie genres, but it’s pretty loosely defined. Any movie that sparks excitement can be described as an action movie. The genre is separated into a bunch of different subgenres, defined by all sorts of factors. Westerns are defined by their Wild West setting. Buddy cop movies are defined by their bickering detective couples. Disaster films are defined by, well, disasters.
From spy movies to superhero movies to martial arts movies to “die hard on a…” movies, action cinema is full of beloved subgenres.
Westerns were the first action movies. Arguably, all action cinema stems from the early groundbreaking westerns directed by John Ford and Howard Hawks. The sheriffs and bounty hunters of the Western genre have become the cops and assassins of modern action movies.
Sergio Leone’s jaw-dropping Spaghetti Westerns were way ahead of their time. The action in the dollars the trilogy is still visceral and intense by today’s fast-paced standards.
9 buddy cop
In the 1980s, successful films like 48 hours. and lethal weapon defined the “buddy cop” subgenre with their stories of mismatched detectives (or, in the case of 48 hours., a detective and the con man he reluctantly let out of jail for two days) pursuing a common goal. In the “buddy cop” movies, the action sequences are punctuated by lighthearted bickering.
Buddy cop movies aren’t always about cops. midnight race matches a bounty hunter and his latest bounty. The good ones associates two private eyes. Breaking point combines an FBI agent and a surfer/bank robber. The only prerequisites are balls and jokes.
8 To spy
From the James Bond franchise to the Impossible mission franchise, everyone loves a good spy movie about the dangers of infiltration and the obstacles in preventing World War III. The storytelling in the spy genre is nice and straightforward. After a brief exposure, they can fully concentrate on the action.
Secret agents are given secret missions and embark on globe-trotting adventures to complete those missions. There are usually a few twists along the way, but the story is secondary to the show.
In the real world, the devastation of disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions can cost people their homes or even their lives. But on the big screen, they can put on an exciting sight.
Audiences have been dazzled by the widespread destruction of disaster films like Tornado and San Andreas and The infernal tower. Disaster movies don’t always get the best reviews from critics, but they are pure popcorn entertainment.
The war genre flips the allure of an action movie on its head. The explosive spectacle of war movies is neither exciting nor entertaining; it’s harrowing and traumatic, often drawn from true stories of soldiers’ experiences on the battlefield.
There are shootings, chases and explosions in Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk, but not the fun kind. Some war movies, like Revelation noware so tense and terrifying that they border on horror.
Blaxploitation is a subgenre of exploitation films that focuses on empowering black action heroes played by screen legends like Pam Grier and Fred Williamson. Directors like Jack Hill and Gordon Parks imbued the genre with a shrewd, shrewd style.
The genre was defined by the early classics as Tree and Baadassss song by Sweet Sweetback. The brutality of the first acts of films like Coffy and crafty brown is paid off in their hugely satisfying climactic revenge sequences.
4 Super hero
The most popular action subgenre right now is superhero movies. They look like regular action movies, except the heroes and villains wear flashy costumes and have special abilities. Since Blade, x-menand Spider Man franchises have proven their potential at the box office, studios have bet everything on comic book properties.
Now, audiences are treated to dozens of superhero movies a year. They’re pretty random, but when they hit, like The black Knight Where Spider-Man: No Coming Homethey make the ultimate blockbusters.
3 Justice thriller
Crime thrillers rose to prominence in the 1970s, when rising crime rates made audiences disillusioned and suspicious of law enforcement. The revenge fantasies of movies like death wish and dirty harry gave audiences the indirect thrill of circumventing a corrupt system to deliver justice.
In real life, people get away with heinous crimes all the time. Self-righteous characters like Paul Kersey and Harry Callahan give jaded audiences a sense of bloody satisfaction in an unjust world.
2 Martial Arts
Almost all action movies contain fight scenes, but there is a special creativity in the fight scenes of martial arts movies. Classics like Enter the dragon and Police Story allowed iconic actors like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan to show off their martial arts prowess.
Michelle Yeoh applied her dance background to the physique of her fight scenes, while Iko Uwais brought jaw-dropping intensity to action-packed gems like Lowering and The night is coming for us.
1 Die hard on a…
John McTiernan die hard is so influential that it has spawned its own subgenre of action cinema. Any film in which a brave lone hero takes on a band of hijackers in a confined space is described as “die hard on a…”
The rapidity is “die hard in a bus,” Passenger 57 is “die hard on a plane,” Air Force One is “die hard on the President’s plane”, etc. The simplicity of this story setup allows filmmakers to put their own spin on it.
NEXT: 10 Action Movie Protagonists Who Copied John McClane