“Liam Neeson’s Top 15 Most Badass Action Movies, Ranked: A Thrilling Countdown”

Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career, skills that make him a near-perfect action star…

 

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When it comes to action movie stars of the 21st century, few actors have become as recognizable and synonymous with the genre as Liam Neeson.


While not initially an action star, with his earliest breakout roles being the likes of war dramas such as Michael Collins and Schindler’s List, the later years of his career have seen him revitalized as the old but capable action movie star.

He has played the leading role in countless action movies, especially films where he kicks serious ass and takes zero names while doing so. Few actors of his age have been able to surmount such a legacy in the physicality-based action genre so well, which has made his time in the spotlight all the more special.


Neeson shows absolutely no signs of stopping on his streak of action movie roles, with it feeling as though there will be a new action film featuring him in the starring role released every year from now until the end of time. Even outside his most recognizable and well-known roles and films, he has made his mark on a number of exciting action films throughout his filmography.


15‘Memory’ (2022)

Directed by Martin Campbell

memory-liam-neeson-social


 

Image via Briarcliff Entertainment 

In Memory, Neeson plays the role of Alex, an assassin-for-hire who has always been the go-to person for getting things done in the criminal underground


His situation changes after he refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization, causing him to be on the run from his former employers and the FBI.


While Alex has the skill and talent to be three steps ahead of anyone he’s going up against, he’s also struggling with chronic severe memory loss, so his greatest threat to his survival has become himself.
Memory is the greatest example of how, even when a film goes out of its way to limit the capabilities of Neeson’s character, he will still find a way to kick as much ass as possible in the name of justice.
Neeson works perfectly under the direction of director Martin Campbell as another classic legendary ass kicker who won’t give up until the final bell tolls

14‘The Ice Road’ (2021)

Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh

the-ice-road-netflix-socialIn The Ice Road, Liam Neeson plays the role of Mike McCann, a down-on-his-luck trucker who has been bouncing between gigs with his medically afflicted brother, Gurty.


They soon get the opportunity to prove themselves in a last-minute impossible rescue mission where they must deliver the necessary equipment over a frozen ocean in order to save a group of trapped miners.


The mission soon proves itself to be even more dangerous than expected, as they face off against the harsh conditions of the road, as well as possible sabotage from within.


The Ice Road combines a lot of the greatest attributes of Neeson’s modern-day roles, playing a harsh yet capable blue-collar worker who goes through the worst of it for the sake of his family.


This film features numerous different ways that Neeson lets his screen presence shine, evolving from the tight-knit handling of harsh weather conditions up until he has to deal with hand-to-hand combat while driving his own truck.

13‘Honest Thief’ (2020)

Directed by Mark Williams

Honest thief, liam neeson, Jai Courtney, gun, In Honest Thief, Liam Neeson plays the role of Tom Dolan, a notorious bank robber who has stolen over $14 million throughout his career but is willing to give it all back for a chance at a new life of love.

However, in his attempts to turn himself in and give back all the money he’s stolen, a duo of corrupt police officers plan to steal the money for themselves, creating a massive target on their backs they never could have prepared for.

A major recurring theme in the characters that Neeson plays is their hardened past, yet a commitment to betterment in the present and motivated by higher moral values.

These aspects are brought out to their fullest in Honest Thief, which transforms into a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Neeson does all in his power to make those who have wronged him go through a living hell.

12‘Gun Shy’ (2000)

Directed by Erik Blakeney

A still from the film Gun Shy featuring Liam NeesonIn Gun Shy, Liam Neeson plays the role of a legendary undercover agent who has recently been dealing with complications in his work following a massive screw-up during his last mission.

Now that he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he has to attempt to balance his current undercover operation with his new unstable therapy group and nurse Judy (played by Sandra Bullock) in order to make it through the day.

Being a romantic comedy of the early 2000s and well before Neeson’s career shift into action, Gun Shy is much more focused on a lens of dark comedy and character chemistry throughout the cast.

However, the film still makes sure to give Neeson a number of great badass moments, as he is still a legendary agent at the end of the day, and his presence comes through in the form of his amazing undercover skills.

11‘Run All Night’ (2015)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

run all night, Liam Neeson, Kinnaman, overturned cop carImage via Warner Bros. 

Run All Night sees Liam Neeson playing the role of Jimmy Conlon, a notorious Brooklyn mobster and hitman who has been the long-time best friend of a mob boss.

Their friendship soon takes a turn south when Jimmy’s estranged son becomes a target for the mob, forcing Jimmy to choose between the crime family he chose or his real family that he abandoned.

Jimmy and his son find that they only have one night to make sense of all the chaos and survive before it’s too late.

Neeson action movies are, for the most part, lone wolf solo joints that rarely have him team up with a partner, yet Run All Night is where this trend differs, as Neeson teams up with Joel Kinnaman on his never-ending goose chase.

This allows Neeson to relay a number of important life lessons and fatherly virtues, contrasting perfectly with his cut-throat rampage against all those who attempt to take the duo down across the city.

10‘The Marksman’ (2021)

Directed by Robert Lorenz

liam-neeson-the-marksman-social (2)Image via Open Road Films 

In The Marksman, Neeson plays a settled-down and quiet rancher who has his life suddenly disturbed when a woman and her son attempt to cross the US/Mexico border to flee a Mexican cartel.

After a dangerous shootout leaves the mother dead, it soon becomes up to Neeson to travel the boy across the country and protect him from the dangerous cartel in pursuit of them.

The premise of The Marksman feels as though it would lend itself more to being a modern-day Clint Eastwood film, yet Neeson perfectly fits into the role and does a great deal of high-tension action throughout the film.

What helps The Marksman especially stand out, however, is his genuine connection with the young boy, as his will and desire to protect him and his innocence evolves dynamically throughout the film.

9‘Non-Stop’ (2014)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

non-stop, liam neeson, hijack, plane, hands up, gunNon-Stop sees Liam Neeson as burned-out Air Marshal Bill Marks, who, on what is initially just another normal flight for him to snooze through, soon becomes the complete opposite of routine procedure.

Neeson is shortly messaged during his flight from New York to London that a mysterious assailant is threatening to murder a passenger on the plane every 20 minutes unless they receive $150 million.

As the last line of defense on the plane and thousands of feet in the air, Marks is the only person who can stop the bloodshed.

Enclosed spaces have always made for great set pieces and backdrops for action thrillers, and Neeson’s action works perfectly under the added pressures and strains of a commercial airline flight.

Non-Stop gives Neeson a style of badassery less focused on having him take out as many goons as possible in a short window and has him take charge and control the situation in a way only Neeson could.

8‘Unknown’ (2011)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

liam-neeson-unknown-social
Image via Dark Castle 

Unknown sees Liam Neeson play the role of Dr. Martin Harris, a man who after waking up from a coma, comes to discover that a man has somehow taken his entire identity and life away from him.

With his colleagues and even his wife not believing him or recognizing him, he soon goes on a quest in able to prove his own identity and solve the mystery at the center of it all.

Unknown is as equally about the high-stakes Neeson action as it is about the strange and bewildering mystery presented.

While not initially as action-packed as one would assume, Neeson soon finds himself dealing with a surprisingly high number of capable assassins who are attempting to end his search before it even begins.

This combination of action and mystery makes Unknown one of the most exhilarating and exciting films to come from Liam Neeson’s filmography.

7‘Cold Pursuit’ (2019)

Directed by Hans Petter Moland

Liam Neeson in Cold PursuitImage via StudioCanal 

In Cold Pursuit, Liam Neeson plays the role of Nels Coxman, a quiet family man snowplow driver whose simple and secure life is completely upended following the murder of his teenage son.

This begins a quest for revenge in Coxman as he climbs the ladder and murders all responsible for the death of his son, resulting in him going toe to toe with his small town’s notorious drug lord.

While from the premise alone, Cold Pursuit may seem like just another Neeson revenge film, the tone and choices make the film more aligned with a dark comedy than that of a pure action thriller.

Cold Pursuit uses the notorious nature of Neeson and his previous roles to its advantage, as it uses his silent, lone-wolf demeanor combined with his uncanny ability to murder for a number of hilarious moments.

The film has no shortage of standard Neeson badass moments, but it’s one of the few films in his repertoire that invites the audience to laugh alongside the chaos and absurdity of it all for once.

6‘Seraphim Falls’ (2006)

Directed by David Von Ancken

A still from the film Seraphim Falls, featuring Liam NeesonIn Seraphim Falls, Neeson plays the role of a former Civil War Colonel who, despite the war having long since ended, is still on a blood-soaked mission of vengeance against the man who wronged him, Gideon (played by Pierce Brosnan).

His path and struggle for revenge leads the duo into a relentless pursuit through snowy mountains, harsh deserts, and far away from civilization, with no end in sight until the deed is done.

Neeson has only ever been in a handful of Western films over his career, yet the genre fits his stylings as an actor perfectly, between his rugged done and unfathomable rage that can be unleashed.

Seraphim Falls takes full advantage of its great dual leads, providing both Neeson and Brosnan with a number of great action moments in the film as the duo are constantly at odds with one another.

5‘The Grey’ (2011)

Directed by Joe Carnahan

Liam Neeson in The Grey.Image via Open Road Films 

The Grey sees Liam Neeson as John Ottway, one in a group of unlucky oil drillers who, after miraculously surviving a violent plane crash, find themselves stranded in the frozen wilderness of Alaska.

Far away from civilization and only with their wits at their disposal, Ottway becomes the de facto leader in an attempt to bring the men to safety, made that much more difficult as they find themselves the constant target of a ruthless pack of wolves.

The Grey shows thatNeeson’s talents as a badass action movie lead can apply in many more creative ways than simply having him defeat bad guys.

Having Neeson in leadership as he attempts to survive the unrelenting nightmare of the wilderness is enough to get the blood pumping and bring loads of high-action tension.

This is also the film where Neeson gets the most companionship in his action movie roles, as he has the entire surviving crew to work off of and collaborate with in survival tactics.

After their plane crashes in Alaska, six oil workers are led by a skilled huntsman to survival, but a pack of merciless wolves haunts their every step.

4‘The Commuter’ (2018)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Vera Farmiga and Liam Neeson in The CommuterImage via Lionsgate 

The Commuter sees Liam Neeson as Micheal MacCauley, a former cop and recently fired businessman who is seemingly on just another day on his daily commute home.

However, he is quickly and unknowingly caught up in a strange and ever-expanding criminal conspiracy that threatens not only his own life but the life of every passenger on his train ride home.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra builds off of the isolation-based thrills he provided in Non-Stop. He gives another vehicle for Neeson to frantically search around an enclosed moving vehicle while on a time limit.

However, The Commuter succeeds in this aspect even more so thanks to its massively increased stakes and threats on the line, as well as many more fight sequences that show off Neeson’s badassery.

3‘Rob Roy’ (1995)

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones

A still from the film Rob Roy featuring Liam Neeson and Brian McCardieRob Roy sees Liam Neeson as an honorable man, Robert Roy MacGregor, who is doing all he can to care for his village in the highlands of Scotland in the 1700s.

However, when he is betrayed in a ruse by a cunning aristocrat, Rob is forced into a Robin Hood-style life of secrecy and resilience to defend his family and honor from those who wish to persecute him.

While many audiences associate Liam Neeson’s action movies with his skills with a firearm and hand-to-hand combat, Neeson’s forays into action movies before they were commonplace were much more creative with their approach.

Neeson is still just as much of a badass in Rob Roy, even without a firearm at his side, as he just as easily takes down hordes of villainous guards with his own wits and skill with a blade.

Even as a film released long before the standard for Neeson action movies, Rob Roy still features the signature fueled by revenge and honor plot, making Neeson’s characters so engaging to watch.

2‘Darkman’ (1990)

Directed by Sam Raimi

darkman-liam-neeson-sam-raimi-featureImage Via Universal Pictures 

Darkman sees Liam Neeson as the scientist Dr. Peyton Westlake, who, in the middle of a breakthrough in his research, has his lab destroyed by gangsters, leaving him for dead and burned beyond recognition.

Using his nearly completed synthetic skin breakthrough, Westlake dawns the persona of Darkman and uses his highly realistic disguises to assume alternate identities to get revenge and restore his former love life.

Before Sam Raimi would go on to direct massive superhero movies like the Spider-Man trilogy and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessDarkman was his first foray into superhero action.

Neeson works perfectly in the dark and crime-fueled world that Raimi creates in Darkman, creating a perfect, unexpected match made in heaven between actor and director.

The action is much more extravagant and in tone with a superhero story, yet the film’s R-rating still allows Neeson to show off and be a badass throughout the film in one of his first and best revenge films.

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