To continue our series of the best movies of recent years, today we will tackle the Action/Suspense genre. I love this category because I can be pretty certain that my husband will join me on the couch to watch any of these great films. Many of these action films are part of a series because when you have lots of explosions and car chases, it may take several films to tell a whole story!
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) Rated PG-13
The Bourne trilogy starring Matt Damon is one of my favorite action series starting with The Bourne Identity (2002). The series continued with Jeremy Renner taking the lead with The Bourne Legacy (2012) and we will circle back to Matt Damon’s version with July’s release of Jason Bourne. That’s a lot of Bourne! My favorite is the first film which introduces us to Jason Bourne, a man fished out of the ocean with bullet wounds and no memory of what happened to him. Bourne quickly realizes that he’s a wanted man and he fights to stay alive while he searches for clues to unlock the mystery of who he is. The story continues in the second film with Bourne living quietly having put his assassin past behind him. Unfortunately, his past catches up with him and Jason must put his old skills to use again to survive and find out why the CIA won’t leave him alone. The films are known for their intense and realistic action sequences (one entire fight scene takes place in a tiny bathroom!) and the acting is top-notch. I highly recommend the Matt Damon trilogy (though Jeremy Renner’s film wasn’t that bad) and can’t wait for the new installment to come out in July!
Batman Begins (2005) The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Rated PG-13
Director Christopher Nolan’s unique style created something completely revolutionary in the superhero world when he released the first film in his epic trilogy Batman Begins. The cartoonish version of Batman was history and a new, dark and brooding hero was tasked with saving the city of Gotham from an assortment of bad guys (the most notable villain being Heath Ledger’s Joker, filmed before the actor’s death in 2008). Christian Bale’s Batman is a tortured soul who struggles with the enormous task of protecting his beloved city while realizing his vigilante style of justice is bordering on criminal. These stories don’t involve your typical alien invasion or mindless fighting and action sequences—each conflict comes from a real place and that is rare in action films these days.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) Rated PG-13
Ok, even with kids you might have found time to see the film where Brad and Angie fell in love and Jennifer Anniston’s happily ever after was thwarted. But whether you are team Jen or team Angelina, you can’t deny that this is a fun action film. John and Jane Smith (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) lead seemingly dull suburban lives and are in a bit of a rut with their marriage. Even though they are both impossibly gorgeous, they just don’t feel the excitement and spark they once shared. That all changes when they realize that they have both been leading double lives and they are in fact assassins working for rival firms. Awkward! Now John and Jane must fight to the death and look fantastic the entire time while doing it! Or maybe all that action will turn things hot and steamy instead….
Match Point (2005) Rated R
This movie was a complete surprise to me. FIrst, it was written and directed by Woody Allen, and it’s completely against type for him. Second, it messed with my head so at some point in the film I actually started rooting for the bad guy. I left the theater feeling really conflicted about that and I just love it when you leave a movie needing to discuss it in detail. The story revolves around Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a former tennis pro who has become an instructor at a wealthy London tennis club. Chris is befriended by Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode) and is soon hanging out in Tom’s wealthy circle of friends and family. When Tom’s sister Chloe (the always delightful Emily Mortimer) falls for Chris, they soon marry and the once financially strapped Chris now has a devoted wife, an amazing London flat, a fancy car and a great job with Chloe’s father. Just when things can’t get any better, Chris meets Tom’s on/off fiancee Nola (evil temptress Scarlett Johansson) and the two begin a torrid affair. When things inevitably go wrong, who will survive from the affair? This is one crazy good story!
Casino Royale (2006) Skyfall (2012) Spectre (2015) Rated PG-13
You can never go wrong with Daniel Craig’s Bond—James Bond (unless you count 2008’s Quantum of Solace which really was a dud). Craig turned Bond into a rugged, darker and more dangerous Bond. In doing so, we moved away from the previous incarnations of the character as a suave spy with laughably unrealistic gadgets (an invisible car—really?) and cartoonish villains. While the previous films were fun escapism, the new versions are gritty and real and we feel Bond’s inner turmoil at his license to kill. But don’t worry—Craig cleans up nicely with his sparkly blue eyes and he still looks AMAZING in a tux! I really love how low-tech the first film is where instead of far-fetched gizmos he uses a simple cell phone to track the bad guy. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the phenomenal Judi Dench as Bond’s boss M who does her best to keep Bond in line throughout the series. Of all the films, Casino Royale and Skyfall give you the most insight into what makes Bond tick and therefore provide the most emotional payoff.
Mission: Impossible III (2006) Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011) Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) Rated PG-13
This film series started way back in 1996 with the first film being a fun spy thriller with a rather silly ending. The second film went way off course with a very different style and wasn’t that great. But this series just keeps chugging along and I think each film gets better and the action gets even more intense. Tom Cruise, who magically hasn’t aged over the past 20 years, stars in all of the films as the leader of an exclusive ‘off the books’ government special-ops team that can be disavowed at any time. Cruise is known for doing many of his own stunts, and they get progressively more outrageous through the films. If climbing outside the world’s tallest building in Dubai doesn’t seem enough, in the most recent installment he hangs from a plane as it takes off! Tech expert Benji (Simon Pegg) has added a lot of needed humor to the last three movies. With plenty of twists and turns, these films are always exciting!
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) Rated PG-13
I think that we can all acknowledge that there are just too many superhero movies out there. I mean, even the second tier guys are getting their own movies now (Hello Aqua-Man!) and it’s just getting to be a bit too much. However, the Captain America series continues to impress me with smart storylines and relevant themes written by Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus. Plus, watching Chris Evans run around as Captain Steve Rogers for a couple of hours is not something to sneeze at! We first meet Rogers as a small, sickly guy living in Brooklyn in 1942. Although he is constantly bullied for his lack of athletic ability, he has a strong moral compass and a courageous heart. When he is rejected for military service, he undergoes an experiment led by the Americans to turn him into a super soldier. The experiment is a success, but the Germans destroy the lab so Rogers is the only recipient of the procedure. Aided by British officer Peggy Carter (Haley Attwell) and best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), the trio take on the Germans and HYDRA bad guy Red Skull. The second film takes place in present day as Captain America has been frozen (just go with it) for the past 70 years. This 1940’s guy now has to adjust to modern day life and work with the agents of SHIELD to protect America. He quickly learns that there is a fine line between being proactive with justice and obeying the law. Throughout the films Captain America is a fantastic role model and someone to truly admire.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011) Rated PG-13
A unique blend of science fiction, thriller and romance, The Adjustment Bureau tackles the question of whether our destiny is predetermined or if free will is involved. David Norris (Matt Damon) is a rising political star whose campaign implodes. Before his concession speech, he meets beautiful dancer Elise (Emily Blunt) in a chance encounter and their immediate chemistry ends in a passionate kiss. The next day, David spots Elise again on the bus, and she gives him her phone number. Unfortunately, David and Elise were not supposed to see each other again according to the Adjustment Bureau—a group of men who through subtle manipulations (like spilled coffee or lost phone numbers) secretly change the futures of individuals. These bureau agents work according to the plan laid out by the Chairman. David unwittingly learns about the Adjustment Bureau and refuses to agree with their plan to keep him away from Elise. However, when David realizes the Bureau’s true power, he questions his ability to defy them. Will David’s love for Elise overcome his life’s predicted course? It’s a thought-provoking and clever thrill ride.
Argo (2012) Rated R
This is one far-fetched story. When the American Embassy in Iran is invaded in 1979, six Americans escape to the Canadian Embassy. To covertly get the Americans home safely, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) hatches a crazy plan. He’ll pose as a Hollywood producer scouting locations for a science fiction film in order to gain access to the hostages. Sounds made up, but life is truly stranger than fiction…this story is absolutely true! Mendez enlists the help of producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) who creates a fake film studio and publicity for the film dubbed Argo. Directed by Affleck, this tense heart pounding thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll. Did I mention the fact that it won three Oscars including Best Picture? I think that tells you it’s worth viewing!
Captain Phillips (2013) Rated PG-13
Another gripping true story, Captain Phillips depicts the harrowing hijacking of the US ship Alabama by Somali pirates in 2009. I wasn’t too sure I’d be interested in a story about pirates, but director Paul Greengrass does a spectacular job of getting into the hearts and minds of both Captain Phillips (the amazing Tom Hanks) and lead hijacker Muse (newcomer Barked Abdi). You actually forget that you are watching Hanks as he completely embodies his character. The struggle between the two is incredibly intense throughout the entire journey.
American Sniper (2014) Rated R
I’m still mad that my beloved Bradley Cooper did not win an Oscar for his phenomenal portrayal of Chris Kyle. His bulked up body, facial movements, accent and entire demeanor are transformed into the legendary Navy SEAL in the most incredible way. That alone is reason enough to watch this unrelenting action-packed drama. Director Clint Eastwood takes this biography of America’s deadliest sniper to a whole other level by cutting between tense action sequences of war and Kyle’s early life and romance with eventual wife Taya (Sienna Miller). The toll the job takes on Kyle as he struggles between wanting to protect his fellow soldiers and needing to maintain his humanity is gripping to watch. It’s impossible to fully understand just how much pressure is put on our military and their families but this film certainly highlights their efforts and makes me have even more respect for our armed services.
Wouldn’t it be great if watching all of these heart pounding films counted as exercise? I’d be in the best shape ever after a marathon of these movies! Happy viewing!