As both CGI and special effects technology evolved at the start of the new millennium, so did the great action sequences in films. There was a marriage between special effects and story that created some truly memorable moments on film.
In the modern day, CGI has dominated the landscape. However, it was just starting to be implemented to heighten the moviegoing experience in the 2000s. A lot of it was rough and experimental, but the techniques laid the groundwork for a decade of fun action.
10) Transformers (2007)
The Transformers movies are notorious for pumping out mediocre sequels. Fortunately, the first movie in the franchise was very fresh and entertaining, with some great action sequences.
Many people were skeptical about how giant robots would work on screen. Of course, they would be CGI heavy, yet the story and characters set up just enough plot to make the giant robot action memorable. It took a lot of 80’s childhood memories and made them real for a lot of fans.
9) Pitch Black (2000)
Director David Twohy deserves a lot of credit for bringing a fresh and unique premise to the science fiction action genre with 2000’s Pitch Black. It also helped propel superstar Vin Diesel into the spotlight, while kicking off two sequels with varying degrees of both quality and success.
Pitch Black focuses on a group of survivors who crash land on a hostile alien planet with multiple suns keeping it in perpetual daylight. Among them is Riddick, a lethal killer whose unique eyes allow him to see in the dark. That comes in handy when a rare eclipse blankets the entire planet in darkness, allowing a species of light-sensitive creatures to rise up and feast on warm flesh.
8) Minority Report (2002)
Minority Report had all of the elements that make a great movie. It had a smart premise, great set design, a bankable lead man in Tom Cruise, plus Steven Spielberg’s directorial eye. The story focused on a system that arrested people based on crimes they would have committed in the future.
A lot of sci-fi movies focus too much on the flash of the genre without providing much substance. Minority Report managed to break that trend, while also having many great action moments, as well.
7) Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
In order to make a great action film, a lot of writers will put story first, and have the action come later, which is smart. However, Quentin Tarantino did the opposite for Kill Bill.
The first volume of the series was completely action-oriented, featuring nearly non-stop choreographed fights with buckets of blood for the censors to panic over. The focus on replicating the look and feel of 70s exploitation flicks was a smart move, as well.
6) Casino Royale (2006)
There was a lot of focus on the James Bond franchise once Pierce Brosnan was done with the role. Fortunately, Daniel Craig’s reboot of the character proved to take him in a much grittier direction.
Casino Royale was a true return to the roots of the character, and set the franchise upon a brand new path for the new millennium. Also, it cemented Daniel Craig as a true action star.
5) The Dark Knight (2008)
A lot of fans were eagerly anticipating Christopher Nolan’s follow up to Batman Begins, especially after Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker. It turns out that the director would not disappoint.
He created a much more streamlined story for The Dark Knight, and also made a conscious effort to focus more on practical effects rather than CGI. The result is one of the most successful and acclaimed superhero movies of all time.
4) Iron Man (2008)
When Iron Man was first released, it was viewed as just another superhero movie. Marvel was seeking to establish itself as a dominant studio, rather than relying on others, and Iron Man was its first go-around.
Unbeknownst to everyone, Iron Man went on to establish what would become a juggernaut within the realm of superhero movies. The film sought to humanize its hero with top-notch special effects and an A-list star, giving birth to the MCU in the process.
3) Avatar (2009)
James Cameron had been developing Avatar for very long time, and his work was well worth the wait. It transformed the arena of science fiction to provide a truly groundbreaking cinematic experience with brand new 3D IMAX technology.
The story and writing might have had faltered in some parts, but Avatar remains a great world building adventure that took film-goers to a completely different planet. It was so successful that it broke the box office as an original IP, something that rarely happens anymore.
2) The Bourne Identity (2002)
Fans weren’t quite sure what to make of Jason Bourne when Matt Damon first starred in the character. He was an action-oriented James Bond struck with an identity crisis.
However, the film’s gritty and realistic approach to its action and espionage was a refreshing take. It also undoubtedly inspired the next generation of Bond films as Jason Bourne’s journey of self-discovery and redemption was truly remarkable.
1) Taken (2008)
If the 2000s were the era of grounded and realistic action thrillers, then Taken stands at the top. It had an aging Liam Neeson as a father determined to find his kidnapped daughter in Paris.
The film took its time establishing Neeson’s character, as well as his daughter’s. By the time the action kicked in, audiences were truly rooting for his success, regardless of how brutal and ruthless he had to get to find her. Also notably, the movie set Neeson up as an unlikely action star during the second half of his career.