A few weeks into our annual year-end binge of the Best and Worst of the movies in 2016, and we’ve looked at the finest trailers and posters, the best movies and TV shows, the breakthrough directors and actors, the best scores and soundtracks, the worst films, and the most anticipated films and television series. There’s plenty more to come, but with the weekend here, and a weekend where a new “Star Wars” movie is opening, no less, we wanted to loosen up a bit and talk about the Best Action Sequences of 2016.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Films Of 2016

It was decidedly not a great year for the blockbuster on the whole, and yet a great year for the action scene. That’s because some not-great movies had some great scenes, in part because of inventive foreign or indie filmmakers getting the most of their limited means. But even with a longer list than last year, we still had a hard time getting in down to 25. Take a look at our final picks below, and you can suggest your own favorite fights, chases and battles in the comments.

Click here for our complete coverage of the Best Of 2016

wave

25. The Wave Hits – “The Wave”
The excellently named Roar Uthaug came from seemingly nowhere to land a plum big studio job with 2018’s Alicia Vikander-starring “Tomb Raider” reboot, but you only have to see a little bit of his breakthrough movie “The Wave” to understand why the Norwegian helmer is such hot stuff. A Scandinavian take on the classic disaster movie that sees the tourist town of Geiranger threatened by an 80-foot wave caused by a landslide, it juggles some well-done character work with Hollywood-level effects and destruction on a relatively meager budget. This can especially be seen in the sequence here, which, relatively late in the movie, sees the tide of water-y destruction hit the hotel where much of the action’s set. The effects work is strong, the tension palpable and the force of nature unrelenting. Fingers crossed he does Lara Croft justice when he shoots next year.


Deepwater Horizon Mark Wahlberg24. The First Explosion – “Deepwater Horizon”
In select circles, Peter Berg gets often wrongfully criticized as a sort of lesser Michael Bay, but while “Battleship” was an outright misfire, and his others movies aren’t necessarily the subtlest in the world, Berg has developed a clear, attentive eye for strikingly realistic and authentically harrowing action sequences these past couple years, which was displayed beautifully throughout the unjustly overlooked “Deepwater Horizon” earlier this year. This 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil-spill recreation could’ve easily been another by-the-numbers wannabe awards-contender snoozer, but instead, the “Friday Night Lights” filmmaker produced a startling, compulsively engaging in-the-moment thriller that grabbed you straight by the throat and refused to let you go. And while the second act contained no shortage of thrills, it was ultimately the build-up to the big explosion, driven by near-masterful suspense on Berg’s end, that engaged us the most. Always teasing danger, but never explicitly stating when it’ll arise, Berg heightened the stakes by showing us, in detailed fashion, where everything went wrong, opting to focus on the little cracks, creeks and breaks that caused the eruption of flames under everyone’s nose, rather than hitting us with the debris and chaos all at once. The results were explosive, in more ways than one, and deeply magnetizing. It proved Berg is no fluke when it comes to directing real-to-the-bone action sequences. His craftsmanship is deep.

zootopia23. The Chase In Rodent Town – “Zootopia”
Even by the standards of the renaissance of Disney Animation in the last few years, “Zootopia” was a good one, competing, we’d argue, only with “Moana” to be the best since things started to turn around with “Bolt.” It’s smart, funny, gorgeous and, frequently and happily for our purposes here, exciting, too, with a number of well-choreographed action sequences. The best, and most inventive, might be early on, when Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) pursues a literally weaselly suspect (Alan Tudyk) to the section of the titular city inhabited by tiny rodents. Even in a brief scene, directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore have enormous fun with the the proportions of a chase sequence through a toytown-sized area, in a way that’s oddly reminiscent of the final sequence of “Hot Fuzz.” It’s a great example of how your world-building can actively inform your action scenes.

mechanic-resurrection-jason-statham-jessica-alba22. The Boat Fight – “Mechanic: Resurrection”
Even by the low standards of the sub-genre of ‘Jason Statham movies released at the butt-end of August,’ “Mechanic: Resurrection,” a sequel to another Statham movie you probably don’t remember, was a pretty uninspired, low-rent affair. But it does have two memorable scenes to add to the Statham canon. The first, and probably more iconic, is the batshit-crazy swimming-pool assassination whereby Statham’s assassin kills a target by draining his glass-bottomed swimming pool from underneath. The other is the final action sequence, an imaginatively staged shoot-out punch-up on the luxury yacht of villain Crain (Sam Hazeldine), which sees a wetsuited Statham dispatch one mercenary with a grenade/hot-tube combo, twirl around in a inflatable raft like a spinning Angel Of Death, and then have a fight with an anchor. It’s muddied by some awful effects work, but it stands happily aside the best sequences from the “Transporter” movies.

take21. The Van Fight – “The Take”
Originally released under the title “Bastille Day” in the UK and France, and more or less buried in the U.S. after the horrifying events in Nice on the French holiday the original name referred to, “The Take” was a fairly solid action thriller in the Luc Besson mold (though not actually associated with Besson), which sees CIA agent Idris Elba and pickpocket Richard Madden drawn into a terrorist conspiracy in Paris that, “Die Hard”-style, is actually a cover for a huge heist. Director James Watkins (of “The Woman In Black” and the “Shut Up And Dance” episode of “Black Mirror”) handles the action, of which there’s plenty, with muscularity and clarity, and it’s best shown in this mid-film sequence, where the two heroes, plus shady local Charlotte Le Bon, are picked up by what turn out to be bad guys. The three fight their captors as the van speeds along, the ride made decidedly bumpier when the driver is killed by a stray bullet, and there’s real wit and smart choreography in the enclosed staging of the brawling.

  • Dheep’ P

    Granted – Angelina doesn’t have much magnetism, but Alicia Vikander ? Tomb Raider ? Uh, no. A big NO.
    Zero charisma. Zero personality. And Zero warmth.
    A card carrying member of the “To the Wooden Manner Born” school of emoting.

  • jawsnnn

    What…. CA: Civil War’s airport scene was the lowest stake, least exciting action scene in any movie released “this” year – and that includes BvS and Suicide Squad. Was it funny? Sure. Was it a good action scene? Heck no. Even the climactic fight between Iron Man and Cap could be called better.

    • Axxell

      “Lowest stake”?

      Everyone from Cap’s team save for him and Bucky were captured, and War Machine almost died. The superheroes finally turned on each other and broke apart, and you say it was “low stake”?

      • jawsnnn

        Almost died… and the fight immediately ended. Before that it was all jokes and quips. That’s the definition of low stake.

        Marvel should have called the movie “Civil disagreement” and it would have made much more sense.

        • Axxell

          I’ve done that argument too many times, but I’m gonna pass on it, because this article is about the action sequences, and this year it’s hard to argue anything else was better choreographed with so many moving parts and characters to focus on.

          • jawsnnn

            Meh. The Deadpool bridge sequence was way better. Dr. Strange’s mirror dimension battle was better. CA:CW was an utterly forgettable movie as a whole and it’s action sequences were no different. To each his/her own though.

  • Josh King

    I think you guys nailed with the top 3. As for Zootopia v Moana, I think Moana takes the title as best of the Disney Animation films this year

  • cirkusfolk

    You guys need to do a Good Bad and Ugly review of Rogue One

  • Carlyn

    Also in Civil War, that tunnel sequence when Bucky hijacks a motorcycle and does 180 with one hand. That’s worth watching. Airport scene is good, but it’s also because the gang’s all there.

  • Disgracedformerlifeguard

    I really have to agree that the “Bucky escape” sequence in Civil War is leaps and bounds better than the airport fight. The Airport fight is really the distilled example of how generic the Marvel movies are starting to get.

    Also, I know that Playlist loves to hate Batman V. Superman (rightfully so) but the Batman rescuing Martha sequence is one of the best choreographed fights from a superhero movie ever.

  • David Hillier’s suitcase

    Batman V. Superman was a terrible movie, but the Batman warehouse scene surely deserves to be on this list. If anything it highlights how bad the film’s major GCI action set pieces were (Batman and Superman facing off and that whole Doomsday thing) – you guys missed a tick, everyone loves a bit of backhanded praise, right?

    • Squirrelpool

      Hated that movie. Totally agree with you.