If there is one entertainment genre as old as humanity, it’s action. Since the dawn of time, people have told each other stories of heroic acts and adventures, and as technology advanced, those stories started being told through movies.
The best thing about action movies is that there isn’t just one kind – there is something for everyone. From thrilling car chases and massive explosions to fantastic superheroes with amazing powers, action movies give us shots of adrenaline in so many different forms.
Let’s check out the different types of action movies and why we love them so much!
Related: 9 Types of Romantic Movies
1. War and Military Action
I’m putting war and military action together because they’re tied together so closely. The elements you’ll find in military action movies are also present in war action movies, so they’re very similar. They are actually often confused with each other.
Many of the earlier action films were inspired by war and military stories and Hollywood can’t get enough of these kinds of movies. Perhaps it’s because the world has endured several wars that we enjoy seeing the good guys win. Perhaps we just like men in uniforms, cool guns, and massive explosions.
Tales of valor and heroism are universal, which is likely why war and military action is so popular. Even if you don’t always understand what the characters are saying, the bonds between soldiers and their brave actions speak louder than words ever could.
Films like American Sniper and Saving Private Ryan have many fans because of the stories these films tell amid the action scenes that are quite amazing.
2. Spy and Espionage Action
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular action genres is the spy and espionage category. These films are often closely related to war and military action films but are a lot more refined and cunning.
The James Bond films are some of the best examples of spy and espionage films, although the Mission Impossible series is also very popular.
Spy and espionage action movies always have elements of suspense and mystery that is aimed at keeping viewers guessing and on the edge of their seats until the end.
This action genre revolutionized and eventually defined the classic car chase and clever hand-to-hand combat sequences.
3. Martial Arts Action
If you’re looking for intense and interesting hand-to-hand fights that use the environment to make things even more exciting, martial arts action films are what you want to watch.
Many of the elements in these films came to our cinemas thanks to the rise of the Hong Kong action cinema. Although Western and Asian (and European) martial arts action, there are subtle differences that fans of the genre can pick up on easily.
Typically, the main focus of these films is on the physical interactions between two or a handful of characters. Sometimes, supernatural elements are added to the story to make it exhilarating.
Kung-fu, karate, and other forms of martial arts are used by the protagonist to fight the antagonist(s) in spectacular ways.
Famous examples of martial arts action movies include classics like Enter the Dragon and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
4. Westerns Action
Westerns – love them or hate them, these films are immensely popular thanks to actors like Clint Eastwood and loved by millions across the globe. Films like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly have become cult classics with massive followings.
This genre feels rather timeless and is a big part of the history of Hollywood films and the success of Hollywood in general. The epic showdowns and Mexican folk music now associated with westerns have become something of an expectation when watching these kinds of films.
All the way back in 1903 when The Great Train Robbery was released, people realized they liked the idea of Westerns so much that it would become a popular genre in no time.
Related: 23 Types of Western Movies
5. Sci-fi Action
Sci-fi action films are focused on telling stories that are fantastical and take place in the future (or an alternate universe) where space travel is common. The technology in these films is always awe-inspiring and wishful thinking for most of us.
But that also means the gunfights are amazing because the guns are so futuristic and different from current weaponry. Space battles thrill viewers in ways that normal battles can’t because of the element of science fiction and the abilities of soldiers and spaceships alike are limited only by the directors’ imaginations.
However, sci-fi films don’t necessarily have to take place in space, they just need the right elements. Films like The Maze Runner are classified as sci-fi but aren’t about space battles.
One of the most well-known sci-fi action films has to be Star Wars with its lightsabers and epic fights.
6. Superhero Action
In recent years, superhero action films have taken center stage, with all the Marvel films telling the stories of heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Doctor Strange, and Spiderman.
The element of fantasy is heavily present in these movies because of how the superheroes come to exist and the enemies they have to fight. There can also be elements of sci-fi present in these films.
Fans of superhero action movies expect amazing fights, epic chases, and astounding explosions, and that’s exactly what they get. Superhero action films are so popular that they make millions at the box office and in merchandise sales.
7. Disaster Action
Disaster action films have also gained a lot of attention in the late 1990s, the 2000s, and in recent years with films like Independence Day pleasing viewers with epic stories and amazing visuals.
One of the main attractions of disaster films is their visual effects, with the movies portraying the occurrences and effects of natural disasters like hurricanes, volcanoes, floods, and more on the screen.
Disaster action films can also have supernatural elements like aliens present to make them a little more exciting.
8. Buddy Cop Action
Although the buddy cop action film isn’t really as popular as it used to be, these films dominated the box office in the 1980s. Movies like Lethal Weapon were really popular and made the lead actors pretty famous and beloved.
They got attention again in the early 2000s but interest in them seems to have fizzled down quite a bit since.
Normally, these movies would involve two starkly different characters who have to work together to save the day. They get to bond and end up becoming close friends by the time the movie is over.
Explosions and humor are typically at the order of the day for buddy cop action films, a combination that works well in most cases.
9. Horror Action
This is another popular action film genre that combines explosions and thrilling chases and camera angles with a supernatural and evil element. In these films, the protagonists have to save the day when evil creatures threaten the safety of a city or even the world.
In addition to the explosions and fights, lots of gore is also very important in making horror action films what they are. The antagonists are usually supernatural in nature, such as vampires, demons, aliens, and other vicious creatures.
Films like Alien and Deep Blue Sea are horror action and can be quite thrilling to watch. I really enjoy seeing humans prevail against foes that would normally be at the top of the food chain.
10. Action Comedy
As the genre name suggests, these films are packed full of action but also have a lot of humor sprinkled in. Not to be confused with buddy cop action movies, these films are often about cops who have to catch bad guys before they do something very…well, bad.
Action comedies became very popular in the 1980s with films like Beverly Hills Cop making a big splash at the box office.
In the 1990s, Bad Boys was a popular action-comedy series featuring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. These days, movies like Red Notice and 21 Jump Street are popular action comedies.
Usually, these films don’t have amazing storylines and depend on the funny parts and electrifying action scenes to make them interesting for viewers.
One of my favorite action movie genres has to be action-adventure. These films typically take place in exotic or fantastical places and the hero has to endure quite a number of challenging situations to achieve their goal.
The Indiana Jones films are some of the most popular action-adventure films and they really shone a bright spotlight on the genre. Action-adventure movies can also have elements of sci-fi like The Matrix does.
There are also action-adventure films with fantasy elements, such as The Pirates of The Caribbean, which are very popular with moviegoers and take them on amazing adventures at sea as well as on land.
12. Action Thriller
This is another action movie genre that really gained popularity back in the 1970s and 1980s. They feature a lot of super-awesome explosions, amazing sets, many guns, and a good story to keep viewers entertained.
One of the best-known examples of action thriller films is the Die Hard series with Bruce Willis. There are often elements of mystery and crime also present in these films to give them an extra layer of excitement.
Typically, action thrillers take place in limited locations such as a specific building or even a vehicle, as was the case with Speed. The hero must outwit and physically defeat the bad guy for a satisfactory ending.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Four Conventions of Action Films?
Although action films seem pretty straightforward, there are certain elements that have to be present to make an action film qualify as one of the genre.
There are four conventions that are essential and also help to determine what type of action film the story will be.
Hero Vs Villain
This is the most common action convention and is present in spy action films, action comedies, superhero action films, and so on. In these films, revenge is often the driving force, but the desire to save the world can also be the hero’s end goal.
Hero Vs Nature
Here, the hero can’t really fight back against the antagonist, which is Mother Nature, but can attempt to save the world or a group of people. Disaster action movies such as Doomsday fall into this category.
Hero Vs Authority
In this case, the hero (or heroes) have to fight back against unfair or corrupt authorities such as governments and institutions. It usually takes a lot of work for the heroes to achieve their goals and save the day. The Hunger Games is an excellent example of these films.
Hero Vs Monster
When the protagonist has to fight a supernatural monster, they fall into this convention. Usually, humans have to stand together to fight the evil creatures that threaten their existence and the future of humanity. Jurassic Park falls into this category.
What Are Some Characteristics of the Action Genre?
As I’ve mentioned before, there are certain criteria that must be met for a film to be considered an action movie. This includes, but isn’t limited to the following:
- Chase Scenes
- Slow-motion Action Shots
- Awesome Stunts
- Epic Explosions
When Did the Action Genre Start?
The action film genre can be traced back to 1903 when the film The Great Train Robbery was released. After that, we saw many swashbuckling adventure films which dominated the 1920s and 1930s.
What Are The 8 Elements Of Film?
When making a movie, there are eight elements the producers, writers, directors, and other crew members have to remember, so the film is enjoyable and entertaining.
The plot is essential because, without it, there is no story to tell. What happens in the movie? What do the characters do and how do they feel? What motivates, scares, and inspires the hero? Why is the protagonist doing evil things? These are all questions answered by the film’s plot.
A movie must have a good structure so that viewers can enjoy plot twists and events as they’re meant to be enjoyed. Although a film needs a beginning, middle, and end, it doesn’t have to be in that order. The structure of the film determines and influences the viewing experience.
How the film progresses is determined by the different characters and how they act. Good characterization will ensure that the characters and their motivations and actions make sense. It’s also what makes us like or dislike the antagonist, side characters, and protagonist.
There are many scenes from movies that are simply unforgettable. If a film wants to be successful, there needs to be at least a handful of amazing scenes that make it stand out from other films. The scenes are the building blocks of the movie’s screenplay and are powerful in making the viewing experience a pleasant and satisfactory one.
There cannot be a movie without visuals, and they’re an important part of the screenplay that determines how viewers feel about the film and its story. Visuals can help viewers feel specific emotions without the use of dialogue or exposition. Amazing visuals will make a film have a lot more impact on those who watch it.
Although there can be films without dialogue, this element is crucial for a film’s success. Good, effective dialogue is created when the writers know the characters and can bring them to life with the things they say in the movie. Often, the dialogue can reveal many things visuals and other elements fail to.
Every story needs conflict or it will feel hollow and pointless. The conflict acts as the driving force of the film and it’s essential for any kind of film. The characters must have conflicting situations and problems they need to solve. The conflict can be something as simple as an iceberg, as is the case in The Titanic, and still be of vital importance.
Finally, there must be a resolution or viewers will be highly displeased with the film. If there isn’t a satisfactory climax to the movie, people will feel cheated and get angry. When a film has a good resolution, the story will feel more real and fleshed out. Bad resolution can lead to confusion as well.