Liam Neeson’s 10 Best Action Movies, Ranked

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Summary

  • Liam Neeson has established himself as a prominent figure in the action genre, often portraying ex-cops or soldiers in suspense thrillers with many twists and turns.
  • Despite his age, Neeson continues to draw large audiences to his action films, as shown by the profitable box office performances of his Taken movies.
  • While some of Neeson’s action films may have creative missteps or lack the intensity of his other works, overall they provide straightforward delivery and high-octane action that keep viewers entertained.

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Out of all of Liam Neeson’s action movies, a few can be considered the greatest he’s ever done. Neeson has somewhat created his own sub-genre of a modern action film, often playing the character of an ex-cop or soldier in a suspense thriller full of various twists and turns. As the actor enters his 70s, it’s a highly impressive feat that he is able to draw such large audiences to his action films that have carved out a niche era for his already coveted acting career.

While no Liam Neeson action film can truly be called a masterpiece of the genre, his installments still provide typically straightforward delivery and high-octane action that has maintained viewer interest since the release of Taken in 2008. All three of his Taken movies have proven to be highly-proftibale at the box office, indicating that despite his age, there will be no shortage of Liam Neeson action films anytime soon. Here are his ten best of the genre ranked from worst to best.

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10 The Marksman (2021)

Liam Neeson as Jim Hanson in The Marksman.

The Marksman follows Liam Neeson’s character as a rancher working on the southern Arizona border of the United States and Mexico. Jim (Neeson) is a former sniper for the U.S. Marine Corps and is tasked with defending the life of a young boy from Mexico who is fleeing the pursuit of deadly cartel assassins. Neeson characterization as the gunslinging proud American is somewhat out of his normal casting range, especially since he continues using his iconic speaking voice and tone that doesn’t exactly fit his environment. The film however is still a fun and entertaining action movie despite having a few creative missteps.

9 Honest Thief (2020)

Liam Neeson in Honest Thief

Neeson plays Tom Carter in Honest Thief who is cheated out of his honest shot at redemption. Carter is a former bank robber infamously known as the “In-and-Out Bandit” who turns himself in to the FBI after finding the love of his life and wanting to quit his life of crime. Carter turns to be double-crossed by two FBI agents after agreeing to hand over all the millions of dollars he stole from his small-town bank robberies. Neeson is still impressive as a physical actor as he enters his 70s, but Honest Thief overall lacks a similar pace that made other action movies of his so intensely gripping.

8 The Commuter (2018)

Vera Farmiga & Liam Neeson in The Commuter.

Neeson plays Michael MacCauley in The Commuter alongside Vera Farmiga and Jonathan Banks. Michael is a life insurance salesman and ex-cop who gets wrapped up in a conspiracy that threatens his life on his typical commute home on a train. On one unusual day, Michael is laid off from his job and is left in financial despair. He meets the mysterious Joanna (Farmiga) who presents him with a strange proposition. As intriguing as the plot may sound on the surface, the film ultimately lacked a convincing story and a third act that many referred to as simply ridiculous.

7 Taken 2 (2012)

Bryan Mills on the phone with a gun in Taken 2

The follow up to the cultural phenomenon that was the original Taken movie saw Neeson return to his signature role as retired CIA operative Bryan Mills. The sequel picks up where the first left off by introducing a new hostage situation involving Neeson’s character and his wife as a revenge story against the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while saving his daughter in the first film. Taken 2 was widely considered a let down after the mass appeal of the original movie and suffers from a lack of thoughtful plot and character construction.

6 Cold-Pursuit (2019)

Liam Neeson from Cold Pursuit

Neeson plays Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver who get sent down a course of revenge against a group of dangerous drug dealers who killed his son. It’s a typical Neeson revenge action thriller that sees Nelson’s character fall from a comfortable and honorable life due to personal tragedy. Guided by vindictiveness and his hunting skills, Coxman becomes a cold-blooded killer in this action movie that carries several tropes of a dark comedy. It’s a bit of an acting pivot for Neeson that creates an enjoyable viewing experience.

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5 A Walk Among The Tombstones (2014)

Liam Neeson with a gun in A Walk Among the Tombstones.

In A Walk Among The Tombstones, Neeson plays ex-cop turned private investigator Matt Scudder who is hired by a dog dealer to find the people who kidnapped and murdered his wife. Neeson embraces some darker nuances of his character, portraying the struggles of an alcoholic while also being at the center of a drug and murder conspiracy. The film provides a thoughtfully constructed plot that offers complexity without becoming muddled or convoluted. A Walk Among The Tombstones allows Neeson to embrace some his more dramatic capabilities as an actor.

4 Unknown (2011)

Liam Neeson and Frank Langella in Unknown

Neeson plays biochemist Dr. Martin Harris in Unknown who goes into a coma after getting in a car accident. Harris wakes up from the coma four days later with major gaps in his memory and his wife no longer recognizing him. He realizes that somebody has taken his identity and tries to figure out the source of the mystery in which his entire personal history professional legacy has been erased. Unknown is celebrated for its smart pace and crafty plot twists that make it one of Neeson’s strongest efforts in the action genre.

3 Non-Stop (2014)

Liam Neeson holding a gun in Non-Stop.

Neeson plays Bill Marks in Non-Stop, an Air Marshall who must respond to a mysterious random threat while on a transatlantic flight. Marks gets a series of text messages from an unknown sender who demands $150 million of else someone will die every 20 minutes. Non-Stop sets up and delivers on its intriguing premise that turns out to be not as straight forward as it initially seems. The film becomes a guessing game and murder mystery about who is behind the text messages and ransom demands.

2 Taken (2008)

Liam Neeson pointing a gun in Taken.

Taken is responsible for the success and implementation of the quintessential Liam Neeson action movie. Taken was not expected to be anything more than a standalone action film but its massive cultural appeal ended up creating a subplot of action films starring Neeson for the next fifteen years. Neeson shines as the iconic Bryan Mills who is sent down a ruthless path of suspense and mystery trying to locate his missing daughter. It’s a simple yet highly engaging premise that banks on the universal notion of how far a parent will go to protect their child. Taken is full of great action sequences that make it easy to overlook the somewhat implausible events that take place in the film’s plot.

1 The Grey (2011)

Liam Neeson In The grey

Despite the impact of Taken, The Grey is Liam Neeson’s best action movie. Neeson plays a skilled outdoorsman and huntsman named Ottway who must lead a group of oil workers to safety after their plan crashes in Alaska. The Grey places Neeson again the forces of Nature itself, particularly a group of wild and ravenous wolves that hunt down Ottway the oil workers. Ottway successful battles and kills a number of wolves to ensure the group’s survival, creating some of the most intense action sequences and moments in Neeson’s entire filmography. Taken is an excellent and somewhat mindless action movie but The Grey depicts Liam Neeson at his best.