Just as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were undeniably among the biggest action stars of the 1980s and 1990s, a new crop of big-screen badasses has emerged to fill out the next generation. Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel are both a part of the 2000s set of action heroes, but their Furious 7 co-star Jason Statham is a strong contender in his own right. To date, he is the only actor to land major recurring roles in both The Expendables and the Fast and Furious films, both of which have evolved into a veritable who’s-who of action stars new and old.
Moreover, Statham has amassed international fame and a loyal fanbase due to his martial arts moves, undeniable charisma and impressive skill in wielding both all manner of weaponry as well as tongue-in-cheek one-liners. Here are our picks for his best films thus far. For the record, we’re restricting our list to one entry per franchise.
1. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
With his first big-screen role, Statham established himself an instant standout in this crime comedy from director Guy Ritchie. As a small-time criminal known as Bacon, Statham was among the film’s breakout stars, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was a critical darling and turned a tidy profit, thanks to its reported production budget of just $1.4 million. Statham would later deliver memorable performances in to more Ritchie films, 2000 comedy Snatch and 2005 thriller Revolver.
2. The Transporter (2002)
In what would become one of his signature roles, Statham plays Frank Martin, a driver with a concrete set of rules who gets mixed up with the wrong people, in this Louis Leterrier thrill ride. The Transporter spawned two sequels featuring Statham, a short-lived TV series starring Chris Vance and a 2015 reboot with Ed Skrein (Deadpool) in the lead. Statham is so perfectly cast as the soldier-turned-mercenary that it came to define his career in many respects, leading the actor to several more car-centered action films, such as The Italian Job, Death Race, and (of course) his recent addition to the Fast and Furious films.
3. Crank (2006)
This dark comedy/action thriller — written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor — stars Statham as hitman Chev Chelios, who must keep his adrenaline high in order to save himself from the poison in his system. As he tracks down those responsible, he causes all kinds of mayhem, and Crank‘s outrageous tone and frenetic energy helped it to earn a cult following. A sequel, Crank: High Voltage, followed three years later, and rumors have swirled about a potential third film down the line, though nothing has come to fruition just yet.
4. The Bank Job (2008)
In a more understated film than his usual action fare, Statham stars as Terry Leather, a struggling car salesman who helps orchestrate a bank robbery. The Bank Job is based on the 1971 Baker Street robbery in central London and features winning supporting turns by Saffron Burrows, Richard Lintern, and David Suchet. Moreover, it won critical acclaim for its suspenseful dramatization of the real-life event and grossed more than three times it reported budget in U.S. theaters alone, thanks to Statham’s star power and sharp performance.
5. The Mechanic (2011)
A remake of the 1972 film, The Mechanic sees Statham taking on the Charles Bronson role of Arthur Bishop, a top-notch assassin with a knack for covering his tracks. Simon West — who previously directed Statham in The Expendables 2 — shapes the film into an engaging thriller that, despite mixed reviews, became a box office hit both stateside and abroad. Statham is set to return as Bishop for a sequel — Mechanic: Resurrection — this summer, with Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, and Michelle Yeoh joining the cast.
6. Spy (2015)
This Melissa McCarthy comedy proved to be among the most pleasant surprises to hit theaters in summer 2015, but among Spy‘s most unexpected virtues is Statham’s deadpan turn as the frustrated, bumbling super-spy Rick Ford. Appearing intermittently throughout the film, the usually badass actor delivers one hilarious moment after another, very nearly outshining McCarthy in the Paul Feig-directed film and gently poking fun at his own tough-guy persona.
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