10 of the Worst Action Movies of All Time

Samurai Cop

Samurai Cop (1991) | Hollywood Royal Pictures

Charles Bronson. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jason Statham. Entire careers have been built on movie stars taking on one action film after another and creating a tough-guy image off of their filmography. However, for every Die Hard and First Blood that connects with audiences, there are countless other films that severely miss the mark of what makes an action film work. With a number of hotly anticipated action movies hitting theaters this year, we look back at some of the very worst action movies ever made. For the record, we will not be considering sequels for this list, since that would be far too easy. With that it mind, let’s take a closer look at our picks, ranked by release date.

1. Samurai Cop (1991)

Few action films are as laughably bad as this one, which doesn’t even really feature any samurai, by the way. Never released theatrically, the film stars Matt Hannon as the titular policeman with a penchant for martial arts. Due to the film’s bad acting and worse technical prowess, it has achieved a cult status and even inspired a 2015 sequel.

2. Double Team (1997)

Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman as reluctant partners in an action comedy? Believe it or not, that idea probably sounded brilliant to someone back in the 1990s. For the rest of us, it’s a messy embarrassment of a film that both men probably wish never happened at all.

3. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu as assassins facing off should have made for a fun action film. Instead, audiences were left with this bland, boring release, featuring substandard performances by its leads and no memorable action sequences to speak of. A true misfire in every sense of the word and one that critics were quick to assert as an epic low point for action cinema.

4. Rollerball (2002)

Remakes rarely live up to the original, but they also almost never wind up as terrible as this one, based on the 1975 original. Perhaps Chris Klein’s limited acting ability is to blame or simply the fact that the film ditches the dystopian setting, downplaying the social commentary that worked so well the first time. Director John McTiernan usually fares so much better than this.

5. Catwoman (2004)

Halle Berry in a skintight leather outfit as the iconic DC Comics character should have been an easy winner. Not when the film is as terrible as this one, which takes the titular anti-hero in a direction that bears little to no resemblance to her comic book counterpart. Why didn’t Warner Bros. simply follow the template that the comics laid out for them?

6. Ultraviolet (2006)

Milla Jovovich may still be headlining Resident Evil films, but this action/adventure was a distinct misfire on every level. Writer and director Kurt Wimmer earned his share of fans with Equilibrium, though this generic entry did little to maintain interest in his career. Accordingly, he has yet to direct a follow-up.

7. Far Cry (2008)

Video game films are notoriously bad, and this one — directed by (you guessed it) Uwe Boll — is yet another example of why. Though it was direct-to-video, its negative response was so bad that it still earns a spot on our list. Fans of the games in particular should avoid this one, as it shows little regard for what made them so popular in the first place.

8. Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Depending on the film, moviegoers can either expect pure over-the-top magic or a cringeworthy performance from Nicolas Cage. The actor unfortunately delivers the latter in this remake of the Pang brothers’ 1999 film. Even though Cage has several epic failures in his filmography, this may be one of the most depressingly bad to date. Not even an ironic viewing can help this one.

9. The Last Airbender (2010)

Ask any fan of animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender what they think of this M. Night Shyamalan film, and you just might set off some serious rage. This fantasy adventure basically ignored much of the source material, distilling it down into an incomprehensible film and casting white actors in traditionally Asian roles. The director would have had a hard time making a less successful version of the story.

10. Abduction (2011)

After the Twilight films made him a household name, Taylor Lautner seized the chance to parlay his newfound fame into a successful action film career. With just a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes, this film — released the same year as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 —  was a box office disappointment and marked the beginning and end of Lautner’s career as a headlining star.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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