HOLLYWOOD HEROES™: What exactly makes an action hero in 2018? The definition of one has certainly changed over the years. Long gone are the days of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis being on the Mount Everest of action stars. Gone too are the days of fun yet low rent options like Jean Claude van Damme, not to mention the glory days for Jackie Chan. So, where does that leave us? Well, that’s just what I’m going to look at today. Who are the modern action heroes of this generation? The answers may surprise you, name wise, but if you’ve been paying attention to what’s been hitting theaters, it really shouldn’t…
Something worth noting here is that so many of our action heroes these days are the members of superhero franchises, especially within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, while Chris Evans isn’t specifically on this list, he’s certainly a form of an action hero. The same goes for Scarlett Johansson, for that matter. There is an MCU exception (and technically two), but you’ll see below. I also had to avoid just going the superhero route, as that’s a very modern version of the action movie. One such star of those films is prominently displayed, but there’s a reason that you’ll understand shortly. Alright. Enough talk. Time for action.
Here are seven action heroes that fit this definition to me:
Tom Cruise – An all timer just in terms of being an A-list star, Cruise has now also been an action hero for over 30 years. Top Gun in 1986 was his first brush with this genre, and he’s been in and out of it since then. Frankly, for the last decade and a half, he’s been almost exclusively in it. His latest action epic, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, hits in a few weeks, so we’ll be sure to talk more about him then. Suffice to say though, he’s the genre’s elder statesman at this point.
Vin Diesel – His voice work in the MCU notwithstanding, Diesel is also the head of the Fast and Furious franchise, arguably the premiere action series of this generation. Personally, those flicks never do much for me, but they’re popular for a reason. Diesel also has the Riddick series under his belt, plus a whole other franchise carrying on in the XXX movies. Without question, he’s a modern action hero.
Gal Gadot – Technically I’m not cheating, since Gadot also had a bunch of Fast and Furious sequels to her credit, so she’s not just Diana Prince. Still, Wonder Woman is such an iconic character, and an important one in this day and age, you have to include her. Arguably, going forward she might end up atop this list too (it’s alphabetical here). The sky is the limit.
Dwayne Johnson – After Cruise, the king of the action film, and probably soon to take the mantle, is Johnson. Formerly known as The Rock, he’s transitioned brilliantly from pro wrestling to movies. In fact, today he has Skyscraper opening, his take on Willis’ Die Hard platform. His resume is littered with action offerings, and of course, he’s a core part of the Fast and Furious series now. Johnson is at peak action hero status here in 2018.
Liam Neeson – His days of action heroism came late in his career and are probably just about over, but the Taken franchise made Neeson an unlikely yet welcome ass kicker. With a couple of sequels, plus a whole bunch of similar movies, the dramatic actor transitioned to hero in such a way that his mere presence was a joy to behold. Among all the folks on this list, no one stands out more than Neeson does. That’s a positive too, in case you were wondering…
Chris Pratt – Under the radar, Pratt has become the king of the action franchise. From his MCU offerings to the Jurassic World series, plus the upcoming Cowboy Ninja Viking (not to mention The LEGO Movie and its follow up), he’s collection franchises like they’re trading cards. If that doesn’t make Pratt into one of the top action heroes here in 2018, with our obsession with shared universes and such, what does?
Jason Statham – Of all the people on this list, no one looks more like an action star than Statham does. Naturally, he’s also a veteran of the Fast and Furious flicks, though he pops up in about a tenth of all action outings in general. Later this summer he’ll take on a giant shark in The Meg, only furthering his action bona fides.
Johnson has Skyscraper opening in theaters today, while Cruise will be seen very soon in Mission: Impossible – Fallout!