We’ve pitted some of the most fleet-footed action movie franchises against one another, and our verdict is in – our money’s on John Wick as the best and the most badass (and it’s not just because of Keanu). But we all know that this isn’t a zero-sum game: there’s no reason not to watch every single one of these movies, and to enjoy them all for their own heart-pounding pleasures.
Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series
Epic stunts, a smattering of romance and a never-say-die attitude
Mission: Impossible is one of the most successful action franchises to date, a spy series that has grossed over $3.5 billion worldwide. Starting in 1996, M:I has become synonymous with Tom Cruise, the iconic theme, daredevil motorcycle stunts and self-destructing messages. Cruise is cool-headed, determined, eagle-eyed and one step ahead of everyone else as IMF team leader, Ethan Hunt.
An intelligent and Houdini-slippery operative, Hunt manages to extract himself from most tricky situations… with a little help from his friends. As an elite operative, there’s no measure to what the agent can do, constantly pushing boundaries to go higher, further and faster. Flying choppers, mountain-climbing, train-surfing, racing sports cars backwards and even performing acrobatic motorbike stunts, he wears his all-American values like a badge of honour. He’s not quite as smooth as James Bond and doesn’t have time for martinis, but still looks smashing in a tux. His only weakness is he’s a lover and a fighter.
You know you’re always in for a good time with Tom Cruise’s coffin-dodging antics.
The M:I series is characterised by exciting and spectacular action sequences, explosive special effects and wild stunts – most of which Cruise insists on performing himself! Mission: Impossible is a slick, epic, globe-trotting, high octane thrill ride peppered with just enough laugh-out-loud moments to catch your breath. Through next-level action and constantly trying to outdo itself, the impossible is made seemingly possible, delivering epic entertainment and never-say-die attitude.
As one of the most consistent action series around, with M:I, you know you’re always in for a good time with Tom Cruise’s coffin-dodging antics. It’s difficult to pick the best film of the series, which seems to get better with age, but Rogue Nation is probably the most well-rounded M:I instalment. Playing off Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson as muse and rival, Ilsa Faust created plenty of heat, adding another layer of romantic interest to the action extravaganza, make it an all-rounder. Grappling with super-villain Solomon Lane kicked it into overdrive.
What did critics think?
The highest-rated Mission: Impossible movie was 2018’s Fallout, with these stats:
IMDB rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97%
All the Mission: Impossible movies are on Showmax:
- Mission: Impossible (1996)
- Mission: Impossible II (2000)
- Mission: Impossible III (2006)
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher (2012) and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
This avenging angel is more about justice than ratcheting up the body count
The Jack Reacher series is based on the bestselling crime thriller novels by Lee Child. The British author has been compared with his lead character, both well over six feet tall, consuming copious amounts of coffee and having served in the military police. After leaving the military as a Major, Reacher wanders the United States picking up leads as an investigator and avenging angel. While originally not the first choice for the part of Reacher, Tom Cruise more than makes up for it with sheer grit and determination. As producer, he’s even more invested in the character and powers through with his typical Hollywood-tiger and headline-act charisma.
Tough, experienced, agile, smart and full of classic one-liners, Cruise balances the roles of enforcer and detective. Cruise’s fierce spirit, protective nature and stick-it-to-the-man attitude translate beautifully into his understated performance as Reacher. Cruise isn’t just there to trash bad guys and practise his right hook, he’s on a mission to do the right thing. With nothing to lose, his self-sacrifice often leaves him in pain but the rambling man keeps on roaming.
It’s as if he’s trying to channel Wolverine’s rage, brandishing the beloved superhero’s machismo in a character who also looks good in a muscle car. The rogue isn’t blessed with an Adamantium-rich skeleton and bullet-slicing claws, but prefers taking it to the street, mano a mano. Trading body blows to punish rather than kill his enemies, Jack Reacher is more about exacting vigilante street justice than accelerating the body count.
The pick of the movies is indisputably the self-titled Jack Reacher. While Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is actually a prequel if you follow the order of the books, the self-titled crime thriller finds Reacher in fifth gear. Directed by Mission: Impossible’s Christopher McQuarrie and featuring legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog as a villain, there’s plenty to write home about, with the film clocking in at over two hours! The gritty Jack Reacher series has notched up two films so far but there’s still a lot of fight left with a TV series on the way.
What did critics think?
The highest-rated Jack Reacher film was the original from 2012, with these stats:
IMDB rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 64%
John Wick in John Wick (2014), John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
Swagger, “gun ballet” and bloodbaths will appeal to fans of The Matrix and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Hovering somewhere between popular video game franchises Hitman and Max Payne lies John Wick, a relentless and single-minded master of death. John Wick would be the best video game adaptation series out there if it was based on a video game. It’s a real pity because the neo-noir action thriller deserves that honour and appeals to the same crowd who love shoot ‘em ups, violent action and cold-blooded assassins.
Bringing Wick to life is Keanu Reeves, who resurrected his flagging career to become an internet sensation on the back of selfless acts and suave executions. Whether it was the slew of saintly memes or his avenging his pooch, Reeves is on fire, recalling the heady days of The Matrix. Dressing in black like Johnny Cash, Gary Player or The Grim Reaper, the dark and brooding executioner operates within the realm of an underground network of assassins. Wick may not say much with his words but he’s never outnumbered.
This pulsating and retro chic series oozes style and delivers on intense and violent action.
Heavily influenced by The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Point Blank, there’s an underlying enigma to the character and his world. His timeless suit, watch-yourself swagger and gothic penchant for blood baths is very rock ‘n roll, underlining the throwback to Constantine and The Matrix with an equally hard rock soundtrack. A fearless gunslinger with a death wish, this pulsating and retro chic series oozes style and delivers on intense and violent action.
Described as “gun ballet”, the series echoes the elegant action choreography and gunplay of The Matrix. The John Wick action franchise shows a marked consistency with critical and commercial acclaim, making it almost impossible to pick the best film of the trilogy!
The original’s novelty, the sequel’s audacity and Chapter 3’s refinement necessitate a movie marathon. Already primed for a fourth and fifth chapter, which will be shot back to back, John Wick’s high body count and limitless style makes him unstoppable.
What did critics think?
The highest-rated John Wick film on IMDb was 2017’s John Wick: Chapter 2, with these scores:
IMDB rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 89%
And it’s in tough competition with the highest-rated John Wick film on Rotten Tomatoes, which is John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum from 2019, with these:
IMDB rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%