Sometimes an action movie just flat-out does not connect with critics. And when it’s a film that audiences are already doubting, their input, even today, can still make or break a movie. Sure, the films in question care more about explosive set-pieces than they do character building, and maybe some invested more money in CGI than in a cast of quality actors, but that doesn’t mean they’re still not shameless fun. The adventure films on this list are not perfect, nor do they feature groundbreaking storytelling, but they’re all well worth your time if you’re an action junkie looking for a quality fix of Hollywood spectacle.
The Lone Ranger
As with a few other movies on this list, the critics had a lot of complaints with The Lone Ranger. On top of harping about the movie’s runtime ad nauseam, critics also took issue with the film’s uneven tone, and perhaps unnecessary subplots. These complaints were enough to derail The Lone Ranger express on Rotten Tomatoes.
While The Lone Ranger is perhaps a bit longer than necessary and does flip-flop between playing it straight as well as for laughs, it balances that dichotomy well by transitioning between the two tones during action sequences, tilting toward humor only if the conflict is shifting in favor of the protagonists. This balancing act works if you’re aware of it and is barely noticeable since it operates quietly underneath the film’s amazing set-pieces, some of which were what stretched the movie’s runtime out to a length most critics were unhappy about. As it turns out, that’s what you get when you go to a Western: two-and-a-half exhilarating hours of cowboys and Indians (We can say that in this context, right?) hijacking trains, walloping bandits, and chasing each other on horses. It’s a well-executed, action-oriented Western throwback movie. Give it a shot.
Point Break (2015)
Point Break, a 2015 remake of the original 1991 cult classic of the same name, is an action movie that deserves way more love than it got. Critics blasted it for its serious tone and dour characters and poor directing and a few other issues, but one thing to keep in mind: it doesn’t seem like this movie cares about the original, hence why it tries so little to emulate it.
Outside of a few surfing set-pieces, this remake shares almost no similarities with its source material, featuring a plot that propels the cast around the globe from one jaw-dropping action sequence to the next. While there’s no doubt that the film walks a fine line between being serious and so serious that it’s silly, it sticks the landing just well enough to produce a tone that actually helps amplify the gravity and stakes of each action scene. We thing you’ll cheer when Point Break‘s heroes are diving out of a plane with millions of dollar bills swirling in the air behind them. And you’ll hold your breath in fear when the two main characters are in a suicidal free-handed mountain climbing race.
While the film’s definitely a bit hollow in terms of humor and three-dimensional character building, that’s not why you go to see Point Break. You go to see Point Break for a stylish action story that features some of the most insane extreme-sports stunts ever captured on film.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
As is to be expected with any film that has Michael Bay’s name floating around it, critics savaged 2014’s live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Resting at a not-so-hot 22% on RT, the film has been called "godawful," "brainless," and an "unholy mess." That all may be true about this entry in the animated crime-fighting turtles’ career. On a more positive note, we’re here to report that TMNT is nevertheless a loud, fun action film that nails the personalities of its titular turtles, features flashy set-pieces (one particularly great snowy mountainside chase scene comes to mind), and employs a snappy enough pace that whatever bad beats reside within the film, slip quickly and quietly under the radar, resulting in an overall blast.
There’s enough zany action within TMNT to entertain and amuse even those moviegoers who might not be the biggest fan of the half-shell heroes, and by the time the credits roll, those same audience members might just grow to appreciate the quartet of quirky turtles. While it’s definitely a simple movie, 2014’s TMNT film gets the focus just right: it’s a straightforward story about four brothers saving New York and having a heck of a fun time while doing it.
Critics slammed Spike Lee’s 2013 Oldboy remake for not really expanding upon the original movie in any significant way, and though that’s an accurate criticism, it doesn’t negate the quality of the film itself. Make no mistake: pointless remake or otherwise, the 2013 Oldboy is still a darn good movie. It’s well constructed, perfectly paced, features a cast of fantastic actors and doesn’t skimp when it comes to the story’s extremely graphic nature (although the ending is slightly different). Be it some pretty edgy sexual content or the movie’s more widely advertised penchant for hardcore violence, Oldboy is as gritty and intriguingly disturbing as Hollywood flicks come. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re in the market for an action film with some serious shock value.
Assassin’s Creed is an adaptation of a historical action video game series, one loaded with lore and complex story lines that most everyone knew would be impossible to successfully compress into a two-hour movie. Right in line with virtually everyone’s premonitions, the movie failed to impress critics and audiences in almost every way possible.
If you can look past the movie’s cheesy, soulless, and painfully misguided writing, the likes of which translates on-screen to awful dialogue and an emphasis on the wrong half of the Assassin’s Creed story line (the film spends more time in the present than in the past), there’s a great action movie to be enjoyed here. This is thanks almost exclusively to the director Justin Kerzel who salvages an awful screenplay by making Assassin’s Creed a visual masterpiece, one that re-creates 15th-century Spain beautifully. Kerzel manages to morph the modern-day segments into eye candy as well, turning 2016 Madrid, and an otherwise sterile research facility, into eerie, mysterious settings full of personality and intrigue. Within these two masterfully depicted backdrops, Kerzel juggles a handful of exciting set-pieces, all of which distract from the screenplay’s weak points just long enough to get action fans past the credits with smiles on their faces. While it’s definitely not the kind of movie you’d want to analyze for flaws (you’d be at it for quite some time), if you want a big-budget sightseeing trip to Spain with some awesome action tossed in for good measure, Assassin’s Creed is definitely worth a watch.
2014’s Robocop took a lot of heat for being what a lot of critics considered "another pointless Hollywood retread," with film connoisseurs complaining about the PG-13 remake’s lack of guts (literal and figurative) and thematic boldness. However, the Robocop remake’s relative no-teeth approach doesn’t make it a less enjoyable experience—far from it. What the film lacks in terms of 1987 grit (and wit), it more than makes up for in 2014 polish. Featuring the titular Robocop re-imagined as a far cooler, sleeker machine that’s more in line with today’s Iron Man-esque sensibilities, the remake already has major aesthetic points in its favor. Then there’s the excellent cast, with the likes of Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish adding heart and depth to a story that needs an emotional core to complement the action. When put together, the sheer style of Robocop himself and the humanity of the characters constructed around him really do add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. 2014’s Robocop is a thoughtful sci-fi action film with more than enough gun-toting action to keep genre fans happy, though it also retains enough additional style and substance to please those looking for something a bit more multifaceted than the standard Hollywood action flick.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Derided for its epic length and "tone-deaf stereotypes," Transformers: Dark of the Moon did not fare well with critics. While these criticisms might make sense with the even lengthier and genuinely offensive sequel Age of Extinction, Dark of the Moon is getting a bad rap and does not deserve such. There’s nary a character in this movie who isn’t empowered and capable, even if some characterizations are a bit one-note and cliché. As for the runtime of DotM, it’s well warranted if you went into the movie hoping to see a near-endless onslaught of expertly choreographed robot-on-robot fight sequences. While critics were disappointed that this movie even existed, let alone persisted as long as it did (the film clocks in at two-and-a-half hours), the reality is that for fans of both the franchise and big rock-em, sock-em action movies, this just means way more bang for the buck. If you want to see one of the grandest sci-fi action flicks ever produced by Hollywood, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the movie for you.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
For reasons that more or less boil down to critics didn’t see "the point to [On Stranger Tides]," it failed to sail smoothly across the rocky waters that make up Rotten Tomatoes. Though franchise fatigue is an understandable phenomenon, the critics chose to focus almost exclusively on the series’ one-trick pony nature and overlooked a key factor in assessing the fourth Pirates film’s worth: how absolutely delightful it is when judged solely on its own merits.
On Stranger Tides is one big race to a magic plot MacGuffin starring three teams of lovably despicable antiheroes, and that alone makes it fun. This isn’t the average action movie where you enter the theater already knowing the good guys will triumph, this is a Pirates film where the protagonist is just as bad as the antagonist and any plot potential developments are possible! The narrative’s unpredictability keeps things exciting and really heightens the action, resulting in sword fights and ship battles that put you on the edge of your seat since you’re never totally certain of who will walk away alive. Couple that with a roaring soundtrack and A-list cast, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the most awesome critically hated movies ever created.
It’s well known by this point that Justice League was a divisive movie with a problematic production history. It featured dodgy CGI, a weak villain, an under-baked story, and a rough mishmash of clashing directorial tones, all of which were factors that led to its critical demise. Does any of that matter though, considering what the movie got right?
For all its flaws, this movie still accomplished its primary goal of assembling DC’s greatest superhero team while simultaneously making each of said heroes likable and worthy of inclusion. Seriously, though the odds were stacked against it, Justice League even managed to make Aquaman a badass. For all you aspiring Aqualads out there, that alone makes this movie worth a watch. And beyond just the king of Atlantis, every other superhero gets their well-deserved time in the limelight—especially Superman. If you’re one of the fans that thought Superman was far too weak in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have no fear. Justice League features Kal-El pummeling the snot out of bad guys at maximum strength, delivering the spectacle you’ve come to expect from an all-powerful Kryptonian. Similarly, Flash’s sequences truly feel like they’re too fast for the naked eye, and Wonder Woman’s lasso-sword-shield clashes all carry a real sense of heft and impact. This movie gets its characters and their powers right.
Ultimately, that’s the real draw of Justice League. If you want to see DC’s premier crime-fighting team throw down in battles worthy of their superhero status, this movie is definitely worth a watch.
Hitman: Agent 47
Hitman: Agent 47 got blasted by critics for a whole slew of reasons, all of which are completely true. Does the movie star a character who’s almost entirely devoid of personality? Yes. Does it feature ridiculous action that consistently threatens to break the audience’s suspension of disbelief? Oh yeah. Is it a campy, over-the-top action thriller with far too little substance to back up its style? Totally. That’s the thing, though: these problems stem from the popular game series the movie is based on and therefore are simultaneously the elements that make this movie great. While you can’t expect someone to comprehend a movie from the game (they’ve likely not played) upon which it’s based, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s clearly an audience for this kind of high-octane insanity.
Really, there’s no other movie quite like Hitman: Agent 47. It’s about a biologically engineered bald guy with a bar code tattoo on the back of his head who wears a dapper suit and goes around killing people in absolutely ridiculous ways. Just check out the movie’s first trailer if you want a sample of the madness. Between fast cars getting grapple-gun-harpooned, hitmen breaking handcuffs via hairpin-trigger sniper rifle misfires, and a whole load of other absolute craziness, Hitman: Agent 47 is a movie that does a darn fine job of numbing one’s mind into submission for its ludicrous brand of entertainment. Come for the video game adaptation, stay for the bonkers action.
Angel Has Fallen
Critics probably didn’t think a trilogy-capping installment in Gerard Butler’s "Fallen" series was necessary. Yes, we’re talking about those perfectly enjoyable and totally thrilling movies in which the Scottish star of 300 and Geostorm, as super Secret Service agent Mike Banning, protects the president of the United States from terrorist plots in Olympus Has Fallen (2012), London Has Fallen (2016), and Angel Has Fallen (2019).
Angel Has Fallen — which finds Banning stalking about the woods for a large chunk of its running time — didn’t earn a gleefully savage drubbing from critics; its 39 percent Rotten Tomatoes score indicates that film writers found it rather mediocre. For example, Soren Anderson of the Seattle Times said the movie "plays out exactly as you would expect." Is it formulaic, loaded with obvious plot twists and big, dumb, and loud action sequences? Of course. But there’s also something comforting about these ’80s-style action flicks in which the noble good guy saves the day (and the other good guys) from the nefarious plans of the cartoonishly evil bad guys.