Top 10 Darkest Action Movies

Top 10 Darkest Action Movies
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Ricky Manson
These are some very dark action movies. Not like Game of Thrones, hard-to-see dark, but dystopian future, drug raid shootout, mobster slaying dark. So... things might get a little heavy. We're looking at classic film favourites, like The Wild Bunch, The Running Man, and The Terminator, to modern masterpieces of macabre, like the John Wick franchise, The Raid franchise, and Kill Bill. Watch to see which of this grim flicks we think is the darkest.

Top 10 Darkest Action Movies

Let’s get grim. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 darkest action movies.

For this list, we’ve scoured the most intense action movies in search of heavy subject matter, sinister overtones and graphic violence. Warning: spoiler alert.

#10: John Wick franchise (2014-)

Our first entry is Keanu Reeves’ portrayal of a retired hitman mourning the loss of his wife. This already tragic setup is exacerbated with thugs breaking into his house and spitefully murdering his beloved puppy. If you make it beyond that dog-lover’s nightmare, the rest of the movie follows Wick coming out of retirement to track down the gangsters and exact bloody revenge. Barely stopping to breathe, the cold precision with which Wick dispatches the endless foes trying to stop him can only be described as butchery - and it is this careful mix of tragedy, carnage and superb action sequences that earned the film - and its sequels - both critical and commercial praise.

#9: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Despite qualifying more as a Western than an action flick, this cowboy film earned a spot on our list with its often quick-pacing, hectic violence, slow-motion bloodbaths and gunfights galore. The battle at Bloody Porch in particular shows off the intense conflict between the American outlaws and Mexican troopers. Setting the movie in 1913 at the precipice of the modern age, Sam Peckinpah explores violence as catharsis, warns of the consequences of betrayal, and beautifully underlines the film with a melancholic end-of-an-era tone, which resonates poignantly in the psyches of the titular bunch, deepening the story.

#8: The Matrix franchise (1999-)

With hacker Neo’s journey to free humanity from sentient machines and virtual realities, the Wachowskis brought something truly unique and unnerving to audiences around the world. In this dystopian sci-fi trilogy,, martial arts and gunplay is masterfully mixed with heavy philosophical concepts and existentialism. Morpheus lays bare the horrors of the machine war with disturbing images of human enslavement, and the blurring lines between reality and simulation are shown in the Agents’ possession of innocent bystanders still plugged into the system. The idea of unknowingly being a slave in a prison of your own mind is distressing, and by the time the credits roll, you’ve been left with much to contemplate.

#7: The Running Man (1987)

A grimly satirical take on government-controlled media and reality television, this crazy action flick is surprisingly ahead of its time. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s framed police officer must run the gauntlet on a game show that pits convicted criminals against gladiators, and takes his fair share of pummelling as he dishes it out in kind. Most of the violence is played for bitter laughs, but between the insane fight sequences, electrocutions and impalements, the movie takes the opportunity in its quieter moments to explore issues we still face today, such as violence-obsessed culture, propaganda and overly-brutal law enforcement.

#6: Mad Max franchise (1979-)

There’s just something about revenge that really brings out the violence in movie heroes, isn’t there? This dystopian action series follows Max going after vengeance after a heartless biker gang kills his family. With little to eat and little to do after that, the police officer finds purpose by helping his fellow Australians from becoming as savage as the worst of them. With 3 out of the 4 films rated R, one doesn’t need to imagine the visceral action, exhilarating effects and thrilling vision that director George Miller got up to; you just need to watch these movies for yourself. Whether it’s one of the Mel Gibson starrers or the Tom Hardy-led film, “Mad Max”’s dark world is worth revisiting time and time again.

#5: First Blood (1982)

The movie that kicked off one of the biggest action franchises, “First Blood” began life as an adaptation of David Morrell’s harrowing story of Vietnam war vet John Rambo, whose PTSD couples with police brutality to push him beyond his limits and over the edge. Psychologically tormented and violent, Rambo’s rampage of burning fury sees him hunt his pursuers in the woods, with all the ferocity of a cornered animal. But it is his tearful breakdown to his commanding officer in the film’s climax that hits home the hardest, as we see the killing machine for what he really is; a broken man.

#4: The Raid franchise (2012-)

In the slums of Jakarta, indonesia, an elite SWAT team is sent into the mouth of hell; an apartment complex run by notorious drug lord Tama Riyadi. The weight of every blow is felt in the team’s struggle to break through Riyadi’s army of mobsters as men are kicked, punched, shot, sliced with blades and bludgeoned with blunt instruments. While wonderfully overzealous in its depiction of dirty combat, The Raid is frighteningly realistic in its depiction of street crime and the method in which drug empires rule through intimidation and fear. Director Gareth Evans continued the brutality with a sequel two years on, just as intense as the first.

#3: The Terminator (1984)

Arnie’s third film on this list is the one that really thrust him into the spotlight, but its place in pop culture makes it easy to forget just how bleak this first “Terminator” film really was. The eponymous cyborg assassin is ruthless in its execution of 1980s civilians and police officers, and the gory self-surgery scenes mix horror with science-fiction effectively. It’s not for the squeamish. Additionally, the haunting flash-forwards of a possible future war between machine and man provide nihilistic overtones to the story, providing an ominous weight that stays with you even after the lingering image of the car disappearing into the storm-raging horizon.

#2: RoboCop franchise (1987-)

Perhaps the messiest game of cops and robbers to grace the silver screen; the story of Alex Murphy’s painful murder and resurrection into a crime-fighting machine features harrowing scenes of over-the-top gory violence. Men are cut apart by machine guns, blown up, emasculated, mutated into monsters and run down by cars - all in a day’s work for Detroit Police. Violence aside, the film is mature in its commentary on American consumerism, evident in the sporadic news report segments. The film also deals with all the psychological implications of a robot who still believes he's a man. It’s a rough ride, and anything that can go wrong will; here - and in its followup films, it's literally Murphy’s Law.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Casino Royale” (2006)

“Kill Bill” (2003-04)

“Total Recall” (1990)

“The Equalizer” (2014)

“Collateral” (2004)

#1: Battle Royale (2000)

A twisted hybrid of “Lord of the Flies” and “The Hunger Games” (but predating the latter), “Battle Royale” has more than earned our number one spot. This controversial adaptation of a dystopian Japanese novel features intense and graphic scenes of junior high schoolers being forced to murder each other for sport by the government. What makes the situation even more gut-churning is just how quickly the students begin to turn on each other, resorting to any and all methods to survive the onslaught. Vicious and mean-spirited, two of the students are repeatedly shown to take genuine delight in the torture and murder of their peers; all for the love of the game.