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The 6 Best And 6 Worst Steven Seagal Movies

At the very least, we'll give Steven Seagal this — he tried valiantly to break into the highest ranks of '80s action movie stardom, alongside big heavyweights like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Sadly, he never found a franchise like Rocky, Rambo or The Terminator to star in, one that would've elevated him sufficiently. And then, just when he started to enjoy some early '90s success, the Seagal craze was over. 

Since then, he's spent the decades toiling away in video-on-demand purgatory. As a result, the man has more than his fair share of action-packed stinkers. Still, there's plenty of goofy, shoot-'em-up fun to be had by dusting off that old Steven Seagal DVD pack you pulled out of the $5 bargain bin at Walmart while drunk that one time in college. So, ease back with a cold one because we've taken the liberty of assembling the very worst and the very best Seagal action flicks for your latest so-bad-it's-good movie night pleasure.

Warning — there are spoilers ahead.

Worst - Kill Switch

Steven Seagal stars in this 2008 direct-to-video bomb as Jacob King, a tough, rule-breaking cop who fights to stop a Memphis serial killer named Lazerus. Actually, let us rephrase that. Seagal plays Jacob King, a psychopathic police officer who enjoys throwing criminals out of windows, using ball peen hammers to break every bone in their bodies, and generally delighting in cruelty and excessive force. He also hates those who disapprove of his methods, which is nearly everyone he meets. After defeating Lazerus, King leaves behind a note that essentially says, "I quit because you guys are mean and won't let me torture people." His returning to his family is supposed to be a cathartic ending, but nothing we've seen about this man leads us to believe he's pleasant to be around, even if he likes you.

Kill Switch is an absurd movie with few redeeming qualities, other than being one of Isaac Hayes' (Chef from South Park) final films. Not even the frantic editing and shaky cam cinematography that dominated mid-budget action flicks in the late aughts distracts from the obvious and embarrassing fact that Seagal used a fight double for almost every action scene. So, why film it at all? He couldn't possibly have gotten much money from this. If it makes him feel any better, it cracked the top ten films when it came out ... in the United Arab Emirates, which was the only country where it saw theatrical release.

Best - Under Siege 2: Dark Territory

Only Steven Seagal could start off a "best of" list with a movie that got 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. Honestly, though? This movie — a sequel to what's arguably Seagal's most famous film — is perfectly watchable, even if wholly and laughably unnecessary. It begins by combining Seagal's two great loves — food and punching. He returns as Casey Ryback, a retired Navy SEAL turned head chef at Denver's Mile High Cafe. After his brother dies in a plane crash, he hops on a train to LA to attend the funeral, only for said train to be hijacked by two disgraced military vets who plan to nuke the Eastern Seaboard by remote-controlling a secret satellite weapon. Naturally, they're no match for Ryback.

Like we said, Under Siege 2 is no masterpiece. It's not even really a good movie. But nobody watches Seagal flicks as serious cinema. We watch them to turn our brains off and have a silly, bullet-filled blast. And in that arena, the movie shines. Legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, saying in his review, "It isn't as good as the original Under Siege, but it moves quickly, has great stunts and special effects, and is a lot of fun." And there you have it, folks. It's Seagal, baby. What more do you want?

Worst - Sniper: Special Ops

It's usually not a good sign when movie titles sound like lousy PlayStation 2 games. Flicks like Sniper: Special Ops are exactly why. It's a movie about a sniper (surprise) named Jake Chandler, who's tasked with rescuing a US Congressman from the clutches of the Taliban in a remote corner of Afghanistan. Predictable madness and bloodshed ensues, and many of the Americans are trapped behind enemy lines. When Chandler's request to head back and retrieve his comrades is denied, he assembles a crack team and does it anyway.

The premise doesn't sound too bad, but there's ultimately little to enjoy in this mindless, paint-by-numbers shoot 'em up. The single critic review on Rotten Tomatoes, by Filmink's John Noonan, summarizes it thusly: "The film really drags when Seagal is on screen. Trapped in a room with a fellow fallen soldier, the Under Siege star appears utterly disinterested with his part in this whole thing; staring off into the middle distance whilst mumbling all his lines."

Honestly, we can't say we blame Seagal for half-assing this one. Like many entries in his hit or miss later filmography (emphasis on miss), this movie didn't get enough attention to get a critic's consensus on Rotten Tomatoes. But the audience spoke loud and clear, smacking it with a big, fat, and thoroughly well-deserved 16% approval rating. Ouch.

Best - Hard to Kill

Hard to Kill is a revenge flick that follows Seagal as the schlockily named Mason Storm (yes, really), an LAPD police detective who gets on the bad side of some crooked cops. They break into his house, shoot Storm and his wife, and attempt to frame him for a murder-suicide. However, our hero is merely in a coma. When he wakes up seven years later, he regains his strength and vows revenge. His investigation ultimately incriminates a US Senator as the mob ringleader, and Storm clears his name.

At the time of Hard to Kill's release, critics scoffed. Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman said Seagal, not unlike his B-list action movie peers Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme, was as generic as his movies were. He went on to say that Seagal only seemed to enjoy himself when he was snapping limbs, and that he made doing so look as easy as breaking a chocolate bar. Fair point.

But the movie's gotten a bit more love in the years since. Back in February 2020, David Nusair wrote, in a three-star review for Reelfilm, that while Hard to Kill isn't without its faults, it "mostly manages to come off as an impressively efficient thriller." For Seagal, that's high praise indeed. Take the compliment and run, Steven.

Worst - Gutshot Straight

Released in 2014, Gutshot Straight is about a professional poker player who gets in deep with some shady characters after a bad bet, and he enlists the help of a loan shark, Steven Seagal's Paulie Trunks, for protection (as Trunks wants to keep his investment alive).

Let's start with the positives. First, that premise is quite a bit more interesting, at least on paper, than the usual "disgruntled cop shoots the terrorist" drivel in which Seagal can usually be found. Second, Seagal isn't the star, and he plays a more fun supporting role. Good on both him and the casting director for finally recognizing that his age, and, uh, rather portly stature don't exactly make for a believable action hero.

Aaaaand that's about where the pros end. Sadly, the movie fails on almost every other level. The plot is paper thin. The writing limps in the direction of both cool and funny and collapses far short of both. George Eads turns in a decent enough performance as the lead, but it's not enough to salvage this sad dump of a film. We tried to find a damning critic review to illustrate this more eloquently, but embarrassingly (if not unsurprisingly), we couldn't find any at all. That's right, nobody bothered to watch this movie except us and, apparently, just enough random souls to earn it a rancid 14% on the Rotten Tomatoes audience score. The only people we imagine who want to forget it more than us are the folks involved. Moving on.

Best - Above the Law

We're not sure what to make of the fact that Seagal's debut role comes in one of his best movies, Above the Law. Is it sad that it was (mainly) downhill from there? Probably. And we'll admit it's a bit strange to see our main man, who plays a cop seeking to unravel a criminal narcotics conspiracy, actually try. His performance is surprisingly nuanced, if a bit flat. He also helped produce the film, and he has a story credit, too. The fight scenes, designed to showcase his black belt in aikido, perform their duty admirably. As Roger Ebert put it, the movie has about "50% more plot" than it requires, but if nothing else, that just means Seagal really put some effort into making this thing work. He wasn't unsuccessful.

Ebert also praised Seagal's martial arts credentials and on-screen magnetism, seeming to concur with the emerging consensus that the ponytailed, 6'4" ass-kicker was destined to join Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone in hard-hitting action blockbusters to come. That didn't quite pan out, obviously, but it's easy to see why a thin, near-his-prime Seagal raised some eyebrows when you watch him kick butt in a surprisingly believable barroom brawl or go to town on a bunch of gangsters who tried and failed to ambush him on the street, despite their being heavily armed with pistols and bats. Above the Law isn't the best movie — or even the best Seagal movie — but it's an essential watch for martial arts aficionados.

Worst - End of a Gun

End of a Gun came out right around the time when Seagal started gaining weight and sporting that weird, inkjet goatee. It was also when his career really began to tumble into the waste bin. He hadn't exactly been winning Golden Globes beforehand, but the lack of effort he put into this unmemorable movie, and others like it, represented a new low.

End of a Gun is the story of a retired DEA agent (Seagal, of course), who saves a woman from being beaten to death and then helps her steal a few million bucks from an evil drug kingpin. It could've been a fun enough romp if literally anyone involved tried at all, but they didn't, so it wasn't. Seagal himself, mumbling and fumbling throughout, is both the biggest reason for the movie's failures and the only reason anyone who might stumble across this panned and rightfully forgotten flop while perusing through whatever streaming service was willing to pay the $38 it took to secure the rights would click on it at all. After giving it a watch, it seems the person who put in the most effort was the graphic designer who mocked up the DVD cover and shot it over to their boss before 5 PM. Then they went out for a cocktail and never thought about this movie ever again.

Best - Executive Decision

Don't let the boring name fool you. Executive Decision – a film about an intelligence analyst (Kurt Russell) and a US Army commando unit, led by Steven Seagal's Austin Travis, boarding a plane that's been hijacked by terrorists — is a good action flick, even if it's been largely forgotten. Yes, those of you who've seen this movie will point out that Seagal's character dies relatively early on when a botched boarding attempt threatens the operation and forces him to sacrificially close the plane hatch before it explosively decompresses. Still, it's a solid turn in a solid movie. Considering all of Seagal's flops, its good-not-great 65% Tomatometer score is doing quite a bit of heavy lifting to keep his average afloat, so he'll take what he can get.

Said Roger Ebert in yet another 3 star review, "Executive Decision is a gloriously goofy mess of a movie about a hijacked airliner and a plot to poison, yes, 'the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States.'" Later in the review, concerning Seagal's character, he said this: "Any movie prepared to kill off Steven Seagal in the first 20 minutes is prepared for anything, and so I perked right up." Cheesy as the movie may be, Ebert's right. You have to admit that it takes guts to hire an action star and flush him down the jet stream in the beginning of the second act. For that, we salute Executive Decision and all its hysterical butt-kicking zaniness.

Worst - Against the Dark

In Against the Dark, Seagal is the leader of a gang of vampire hunters. That sounds like it could be promising, right? Well, it's not. The movie begins with the dictionary definition of the word "infect" before launching into a student-film worthy opening narration that delivers exposition any stray line of dialogue could've provided. Vampires, who are really more like zombies, have taken over the world. That's all you need to know. On screen, Seagal slaps things with a sword and delivers his lines like he's squinting at a copy of the script that's just out of frame. Maybe the editors could've done more to make him look cool, but they didn't have much to work with and didn't care any more than he did.

It's hard to tell if Seagal is the worst or best thing about this inept eyeroll of a movie. The script is nonsensical. The characters say they've been hunkering down in an abandoned hospital for many uneventful weeks, yet they're surprised at everything they find inside. We imagine they're surprised, anyway, based on the ham-fisted dialogue, but their deadpan performances don't give us any hint as to what they or we are supposed to be feeling. "Scenes" are littered with distracting slow motion and B-roll cutaways of zombies — sorry, vampires — who were plucked from Craigslist and who can be identified by the red food coloring at the corners of their mouths. Gross. But not the way they intended.

Best - Machete

The next time you rewatch this shamelessly sex-filled slaughterfest, remember, while Danny Trejo's eponymous Machete character slits throats and smashes kneecaps on his quest for revenge, this is the same character who gave Alexa PenaVega and Daryl Sabara gadgets to defeat Mr. Floop's army of silly androids in 2001's Spy Kids. It'd be like finding some lost episode of SpongeBob Squarepants where you learn that the Krusty Krab is a front for Mafia money laundering. It's out of place. It's weird. It shouldn't have worked anywhere near as well as it did, but good luck not having a bloody B-movie blast watching it.

In a refreshing change of pace, Steven Seagal plays a bad guy here, and he actually does such a good job of it that it's a wonder nobody looked at his sleazy, sneering mug beforehand and thought to themselves, "Hero? This dude's a villain, through and through." Seriously, Seagal was made for the role of a crooked cop turned violent drug lord far more than he was made for yet another angry action hero who shoots crooked cops turned violent drug lords. Rotten Tomatoes' critics consensus actually explains it as well as any review: "Machete is messy, violent, shallow, and tasteless — and that's precisely the point of one of the summer's most cartoonishly enjoyable films." 

Worst - The Perfect Weapon

Released in 2016, The Perfect Weapon is about an assassin, Condor (Johnny Messner), who's employed by the Director (Seagal), a totalitarian dictator. When Condor fails to eliminate an opposition leader, he becomes the target himself. From that synopsis, you probably guessed, correctly, that this movie was destined for those 6 Explosive Action Thrillers DVDs that can be found in the back of Goodwill, between Anaconda and a VHS copy of Medicine Ball Exercises for the Terminally Infirm, Volume 6.

Suffering through Seagal's performance here is what it must've been like to watch fat Elvis mumble through a Vegas residency show before he died on the toilet. Admittedly, we've seen him try less in other movies, but much of the little twinkle in his eye that you can see here if you squint might be nothing more than his disbelief at the script, which ends with him revealing he was a clone the entire time. You can't tell if we're kidding. But you also don't care enough to find out, especially since no critics ever reviewed this thing, and it boasts a pathetic 10% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Best - Under Siege

Now this is more like it. Steven Seagal never got closer to Stallone-levels of action schlock glory than he did right here, in 1992's Under Siege. Years before he retired as a chef in Dark Territory, Casey Ryback (Seagal) was a Navy SEAL aboard the USS Missouri. He's introduced to us as a cook, but don't let that humble job fool you. Nobody aboard the ship, or perhaps in the military as a whole, is more prepared to handle Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones' mercenary hijackers when they seize control of the ship during the commanding officer's birthday celebration.

It doesn't take long for the crew to be isolated or killed by the bad guys, save for a few stragglers like Ryback. And like Bruce Willis in Die Hard or Harrison Ford in Air Force One – two timeless classics that Under Siege fits admirably alongside — Ryback steals through the metal passageways of the Missouri, killing terrorist baddies, rescuing prisoners, and enraging the ringleaders. We won't spoil the ending. If you haven't seen this movie before, do it.

In a three-star review, Roger Ebert wrote, "The formula is obvious: Die Hard Goes to Sea. I walked into the screening in a cynical frame of mind, but then a funny thing happened. The movie started working for me." And we can 100% back up Ebert's assessment.