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The Best Action Movie Franchises To Binge Watch

There's an absolute glut of watchable content out there. Between basic and premium cable, streaming services backed by major production companies like Warner Brothers and Disney, and a host of other online sources producing new original content seemingly daily, casual fans may feel overwhelmed by their choices — especially when it comes to finding something good, binge-worthy even, in a popular genre like action.

What makes an action franchise binge-able? Some fans argue it all comes down to the story, others say it's the quality and quantity of the stunts, and still others point to the world-building. The truly zealous may only make recs based on all three components. And, of course, there need to be enough installments to constitute a binge.

Luckily for fans, plenty of action franchises contain all of the above elements. To help audiences cut down on selection time, Looper's put together a list of the best action franchises to binge-watch. Make your next movie selection easier and get right to what you love the most: watching awesome action.

"Die Hard"

Now synonymous with big '80s action, "Die Hard" was originally a low-key affair when released in 1988. Bruce Willis wasn't considered an action star (he was the lead on ABC's romantic sit-com "Moonlighting") and the movie's antagonist, Hans Gruber, was played by the then little-known Alan Rickman ("Die Hard" was his first role in a Hollywood movie; until then, he'd mostly done stage and television work). However, the film ended up being such a success with critics and audiences — even today it has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes — it immediately launched a franchise. Four sequels have followed the exploits of John McClane and his many, many run-ins with bank robbers pretending to be terrorists.

While none of the sequels live up to the ridiculously high-water mark established by the first movie (yes, it's really that good), they do offer up more of the same McClane that fans love. So for anyone who likes their heroes sarcastic but not totally invulnerable, their villains motivated by greed or revenge instead of world domination, and their sidekicks played by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, "Die Hard" is the binge for you.

"Lethal Weapon"

The "Lethal Weapon" franchise, with its famous jump scene and its dynamic leading duo, is the quintessential buddy cop story. Many have tried, but nobody's come close to topping creator Shane Black's wicked combination of character-driven comedy, high-concept action set pieces, and wild car chases through the streets of Los Angeles. 

"Lethal Weapon" follows the misadventures of LAPD officers Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, respectively. Riggs, grief-stricken after the death of his wife, is unhinged and embraces death with open arms. His partner, Murtaugh, begrudgingly follows Riggs into life-imperiling scenario after life-imperiling scenario.

Besides the chemistry between Gibson and Glover, the "Lethal Weapon" franchise also features many of the genre's most iconic moments. Whether Riggs is frightening suspected criminals into believing he's actually crazy or Murtaugh is stuck in a bathroom with a bomb in need of defusing, fans will not be getting "too old for this s***" anytime soon. Fans of cop movies, buddy action comedies, odd couple pairings, or the sweet blend of all three: Go out and get binging.

"The Raid"

Following the success of series like "Transformers" and the "Transporter," Hollywood had an action problem — fight scenes were starting to look stale. While the movies mentioned above are entertaining in their own right, their fight scenes are similarly composed of special effects, edits between punches thrown and punches landed, and shaky camera. All of this changed, however, when a director named Gareth Evans went to Indonesia to film his action tour de force: "The Raid: Redemption."

"The Raid" tells the story of an elite unit of Indonesian police on a mission to arrest a vicious crime lord. When their original plan to sneak into the criminal's apartment complex goes awry, protagonist Rama is forced to fight through floor after floor of bad guys. Simple enough. What makes "The Raid" stand out from its peers was its fight choreography and insane stunts. Evans worked to make fight scenes appear as if they were all filmed in a single unbroken take, even when a character descends onto a group of baddies through a hole in the floor. Every fight is somehow more visceral, violent, and surprising than the next when audiences are made to feel as if every punch, kick, throw, and shot are happening in real time, not broken up in edits. 

The movie was such a success that Evans made a sequel, "The Raid: Berandal," its plot starting minutes after the conclusion of the first movie. For adrenaline junkies everywhere, back-to-back viewings are required.

"John Wick"

Created and directed by ex-stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, the "John Wick" franchise takes the same no-nonsense approach to its action as "The Raid." Fights are choreographed and executed with such fluidity that the "John Wick" franchise is closer to a Golden Age musical with large dance numbers than most of its action predecessors. Also, it's the franchise that brought Keanu Reeves out of retirement.

As the titular character, Reeves brings the perfect amount of gravitas to the once-retired hitman. On a quest for revenge following the murder of his dog, Reeves reloads, rolls, and reverberates awesomeness across the screen in every fight scene he's in — and that's only the first movie. 

Without getting too far into spoiler territory, Stahelski and Leitch put such care into world-building that each sequel seems to ripple John's actions in the first film farther and farther across the dangerous underworld he once called home. As a result, viewers experience an ever-expanding story in which raised stakes continue to find new heights and Mr. Wick finds new ways to wipe the floor with his enemies.

"The Matrix"

"The Matrix" is one of the few franchises that can truly be called a game-changer. It's a truly singular movie: Before it arrived, there wasn't much like it, and while its influence on Hollywood specifically and pop culture generally can't be overstated, there hasn't been anything too successfully similar since. 

Directed by Lilly and Lana Wachowski, "The Matrix" depicts a depressing future where humans live imprisoned as batteries for their machine overlords and are kept sedated with a simulation of real life. Aside from having an engaging premise, the series also has some of the most iconic fight scenes of all time.

Whether it's Keanu Reeves' Neo learning kung fu from Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus, Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity running from the antagonistic agents, or a mini-gun laying into an office building, "The Matrix" is packed with scene after scene of iconic violence — and that's only the first movie. The sequels continue to deepen the world-building, introduce fascinating new characters, and test the franchise's protagonists in new and exciting ways. In other words, "The Matrix" franchise is a must-see — especially leading up to the fourth installment.

"Fast & Furious"

There are tentpole action franchises, and then there are "Fast & Furious" movies. Since its first entry, "The Fast and the Furious," debuted in 2001, the tales of Brian, Dominic, and the rest of their octane-fueled family have spun out into a total of nine movies and spin-offs. While the series kickstarter was a tale of street racing with a hilariously dated early-2000s look, its follow-ups have continued to take action to new absurdist heights. Want to see cars jumping between skyscrapers in Dubai? A Ford Mustang drifting an American out of Yakuza debt in Japan? Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson breaking an arm cast to fight baddies? Look no further than "F&F."

While all of this mayhem could easily tip into the ridiculous and hard to watch, it's elevated by performers, writers, directors, and producers who all know exactly what kind of movie they're making. The tongue-in-cheek tone of these movies should be taught in film schools the world over. The franchise is designed to look like a music video and let a cast that includes Vin Diesel, Gal Gadot, Michelle Rodriguez, and Ludacris (yes, that Ludacris) run wild. The movies are supercharged 900-horsepower fun and should be consumed like a drag race: as fast as possible.

"Predator"

In 1987, director John McTiernan set the gold standard for genre mashup films with "Predator." Predator begins as standard big '80s action fare, with Arnold Schwarzenegger's Dutch leading a team of special operatives into the heart of Central America on a rescue mission with a CIA agent (played by Carl Weathers) in tow. The first third plays like a parody of popular action movies from the time. The Spec-Ops team quips, shoots, and flexes their way through the mission. In any other movie, the credits would've rolled around the 30-minute mark. But McTiernan and co. set out to tell a different story.

Predator isn't about a successful rescue mission, it's really about an encounter with forces Dutch and his elite commandos don't understand. What begins as a by-the-numbers action flick turns into a sci-fi survival story where the best men for the job become prey to the titular alien species who hunts warriors for sport deep in the jungle. 

The "Predator" series has dropped its devilishly designed alien into increasingly interesting action genre scenarios ever since. For example, in "Predator 2," the alien joins the over-the-top gangland conflict in LA to extremely gory effect. For fans who like their movies bloody and plots hard to guess, "Predator" is the series to spend a weekend on.

"James Bond"

At twenty-six movies, "James Bond" is one of the longest-running franchises in movie history. With its recognizable formula, oddly named villains, exotic locations, attractive co-stars, famous opening credit sequences, and classic cars, it's not hard to understand its popularity and its binge-ability. Like the best addicting franchises, the "James Bond" series finds new ways to frame and execute its established elements in every iteration. Whether fans watch for the latest gadget from Q Branch or the newest baddie trying to dominate the world, there's always a new mold in the classic cookie-cutter spy franchise.

Plus, the most recent entries, starting with 2006's "Casino Royale," features a more serialized take on the Bond narrative, with experiences from one film carrying over to the next. While fans may not commit to the fifty-hour plus runtime of the whole franchise, anyone looking for a tighter overarching story (and probably the series' best dramatic acting, thanks to Daniel Craig) need look no further than the updated 2000s storyline. Personally, however, this Looper feels the high camp of the '70s and '80s Bonds are a must-see.

"Mission Impossible"

The "Mission: Impossible" franchise, based on the popular Cold War-era TV series of the same name, has been quietly cleaning up at the box office for the last 25 years or so. Its success is largely due to the charisma and daredevil attitude of one man: Tom Cruise. Between insisting on doing his own stunts and seemingly raising the stunt bar for actors in each new entry — Cruise is the first actor to ever complete a High Altitude, Low Open, or HALO, jump on camera — Cruise has made the Impossible series synonymous with pulse-pounding stunts.

But more than its anxiety-inducing sequences, the "Impossible" franchise also built a stable of lovable characters (including actors like Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) with the kind of chemistry usually found on sitcoms like "Friends" or "New Girl." All of this adds up to a series of movies that plays more like an extended TV series than its blockbuster peers. Fans can tune in to see what building Cruise will base jump off of next and catch up with the spy gang's shenanigans.

"Mad Max"

The "Mad Max" franchise stands out on this list because, unlike its binge-able peers, each entry in its wasteland tales has been helmed by the same director: George Miller. This means that even though each installment of Max's ongoing struggle to survive in a world gone mad tells a different story, they maintain integrity to Miller's vision. So whether Max is duking it out with Master Blaster in the Thunderdome, charging the fury road with Imperator Furiosa, or keeping gasoline out of the hands of the evil Lord Humongous, fans know they're watching a story told as its original creator intended.

That's a good thing for fans. Miller's individual approach to post-apocalyptic action-adventure stories created the well most other directors have drawn from since. In fact, his stylings hold up so well that his latest release in the series, 2015's "Mad Max: Fury Road," arriving thirty years after the previous release in the franchise (1985's "Beyond Thunderdome" — a movie so '80s it stars Tina Turner), was met by buzz from fans and even garnered some perfect reviews. Any movie that Quentin Tarantino calls "terrific" is worth checking for genre fans and warrants an immediate series binge as well.

"Police Story"

The "Police Story" franchise is peak pre-Hollywood Jackie Chan. The stunts (in most of the movies) are as real as they are bone-breaking. The central protagonist is affable, even a bit goofy, yet still a kung fu genius. Unlike the other movies on this list, the "Police Story" franchise isn't binge-worthy for its intriguing world-building or compelling characters; instead, it's just about seeing what insane trick Chan will pull off next. The plots are just long, unbroken chains of entertaining action sequences. Want to see Chan jump out of a helicopter to land on a speeding train for a climactic fight? Check out "Police Story 3." Want to see cops and criminals fly through every piece of breakable glass in a mall? Go fire up "Police Story." 

Action fans really should rush out to watch the series in its entirety — it's just that good. Plus, for any viewers who may question the reality of the franchise's stunt work, each "Police Story" entry concludes with an end-credit blooper reel featuring footage of Chan and his stunt team rehearsing. Sometimes the bloopers are funny; other times, it's astonishing that anyone, including the star, walked away from the set alive.

"Jason Bourne"

The "Jason Bourne" franchise tells arguably the most singular story of any entries on the list. While there was a standalone spin-off focused on black ops agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), for the majority of its life in the cultural sphere, the globetrotting cloak-and-dagger story has focused on the trials and tribulations of one man: Jason Bourne. Brought to life by Matt Damon and based on a character by author Robert Ludlum, the Bourne franchise follows amnesiac ex-CIA operative Jason Bourne on his quest to remember his past and get his life back.

The CIA, shadowy organization that it is, views Bourne as a loose end and dogs him with assassins and hit squads the world over. This could have wound up being very unoriginal fare, but Matt Damon's boyish-faced super-warrior and the series' stylish direction and editing defy run-of-the-mill, spy-versus-spy movies. The results are some of the best action movies of the 2000s and a story so dense with plot twists, backstabbings, and threatening phone calls that the entire story demands to be watched in a single viewing.

"Indiana Jones"

"Indiana Jones" is the pinnacle of the action-adventure genre. Over the years, the titular archeologist has punched tons of Nazis, traveled the world, survived ritual sacrifice, confronted ghosts of Biblical proportions, quested for the Holy Grail, met aliens, and punched Nazis some more. In other words, not many movies do pure, unadulterated escapism like "Indiana Jones." The roguish archaeologist cuts a swashbuckling figure that hearkens back to a more wholesome era of classic 1930s matinee heroes. Plus, there's a healthy dose of humor that would make Jones watchable even if he wasn't escaping in zeppelins, stealing golden icons, and rescuing damsels in distress.  

Steven Spielberg paced the Indiana Jones franchise so well that audiences don't get much time to breathe before the next unbelievable set-piece is on screen. But unlike other films where a threadbare plot loosely ties action scenes together, "Indiana Jones" unites the two. Plus, Spielberg — master that he is — shows rather than tells. Consider Indy's first outing. Spielberg could've included dialogue explaining who Dr. Jones is and what he's all about, but instead, he threw the audience right into an adventure and let Dr. Jones' actions do all the talking. 

In creating movies that play like a theme park ride (and indeed became one), Spielberg developed a franchise that fans will want to hop on as fast as possible.