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Every Liam Neeson Action-Thriller Ranked Worst To Best

"I will find you, and I will kill you" is the haunting promise Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills makes in 2008's "Taken," and it's everything the rage-filled father means for it to be. The film brought Neeson onto the action-thriller scene in rip-roaring fashion, redirecting the actor's career path for years to come. Fans were thrilled with his visceral take on the genre's grizzled protagonist archetype, and the film's success highlighted a new niche for Neeson. "Taken" would go on to spawn two sequels, as well as several other similar films seeking to recapture the original's lightning in a bottle.

Over the years, some of Neeson's exploits in the action-thriller scene have fallen short of expectations, but others have gained praise from audiences and critics alike. Regardless, the Irish actor continues making them. It's clear that he enjoys the genre, and despite some critical failures, fans of his work continue to return to theaters to see him pound bad guys to a bloody pulp. At this point, Neeson has some of the best tough-guy cred in Hollywood. So let's sort through his catalog of action-thrillers and rank them from the worst cash-ins to the absolute best films Neeson has contributed to the genre.

13. Blacklight

Hailing back to an era of paranoid government conspiracies in cinema, "Blacklight" follows an FBI operative by the name of Travis Block (Neeson). Travis receives the life-altering assignment of hunting down and bringing in a man by the name of Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith). Of course, Crane ends up being in possession of highly sensitive information about an off-the-books government program that shamefully commits atrocities like silencing political activists. The film is a highly predictable slog that is only buoyed by its flashy action sequences. The characters are hardly memorable, and the film doesn't spend much time developing them, placing the action first and everything else dead last.

"Blacklight" is one of Neeson's worst-reviewed films ever. Critics attacked the cliché-riddled script in particular — a generic story of a hardened man close to retirement who has to embark on one last gig that ultimately changes everything. Simply put, it's a film we've all seen done better countless times. Compared to movies like "Red," the more recent "Die Hard" movies, "The Expendables," "The Equalizer," and many of the other entries in Neeson's own action movie catalog, "Blacklight" just does nothing to set itself apart from the pack. 

12. Taken 3

The first "Taken" may have been a revelation for action movie fans, but by the third entry, the franchise had tripled down on the insanity and lost a lot of what made the original film feel thrilling and fresh. Thankfully, "Taken 3" doesn't force another kidnapping plotline on retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Neeson). That would have just been negligent for a skilled operative and professional bodyguard like himself, and an insult to the audience as well after the prior two films. Instead of retreading that same familiar ground, "Taken 3" takes things to a whole other level by framing Bryan for the murder of his ex-wife. Her shady husband is clearly at the heart of the plot, and Bryan must evade the authorities while on a mission to clear his name.

Like its predecessors, "Taken 3" opened to wide success at the box office. However, critics were less than pleased with the results. Most reviews felt the absurdity of Bryan's adventures had reached laughable heights. While the actors deliver their lines capably, the dialogue and screenwriting are far from great. Luc Besson crafted a grounded and modern thriller when he started the "Taken" franchise, but Bryan Mills might as well be a superhero by the end of it.

11. Taken 2

After the wild box office success of "Taken," a sequel seemed inevitable. "Taken 2" brings back the tortured Bryan Mills in another story where he has to rescue someone who he cares about deeply. In this instance, that person is his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). A terrorist by the name of Murad Hoxha (Rade Šerbedžija) seeks vengeance against Bryan for the death of his son — one of the villains from the first movie. In his quest to take everything from Bryan, Hoxha kidnaps Lenore, forcing the retired CIA operative to go on the hunt once again and brutally end anyone who stands in his way.

"Taken 2" delivers more of what everyone loved so much about the first film, and it proved quite popular with fans as a result. Unfortunately, that approach is also the film's biggest problem, as there's really nothing original going on. Having Lenore be kidnapped instead of Bryan's daughter might seem like a notable change, but it's still largely the same vengeance-driven ride audiences already embarked on in 2008. The action and choreography remain slick and stylish, but like most film franchises that retread familiar territory in the sequels, the entertainment factor here is hampered by a "been there, done that" vibe.

10. The Marksman

In the high-stakes thriller "The Marksman," Liam Neeson saddles up as Jim Hanson — a retired U.S. Marine Corps sniper and Vietnam War veteran living a sad and lonely life after the death of his wife. Jim also makes it a habit to report undocumented crossings at the Mexico–United States border near where he lives. One fateful day, he runs into an immigrant mother named Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and her son Miguel (Jacob Perez), who are being pursued by agents of a violent cartel. Rosa is shot during the encounter, and with her final breath, she provides Jim with the address of her family in Chicago. The rest of the film follows Jim and Miguel as they travel there, avoiding both cartel pursuers and corrupt law enforcement agents along the way.

"The Marksman" is a decent (and anxiety-inducing) film that will likely entertain most fans of the genre. However, many critics have dismissed it as formulaic and predictable. Unfortunately, the movie released just a few years after the Clint Eastwood film "The Mule," which told a very similar story and received much more notable acclaim. With that film still fresh in the rearview mirror, it was crystal clear upon the release of "The Marksman" that it left much to be desired. Still, if you've already seen "The Mule" and are looking for something similar, "The Marksman" is a solid choice.

9. Honest Thief

Liam Neeson puts away the black ops backstories and becomes a professional bank robber in the film "Honest Thief." Tom Dolan (Neeson) is late in his career as a big-time heister, but he's barely spent any of the money he's stolen, working mostly for the thrill of it. His work is so clean and untraceable that his case file has been sitting in limbo at the FBI for years, but when Tom falls in love with Annie Wilkins (Kate Walsh), he calls the Bureau and confesses his crimes, not wanting them to weigh down their relationship. Tom offers to provide the location of his stolen cash in order to work out a deal for a reduced sentence, but at first, the FBI doesn't even believe him when he calls. When two skeptical agents finally arrive, they realize he's actually telling the truth. Since their superiors didn't believe the phone confession either, they conspire to kill Tom and take the money. Nothing goes as planned, however, and the movie quickly becomes a game of cat and mouse.

"Honest Thief" has a pretty unique premise, though it's more than a little far-fetched as well. Regardless, there's a fun action story at the core of the film. It received middling scores from critics, who were split on the film's overall entertainment value. Neeson delivers another compelling performance as his trademark tortured action hero, though, making "Honest Thief" definitely worth a watch.

8. Unknown

The mind-bending thriller "Unknown" takes viewers into the realm of distorted memories. Neeson plays the role of Martin Harris, a man accompanying his wife Liz (January Jones) to a biotech summit. During the trip, his taxi gets in a horrible accident. Though he survives, Martin slips into a coma for a few days. When he recovers and realizes that his wife isn't by his side, he seeks her out and finds her with another man. She insists that she doesn't know who he is, and they call the authorities. Of course, nothing is as it seems, and Martin's forced to follow a trail of clues to unravel the mystery and discover the truth of his identity.

While "Unknown" is considered an action-thriller, it leans much heavier on the "thriller" side of things. The mystery that Martin finds himself swimming in takes center stage, and it's only in the third act that the tension and adrenaline really begin to run high. For those who enjoy a solid mystery, "Unknown" may be a good pick.

7. The Commuter

In "The Commuter," Liam Neeson plays a retired NYPD officer named Michael MacCauley, now an insurance agent who loses his job at the start of the movie. On his usual train ride home, Michael is approached by an enigmatic woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who offers him a simple task with an exciting payday: Find a person by the name of Prynne aboard the train, and she'll pay him $25,000 upfront and another $75,000 once he's accomplished the objective. Unsure of the plot afoot, he attempts to abscond with the initial cash before receiving a grim threat to his family's safety. Gradually, the mystery expands and Michael begins to unearth the truth behind everything.

"The Commuter" touts a strong cast that includes Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, and Sam Neill, but critics were split in their reviews of the film. The acting talent and camera work were impeccable, and "The Commuter" delivers the goods as an adrenaline-infused thrill ride. However, some reviewers felt that the script was convoluted and that the final act fell short of delivering the necessary payoff.

6. Taken

Luc Besson and Liam Neeson changed the game in 2008 with the release of "Taken" — a film that redefined the action genre for a new generation. Just as the '80s and '90s delivered big and burly one-liner-spewing stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, Neeson made the case that an aged retiree without the greased muscular physique of Rambo can still kick plenty of ass. And boy, was the revenge tale satisfying.

In the film, Neeson's Bryan Mills reluctantly allows his daughter to take an international trip where she and her friend are targeted and kidnapped by human traffickers. Bryan promises his daughter's captors that he will find them and kill them, and that's exactly what he does. The film may have only received mixed reviews upon release, but the audience was there for it all the way. "Taken" raked in a substantial profit, and the filmmakers, studio, and cast would return for two more outings. "Taken" also managed to kickstart Neeson's career in the action-thriller genre, proving that he had the perfectly tempered growl and ferocity for the job.

5. Run All Night

In "Run All Night," Liam Neeson takes on the role of a repentant mob enforcer known as "The Gravedigger," real name Jimmy Conlon. Jimmy's son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), who knows of his father's past and largely hates him for it, unintentionally gets embroiled in a mob dispute involving Jimmy's old boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Things quickly get out of control, and Jimmy ends up incurring Shawn's wrath after going after his son Danny (Boyd Holbrook). Shawn targets Mike in retaliation, leading to a violent and convoluted chase story about the dangers of the criminal lifestyle and the powerful bonds between fathers and sons.

"Run All night" is a bloody film that sees a tired killer seeking penance for his past sins. All he wants now is to protect his son, even if he has to die trying or give himself over to the authorities. It's relentlessly tense and paints a vivid portrait of a life lived in blood and greed. The film had a modest performance at the box office and managed to capture mixed to positive reviews from critics. Many reviewers once again cited Neeson's magnetism and skillful performance as a highlight of the film.

4. Non-Stop

Like the name implies, the entirety of "Non-Stop" takes place aboard a non-stop flight. Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a U.S. Air Marshal who receives a text after takeoff stating that someone will die every 20 minutes unless a $150 million ransom is paid. Quickly, Bill begins investigating. He attempts to pinpoint a potential texter, but soon, passengers begin dying. People quickly become accusatory, and Bill realizes that he really can't trust anyone. Eventually, news breaks of the ordeal in the sky, and Bill is pinned as a likely suspect by authorities. He must solve the case and prove his innocence before the plane lands.

Like most murder mysteries, this one is only as tantalizing as its twists and resolution. After one viewing, the film doesn't have much else to interest viewers for a second sit-through. However, it's most certainly worth it for that one viewing. The film does manage to subvert viewer expectations and maintain a certain level of mysticism, keeping things interesting for most of the film. The third act is where everything truly ramps, though, leading to an unbelievably explosive finale.

3. Cold Pursuit

"Cold Pursuit" is a remake of the 2014 Norwegian film "In Order of Disappearance," which stars Stellan Skarsgård and is well worth watching in its own right. The remake tells the story of a snowplow driver named Nels Coxman (Neeson), whose son is killed by a drug cartel. Nels takes justice into his own hands and goes through the members of the cartel one by one, killing every man he questions along the way. The film may be considered an action-thriller, but it stays faithful to the original Norwegian film by implementing dark humor as well. Nothing ever quite feels too serious, and some of the deaths are more amusing (by design) than shocking. Stellan Skarsgård's version of the Nels Coxman character is named Nils Dickman, which gives a pretty good idea of the level of humor you're getting here.

For the most part, "Cold Pursuit" drew positive responses from critics. It might feel chaotic at times, but it's always entertaining and hard to look away from. As a capable blend of action, drama, and comedy, "Cold Pursuit" is one film in Neeson's catalog that manages to stand on its own two feet -– even if it's standing in the blood-soaked snow.

2. A Walk Among the Tombstones

The story of 2014's "A Walk Among the Tombstones" dials back the Liam Neeson action ever so slightly in favor of a more contemplative neo-noir approach. The film follows Neeson's Matt Scudder, a retired detective who agrees to help a man named Kenny (Dan Stevens) who's looking for his wife's murderers. Kenny paid the demanded ransom after his wife was kidnapped, but the culprits still killed her anyway. To help, Matt undertakes a twisted investigation that involves sex, lies, and murder –- classic noir trappings that play quite well to the overall style of the film.

"A Walk Among the Tombstones" earned significant praise as a movie that truly honors the detective genre. The script is intelligent and thoughtful, and Neeson delivers a performance worthy of the gritty noir classics of the past. David Harbour is also great as the devilishly wicked villain pitted against Neeson's Matt. There aren't a ton of big action sequences, but the quiet and distilled drama that permeates the film more than makes up for that. In short, there's plenty to love about "A Walk Among the Tombstones."

1. The Grey

Joe Carnahan's "The Grey" is a classic saga of man against nature. Liam Neeson plays John Ottway, an employee of an Alaskan oil company who kills the grey wolves that endanger drilling operations. John struggles emotionally at the start of the film for reasons that are later explained, but things only get worse when he and several other drillers hit turbulence on a flight to Anchorage and end up crashing in the snowy Alaskan tundra. Many are killed, and the rest struggle to survive. Led by John, the remaining men fight for their lives against the harsh weather and vicious packs of wolves.

"The Grey" is a heart-rending and emotional tale. Thematically positioned as a narrative connecting humanity with nature, the film makes the challenge of survival feel taut and occasionally terrifying for viewers. Powered by Neeson's stellar performance, John embarks on a personal journey to make peace with his own hardships and endure his brutal environment. Film critics praised "The Grey" for its compelling story and thought-provoking themes. Certainly not a film that you'll forget anytime soon after watching, "The Grey" is as affecting as it is intense.