2017 Action Films Ranked from First to Worst
The summer of 2017 was a disaster at the box office for Hollywood. In a year as fraught as this one, it was tough to get excited for another Mummy, Transformers, or Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But for all the repetitive blockbusters and off-the-wall concepts at the bottom (we're looking at you, Geostorm), at the top of the heap in 2017 were some of the best action movies we’ve seen in years. Wonder Woman inspired us, Thor: Ragnarok showed us Marvel could still be fun, and Baby Driver nearly blew our minds.
2017’s takeaway might be that the best filmmakers can make distinctive art, even out of the most questionable molds. Somehow, the third Thor made us laugh, the third Planet of the Apes made us think, and the latest X-Men sequel made us cry. The industry is in flux—self-inflicted wounds mixed with changing media habits have challenged the old box office model. But on a hopeful angle 2017 reaffirmed a lesson we should have already known: the best creative work happens when you give great directors a whole lot of money and get out the way.
To put the year’s action films into context, Stacker created an index called the Stacker Score, which incorporates a movie’s IMDb Rating, Metascores and Tomatometer. In order to qualify, a movie had to have available ratings for all three score components and at least 1,000 IMDb votes. Take a look at this year’s roster, from films that probably should never have been funded, all the way to Stacker’s best action film of the year.
Stacker Score: 27.00
IMDb Rating: 4.0
You may not have heard of this crime thriller that pits Adrian Grenier and John Cusack against a ruthless (and impressively mustachioed) crime boss played by Nicolas Cage—I wish I hadn’t either. Arsenal’s 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes means only one critic gave it a positive review—for all we know, that one glowing recap was written by Nic Cage disguised in a different hairpiece.
#47: Kill Switch
Stacker Score: 36.00
IMDb Rating: 5.1
The debut feature by director Tim Smit is a fast-paced, futuristic, stylized thriller about Will (Dan Stevens), a former astronaut who is working to save Earth from an evil megacorporation. The plot is almost impressively rote, and the only distinguishing feature is a video-game style, first-person shooter view that is employed for parts of Will’s journey.
#46: First Kill
Stacker Score: 36.50
IMDb Rating: 4.9
If you aren’t a Prequel Trilogy Fan (I love you, Jar Jar!), you might not be closely tracking the career of Young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Well, let me tell ya, it hasn’t been great! In Christensen’s latest, he’s a dad whose son is kidnapped while they were on a hunting trip. Christensen gets entangled in a criminal mess as he attempts to evade the police chief in town, played by Bruce Willis. Good luck with that, Skywalker.
#45: Transformers: The Last Knight
Stacker Score: 36.75
IMDb Rating: 5.2
Did you know it’s been a decade since the first Transformers movie came out? In the fifth installment of this mess of robot cars and Mark Wahlberg career carnage, director Michael Bay continues to do Michael Bay things (lots of CGI and unearned, overly dramatic set pieces). There’s a war on Earth between the Autobots and Decepticons, and humans are running for their lives—Wahlberg and some friends search for a historical relic that might save the day. This is the worst kind of movie—an expensive, uninspired money-grab. If they ever make another one of these, at least bring Shia LaBeouf back!
Stacker Score: 37.50
IMDb Rating: 5.7
Geostorm is basically an elevator pitch (“So we try to control the effects of global warming with satellites, but the weather bites back!”) extended to nearly two hours. Unfortunately, as is often the case with these movies, the destruction of the world’s greatest cities is used as filler. The film could have benefited from some character development and instead is bloated with disaster movie tropes. Someday, there will be a great global warming thriller—not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but perhaps the day after.
#43: Once Upon a Time in Venice
Stacker Score: 37.75
IMDb Rating: 5.2
I polled everyone in my life and no one has heard of this movie. Which is odd—Once Upon a Time in Venice is packed with likable stars and the premise seems fine enough. Bruce Willis is a Venice Beach private eye whose beloved dog Buddy, is stolen. To get him back, he makes a deal with with a drug lord named Spyder (Jason Momoa) and teams up with his best friend (John Goodman) to do a series of tasks to get Buddy back. This movie looks like a USA Network show, and maybe it should have been. The critics hate it, but I’ll probably watch it anyway.
#42: Bad Kids of Crestview Academy
Stacker Score: 39.00
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Based on a graphic novel, Bad Kids of Crestview Academy tells the story of a motley crew of students in detention who must fight for their lives to get out of their school. Meant to be darkly funny and fun, Bad Kids fails because its namesake characters aren’t interesting enough to care about. This could have been Breakfast Club meets The Faculty—it’s most certainly not.
#41: The Mummy
Stacker Score: 40.00
IMDb Rating: 5.5
The Mummy was meant to kick off Universal’s “Dark Universe,” a planned reboot of many of their classic monster films. Judging by the critical reaction, it may have sent the whole plan back to the crypt. Tom Cruise replaces Brendan Fraser as the star of the newest Mummy, but unfortunately all the campy fun has been replaced with sternness and bore. This is a good reminder that not all movies need to take themselves so seriously—The Mummy is wrapped so tight, it’s impossible to get a laugh out of it.
#40: The Dark Tower
Stacker Score: 41.50
IMDb Rating: 5.8
In a summer when It dominated both critically and at the box office, it was tough to see another Stephen King adaptation fall so flat. The Dark Tower tells the fantastical story of the eternal battle between The Last Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). It’s part Western, part fantasy, part horror, and heavy on the mythology. But the filmmakers never quite get their arms around the story, evidenced by the fact there are four credited screenwriters. King’s series is a fan favorite, making the disappointing adaptation extra crushing for Dark Tower devotees—and watching Idris Elba give great performances in terrible movies hurts us all.
Stacker Score: 42.00
IMDb Rating: 5.6
A Las Vegas undercover cop. Mob-run casinos. Corrupt police. Sleepless feels like it was written using an action movie Mad Lib. The movie is fast-paced and violent, and Jamie Foxx is a star, but the story is shot so full of holes that it stops being fun to watch. It’s a shame, because the cast (Michelle Monaghan, Gabrielle Union, and David Harbour) is otherwise strong.2018 All rights reserved.