7 best Liam Neeson action movies, ranked

Prior to 2008, Liam Neeson, a highly regarded actor from Northern Ireland, was predominantly recognized for his captivating performances in dramatic roles. Neeson’s portrayal in 1993’s “Schindler’s List” earned him an Oscar nomination and he received critical acclaim for his work in “Michael Collins.” Subsequently, Neeson transitioned to more prominent roles in movies such as “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” “Batman Begins,” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

However, it was in 2008 that Neeson’s career took an unexpected turn with the release of “Taken.” Despite being 57 years old at the time, Neeson emerged as an unconventional action star, embarking on a successful 15-year streak that encompassed hits like “The Grey,” “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” and four action films alongside Jaume Collet-Serra. Currently, Neeson is set to star in the upcoming action thriller “Retribution,” which is scheduled to premiere on August 25. To commemorate this occasion, we have ranked Neeson’s seven finest action movies.

7. Cold Pursuit (2019)

Liam Neeson stares while wearing a coat in Cold Pursuit.

Neeson stars as a snowplow driver seeking vengeance in “Cold Pursuit”. Nels Coxman (played by Neeson) leads a quiet life in Colorado, maintaining peace as he clears the snowy roads. Recently honored as “Citizen of the Year,” everything changes when his son falls victim to a fatal heroin overdose caused by the local cartel.

Driven by grief, Nels transforms into a remorseless vigilante, determined to bring justice to his son. Inadvertently, he ignites a brutal conflict between the cartel and the indigenous community of the area. As expected from Neeson thrillers, “Cold Pursuit” delivers intense action and a high body count, but it is uniquely infused with dark humor, resulting in a thrilling and entertaining experience.

Stream Cold Pursuit on Prime Video.

6. Run All Night (2015)

A man sits next to another man while staring down in Run All Night.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

With a moniker like “The Gravedigger,” Neeson was destined to shine in Run All Night. In his third collaboration with Collet-Serra, Neeson portrays Jimmy “The Gravedigger” Conlon, a weather-beaten Irish hitman steeped in remorse, seeking solace in the arms of whiskey. Jimmy’s closest confidant happens to be his former employer, Shawn Maguire, played by Ed Harris.

When Jimmy’s estranged son Mike, portrayed by Joel Kinnaman, becomes a witness to a crime committed by Shawn’s own son, Jimmy is willing to stop at nothing to safeguard his kin, even if it means plunging into a full-blown conflict with Shawn. Although the plot may follow a familiar formula, the on-screen chemistry between Neeson and Harris is undeniably captivating as they portray friends-turned-foes in this riveting and gritty tale of organized crime.

Stream Run All Night on Max.

5. The Commuter (2018)

Two train passengers sit across from one another in The Commuter.

Michael MacCauley (played by Neeson), a former NYPD officer turned insurance officer, finds himself on a Hudson Line train headed home from Grand Central Terminal. His ordinary commute takes a thrilling turn when he is approached by a mysterious woman named Joanna (portrayed by Vera Farmiga), who offers him a tempting proposition – locate a missing item and receive a hefty reward of $100,000. Intrigued yet skeptical, Michael soon discovers that this enticing opportunity plunges him into a perilous criminal conspiracy, endangering the lives of his fellow passengers.

One of the enduring strengths of “The Commuter” lies in its exceptional cast. Remarkably, this B-movie boasts a stellar ensemble that rivals those found in many high-budget films helmed by acclaimed directors. Alongside Neeson and Farmiga, the lineup includes talented actors such as Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, Florence Pugh, Dean-Charles Chapman, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Damson Idris, and Letitia Wright. How such a fortuitous casting alignment occurred remains a mystery, but their distinct talents elevate the film’s premise of “Die Hard on a Train.”

NB: The original text was already quite well-written. I made minor adjustments to enhance readability and overall cohesiveness while preserving the intended meaning.

Stream The Commuter on Prime Video.

4. The Grey (2011)

Liam Neeson prepares for a fight in The Grey.
Open Road Films

At first glance, “The Grey” may appear to be a straightforward action film, depicting the harrowing survival journey of a group of oilmen after a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness. Yet, as the narrative unfolds, the movie transcends its action-thriller facade and delves into the profound realms of grief and mortality. Anchoring the story is John Ottway (portrayed by Neeson), a skilled marksman grappling with the overwhelming loss of his beloved wife.

Stranded with seven other men amidst the desolate expanse, their lives are forever altered when one of their own falls victim to a pack of wolves. Ottway discerns that the crash led the wolves to view the survivors as a threat, igniting a spine-chilling pursuit that amplifies the anxiety in each scene. As the men desperately seek rescue, their relentless pursuers shadow their every step, exacerbating the tension in this heart-pounding saga.

Stream The Grey on Hulu.

3. A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Liam Neeson holds his weapon in A Walk Among the Tombstones.
Universal Pictures

A Walk Among the Tombstones introduces us to Matthew Scudder, the renowned character from Lawrence Block’s gripping crime novels. Scudder, a once alcoholic ex-NYPD cop, now operates as an unlicensed private investigator. Set in 1991 New York City, the film adaptation sees Scudder haunted by a fatal bar shooting during his days with the NYPD, setting the tone for an intense and gritty thriller.

Fast forward eight years, and Scudder, now leading a life detached from the police force, is sought out by Kenny Cristo (played by Dan Stevens) – a drug trafficker seeking justice for the savage murder of his beloved wife. Drawing upon Block’s beloved source material, A Walk Among the Tombstones emerges as a thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating thriller, showcasing one of Liam Neeson’s most captivating performances.

Stream A Walk Among the Tombstones on Netflix.

2. Nonstop (2014)

Liam Neeson wields a gun while standing in the aisle on a plane in Non-Stop.
Universal Pictures

Titled “Nonstop”, this film can be described as a thrilling fusion of “Die Hard” and the confined setting of a plane. Liam Neeson takes on the role of Bill Marks, an aging U.S. Air Marshal on a flight from New York City to London. As the plane takes off, Marks receives an ominous text message, revealing that a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes unless a hefty sum of $150 million is transferred to a secure bank account. With the first death occurring, Marks becomes fully invested in unveiling the perpetrator’s identity and bringing them to justice.

“Nonstop” falls into the category of movies where it’s best to immerse yourself in the action rather than overanalyze any potential plot discrepancies. Despite certain elements that may not align with reality, this film manages to captivate audiences with its intriguing premise and exhilarating action sequences. It undoubtedly adds another successful notch to Neeson’s repertoire of B-movies.

Stream Nonstop on Netflix.

1. Taken (2008)

Liam Neeson on the phone in Taken.
20th Century Fox / 20th Century Fox

In Neeson’s filmography, there exists a distinct division: life before Taken and life after Taken. Prior to Taken, Neeson had already ventured into action franchises, most notably Star Wars and Batman. However, it was with the unparalleled success of Taken that Neeson transformed from merely a guy in an action movie to The Guy in an action movie. Neeson portrays the character of Bryan Mills, a retired CIA officer who confronts every father’s worst nightmare: the abduction of his daughter, Kim (played by Maggie Grace), by European sex traffickers in the city of Paris.

Armed with his expertise in abductions, Mills deduces that he has a narrow 96-hour timeframe to locate and rescue Kim before all hope is lost. Driven by his unparalleled set of skills, Mills embarks on a relentless pursuit across Europe, employing a combination of physical force, deadly accuracy, and unwavering determination to neutralize every adversary that crosses his path. Inevitably, this metamorphosis propels him to become the most formidable one-man force the world has ever witnessed. It is indisputable that if Taken had not achieved such resounding success, Neeson would never have ascended to the iconic status of an action star who continues to dominate the silver screen in 2023.