What makes a good “B-movie?” B-movies are lower to mid-budget action, horror, or sci-fi films without the profit margins of a blockbuster or the promotion of a major studio movie. I refer to them as “why not” movies. Picture this: You’re scrolling Netflix and can’t decide what to watch. As you scroll past the superhero adventures and blockbuster films, you stumble on a film with one actor on the poster with a title of one to three words. If it’s an action film, the actor is usually holding a gun as they prepare for a revenge mission. This premise is enough to spark your interest, so you say, “Why not,” and watch.
This type of B-movie is a lost art form in 2023. The B-movie, especially the action B-movie, dominated the 1990s thanks to Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Dolph Lundgren. Two actors keeping the spirit of the action B-movie alive are Gerard Butler and Jason Statham. These two action stars have headlined some of the most successful B-movies of the 21st century, so naturally, it’s time to ask one question: Who is the better B-movie action star?
Their best B-movie roles
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For Statham, it has to be Frank Martin in The Transporter. Apologies to the Guy Ritchie hive, but those are ensemble movies, not Statham movies. I like Statham in Snatchbut he doesn’t give the best performance in that movie (hello, Brad Pitt). Statham has starred in three Transporter films, and it’s his franchise. Statham plays a former special operations soldier with elite driving skills who now works as a mercenary. Statham is essentially an alternate version of James Bond with more muscles and dry humor.
For Butler, it’s Mike Banning in the Has Fallen franchise. Banning is a former U.S. Army ranger who transitioned to the Secret Service as he got older. Because of his experience in the military, Banning is a wizard with guns, so much so that he would shoot all three men in the standoff from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly before they could grab their guns. Banning is a bigger John McClane with a better attitude. Although Statham has played similar “badass with a gun” characters, there’s something about saving the world from war that makes Banning much more endearing than Martin.
Winner: Gerard Butler as Mike Banning
The better fighter
As I previously stated, Butler plays a lot of characters with guns. Banning in the Has Fallen franchise, Nick O’Brien in Den of ThievesWill Spann in Last Seen AliveBrodie Torrance in Planeetc. If there’s a gun, Butler will wield it. Butler also provides a physically imposing presence on-screen, standing six feet, two inches tall, and weighing at least 200 pounds. He’s Scottish, so obviously the man knows a thing or two about a fistfight.
While Butler excels with weapons, Statham thrives in hand-to-hand combat. Statham is highly trained in kickboxing, Chinese martial arts, and karate. This background is one of the reasons why Statham excels in fistfights on-screen. From the bus scene in The Transporter to holding his own against Jet Li in WarStatham was born to fight. Butler’s characters may never give up due to their stubbornness. Yet without a gun, Butler doesn’t stand a chance against Statham’s fists.
Winner: Jason Statham
If they switched careers, who is better?
If you switched their B-movie action roles, could Butler play Statham’s parts, and vice versa? Who would have done a better job? This is where it gets tricky. Because of his sheer athleticism, Statham could easily play a Secret Service agent in Olympus Has Fallen, an LASD detective in Den of Thievesand a submarine captain in Hunter Killer. However, Statham typically doesn’t play an American, nor use different accents. Statham plays to his strengths as a smooth-talking Brit. He’s not going to play a character who saves the president of the United States in London Has Fallen, nor will he work as a commercial airline pilot in Plane. Statham is too cool and suave for those roles.
Butler, however, constantly uses a different accent to play Americans. It’s not perfect, as Butler tends to slip in and out of his Scottish accent (Last Seen Alive). Butler also plays grittier characters, the type of guy who goes after the bad guy to save his wife from death or the world from destruction. Do I think Butler could be the star of a Guy Ritchie movie with colorful dialogue? I do not. However, do I think Butler could play an adrenaline-filled hitman in Crank or a professional assassin in The Mechanic? I do.
Winner: Gerard Butler
Whose B-movies are better?
This comes down to what type of movie you prefer. If your version of an action B-movie involves elaborate hand-to-hand combat with intricate choreography and extended fight sequences, then Statham’s movies are best for you. If you prefer “one man-versus-X” B-movies with a lionhearted protagonist who most likely served in the military and conveys messages with stern looks, Butler’s movies will be more up your alley.
If I’m watching a B-movie, I don’t particularly care about the ensemble. I just need one star to be charismatic enough to take me on a journey for 90 to 120 minutes. To his credit, Statham stands out in team-up movies — Owen Shaw in The Fast franchise, Lee Christmas in The Expendables, or whatever part he plays in a Ritchie movie — because of his good looks, witty sense of humor, and top-notch stunt work. But these are ensemble movies, not Statham-led B-movies. Butler is the draw in B-movies. I’m watching the movie for Butler, not for the filmmaker or cast. I’d much rather spend time with Butler on a plane, at the White House, or in a desert than with Statham in a crowded cast.
Winner: Gerard Butler
Who is the better B-movie action star?
Statham is still slick as ever in his films. Thankfully, his steely eyes and chiseled jaw are not going anywhere. However, he’s graduated to bigger franchises with larger budgets, including The Me, The Fast Saga, and The Expendables. He’ll be linking up with Ritchie as long as those two want to make movies together. However, his B-movie stage is not what it once was.
And then there’s Butler, who only makes B-movies. His commitment to being the “King of the B-movie” has not gone unnoticed. Butler told Inverse that he loves watching and making B-movies. Do you know who loves watching them, too? Robert Downey Jr., who praised Butler for Olympus Has Fallen and urged the Scottish actor to make more B-movies. Tony Stark is right. Hollywood needs Butler in B-movies. I can’t wait for the seventh film in the Has Fallen series where Banning saves the world from AI.
Winner: Gerard Butler