2013 turned out to be an interesting year for action. For the first time that I can remember the purpose of and intent behind an action sequence came to the forefront of the film discussion. In particular, that conversation revolved around Gravity and Man of Steel.

In one corner you have Alfonso Cauron’s skillful use of action as a dramatic tool. With only one character to truly drive the plot, Gravity‘s Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is an action hero. A character whose determination underlines how important things like momentum, action, suspense, timing, and (yes) gravity can be when telling a story centered around physicality.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Man of Steel. Controversially, the filmmakers decided to bask in the likely carnage of a superhero smackdown.  Is it possible that the only way to update classic characters for a generation bred almost entirely on video games is through MPAA-shattering violence? Depending on what side of the fence you sit on in this debate, the film’s frenzied battle between General Zod and Superman either amped you up or disturbed you.

What this means for future filmmakers (and, more importantly, studios) remains to be seen, but I think that the rush to out-do the other blockbuster might need to be reassessed. Particularly, what bigger actually means when it comes to action.

Anywho…much like our lists from the previous years, we acknowledged sequences not based on whether or not we liked the film, but how all the hard work of stunt people, pyrotechnicians, set designers, editors and FX wizards came together, putting you directly in the moment. Basically, this list is meant to celebrate the people behind the scenes who really make movies magic. The type of hard to define cohesion that forces the audience to give a damn about what was happening on-screen, if even for a fleeting moment.

Let’s begin…

20. Jack the Giant Slayer
The Giants Return
For most of Bryan Singer’s Jack The Giant Slayer things occur very much in the way that you’d expect, but the movie doesn’t show signs of life until Jack gets down the beanstalk, leaving his magic beans above. The looming giants capitalize on this oversight and web-swing their big asses down to the kingdom looking for a fight.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
A giant explodes and not a single ounce of blood is dropped. Yeah, I know it’s PG-13 but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

19. Bullet to the Head
Axe Fight
Director Water Hill (48 Hours) tries his damnedest to make Bullet to the Head stick, but the movies most memorable moment doesn’t involve the unconvincing racial repartee between Sylvester Stallone and Sung Kang, but the nearly wordless axe-off between Stallone and Jason Momoa.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Jason Momoa becomes a completely different character at the film’s end. It’s almost like someone realized late in the film that he was on Game of Thrones. Is he really that bad of an actor that he gets the Ray Park treatment?

18. Now You See Me
Apartment Fight
The ensuing generic car chase notwithstanding, this lopsided apartment tussle between Dave Franco and the FBI is brief but ingenious in how it comes up with new ways for magic to end up on top.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Like I said, the car chase that follows immediately after is so blatantly shot around NYC gridlock that it kills the momentum.

Now You See Me – Fight Scene by ign

17. Elysium
The Data Heist
Going in: We were all so certain about Neil Blokamp’s sophomore futuristic effort, Elysium. Unfortunately, the mid-movie “data heist” is the only time where the movie comes alive. Delivering on its promise of being hard-boiled science fiction.
I Call Bullshit When…
Sharlto Copley gets his face blown off and comes back minutes later thanks to some magical medical machine. Yes, the screenwriters behind Elysium go out of their way to explain early and often that “Med-Bays” can heal anyone from anything, but…an exploded head?! Seriously?

16. White House Down
Limo Chase
While White House Down is obviously a Die Hard rip-off, the fact that this much-maligned PG-13 actioner out-maneuvered both A Good Day to Die Hard and Olympus Has Fallen says as much about director Roland Emmerich’s firm understanding of genre as it does about Hollywood’s blockbuster problem.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
The lawn sequence is great, but it is marred by some awkward special effects work.

15. Man of Steel
Smallville, Kansas
In the theater, for a few flickering moments, I thought Man of Steel was going to redeem itself. Up until the massive Kryptonian brawl in Kansas, MoS had proven to be a so-so Superman film. I figured that a good superhero showdown would shake things up a bit. Turn this incarnation of Superman towards it’s inevitable JLA follow-up with little fuss from me. The Smallville battle through 7/11, Sears, and IHOP ramped up quickly. I hadn’t noticed the body count just yet, but I was naive about Man of Steel up ’til that point.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
It doesn’t end. After Zod and his evil Kryptonians touch down to Earth, they don’t stop fighting or tossing each other around until the finale. Even for this action junkie it becomes a bit exhaustive. As if I were forced to watch director Zack Snyder play Injustice: Gods Among Us for 2 hours.

14. Thor: The Dark World
Convergence Fight
For a large chunk of Thor: The Dark World “the convergence” seems like another in a long line of super villain world domination plots. But the pay off comes during the climax when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Malekith (Chris Eccleston) have a portal-jumping showdown that sends them throughout the nine realms.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Despite two films and numerous trailers teasing it, Sif and Jane Foster don’t have any real sort of confrontation. They exchange a few awkward glances and then they are on to the next thing.

13. Fast & Furious 6
Race to Interpol
When the “Furious 6” initially zero in on corrupt Special Forces soldier Owen Shaw, things go sour fast. Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson get owned by a “hockey puck” that compromises car engines, Gal Gadot and Sung Kang end up in a shootout, and Vin Diesel eats a bullet from, amnesiac, Michelle Rodriguez. This round clearly goes to the bad guys.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
The rock jumps from his jeep and onto an F1 racing on the street below. Wha?!

12. Oblivion
Bubble ship vs. Drone
Oblivion didn’t get nearly enough love, but if you put all the Tom Cruise haterade aside then you’ll get one of the purest sci-fi films of 2013.
Particularly in the thrills department. Cruise plays Tom Harper, a futuristic drone engineer who is haunted by dreams of a life and love on Earth pre-alien invasion. Things come to a head when the woman of Harper’s dream turns out to be real, putting them both in danger of discovering the truth about what happened to our planet. I won’t give away the twist but this all leads into a big reveal. One that is heralded by this canyon chase that plays up the suspense to great effect.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Critics universally pan a movie like this and then spend all summer complaining about how there are only simple-minded genre films in theaters. Pshaw*

11. The Wolverine
Funeral and Train Fight
For me, Hugh Jackman’s second solo effort as Wolverine was the most engaging and ultimately frustrating superhero flick of 2013. Primarily because the bulk of The Wolverine is so deliberate in its execution. Especially in the action department.
In a no-nonsense display of claw-on-yakuza action, Wolverine’s purpose for coming to Japan becomes clear during an abrupt funeral fight. In pursuit of a kidnapped damsel, Jackman dodges guns, arrows, and gangsters to rescue the girl and escape on a bullet train. Rocketing over a hundred mph, Logan gets cornered by the bad guys and claws his way through them and the locomotive. The velocity sends the metal-laced mutant and one seemingly unkillable yakuza hurtling outside, creating a standoff atop the train.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Apparently, there is a different cut of this film that is now floating around on blu ray. Word on the street is that it gives you more blood and corrects a lot of the theatrical release’s nagging issues.

10. Fast & Furious 6
Runway Chase
Yes, Fast 6 is on this list again. No, this isn’t bias.
Out of all the films this year, the sixth installment of Fast and Furious had the most coherent, well-paced, ridiculously over-the-top action. But most importantly, every sequence was driven by character. As boneheaded as Dom and his band of car thieves may be, in the world of Fast and Furious each major set piece has a key moment motivated by character instead of plot. It’s a simple concept that most films forget.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Vin Diesel walks out of the flames. At that point, I was too upset about Gisele and Han to give a damn about Vin Diesel’s triumphant return.

9. Iron Man 3
Air Force One
I was horribly let down by the Saturday morning finale of Iron Man 3. Even worse, the trailers gave away that impressive helicopter assault on Tony Stark’s home, leaving very little punch once you caught it in theaters. Fortunately, this Air Force One rescue is pretty ingenious, giving us the type of superheroics that we go to these Marvel films to see in the first place.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
The whole Air Force One sequence ends as abruptly as it starts, making it seem more like a time-filler than anything.

8. Rush
Niki Returns
Some of you already know about that fateful 1976 German Grand Prix race between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. For those of us not obsessed with Formula One (AKA Americans), Ron Howard’s recreation of Niki Lauda’s triumphant return from near death is amazing in it’s ability to put you right in the driver’s seat.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
No complaints here. This movie is pretty awesome overall.

7. The Grandmaster
Train Fight
Revenge is always a great character motivation in film, and Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster ramps up the character drama with this sequence.
Zing Ziyi plays Gong Er, a woman so obsessed with payback that she vows to never marry or have children until she has exacted her revenge. Ma San, the traitor who killed her father, is the target of Gong’s hatred, and when he crosses her path inside a train station one fateful night…well, the wallops are both physical and emotional.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
American producer Harvey Weinstein imports a beautiful film like The Grandmaster and to America re-edits it for us, making it shorter and full of plot holes.

6. Star Trek Into Darkness
Ship to Ship
Yeah, this sequence from STID is a bit too similar to the “space jump” from 2009’s Star Trek, but — dammit — it’s still cool.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
I’ve said it before but…Khan? I feel like the people who would know about the iconic Star Trek villain would have figured out who Benedict Comuberbatch’s character is long before the opening credits (actually, the Internet did exactly that a year prior to STID‘s release). Meanwhile, those who jumped on during the 2009 Star Trek revamp would wonder what the fuss is about; causing Cumberbatch’s declaration that he is indeed “Khaaaaaaaaan” to fall on the deaf ears of recent converts. It really begs the question: Who was Paramount making this movie for?

5. GI Joe: Retaliation
Snake Eyes and Jinx Kidnap Storm Shadow
If anything, with its ridiculous nuclear weapon pissing contest and oddball RZA cameo, GI Joe: Retaliation can only be fairly described as “amusing.” You won’t remember much about it once you leave the theater, but one thing that does standout is Jinx and Snakeye’s mountainside ninja fight/heist. It sounds goofy but there really is no other smattering of words better thrown together to describe this large scale ridiculousness.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Rachel Nichols doesn’t come back to reprise her role as Scarlett! Sorry. I admit that that has nothing to do with anything.

4. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
Barrel Ride
One standout action sequence that this year had to offer was the “barrel-rider” sequence from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Peter Jackson lets loose his comedic inclinations in this loopy, entirely over-the-top set piece. Jackson’s affinity for the ridiculous, which he restrained in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy finds a home in the sillier, funnier story of The Hobbit. A fat dwarf in a barrel rolling down riverbanks squashing every Orc in his path? Check. Legolas performing his signature archery carnage while simultaneously balancing atop the heads of dwarves who also happen to be riding down a river inside aforementioned barrels? Check. Elves using Orc corpses as makeshift surfboards (while, of course, continuing to plant arrows in the heads of every evil lackey in their path)? Check and check. The barrel sequence is the gift that keeps on giving; the thoroughly entertaining blessing of a talented director given free reign to take it to  the top and then much, much further. It says a little something when an Orc kill is so good it provokes your audience to applaud, especially when you can manage that more than once in a single scene. -Andrew
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
I actually didn’t watch this film. So all the credit for entry #4 goes to Action A Go Go’s Andrew Allen. He did the write-up and he made the suggestion.
Check out Andrew’s 2013  Top 10 TV list HERE.

3. Fast & Furious 6
“They’ve got a tank.”
Not since Goldeneye has such an impressive tank pursuit been put on screen.
Originally, this sequence was going to be filmed inside London (or a facsimile), but when the opportunity was presented to film on a brand new highway in Tenerife the filmmakers realized that they could up the ante, giving us this jaw-dropping spectacle that is largely accomplished with real cars and dedicated stunt drivers.
Admittedly, in retrospect, it’s a bit awkward watching Paul Walker’s vehicle take off during this high-speed pursuit, but the Fast franchise has thrived on removing the harsh reality of car chases from the audience. Regardless, the horrible irony of Walker’s real life fatal crash is a testament to the men and women who make action scenes such as these safe for the performers and crew.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Vin Diesel flies across a bridge and rescues Michelle Rodriguez. But then I realized what I was watching and I got over it.

2. Pacific Rim
The Sword!
All of it! From the moment Gipsy Danger sets foot in Hong Kong to the climactic moment where she cuts that high-flying, pterodactyl-looking, kaiju thing in two — Pacific Rim’s mid-movie fight is one for the ages.
Also, can you spot director Guillermo Del Toro’s visual nod to the Godzilla films in this sequence?
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
Rinko Kikuchi gets over her school girl angst pretty quickly. Actually, now that I think about it, that was probably for the best.


1. Evil Dead
Blood Rain
Normally I wouldn’t feel comfortable sticking a horror film on this list, but this lite remake of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead rocks such an insanely gory climax that it deserves a spot.
The movie really does go out of its way to top itself over and over again but this big finish takes the cake. In it, actress Jane Levy comes face-to-face with her own drug addiction in the form of, well…her. Stranded in the woods alone with her personal demon, she finally commits to doing to her supernatural self what she couldn’t do to her habit. Ash would be proud.
I Call Bull$#!+ When…
A car falls on Jane Levy’s arm and she decides that ripping it off is the answer. So she does. And she’s fine. No shock, no nothing. Ah well.

Troy-Jeffrey Allen writes about action/adventure for Action A Go Go. He is a comic book writer whose works include Bamn, The Magic Bullet, Dr. Dremo’s Taphouse of Tall Tales, and the Harvey Award nominated District Comics. In addition, Allen has been a contributing writer for ComicBookBin.com, OfNote Magazine, and ForcesOfGeek.com. His work has been featured in the City Paper, The Baltimore Sun, Bethesda Magazine, The Examiner, and The Washington Post.