Top 10 Action Films With Ensemble Casts

With Sly Stallone bringing back the action heroes of yesteryear for another star-studded celebration of machismo in The Expendables III, Top 10 Films takes a look at a selection of great actions films with ensemble casts…

10. Cannonball Run II (Needham, 1984)

cannoball-run-2-top10filmsPeppered with stars including Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ricardo Montalbán, Telly Savalas, Marilu Henner, Shirley MacLaine, Catherine Bach, Jackie Chan, Richard Kiel and even Frank Sinatra, this mixed-bag of a sequel is still better than the original. A fun, cross-country road-race film.

9. Predator (McTiernan, 1987)

Predator, John McTiernan, Horror, Action,What could be more enjoyable than watching Arnie Schwarzenegger lead a bunch of toughened soldiers through a forest wilderness while being pursued by an invisible, bloodthirsty alien creature. The answer: NOTHING!

8. Airport ’77 (Jameson, 1977)

airport-77_jack-lemmon_top10filmsAirport ’77 might not be the best of the Airport franchise but it’s arguably the most enjoyable due to its crazy set-up. With Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, George Kennedy, Olivia de Havilland, Christopher Lee, Joseph Cotten and James Stewart in the ensemble cast, the film follows passengers on a Boeing 747 trying to survive after their plane crashes into the sea and sinks to the bottom. It’s great to see the so often mild-mannered Lemmon take on the hero role.

7. From Dusk Till Dawn (Rodriguez, 1996)

Harvey_Keitel_from-dusk-till-dawnDirector Robert Rodriguez, still in the early days of his career, was able to assemble a great cast for this genre-twisted action-horror thanks largely to the presence of the film’s writer and star Quentin Tarantino and supporter and fellow star Harvey Keitel. Tarantino and Keitel are joined by Juliette Lewis, George Clooney, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo and Tom Savini.

6. Heat (Mann, 1995)

heat-ensemble-action_top10filmsAnother brilliant cast – De Niro, Al Pacino, Jon Voight and Val Kilmer – get involved in a heist, this time of an amoured car. Critics praised its intelligent dialogue and poignancy.

5. The Great Escape (Sturges, 1963)

the-great-escape-movie_steve-mcqueenAllied prisoners of war stage a daring escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp during WWII with Steve McQueen heading up a cast that includes James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence and James Coburn.

4. Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988)

best-dressed_hans-gruber_die-hardBruce Willis in a vest doing good. Alan Rickman in a suit doing bad. And, a bunch of crazy, highly armed terrorists. With all this going on inside a skyscraper there’s no time to check your watch… Exciting action from beginning to end!

3. Aliens (Cameron, 1986)

Alien, Aliens, Sigourney Weaver, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, dominant female film role,This time it’s war, says the tagline. Yep – this time, our unfortunate heroine Ripley has a group of marines to help her out of a tight spot. Sadly, she’s still (almost) the only one left standing by the end. This exciting, fast-paced sci-fi classic is clearly one of the best action films with an ensemble cast ever made.

2. The Magnificent Seven (Sturges, 1960)

magnificent-seven-ensemble-action_top10filmsAnother classic western sees an incredible cast including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn team up to protect a small agricultural town in Mexico from a group of bandits. The film also stars the great Eli Wallach as bad guy Calvera.

1. The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)

The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah,Sam Peckinpah’s classic western sees a cast including William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates play aging outlaws out to make one last big score.

Written and compiled by Rory Fish.

About the Author
Rory Fish has loved movies since he can remember. If he was to put together an "all time" top 10 of absolute favourites it would have to include North By Northwest, 12 Angry Men and Sunset Boulevard.

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  1. Dan Grant Reply

    Great write up but your definition of action films is different than mine. Departed, Goodfellas and The Usual Suspects are dramas, imo, not action films.

  2. Dan Grant Reply

    And all due respect, but besides the three main actors in Goodfellas, how did it have a great cast?

    Another good one would be The Guns of Navarone.

  3. Dan Grant Reply

    Tombstone is also an action film, a western of course, but an action film. It has one of the best casts of all time.

  4. Mark Reply

    While I liked this list (especially the number one), I agree with Dan that some may not fall into what one might regard as action per se (like Ocean’s 11, a crime caper which doesn’t quite cut it as an all out action film). As with everything, it’s all kinda subjective.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are some other possible contenders (assuming ensemble cast can also mean all-star line up):

    Con Air (Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buscemi, Trejo, Chapelle, Raimes)

    The Dirty Dozen (Marvin, Bronson, Cassevettes, Sutherland, Savalas, Brown – plus Borgnine and Ryan etc)

    The Eagle Has Landed (Caine, Duvall, Sutherland, Pleasance, Hagman, Williams)

    Aliens (Weaver, Biehn, Paxton, Henrickson)

    Young Guns (Estevez, Sheen Jnr, Sutherland Jnr, Philips, Stamp, Palance) and Young Guns II (some of the above with Slater, Petersen and Coburn chucked in)

    The Avengers (Downey Jnr, Jackson, Ruffalo, Johansson,Renner, Skarsgard)

    Armageddon (Brucie, Afleck, Buscemi, Wilson,Patton, Fincher)

    The Dark Knight (Bale,Caine, Ledger, Oldman, Echkart, Freeman)

    The Towering Inferno (McQueen, Newman, Holden, Dunnaway, Chamberlain, Astaire [??],Vaughn, OJ Simpson [ha, ha])

    • Rory Fish Reply

      Some great choices there Mark. Aliens and Con Air were definite considerations for this top 10.

  5. Fulmer Reply

    Great list and several additions were already mentioned (most notably the Dirty Dozen) but I would submit the largest assembly of stars this side of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World would be:
    The Longest Day. Burton, Connery, Fonda, Mitchum, Ryan etc. and of course, John Wayne. Curt Jurgens is brilliant as the embittered German general.

  6. Jack Deth Reply

    Great choices, Rory and Dan:

    Can not and will not argue with your “Final Six”.

    I would select one even older than ‘The Dirty Dozen’. Roger Corman’s ‘The Secret Invasion’ from 1964. With a group of convicts (Mickey Rooney, Edd Byrnes, William Campbell, Henry Silva and Raf Vallone)led by Stewart Granger to spring an imprisoned Italian general prior to the invasion of Anzio.

    Another choice for an excellent film with an exceptional, though not quite ensemble (Each has their own agenda) cast would be Peter Yates’ ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’.

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