The Ultimate Action Movie Club Ranks the very best of the great Steven Seagal’s filmography.
If there’s one thing about Steven Seagal, it’s this – don’t mess with him. Don’t punch him, don’t shoot at him, don’t even look at him the wrong way. And especially don’t murder a loved one of his then leave him for dead… because he will come back to life and hunt you down. He’s the Ultimate Action Movie Tough Guy™ and his action movie career is just as deadly.
While Seagal is perhaps best known for his heyday in the late 80s and early 90s (just like our website), the man has had quite a prolific career that continues to this day. If you can, watch every Seagal movie that’s out there! However, if you’re looking for picks – or just to start a fight in the comments – here are our Top 10 Most Ultimate Steven Seagal Action Movies of all time.
Sure, sure we’ll get to the more gritty, hard crime actioners of Seagal’s career later, but we have to include Seagal in perhaps his second form. He’s not the super skinny martial artist he once was, but he was still a cinematic force to be reckoned with in the late-90s. Fire Down Below is a unique film that includes a huge cast of country music stars around a plot that features Seagal as an EPA agent investigating a mine in Kentucky. Plus, Seagal plays guitar, because of course he does!
To his credit, Seagal has always been a major international movie star. Don’t ask me to explain it besides that his tough guy character just translates super well overseas and abroad. So much so that Seagal was quick to dive into Hong Kong Action Cinema with Belly of the Beast featuring acclaimed action choreographer and filmmaker Ching Siu-tung as a great example of Seagal’s universal appeal.
It was an odd stretch for action films around the early 2000s as the genre found some major hits by combining martial arts and hip hop cultures. From Romeo Must Die to Cradle 2 The Grave to Seagal in Exit Wounds, which saw him pair up with DMX, Anthony Anderson, Michael Jai White (hell yeah!) and… Tom Arnold? But the end results are actually one of the best films – with some truly great action – of Seagal’s mid-career.
If you’re talking about Seagal’s vast action filmography, you have to talk about On Deadly Ground, which would certainly have been the project most near and dear to the man’s heart. Not only did Seagal hand-pick the project and role for himself as a firefighting blowout specialist and champion of Native Americans’ rights, but it’s also Seagal’s only directorial effort to date. It also includes the most ultimate “hand slap game” in action movie history.
1990 was clearly a watershed moment for a rising Segal, and along with another film further down on this list it’s really these films that have spurred on his success for decades to come. Marked for Death simply Seagal at his best and really cements his tough guy cop/EPA/FBI (in this iteration he’s Chicago DEA agent John Hatcher) with street smarts, sure shots and crazy powerful kicks.
Here’s another UAMC achievement medal for Seagal, he’s one of a very few action stars to helm a sequel that is actually comparably awesome (or to some, perhaps even better?) to its original. Under Siege 2: Dark Territory seems Seagal returns as Casey “I’m just the cook” Ryback changing his “Die Hard but on a boat” into a surprisingly entertaining “Die Hard but on a train”.
One of the rare cases in which you’ll see Seagal’s tough guy protagonist ever take a hit, Hard to Kill does the unthinkable to peak-era Seagal, and not only does he get shot, he goes down… But wait! Of course you can’t kill Seagal, and even if it takes several years and defeating amnesia, he will find you and he will get his revenge in another pure action 90s actioner that actually returned quite well at the box office.
Believe it or not, it was kind of a tough call on putting Under Siege above its sequel because they both deliver the goods. But based both on precedent and star power, Under Siege is the overall better film and without one you certainly wouldn’t have had the other. Seagal gives a great hard hitting action – and at times quite comedic – performance as Casey Ryback and is the glue that holds together the crazy (and/or) talented cast that features Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey at their bests as well.
To appreciate Seagal in Out for Justice you really only have to see one scene. That’s the one where Seagal (in his finest moment) does his tough guy cop routine of rousing up information from a bar full of no-goods by beating the crap out of everyone with the ol’ cue ball in a tube sock trick. And that scene doesn’t even include the second greatest thing about Out for Justice which is William Forsythe as Madano chewing the scenery as one of the nastiest bad guys of all time Richie!
Finally, our pick for the ultimate best of Steven Seagal’s action movie career has to be where it all started with Above the Law. You could argue that this film – and Seagal’s introduction as tough guy Nico Toscani – has undeniably shaped his character and career for its entirety, and when it came out it simply hit – and it hit hard. We get a now-twig sized Seagal on the vice squad detective warpath showing off his martial arts, katana (and baseball bat) skills and setting up what ends up being now forty plus years of ultimate action movie greatness!
More Steven Seagal Action Classics
There are a great many other Ultimate Action Movie crackers from Seagal’s career that we weren’t able to include on the list, but you should absolutely check out the following if (after our top 10 of course) if you haven’t yet.
- Machete (2010)
- The Glimmer Man (1996)
- Executive Decision (1996)
- The Keeper (I) (2009)
- Driven to Kill (2009 Video)
- The Foreigner (2003)
- Mercenary for Justice (2006 Video)
- Kill Switch (2008 Video)
- Shadow Man (2006 Video)
- Today You Die (2005 Video)
Ready to share your picks for the ultimate best of Steven Seagal’s action movie career? Let us know in the comments below!