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Action Movies for Grownups

These films engage and entertain our whole brains, and heroes and heroines can be any age

'RED' (2010)

En español | The aggregate age of this action movie's five stars (including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich) is over 300 years — and every wrinkle and gray hair is worn as a badge of honor. Seldom has the action genre so proudly celebrated the triumph of experience over youth.

Frank Masi/Summit Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' (2008)

"It's not as easy as it used to be," mutters Indy (65-year-old Harrison Ford) in the face of yet another two-fisted, rope-swinging, Jeep-crashing set piece. Almost 20 years after last donning that fedora he's older and, at least in some ways, better.

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

'Children of Men' (2006)

In a future where virtually every woman on Earth has been rendered unable to procreate, Clive Owen must protect the one remaining fertile female. The thought-provoking premise is just the beginning of a film that takes one wild turn after another.

Universal Studios/Photofest

'Harry Brown' (2009)

Too often Michael Caine seems satisfied playing butlers and old coots. But in this mean streets thriller, the star is mesmerizing as Harry, a man pushed to the limit by violent gangs in his working-class neighborhood. Behind Harry's poker face, a maelstrom of emotions is brewing.

Dean Rogers/Samuel Goldwyn Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

'Apocalypto' (2006)

Anyone who doubted the behind-the-camera vision of Mel Gibson had to simply shut up in the wake of this spectacular Mayan adventure tale. Every frame throbs with energy; the use of Yucatec Maya dialogue challenges the audience at every turn.

Walt Disney Co./courtesy Everett Collection

'Gladiator' (2000)

More than a swords-and-sandals epic, Gladiator explores the psyche of a betrayed Roman general (Russell Crowe) seeking revenge against those who killed his family.

DreamWorks/Courtesy Everett Collection

'Inglourious Basterds' (2009)

The splattering gunshot wounds and grisly beatings never let up, but neither do the fascinating character twists in Quentin Tarantino's giddily violent Hitler assassination fantasy.

Universal Studios/Photofest

'Never Say Never Again' (1983)

Starring in this "unofficial" James Bond flick at the ripe old age of 53, Sean Connery plays Bond as sort-of out of shape and facing retirement. Connery even wanted to appear without his toupee, but sadly, the producers wouldn't let him part with it.

Warner Brothers/Courtesy Everett Collection

'Bonnie and Clyde' (1967)

"We rob banks!" boasts Clyde (Warren Beatty), the big man who's just a little boy at heart in the arms of his partner Bonnie (Faye Dunaway). Arthur Penn's crime drama explodes in a hail of blood and bullets, but it's his sensitive portrait of two crooks in love that holds us captive.

Jerry Tavin/Everett Collection

'The Wild Bunch' (1969)

The Wild West is a fading memory in 1913, but William Holden and his gang (including Ernest Borgnine) are the last of the old-school train robbers. Director Sam Peckinpah used slow-motion footage in the bloody shootouts to help moviegoers know "what it is to be gunned down."

Courtesy Everett Collection

'The French Connection' (1972)

Was New York ever this fetid? And was Gene Hackman ever this spry and utterly unpredictable? Playing the rogue cop Popeye Doyle with ingenious effortlessness, Oscar-winner Hackman is obsession personified as he tracks down a dope-smuggling French aristocrat.

20th Century-Fox / Photofest

'Die Hard' (1988)

His head full of hair, Bruce Willis is barely 33 here. But the daring setup — a wisecracking lone wolf using nothing but his wits to battle a supervillain — gave birth to a whole new action genre that has been copied a billion times since.

20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

'Spartacus' (1960)

"I'm Spartacus!" the hero's fellow slaves yell, shielding their rebel leader from his Roman tormentors. Kirk Douglas' labor of love was more than a riveting story of heroism: as executive producer, the star insisted the screenplay be written by Dalton Trumbo, still on Hollywood's blacklist.

Courtesy Everett Collection

'Robocop' (1987)

Only some last-minute cuts headed off an "X" rating for the violence in this sci-fi flick about a cyborg created from the remains of a murdered cop (Peter Weller). Left intact: somber themes of mortality, corporate corruption, the state of America's cities and the meaning of manhood.

Picture Alliance/Everett Collection

'In the Line of Fire' (1993)

Aging Secret Service man Clint Eastwood missed saving JFK by inches. Thirty years later he faces a new threat to another president — and possible redemption after a lifetime of regret.

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

'Apocalypse Now' (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola's quirky, pitch-black Vietnam War movie is one brainy blow-'em-up. Martin Sheen sails up the Nung River to assassinate a renegade Green Beret (Marlon Brando), brooding all the way about the meaning of duty and the nature of war.

United Artists/ Courtesy Everett Collection

'True Grit' (1969)

You won't go wrong if you mistakenly pick up the more recent version, starring Jeff Bridges. But John Wayne's portrayal of the hard-drinking, tough-talking, one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn comes with an unmatched Hollywood legend attached.

Courtesy Everett Collection

'12 Monkeys' (1995)

Humankind has been forced underground by a plague, and James Cole (Bruce Willis) has been sent into the past to help find its cause and a cure. There's not a lot of overt action in Terry Gilliam's doomed world, but as the tension ratchets up, your heart pumps overtime nevertheless.

Universal/Photofest

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