Liam Neeson's action movies, ranked
Taken by Liam Neeson's action films
Jan. 30 marks the 12-year anniversary of Taken, the film that took Liam Neeson from working in the theater and fronting Schindler's List to becoming Hollywood's go-to action star. Ever since, the 68-year-old actor has been busy killing bad guys on almost every possible vehicle, fighting wolves, and constantly saving his children. And just as Taken celebrates an anniversary, Neeson's latest, The Marksman, is now in theaters, making it the perfect time to rank the films from his last action-packed decade. Let's call it the pursuit of ranking Liam Neeson's action movies. And, yes, they are in a very particular order.
16. Clash of the Titans (2010)
Technically, this was Neeson's first post-Taken action film, but this can't truly be classified as a Neeson flick. And despite the gravitas of Neeson and his character Zeus, he's barely in it, which might explain why it ended up being such a disappointment.
15. Battleship (2012)
I think what we are learning early on here is that if you cast Liam Neeson then let him be Liam Neeson, don't just sideline him in favor of younger actors whom Hollywood desperately wants to make movie stars (sorry, Riggins). In maybe his only "girlfriend's disapproving dad" role, Neeson basically disappears for most of the movie. But, honestly, not even he could have saved this sinking ship.
14. Wrath of the Titans (2012)
For some reason, Clash of the Titans was deemed worthy of a sequel, and the sole faint praise I can give Wrath is that it's a slight improvement on its predecessor. The film does give us more Neeson but mostly just tied up and powerless Neeson. Unsurprisingly, the high point of Wrath might be when, alongside Ralph Fiennes, he finally does get to kick some ass, just before Zeus dies. With no more Neeson, it's no wonder that a planned third film was canceled.
13. The Marksman (2021)
Not even a global pandemic can stop Neeson from taking down bad guys — or the box office competition. The action Western opened at No. 1, with audiences turning out to see Neeson as retired Marine Jim Hanson, a widower who finds purpose again when he comes across a young mother and her son crossing the Arizona-Mexico border as they flee a drug cartel. What ensues is a quieter than expected road trip film, with the big action saved for the final act, proving that Hanson is, in fact, a true marksman. Also, bonus points for this all too timely quote: "It would be fine if the government would get its shit together and figure that mess out."
12. Honest Thief (2020)
This time around Neeson is the infamous "In-and-Out Bandit" (what a name!) who is ready to turn himself in and change his ways after meeting the woman of his dreams (Kate Walsh). One problem: A couple FBI agents (Hamilton's Anthony Ramos and Suicide Squad's Jai Courtney) decide this is their opportunity to turn bad, taking the aging thief's money and framing him for murder. A strong cast (Robert Patrick and Jeffrey Donovan are also in the mix) and Neeson being Neeson help make this familiar formula and script an entertaining cable watch.
11. Unknown (2011)
Where do I start with what I don't buy in Unknown? Let's see: January Jones and Liam Neeson as a married couple, Liam Neeson as a botanist, Diane Kruger as a cab driver, and January Jones as an assassin. Other than that, Unknown is fine and features a solid third-act twist.
10. The Commuter (2018)
As a fan of Non-Stop, I respect Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra running it back and just basically subbing in a train for a plane. Unfortunately, despite a juicy — but too small — role for Vera Farmiga, the film doesn't differentiate itself enough. Maybe the best part, though, is Neeson for once getting to play a businessman, only for them to be like, "Oh, but he's also a retired detective!" Just let him be a man of the people!
9. The A-Team (2010)
This should have been a slam dunk. The remake had Neeson riding his Taken high and Bradley Cooper fresh off of The Hangover, but yet the film managed to disappoint at the box office, fall short with the critics, and confuse Vanessa Redgrave. The ledendary actress' bewilderment is understandable considering A-Team is short on plot and long on big action set pieces. But Neeson hamming it up and Cooper coming armed with plenty of charm makes it just fun enough.
8. Taken 3 (2015)
The third installment in the franchise that launched Neeson's action career doesn't actually feel like a Taken film. First off, no one really gets taken (someone gets murdered so they could have called it that instead). Also, the American locale doesn't seem fitting for the series. And I really hate to say it, but Neeson is showing his age a bit in this one, which is surprising since its now six years later and he's still kicking ass.
7. A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)
It's debatable if this neo-noir crime film should be classified as an action film, but it opens with a shootout (and bad fake Neeson hair), so I'm counting it! The more story focused Tombstones is an outlier in Neeson's last decade, but acclaimed writer Scott Frank and a solid future supporting cast (David Harbour, Boyd Holbrook, Dan Stevens) make the slow burn mostly worth it.
6. Run All Night (2015)
I haven't done extensive research but I'm pretty sure that this is the only movie in which Neeson has dressed up as a drunk Santa. Also, he kind of plays a bad guy for one of the few times in this era of career. He's still technically the protagonist, but he's a former mob enforcerer who has killed a lot of people, so a break from playing former cops and government agents. That difference, some well-done action sequences, and strong chemistry between Neeson and Ed Harris makes Run All Night the most underrated film on this list.
5. Taken 2 (2012)
Don't let the 22 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes fool you, Taken 2 is an enjoyable movie. Unlike Taken 3, the second installment feels like a true extension of the original and puts a nice spin on Taken's plot by having Kim (Maggie Grace) get the call to save her parents. And the higher-budget is evident onscreen with the action jumping up a level.
4. Non-Stop (2014)
There's a lot of things to love about Non-Stop: An overqualified supporting cast (Lupita Nyong'o, Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll), Liam Neeson fighting/killing a dude in an airplane bathroom, a good mystery, and the information pointing to the hero as the bad guy. All of that makes this more than just Taken on an airplane.
3. The Grey (2012)
Also known as Liam Neeson vs. wolves, The Grey has much more to offer than that. Yes, the wolves are hunting this group of plane crash survivors and the film ends with Neeson preparing for battle against them, but it's often the quieter moments between the characters that makes The Grey better than it probably should be. And, after this and Cold Pursuit, it's clear that Neeson needs to throw on a winter coat more often!
2. Cold Pursuit (2019)
Not enough have seen this underrated gem, so I won't spoil anything, but I will say that it's not at all what you expect and that is what makes it a must-see. Here's just a few things to look forward to: Neeson plays Nels Coxman (incredible name), a snowplow driver seeking revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son; the bad guy is named Viking (incredible bad guy name); you will laugh, a lot; for once, Neeson plays a "f---ing amateur" at killing; Queen Laura Dern is Mrs. Coxman; and there's a ridiculously crazy/funny/unnecessary/offensive subplot that involves a motel and a $20 bill.
1. Taken (2009)
Could it be anything else at No. 1? The film that launched (approximately) a thousand Liam Neeson action movies doesn't just top the rankings for sentimental reasons, it's entertaining and rewatchable as hell. Talking to EW, Neeson recently admitted that he had no expectations for Taken and expected it to go straight-to-video, but instead it became an all-time action film with two iconic sequences. The first is Kim running to hug Bryan early in the film (I laugh every time). And secondly, and even more iconic, is Bryan talking Kim through her impending kidnapping and then telling the perpetrators that he's coming for them. "What I do have is a very particular set of skills," he warns. "I will look for you. I will find you. And I will kill you." Goosebumps! And the rest was history.