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By Noelle Buffam · March 12, 2011

Action film is a genre wherein physical action takes precedence in the storytelling. The film will often have continuous motion and action including physical stunts, chases, fights, battles, and races. The story usually revolves around a hero that has a goal, but is facing incredible odds to obtain it. 

Action Film Examples:

Die Hard – A New York cop gives terrorists a dose of their own medicine as they hold hostages in an LA office building.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – An adventuring archeologist races around the world to single-handedly prevent the Nazis from turning the Ark of the Covenant into a weapon of world conquest.

ACTION: Sub-Genres


As it’s name suggests, this sub-genre combines action with humor. Action-Comedy relies on the characters to bring out the humor, while the action scenes tend to be less intense than in the traditional action movie.

Examples: Beverly Hills Cop, Rush Hour, and Hot Fuzz.

Disaster Film

A Disaster Film is based around a plot that includes a seemingly unavoidable and impending disaster. The disaster can be either natural or man-made. Many films in this sub-genre will rely on special effects.

Examples: The Towering Inferno, Airport, and Twister.

Girls with Guns

This sub-genre of action has a leading female as the protagonist. Girls with Guns films often incorporate martial arts and gun play. Although this genre is popular in Anime and Hong-Kong action films, it has seen success in Europe and the United States as well.

Examples: Kill Bill, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Nikita.


Action-War is a sub-genre of Action film that incorporates the traditional aspects on an action film into a storyline that revolves around war or wartime. Not only can these movies contain stunts, battles, and a hero, but they can also explore the more serious topic of war. 

Examples: Apocalypse Now, All Quiet on the Western Front, Platoon.