Will There Ever Be Another True Action Hero?


There’s something eerily prophetic about the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Last Action Hero, as since the time of Arnold, Sly, and to an extent, Bruce, a true, masculine, action hero has yet to emerge in the world of film.  Action movies have changed significantly since the 1980s and early 1990s, especially with the advent of computer generated imagery as a substitute for great stunts, but these movies still call for a charismatic leading male who is both convincing as a bad ass and as someone you want to root for.  A few actors had potential to be the next big action star, but their failure coupled with this current crop of mundane leading males has me convinced that it’s going to be a long time before we see a true action star again.


What Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis have in common (and again, I don’t believe that Willis is on the same level as the aforementioned actors, but it’s impossible to neglect the lead in the greatest action movie of all time) was a confident masculinity that wasn’t saturated with douchiness.  Arnie, Sly, and Bruce showed that one could be a man’s man without womanizing or chugging beers faster than the rest of the guys.  You wanted them to win, despite how high the odds were stacked against them, but more importantly, you believed they could win.  The premises of Commando and Rambo, for example, are absurd, but with Arnie or Sly in the lead, part of your brain accepted the fact that maybe, just maybe, these guys could pull it off.  They weren’t the greatest actors, and they certainly weren’t the most handsome men, either (not that they were bad-looking, mind you), but they possessed that intangible quality that made men admire them and women want to be protected by them.

Now, Arnold’s in politics and his movie appearances are nothing more but CGI fakes.  Stallone can still churn out a decent action flick – and he’s self-aware enough to pull it off – but it’s clear that his best days are far behind.  So who’s next?  Are there any actors in Hollywood that can combine size, charisma, and screen presence the way Arnold and Sly did and endear themselves as the next great action stars?  My dear readers, I submit that there are none, and the one guy who could have done it has strayed too far off course to recover.  Let’s start with him.


The Rock has the size to be a big action star, as it’s a lot easier to believe that he can beat the heck out of ten guys at once than it is to believe that, say, Ryan Phillipe can.  The Rock has a sort of self-deprecating humor about himself and it’s clear that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which makes him that much easier to like.  After seeing The Rundown, I was convinced that The Rock was next in line to battle Predators and stop Russian terrorists from blowing up the White House.  In fact, Arnold even metaphorically passed the Action Star Torch to him in the beginning of The Rundown.  The path was paved for the Rock, and yet he somehow strayed.  How?  Well, it’s pretty obvious – he became Dwayne Johnson and started making Disney movies.  There’s nothing wrong with getting paid, but I don’t think there’s any turning back for Johnson at this point.  Of all the actors in Hollywood, I think the Rock had the best chance to be the next big star.

Vin Diesel was perhaps another candidate – who also got involved with silly children’s movies – but unlike the Rock, takes himself way too seriously to be liked.  He’s got the size, but he doesn’t quite have the charisma – have you ever laughed from a Vin Diesel one-liner?  Of course, I’m assuming that you can get past his ridiculous name in the first place, which seems more fit for a parody of an action star than a real-life one.  I think Vin Diesel can still be moderately successful starring in action movies, but he’ll never be a box office draw the way Arnold or Sly were; just seeing the name “Schwarzenegger” on a movie poster or billboard was enough to get people excited.


The three current “action stars” would be, I suppose, Channing Tatum, Jason Statham, and Sam Worthington.  Tatum is a horrible actor, and I’m yet to meet a male who enjoys watching him on screen.  He’s handsome and well-built, but his lack of talent is glaring, as his total lack of charisma.  Worst of all, he never seems excited or passionate on screen.  If he can’t get excited about a huge explosion, then how is the audience supposed to act?  Statham is decent, but his biggest flaw is his melancholy demeanor.  Lighten up, Jason.  Size is also an issue with Statham.  He looks like he can handle himself in a fight – especially in The Transporter – but can I buy him beating up a bunch of guys at once?  Never.  Finally, there’s Worthington, perhaps the most unlikable of the bunch.  I’ve never met a male who liked Tatum, but I’ve also never met a male who didn’t dislike Worthington.  I imagine that in three years, he’ll be relegated to supporting roles.  I certainly don’t mean to pick on these three actors – I like a lot of Statham’s movies – but when you compare them to Sly and Arnold (and even Bruce), you can see how absurd it is to consider them “action stars.”  Because let’s face it – nobody goes to the movies to see Sam Worthington.

Like I wrote above, the Rock was the only actor with a realistic shot of being the type of transcendental action star that could sell a movie simply by appearing in it, but his ship has sailed.  If there ever is going to be another huge action star, I’m convinced we have’t seen him yet.

Similar Posts


  1. I would say The Stath just needs the right vehicle. Arnie and Sly jumped right out the gate with Terminator and Rambo, and Stath just doesn’t have that yet. He does have a sense of dry humor – see “Lock, Stock”. However, I don’t see what that vehicle could be or who would direct it. But he needs his franchise character for sure.

    True – The Rock did lose it when he stopped being “The Rock”. Who the hell would want to stop being called “The Rock”!? “No, thanks ma’am, I’m no longer “Dirk Kickass” – call me Dwayne”.

  2. Madison. I’ve recently e-mailed Paul Tassi in regards to writing for your website. I haven’t gotten a response, and I wasn’t sure what the best method of contact was… but if you could give me any helpful information or advice (or simply move the word along), I would greatly appreciate it. I have a vast knowledge of movies, video games, and comic books, and I would love the opportunity to contribute to Unreality Magazine.

  3. I got worried when I saw that Channing guy’s picture but thank goodness everyone sees what a horrible actor he is…he’s just terrible and there’s no charisma at all!

    I was maybe thinking Matt Damon because he’s good in the action movies he’s in…but they just don’t make action movies like they used to anymore. A co-worker suggested Hugh Jackman but the singing and dancing stuff sort of cancel him out.

  4. I thought Gerard Butler might have a chance at being the next great action star….then my girlfriend made me watch P.S. I Love You & The Ugly Truth. Now with that Boutny Hunter movie coming out I’m pretty sure the dudes a solid chick flick lead for the rest of his life.
    I never thought I’d say this, but look to the WWE stars for action heros. They’re coming out with nothing but random action films lately….

  5. @ Cheryl

    Matt Damon actually holds his own in action movies; that’s true. But his action movies are also a bit more grounded – I’d like to see him in a big sci-fi shooter or something before I annointed him a great action star. He’s a damn good actor, regardless.

    @ J5

    Man, I had the unfortunate experience of watching The Ugly Truth with my gf, too. I feel ya, man.

  6. Christian Bale is a decent candidate. He doesn’t have what Arnold and Sly did but he’s pretty badass when he wants to be.

    Ryan Reynolds COULD be if he just let himself stay jacked.

  7. Are we forgetting Expendables coming out soon? And the A-Team.

    Of the list: I disagree with Statham mildly. He’s not a great “actor” (neither were Sly or Arnie), but he’s a damn solid action lead. And his movies are usually less CGI oriented.

    #J5: I can’t stand movies with wrestling stars in it, I mean it took a while for the Rock to get his acting chops down but the current crop of wrestling movie stars are painful. Watching The Marine or 12 Rounds makes me go look for my Die Hard bluray so I can hear Yippee Ki Yay Mo********* again to get the pain outta my head.

  8. @ hyuri

    I completely agree, I was just saying, lately their the only one’s I’ve seen putting out ONLY action stars. I’m not saying the movies are good, they compare to watching an Antonio Sobato Jr. film.

  9. Daniel Craig has a shot. He’s jacked, looks tough, can fight, and most guys like him. His only fault (and you could say this about Bale, or Matt Damon too) is that he may be TOO good an actor to be known as an action star. All three of these guys have been in some great action movies, but they’re known for more than that. Which is oddly similar to the Bruce Willis situation.

  10. I agree with this article! There will definitely be a long time before we will *ever* see another true action hero. Daniel Craig is cool and all but he will forever be known as “James Bond” and isnt brawny enough to fit the role of a true action hero, he has too much finess.
    We need a gnarly dude, that can get us all excited when we just see his name in a movie…heck, remember those crappy movies Arnold made? Everyone was STILL intrigued by them and hoped he would blow something up in some sort of way.

  11. I’ve thought the same thing as this article several times in the last few years. I really felt like the Rock could become a big action lead after the Rundown. The guy is a surprisingly good actor, he’s big, and he’s likable. The Rundown fits the category of not being a particularly good movie, but being a very fun action flick. All of these things should have pointed to him becoming an action star, but he hasn’t done anything but kiddie movies since then. What the hell?

    I think charisma is a real key to an action star. Sly and Arnie were never terrific actors, but you still always wanted to root for them, and they even had us wanting cheesy lines.
    I guess we need some new charismatic and bulky guy to show up in some movies to take the action hero crown.

    For what it’s worth, I still really like watching Sly in his newer movies. I think the latest Rambo is nearly as good as First Blood, and I’m really looking forward to the expendables.

  12. I disagree completely that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has cost himself a chance as the next true action star. When you see him you don’t see the Toothfairy do you. He just needs an intense “R” rated action flick. I disagree even more about you assessment of Statham he is completely jacked and sells the badass role in my opinion.
    I agree with the rest what you said. I think The Rock has one more kids movie before what you said is probably true and Tatum is wooden as hell.

  13. Also disagree that the ship has sailed on the Rock. He has enough brownie points from his wrestling days that he can make Disney movies and Ro-Cos for the next decade and still be a badass. The man paid his dues. Watch some of his clips on youtube; they are just as hilarious and bad-ass today. I think he still has the potential to be an even greater star than Sly or Arnold. My opinion is that any wrestling fan will always have a soft spot for him.

    My theory as to why the next truly great action star has not emerged: because there are much fewer R rated BLOCKBUSTER action movies these days. They are all rated PG-13 so as to capture as much of the market as possible.

    Think about all the iconic action flicks that you love, and then think about how they would be watered down if they were released today instead. The reason we don’t view today’s action stars with the same reverence as we view the Slys and Arnolds is because they are never given a platform that really allows them to be truly badass.

    I wish they would start releasing special edition DVDs of new action movies with an unedited R rated version, and that film makers would produce their films with an eye toward having a PG-13 version for the theaters, and an R rated version for the home.

  14. GI Joe was probably the number one comedy of 2009. It still cracks me up every time I think about the movie. I love movies with unintentional humor.

  15. The Rock, sorry, Dwayne Johnson, is actually back to action movies and he’s got an R-rated flick coming out called Faster, google the image of him in the prison outfit so far and tell me he can’t claim the throne for the decade.

  16. Man it must be ESP coz I was thinking about this very topic and every single actor named today.

    Of course the acting has never been that great but its their charisma and machismo that made Arnold, Jean Claude, Chuck, Sly, Bruce and even Steven legends. Todays pick of douchey over emotional, numb faced film actors has killed the Action hero.

    In my opinion the Rock can recover only of he rehabs and completely detoxes the Disney fairytale Princess in him. Can you imagine just how cool the upcoming Predator film would be if he was in it going mano a mano with the Predator. Not only is taller than Schwarzenneger but I believe he’s more physically imposing now than The Guvner was in his Predator/Terminator years. And lastly, he’s a fairly decent actor.

    Vin Diesel never seemed too interested in becoming the next Action hero, he seemed preoccupied with becoming the next De Niro or something close to that. Although his Riddick character is probably my favorite anti-hero of all time.

  17. In wrestling, there’s a whole matter of presence. Some people, like The Rock, just have it. While I appreciate the intricacies of acting the same I do someone who knows the ins and outs of technical pro wrestling, sometimes all it takes is being memorable to be a big name. That’s very much what the action stars of the ’80s and ’90s were based on, and that’s why wrestlers should by all means be capable of filling these roles.

    Fact is, though, the WWE kind of has its head up its ass at the moment. They seem convinced that their current crop of top stars, particularly John Cena, are on the level of The Rock or even Steve Austin in terms of a presence that can carry over to other mediums, and that just isn’t true. Wrestling isn’t “with it” the way it was in the ’90s, so, sadly, I don’t have a ton of faith in it supplying Hollywood with anything worthwhile these days.

  18. Just had to add my 2cents……

    Channing Tatum is a douche of epic proportions (especially after ruining the character of Duke in the horrible summer flick G.I.Joe).

    As for everyone else, yeah I agree that “the rock” had a good chance, but I’m affray that the action movies of the past are just that….in the past. I just don’t think there is an audience for that kind of movie any longer, at least not how it used to be. Our “Bond” movies are trying to be more “Bourne” like and our “Comando” and “Rambo” movies are turning into parodies like “Crank” and “Transporter”. Our action stars of this decade all want to be the next Brad Pitt or Matt Damon, where their acting is taken seriously as opposed to Arnie or Sly.

    Which also leads me to one last point, I think if Jason Statham is going to follow anyone footsteps it would have to be Willis’s.

    Oh and Vin Diesel is another douche.

  19. It’s obvious ! Jason Statham is the next big action star ! Did anyone see “Crank” or “The Transporter” ?! Those movies were nothing but good ol’ fashion “Shoot Everything that moves and kill the bad guy” fare.

  20. Theres a BIG resaon why The Rock was black listed from holly wood…he was not down with the “Brotherhood” … go look it up>>>>he was sposed to star in I Am Legend…but wld not perform a certain act…

  21. I dont think there will be good action stars like arnie and sly for a long time. Arnie #1 imo. I like Jason Statham movies, but he doesn’t fit as an action hero. He suites the badass, rebal sort of guy. Action movies don’t have the big hype the used to anymore i reckon.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.