It's Boxing Day, which means it's the perfect day to celebrate action. We love a cerebral hero, who thinks five thousand steps ahead and sets careful traps — but there's something to be said for an action hero, who goes on huge car chases, gets into massive fight scenes, and survives by the skin of his or her teeth. A brawler who blows things up.
Here's our tribute to the 12 greatest action heroes of all time.
Note: This is a list of action heroes. Meaning people who get into a lot of fights and blow shit up and jump out of exploding helicopters and stuff. There are plenty of great heroes who aren't on this list, some of whom just don't meet the crucial "fighting and jumping out of exploding vehicles" criteria. Also, please chime in with your favorites below!
Top image: Batman Vs. Wolverine by ex-m on Deviant Art
12. Conan the Barbarian
Saved the World? Yes. He stopped Thulsa Doom and the Cult of Set, who were pretty world-threatening.
Personal Code of Honor Mostly seeing his enemies driven before him and hearing the lamentation of the women.
Moment of Action Greatness: The Battle of the Mounds in 1982's Conan the Barbarian.
11. Xena, Warrior Princess
Saved the World? Yes, a few times, I believe.
Personal Code of Honor She believes in the "warrior's code of honor" but also tries to redeem herself after having been an evil warlord. She tries to protect the helpless and the innocents.
Moment of Action Greatness: "One Against an Army." Pretty much what it sounds like. There are some great lists of epic Xena fight scenes here.
10. Mad Max
Saved the World? Nope, don't think so.
Personal Code of Honor He's sort of a nihilistic man of the wasteland, but he has lines he won't cross, like killing Blaster in Beyond Thunderdome.
Moment of Action Greatness: The convoy fight at the end of Road Warrior, natch.
9) Indiana Jones
Saved the World? Yeah, if the Nazis had gotten their mitts on the Ark of the Covenant, it coulda been bad.
Personal Code of Honor He's serious about archeology, and apparently never sleeps with his students. He was a Boy Scout. He fights for the little guy.
Moment of Action Greatness: The scene where he gets dragged behind a truck in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Saved the World? Yeah. We would have been up to our asses in Xenomorphs if it wasn't for her.
Personal Code of Honor In Alien, she's mostly just pragmatic, willing to sacrifice any crewmember to save the ship. In Aliens, she's all about protecting Newt.
Moment of Action Greatness: "Get away from her, you bitch!"
Saved the World? As part of the X-Men, for sure. And on his own, a few times as well.
Personal Code of Honor He's come to subscribe to Bushido, the Samurai warrior code. Also, he's the best there is at what he does, and what he does ain't pretty.
Moment of Action Greatness: There are a lot of lists of Wolverine's greatest fights. Consensus seems to be that his smackdowns with the Hulk and Sabretooth are up there — but also, Wolverine taking on the Brood in full-on berserker mode might be the signature moment.
6) Wonder Woman
Saved the World? Definitely.
Personal Code of Honor She's an Amazon. She subscribes to the Amazon code of fighting for your comrades and defending the weak.
Moment of Action Greatness: JLA: A League of One, where she takes down a dragon single-handed. Also, The Hiketeia, where she takes down Batman.
5) Judge Dredd
Saved the World? Yes, given that he's stopped Judge Death. He's also saved Mega-City One countless times.
Personal Code of Honor He is the Law. He also upholds the Law at all costs.
Moment of Action Greatness: Probably when he tells Judge Fear, "Gaze into the Fist of Dredd!" Also, the pitched battle with East Meg One during the Apocalypse War.
Saved the World? Yes, plenty of times. Mostly in the JLA, but also solo.
Personal Code of Honor He won't kill. He protects the innocent. Criminals are superstitious and cowardly.
Moment of Action Greatness: There's a great list of killer Batman moments here — but his taking out Superman in The Dark Knight Returns is probably the greatest.
3) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Saved the World? Yes. A lot.
Personal Code of Honor She doesn't generally kill humans. She fights for the helpless and tries to do the right thing. She listens to her Watcher, about half the time. To the extent that there's a Slayer code, she abides by it.
Moment of Action Greatness: Blowing up her high school on her graduation day. Taking down a mean god in "The Gift."
2) Captain Kirk
Saved the World? Hell yes. One time, he saved the world, and saved the whales.
Personal Code of Honor He follows the Prime Directive, every now and then. His first responsibility is always to his ship and his crew. He doesn't believe in the no-win scenario.
Moment of Action Greatness: He pwns the Gorn with his hammer fists, his wits and a pile of sulfur and rocks.
1) James Bond
Saved the World? More times than we can count.
Personal Code of Honor He's loyal to M and to the British government. He generally follows orders, most of the time. He's licensed to kill, and doesn't just kill for kicks.
Moment of Action Greatness: The ski fight in The Spy Who Loved Me. The autogyro/helicopter showdown in You Only Live Twice. Tossed out of an airplane without a parachute in Moonraker. Drowning a guy at the start of Casino Royale.
Thanks to Jose Molina, Kaila Hale-Stern and Amanda Yesilbas for the suggestions!