Hollywood is no stranger to adrenaline-pumping action flicks, with many of these beloved fan favorites headlined by seasoned acting legends. With successful careers spanning decades, some of the most exciting and compelling movie stars have proven that the action genre does not have to be just a young man’s game. Iconic actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and Danny Trejo have demonstrated that age is just a number, and you’re never too old to deliver a good ol’ fashioned beat-down.
Audiences across the world have connected with these famous faces, watching as the phenomenal physical performers matured over the years and still remained exceptional action heroes, or became them later in their lives. Liam Neeson completely reinvented his career when he took on the butt-kicking role of retired CIA operative Bryan Mills in the thrilling Tasks series, transitioning from dramatic actor to a bona fide action superstar. Sylvester Stallone gathered some of cinema’s greatest talent for the blockbuster extravaganza The Expendables, enlisting aging fellow action royalty like Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme for the franchise. Even Bob Odenkirk, the comedian and Better Call Saul star, became an action hero at the age of 58 in the great film nobody. These are some of the greatest older action movie stars.
Dolph Lundgren is 64
Having first achieved widespread recognition for his breakthrough performance as Soviet boxer Ivan Drago alongside Sylvester Stallone in 1985’s rocky IV, Swedish star Dolph Lundgren swiftly became an action sensation and has since appeared in over 80 films of the genre, including a surprisingly prolific selection of direct-to-video movies.
The physically imposing six foot five actor is gifted in martial arts, having trained vigorously in Kyokushin karate, showcasing his impeccable skills in flicks like masters of the universe, the Universal Soldier series, Showdown in Little Tokyo and Aquaman. Lundgren hasn’t slowed down a bit, with the 64-year-old set to kick more butt in the upcoming action movies Wanted Man and the star studded The Expendables 4.
Liam Neeson is 70
After having crafted an impressive resume as a brilliant dramatic actor in critically-acclaimed pictures like Schindler’s List, Michael Collins and love actually, Irish actor Liam Neeson completely redefined his Hollywood persona when he headlined the 2008 action thriller tasks, portraying determined father and retired CIA operative Bryan Mills.
The exciting yet terrifying franchise led to Neeson becoming a certified action star and spawned roles in gripping action films like The A-Team, The Grey, Wrath of the Titans and A Walk Among the Tombstones. The 70-year-old recently opened up to Yahoo! News about his tough guy status, saying: “I was an amatuer boxer from the age of nine till I was 17. I just love the physicality…I turned 70 this year, so I’m still getting away with it.”
Jet Li is 59
Renowned Chinese actor, martial artist, and retired Wushu champion Jet Lic is an international moviestar who has demonstrated his superb kung fu skills in flicks like Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die, Kiss of the Dragon and The Forbidden Kingdom alongside fellow action great Jackie Chan. Despite suffering from hyperthyroidism for over a decade, the 59-year-old Li remains a commanding on-screen presence, starring in all three of The Expendables movies with Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren. Jet Li movies are still popular, and he has had great recent roles in League of Gods, Gong Shou Dao, and as The Emperor of China in the 2020 live-screen adaptation of Disney’s Mulan.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is 61
Known fondly as “the muscles from Brussels,” Belgian superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme moved to the United States in 1982 for a career on the silver screen, landing his big break in the cult classic 1988 martial arts staple blood sport. Having enrolled in a Shōtōkan karate school at 10, Van Damme would go on to learn the craft as well as bodybuilding, Kickboxing, Taekwondo and Muay Thai, earning his black belt in karate at 18.
The actor used his diverse martial arts background to become a highly-sought after action star, appearing in ’90s hits like Death Warrant, Universal Soldier and Maximum Risk. After a brief career lull, the 61-year-old Van Damme appeared in The Expendables 2, the Kung Fu Panda franchise, and the kickboxer reboot.
Chuck Norris is 82
Iconic action hero Chuck Norris is a revered martial artist and actor, having earned his black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, Tang Soo Do, and judo and getting his start teaching celebrities the craft when he arrived in Hollywood in the late 1960s. Norris gained widespread attention when he joined close friend and legendary martial artist Bruce Lee in 1972’s way of the dragon, with the physical role spawning roles in popular action pictures like Good Guys Wear Black, Missing in Action, and Code of Silence.
His performance as the tough titular character in the long-running Walker, Texas Ranger further cemented Norris’ status as an action hero, with the 82-year-old continuing to punch and kick his way through bad guys in the movie The Expendables 2 and television show Hawaii Five-0.
Danny Trejo is 78
The charming, mustached macho man Danny Trejo has had a slew of memorable roles in gritty action flicks like Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, further notoriety as the eponymous deadly gaining ex-Federale in Robert Rodriguez’s movie Machete. Trejo’s cinema career began by accident back in 1985 when he was operating a sober house and working as a drug counselor, showing up on the set of Runaway Train to help a young man he was sponsoring.
The adored Hollywood rebel showcased his outstanding boxing skills in the unexpected role, effectively launching a new life and career trajectory for the performer. Now 78, Trejo still dominates the big and small screen, starring in the badass franchise, all about the money, and Bullets of Justice.
The endearing Hong Kong actor and martial artist Jackie Chan has dazzled audiences with his phenomenal physicality for over five decades, having got his start as a stuntman opposite Bruce Lee in 1972’s Fist of Fury and 1973’s Enter the Dragon. Chan is one of the most popular and recognizable action heroes in the world, beloved for his slapstick acrobatic fighting technique and heralded for his roles in smash hits like Drunken Master, Police Story, Rumble in the Bronx and both the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon franchises. The 68-year-old Chan has appeared in over 150 films and continues headlining action flicks, most recently Skiptrace, The Foreigner, and 2020’s Vanguard.
Sylvester Stallone is 76
After finding critical and commercial success as the headstrong underdog Rocky Balboa in the 1976 cultural phenomenon rocky, Sylvester Stallone became a bona fide action superstar, dominating the genre with adrenaline-pumping performances such as John Rambo in the thrilling Rambo franchise and mercenary Barney Ross in The Expendables series.
Stallone has been a constant presence in Hollywood and is an admired movie star, becoming the only actor in American cinema history to headline a box office number one film over the course of six consecutive decades. Revered for his muscular build, fearless attitude and compelling performances, the 76-year-old Stallone remains a hot commodity on the silver screen; he is set to star in the upcoming superhero action movie Samaritan as well as The Expendables 4 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is 74
The one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger is a decorated actor, businessman and former politician and bodybuilder, first gaining notoriety when he won the prestigious Mr. Universe title at just the age of 20 in 1967. After appearing in the 1977 bodybuilding documentary pumping iron, Schwarzenegger shifted his attention to the big screen and became a certified action star with iconic roles in Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator movie franchise, predator, and True Lies. Over 40 years later, the legendary superstar continues delivering rousing and blood-pumping performances at 74, joining the star-studded series The Expendables, Escape Plan, Terminator: Dark Fate, and the soon-to-be released martial arts comedy Kung Fury 2.