A good action film has to have a hero. We need to see someone up against impossible odds, fighting for himself, his family or even all of mankind. Finding the right actor to play the hero can have a huge impact on the success and legacy of the film and is just as important as a good script or director.

Action heroes in cinema have blazed across the screen in a variety of ways. What follows are a diverse group of characters that have become pop culture icons.

Indiana JonesHarrison Ford had the role of Indiana Jones through all four films, beginning in 1981 when he travelled the world trying to prevent the Nazis from recovering the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. George Lucas created the character in homage to the action heroes he loved as a child in the 1930’s film serials. With his trademark bullwhip, fedora and leather jacket, the adventures of Indiana Jones would include a search for the Holy Grail and a battle against the Soviets who are trying to harness the power of a crystal skull associated with extraterrestrials.

Photo: Indiana Jones

Dirty Harry– In one of his most popular roles, Clint Eastwood portrayed “Dirty” Harry Callahan, a detective in the Homicide Division of the San Francisco Police Department. Frustrated with a law system more concerned with the rights of the criminal than the victim, Dirty Harry exacted his own brand of justice in an unorthodox but effective manner. The cop with an obsession for justice and total disregard for rules was introduced in 1971. The popularity of the character would propel Dirty Harry and his.44 magnum through four sequels.

Photo: Dirty Harry

Ripley– Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in the four Alien films, has often been considered one of the best female protagonists in film history. Using weapons like an incinerator, a harpoon gun, an M41A Pulse Rifle and even a power loader to battle the Alien Queen, Ripley has proven that you can be a woman and still kick major butt.

Photo: Alien

The Bride– Primarily known as The Bride, Beatrix Kiddo is the protagonist of the two-part movie Kill Bill, directed by Quentin Tarantino. Uma Thurman tackles the part of Kiddo, a ruthless warrior and former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Unable to accept her departure from the squad, the Vipers and their leader Bill find Kiddo at her wedding rehearsal and murder everyone. Bill then shoots her in the head, leaving her in a coma. After being comatose for four years, The Bride begins a mission of revenge against Bill and the Vipers.

Photo: Kill Bill

Rambo– In one of his signature roles, Sylvester Stallone is John Rambo, a troubled Vietnam War veteran and former Green Beret who is skilled in survival, weaponry, hand to hand combat and guerrilla warfare. Over the course of four films, Rambo has waged war against a small town sheriff and his deputies, rescued prisoners of war in Vietnam, battled the Soviets in Afghanistan and fought to recover missionaries held hostage in Burma.

First Blood (1982)
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Shown: Sylvester Stallone
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