There is something special about action-thriller films. They have the ability to help us to vent out our urge for an Adrenalin rush in real-life. When the suspenseful narrative progression is executed with high-octane action sequences, one is bound to jump off the seat to be in the world of the film. ‘Ronin,’ directed by John Frankenheimer and co-written by J.D. Zeik and David Mamet, falls in this category. The movie follows Sam, a former U.S. intelligence agent who works as a mercenary. He is tasked with the a dangerous mission of tracking down a mysterious package that is wanted by the Irish and the Russians. ‘Ronin’ has Robert De Niro playing the central character of Sam, who is supported by the performances of Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, Natascha McElhone, and Jonathan Pryce. The movie is shot by French cinematographer Robert Fraisse, edited by English film editor Tony Gibbs and the music is scored by Czech composer Elia Cmiral.
‘Ronin’ premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it garnered rave reviews for the performances, action sequences, cinematography, and editing. But lack of coherence and pace of the screenplay was criticized by some. Nonetheless, the movie went on to become a commercial success, grossing $70.7 million against a budget of $55 million. For this list, I have taken into account films which have a similar narrative structure. The selected names on this list primarily deal with multiple concepts through the lens of action thrillers. In addition, I have not included projects directed by John Frankenheimer in order to have a more diverse selection. So, without further ado, here is the list of best movies similar to ‘Ronin’ that are our recommendations.
10. Clockers (1995)
A crime drama, ‘Clockers’ chronicles the life on the fringes of a group of young drug pushers in the projects of Brooklyn. The live dangerous lives and are trapped between the tussle of their drug bosses and the detectives who are out to stop them. Directed by Spike Lee from a screenplay he co-written with Richard Price, ‘Clockers’ is an adaptation of Price’s novel of the same name, published in 1992.
The film explores the various facets of the criminal underworld, drug scandals and the law. The movie is produced by Martin Scorsese, and his filmmaking aesthetics are evident in the tonal quality of the project. While the commercial prospects of the movie were quite disheartening at the time of release, grossing merely $13 million against a budget of $25 million, the film received positive reviews from critics.
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9. Vanishing Point (1971)
Directed by Richard C. Sarafian and co-written by Guillermo Cain and Barry Hall, ‘Vanishing Point’ follows car delivery driver Kowalski, essayed by Barry Newman. Kowalski is known for delivering hot rods in record time but somehow always runs into trouble with the highway policemen. Billed as a road movie, ‘Vanishing Point’, upon its release was not met with positive reception. Critics disparaged it to be “cheap thrills” and criticized Sarafian’s direction to be manipulative. However, since then, the reception as seasoned towards the positive side with many modern-day filmmakers as well as critics citing it as one of their favorite action flicks.
8. Léon: The Professional (1994)
An action thriller, ‘Léon: The Professional’ is the story of an unlikely emotional bond between the 12-year-old Mathilda, essayed by Natalie Portman, and Léon, essayed by Jean Reno, who is a professional assassin. Léon taken in the girl under his wings after her family is murdered by corrupt DEA agent Norman Stansfield, essayed by Gary Oldman.
As Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, the young girl slowly starts learning the trades of assassination. She wants to exact revenge for murdered family. While on the surface, ‘Léon: The Professional’ is an action thriller, the film portrays the aspects of friendship with dexterity. With a surprisingly mature performance by a young Portman which is complemented by the ever reliant Oldman and Reno, the movie is an engaging and thrilling piece of work.
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7. Sleepless Night (2011)
Directed by Frédéric Jardin and co-written by Nicolas Saada and Jardin, ‘Sleepless Night’ chronicles the efforts of a cop to climb out of a a controversy that threatens his image as cop. When one of his illegal schemes to rob a pair drug traffickers goes terribly awry, his son’s life slips into jeopardy. ‘Sleepless Night’ premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and received positive reviews. It holds a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and its success has spawned two remakes – ‘Sleepless’ (2017) which stars Jamie Foxx and the Indian film ‘Thoongaa Vanam’ (2015) starring Kamal Hassan.
6. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Adapted from ‘Three-Ten to Yuma,’ a short story written by Elmore Leonard, ‘3:10 to Yuma’ follows Dan Evans, a small-time rancher who agrees to hold capture Ben Wade, an outlaw who awaits the train to go to court in Yuma. What follows is a battle of wills between the two. Directed by James Mangold and co-written by Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, the Western is an adrenaline-pumping thriller of all times times. What charges the flick is the brilliant musical score composed by Marco Beltrami, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. ‘3:10 to Yuma’ holds a rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and an average score of 76 out of 100 on Metacritic.
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5. Rolling Thunder (1977)
A neo-noir action thriller, ‘Rolling Thunder’ stars William Devane as Major Charles Rane, a war veteran who, after losing his family to a violent home invasion, takes it upon himself to exact revenge. He embarks on a dangerous mission to hunt down the culprits to fulfill his thirst for vengeance. Directed by John Flynn and co-written by Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould, ‘Rolling Thunder’ is an absolutely seat clenching thriller. The action sequences, direction, writing, and performances collude to form a fitting piece of work. While the film received some criticism for the pacing and the explicit violence, ‘Rolling Thunder’ won big at the box office. With a rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, The movie also went on to become of the critically acclaimed movies of 1977.
4. The Bourne Identity (2002)
Adapted from spy novel ‘The Bourne Identity,’ written by Robert Ludlum, this Doug Liman directed action thriller stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a man who finds himself in a perilous situation when he learns that his name is on the hit list of the CIA. Things turn for the worse as Bourne has no memory of his past and his real identity. The film is powered by the engaging visual stylistics and the action sequences, which is executed to brilliance by Damon. A commercial and critical success, ‘The Bourne Identity’ has spawned four sequels, which make the ‘Jason Bourne’ film series.
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3. The Raid (2011)
Written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, ‘The Raid’ a.k.a ‘Serbuan Maut’ focuses on a S.W.A.T. team which gets trapped in an apartment teeming with killers and thugs of the underground army of a ruthless mobster. ‘The Raid’ premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and received positive reviews from critics and audience. The action flick also won the “Midnight Madness – People’s Choice Award” at the festival. What makes the flick such a great watch is the brilliantly choreographed lightning action. Iko Uwais, who essays the role of Rama, a special tactics officer, leads the pact with technical genius. ‘The Raid’ was a commercial success too, grossing $9.3 million against a budget of $1.1 million.
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2. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Adapted from American author John Godey’s thriller novel of the same name, which published in 1973, ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ rips open the underbelly of New York City to reveal the criminal underworld thriving with death, gore and violence. The plot follows a hijacking attempt of a subway train by armed men who demand a ransom in exchange for the safety of the passengers.
Directed by Joseph Sargent and written by Peter Stone, the thriller is teeming with seat clenching ecstasies. The continuous threat to the passengers coupled with the racing of the train keeps the narrative right on track. What also helps is the score composed by David Shire, which aids in pumping the adrenaline with dexterity. With a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ is a must-watch for all action thriller enthusiasts.
1. Heat (1995)
Written and directed by Michael Mann, ‘Heat’ chronicles the cat and mouse game between the LAPD detective Vincent Hanna and criminal mastermind Neil McCauley. Veteran actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro essay the roles of Hanna and McCauley respectively. Hanna is on a mission to prevent an ongoing series of heists conducted by a group of professional thieves led by McCauley. What makes the film such an interesting piece of work is the director Mann who operates in to form. The wonderful performances by the cast also provide the required momentum for the action flick. Heat’ is surprisingly a meditative examination of the psychological warfare between criminals and cops. With a cool color palette and intrinsically planned narrative progression, ‘Heat’ has become one of the genre-defining action thrillers, which many filmmakers have tried to imitate through the years.
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