What is the most realistic action movie ever?

In order to qualify as an action movie, it must have a significant portion of the film devoted to action, though the action can of course be in many forms, such as:

  • Fights (gun, sword, unarmed, magic)
  • Chases and races (foot, horse, car, broom, etc.)
  • Military battles (land, air, sea, space)
  • Adventuring (navigating dangerous areas, such as lost temples, enemy bases, monster-infested swamps, etc.)

When I say “realistic”, I guess I’m looking for realism in:

  • Physics, or science in general. Note that a film can presuppose certain impossible facts (such as: magic exists and can be wielded by humans), but the rest of it must fall in line with the laws of physics, unless it is clearly overruled by the film’s own laws of physics, which must also be applied consistently.

  • Characters (scripting and acting). People reacting realistically to events unfolding and each other. Keanu Reeves need not apply.

  • Logic. Things must make sense. It’s OK for movie characters to be stupid or do stupid things, but geniuses in a given field shouldn’t make 100 stupid mistakes that should be covered quite well by their skill set. For example, a super assassin whose face is known would not cross from Canada to the USA in a well-publicized and broadcast boat race. He also would not, if he suspects his car has been identified, keep driving the same minivan around and only paint it different colors from time to time. He would obtain a new damn car. Also, super villain plans should not be so overly convoluted that it relies on the heroes doing exactly A, B, C, D, E, and F, in that order, exactly when they predict.
    I don’t reasonably expect any action movie to actually fulfill the title of “realistic movie”, but I’m curious to find out which come closest.

I’ll throw my hat in the ring with: Crimson Tide. I felt that the premise was quite capable of taking place, the characters’ actions pretty much followed through in believable, consistent ways, and most of the participants acted logically, from their point of view. I’m not sure if this can actually be called an “action movie”, since there is not a lot of actual action on screen, but it definitely tingled with potentially-explosive energy throughout, like a leaking gas stove.

I think the Jason Bourne movies push things a little but are, overall, very realistic.

Saving Private Ryan was real enough to stir the emotions of Normandy veterans so I think it should be on the list.

The very first scene in Saving Private Ryan seemed off to me, though, in that bullets travelled through people even after going through at least 10 feet of water, a suspicion that seemed well-founded. In that alone it seems less realistic to me than many other war movies, which may be unrealistic in other ways such as logic, but don’t have physical errors glaring enough for me to detect.

In terms of the action itself - most of the early Jackie Chan movies are pretty good,since he does all his own stunts and fight scenes. The plot lines leave a little to be desired though.

A nit to pick about Crimson Tide. The Officer and XO both would have been court martialed immediately, and even if they were cleared, would have been discharged from the Navy.

I’ll submit Ladder 49. Firefighting is very much like that: the shenanigans, the working environment, the actual fire situations.

The movie The Way of the Gun was praised for its accuracy, but that doesn’t make it watchable, outside of the pre-credit sequence.

They would be my pick. And each one seems better than the previous one.

Audie Murphy’s biopic was supposed to be pretty realistic.

The shootouts in Heat are generally well-regarded. Don’t know about the accuracy of the policework, criminal mindset, etc.

I think **The Longest Day ** was pretty realistic. Maybe a little lacking in the blood of Saving Private Ryan, but it really did a good job with presenting D-Day and many of the horrors of the day. Most of the little things shown in that movie were garnered from stories from vets of the day.


Black Hawk Down?

and the thread winner is:


only small changes made to the actual events and people. A ripping yarn.

A vote for “Master and Commander”. The action, characters and logic all seemed quite believable to me.

I’ve never heard of this movie, but perhaps we should leave out action movies that depict historical events, unless it’s a fictional story within said historical events (Saving Private Ryan and Titanic would both be OK, by that guideline).

I’m more interested in how realistically folks can pull off a fictional tale.

How about The Thin Red Line? It’s much more realistic than other war films because Malick avoids the cliche of having a handful of stars single-handedly win WWII. And the violence in the movie is realistic because it occurs randomly rather than as part of the “story”.

It stretches the definition but if it had been entirely fictional I think it would have fallen into the action/suspense genre but the most gut wrenchingly real award I’d give to United 93. It is an amazing piece of film making that I need never see again.

Hmmm…I was going to nominate “Rob Roy”, if only because during the climactic sword duel Liam Neeson seemed to actually get tired after swinging his claymore around for a few minutes. I have no idea how closely the movie is to the actual life of Robert Roy MacGregor.

I thought the sword fight at the end of The Four Muskateers between Michael York and Christopher Lee was pretty darn realistic. One of the few movies I’ve seen where two folks trying to kill one another are obviously tired and panting heavily toward the end of the fight.


As a former U.S. submarine officer who has been on patrol in a ballistic missile submarine, let me assure you that Crimson Tide was in no way realistic, starting with the opening scene and continuing throughout the whole movie. There are so many things wrong with this sorry excuse for a movie that I don’t even know where to start.

My candidate is We Were Soldiers, at least so far as its portrayal of the battlefield. (Now some Army guy who was in Vietnam will step up to tell me how unrealistic that movie was. :slight_smile: )