Liam Neeson returns to theaters this Friday as the protector of a young immigrant in "The Marksman." To prepare, we've rounded up his 9 best action films thus far.
More of a dark action comedy than a straight-up Liam Neeson action flick, the premise sounds fairly standard. Members of a drug cartel kill the son of a modest snow plow driver. Snow plow driver goes berserk and starts taking them out one by one. That's what happens. But it's the way in which Neeson's wronged parent offs the bad guys, and the play-it-straight dark humor, that makes this one quite original in his filmography. Action fans might be a little thrown, but let this one marinate. It's got some great kills, and some killer laughs.
Thriller / 2019 / R
Synopsis: Nels Coxman's quiet life as a snowplow driver comes crashing down when his beloved son dies under mysterious circumstances. His search for the truth soon becomes a quest for revenge against a psychotic drug lord named Viking and his sleazy henchmen. Transformed from upstanding citizen to coldblooded vigilante, Coxman unwittingly sets off a chain of events that includes a kidnapping, a series of deadly misunderstandings and a turf war between Viking and a rival boss.
Run All Night
"Run All Night" is the stereotypical Liam Neeson action film -- but that's not a bad thing at all when everyone's at the top of their game. Neeson stars as an ex-hit man on the run with his son (Joel Kinnaman) after icing the drug-dealing offspring (Boyd Holbrook) of his former boss (the always reliable Ed Harris). Lots of blood is shed, loyalties crossed and gritty business is done. It's memorable, though, due to the tension between acting titans Neeson and Harris, and worthy turns from new generation stars Kinnaman and Holbrook, and Common as an assassin known as Mr. Price.
Run All Night
Action / 2015 / R
Synopsis: Longtime hit man Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson), best friend of mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), has seen better days. He's haunted both by the sins of his past and a police detective who's been breathing down his neck for 30 years, and the only comfort Jimmy has is whiskey. However, when his estranged son (Joel Kinnaman) becomes a mob target, Jimmy figures that the only way to atone for his past mistakes is to make sure that his son doesn't wind up at the wrong end of a gun.
Over the decades, there have been lots of fun airborne thrillers ("Executive Decision," "Redeye," "Passenger 57," "Snakes on a Plane"). Add "Non-Stop" to the list, with Neeson once again solid as ever as a Federal Air Marshall tasked to uncover a killer who's determined to murder a passenger every 20 minutes during an international flight unless he gets his millions. Julianne Moore co-stars as a passenger who accepts her mission to help the marshall root out the bad guy.
Action / 2014 / PG-13
Synopsis: Alcoholic and world-weary, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) lost his passion for his work long ago. Even though lives are potentially at stake during every flight, he sees the assignment as just a desk job. However, his "ordinary day at the office" becomes a high-stakes crisis during a flight to London. Marks receives a series of text messages demanding that he instruct the airline to transfer $150 million into an offshore account, or a passenger will die every 20 minutes.
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Directed by Scott Frank (Oscar nominated for his screenplays for "Out of Sight" and "Logan"), this neo-noir action flick finds Liam Neeson doing what he does best: adding grit to the character of a down-and-out detective turned private eye, and beating the crap out of lowlifes who truly deserve it. The story Frank's concocted is a complex tale that involves kidnappings and other horrible crimes, but it also lays out a compelling journey of redemption, and features Neeson in another memorable turn.
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Action / 2014 / R
Synopsis: Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson), formerly part of the NYPD, now works as an unlicensed private detective. His latest client is a drug trafficker (Dan Stevens) whose wife was kidnapped and brutally murdered, and as Scudder delves deeper, he finds that the crime's sequence is the modus operandi of the perpetrators. Before they can strike again and destroy other lives, Scudder races through the back streets of New York to catch the killers, blurring the lines between lawful and criminal as he goes.
Fair warning: this isn't so much an action film (although it does have plenty of it) as it is an unforgettable, existential tale about what it means to be alive, and the reasons to fight for life. Liam Neeson and a motley crew manage to survive a plane crash in the Alaskan wild. But that's only the start of their adventure, as they're pursued across a snowy and barren landscape by wolves who decimate their number and test their limits to the extreme.
Drama / 2012 / R
Synopsis: Following a grueling five-week shift at an Alaskan oil refinery, workers led by sharpshooter John Ottway (Liam Neeson) are flying home for a much-needed vacation. A brutal storm causes their plane to crash in the frozen wilderness, and only eight men (Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney), including Ottway, survive. As they trek southward toward civilization and safety, Ottway and his companions must battle mortal injuries, the icy elements, and a pack of hungry wolves.
"Taken" was the first movie to truly announce Liam Neeson's arrival as a bona fide and bankable action star. It's the one where he warns the kidnappers who take his daughter that he has a very special set of skills, and they'll soon find out about them firsthand. For evil human traffickers everywhere, it's the furious and righteous judgment they fear and deserve now come to pass. Liam Neeson will find you, and he will destroy you.
Action / 2008 / PG-13
Synopsis: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former government operative, is trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Then his worst fears become real when sex slavers abduct Kim and her friend shortly after they arrive in Paris for vacation. With just four days until Kim will be auctioned off, Bryan must call on every skill he learned in black ops to rescue her.
As Bruce Wayne/Batman's mentor Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul, Liam Neeson is the physical and mental embodiment of prowess and purpose. Leader of the mysterious League of Shadows, he's the mentor to take Wayne up to the next level (a role Neeson ably performed for Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan, too, in "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.") This is where "Batman Begins." And he wouldn't be here if not for Liam Neeson.
Action / 2005 / PG-13
Synopsis: A young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels to the Far East, where he's trained in the martial arts by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), a member of the mysterious League of Shadows. When Ducard reveals the League's true purpose -- the complete destruction of Gotham City -- Wayne returns to Gotham intent on cleaning up the city without resorting to murder. With the help of Alfred (Michael Caine), his loyal butler, and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), a tech expert at Wayne Enterprises, Batman is born.
It took awhile for audiences to fully embrace Liam Neeson as a true action star on the level of the Schwarzeneggers and Stallones of the world. But the signs were there, even in the mid-90s. Check out "Rob Roy," the action-packed story about the adventures of the real-life historical figure who led his 18th century Scottish clan against the injustices of a corrupt nobleman. It's got everything - romance, politics, epic combat and a leading man who's worth following into battle.
Biography / 1995 / R
Synopsis: In 18th century Scotland, Robert Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is the head of a proud Highlands clan that herds cattle. Rob takes a one thousand pound loan from the Marquis of Montrose (John Hurt) to feed his people through the upcoming winter -- before his friend MacDonald (Eric Stoltz) can return with the money, he is murdered by swordsman Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth). Rob is forced to go on the run and eventually confronts Cunningham after he rapes his wife (Jessica Lange).
Long before the MCU or even the first big Spider-Man movie, Liam Neeson had entered into the superhero fray in "Darkman" (directed by "Spider-Man's" Sam Raimi), playing a scientist who's horribly disfigured by gangsters. Determined to have his vengeance, the newly christened "Darkman" has superhuman strength and creates disguises so that he can temporarily pose as other people. The film's a cult classic that early on pointed out Neeson's viability as a true hero.
Action / 1990 / R
Synopsis: When thugs employed by a crime boss lead a vicious assault on Dr. Peyton Wilder (Liam Neeson), leaving him literally and psychologically scarred, an emergency procedure allows him to survive. Upon his recovery, Wilder can find solace only by returning to his scientific work developing synthetic skin, and seeking revenge against the crime boss. He assumes a phantom avenger persona called Darkman, who, with malleable facial qualities, is able to infiltrate and sow terror in the criminal community.