From epic shootouts to exploding cars and intense fight scenes, the elements of a good action movie are well-known by now. There have been some films that stand out from the others, though, being able to compose multi-million dollar franchises. Part of the success of these films is owed to the chemistry of the great actors and the way they can combine amazing action sequences with great line readings, with actors like Sylvester Stalone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Tom Cruise immortalizing certain phrases and lines into the pantheon of great movie quotes.
New action movies are coming out every year, but few are so memorable as the ones that can be recognized by one simple line of dialogue. Here are the most famous lines and quotes in action movies.
Updated on August 28th, 2023, by Timothy Lindsey: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.
17 300 (2006)
“This is Sparta!”
The movie 300 is known for the action sequences, cast, and of course, the one-liner that is probably one of the most replicated lines in recent pop culture and film history. An evocative scene from a well-known story, the “This is Sparta!” moment comes early in the film after a message of war is delivered.
This moment leads the Spartans to war with the Persians, which is exhilarating to watch. The movie has other great lines such as ‘”Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight we dine in hell!” However, the Spartan war cry is the most famous one out of all the great ones.
16 Top Gun (1986)
“I feel the need… the need for speed.”
Tom Cruise as Pete Maverick marked a few generations as the charming and daunting pilot in Top Gun. Maverick starts the phrase, but he finishes it with his best pal Goose (Anthony Edwards), making it even more unique.
“I feel the need…the need for speed” will never be forgotten by generations of fans. This is an iconic line for one of the biggest ’80s movies we can’t live without, and the is sequel already just as huge. This dialogue symbolizes everything for these characters: who they are and who they want to become.
15 Taken (2008)
“I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
After years of being an acclaimed dramatic actor, Liam Nelson is now known for his action roles. He has been a part of important action movie franchises, such as The Dark Knight trilogy and Star Wars, to name a few.
However, it’s his line after his daughter is kidnapped in the first Takenmovie that has become synonymous with his career. “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.” A promise just as much as a treat, after hearing his daughter being kidnapped in another country, he can’t do anything to stop it at the moment — but he can go after the men that caused her harm, and don’t worry, he will.
14 Fight Club (1999)
“The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.”
The adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s book by director David Fincher quickly became a cult classic. The psychological thriller combined with unique and bizarre fight sequences is adored worldwide. The first time the main character, and the audience, meet the official Fight Club, the iconic quote is delivered.
Fans learned there are a couple of rules to becoming a part of the exclusive and dangerous club. The most famous of them all? “The first rule is: you do not talk about Fight Club.” A legendary line in a beloved cult classic.
13 The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix movies have a bunch of iconic lines, such as “Follow the white rabbit” and the politically appropriated “red pill” speech. In the first movie, Neo dodges the bullets being fired at him in slow motion, and then he is almost killed.
That’s when Trinity appears and saves him, uttering the sarcastic and daunting line to the Agents in a great example of the comedic element present in a serious action movie that revolutionized cinema. “Dodge this” had to be on this list.
12 Dirty Harry (1971)
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
Clint Eastwood is a pillar of the movie industry. He has acted, directed, and produced numerous successful movies, from Eastwood’s great Westerns to his later recent dramas. Though directed by the great Don Siegel, Dirty Harry is undoubtedly one of Eastwood’s best projects.
A high-stakes story, where he has to run against time to save the victim. It quickly became a classic line in an action movie, though it’s often misquoted as “Do you feel lucky?” The full quote provides some context and is excellent as a whole, I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?
11 Die Hard (1988)
“Yippee Ki Yay, Motherf*****.”
The police officer John McClane, played by the excellent Bruce Willis, is an action classic and deserves a place on any list of ’80s action movies. The line “Yippee Ki Yay, Motherf*****” happens in the first Die Hard movie, when McClane is talking to terrorist leader Hans Gruber (the bad guy) who is trying to figure out who he is.
Gruber then proceeds to provoke the action hero by mentioning many American action movies and asking if he is one of those kids who spent too much time watching these types of movies. A funny line that the character says a couple more times throughout the franchise, and resonates deeply with action fans because of the context it’s given in.
10 Dr. No (1962)
“The name is Bond, James Bond.”
The most famous MI6 agent, and the entire James Bond franchise, has an endless amount of great movie lines to choose from. It’s the way he takes his Martinis “Shaken, not stirred,” his sexual double entenders like “Keeping the British end up, sir,” and snarky lines like “Shocking. Positively shocking.”
Nevertheless, his introduction is one of the most famous lines in movie history. It is also a line that’s highly anticipated by fans, especially when a new actor takes on the role. “The names Bond, James Bond” should live on forever.
9 Cobra (1986)
“You’re a disease, and I’m the cure.”
Sylvester Stallone is an emblematic actor (and director) in action movies. He was two of the most well-known action characters: Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. In most of his movies, he has great one-liners, but the one in Cobra has got to be on this list for one reason: it resonates with the core of most characters the actor played.
The scene when he enters the supermarket to try to stop the kidnapper and save the hostages is funny and nostalgic for all of those who grew up watching the actor fight evil in all its forms in his movies. “You’re a disease, and I’m the cure” is perfectly funny and heart-pounding considering it’s Sylvester Stallone, and it’s an action film.
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
“I’m Captain Jack Sparrow.”
It is hard to argue against Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) being one of the greatest film protagonists of all time. Correction, it’s Captain Jack Sparrow. In the first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The Curse of the Black Pearl, Sparrow reminds Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his crew, who mutinied against Sparrow when he was Captain of the Black Pearl, who he is. The crew left Jack for dead on a deserted island some years ago, but he escaped.
Now crossing paths again, Jack tells them that they forgot something important when they left him for dead. He says the iconic phrase, “I’m Captain Jack Sparrow.” In other words, that is just who he is. He gets out of the toughest situations by simply being himself. He is a goofy, swashbuckling, and adventurous pirate who always calls himself a captain, with or without a ship.
7 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Much like Avengers: Endgame, which is later cited on this list, Return of the King (the third installment of the Lord of the Rings franchise) shows fans another great quote before an epic final battle. Before the battle at the Black Gate of Mordor, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) rallies his troops once more by saying two words: “For Frodo.” He then proceeds to charge against the entire army of Mordor before his army soon follows behind.
The importance of Frodo cannot be overstated in this series. He is the one who decided to carry the weight of The One Ring. The reason Aragorn and Co. are at the Black Gate of Mordor is because they are there to draw out the evil armies so that Frodo and Sam can slip by unnoticed to destroy the ring. Aragorn and Co. are fighting for Frodo. It is one of the great quotes before a battle in film history.
6 Scarface (1983)
“Say Hello to My Little Friend”
Al Pacino has given some of the most iconic and imitated line readings in history, perhaps most especially in the epic shootout scene from Scarface. After doing a literal mountain of cocaine, he sees on his security camera that people are coming to get him, so he prepares himself the best way Montana knows how: with violence.
“Say Hello to My Little Friend” is one of the most legendary movie lines in cinema history and also represents a good portion of Pacino’s body of work, becoming synonymous with the actor (and especially his mafia movies).
5 Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
“I hate snakes, Jock!”
There is no greater fear for a character in all of cinema than Indiana Jones’s fear of snakes. Fans recognize that at the very beginning of the legendary film series. In Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the adventurous archaeologist (Harrison Ford) is on the run from South American natives trying to kill him, per the order of clever archaeologist René Belloq (Paul Freeman). Dr. Jones has a plane waiting nearby with his pilot pal Jock standing by to take off.
As arrows are being shot at him, Jones jumps into the river that the plane is sitting on, and Jock starts the engine. As he gets into the cockpit of the plane, Jock’s pet snake is also in the cockpit. That prompts Jones to say the legendary line, “I hate snakes, Jock!” This certainly isn’t the last time that fans hear of Jones’s fear of snakes, as he has at least one moment with the slithering species in every one of the five films.
4 Jaws (1975)
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Steven Spielberg has one of the most fantastic bodies of work in modern film history. His 1975 action thriller Jaws is probably one of his most famous and beloved movies. The daunting scene when the characters realize the actual danger they were facing came from things going wrong on set.
It was a catchphrase on set that the crew said every time something went wrong, so Roy Scheider decided to ad-lib the catchphrase a few times during the movie. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” is one of the most underrated lines of any action film over the last five decades.
3 Rocky (1976)
“Eye of the tiger.”
Yes, this is also the title of one of the greatest songs of all time, which could be considered arguably the best song of the Rocky franchise. However, in Rocky 3, the legendary boxer known as Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) loses his itch to the box. After the death of his trainer and after being defeated by the brutal Clubber Lang (Mr. T), Rocky doesn’t have the fire to box anymore.
However, when old rival and famous boxer Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) volunteers to help train him for a re-match against Lang, he tells him that he has lost his “eye of the tiger.” In other words, he lost his love and joy for the sport. Later on, Creed helps Rocky discover this passion again and before the final round of the re-match, he tells Rocky to win the fight saying, “Eye of the tiger.” Rocky eventually knocks out Lang to reclaim the World Heavyweight Title.
2 The Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
“Hasta la Vista, Baby.”
The Terminator movies, granted most of Schwarzenegger’s movies, have great lines that became iconic. In the first installment in the series, “I’ll be back” and so many others are instantly recognizable.
However, “Hasta la Vista, Baby“ has to be one of the best on this list. Maybe it became so famous because of the way it was presented in the movie (first as a joke and later in a life-or-death situation), or just the way Schwarzenegger said it with his distinct Austrian accent. Either way, it is one of the most famous lines in modern cinema history, let alone in the action genre.
1 Avengers: Endgame (2019)
This was the quote that MCU fans were waiting for. In arguably the greatest superhero film of all time comes the most beloved quote of the entire series. Once all the heroes return from the snap in Avengers: Endgame to help Captain America, who was staring at Thanos and his intergalactic army all alone, Cap utters the iconic line, “Avengers, assemble!”
It is a line that MCU fans were teased with at the end of Age of Ultron and finally got to hear just before the heroes charge against Thanos. Not only did it fire up the army of heroes, but it put a charge into fans in every movie theater all over the world.