Our Favorite Action Scenes of the 21st Century

Though it was considered a possibly tough sell upon its original theatrical release last December (due to the, shall we say, tricky PR challenges presented by star Tom Cruise), we probably don’t have to do much at this point to sell you on Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, the fourth (and best) of the series, out today on DVD and Blu-ray. But if you’re still unconvinced, it is worth reiterating that not only is the picture a smooth, confident, masterfully executed spy thriller, but it contains one of the single finest action sequences we’ve ever seen (below). Contemplating the weight of that statement got us thinking about some of the other contenders; in the interest of brevity, we decided to confine ourselves to films released in the current century. After the jump, take a look at some of our favorite recent action sequences, and be sure to add your own in the comments.

The Burj Khalifa Climb, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

M:I star Tom Cruise has attained something of a reputation for his willingness to take on extreme stunt-work in his action sequences, but he topped himself with this terrifying set piece, in which agent Ethan Hunt scales the 100-plus story Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. Action sequences these days have become an exact (and often easily decipherable) science of doubles, green screen, and CGI, and while I’m certain they had to have done all of the above to make this scene work, it’s so beautifully executed that this viewer couldn’t see the seams. What’s more, I wasn’t looking for them — Brad Bird’s direction is so slick and involving that I was too busy gripping the arm rests to try to figure out how the hell they pulled this off.