In honor of The Meg, this week we're saluting Jason Statham's best genre films. We haven't seen his new Megalodon spectacular yet, but there are still plenty of great performances to choose from.
One of Statham's finest qualities is the savoir-faire he brings to his roles. Granted, he's usually playing dudes who just kick, punch, and shoot a lot of guns, but he's always got a little swagger to him — and a playful wink, which makes his movies not just exciting and stylish but also fun. Even when he's on the margins of a thriller — as he is in Michael Mann's Collateral — his presence adds a little sophistication and intensity to the proceedings.
That said, here are his five best films. Shockingly, only one of them contains a moment in which his character talks about reattaching his own arm.
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Statham's Deckard Shaw was introduced to the franchise as a villain, out to avenge his brother who was taken down by Dom and his team, but, like The Rock before him, Statham wasn't going to stay an oppositional force in this series for long. We just want to cheer for Statham, so by the eighth movie, Statham was helping the gang out against Charlize Theron's Cipher.
There are too many characters in this movie for this to be pure on-tap Statham, but you still get your Statham fix, including a giddily fun scene in which he has to beat down a bad guy while holding a baby.
The Transporter (2002)
When you take a step back from it, "The Transporter" is the dopiest possible title for an action franchise: Here is a guy who takes things from one place and moves them to somewhere else!
Fortunately, these movies are only a clothesline on which to hang Statham action sequences, and in that, they work magnificently. Of all Statham's films, this was the one that most firmly established him as an action leading man who could headline a film internationally, and while this isn't the craziest or the most inspired franchise, it might be the sturdiest: they even tried to reboot it. (Turns out, Ed Skrein is no Jason Statham.)
Really, take your pick of Crank movies: they're both gleefully insane. The premise of these films is that Jason Statham must keep in constant movement and/or stimulation or his heart explodes, which is a ludicrous idea that is crazy fun in practice. If you're going to go over the top, it is best that you go this far over the top, including the infamous scene in which Statham must have sex with Amy Smart in front of thousands of people just to stay alive. Statham can be serious if he has to, but boy is he fun when he doesn't have to.
The poster of the second film features Statham putting jumper cables on his tongue. That's pretty much it.
After years of establishing himself as a badass action hero, Statham adroitly switched gears for this very funny Melissa McCarthy comedy in which he set fire to his onscreen persona. As Rick Ford, he's a perfect parody, playing a spy who's wholly confident in his abilities... but also kinda dumb. (Seriously, dude, there's no such thing as a Face/Off machine.) The trick to Statham's portrayal is that it isn't that different from how he behaves in his normal blockbuster vehicles — he deadpans his way through Ford's increasingly amped-up proclamations. Statham is hilarious throughout Spy, but his signature moment involves a lengthy brag session about all the high-stakes scrapes Ford has had to endure. That Cirque du Soleil show must have been insane...
The Bank Job (2008)
The further we get from The Bank Job, the more amazed we should all be it ever came to be. Based on a 1971 London heist, this crime thriller starred Statham as part of a team recruited to knock off a bank. (Saffron Burrows taps him for the job, never revealing her ulterior motives for the assignment.) The Bank Job is an excellent, old-fashioned heist flick — there are plenty of twists and too-good-to-be-true moments — but it also demonstrated what Statham could do as a legitimate dramatic actor. Sure, the actor still gets to throw some punches, but he also gets to emote and really embody a character who's down on his luck.
Sadly, that's been an anomaly in his career. "I'd like to do more of these," Statham said at the time, "but it seems like the parts I get offered are the other ones" — meaning, straightforward action movies like The Transporter. "It's hard, because people instantly recognize the movies that make money."
It's a shame that Statham hasn’t had a chance to do more films like The Bank Job. He'd kill it.