There are actors who can make you laugh, and there are other actors that can kick all kinds of ass up and down the screen. There are some that can do both at the same time.
This is nothing new — versatile action stars have been making us laugh since roughly before the pyramids were built. Still, we currently find ourselves with a surplus of such actors, and they deserve some celebration. Celebration in these parts equals ranking, so we guess that's the celebration that they're gonna get. Awards are good too, but we don't have any on us.
There was an embarrassment of riches when it came to the names that we wish could go on this list, but with the fate of the world resting on our shoulders alone, we had to make some tough calls. We've got some legends here that just keep doing what they do better than anyone else. We've got white-hot up-and-comers, as well as some names who constantly rock the box office every time that they appear.
Honorable mentions of actors who probably should be here but aren't? Daniel Craig, Donnie Yen, Samuel L. Jackson, Evangeline Lilly, Tricia Helfer, three of the missing Chrises (Pine, Evans, Pratt), and Gal Gadot. Also, just to get this out of the way right now: While Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is an obvious choice for #1, that's not where he ended up. Crazy, you say? Yes. Quite possibly yes.
How did this list come to be? We f**kin' made it, didn't we? Come check out our ranking of the 13 funniest action stars working today.
WARNING: Some (many) of the following video clips contain language that is NSFW, especially entry #1. They're funny action stars, not pastors.
There are a few wrestling superstars on this list, and that's with good reason — the charisma and physical abilities necessary to become a legendary wrestler require a rare balance, which can transition smoothly into these folks becoming very funny action stars. Cena is no stranger to action, but he recently showed how funny he was capable of being in Bumblebee.
It is rare that the human part of any Transformers movie is entertaining (or interesting at all), but Cena makes that miracle happen — with a little (okay, a lot) of help from Hailee Steinfeld. His character could have been just another useless human in a big robot movie, but Cena made him a riot. Bumblebee proved that Cena can deliver a funny kick to the ribs when he's given good material.
Trejo is fantastic with action, and every now and then he pops up in a comedy and kills it with a couple of lines (Anchorman, an episode of Rick and Morty). When we're lucky, he blends these talents to great effect. The Machete movies are great examples — though they aren't strictly comedies, they do require a sense of grounded fun from Trejo for them to even remotely work. We're not saying that they're brilliant films, but we are saying that Trejo is brilliant in them.
Years ago there'd be no question that the Talented Mr. Smith would be on this list, and probably much higher. The former King of July 4th was a reset of the "funny action star" mold, transforming his television persona almost effortlessly into a consistent ass-kicker. He isn't as prevalent today as he once was, but when he decides to show up, you can instantly see why he has become the star that he has.
Few can match his movie-star charisma, and he proved it in Suicide Squad. The movie has some issues (to put it mildly), but Smith isn't one of them. His real claim on our hearts, however, will always be his endless stream of one-liners in Independence Day. Somebody needs to pair him with Jeff Goldblum again, and they need to do it right quick.
Gillan started by killing it as Amy Pond in Doctor Who, and she's never looked back. Between her deadpan and deadly appearances as Nebula outright stealing large swaths of the MCU (including Avengers: Endgame), she cemented her funny/lethal abilities in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Her Ruby Roundhouse is the badass and hilarious heart of the movie, its sequel (as well as the upcoming Gunpower Milkshake) will only cement this versatile artists' talents in this arena even further. Side note: It wasn't an action show, but some of us still miss Selfie and wish it was still on. Some of us.
A legend, and with good reason. Indiana Jones is a character of action who makes us laugh as much as he makes us feel every punch — the moments where Indy just pauses and gives himself a "what the hell is going on" are always glorious. Ford brought the same muchness to Han Solo, and years later, did so again when both characters returned in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, respectively. There's only one thing that's as funny as an older, grumpier Indiana Jones, and that's an older, grumpier Han Solo.
Ford has this finger point gesture that he employs whenever either Indy or Han are trying (unsuccessfully) to make a point, and it's pure movie magic. I've got news for you: you're gonna go back and FINISH SCHOOL. Also, we never made a deal with Kanjiklub.
We never knew that Thor was as funny as he was, and then Thor: Ragnarok blessedly came into our lives. Hemsworth brought out the hilarity along with the air-pounding heroics of the God of Thunder, and it's been up, up and away ever since. He's just as funny in Ghostbusters, playing a man so incredibly stupid that he has to be seen to be believed. We never would have guessed that the guy who played Captain Kirk's father in 2009's Star Trek would become the riffing and kicking star that he has, but so it goes.
Of the four Chrises, he's the one we choose, though the other three (Evans in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Pine in the Trek movies, Pratt in almost everything he does) can definitely bring the laughticuffs when they need to.
Another legend, no duh, and we'll hear no complaining here. Jackie Chan is notable not just because he tosses off one-liners in the middle of his fights, though he is perfectly capable of doing that. More often, the moments in the fights themselves are hilarious, and he brings out a Buster Keaton type brilliance that most action stars can only dream of.
Even better, when you watch him work, you know that it's truly him in every single shot, no matter how dangerous. Though he's known these days more for movies like Rush Hour, he hasn't stopped working. He has at least 12 projects either in development or production right now. We hear the words coming out of his mouth... and we feel the fury coming out of his fists.
How could we not include John McClane? We wouldn't ever dream of doing that. Willis transformed the image of the action star (as well as himself) with the first Die Hard, where the hero of the movie wasn't a muscle-bound specimen who could potentially have come from Krypton. John McClane was just a cop doing his job, and damn, did he get the crap beaten out of him while he did it.
Once McClane hit the screen, Willis was a movie star. He brings the action in almost every movie he's in, whether they are in the Die Hard franchise or not, and he's still going strong. Right now he has around seven movies in production or development. He's staying at this party, pal...happy trails, Hans.
Another wrestling veteran, Bautista continues to surprise us with how funny he is in the films of the MCU. He's obviously physically adept (he could probably crush most of us with a single look), but his line readings hit harder. As Drax, he nails every single gag he's given. We never saw it coming. He's also fantastic playing purely serious characters (Sapper in Blade Runner 2049), so the man has layers.
Still, this list isn't about layers, and we don't have a car to sell you. Bautista's physical brawn combined with his impeccable comedic timing make him very hard to beat these days. WHY is Gamora? He's still waiting for the answer.
Yes, we're in the midst of the Kean-issance at the moment... but in reality, the man who was Neo never went away. We don't think that the funny aspects of his action performances are necessarily intentional, but they're there. When he makes us laugh in the middle of a giant fight, it's not because we're laughing at him. We're definitely laughing with him, and if he wasn't in on it then it wouldn't work. "Yeah, I'm thinkin' I'm back..." isn't a laugh line, but when he delivers it in John Wick, we dare anyone not to smile and get excited.
Appearing in almost everything these days from Toy Story 4 to Always Be My Maybe, it is the escalating antics of the John Wick movies that have proven what Reeves is truly capable of. Perhaps not always funny, but always FUN... and fun is where you find it. We're not thinking he's back — we're thinking he never left.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
We're gonna catch some major frak for not putting The Rock at #1. More likely? No one will care. Either way, we probably should have put him at the top. He probably belongs there, but we had to follow our hearts. We've already talked about pure charisma on this list, and in that department nobody beats Johnson these days. We feel like he does about ten movies a year, six of them are worth your time, and at least three of them are great.
Even when the movies themselves aren't good, Johnson is. Fun, funny, and yep, he kicks all. Of. The. A**. Whether he's in a skyscraper or on a rampage, we are always ready to smell what the Rock is cooking. Can any other actor get away with a scene that features him breaking an arm cast off by flexing? We didn't think so.
Here's another instance of someone who we knew was physically formidable (and a powerful actor) for many, many years. We've always trusted Michelle Yeoh as an "action hero," from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Tomorrow Never Dies. It wasn't until Star Trek: Discovery, however, that we realized how much fun she was capable of having, and how insanely funny she could be.
As the Georgiou of dubious morals, she has a galaxy full of one-liners and retorts on the show, especially in the second season. She gets into arguments with almost everyone, and she often wins because she's petty and she DGAF. Also, when she breaks out the extreme fighting moves, there's no question that it is Yeoh herself performing the action. The thought of her joining Gillan in Gunpowder Milkshake has us even more excited for that movie.
We're not going to apologize. Sure, both Johnson and Yeoh should probably take priority. We just couldn't do it. We had to, as we've said, follow our hearts... and our hearts belong to Jason Statham. Usually action stars are funnier because their characters take things less seriously — Statham is the opposite. His performances are as funny as they are because they are all SO damn serious. There are few stars that can sell a movie purely based on the idea of them punching a giant shark.
Arguably his finest moment comes in Spy, where he brutally mocks his own action star persona playing a super-spy that is so cool, so serious, and so insanely stupid that he's pure pleasure in human form. He still plays the stakes so high, all the time, and the result is solid gold... with the above scene, being (for us), the best scene in the movie. For this scene alone (sometimes a man has to go to sea...) we just had to put him at #1.
We reserve the right to change our minds, but for right now Tommy, he's tip-top. If you doubt it, we propose that you perform the Statham Challenge (patent pending): Pitch your voice really low and gravelly like a stereotypical movie announcer, and say his name very seriously. Try not to smile, if not outright laugh. You're smiling at least a little bit, aren't you? Come on.
It's no accident that he and Johnson are about to get their own Hobbs & Shaw spin-off featuring their characters from The Fast and the Furious franchise. The two of them combining their powers gives off a force that no power in heaven or hell can stop.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.