There are those actors that may surprise when they take a turn on the big screen, opting for a change of pace or a role out of their wheelhouse. Then there are those reliable stalwarts, those actors who carry with them a certain reputation.
For the men on this list, that reputation is one of blood and brutality. They are the cornerstone of the action movie, actors who have appeared in numerous flicks where explosions abound, weapons are plentiful, and the body count is high. That’s what is most interesting here: the number of people killed on screen by these actors. It’s not an easy task figuring out which actor in fact has the most on screen kills. At the end of 2013, Randy Olson, a PhD candidate at Michigan State culled data from a user-generated site to chart out those with the most kills. For our purposes, we will go by such data; as well, we will incorporate new films from 2014, most notably The Expendables 3, to update the tally (for those purposes, we are using this video dissection).
Some names may surprise. Indeed, the last few years have seen a surge from a couple of action stars, as Keanu Reeves in John Wick gave an incredible turn as a deadly assassin, and Liam Neeson with the Taken franchise has been dispatching those threatening his family. Then again, the names at the top shouldn’t be all that unfamiliar – they are known as action heroes for a reason.
10. Clive Owen – 210 Kills
Until last week, this spot was occupied by Clint Eastwood, who in his day as a gunslinger and killer, racked up a 207 body count. However, with Last Knights, a middling medieval film that sees the Brit lead a rebellion against a greedy leader, Clive Owen has overtaken the legendary actor. While Owen had a chance to portray James Bond and steadily earn a body count in those films, he has instead seen his career go in various directions, most notably landing recently on HBO for a new series. What’s more, most of his on-screen kills came in Shoot ‘Em Up, a crazy absurd action thriller that saw Owen take down over 100 people. However silly the film, they all count.
9. Nicolas Cage – 214 Kills
This is a case of quantity over quality. Nicolas Cage, while once in a while hitting it great with something like Adaptation or Joe, will churn out absurd action film after absurd action film. It usually involves someone in his family being kidnapped or murdered, and his character setting out for a quest of revenge. It’s no wonder he’s high on this list: movies like Stolen, Rage and Drive Angry just rack up the count with ease. Of all the people here, Cage is likely the most surprising. Despite great action films like The Rock or Con Air, Cage isn’t necessarily known as some killer. He just makes a lot of movies.
8. Jet Li – 223 Kills
This incredibly charming action star made his way from Chinese cinema to Hollywood in the mid 90s, and is often associated with the transition made by Jackie Chan as well. Jet Li took to more serious roles for some time after his first most notably appearance in Lethal Weapon 4. He took to more serious roles after, as Unleashed, Fearless and War followed, while later taking to more light-hearted fare. He is the first of many on this list who featured in The Expendables, and the most recent movie did well to add to his count.
7. Tomisaburo Wakayama – 226 Kills
Lots of people went crazy for John Wick, in part because of the excessive body count. While Reeves was indeed deadly in that stylish thriller, it doesn’t come close to the leader in single-movie kills. The Japanese legend Tomisaburo Wakayama, took down 150 baddies on screen in the 1974 film Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell. The Japanese actor passed away in 1992, but not before earning over 150 TV and film credits to his name. He had some other impressive action turns, but he still earned over half his kills in the one iconic film.
6. Wesley Snipes – 231 Kills
Before his break from acting, Wesley Snipes‘ inclusion on this list may have been a little bit suspect. After all, it includes a lot of kills from the Blade trilogy, so there could be some haggling over the value of vampire deaths. Well, they’re counted. Snipes has had a diverse career, from comedy to drama and of course action. He gets worthy status on this list, and bumped up a bit, by a big role in The Expendables 3, where not only does he join the stellar cast, but he gets a lot of the kills. In fact, he gets 38 – not bad for the 50-year-old.
5. Jason Statham – 232 Kills
Jason Statham may be the most popular action hero at his peak right now. He has a series of franchises, he has immense charm, and he has shown he isn’t always some simple brute. He also may be the most consistent killer, putting out a film or two a year where he fights against various criminals and delinquents, like in Wild Card or Safe. He lead the way in The Expendables 3 as well, netting 50 on-screen kills (he did blow up a lot of people though). While those higher on this list are nearing the end of their killing career, Statham still has plenty in the bag it seems. And he doesn’t seem to mind playing a villain either.
4. Dolph Lundgren – 246 Kills
There are those action movie fans that adore Dolph Lundgren; and there are likely those who have never seen or heard him. He’s a poor man’s Schwarzenegger. More incomprehensible, less versatile, but just as able to tote a gun and beat up the bad guy, Lundgren is a B-action movie staple. Still, the Swede is both prolific and successful, and seems to have maxed out his potential for some time now. He featured in a Bond movie, he’s played a bunch of title fighters, and of course, starred in The Expendables series.
3. Chow Yun-Fat – 295 Kills
The veteran actor from Hong Kong has racked up kills around the world, making a name for himself in North America while sharing time with his native land. Starring in films since the mid 70s, Yun-Fat never was as huge as some other martial artist actors making the journey to Hollywood, but in films like The Replacement Killers, alongside Mira Sorvino and Bulletproof Monk, he showed off his skills. Of course, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may be among his most famous. Though in 1987, A Better Tomorrow helped ratchet up the number with 78 kills.
2. Sylvester Stallone – 297 Kills
With 30 kills in the latest chapter of The Expendables, Stallone pulled into second place on the all time list. We suppose Stallone should get some extra credit for writing and directing so many of the films in which he stars and kills people. Regardless, the Brooklyn native has been doing battle on screen for decades. His turn as Rambo will forever be known as one of the most iconic action movie killers in the history of film. He continues to churn out movies, and seems to enjoy spreading the wealth and sharing the spoils, bringing together as many action stars as he can to share the screen.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger – 410 Kills
Of course it has to be Mr. Schwarzenegger, the charming, muscled, action hero with the cheesy catch phrases and penchant for creating chaos everywhere he goes. He tops the list despite taking a break from acting while being governor of California. Over the years he has oscillated between the ruthlessly brutal (Commando, Collateral Damage) to the campy (Total Recall), and even the villainous (Terminator). In all those films and many more, he has taken someone else down. He’s taking an encore run it seems with The Expendables, and teamed up with Stallone recently in The Escape Plan. He may not have the endurance and athleticism he used to have, but he can still fire a big gun, and there seems to be no end in sight.
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