The 90s was a great decade for many movie genres, but action movies definitely had their heyday during this time. The action movies of this decade featured exciting stunts and over-the-top special effects, which audiences loved. As a result, many action movie stars of the 90s became household names.
These actors went above and beyond in their roles to make their films entertaining for audiences. Some have continued their careers well into the twenty-first century, while others have taken a break from acting. Either way, these actors have more than earned their place among the top action movie stars of the 1990s.
[Updated on Dec 1, 2023 and added some extra details and modern info]
10. Steven Seagal Was A Mega-Star In The 90s
Action movie star Steven Seagal began his acting career in 1988. The 90s were the peak of his popularity, and he starred in several wildly successful films. Among his thirty-seven feature films, fans often cite 1992’s Under Siege as their favorite. In addition to his career as a film star, Seagal was also a martial arts specialist, who amazingly began his training way back when he was just seven years old.
These skills gave the action scenes in his top movies more authenticity and made them more exciting for fans to watch. He is a black belt in Aikido and received two Oscar nominations during the height of his movie career. The actor has not starred in any new projects since 2019, and many believe he has unofficially retired from acting.
9. Jackie Chan Is A Martial Arts Action Movie Star
Jackie Chan is another example of a talented martial artist making his way into Hollywood. His skills in martial arts are evident in all of his movies because the actor mostly performs his own stunts. Although Mr. Chan has enjoyed a long career as an action movie star, many of his biggest hit films premiered in the 90s. For instance, 1998’s Rush Hour was among the top ten highest-grossing movies of its release year and launched a multi-film franchise.
The action star was so popular that Sony even produced a cartoon show based on him called Jackie Chan Adventures, which ran for an impressive five seasons. In addition, Chan and Ralph Macchio have recently teamed up for the next Karate Kid movie. Outside of his iconic action movie roles, Chan is also a talented director, screenwriter, producer, and even a surprisingly good singer. Talk about being a Jack of all trades, huh?
8. Harrison Ford Carried His Fame Into The 90s Action Movie World
Harrison Ford was a huge action movie star in the 80s. He starred as Han Solo in two Star Wars movies and launched the longstanding Indiana Jones franchise. Although his action roles in the 90s weren’t quite as flashy, he delivered many solid performances that fans enjoyed.
Most notably, Ford starred in Clear And Present Danger and played a fictional President of the United States in 1997’s Air Force One. The actor’s career is still ongoing to this day: he’s just reprised his beloved Indiana Jones role in the fifth franchise installment, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which dropped earlier this year to a pretty solid critical and audience reception.
7. Wesley Snipes Took On Powerful Leading Parts In The 90s
Wesley Snipes is probably best known for 1998’s Blade, but the action movie star also played a part in many other successful 90s movies. The 1993 movie Demolition Man arguably shows Snipes at his best, portraying a dangerous villain named Simon Phoenix. In 1991, New Jack City gave the actor a chance to play yet another powerful character: drug tycoon Nino Brown.
The actor has moved away from the film scene over the last few years and is reportedly working on a book trilogy. That being said, he did make a brief appearance in 2021’s cult comedy film sequel, Coming 2 America, starring Eddie Murphy, and lent his voice to animated TV series Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
6. Pierce Brosnan Took On An Iconic Film Franchise Role In The 90s
Pierce Brosnan is the picture of understated cool in most of his films. This was especially evident in the 90s when the action movie star took on one of the most iconic roles in the genre: James Bond. The action movie star portrayed the MI-6 agent 007 in three separate movies in the 90s: Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World Is Not Enough.
The actor is considered among the best James Bond actors to date. He won a Saturn Award for Best Actor for Tomorrow Never Dies. Additionally, he earned a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 1997. Future-wise, he’s set to host an upcoming documentary called History’s Greatest Heists With Pierce Brosnan.
5. Nicolas Cage Is A Nostalgic Fan-Favorite Action Movie Star
Actor Nicholas Cage has acted in over a hundred movies in his career, and many of those films fall into the action genre. In the 90s, Cage was well-loved by fans for his roles in movies such as Face/Off, The Rock, and Con Air. The action movie star has a Best Actor Oscar and a Golden Globe to his credit, among many other domestic and international accolades.
At one point, the actor was even slotted to take on the role of Superman, a very coveted role among action movie actors. Sadly, the project never came to fruition, but photos of Cage in his costume are still circulating on the internet. His upcoming slate will see him star in a trio of horror movies: Longlegs, Arcadian, and The Surfer.
4. Jean Claude Van Damme Is A Multi-Talented Action Movie Star
Action movie star Jean Claude Van Damme has multiple talents, including martial arts, acting, and fight choreography. His major Hollywood acting career officially kicked off with Bloodsport in the 80s, and he enjoyed an impressive amount of success in the 90s. Timecop was one of his most popular films, but he also starred in two Universal Soldier films.
Additionally, he starred as Colonel Guile in Street Fighter, a movie based on a fan-favorite video game of the same name. In total, the actor has featured in over a dozen movies in the 90s. Today, he is still taking on occasional roles but has branched out from action movies into TV comedy with the underrated parody show Jean-Claude Van Johnson, where he plays a satirical version of himself.
3. Bruce Willis Had A Long Career As An Action Movie Star
Bruce Willis has sadly now retired, but he has left fans with dozens of great action movies to rewatch. Furthermore, unlike many action stars, Willis’ film catalog includes movies from multiple genres. Some of his best action films came to life in the 90s, including two installments of the beloved Die Hard series.
In addition to these sequels, Willis starred in the unforgettable film Armageddon and the sci-fi action classic The Fifth Element. Bruce Willis retired without ever having won an Academy Award, but he has won nearly every other accolade imaginable in his four-decade career. Officially, his last film role was 2023’s direct-to-video sci-fi actioner, Assassin.
2. Will Smith Starred In Several Blockbusters In the 90s
Will Smith definitely became a household name in the 90s, and he owed a lot of his success to the slew of blockbuster action movies he starred in throughout the decade. Among his biggest hits of the 90s were Independence Day and the wildly popular Men In Black. Impressively, Independence Day was the top-grossing movie of 1996, and Men In Black was in the top five highest-grossing movies of 1997.
Both films also spawned sequels in the years after their release. Will Smith has enjoyed a steady career since and won his first-ever Oscar in 2022 amid a series of dramatic events. Looking ahead to the future, and Smith is scheduled to reprise his iconic role as Mike Lowry in Bad Boys 4.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger Was The Top-Grossing Action Star Of The 90s
Regarding action movie stars of the 90s, nobody is quite as accomplished as Arnold Schwarzenegger. The actor was the top-grossing action star of the entire decade. One of his most successful films of the decade was Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the highest-grossing movie of 1992.
He also starred as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin and as an assassin in the 1996 film Eraser. Schwarzenegger’s name has become synonymous with the action movie genre. The actor’s latest role was in action-comedy TV show, Fubar, though he also released his seventh book recently as well, Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life.