What makes a great action movie? Is it a fresh, compelling story? Unrelenting pace? Eye-popping stunt choreography? Gritty fisticuffs? Self-aware winks? The answer no doubt involves a unique, incalculable combination -- the kind that leaves you with something like a Die Hard or a Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those are the kinds of classics that net big audiences, stand the test of time, and set the bar high for big-budget, contemporary competition.
Of course, there are scads of projects released every year that don't seek to steal the same action-movie crown. There are those lesser-known love letters to the genre that -- whether because of budget, distribution, or an imperfect formula -- don't seem to land the same type of success, but still deserve attention for their quality, heart, and original flair.