Top 25 Steven Seagal Films: from 25 to 21

Odd List Matt Edwards 10 Mar 2014 - 05:59

We begin our countdown of the finest movies of Mr Steven Seagal...

I love Steven Seagal films.

I think that’s an important thing to state here. This isn’t a sarcastic, snarky piece. This is all high fives and hi-ya!s.

Look, I kind of get it. Steven Seagal’s films do have common aspects that you can expect to see. He often plays very similar characters and, as someone who went from box office star to DTV hero, some of his later films have attempted to recreate elements of the more successful ones. He has also made some unwatchable toilet films (Against the Dark, for example, is a vampire toilet film).

Still, though, I love these films. I love that I can spot the same elements. I love that he always plays a tough guy with a secretive military background. I love it when he goes an entire film without getting hit. I love it when he becomes ultraviolent. I love it when he goes to a strip club (so, so often). I love it when he wrecks a convenience store. His movies are fun to watch and I take legitimate pleasure from watching them.

Regarding how the list was compiled, I’ve included films with Steven Seagal as the star but not those in which he plays a supporting role. There’s an argument for doing it either way, but I’ve chosen to do it this way. That’s why you’ll not see Machete, Executive Decision and the like.

I’ve ranked films here based on how much I like them. That might not sound very scientific, but if Steven Seagal films have taught me anything it’s to disregard science and smash some dudes in the groin. I’ve tried to explain what happens in each film that makes me dig it or why it’s higher up or lower down the list than you might expect.

Below you’ll find the lowest five entries. I may not entirely love this five. Mostly straight to DVD films, these ones are likely to appeal to hardcore fans only.

25. Out for a Kill

Out for revenge. Out for payback. 

Steven Seagal IS Professor Robert Burns, an archaeologist with a shady past. He’s a cool character who maintains his poise despite being falsely imprisoned and disrespected in front of his beloved wife in a nice restaurant. But gangs full of wanker mobsters, deviously battling over international drug distribution and foolishly using Seagal as a pawn, go too far when they explode his home and sleeping wife. Now, nothing will satisfy him but brutal, violent vengeance. Steven Seagal IS… Out for a Kill.

Now, you’ll absolutely have some fun with Out for a Kill, but it’s a mess. In fact, I think this is the most cynical inclusion on this list, because to really enjoy it you’ll have to do a fair amount of snickering. The special effects are dreadful; bad ideas that look cheap and unconvincing. The story follows as though the script was tossed into the air and the pages put back together in the wrong order.

Fortunately, the tone is light and the silliness passes as good fun. There are a couple of great fight scenes, too. My favourite part of the film sees Seagal fighting a guy who bizarrely develops the ability to crawl along walls, mid-brawl. Obviously, Seagal smashes him to pieces regardless. We also get lots of scenes set in strip club, because of course, and plenty of Seagal shooting.

24. Shadow Man

Either you’re with him… or you’re dead!

Steven Seagal IS Jack Foster, a loving father and dangerous martial artist. When his beloved offspring is kidnapped upon arrival at their holiday destination, Foster is forced to fight to get her back. Who does he have to fight? Well, it seems no one can be trusted. The police, the CIA, local drug dealers, gangsters, his own father in law. So he just fights the lot of them. He’s being used as a pawn by someone, although he’s not sure who, in a scheme involving a dangerous chemical weapon. All these trout-sniffing scumbags are out to get Foster, but while someone has his daughter, he’s out to get them first. They’d all do well to stay in the light when Steven Seagal is a... Shadow Man.

Shadow Man has some problems. It has too many characters and no clearly defined big bad. The story doesn’t really make sense. The script insists that every third line of dialogue Seagal speaks is “I just want to find my daughter.” It’s too slow and we get a really clear look at Seagal’s doubles on occasion. There’s some fun stuff in there too, though. Seagal shoots a helicopter out of the sky, squashes a man’s eyes and turns a room full of junk into a slaughter emporium. You’re most likely to remember this one for its botched eroticism, with a wonderfully gratuitous nude scene at the beginning and a couple of women just hanging out, having an uncomfortable smooch in a club toilet.

23. Exit Wounds

What can two men do against a gang of crooked cops? Whatever it takes.

Steven Seagal IS Orin Boyd, a cop who gets results any way he can, much to the annoyance of the suits back at the precinct. Surrounded by cops who he’s reluctant to trust (and he may just be onto something here), Orin will have his work cut out for him if he wants to expose the villainous bogwads behind a high profile assassination attempt. But in finding out how wide this conspiracy spreads, Boyd may have found an unlikely ally in Latrell, a gangster to whom, much like a Transformer, there is more than meets the eye. Orin and Latrell must save the day and make the bad guys leak blood and regret through their newly inflicted... Exit Wounds (yeah, I know, but you try using Exit Wounds as the end of one of these things and then get back to me with any complaints).

Based on your having actually heard of it, you may have expected to see Exit Wounds further up the rankings than this. Problem is, Exit Wounds really isn’t very good. It has a much bigger budget than most of the other films at this end of the list, but it pisses it away with clumsy set pieces, a terrible score (I don’t hate rap music but I strongly dislike shitty rap music) and a plot that’s not as clever as, a) it thinks it is, or b) a henchman that Steven Seagal has beaten for several days. It’s just a very dull film. It demands inclusion in this list, though, due to it featuring the highest budget and best Seagal shooting a helicopter out of the sky.

22. The Keeper

Steven Seagal IS Roland Sallinger, a former cop just recovered from a violent betrayal by his former partner (who Roland was able to shoot to death from his hospital bed, because sometimes corrupt cops are also death-courting dimwits). He takes a job watching over a rich friend’s daughter, only to find that her pro-boxer boyfriend and his gangster friends have landed the girl in serious danger. He also can’t help but feel that her father isn’t telling him everything. She’s kidnapped by moronic masochistic mobsters, who get more than just a ransom delivered to them by... The Keeper.

The Keeper is all right. A low budget straight to video action film, it keeps things simple. Structurally it’s a little wacky, with a dull first act that almost serves as a mini-movie unrelated to the rest of the film. The Keeper benefits from having plenty of action, even if it is more a display of Seagal’s legendary skills as a marksman than a celebration of his face-flattening fist fighting abilities. An unremarkable film that does the job, this one’s worth checking out when you next stumble across it on TV.

21. The Foreigner: Black Dawn

It’s always darkest before dawn.

Steven Seagal IS Jonathan Cold. Again. The sequel to The Foreigner (a film that you won’t find placed on this list because of how good it isn’t) finds Cold up to his old tricks again. A former CIA operative now working as a private contractor, Cold breaks a weapons dealer out of jail, only to find himself in the midst of a battle for a plutonium-infused bomb. Everyone seems to want the bloody thing and they’re all willing to kill to get it. Pricks. If Cold can’t stop each different faction of villainous bum nuggets then all of California could be facing a... Black Dawn.

Black Dawn is a significant improvement over The Foreigner. One of its strongest assets is its pace, which stops you asking questions, such as ‘why is this happening?’ and ‘what?’. The film isn’t Seagal at his finest, but it is passable Sunday afternoon film. Black Dawn is most notable for a car chase that finds Seagal shooting from the back of a truck (employing some questionable special effects), some wonky accents, around six hundred double crosses and hidden agendas, this dialogue exchange;

“Who is Jonathan Cold?”

“He taught me everything I know.”

and (spoiler alert) for featuring the same ending as The Dark Knight Rises, several years earlier, only with Seagal making a better job of it, definitively proving that he IS tougher than Batman.

Part 2 of the top 25 Steven Seagal films? You can find that on the site tomorrow...

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He needs to lose the pony tail and stop the whisphering....I cannot argue with UNDER SIEGE 1 & 2 though....They are great films.

"if Steven Seagal films have taught me anything it’s to disregard science and smash some dudes in the groin"
.
I feel that is a mantra we should all adopt.

What I love most about Steven Segal is how passive his fighting style tends to be - he rarely deals direct damage unless he really wants to mess someone up, he is often more interested in redirecting his opponents momentum towards a shelf full of books or a rack of pots and pans. This reinforces the notion of him being completely untouchable and why are these lackies even bothering when Segal clearly has the power to destroy them?

When he doesn't parry, then you know it's going down.

I kind of like Out for a kill.....then again i couldn't tell you why.
Nico has to be top of the list though......

The next time someone asks the tedious 'Name a sequel that's better than the original movie' I can reply with......The Foreigner: Black Dawn.
Cheers for that!

I battered Segal outside his house a few years ago and told him if he made a good film ever again then I'd be back. Nice to see he's doing as told.

OUT FOR JUSTICE, a fantastic 70s throwback with Seagal at his most brutal ever. Lean, mean and relentlessly gritty, it could've been shot in the Lumetian Friedkinesque New York streets of yonder.

Then NICO/ ABOVE THE LAW at #2 because Andrew Davis instantly elevates the surprisingly layered material he's given (unexpectedly so for The Ponytailed One, who comes up as a compelling screen presence in his first film out the gate, aided by a kickass supporting cast).

Then the UNDER SIEGE flicks because for every Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey having the time of their lives there's also "Rrrrrrrrybaaaaaaaaaaack!".

DOG... You are aware its Chuck Norris's 74th birthday today yes? Posting a 'best of' from another action star on the great man's special day? U are treading on REALLY thin ice.

Remember that game where you use the name of your first pet as your first name and then the street you grew up on as your surname to get your pornstar name (mine's Puff Market). I wonder what formula they use for creating his character names?

I sincerely struggled to find one let alone 25.

This is awesome! Ha I love Seagal too (even met the guy quite a few years back) and his films are great when you just want to relax from a long day at work and watch people get chopped to the neck. Hard to pick a personal fave, Half Past Dead and Out for Justice are up there though, as well as Under Seige obviously.

Yeah but Chuck Norris isn't Steven Seagal!

Chuck Norris would wear Seagal like slippers! Unless you've stood toe to toe with Bruce Lee you don't get to compare with the Norris!

Out for Justice is one of my personal faves because the formula of having a bad guy (or guys) who you really, really want to see get there arses kicked is used to great effect. The same can be said of Fire Down Below, I really love that film.

I love Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Steven Seagal, what I would say though is you're not comparing apples with apples. Their fighting styles are too different to say who would own who. If you've ever seen a demonstration of Aikido by a master of that art it truly is a beautiful thing to watch, the balletic style does bely the truly devestating effect of what they do though. Bone-breakingly beautiful and in some respects sort of what Bruce Lee was trying to achieve in his intercepting fist philosophy.

Exit Wounds! I haven't thought about that film since about a second after I watched it. In fact, possibly since during watching it, or even maybe before it started. And you ably articulate why that is. Brilliant piece. Can't wait for the rest!

Also, "vampire toilet film" is officially the best new genre.

HALF PAST DEAD, FIRE DOWN BELOW... Those are primarily the ones that ended up Seagal's theatrical career. You guys sure you don't wanna spread some love towards MARKED FOR DEATH or even ON DEADLY GROUND* instead?

*Trivia: in some countries FIRE DOWN BELOW was retitled ON DEADLY GROUND 2 even if the lead character's name was entirely different because, uh, ecology, I guess.

Shut up, Jean-Claude.

I was listing my most watched Seagal films, you're right though Marked for Death and On Deadly Ground were good although Michael Caine's jet black hair kept putting me off :) The reason I really like Fire Down Below is because Seagal was in great shape, it had Harry Dean Stanton and Stephen Lang starring in it and contained the classic line 'I'm going to beat you like a red-headed stepchild'

Fair enough (FDB is among my least favorite Seagals though, I admit). But Caine's characterization in ODG is exactly what it aims to be: off-putting, just because the guy himself seems to be made of oil down to his greasy hairdo. Besides, he's so endlessly Snidely Whiplash-evil, so hilariously over-the-top-and-then-back-to-Earth, you just wonder why Seagal didn't also riddle him with bullets and set him on fire after dropping him into that oil well.

Anyway, who knows what does it take to change the essence of a man, right?

If Norris heard you say that he would remove your heart with a spoon.... and Bruce would chop it in half with a KEEEEYAAAAAAH!!!!! and make Seagal eat it coz he is the wimp. Then keep the other for a tasty snack.

I think I need to re-aquaint myself with ODG ASAP and that bar room fight scene :P

OK, that comment did make me chuckle..although I'd prefer it if Bruce ripped it out with a AAAIIIEEEEEOOOOOOO!!! and chuck punched it toward the horizon....

"This is the men's man... and I'm the cupcake".

Also, Caine's commercial shoot involving some moose, R.Lee Ermey's unforgettable "not a student, but a professor" speech or Academy Award-winner Billy Bob Thornton's stock-in-or-out cameo, ON DEADLY GROUND is the gift that just keeps giving and giving and giving.

Either noise would result in your imminent doom at the hands of NORRIS!!!!! Something to think about there.

It's ok, Mark Dacascos put him up to it.

I love that now Segal is carrying a bit of 'timber' all of his fight scences are filmed from the elbows up. He looks like a guy fighting on a telephone box!!!

Wait? What.? Seagal has made MORE than 25 films? How in the world was this allowed to happen?

Only one i've seen on this list is Exit Wounds..IMO it should be much higher ..After a couple of flops for ole ponytail....It was a hit! Exit Wounds was part of the HipHop/Martial Arts craze..( lasted about 3 movies I think..Jet Li was in two of them.) had all the elements for effective Segal..(1) Plot moved (2) Decent Action
(3) Hot Chick (4) Decent bad guy (5) and a little comedy relief..I Liked the soundtrack by the way.. The one thing i will agree with reviewer in this arcticle You can almost count on one hand how many times a bad guy has actually hit Segal on screen..Incredible reflexes!! LOL!!

I'm sorry but NO. Seagal hasn't made 15 good films, maybe 1 or 2 actually 1 the 1 where he gets killed off Executive Decision. . .the guy is terrible at every possible level as an action movie star. . .

Lol I think the top 5 will be obvious but 25? Really? :D Can you include his *ahem* TV series...

Haha. Love Seagal too. My friends at school went to Exit Wounds in the cinema when it was released. Good times!

Very happy to see another "non-ironic" Seagal fan.

I too enjoy his films, even the less-than-stellar one. The man has a styrange magnetic presence that other slike Norris and Van Damme lack.

Surprised that "Out for a Kill" made it but not "The Foreigner". The latter has a ton of action, and better production quality, even if it's confusing.

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