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After Dev Patel's Monkey Man, 11 Other Actors Who Deserve To Lead Action Movies

 Dev Patel in Monkey Man.
Dev Patel in Monkey Man.

It was not until Dev Patel tried his hand at writing and directing a feature film, Monkey Man, when he finally became the star of his own action movie. His turn as a man on a vengeful mission against corruption in the thriller, which is being likened to John Wick, is really a long time coming, since plenty of the Academy Award nominee’s credits have incorporated elements of the genre. Yet, the 2024 movie release marks the first time he has been the lead of this particular kind of film.

The former Skins cast member is not the only one who has the talent and the experience that warrants action movie stardom, but has yet to receive top billing for one. Hopefully, the following actors I have compiled below do not need to write or direct their own high-paced, thrill-a-minute blockbuster to cross that off their bucket list one day.

Alan Ritchson in Reacher
Alan Ritchson in Reacher

Alan Ritchson

At 6’2” and 230 pounds, Alan Ritchson was the perfect choice to lead the Amazon Prime original TV show, Reacher, and would be the perfect choice to lead any action franchise you throw at him. He may have nabbed a supporting role in Guy Ritchie’s The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, but I am still waiting to see his face on the majority of a poster. Maybe another Jack Reacher movie, starring him this time?

Zoë Kravitz in The Batman
Zoë Kravitz in The Batman

Zoë Kravitz

Having appeared in multiple comic book movies (including X-Men first class), leading an intriguing, paranoia-fueled Neo-Noir (2022’s Kimi), and showing up in one of the greatest action movies of all time (2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road), it is only a matter of time when Zoë Kravitz plays the central hero of her own contribution to the genre. I actually would not mind if the action film she receives top-billing for saw her reprise her great Catwoman portrayal from The Batman in a spin-off.

Zac Efron starring in A24's The Iron Claw
Zac Efron starring in A24's The Iron Claw

Zac Efron

It is actually hard to believe that, despite being one of Hollywood's most versatile leading men, Zac Efron has yet to headline an action movie. He has done pretty much everything else you could imagine — including musicals (his breakout role in Disney Channel’s High School Musical, of course), sports biopics (the acclaimed 2023 A24 movie, The Iron Claw), and even a “brutal” post-apocalyptic thriller (2022’s Gold) — so what is stopping him from kicking some ass?

Maika Monroe in Longlegs
Maika Monroe in Longlegs

Maika Monroe

Having starred in creepy modern classics like It Follows and Watcher, Maika Monroe is easily one of our most talented horror movie Scream Queens — a title she will continue to honor by leading the new, disturbing detective thriller, Longlegs. Could playing an FBI agent in that upcoming 2024 movie bring her one-step closer to fulfilling her action star destiny? Because, as far as I am concerned, she already proved she was worthy by developing a, sort of, “gruff badass” persona for her role in the 2015 alien invasion movie, The 5th Wave.

Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha in Dune: Part Two
Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha in Dune: Part Two

Austin Butler

Austin Butler proved he was a movie star with his Academy Award-nominated performance in Elvis, but that could not prepare audiences for his surprisingly intimidating turn as the ruthless Feyd-Rautha in Dune: Part Two. It makes me wanna see how intimidating he could be as a hero, or even anti-hero similar to his role in the upcoming The Bikeriders, which looks pretty intense. Perhaps all these recent performances will get some action filmmaker’s attention soon.

Zendaya as Chani in Dune: Part Two
Zendaya as Chani in Dune: Part Two

Zendaya

Speaking of Dune: Part Two cast members, the one who really steals the show in the second half of Denis Villeneuve’s Frank Herbert adaptation is Zendaya as Chani, who should be considered the true hero of the story if you understand the author’s true intentions with Paul Atreides’ arc. Of course, the Emmy-winning Euphoria cast member still, understandably, got second billing under Timothée Chalamet, but the powerful acting and stellar fight choreography she demonstrates in the sci-fi blockbuster absolutely warrants a grand-scale epic of her own.

LaKeith Stanfield in The Harder They Fall
LaKeith Stanfield in The Harder They Fall

LaKeith Stanfield

Here is another example of an actor who has shown astonishing versatility in his eclectic filmography so far — including some acclaimed comedies (such as Sorry to Bother You), some great horror movies (his scene-stealing Get Out role), and a mix of both (Disney’s Haunted Mansion). However, whenever Academy Award nominee LaKeith Stanfield has been cast in an action flick (namely The Girl in the Spider’s Web and Netflix’s original Western movie, The Harder They Fall), it has never been in the lead role.

Jamie Chung in Sucker Punch
Jamie Chung in Sucker Punch

Jamie Chung

Here is another example of an actor whose action-oriented roles have either been supporting parts in movies (such as The Man with the Iron Fists or The Misfits), stints on TV shows (such as 2008’s Samurai Girl or Fox’s Gifted), or even voice acting roles (like in Big Hero 6). Come to think of it, I think that Jamie Chung’s career as a whole thus far has been pretty underrated, so hopefully the chance to be the next great female action hero comes her way soon.

Aldis Hodge as Carter Hall/Hawkman in Black Adam
Aldis Hodge as Carter Hall/Hawkman in Black Adam

Aldis Hodge

Aldis Hodge actually has an interesting connection to the action genre, having starred in two Die Hard movies: Die Hard with a Vengeance and A Good Day to Die Hard — the latter of which marked his acting debut as a child. After putting that experience to good use with a portrayal of Hawkman that is the best thing about Black Adam, in my opinion, I am certainly hoping to see him soar higher in this realm, whether that means leading a superhero movie of his own or something more grounded.

Katy O'Brien on The Mandalorian
Katy O'Brien on The Mandalorian

Katy O'Brian

Am I the only one who takes one look at Katy O’Brian and sees an action movie star waiting to be born? Following her breakout film role in Love Lives Bleeding, the bodybuilder and Mandalorian actor is more than ready to lead something with a speedier pace on the big screen.

Bill Hader in Barry Season 4
Bill Hader in Barry Season 4

Bill Hader

I bet you did not expect a former SNL cast member to appear on this list, but I think Bill Hader might even be the most deserving one here. His role as a hitman seeking an acting career on Barry proved that he has some astonishing range, and his participation in the HBO series' more action-oriented sequences also shows he could do well in something like a grizzled detective role, a la John McClane.

Could any of these stars become the next Bruce Willis or Charlize Theron? Trigger fingers crossed.