Have you ever felt underappreciated?
Don’t worry, everybody has.
Imagine you ask some of the most underrated action stars of the present-day how they feel about their careers.
I am sure that in 9 out of 10 cases you will receive a positively related answer.
And maybe this is how it should be, mainly because they all have the rare chance to make a living by doing what they love most.
Often, for them being an action star is a dream come true.
You don’t become an actor while you have aspirations to be a carpenter or an astronaut, for instance.
The things would be slightly different if you ask the fans what they think about the fact that some of their favorite actors clearly don’t receive the appreciation they are fighting for.
They will tell you that they’d want to see their idols in more leading roles in big-budgeted mainstream productions acting next to (or even replacing) huge stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson for example.
It is one thing to be a good actor and to regularly star in crappy movies mostly by your choice but it is a completely different thing to have a talent and to drown into the direct-to-DVD genre just because other options rarely exist if exist at all.
This is the case with the action stars in the list below.
They are loved and respected by millions of fans worldwide but they generally shoot cheap action flicks that don’t see theatrical release or, in other cases, they receive only small roles for their otherwise big talent.
Underrated Action Stars – Who Deserves More in The Genre?
It would be a shame not to start with the underground martial arts king.
The name Scott Adkins is a cult in the direct-to-DVD action genre.
The 41 years-old British star earned his fame by starring in numerous flicks in which he showcases his out-of-this-earth martial arts prowess.
His acrobatic, gravity-defying fighting skillset came to the attention of the large audience after his genuine portrayal of the Russian fighter Yuri Boyka in the highly popular ‘Undisputed’ franchise.
The fourth installment, entitled ‘Boyka: IV: Undisputed’ (2016) solidified his presence as one of the most established martial artists among the actors nowadays.
Moreover, Scott has proved that he can act convincingly on the screen, something that can be rarely seen in the action genre.
Not only that but Adkins showed that his interest is not only in low-budgeted direct-to-video productions.
Through the years, the British-born actor had small roles in many expensive box-office hits such as ‘Doctor Strange’ (2016), ‘The Expendables 2’ (2012), ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (2012), etc.
It is undeniable that Scott Adkins has not only a huge fan base but he also possesses qualities because of which he could easily be among the most trending leading action stars in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, it is not the case at least for now.
Scott continues to receive offers primarily for cheap actioners that are not enough marketed, thus dooming him to stay in the shadow of the underground direct-to-DVD genre.
The fans around the world have been clear that they’d want to see him star in Hollywood more often and in leading roles.
He has the skills and the charisma needed, what his lacks is just the right breakthrough role in the right production.
There are even petitions signed by thousands of fans worldwide that stipulate Scott Adkins as the most righteous choice for the role of the next James Bond after Daniel Craig.
The social media also contains huge amount of groups created for the sole purpose of shouting out that Hollywood can only benefit from the presence of Scott Adkins in more leading action roles.
Let’s hope that this will happen soon because Scott definitely deserves it and we, the fans also do.
Michael Jai White
Part of the top five martial arts action actors born in the UK or in the USA, Michael Jai White is quite possibly the most versatile combat performer out there.
The 50 years-old actor and martial artist holds high degrees in seven different martial art forms.
Appearing mainly in action flicks, Michael proved that he can act in various genres, no matter if it is a big-budgeted comedy production or a small independent direct-to-DVD actioner.
His name rose to stardom in 1997 with the role of Spawn in the eponymous action-horror blockbuster that became huge Hollywood hit.
This role even earned him a nomination for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award.
In the following years, though, Michael’s career experienced volatile trends and he could mostly be seen in less important roles in action or comedy flicks such as ‘Breakfast for champions’ (1999), ‘Universal Soldier: The Return’ (1999), ‘Exit Wounds’ (2001), etc.
In the past few years, the muscular-build action star made some significant appearances in the direct-to-DVD genre in hits such as ‘Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing’ (2006), ‘Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown’ (2011), and ‘Never Back Down: No Surrender’ (2016).
In 2009 he starred in the leading role in the ultra-successful action-comedy ‘Black Dynamite’, showcasing his multifaceted talent, while in the same year he impressed with his unbelievable martial arts skills having the leading role in the mind-blowing ‘Blood and Bone’.
However, Jai White remains somehow out of the limelight for the qualities he has.
If you ask yourself the question what skillset does a man have to possess in order to be a successful action leading man in Hollywood, the answer should be on-screen charisma, decent acting skills, perfect fighting prowess and experience in the genre.
Michael Jai White has all that and he surely deserves more mainstream roles from Hollywood.
Even though Frank Grillo is not a straightforward action actor, in the past few years he showed remarkable presence in action movies, thus proving that he has huge potential in the genre.
In that train of thought, he desperately needs good leading roles in order to further develop his unquestionable talent as a tough action hero or grumpy villain.
His experience in the action genre includes small roles in remarkable flicks such as David Ayer’s ’End of Watch’ (2012), ‘The Grey’ (2011) with Liam Neeson, ‘Homefront’ (2013) with Jason Statham and his portrayal of the supervillain Crossbones in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (2014) and ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (2016).
Recently he starred along Iko Uwais in the sci-fi actioner ‘Beyond Skyline’ (2017) and in the highest grossing non-Hollywood movie ever ‘Wolf Warrior 2, which by the way is part of the best Asian action movies of 2017.
One of his best leading roles happened this year as well in the low-budget action drama ‘Wheelman’ (2017), which was released on Netflix and received highly positive reviews from audiences and critics around the world.
So it won’t be far from the truth if we say that even being at 52, Frank Grillo is one of Hollywood’s new action stars.
That is why he needs more and more quality action roles in order to gain more recognition, something he certainly deserves.
A wildly popular name in the Asian cinema and an impressive martial artist, Tony Jaa is still waiting for his star to shine in the Western cinema world.
Being mostly a martial artist and stunt coordinator, Jaa managed to establish himself as one of the most demanded action stars in the Thai cinema.
He gained huge fame with the ‘Ong-Bak’ movies in which he first showed to the world his imaginative fight choreography and alluring on-screen presence.
The spectacular Thai action flick ‘The Protector’ (2005) reinforced his status as a rising action star with undeniable talent.
However, Tony’s name is still not as recognized in the Western cinema as the names of Jet Li and Jackie Chan, for instance.
Even though Jaa participated with small roles in some big Hollywood productions such as ‘XXX: Return of Xander Cage’ (2016) and ‘Furious 7’ (2015), he definitely has everything necessary to be cast as a leading action star in a Western production.
In 2018 we will have the pleasure to watch him in the highly anticipated actioner ‘Triple Threat’ in which he joins forces with Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Iko Uwais so let’s hope that Tony Jaa will be one of the most mentioned names in the action movie industry outside of Asia.
Another accomplished martial artist, the 53 years-old Hawaii-born actor made a remarkable career as an action leading man during the 90’s when the production of action flicks was big enough to easily create new action idols.
Even at 53 he still got the macho look that the action fans would live to continuously see in movies.
His breakthrough was in 1993 when he was cast in Sheldon Lettich’s action drama ‘Only the Strong’ in which Mark showcased his fantastic capoeira skills.
After that, he made significant roles in cult actioners such as’ Brotherhood of the Wolves’ (2001), ‘Crying Freeman’ (1996), ‘Sabotage’ (1996) and ‘Cradle To The Grave’ (2003).
He also played the role of Eric Draven in the TV series ‘The Crow: Stairway to Heaven’ which was based on the movie ‘The Crow’ (1994) with Brandon Lee.
Nonetheless, Marc Dacascos is rarely demanded in Hollywood nowadays and he mainly appears in small roles in various TV shows, the most famous being ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2015-2016).
With his flawless fighting skills, above-average acting performance and appealing physique Marc certainly deserves a place in the contemporary action filmmaking machine and he surely has a lot to give to the audience as an action macho.
With his towering physique and deep commanding voice, Karl Urban is a memorable figure that every director would love to work with in an action movie.
He can easily play tough badass characters and he proved that in 2012 when he made a stunning performance as Judge Dredd in ‘Dredd’.
Unfortunately for many, that was one of his very few leading action roles and we surely would like to see him kick ass in a lot more similar flicks.
Karl’s name became popular following his roles in more or less successful flicks such as ‘Doom’ (2005), ‘Star Trek’ (2009) in which he played Bones, ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ (2004) and ‘Lord of the Rings’.
Lately, he starred in the Marvel blockbuster ‘Thor Ragnarok’ as Skurge.
The action scene could only benefit from Karl Urban’s magnifying presence and intense look so hopefully we will see him more often as the main hero in explosive action gems.
Well, it’s such a shame that this guy doesn’t receive enough screen presence!
It’s not that he is not a popular name, especially in the past few years, but he deserves more than episodic roles in TV shows and cheap comedies.
Let’s put it like that – the action genre needs him desperately.
He got the badass look on the face, the six pack and the acting skills to be a top-notch action star and this is visible from space.
That is why, it is so good to know that he was chosen to play the leading role in the upcoming DC blockbuster ‘Deathstroke’, which by the way will be directed by Gareth Evans. (‘The Raid 2: Berandal)
Plus, he will play a Commando in the upcoming big-budgeted ‘Rampage’ (2018) starring Dwayne Johnson.
It was about time for the big sharks in the movie business to start trusting him enough and give him big leading roles.
And be sure that Joe Manganiello is capable of carrying an entire action movie on his shoulders.
Mostly known for his role as Alcide Hervaux in the TV series ‘True Blood’ and (of course, ladies) as the stripper Big Dick Richie in ‘Magic Mike’ (2012), Joe’s blistering charisma for action movies is unquestionable.
The only thing is that he has limited, yet remarkable arsenal of action flicks behind his back.
In David Ayer’s ‘Sabotage’ (2014) Manganiello played a tough Special Forces operative and in 2009 he was the star of the direct-to-video action-thriller ‘Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia’.
Both movies are far from perfect, but what is important is that it is always cool to see that the action roles fit Manganiello flawlessly.
So let’s hope that when it comes to Joe Manganiello’s future in the action movies business, the best is yet to come because in a genre occupied always by the same faces his presence would be like a breath of fresh air.
There are many reasons because of which certain actors don’t receive enough attention from the big studios.
Sometimes this is due to the so-called market saturation while in other cases the ferocious competition makes the game so intense that some players stay in the background eagerly waiting for their chance to become leaders.
Sure enough, there are many other underrated action stars that are not on that list.
Can you name some of them? Leave a comment below!