ByRicky Derisz, writer at
Staff Writer at MP. "Holy cow, Rick! I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter!" Twitter: @RDerisz.
Ricky Derisz

Action comes in all shapes and sizes. We often think of the genre in the confined paradigm of AK-47's, explosions and car chases, but look a little further and you'll find a wealth of top quality films and TV shows that will satisfy the action itch in many different ways.

The below list focuses on the small screen, looking at the best action TV shows. It's a complete mixed bag of all forms of action, from the more traditional testosterone fuelled gangster tales, to superheroes, fantasy and zombies.

Without wanted to exclude old programmes or overlook new ones, there's also a selection of shows that no longer run, and those that are still yet to reach their peak. Without further ado, let's take a look:

1. 'The Sopranos' (1999 - 2007)

An exploration of best action TV shows has to start with this gangster epic, regarded by many as one of the best creations the small screen has to offer.

Focusing on the life of Italian American gangster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), the series depicts the complex relationships and contrasting obligations of the family man come mob boss.

Created by David Chase, this really is a must watch for lovers of rich character development. Across the award winning six season run, the Sopranos become like an extension of your own family, except with more violence and mayhem. Hopefully, anyway.

2. 'Breaking Bad' (2008 - 2013)

AMC's masterpiece has become, in some ways, a victim of its own success. The frenzied hype surrounding the show adds high levels of expectation for anyone setting their eyes on the programme for the first time.

But the on screen chemistry (pun fully intended) of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), combined with great direction and Vince Gilligan's outstanding script, render this up there with the best.

3. 'Game Of Thrones' (2011 - Present)

Let's take a change of direction and move into fantasy land, and venture to Westeros for the bloody and salacious battle for leadership. Unconventional, yes, but GoT is still one of the best action TV shows, and generally one of the finest works of modern fiction.

Who can argue with fire-breathing dragons, constant gory sword fights, and more back stabbing than one could wish for? If it's action your after, you won't be left feeling deprived.

4. 'The Walking Dead' (2010 - Present)

The apocalyptic series, based on the comic book created by Robert Kirkman, is one of the most popular shows on air. Despite the blood, guts, relentless death and, *cough* baseball bats *cough*, viewers just can't get enough of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and friends.

What gives The Walking Dead an edge over other works in the zombie genre is the detailed character and civilization development, its depiction of the fallout from such a catastrophe and the attempts of society to rebuild.

5. 'Sons Of Anarchy' (2008 - 2014)

The show focusing on a criminal motorcycle gang and its President, Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) is the most successful in FX's history, with the Season 7 premiere reaching over 6 million viewers.

As can be expected, throughout the show's seven season run, there is a lot violence and action, but the main theme runs deep into the relationships within the gang, as well as Teller's inner conflict.

Due to the popularity of the show, a spin-off series by creator Kurt Sutter being worked on, which will focus on Latino motorcycle club, the Mayans.

6. 'Boardwalk Empire' (2010 - 2014)

Behind the scenes, the calibre for this bootlegging mobster series was immense; it was created by Sopranos genius Terrence Winter, and was produced by Hollywood heavyweight Martin Scorsese. Scorsese also directed the pilot episode, which cost an astronomical $18 million dollars.

Still, that investment was worthwhile. The show was set in the aesthetically pleasing backdrop of the 1920s and 1930s Prohibition era, with the brilliant Steve Buscemi playing the protagonist, Nucky Thompson, who starts off corrupt politician and ends up full on gangster across five seasons.

7. 'Peaky Blinders' (2013 - Present)

It'd be an injustice to recommend Boardwalk Empire without also mentioning its British equivalent. Also set just after WWI, in Birmingham, England, the show focuses on the titular mob, and their quest to expand their criminal business.

Cillian Murphy plays boss Tommy Shelby with charismatic and intimidating flair, supported by a talented cast, including Tom Hardy as Jewish gang leader Alfie Solomons.

Highly polished and well directed, this is arguably one of the BBC's best action series.

8. 'The Wire' (2002 - 2008)

Although the show is eighth on the list, it's by no means eighth in terms of quality — far from it. Created by journalist David Simon and set in the rough streets of Baltimore, The Wire at times feels more like a fly-on-the-wall documentary than a fictional series.

Helped in part by casting "non-actors" who were from Baltimore, as well as dialogue representative of the local culture, the show is masterpiece of the most authentic proportions.

As well as enthralling storylines and an exploration of political and social issues, the show has some of the best characters seen on the small screen, including Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), Bubbles (Andre Royo) and Omar Little (Michael K. Williams).

9. 'Daredevil' (2015 - Present)

The Man in the Red Suit was picked up by Netflix, 12 years after Ben Affleck squeezed himself into lycra for the feature film. The series is set in Hell's Kitchen, following Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and his alter ego's battle to keep the streets safe.

Although set within the MCU, the TV series has a much darker, grittier feel than the norm, including some ultra violent moments across its two seasons. The show really packs a punch, and is one of the best action TV shows for fight scenes (the words corridor and stairway are all I need to say for those who have seen the show).

The villains are are particular highlight of a highly enjoyable show; Jon Bernthal's Punisher and Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin are up there with the best live-action Marvel bad guys.

10. 'Arrow' (2012 - Present)

While we're in the superhero landscape, let's not forget DC, and their highly successful superhero TV show. The protagonist is billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who's secret identity is the bow and arrow wielding Arrow.

The show's success resulted in two other hugely popular spin-offs, The Flash (also one to watch) and Legends of Tomorrow, which are both good action TV shows in their own right.

11. 'Prison Break' (2005 - 2009)

The premise of the original series, as the title suggests, was based around an attempt by Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) to help his brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) break out of prison, with help from fellow convicts and one of the most ingenious tattoos you're likely to see.

Although the first season is a particular highlight, the shows maintains quality across its four season run, and introduces viewers to a selection of unforgettable characters, with Robert Knepper's portrayal of Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell a personal favorite.

There's good news for those who miss the show; a brand new mini series will be produced, including most of the original cast.

12. '24' (2001 - 2014)

Did you really think I was going to forget the best action TV show ever made? Running for nine seasons, the story of Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was told in "real time," with each season covering an eventful 24 hours in Bauer's life.

The longest running espionage series fulfils some of the more traditional aspects of the action genre, using an innovative approach to keep things fresh. The award winning show also had a massive impact on the TV format.

13. 'Preacher' (2016 - Present)

Based on the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, and developed by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Sam Catlin, the show follows a Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a preacher who is on a quest to find God.

Given the source material and the quality of the adaption, Preacher is an underrated gem, with guaranteed action, surrealism and debauchery.

What are your favorite action TV shows?


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