Best Chuck Norris Films – the best of the bearded one

After a solid deep dive into the man’s movies, here are what can be considered the best Chuck Norris movies.

Starting his career in an uncredited role in as a henchman in the Dean Martin/ Matt Helm movie The Wrecking Crew, Chuck Norris really burst onto the scene fighting Bruce Lee in a Roman Coliseum in The Way of the Dragon. Since then, Chuck Norris has had a career filled with action scenes, loud guns, and roundhouse kicks. He was a mainstay of 1980s action films and was even brought in as a sort of savior for the others in The Expendables 2. While he’s mostly retired now, everyone still knows who he is, and Chuck Norris jokes have honored him for years. After a solid deep dive of the man’s movies, here are what we consider the best Chuck Norris movies: 

The Octagon (1980) 

best chuck Norris movies the octagon

Starting off a decade of plenty for Mr. Norris, The Octagon is one of those films that feels very much like he owns it. Here, he plays Scott James, a martial artist who must face his past and a crime ring that may be responsible for some of his trauma. There is plenty of action here and is a good entry point in Norris’ filmography for anyone unfamiliar with his work. Here, he gets to show his fighting skills as well as his acting skills. Having had a few feature film lead parts before that, he’s fully come into his own at this point and it shows. This is Chuck Norris playing what has become a typical Chuck Norris part – the strong man of action. Playing the same character as Norris, but as a teen, is his son Mike Norris. Also in this film are Art Hindle, Lee Van Cleef, and Richard Norton for whom this was his first film.  

Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) 

As Chuck Norris became more and more known for his action films, Lone Wolf McQuade solidified his stardom. Here he plays J.J. McQuade, a Texas Ranger who is asked for help when a small town is taken over by a drug lord played by David Carradine. Of course, the two want the same lady, so it complicates things. Here, Norris gets to be the hero, the romantic lead, and the man of the hour. He’s central to everything and gets to flex his skills even more, getting a fight scene against Carradine that probably made action film fans in 1983 salivate. The film has some issues that have not aged well since then, but when viewed through a 1980s lens, the film is a lot of fun and watching Norris kick and shoot people is highly entertaining here. It also arguably laid the groundwork for his long-running TV show, Walker: Texas Ranger.

Missing in Action series (1984, 1985, and 1988) 

Yes, this is cheating a bit as it’s three films in one entry, but they all are very much in the same vein, with the first two being shot at the same time, leading to the order of release being swapped around due to the strength of the material. Here, Norris plays Col. James Braddock, a Vietnam war prisoner who escaped a POW camp and must go back to save his fellow Americans still held captive there. This is pure Norris: violence, big guns, American patriotism. Should someone ask what is the most Chuck Norris film of all his career, this series is a good place to look, somewhere between all three of these, a collection of scenes would most likely become the essence of Norris on film. Also of importance, James Hong, Steven Williams, and Keith David, as well as other familiar faces, show up in this series. The first one is certainly one of the best Chuck Norris movies. While the sequels aren’t in the same league, they’re still decent enough.

Invasion U.S.A. (1985) 

Another entry in the Chuck-Norris-Saves-America sub-genre, this one has him against communists who have invaded the country. This is very much a mid-1980s setting with the fears of the time put front and center and our now well-established hero coming to save the day. So why this one? Well, it’s exactly what one would expect of a Chuck Norris film had they never seen one and only ever heard the jokes about the man and his superiority to everything and everyone. This one is, much like the Missing in Action series, very much a film about big guns, a good hero, and American patriotism winning the day. Norris does well here and shows that he is one of the best at what he is known for: fighting invaders, shooting big guns, and saving the day. Added bonus, Billy Drago playing one of his signature type of characters, dies a horribly painful death that even works in some “Just Say No” anti-drug commentary of the day.

Sidekicks (1993) 

Yes, an odd choice here, but with good reason, Sidekicks is one of those fun flicks that every action actor seems to eventually do, a heartwarming family-friendly film. Sidekicks owes a ton to The Karate Kid on many fronts, but it adds a few new items here, one being that the lead Barry has severe asthma and a fascination that borders on fanatism when it comes to Chuck Norris. Yes, it’s about Chuck Norris himself, so Norris is playing a cinematic version of himself, one that a teenager might dream of meeting and hanging out with in the 1990s, much like daydreaming Barry does. While the film is a Jonathan Brandis vehicle and Mako gets a lot more screen time as the trainer for the kid, Chuck Norris is central to everything. Norris is the hero of a bullied teenager’s dreams; the man he so wishes he could emulate and who he would do a whole lot just to be able to meet him. Norris shows up here in a bunch of random scenes and sequences dreamt of by Barry, showing some of his patented action hero skills, while still being personable and quite likable, like one would expect someone’s hero to be. By the time the film reaches its conclusion, Norris gets more screen time and comes across not only as the man who can’t be beat, but also as a humble martial artist willing to be there when he is needed. 

Editor’s Pick: Code of Silence (1985)

While people often praise Chuck Norris as an action hero, no one necessarily thinks of him as a good actor. Yet, Code of Silence, which is directed by Andrew Davis (Above the Law, Under Siege, The Fugitive) is a gem that shows the man has some serious chops. In it, he plays a touch Chicago cop who refuses to help cover up for a racist cop who killed a teen in a drug bust gone awry. At the same time, he’s also battling a Mafioso (Henry Silva) who’s trying to kidnap a rival’s innocent daughter. There’s loads of good action in this one, including a superb chase on top of Chicago’s “L” Train. This one is a former Best Movie You Never Saw pick, and the kind of movie even non Chuck Norris fans might like.

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