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America’s Action Movie Obsession: Feeding Our Need For Summer Blockbusters


What’s more synonymous with entertainment in America than a summer blockbuster? We just can’t tame the need for entertaining action flicks, no matter the time of year. With so many classics in the mix and a bunch of more recent films that already feel like old favorites, which are already standing the test of time? And what are the generational favorites?

And what about the highly anticipated summer 2024 blockbusters like Bad Boys 4 and Furiosa, on the heels of a very beloved Mad Max: Fury Road. It seems like no matter what, something keeps driving audiences to the theaters and making them buy buckets of popcorn to enjoy fiery explosions.

From high-octane thrillers to prehistoric adventures, let’s (sky)dive into America’s action faves — you might be surprised at what kind of adrenaline your state appreciates most!

Key Takeaways

  • Jurassic Park earned the most votes across all states, tallying eight, with Terminator 2 in a not-so-close second at five.
  • Gen Z loves Mad Max: Fury Road, perhaps because the dystopian wasteland hits a little too close to home and takes the top action movie slot for the generation.
  • Nearly a fifth of all states have a unique pick all their own (including Iowa, Montana and Arkansas).
  • 73% of Americans think action movies are better seen in theaters vs. streaming
  • 57% will go to the theater to see a summer blockbuster in 2024

Unpacking America’s Beloved Blockbusters

From dinosaur rampages to futuristic battles, every state has its favorite flick that gets hearts racing, so buckle up: we’re taking an explosive cinematic trip across the country to reveal which ones inspire every state’s collective adrenaline to pump at full Speed! (Get it?)

Spielberg’s Silver Screen Reign

Come on, you saw this one coming! Or was the jungle too dense?

Jurassic Park roars to the top in eight states, more than any other film: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Tennessee and Virginia. This 1993 classic, adored especially by millennials, continues to captivate audiences with its still-impressive special effects (rare for a movie more than 20 years old) and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Raiders of the Lost Ark, another Steven Spielberg mega-hit featuring the heroic Indiana Jones, is a favorite in Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. These action movies are loved not just for the thrills, but for the nuanced storytelling throughout Spielberg has been a master of for a long time.

Red and Blue Pills: The Matrix and Its Sequels

The Matrix took the entire country by storm when it first arrived at the dawn of the new millennium and at the height of Y2K fears — and is still the top choice in New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas. Although much less of a canon classic than the original, The Matrix Reloaded takes the lead in Alaska and Idaho. This franchise, which takes seven top spots throughout the country, have no doubt left an indelible mark on the sci-fi action genre as a whole. It’s hard to top the revolutionary visual effects (you know the bone-bending scenes we’re talking about), philosophical depth, and the rush of energy you get when wondering which pill Neo will choose.

Cameron’s Classic Sequels: Aliens and Terminator 2

Sigourney Weaver and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s — we mean James Cameron’s — masterpieces, Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, continue to dominate multiple states even after decades. Aliens is the favorite in Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota and Oklahoma, surely chosen in part for its strong heroine, Ellen Ripley. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the top dog in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and New Hampshire, still heart-pounding for its metallic action scenes and classic phrases. Who knew sequels could be even more loved than the original blockbusters?

Rocky’s Enduring Underdog Spirit

The Rocky franchise punches its way to the top in Connecticut (Rocky II), Delaware (Rocky III), Rhode Island (Rocky II) and Kentucky (Creed). Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal of the underdog boxer resonates across multiple generations, with baby boomers in particular cherishing Rocky II (we aren’t surprised). This age-old saga of grit and determination continues to inspire fans — many of whom belong to Gen Z — across the nation through Michael B. Jordan (and, of course, a cameo from Sly himself).

Explosive Favorites: Die Hard and Independence Day

Die Hard is still a hit in Maryland, South Dakota and Washington, as Bruce Willis’s portrayal of John McClane has become completely iconic. This film, while NOT a holiday classic (we repeat, NOT a holiday classic) is what we’ll call a “perennial favorite.”  Independence Day is the top choice in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, likely because of the blend of patriotic fervor and epic alien battles, led by Will Smith. (Regardless of any underlying anger concerns, the man is an acting legend — who also seems to do well with aliens.)

Post-Apocalyptic Thrills

One of the newest classics on the list, Mad Max: Fury Road accelerates to the top in Indiana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. This visually stunning film, beloved by Gen Z, is known for its Charlize Theron fierceness and a complete commitment to creating jaw-dropping effects. Honestly, a dystopian wasteland never looked so thrilling — and it’s no wonder why people are at the edge of their seats waiting for Furiosa.

Unique State Picks: Celebrating Diversity in (Literal) Action

Alongside all of the action movies you might have been able to guess, many states have unique picks that reflect their collective personality and preferences:

  • Arkansas loves the martial arts epic Fearless, showcasing Jet Li’s martial arts talents and the spirit of heroism.
  • Iowa favors Police Story, where Jackie Chan’s blend of comedy and action brings endless entertainment.
  • Kansas opts for Quentin Tarantino’s stylized and rather violent Kill Bill: Vol. 1, with Uma Thurman’s unforgettable revenge journey.
  • Montana cherishes Hard Boiled, a Hong Kong classic directed by John Woo with killer action sequences.
  • District of Columbia picks the intense Korean thriller Oldboy, known for its gripping plot and dramatic fight scenes.
  • South Carolina enjoys Armageddon, where Bruce Willis (hello again!) and his team of oil drillers save the world from an asteroid.
  • In Vermont, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring takes it all the way. While primarily a fantasy, its epic battles and heroism resonate with lovers of the action genre.

Generational Favorites: The Magic of the Big Screen

If it hasn’t been made clear already, different generations have distinct action movie favorites — and most of them have been around for decades. Old classics Die Hard, we guess.

Baby Boomers still put the inspirational story of Rocky II at their top spot, reflecting their love for a solid underdog story (they saw their underdog parents survive the aftermath of the Great Depression, after all).  Gen X reveres Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which embodied a revolutionary sci-fi concept in the eighties, and if it wasn’t clear, millennials can’t get enough of the raging reptiles in Jurassic Park, a film that defined their childhood. As for Gen Z? They are most thrilled by the chaotic, high-speed world of Mad Max: Fury Road, alongside its (relatable?) dystopian themes.

Even though many of Americans’ favorite action films have been out of theaters for decades, a staggering 73% of Americans believe action movies are best seen in theaters, where the larger-than-life visuals and booming sound effects create a real experience. With 57% planning to catch at least one of the following summer blockbusters in 2024, it’s clear that the allure of the big screen is still alive and well (even when tickets cost the same amount as dinner):

Furiosa: A prequel that will shed light on the backstory of Furiosa.

Bad Boys 4: The next installment in the “Bad Boys” series, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

Deadpool & Wolverine: A highly anticipated crossover featuring Deadpool and Wolverine, with Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman reprising their roles.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two: The continuation of Ethan Hunt’s thrilling missions, starring Tom Cruise.

Whether you’re in the mood for prehistoric thrills, futuristic battles, or heart-pounding chases, there’s an action movie out there that’s perfect for you — and maybe your kids — in the comfort of your home on Friday night. That said, America always has more room for pop-culture megahits, so plan for a $50 night of popcorn and punches this upcoming summer and let an adventure unfold in a theater near you!


This survey was completed in May 2024 among 2,000 Americans with a median age of 35 and 54% identifying as women, 44% men, and 2% other.

Our data was collected from US Google Trends ranging from 2019-2024, with a list of 350 action movie titles from Wikipedia, The Numbers, IMDb, and Rotten Tomatoes. We analyzed for highest grossing “traditional” action movies of the last 50 years (excluding those that heavily overlap in genre).

Erica Prush
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