We recap the 10 highest-octane action flicks of 2013—and the stars who got seriously ripped for their roles.
Chris Giblin 1 / 11
Fittest Films of the Year
With Oscar season coming up, it’s time to review the most high-octane action movies of the past year. No—these blockbusters won’t get big mentions during the awards ceremony. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to take note. Plenty of this year's films starred our favorite classic action heroes (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis) and some newer guys (Chris Hemsworth, Channing Tatum) all looking like unrealistic action figures. These were the films of 2013 that (hopefully) got you motivated to stop at the gym on the way home from the theater.
To play the mighty Thor for this installment and for recent films, star Chris Hemsworth had to ramp up his strength-training routine, saying he really had to alter his regimen from being cardio-heavy. Luckily, Hemsworth has a relentless work ethic, as his trainer claims he pushed Hemsworth to work out 60 to 90 minutes a day five days a week during preparation for the film, even though he was already doing 12-hour days on the set of Red Dawn at the time. All that work paid off—he definitely passes as an immortal on the big screen.
Yippee Ki-Yay, motherf—er. Who cares that this film got a number of rough reviews, or that the original movie may have been best left without its many sequels? It’s still cool to see Bruce Willis in the John McClane role we all collectively came to love in the 25-plus years since the original was released. And at this point, seeing Willis running around and firing a machine gun is like a dose of nostalgia in the present day. The guy’s still got it.
Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx star in this old-fashioned bodyguard-protects-president action movie with plenty of violence, collateral damage, and explosions. Foxx makes for a president with more ripped abs than anyone else who’s taken up office, and it’s not coincidental that he ends up getting protection from terrorists from the dude who played a jacked male stripper only a few years ago. Reviews and politics aside, this was just a classic popcorn-munching blockbuster—don’t overthink it and you’ll have a good time watching.
Don’t let the plot of this extortion-based movie with a lot of stylized violence fool you—the real story in Pain & Gain is how huge “The Rock” is. Are you kidding me? He’s an absolute monster; a tank of a man who makes even his own past WWE self look small by comparison. Although Dwayne Johnson takes the show in this respect, it’s worth mentioning his fellow bodybuilding cast members—the formidable Anthony Mackie and, of course, the former Calvin Klein model and workout video star Marky Mark Wahlberg.
Hugh Jackman returned for yet another reprisal of his Wolverine role, which dates all the way back to 2000 in the original X-Men. Getting ripped for the job has just become part of his routine as an actor. This time around, he told reporters he ate six meals a day during his intense pre-production training regimen. He also got advice from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—who else? The Rock suggested a staggering schedule of gaining a pound a week and consuming 6,000 calories a day for six months, a schedule Jackman apparently heeded to at least some extent due to his undeniably pristine results.Get Jacked Like Hugh Jackman>>>
Man of Steel
The Superman franchise joined the ranks of the Hulk and Spider-Man by coming out with a reboot only seven years after its previous series reboot. But there’s always an audience for comic book films—mulligans are expected these days. Henry Cavill took his model good looks and disciplined exercise regimen to prep for the Superman/Clark Kent role, reportedly consuming 5,000 calories a day, much of it protein, while training two hours per day to get the chiseled looks drawn in the old comic books—no CGI required.
Sporting a ton of stealthy squad names, explosions, ninjas, and a cast filled with ultrafit actors, this action movie proved to be a worthy reenactment of all the G.I. Joe battles you made up as a kid. There were plenty of big names in this one—Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, and, of course, The Rock, who played a character by the appropriate name of Roadblock. It’s basically a ton of jacked dudes and toned women fighting—easily one of the fittest movies of the year.
In the Iron Man films, it’s Tony Stark’s brilliant mind and large sum of money that allow him to be a superhero in his spare time. Don’t let that fool you though—Robert Downey Jr. has made sure to pack on tons of muscle for each installment of the series. As he told us, he put on 25 pounds of muscle leading up to The Avengers through a rigorous training routine and a protein-rich 5,000-calorie diet. And don’t forget, health and fitness addict Gwyneth Paltrow is the love interest in these films as well.
Star Trek Into Darkness
You won’t see any of the truly massive muscles you might have seen in the earthbound action films of 2013, but Chris Pine (Captain Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan) all got trim and strong for their roles in the second installment of this (thus far) successful and well-reviewed series reboot. Cumberbatch’s dedication to training may have been the most impressive—the classically trained, loquacious star of Sherlock reportedly hit the gym hard and went on a 4,000-calorie-per-day diet to make a more physically intimidating Khan (mentally, he was already there, of course).10 Greatest Movie Training Montages>>>
The Last Stand
This one marked the return of the great Arnold Schwarzenegger into the spotlight. Already sporting one of the most hard-to-believe career arcs in the world, in which he went from being a world champion Austrian bodybuilder to American movie star to governor of California (pronounced FOR-ni-a), he returned to movie stardom in The Last Stand. Despite his 65 years of age, Schwarzenegger claimed the number didn’t matter to him, as he worked out twice a day to prep for this vigilante justice movie.