Wesley Snipes has a large variety of film genres under his belt, but the action genre is arguably where he has seen his most success. It’s easy to see why Snipes felt so at home with the genre when looking at his education growing up. Snipes is known to have attended the High School of Performing Arts and spent years studying different forms of martial arts, notably earning black belts in Hapkido and Shotokan Karate. Here we will go over Wesley Snipes’ most prominent action films and rank them based on factors such as their commercial success, the critical reception, the legacy the films may have had on Snipes’ career as well as the overall entertainment of the films themselves.
9 Drop Zone (1994)
Drop Zone (1994) follows Wesley Snipes as the lead character U.S. Marshal Pete Nessip, as he works to uncover the criminals that pulled off an airborne rescue that caused the death of his brother. After such an action-packed start to the film, viewers are treated to Snipes working hard as a detective to prove to his superiors this is a case worth tracking before ultimately working with his team to take down the hostiles. This film would have an exciting opening, but the lull in action keeps it from being a full-blown action epic. Commercially, the film pulled in a meager $62 million worldwide and was met with mixed reviews upon release. A sour note for Snipes is that he did not participate in some of the action sequences, as his insurance kept him from participating in any scenes involving parachuting or skydiving.
8 Passenger 57 (1992)
Next on the list is another film depicting Wesley Snipes attempting to stop criminals aboard a plane. Passenger 57 (1992) sees Snipes as Chief John Cutter trying to save the flight passengers from terrorist Charles Rane, who has devised a plan to have his team infiltrate the plane and escape from conviction. The film would only garner $66 million, albeit off a $15 million budget. It would be panned by critics, with Snipes’ performance serving as one of the few saving graces for the film. While the film is not looked back upon fondly, it remains one of the earliest indicators of Snipes’ success in the genre.
7 Money Train (1995)
Following the success of the sports comedy White Men Can’t Jump (1992), Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes would team up once again, this time appearing as brothers in the film Money Train (1995). The brothers work as transit cops, but Charlie (Harrelson) is in deep gambling debt and is growing increasingly desperate. Despite being frustrated with his brother, John (Snipes) works to help his brother survive an attempt at robbing the Money Train as things go progressively worse during their escape.
The film would only earn $77.2 million overall and receive mixed reviews, with many stating that compared to the duo’s previous work, Money Train was a disappointment. Despite this reception, the film was able to tout its well-crafted action sequences, another aspect where Snipes was able to shine and display his expertise.
6 New Jack City (1991)
Serving as one of the earliest films that kickstarted Wesley Snipes’ career, New Jack City (1991) is a gritty action film focusing on the violence of New York city gangs. Playing Nino, a gang leader, Snipes would prove to be an evil criminal mastermind, making crucial plays to keep his empire in hand, even sacrificing members of his inner circle to the police. He would perform alongside other brilliant performers such as Ice-T and Chris Rock.
The film would receive an incredibly high reception, debuting in early 1991 at the Sundance Film Festival before becoming the highest-grossing independent film of 1991. This would help launch Snipes’ career into a new level of prominence, helping to lead to the significant films that follow on this list.
5 Demolition Man (1993)
Taking on an antagonistic role once again, Wesley Snipes would spend Demolition Man (1993) squaring off with Sylvester Stallone in a highly violent futuristic thrill ride. After taking part in a fierce exchange that included lethal amounts of collateral damage, LAPD Seargent John Spartan (Stallone) and career criminal Simon Pheonix (Snipes) are cryogenically frozen and reawakened in the year 2032, where their personal battle spills out into the once peaceful utopian streets of San Angeles.
This film would prove to be one of the most commercially successful movies of Wesley Snipes’ career, grossing over $150 million. While a large amount of attention was cast on Stallone as this was considered a comeback for his career, Snipes was credited as being a perfect foil, earning a nomination from the MTV Movie Awards in their Best Villian category.
4 U.S. Marshals (1998)
The tables turn in U.S. Marshals (1998), as audiences are initially led to believe that Wesley Snipes is the villain; however, the U.S. Marshals discover that he is a CIA agent that had killed in self-defense and is being falsely accused of going rogue. While the film generated over $100 million, its release so close to Titanic (1997) caused it to suffer in its opening weekend. Critics were also disappointed with the film, given its high expectations, as it was a spin-off of The Fugitive (1993). Despite these factors working against it, Wesley Snipes was still seen as a significant plus for the film overall.
3 Blade: Trinity (2004)
And now, we are given to the three most impressive films of Wesley Snipes’ career, all centered around the character he is synonymous with. Starting with the worst of the trilogy, Blade: Trinity (2004) would be seen as a significant disappointment across the board. The film would introduce many stars to the franchise, including Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds (who would appear in future Marvel films as Deadpool), and current WWE COO Paul Levesque (credited under his working name of Triple H).
The inclusion of these stars and the choice of David S. Goyer to direct were all protested by Snipes, who was also in the position of executive producer, and it is alleged that he made filming extremely difficult by refusing to shoot scenes, creating the need for body doubles to be used frequently. Despite these difficulties, fans were still hungry for more of the daywalker, and the box office gross would match the original film’s success.
2 Blade (1998)
Next, we look at the film that started it all in Blade (1998). Making his debut as the titular character, Wesley Snipes would lead a franchise that some would say is responsible for setting up the boon the superhero genre is celebrating to this very day. This film is an excellent adaptation of the source material, featuring graphic sequences where Blade fights off vampires with his signature sword and uses a serum created by one of his new allies.
The film would earn over $130 million and attract many positive reviews, despite the graphic violence and the fact that the superhero genre was still years away from seeing the widespread popularity it knows today. It is said that David S. Goyer had only seriously considered Snipes for the role, despite pitches being made for actors such as Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne (who would appear in the MCU film Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) as Bill Foster), taking on the part.
1 Blade II (2002)
Cited as the most successful film in the Blade trilogy, Blade II (2002) sees Blade teaming up with the vampires he despises to fight a mutant breed known as Reapers. What follows is a plot filled with violent clashes and twists that one would expect to find in a comic book, much like the source material that Blade is adapted from.
The film would receive the most tremendous commercial success of the three, earning over $150 million and receiving great reviews. The Blade trilogy overall would prove to be most impactful on Wesley Snipes’ career, with him proving to be synonymous with the antihero, though many are excited to see the mantle passed onto Mahershala Ali in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.