The 10 Best Single Day Action Flicks

The magic of the movies allows anyone to be anywhere at any time, so long as they have a convincing reason as to why things happened the way they did. Some movies are braver than that, as they choose to tell the events of a linear point in time. Films like these eschew the easy route, limiting themselves to a specific period of time – and in some cases, they focus the action in the confines of one specific area.

In honor of the release of Run All Night, we’d like to share with you some of the best examples of bottle storytelling -- those films that start and finish in a period that doesn’t exceed a day, and somehow manage to hit all of the notes other stories take days to tell. You know them, you love them, and in some cases you didn't even know they took place in the same 24-hour period; but all of the following 10 films on this list take place in a single day's worth of action, and they're all the better for that fact!


10. Crank

Neveldine and Taylor’s opus of guilty pleasures opens the proceedings while watching Jason Statham trying to keep his adrenaline glands pumping. It gives Crank the distinction of being so focused on this one goal that not only is the film brief, it’s also extremely close to, if not completely told, in real time. What also sets Crank apart from any other film on this list is the gleeful amount of fun it has putting Chev Chelios into compromising situations that keep his heart pumping. How they handle the public sex scene alone is worth the inclusion on this list, as it’s not played for perversion, but more or less the sort of dirty joke the directors would tell with a smile on their faces.

9. Training Day

Training Day practically requires that the film you’re about to see should take place in a singular day. While Antoine Fuqua could easily have used that title as a symbolic gesture, he instead plays to its literal meaning and focuses on Denzel Washington’s Alonzo showing Ethan Hawke’s Jake through the ropes of procedure both on and off the book. If Fuqua had taken the symbolic approach, Washington’s performance as the man that King Kong "ain’t got shit" on wouldn’t have been as layered or intense, as we’re not given time to shy away from his actions and flaws. We, much like Jake, are thrown to the wolves and we don’t get a breather from the stuff that goes down. It’s that concept that truly drives Training Day to its brutal, climactic finish.


8. Sleepless Night

For years, fans have been clamoring for a feature film based on the hit TV series 24. While that doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon, you can get the full Jack Bauer experience following Vincent, the detective at the center of Frederic Jardin’s police thriller Sleepless Night. In the course of one day, Vincent robs a drug delivery, has his son kidnapped, and has to evade not only the mobsters he’s pissed off, but also his compatriots in the police force. Not to mention, a good portion of the film’s tense events takes place in the villain’s nightclub lair, lending the film’s action to end up taking place anywhere from the dance floor to the kitchen in the back. If you need to be sold on Sleepless NIght just a little more, then you should check out this clip we hosted around the time of the film's release.


7. High Noon

One of the most classic examples of a film running in almost completely real time, and with an actor that many felt was too old to convincingly play the part of a man of action, High Noon is a film that lives up to the former claim and disproves the latter with equal conviction. Gary Cooper plays Marshall Will Kane, a man who swore never to engage in the violence his former profession had required; only to have to take it up again when a criminal gang he convicted in the past is hell bent on revenge. Cooper not only plays the moral conviction of Kane a note of perfection, he also made for a pretty damned convincing lawman. Aged or not, Cooper owns this film inside and out, and it’s a vital part of anyone’s education in the classics.


6.The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption and Dredd share pretty much the same exact storyline, only with major differences in world building and how fantastical their approach is. While Dredd is an awesome flick, and almost made it on the list, there’s only room for one high rise ass kicking – and The Raid: Redemption won that role in a heartbeat. As we follow the SWAT team’s progress through a slum crawling with all sorts of criminal types, the action only gets more brutal, the danger more intense, and the stakes ever higher. The best part is that The Raid: Redemption ends on such a cliffhanger that The Raid: Berendal picks up right afterwards. There’s some serious martial arts going on in this flick, and it’s known to do wonders for elevating one’s heart rate.


5. Escape From New York

If there was any decade that had the most fun with its action pictures, the 1980’s would certainly have to be the one to single out. Escape From New York is a good case for that argument, considering the film is a post apocalyptic action ride that also includes everything from political intrigue to a duel that feels like it belongs in a sword and sandal epic. All the while, Kurt Russell’s bad-assed and smart-assed Snake Pliskin anchors the film with a heaping dose of that "I don’t give a fuck" spirit that we’ve all come to know and love from the man who inspired one of the most famous characters ever. If anyone tries to counter the argument that Escape From New York belongs on this list, throw on the period-appropriate score that was co-written by director John Carpenter. No one can argue with that, no matter how hard they try.


4. Alien

Everyone knows the tale of Ellen Ripley, last surviving crew member of the Nostromo. But has anyone really stopped and thought about the fact that Sir Ridley Scott’s Alien is all in the space of a day? Apparently, while no one can hear you scream in space, they also can’t here the ticking of a clock. A recurring theme you’ll see with some of the entries on this list is the fact that Alien’s story is so tense and so well paced that you don’t even pay attention to the passage of time. So when someone comes up to you and says, "Hey, did you know that took place in a day," it’s one of those eureka moment that makes you want to watch it again.


3. Run Lola Run

What is it about foreign filmmakers and their expert usage of ticking clock dramatics? Tom Tykwer’s German indie classic features a pre-Bourne series Franka Potente as the titular Lola, a woman who’s about to have the worst day ever in three separate chases to obtain 100,000 Deutsch Marks. With each interval clocking in at about 20 minutes, after a singular set up sequence, Run Lola Run is as exciting as it is harrowing, with each pitfall and delay adding to the pressure to make the deadline. If one run through wasn’t tense enough, the film’s subsequent variations on the theme make the film an effective study on causality, as well as a hell of a ticking clock caper to behold. Not to mention, the soundtrack is pure 90’s bliss, so it’s got that going for it, as well.


2. Air Force One

Bet you didn't realize that Air Force One took place in the course of a single day! And really, who cares, seeing as the film that most would consider director Wolfgang Petersen's last really good flick is packed wall to wall with tension. Keep in mind, this film was released during the more innocent days of the pre 9/11 Clinton era, where a film like this could not only get made, but also thrill audiences without sending them into a panic attack. Even if Gary Oldman's terrorist leader stirred up some movie goer's heart rates in the film's initial run, all it took was the firm Executive Branch style pimp hand of Harrison Ford to put the world back in its place. He’s really strict about ticketed air travel, isn’t he?

Die Hard

1. Die Hard

It wasn't hard to put Die Hard at the top of this list, instead it was hard to find a film that could top its reign. Be it the explosive action that thrills you, or the non stop wisecracks of tough guy turned unwitting hero John McClane, Die Hard original recipe is tops when it comes to limited scope action. Over the course of a couple of hours, and confined to the high rise that is Nakatomi Plaza, Bruce Willis' breakout role as an action superstar sets up obstacles, knocks them down, and then puts something bigger in said obstacle’s place. All the while, we sympathize with the weary McClane, hoping his night comes to a peaceful end... but not before kicking some serious terrorist ass.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.