Buying gifts for friends and family is a joy, especially when you can get them something unique and fun that fits their personality. The best action figures aren’t just toys, and they’re not just for kids anymore, either. You can find a whimsical toy for everyone on your gift list. From classic movies and television shows to celebrities, you’re sure to see an action figure your gift recipient will love.
After all, who doesn’t have a coworker with an action figure — their secret hero, perhaps — hidden somewhere on their desk? You don’t have to be a geek collector to appreciate your favorite celebrity or TV show character immortalized in vinyl. And kids still love them too. The best action figures allow kids, and adults, to imagine themselves in different worlds, playing out adventures and testing their wit and imagination against unforeseen obstacles
The Hottest and Best Action Figures for Gifting
Every year, the toy industry comes up with a wide range of new and exciting products, especially action figures. Collecting toys has been a favorite hobby for over 100 years, starting with old train sets, moving into tin wind-up toys, and then into the space age with model rockets and model cars. The digital age has brought us a host of collectible Tamagotchis and Pokemon – of which one must collect all. The explosion of CGI-laden superhero movies and popular entertainment franchises has meant billions in toy sales from adoring fans.
Best Action Figures from Movies
The top movie hits have inspired a wide range of collectibles and action figures. Following is the latest crop of the hottest and best action figures you’ll find on the store shelves this year. Some are for kids, and some are for adults, and some are just for fun. In any case, they make great gifts and stocking stuffers.
With the release of "Deadpool 2" in May 2108, this not-safe-for-work comic book character is still a fan favorite for adults. You’ll find Deadpool action figures in several scales and levels of quality.
The movie isn’t for kids, but this 6-inch scale Deadpool is safe for ages 4 and up. It features a ‘90s era design, reminiscent of Teenage Ninja Turtles, and is the perfect size for slipping into a holiday stocking.
For a more substantial action figure, this Deadpool Marvel Legends action figure comes in 1:6 scale and features some great accessories. Along with the katana, Deadpool also has a display stand, extra hands, knives, and a burrito.
For the discerning Deadpool fan on your gift list, this 1:4 scale model is 18-inches tall and has over 30 points of articulation. The artistry and sculpt in this model is simply stunning. The included accessories are also finely molded and include katanas, machine guns, pistols, and extra hands.
June 2018 saw the release of "Incredibles 2," with all the awesome merch poised for market domination. This action figures will tickle kids and parents alike.
The 1:6 Incredibles “Power Couple” are putting the action back into action figures. Mr. Incredible uses his superhero strength to send Elastagirl (Mrs. Incredible) into the fray like a slingshot with his lockable arms. The 45 sounds include the character voices
It seems shocking, but 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton’s "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Who would have thought back in 1993 that this quirky and dark little movie would become a holiday classic that has stood the test of time? To honor this milestone, Diamond Select has issued a series of action figures of Jack, Sally, the Mayor, the Pumpkin King, and other favorite characters.
At 10-inches tall, Jack stands out at a unique scale. However, he’s fully articulated and fully costumed. You can pose him in several positions along with his accessories. Jack comes with a podium, packaged in a coffin-shaped window box.
Sally is stirring up trouble with her cauldron. Or maybe she'll just sit there on the shelf looking awesome. For devoted "Nightmare" fans, this set makes the best action figures for gifting this Halloween or Christmas.
Probably the most merchandised franchise of all time, Star Wars toys are some of the best action figures for new collectors. And kids seem to love them, too.
Is he a doll? A plush toy? An action figure? Who cares? He’s fantastic, and your kid is going to love this 16-inch interactive Wookie toy. This little guy is the ultimate sidekick for any Star Wars fan. With over 100 sound and action combinations, he speaks in Wookie and responds with hilarious facial expressions. He even trills and purrs when he’s happy. They gelled Chewie’s hair into place, so he’ll make a good impression on his new partner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to travel well.
The Black Series features some of the best action figures for Star Wars fans, with its 6-inch scale and realistic sculpt. Best of all, the series features characters for every generation of fan, from old-school Empire Strikes Back figures to 2017's "The Last Jedi." This detailed action figure features Rey during her Jedi training. Accessories include her lightsaber, staff, and pistol.
You can also choose Kylo Ren, with his distinctive “dark side” lightsaber.
Best Action Figures from Video Games
Over the last 40 years, video gaming has changed American culture. Once, world-building was the purview of movies and books, but nothing lets you explore incredible new worlds like video gaming. Game characters have increasingly entered the toy market as well as populating movies and television shows. Here are some of the best action figures topping the list this year.
Known for their high-quality figures and realistic sculpts, MacFarlane made sure these action figures from "Call of Duty" would be cherished by every fan. Newly released for 2018, these three action figures are sure to appear on many wish lists.
With 14 points of articulation, this 7-inch action figure of character Donny Walsh includes his gravity slam weapon.
With his AK-47, John “Soap” MacTavish answers the Call of Duty in fantastic detail for this 7-inch scale.
Last, but certainly not least, with his M-4 assault rifle, Simon “Ghost” Riley finishes up this extraordinary line-up of some of the best action figures coming out this year.
God of War is a long-running video game based on action and mythology. This beautifully crafted Kratos action figure from the game features impressive detail. With 36 points of articulation, this action figure comes with a dagger, Leviathan ax, and shield.
Best Action Figures from Funko Pop
Some might argue that the vinyl figures from Funko aren’t true “action figures.” But, we’re going to ignore that, because they’re just so much fun.
Funko’s motto is: “Everybody is a fan of something.” And that’s so true. Keep in mind that some of your friends and family might not be into comic book and sci-fi movies. So, turn to Funko Pop for vinyl action figures that are sure to surprise and delight music and sports fans, too.
Yes. Prince. The Purple One. His Royal Badness. Funko is immortalizing Prince in vinyl in several of his many creative incarnations.
Named for his all-girl backup band, Prince appears as a mystical figure with his third-eye sunglasses, red and yellow guitar, and gold lame outfit.
With his purple smock coat and “Purple Rain” curls, Prince holds his graceful white guitar from the movie that changed the world of music.
If you’ve ever seen the Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978, the idea of Star Wars Christmas Pops may horrify you. But these adorable vinyl action figures are just too cute for anyone to hold a grudge.
R2D2 is decked for holiday fun with a set of antlers and red and green Christmas lights.
Chewbacca seems to have gotten tangled up in the tree light strings.
Even Darth Vader is in the spirit of the season, holding a candy cane.
No one can accuse Funko Pop of lacking a sense of humor. Their Cute But Deadly take on the "World of Warcraft" has turned everyone’s favorite online role-playing game into something simply adorable.
Known for his weapon design skills, Pop! Technology has rendered this dangerous WoW character into something less threatening.
There’s just something about white-bearded sage wizards that connects with fantasy fans and gamers alike. The Funko Pop version of this arcane expert will get a smile from any "World of Warcraft" fan.
Sports fans are sure to love Funko Pop action figures of their football heroes. Choose from Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears, Deion Sanders of the Dallas Cowboys, and many more.
What Are Action Figures?
The toy company, Hasbro, invented the term “action figure” when it released the G.I. Joe line of toys. They felt that if they used the word “doll” to describe this rough-and-tumble fictional hero, boys wouldn’t want to own one. Since that time, the term “action figures” is used to classify any doll marketed to males.
The term is also used to describe a certain kind of doll – one that represents a specific character or person – real or fictional. Some specialists differentiate dolls from action figures by the type of hair and clothing. In this case, action figures usually have movable limbs and molded plastic hair and clothing. By this definition, dolls have real or synthetic hair and fabric clothing that you can remove or change.
However, because of the explosion of mainstream popularity of action figures, the term has expanded to include any manufactured figure of a character or person. It could be molded entirely from vinyl, like the line of Funko Pop figures.
Or it could mean the highest quality and best action figures, which are carefully sculpted by artists to look like the real person or the actor who plays that character. And while you’ll find many inexpensive action figures suitable for children’s play, you’ll also see some that are works of art in their own right.
What Kinds of Action Figures Are There?
When shopping for action figures, you should understand a bit about how they’re quantified and graded. While some action figures are children’s toys, there are others considered art. Most serious collectors keep these protected in a display case.
The problem with purchasing action figures for a collector is knowing what scale and franchises they collect. While you won’t find an industry standard for quality, at least you can shop by scale.
Scale is the ratio of measurements comparing the doll to a real-life human figure. Thankfully, the toy industry has set dimensions for scale that apply to nearly all action figures.
One-Quarter (1:4), 18-inch: Although these technically could be called dolls, this scale is commonly used for display and collector-quality action figures.
One-Sixth (1:6), 12-inch: This is the traditional size for the best action figures, which includes the G.I. Joe line and the Barbie doll line. Manufacturers issued the Star Wars action figures in 12” scale, too.
One-Tenth (1:10), 7-inch: Currently, the 7-inch scale is the most popular size for collectors, although it's not a favorite with children.
One-Twelfth (1:12), 5 to 6 inches: Not as popular today as they were in the 1990s, you may find a few rare action figures of this scale if you’re shopping for someone who collects rare or obscure toys.
One-Eighteenth (1:18), 3.75 to 4 inches: Because of their low-cost, the 4-inch action figure is the most popular for children's toys. The low cost means that parents can afford more figures for kids who want to recreate their favorite comics and movies with the full cast.
One-Forty-Eighth (1:48), 2 inches: This scale has recently become popular thanks mainly to LEGO and their “minifigs.” Mega Blocks also issues tiny figures for their building playsets of this scale.
Choosing the Best Action Figures to Gift
Whether you’re shopping for a child or an adult, the toy industry provides new and exciting new action figures every year to choose from. When shopping, take a few minutes to consider what characters or franchise the recipient relates to most strongly. Do they have a favorite character or someone they admire?
Serious collectors on your list will favor one franchise over another. They may also be working on a particular set in one scale from one timeframe. So, it never hurts to do some discreet snooping.
Action figures make great gifts, whether the recipient chooses to play with them every day or sets them on the shelf just to look cool. Which action figures are your favorites? Do you collect them or are they meant as toys? Let us know in the comments below.