1 Khiladi (1992)
The film that started it all, Khiladi was Akshay Kumar's first tryst with Abbas-Mustan. Playing a stylish college stud, Kumar managed to stand out with his blend of action and comedy. The subsequent cult success of the film ensured that the nickname stuck.
2 Sainik (1993)
It was one of the earliest signs of the martial arts style that would go on to become his trademark. In a stereotypical drama, Kumar managed to deliver some stunning action sequences that established him as the 'Van Damme' of Hindi cinema.
3 Yeh Dillagi (1994)
This was the beginning of the 'Khiladi' Kumar's transformation into a nuanced actor. A remake of the Hollywood classic Sabrina, Yeh Dillagi saw Kumar portray a subdued gentleman, unlike his previous action avatars.
4 Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)
The teaming up with Yash Raj marked Akshay Kumar's entry into the A-list. It also proved to be a creatively successful move. Although it was just an extended appearance, the actor managed to make an impact with his endearing performance in this superhit.
5 Sangharsh (1999)
The actor does have an affinity for crime thrillers. This underrated film from the Bhatt stable witnessed one of Akshay Kumar's finest performances. Ashutosh Rana might have walked away with the accolades, but the strong, stoic character of Khiladi Kumar also stood out.
6 Jaanwar (1999)
Another cult hit, remembered only by hard-core Akshay Kumar fans, Jaanwar was directed by Suneel Darshan. The story of a gangster's struggle for love and redemption, it had Kumar playing a uncharacteristically dramatic role as the reformed hitman trying to raise an orphan. The actor's sincerity in the role of a father stood out in this mediocre film.
7 Khakee (2004)
Few actors know how to hold the attention of the audience with limited screen time. In Khakee, Akshay Kumar managed to hold his fort amidst acting powerhouses like Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and Atul Kulkarni. His charm, panache, and dialogue delivery ensured that this remains one of his most memorable performances in an underrated film.
8 Awara Paagal Deewana (2002)
While Akshay Kumar's comic turn in films like Hera Pheri (2000) has stuck in public memory, his straight-faced dialogue delivery elevates the level of comedy in this underrated manic caper. As the wag once said, comedy is serious business.
9 Andaaz (2003)
Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra made their debuts in this forgotten Raj Kanwar hit. However, their lucky charm was none other than Akshay Kumar. The actor gelled well with the beauty queens. (Lara Dutta was Miss Universe 2000; Priyanka Chopra was Miss World that same year.)
10 8 x 10 Tasveer (2009)
This was perhaps the first foray by Akshay Kumar into the indie genre. Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, the film was declared a critical and commercial failure. However, Kumar delivered a sincere performance that was starkly different from any of his earlier work. It was a sign of the actor's growing cinematic intelligence.