The 50 Best Action Movies on Netflix (June 2022)
Photo: Raftar Creations and Sarigama Cinemas
This piece is frequently updated as titles leave and join Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
Sometimes you just need to escape. You just want to watch things blow up or crash into each other, but it seems like Netflix is always trying to push a serious drama or docuseries on you. Just give me something that goes boom!
Well, we can help you with that. Here are the best choices you could make with a working Netflix subscription if you’re jonesing to see a great action movie.
What happens when you give an action-crazed lunatic like Michael Bay the freedom of budget and running time of Netflix? This chaos, a movie that no one would call great — not even the people who made it — but that does certainly scratch an itch for B-movie insanity with an A-movie budget. The opening car chase alone almost plays like a parody of Bay’s past movies, and the film’s tongue-in-cheek nature is the best thing about it.
It’s still a little hard to believe that Chadwick Boseman is gone. When he passed, most of the tributes pointed to his biggest roles like Black Panther but this may be his most underrated flick, a 2019 thriller that shows he could have been an action star outside of the MCU. Boseman plays an NYPD detective who literally shuts down the 21 bridges that get out of NYC to catch two cop killers.
Sometimes you want a serious action movie with lofty goals; sometimes you want an action movie with a giant snake trying to eat Ice Cube and J. Lo. For those days, don’t miss this 1997 B-movie with an A-budget that also stars Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, and Owen Wilson in the tale of a documentary film crew who ends up on a hunt for a legendary green anaconda.
The divisive Zack Snyder returns to the world of zombie action years after his breakthrough with a remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and the result is a bit of mindless undead fun. Dave Bautista stars as the leader of a ragtag group of former soldiers who are tasked with breaking into the zombie-overrun city of Las Vegas to retrieve millions in a safe under the city.
This two-part epic Indian period piece will give you nearly six hours of huge action set-pieces, hand-to-hand combat, gravity defying feats of daring-do, and vibrant musical numbers as it follows the saga of two mighty men at war for a kingdom. One is the humble but revered Shiv, and the other is the power-mad king, Bhallaladeva. As Shiv comes into powers he never knew he had, he will challenge the ruler and try to restore just balance to the kingdom, but along the way you’ll learn about the origins of each man and how they’re connected by destiny. The Fast Saga wishes it was this extravagantly thrilling.
2010’s Skyline wasn’t exactly a film that anyone expected to get a sequel, let alone a good one. And yet this 2017 piece of lunacy is kind of an amazing B-movie, especially the final act that includes a couple of the guys from The Raid movies fighting aliens and other dudes. It’s an insane movie that mixes martial arts and an alien attack, and you kind of need to see it to believe it.
Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi masterpiece was notoriously derided when it was released but would go on to change the cinematic landscape. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard in the beloved sci-fi noir, a film that changed the visual language of the genre and launched dozens of copycats. The original is still perfect, and this is the final cut edition of the film, the 2007 version that removes the voice-over, re-inserts the unicorn, and takes out the original happy ending.
If you want some non-stop, claustrophobic action stretched over two hours, BuyBust is a must watch. This Filipino film takes place almost entirely over the course of a single night in a labyrinthine neighborhood in Manila, where a team of cops have set up to ambush a drug lord — or so they think. There’s a mole in the unit, so the bad guys know they’re coming, and when the two sides collide the fed-up residents revolt against everyone bringing violence to their community. It’s paired down close quarters combat in an inescapable slum, and the hits feel so real your own body will start to hurt.
If you want a well-done guilty pleasure, look no further than the 2013 Brad Anderson thriller with a great set-up. Halle Berry plays a 9-1-1- operator who is suffering from a recently botched call when she gets one from a girl (Abigail Breslin) who has been kidnapped by a serial killer. Can the operator save the day? Of course, but it’s going to get crazy before she does.
As No Time to Die has finally been released after multiple delays, Netflix is here to satisfy your 007 needs with the first outing for Daniel Craig as the most famous movie spy of all time. Casino Royale is easily one of the best Bond movies, a flick that redefined the character with more intense stakes and realistic action sequences.
The great artist RZA (Wu-Tang forever!) directed this 2020 action heist film that’s already starting to build something of a cult following, which should grow now that it’s on Netflix. It’s an old-fashioned action flick, embedding its well-directed thrills and characters with a nice dose of social commentary too. And it’s got a hell of a cast, including Shameik Moore, T.I., Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard, and Ethan Hawke.
It’s not a traditional action film, but there are enough shoot-outs to qualify for this section. What began life as an old-fashioned treasure hunt movie became something very different when Spike Lee came on board to direct, but the essence of the original riff on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre holds it all together.
Is Den of Thieves Gerard Butler’s best movie? It’s right up there. Yes, we’ve all seen the story of corrupt L.A. cops a few too many times, but this underrated heist thriller pulses with dark energy thanks to its great cast that includes Butler, 50 Cent, Pablo Schreiber, and a star-making performance from O’Shea Jackson Jr. They’re even making a sequel.
Hot on the heels of the DIY movie that made him a star, El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez basically remade that indie hit with a bigger budget in this 1995 action flick that stars Antonio Banderas in the title role. He’s a musician who sets out to get vengeance against the drug lord who killed his lover. It also features a breakthrough performance by Salma Hayek.
Don Siegel directed buddy Clint Eastwood in a movie that would change both of their lives and spawn an entire franchise (four sequels of descending quality would follow). Eastwood has several iconic roles in his career, but “Do you feel lucky, punk?” may be his most memorable line, spoken as a cop who goes to extremes to get his job done. The brutality of the film probably wouldn’t pass today, but one can still see Harry’s dirty fingerprints all over modern stories of cops on the edge.
A Christopher Nolan film dropping on a streaming service is always a big deal, and the current exclusive home for the beloved auteur’s 2017 war film is Netflix (after a year run on HBO Max). Nolan tells the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II from three perspectives: land, sea, and air. Say what you will about the film, but it is a stunning technical achievement, one of the most immersive war films ever made.
In a year when there were too many Netflix original movies every week to watch them all, one of the few true surprises was this wonderful family action film that further proves that Millie Bobby Brown is going to be a massive star. She plays the title character, the teenage sister of the famous Sherlock Holmes, who gets involved in a mystery of her own.
The plot may be overheated macho garbage, but there’s an 11-minute centerpiece sequence in this Chris Hemsworth vehicle involving a higher body count than most entire franchises that action fans simply need to see to believe. And then see it again.
Stanley Kubrick made one of the most unforgettable war films of all time in this 1987 drama based on the novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford. A darker vision of Vietnam than had really been seen before, Full Metal Jacket tracks the boot camp experience for its first half and time in the country for its second. It’s an unforgettable vision of the brutality of being an American soldier.
There’s a general rule about action movies that’s easy to follow. If something stars actor/stuntman/fight choreographer Iko Uwais, you should probably watch it. Co-directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, Headshot is every bit as good as the more widely famous Indonesian fight films, The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2, which are actually directed by Gareth Evans, a Welshman. Uwais stars in each of those movies, and in Headshot he plays a man suffering from amnesia whose past comes violently chasing after him. The doctor who saved him becomes a target by association, leaving Uwais’s character no choice but to take down an entire criminal syndicate to protect them both.
Ti West (The House of the Devil) wrote and directed this tight little Western that barely got released in theaters, so most Netflix subscribers probably haven’t seen it. Ethan Hawke stars in this wicked Western as a man who crosses paths with a sociopathic Marshal, played by John Travolta, and the great supporting cast includes Taissa Farmiga, Karen Gillan, James Ransone, and Toby Huss.
The great Wolfgang Petersen directed one of Clint Eastwood’s best films of the ‘90s in this blockbuster hit about a Secret Service agent who matches wits with a former CIA agent (played by John Malkovich) who is trying to assassinate the President of the United States. The tight thriller also stars Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, and John Mahoney. It was such a hit that it landed three Oscar nominations, including the last one for Malkovich.
2020 marked the tenth anniversary of one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, the story of a team of agents who can infiltrate dreams, led by Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s part heist movie, part Bond movie, and mostly something that only the director of The Prestige and Tenet could possibly make.
Donnie Yen is a sacred name in the martial arts branch of cinema appreciation, and you can see why with three Ip Man films now available on Netflix. They tell the semi-true story of Ip Man, a legendary leader in the world of martial arts, who trained Bruce Lee. These are not traditional biopics or martial arts movies, working as a hybrid of period piece and action. 2018’s Master Z: Ip Man Legacy isn’t there yet, but hopefully soon.
Listen, any crazy B-movie with Nicolas Cage in the cast is probably going to make this list just as a guilty pleasure. And this one has Frank Grillo, Juju Chan, and Tony Jaa too. It’s not what most critics would call “good,” but it’s got just enough of that Cage energy to give his fans what they need.
John McTiernan directed this controversial 1993 blockbuster that was largely panned at the time but has become something of a cult hit in the three decades since its release. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a famous action film star in a series of films within the films who magically gets transported to the real world. The satire stuff doesn’t always work, but it’s a nice time capsule for when Ah-nuld was the King of the action universe.
Rian Johnson’s stellar 2012 sci-fi/action film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, and Bruce Willis. JGL plays a contract killer who is also a looper, someone who goes back in time to complete his hits. When he a victim, played by Willis, is sent back in time to be killed by Gordon-Levitt, he discovers that he’s been asked to close the loop on himself. Daring and thrilling, it’s the kind of adult action film one wishes was made more often.
The trailer for 2023’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning is one of the best in a long time. Why not catch up with the franchise to date while you wait for the 7th film in the series? Well, sorta. Netflix likes to keep things unpredictable, so they only have the Brian De Palma original, the John Woo sequel, and Ghost Protocol, as of this writing.
Oh, look! It’s Iko Uwais again! But if for some reason you’re only going to watch one of his movies — instead of all of them, like we told you — let it be The Night Comes For Us. This time, though, Uwais is playing the heel to Joe Taslim’s hero. To be clear, both of them are professional killers. Taslim’s Ito is just the one who has a crisis of conscience, and when Ito tries to leave his life of crime behind he draws the fury of the entire criminal organization he betrayed. Headshot director Timo Tjahanto helms this one on his own, and it is one of the best fighting movies ever made. Relentless and brutal and at times even tender, The Night Comes For Us is virtuoso violence that makes even the most intense Chad Stahelski-action sequence feel tame. Maybe it’s because safety regulations are just different in Indonesia, but America could literally never.
Charlize Theron’s Andy initially seems like another in her long line of sleek action heroes: Steely, determined and not to be trifled with. But while Andy bears surface similarities to those past roles, in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s adaptation of the Greg Rucka comic book Theron gets to be something much more fascination: A tormented god-like creature, an immortal who has spent centuries trying to save humanity but is beginning to wonder whether it was worth all the trouble. Theron draws you in, and keeps you hooked.
Sadly, Netflix does not have Gerard Butler’s entire Mike Banning trilogy available, but it does have the first of his Fallen series. Butler plays a former top secret service agent who used to lead the President’s protection detail, but has since been reassigned to a post at the Treasury. (Downgrade!) But Banning is called to the highest level of service once again after terrorists overtake the White House with President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) inside. At first there are multiple American agents on hand to fight back, but soon it’s up to Banning alone to protect the Commander in Chief — as only Gerard Butler can!
The final part of what is sometimes referred to as Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexico Trilogy,” this action blockbuster landed in theaters in 2003, taking everything from Desperado and turning it up to 11. Banderas returns as El Mariachi, recruited by a CIA agent (Johnny Depp) to kill a corrupt general. Rodriguez has said he wanted this to be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of his trilogy, and fans responded, allowing it to make almost $100 million.
Rod Lurie’s latest turned around quickly from a limited theatrical and PVOD run in July to hitting Netflix in October, where it should do very, very well. It’s the story of the Battle of Kamdesh, one of the most brutal in the Afghanistan War, as the Taliban assaulted a poorly-placed base in the middle of a valley. Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, and particularly Caleb Landry Jones are all good, but this is one of those technically impressive war films most of all, putting people in the middle of the nightmare of battle.
This 2000 period action film centers on an American Colonist who becomes a major figure in the American Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson headlines this Roland Emmerich blockbuster, but it’s also notable for including one of the too-few performances of Heath Ledger.
Michael Mann directed Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as the FBI Agent who pursued him, Melvin Purvis. Shot in Chicago on digital film, Public Enemies is a riveting piece of work visually and contains an incredible supporting cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Graham, Billy Crudup, Jason Clarke, Bill Camp, and many more. It’s an epic portrait of the end of a gangster era.
Sam Raimi’s career will get a boost from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which should lead some people back to his incredible 1995 Western for the first time. Starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crow, and Leonardo DiCaprio, this a genre film that only the director of Evil Dead 2 could possibly make, filled with unforgettable visual flourishes.
This South Korean film centers on a man whose entirely family was murdered, and who sets out for vengeance by getting himself sent to the prison island where their killers — and a whole lot of other killers — are being kept in isolation.
See, Tom Hanks doesn’t always play the nice guy! In Sam Mendes’ adaptation of the Max Allan Collins graphic novel, America’s dad plays a mob enforcer seeking revenge. What’s most memorable about this 2002 film is Mendes’ remarkable attention to period detail. It’s a gorgeous film just to live in for a couple hours. Don’t do this one on your phone.
S.S. Rajamouli’s 3-hour action epic has become one of the most popular films in the world in 2022, and it’s already on Netflix. The most expensive Indian film ever made, RRR has broken records across the planet, making over $150 million. It is the fictional account of two Indian revolutionaries, played by Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and the film absolutely bursts with energy in every frame. It’s become a true cultural phenomenon. Be a part of it.
Based on Don Winslow’s novel of the same name, Savages is a 2012 Oliver Stone film that features the director’s trademark excess, but it fits the story here better than some of his other modern efforts. This tale of low-level weed dealers who get caught up in something much bigger and more dangerous than they’re prepared for stars Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, and John Travolta.
War movies haven’t gone anywhere. From film history’s early days through 1917, there have been certain tentpoles in that history of war movies that feel like game changers, and one came in 1998 when Steven Spielberg returned to World War II to tell a different story than before. Saving Private Ryan reminded everyone in the world about the sacrifices that were made that day, and the obligation we all have to make them worthwhile.
While their overall catalog has been diminishing, it’s certainly true that Netflix has been adding more projects from around the world, often quietly. Take this French thriller that landed on the service in March with almost no fanfare, brought to people’s attention through critics (like our own Bilge Ebiri). Olga Kurylenko stars in a film that Ebiri calls “John Wick on the Riviera.” Who doesn’t want to see that?
J.D. Dillard co-wrote and directed this very unusual superhero movie about an average kid in Los Angeles who learns he may not be all that average. Jacob Latimore plays a street magician who gets caught up in a bad situation with a drug lord played by Dule Hill. It subverts expectations of the hero genre in clever ways.
J.C. Chandor’s latest is a solid thriller with a phenomenal ensemble. Oscar Isaac leads a group of soldiers into an illegal job to rip off a notorious drug lord and, well, things don’t go as planned. Not only is everyone here excellent — especially, Ben Affleck, doing his best work since Gone Girl — but it’s the kind of tight action movie that Hollywood doesn’t really make that often anymore. It’s a lean, mean fighting machine.
This is kind of like a southeast Asian action all star team up. Thai martial arts icon Tony Jaa, Man of Tai Chi star Tiger Chen, and… wait for it… Indonesian phenom Iko Uwais team up to take down a group of mercenaries hired to kill a do-gooder billionaire heiress. Jaa, Chen, and Uwais each have their reasons for wanting to mess up the business of these bastard hitmen, and they’re all personal.
At first, the Coen brothers didn’t seem a logical fit for a remake of a beloved John Wayne Western, but they really made this multiple Oscar nominee their own. One of the ways they did that was through directing a fantastic ensemble, led by Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon — and, of course, their undeniable craftsmanship.
The great Scott Frank (Out of Sight) wrote and directed an underrated 2014 film that stands out in Liam Neeson’s late-career action phase. Based on the novel of the same name by Lawrence Block, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a vicious little thriller about a retired cop who gets in too deep when he helps a drug trafficker retrieve his kidnapped wife.
One of the biggest movies of the decade is a Chinese film that most people in the United States haven’t even seen. Making almost $700 million worldwide, this is the kind of blockbuster that the MCU sort of pushed out — a crazy, end-of-the-world disaster movie with a Roland Emmerich aesthetic and ridiculous special effects. It’s almost overwhelming in its onslaught of crazy, but sometimes you just want to see things go boom on a massive scale.
Tom Cruise stars in Steven Spielberg’s brilliant and riveting remake of the classic H.G. Wells tale. Yes, War of the Worlds has been done a dozen or so times, but this remains one of the best, a non-stop thrill ride from the man who helped pour the foundation for the modern blockbuster. Released in 2005, it hasn’t aged at all, and will likely still resonate for generations to come.
A more turned down affair than some of the bone shattering Indonesian films on this list and much more stark than the spectacle of an Indian musical action epic, Wheelman stars American knockaround workhorse Frank Grillo as a getaway driver who is double crossed during a robbery gone awry. With his daughter being threatened, Grillo’s character has to find out as fast as possible who betrayed him while staying in constant motion and getting in scrapes around the city of L.A.