Looking for a bit of high-powered escapism tonight? A way to leave the world behind and watch as heroes save the day and stuntmen steal the show? Amazon Prime has a rich, deep catalog of action movies that includes everything from Bruce Lee to Ethan Hunt to Captains Kirk and America. Pick your favorites and leave the real world behind.
James Cameron’s 1989 sci-fi blockbuster is one of the most prominent films never to have been released on Blu-ray in the United States. This means that the best quality in which you could watch this film is probably right here on Amazon, at least until Disney gets their act together and gives this modern classic the HD treatment that it deserves.
James Cameron redefined the expectations for a sequel when he took over the story of Ripley in this incredible follow-up to Ridley Scott’s genre-defining classic. Taking the horror set-up of the original film and turning it into more of an action movie, Cameron reshaped movie history, and started the debate over which film is better. The truth is they’re both pretty perfect.
*Better Luck Tomorrow
You know how Justin Lin brought the blockbuster back with 2021’s F9? See where it all began almost two decades ago with the director’s debut, a Sundance indie flick about Asian-American kids who enter a world of crime. Featuring supporting work from Sung Kang (Han!) and John Cho, this film has inspired dozens of filmmakers in the years to come, including Jon M. Chu (In the Heights), who was at that famous Sundance premiere.
*Blood On Her Name
More of a slow burn thriller than a traditional action movie, this excellent indie from Matthew Pope should have made Bethany Anne Lind a star. The actress is great as Leigh Tiller, a woman who panics after an accidental killing, and then continues compounding bad decisions. An old-fashioned thriller, the flick also features a strong supporting turn from the always-solid Will Patton.
Mel Gibson was a household name before Braveheart but this 1995 epic war film redefined his career. No longer was he just an action star but he was an Oscar-winning director for his adaptation of a 15th century epic poem about William Wallace, a famous Scottish warrior. Braveheart feels like a different era in Hollywood filmmaking today, and not just because of how hard Gibson would fall, but it’s a snapshot of a time when star power could get a movie like this made.
The little movie that could, this macho flick barely made a dime at the box office when it was released in 1999 but built an amazingly loyal following over the last two decades on DVD and cable. Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus star as a pair of Boston Irishmen who decide to rid their city of the forces of evil, while being pursued by Willem Dafoe’s FBI Agent. It’s fascinating to consider why this movie worked for so many people that it actually produced a sequel and still gets quoted two decades later.
Remember this goofy movie? This entry is more for nostalgia than quality, but sometimes that’s all one really wants. This Frank Marshall blockbuster came along at a time when Michael Crichton’s name sold tickets, two years after Jurassic Park. Based on an older Crichton novel about the discovery of a lost city, it wasn’t a huge hit when it came out but has developed a cult following over the years, believe it or not.
Jean Dujardin (The Artist) stars in this excellent French action thriller that tells the story of The French Connection from across the pond. He’s a police magistrate who crosses paths with a drug crime lord who is channeling drugs from France to the United States named Tany Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). This is the kind of unique action film that gives viewers a true story that they may have never considered.
Alexandre Aja directed this razor-sharp 2019 film about a father and daughter trapped in a basement as flood waters rise during a hurricane. Oh, and they just happen to be being hunted by alligators. A combination of disaster flick and monster flick tropes, Aja’s film is a delight from start to finish. There’s not an ounce of fat on this one.
Anyone looking for a truly weird ‘80s blockbuster should take a trip to Dreamscape, starring Dennis Quaid, Kate Capshaw, Max von Sydow, and Christopher Plummer. The poster (and VHS box) made Quaid look like another Indiana Jones but it’s a much crazier action flick about psychic abilities and, well, people who can entre dreamscapes. Watch it and ask yourself if it influenced Inception. (It totally did.)
Bruce Lee really landed on the international map with two Hong Kong films directed by Lo Wei, 1971’s The Big Boss and then this film the next year, a movie about a student who seeks to avenge the murder of his master. After some disappointment in the Hollywood system, Lee went back to Hong Kong and redefined martial arts cinema forever. This is an essential piece of work in the genre. All five of the Lee films are.
A Western that helped to redefine what that genre was capable of, 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars is the first in a trilogy of films starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Sergio Leone (it’s followed by For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). Shot in Spain, this is a formative Spaghetti Western, a genre that would influence everyone from Sam Raimi to Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino.
The French Connection
William Friedkin directs Gene Hackman to one of the most beloved performances of the ‘70s as Popeye Doyle in this Oscar-winning cop movie that inspired a generation of filmmakers. The title refers to a drug trade being run through a French heroin smuggler, but what really makes this movie work is Friedkin’s incredible attention to detail and craft, which won him an Oscar to go along with Academy Awards for Best Actor for Hackman and Best Picture.
Who could have guessed that 1986 fantasy film starring Christopher Lambert would launch a franchise? Since the release of this goofy action movie about an immortal warrior, there have been four more films, two live-action series, comics, toys, novels, and so much more. See where it all began here. There can be only one!
The brilliant Julia Hart co-wrote and directed this very different thriller, a crime movie told only from the POV of one character, the wife of a criminal. Rachel Brosnahan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel gives her best film performance to date as Jean, a woman who is forced to go on the run with her young child after her criminal husband goes missing. It’s a finely calibrated piece of work that reshapes an overdone genre in a way that makes it feel fresh again.
Classic action! No, this is not the Mark Wahlberg remake but the 1969 original that shaped the templates for both the heist movie and the car chase movie. Michael Caine is great as Charlie Croker, the leader of a criminal gang who plan to steal gold bullion from an armored truck in Italy. It doesn’t go exactly as planned.
Steven Soderbergh directs a searing performance by Terence Stamp in this 1999 thriller about a Brit who comes to California trying to find his missing daughter, and those who may be responsible for hurting her. Soderbergh rarely missteps and this is one of his most underrated films, a perfectly paced angry shout of a movie that matches its captivating leading man.
Every now and then, an actor and a blockbuster role just make a perfect fit. That was certainly the case when Antonio Bandera’s was cast in Martin Campbell’s reboot of the legendary character of Zorro. Banderas is so charming here that the movie made enough money to produce a sequel in 2005.
Russell Crowe stars in this brilliant period action film based on the novels by Patrick O’Brian that recreates warfare on the water arguably better than any other film. This really should have been the start of a franchise. Crowe plays Jack Aubrey, Captain in the Royal Navy, and Paul Bettany does his best film work as the ship’s surgeon. This was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
One of Steven Spielberg’s best modern movies is this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story about a future in which crime can be predicted before it happens. Tom Cruise stars as a man who is convicted of a crime he has no intent of committing in a fantastic vision of a future in which the systems designed to stop crime have been corrupted. It’s timely and probably always will be.
Can you make a riveting monster movie without really seeing the monsters? Such is the challenge of this low-budget gem that introduced the world to Gareth Edwards long before he would go on to helm an actual King of the Monsters movie in 2014’s Godzilla. Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able star as travelers on an Earth forever changed by the arrival of giant tentacled monsters.
Joe Carnahan wrote and directed this vicious little film about the murder of an undercover police officer and how far two other cops are willing to go to uncover the truth. Jason Patric stars but it’s one of the best performances in Ray Liotta’s career that really makes this one a must-see. It made almost nothing way back in 2003 but has developed a fan based on DVD and streaming. See why.
Late in his career, Akira Kurosawa delivered one of his most epic films in this adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, blending that story with legends and history of Japan. The most expensive Japanese film ever made at the time, this 1985 war epic was a worldwide hit, bringing new viewers into the career of one of the best filmmakers of all time.
Matthew McConaughey! Christian Bale! Fire-breathing dragons! What more do you want from a movie? This one is crazy. Set in the distant future of 2020 (hehe), it tells of how London workers accidentally woke dragons from their slumber, leading to an apocalypse of fire. Is it great? No! Is it fun? Oh yes.
2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the Capcom game series that changed the landscape forever, and it’s being celebrated both by the release of Resident Evil: Village and the spreading of the films based on these games across screening platforms. Amazon Prime currently has the first (and still best) film and the not-so-good first sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
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.
Decades after directing the game-changing The Manchurian Candidate, John Frankenheimer helmed this cult hit, a film written by David Mamet and starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce. The plot is somewhat forgettable junk about a briefcase and special operatives, but it’s the car chases that everyone remembers. Any list of the best car-chase movies that doesn’t include Ronin is just wrong.
Audiences had little idea what to do with this crazy film when it was released back in 2004, but it’s developed a pretty strong following over the years. Filmed using a bluescreen and fascinating CGI, this is an old-fashioned adventure film with modern tricks, and it uses Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow well.
More comedy than pure action, there are enough tough guys in Guy Ritchie’s sophomore effort to qualify for this list. Written and directed by Ritchie after the success of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, this is one of Ritchie’s best ensembles, including Jason Statham, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, and a nearly unintelligible Brad Pitt.
This might be the most underrated action/horror movie of the new millennium. Toby Wilkins directed this 2008 low-budget flick that stars Shea Whigham as an escaped convict who ends up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere at the most wrong time. A John Carpenter-inspired tale of people trapped inside while something unimaginable hunts them from outside, this is a gem.
Olivia Wilde really showed her range in this excellent 2018 drama that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. She stars as Sadie, a woman who seeks out other women who have been brutalized by the men in their lives and enacts vengeance on their abusers. Of course, she’s working through her own trauma and the eventual vengeance against the man who destroyed her life. Wilde is phenomenal.