now streaming

The 30 Best Action Movies on Netflix Right Now

Triple Frontier. Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

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.

The Age of Shadows
If you don’t know the name Kim Jee-woon, you should really acquaint yourself with more Korean cinema, as he’s one of the country’s most consistent filmmakers. His A Tale of Two Sisters is a horror-movie classic, and The Good, The Bad, The Weird is the dream Western fu movie you never knew you needed. And anyone who has seen I Saw the Devil will never forget it. None of those are on Netflix, but you can find his incredibly ambitious 2016 period action piece starring the wonderful Song Kang-ho. There’s actually a pretty robust Asian cinema selection on Netflix, and this is one you should seek out.

Batman Begins
Two films changed the modern blockbuster forever — Iron Man and Christopher Nolan’s first entry in what would become a trilogy starring Christian Bale as one of the most famous superheroes of all time. Batman Begins reshaped the superhero genre as something that could appeal to adults as much, if not more, than teens, and that’s mostly thanks to the craftsmanship brought to these films by Christopher Nolan. It all started here.

Black Panther
Take advantage of this opportunity before Disney+ guts all the Marvel and Disney movie options from every streaming service on the planet. The first MCU movie to win an Oscar is one of the best superhero movies of all time, and a movie that holds up incredibly well on repeat viewing. This isn’t just an action movie, it’s a cultural event — something that redefined and reshaped the superhero genre for the rest of time.

J.J. Abrams redefined viral marketing for his production of Matt Reeves’s monster movie, a flick that came literally out of nowhere and built buzz in mysterious, fascinating ways. The first trailer had no title! By the time the movie came out in January of 2008, the hype machine was in full effect, and the movie (mostly) lived up to it. Some people still argue about how little of the monster the flick actually shows, but it’s a much tighter, tauter action flick than you may remember.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s martial arts epic was an absolute phenomenon when it came out, domestically grossing more than any foreign language film in history on its way to ten Academy Award nominations. It’s held up marvelously, a cinematic explosion of color and passion for filmmaking. If you haven’t seen it since it took the world by storm, it’s time for a rewatch.

The Crow
Arguably as much of a horror movie as it is an action movie, one of the reasons this flick was so popular was the way it straddled multiple genres, willing to go dark with the story of a rock musician returned from the dead in search of vengeance. Stylish, dark, and tragic due to the death of its star, this is a movie that everyone had to see when it came out a quarter century ago. You may not have seen it since. You’re due for a revisit.

The Dark Knight
Maybe you’ve heard of this one? Christian Bale? Heath Ledger? Arguably the most influential movie of the current millennium. So much of pop-culture cinema of the last decade wears the influence of Christopher Nolan’s best film like a badge of honor. You’ve probably seen this, but we thought you should know that you can see it again right now. Our job is done here.

A massive bomb when it was released (it didn’t even break $6 million), Kurt Wimmer’s stylish 2002 sci-fi action flick gained a following on DVD. Starring Christian Bale, Emily Watson, and Taye Diggs, it’s one of many films that tried to emulate the stylish, Asian-influenced action of The Matrix, but it’s also one of the most successful in that regard, filled with memorable action sequences that incorporate martial arts and gunplay. Sure, it’s derivative of a lot of better films and pieces of literature, but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun.

Arguably Jet Li’s last great film, this 2006 Ronny Yu joint is one of the last gasps of a series of international martial arts hits that came in the wake of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There was a time when audiences were so open to this kind of filmmaking that Fearless was actually one of the ten highest-grossing foreign language films of all time in the U.S. It’s a great example of Li at his most charismatic, while also understanding the transcendent beauty of a great piece of martial arts choreography.

The Fifth Element
There’s not a lot of great sci-fi on Netflix, but you should fire this one up if you’re looking for something set in a different time and place in space. And make sure you fire it up on the biggest TV in your house and with the volume at a level to wake the neighbors. Luc Besson’s vision isn’t exactly a great piece of storytelling, but this Bruce Willis vehicle is a perfect example of the director’s skill with world-building and technical elements.

No, not the 2019 box-office and critical bomb, the 2004 Guillermo del Toro adaptation that actually understood its source material and its audience. Ron Perlman stars in this one, based on the iconic character created by Mike Mignola. Perlman is a lot of fun, but what works about this is the flair and craftsmanship brought to it by del Toro, a man whose passion for filmmaking is contagious.

Hot Fuzz
One of the best comedies of the aughts works so well because it both satirizes and adores action-movie clichés at the same time. Before Edgar Wright made Baby Driver, he directed Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in this perfect comedy about a small British town with a deep secret. And a love for Point Break and Bad Boys.

Incredibles 2
While Disney works to get its upcoming streaming service off the ground, it’s still regularly releasing new hits to Netflix, including the beloved sequel to one of the most popular Pixar films of all time. Brad Bird’s long-awaited sequel is one of the top films of 2018, and arguably its best animated film (at least that’s not about Spider-Man).

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
There’s a lot of Steven Spielberg on Netflix, but this is one of the best choices you could make from the filmography of one of the best American filmmakers. Maybe you’ve heard of it? All four Indy films are actually still on Netflix. Do a marathon while you still can. Yes, you can skip the last one if you want.

King Kong
Peter Jackson used the incredible power given to him by the commercial and artistic success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy to remake one of his favorite films of all time, the 1933 monster-movie classic, King Kong. While this movie made a fortune, it’s kind of been forgotten by history, which is a shame. It’s a rock-solid action-adventure movie made by someone who clearly loves the genre. Most of all, it’s just fun, which is something more modern monster movies could stand to remember to be.

Kung Fu Hustle
You have likely never seen a movie quite like this 2004 martial arts action-comedy, Stephen Chow’s masterpiece. Set in 1940s China, this worldwide hit features some of the best stunt work you can find on Netflix, all in service of a movie that often plays like a live-action cartoon. It’s ridiculous and unforgettable.

Logan’s Run
There isn’t a lot of action on Netflix made before 1999, so take the chance to watch this genre classic from all the way back in 1976. Michael Anderson’s genre hit is a vision of a future in which resources are maintained by killing everyone when they turn 30. As one might imagine, this isn’t that easy to accomplish, and an executor named Logan 5 rebels when his time to be exterminated comes up. Winner of a special Oscar for visual effects, this is a film that feels influential now in terms of sci-fi and action.

*The Mummy
There was a brief window in movie history in which it looked like Brendan Fraser was going to be the biggest action star in the world, following the release of this beloved 1999 hit, a flick that made over $400 million worldwide and launched a franchise. It’s telling that none of the reboots of Universal horror movies have really worked since then. None of have found the same charm, wit, and clever action choreography that Stephen Sommers & Co. figured out two decades ago.

*Sherlock Holmes
Who’s ready for Sherlock Holmes to return? People were surprised when it was announced that Guy Ritchie was getting the gang back together for a third film to be released in 2021, a decade after A Game of Shadows. Netflix recently added the movie that started it all, this 2009 smash hit starring Robert Downey Jr. as the classic crime-solver. Reimagining the deeply intellectual Doyle creation as an action star was a clever move, launching a franchise that’s still humming.

Bong Joon-ho may have just won the Palme d’Or for Parasite but his most popular film so far remains this 2013 sci-fi action flick starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and John Hurt. It’s a brilliant allegory for society, as a train has been divided into classes per car, and the peasants form a revolt. Visually striking and narratively ambitious, this is a film that only seems to grow in esteem with each passing year.

*Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
The Best Animated Film Oscar for 2018 went to this unexpected treat, one of the best superhero movies of the modern era. It’s got a little bit of everything. First, it replicates the comic-book aesthetic in ways we’ve never seen before. Second, it is a leap forward in terms of representation in animated superhero movies. Third, it is just an unbelievable amount of fun, the kind of movie that you can watch again and again. It will hold up for generations to come.

Spy Kids
Yes, a kids’ movie can be an action one, too! Robert Rodriguez turned his eye for adult-driven action in films like Desperado to something for the younger set in this clever 2001 box-office smash that started an entire franchise. The kids (Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara) are great, but it’s how much fun the adults are having, including Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, and Cheech Marin, that really makes the joy of this film infectious.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Before Disney+ runs off with all of the MCU and Lucasfilm movies that it can grab, you should take the chance to watch the few that are just sitting there on Netflix waiting for you to enjoy them. One of the most divisive films of this decade, The Last Jedi spawned an entire industry of online hatred and petitions, but it’s a movie that you should (a) see for yourself, and (b) revisit away from all the hype. You may be surprised.

Thor: Ragnarok
Taika Waititi is one of the few filmmakers to make an MCU entry that still has the personality of its creator. The quirky sense of humor that Waititi brought to projects like What We Do in the Shadows is there in the interplay between Thor and Hulk, as well as the creative production design and quirky performances from people like Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum. For some, this MCU flick is a bit too quirky, but at least it’s got some personality.

Train to Busan
This South Korean zombie story is truly one of the best movies available to watch on Netflix, regardless of genre. It’s thrilling from start to finish, and the excellent, efficient character development means you feel like you have a stake in everyone involved. Imagine the self-contained maelstrom of Snowpiercer, but with raging undead.

Triple Frontier
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.

V for Vendetta
James McTeigue directs this successful adaptation of the David Lloyd and Alan Moore classic about fascism and resistance. Set in a future in which a regime has taken over the United Kingdom, the great Hugo Weaving plays V, a resistance leader who unites the subjugated against their oppressors. With definite echoes of the Wachowskis’ Matrix movies, V for Vendetta has become an iconic, beloved film for good reason.

The Wandering Earth
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.

It wasn’t that long ago really that Angelina Jolie was an action star, and this Timur Bekmambetov adaptation of the Mark Millar comic is one of her more successful vehicles. Coming near the end of the Matrix wannabes, this gun fu movie adds its own sense of wicked humor and violent energy to the subgenre, elevated by Jolie, James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, and Common.

The Wave
Disaster movies aren’t just for Americans anymore! The premise of this is the kind of simple wonder that they used to make in Hollywood more in the ’70s and ’80s. An avalanche causes a large enough rockslide into a body of water that it creates a tsunami, and a nervous geologist is one of the few people who knows the carnage that’s about to come. Well-acted and smartly constructed, this is a wonderful slice of disaster escapism.

The 30 Best Action Movies on Netflix Right Now