Editor’s Note: This post is updated monthly. Bookmark this page and come back every month to see the best action movies on Netflix.
Updated for October 2018
Netflix is fast becoming its own multimedia juggernaut. And no multimedia juggernaut is complete without some good old-fashioned action films.
Sometimes you just want to be thrilled and for years the movie theater has been the quickest, easiest, and safest way to do so. Now thanks to Netflix, you can get your thrills in from the comfort of your own couch.
Here are the best action movies available to stream on Netflix.
Kill Bill Vol. 1
Writer-Direction Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of grindhouse action movies and rarely has that ever been more apparent in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Uma Thurman stars as the unnamed “Bride” – a member of an elite group of assassins, betrayed and left for dead. After she recovers, she embarks on a singular path of vengeance.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 features all the quiet character moments you’d expect from a great film. Vol. 1 features all the blood you’d expect from a great Tarantino film. There are moments in Vol. 1 when blood fires from severed limbs as though they’re fire-alarm sprinklers.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes a very simple line in the Star Wars universe “many Bothans died” and spins it out into a thrilling, devastating action movie.
Rogue One is filled with non-Skywalker characters at the edge of the Star Wars universe. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a young rebellious woman recruited by the Rebellion after experiencing a spot of bother with the Empire. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is a Rebel Alliance captain. Together and with a band of rogues, droids, and blind martial arts masters, Jyn and Cassian head up the Rebellion’s efforts to steal crucial Death Star plans.
Rogue One dedicates completely and fully to this one-off action movie premise and starts Disney’s standalone Star Wars movies with a bang.
The plot of The Hunger Games always felt surprisingly ghoulish and bleak for a big budget action movie aimed at teens. Somehow though The Hunger Games made it work through the charms of Jennifer Lawrence and some necessary sanitization of violence.
Battle Royale, a 2000 film based on a 1999 novel that predates The Hunger Games, presents a similar “kids fight to the death” concept with absolutely no sanitization whatsoever. This is a terrifying thriller in which Japanese junior high schoolers are forced to fight to the death by the government. Why? Because money, of course. Give it a watch and appreciate the action so all those teenage deaths won’t be in vain.
Action movies don’t get more off-the-wall, over-the-top or flat out weird than Face/Off. John Travolta plays FBI Special Agent Sean Archer. His nemesis is domestic terrorists Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage). After Troy accidentally kills Archer’s son in an ill-conceived assassination attempt, Archer vows to do whatever it takes to get revenge. Six years later Archer needs to foil a Troy bomb plot so he…takes Troy’s face? Then Troy forces the FBI doctor to give him Archer’s face.
Couldn’t they have like not done that? Don’t worry about it. It makes for a hilariously fun Nick Cage/John Travolta party. Face/Off is a corny B-movie done well.
Hot Fuzz is technically a comedy. It’s also arguably the most “action movie” action movie ever made. That’s because “Cornetto Trilogy” director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End, Baby Driver) specifically went out of his way to incorporate as many action movie cliches as he could into Hot Fuzz.
Simon Pegg stars as Sergeant Nicholas Angel. After his superiors in the London police department decide he is too good at his job and is making them all look bad, they reassign him to the countryside town of Sandford. There he deals with incompetent co-workers, led by new police chief’s son Danny Butterman until he realizes that Sandford may not be such a quiet little town as previously thought.
Hot Fuzz maintains the excellent sense of humor of the other Wright/Pegg/Nick Frost movies and brings the jokes into a legitimately great action film.
Donnie Yen is quickly becoming a familiar face to Western audiences through performances in movies like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In his native Hong Kong, however, he is already an established martial arts star. The Ip Man series, three of which are already on Netflix with a fourth on the way, Yen stars as the titual martial art grandmaster Ip Man.
Ip Man was a real life master of the Wing Chun and teacher to Bruce Lee. Ip Man, the film, follows the master’s life story through the early 1900s and in the process tracks the huge geopolitical changes in Southern China at the time. Ip Man takes enough liberties with is subject’s life story to barely be a biography. It is, however, an entertaining action franchise.
Thor: Ragnarok is a gleefully insane, heavy metal album cover of a movie. It’s easily the best Thor offering yet and one of the overall best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor Odinson. Thor is struggling to live up to the mantle of his father’s leadership and keep Asgard safe from those who would destroy it like fire demon Surtur or dominate it like the evil goddess Hela (Cate Blanchette). Things are even more complicated when Thor is cast out to the garbage planet Sakaar. There he will encounter the gleefully strange Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), an old Asgardian warrior (Tessa Thompson), and even an old friend or two.
Thor: Ragnarok has it all. It’s a sci-fi action superhero movie that also just happens to be deliriously funny.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Despite overwhelming great reviews and an obscene global box office figure, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has proven to be a divisive film amongst Star Wars fans. And director Rian Johnson probably wants it that way.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi really puts the “War” in “Star Wars.” The Resistance takes a big hit after the destruction of Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens and the remnants are being pursued across the galaxy by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Under the leadership of Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs), General Leia Organ (Carrie Fisher), and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), the Resistance struggles to stay alive. Meanwhile Finn (John Boyega) sets off in search of an important person and Rey (Daisy Ridley) begins her training with a much-changed Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) takes his shirt off a lot.
This is exhilarating, risky filmmaking that all pays off in a thrilling final act. Let the past die. Kill it if you have to indeed.
The Bourne Ultimatum
Spy action movies got a much-needed jolt of adrenaline with the introduction of Jason Bourne in 2002’s The Bourne Identity. Bourne’s story comes to a close (kind of) in the close to the Bourne trilogy (before two more movies were added).
Matt Damon once again stars as amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne. Things pick up right from the end of The Bourne Supremacy with Bourne evading Moscow police and continuing his mission to find and expose Operation Treadstone. Bourne’s journey takes him from London to Madrid to New York in search of justice and breaks plenty of bones along the way.
In some ways Jason Bourne is American James Bond, right down to the J.B. initials. The Bourne Ultimatum would have made a fitting end to the series but like the other J.B. this character is probably due for many more films.
It’s a little off-putting to think of the Middle East as an untapped source for great action movies but…the conflict in the Middle East is an untapped source for great action movies.
The Kingdom comes from director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) and features a compelling cast of Jason Bateman, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jeremy Piven, and Tim McGraw? It’s loosely based on two real life bombings of housing developments in Saudi Arabia. FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Foxx) leads a crew into Saudi Arabia to respond.
The Kingdom contains a lot of the pulse-pounding action you’d expect from a movie about military action in Saudi Arabia and still finds room for some deep geopolitical questions.
Jurassic Park isn’t too interested in the particulars of this science fiction premise. Yes, science has brought dinosaurs back from the dead is a pretty fascinating way but that’s really just an excuse for the “adventure” part of Jurassic Park‘s genre classification. Oh what an adventure it is too. Jurassic Park is the best kind of movie: the one that seeks to excite and thrill and does so effortlessly.
Life found a way and will continue to do so as the Jurassic franchise remains strong.
The Boondock Saints
1999’s The Boondock Saints was pop culture’s first solid evidence that Norman Reedus makes most things better.
Reedus stars as Murphy MacManus and Sean Patrick Flanery is his brother, Conor MacManus. The MacManus brothers are Irish-American Bostonians just trying to live their lives, have some pints, and keep their noses clean. That modus operandi fails miserably when three Russian mobsters try to take over the MacMurphy’s favorite pub and the brothers are forced to kill the mobsters in self-defense. That sets the MacMurphys on a dark (but fun) path to continue killing evildoers to protect the innocent.
Boondock Saints is about as straightforward a vengeance action movies as they come and was probably your college roommate’s favorite movie.
Black Panther is a little bit of everything. It’s a two and a half hour sci-fi fantasy epic. It’s a modern James Bond caper. It’s a political fairy tale. But don’t overlook one thing: it’s a great action film.
Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa a.k.a. Black Panther – the newly elected king of advanced African society Wakanda. Everyone is happy with the new king, save for an American special ops interloper who comes to town named Erik Killmonger. T’Challa faces his hardest physical and emotional threat yet in Killmonger and has to decide: what kind of king does he want to be?
Black Panther is one of Marvel’s best films. Enjoy it on Netflix while you can. Disney is working on their own streaming service.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Edgar Wright is one of our best working directors and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may just be his masterpiece (or Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz or Baby Driver or The World’s End…really any movie he directs).
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a bass-playing videogame savvy young adult. He’s also kind of an immature dickhead. After meeting the beautiful Ramona Flowers he decides he’ll do whatever it takes to make her his girlfriend. Little does he know that what it takes will be defeating her Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends in combat.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
In its later years the Pirates of the Caribbean became quite bloated and listless. This first entry in the series, however, is nothing but pure, swashbuckling fun.
Johnny Depp debuts his wonderfully weird Captain Jack Sparrow here and he joins in on an adventure with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) as they attempt to rescue Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) from the crew of the ship, the Black Pearl. The Black Pearl is led by Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and he and his crew all become shambling undead skeletons by night so…that’s less than ideal.
Hold the Dark
Thank you, Netflix for giving us the snow-covered wolf expert drama we never know we needed. Well, I guess we had The Grey so now we have TWO action wolf movies.
Directed by Green Room’s Jeremy Saulnier, Hold the Dark tells the story of wolf expert Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright). Core ventures into the brutal Alaskan winter to hunt for wolves that supposedly killed a local boy. The truth might not be that simple, however.
Hold the Dark is worth it for simply being a solid action flick for Jeffrey Wright and Alexander Skarsgård to have a wintry blast.
Black Dynamite is equal parts blaxploitation, comedy, and action.
Michael Jai White stars as the titular Black Dynamite, a former CIA agent who wants to avenge his brother’s death and get a destructive new designer drug off the streets. White also wrote the original story and screenplay as an homage to the wonderfully pulpy blaxpoitation films of the ’70s.
This is a movie that not only knows what it is but also revels in it. Give this a watch to watch the absolutely massive black cast just generally having a great time.
Rumble in the Bronx
Thank goodness Jackie Chan finally has a place on this list. Jackie Chan is so naturally charming and funny that people tend to sleep on his action star bona fides. That shouldn’t be an issue for those who watch Rumble in the Bronx though.
Rumble in the Bronx is a Hong Kong movie, that was filmed in Vancouver, takes place in New York, and ultimately introduced American audiences to Mr. Chan. That’s a global movie if there ever was one.
Chan stars as Hong Kong cop Ma Hon Keung. Keung comes to New York to attend his uncle’s wedding. Before he knows it, Keung is involved with a protection racket of a local gang of his uncle’s Bronx market. This is obviously bad news…for the gang.