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 March 2020.
Netflix is 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.
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.
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, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver, 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.
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.
Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War is the almost conclusion of more than ten years and 17 movies worth of Marvel Cinematic Universe storytelling.
The gang is all here: Cap, Tony, Thor, Gamora….OK just trust me that it’s everyone save for Ant-Man and Hawkeye. Earth’s mightiest heroes must band together because the big big big big bad Thanos has decided to stop messing around and is going to finish up his quest for all Infinity Stones.
Avengers: Infinity Waris much better than it has any right to be juggling all these characters. Credit a talented cast with years of established history and Joe and Anthony Russo as directors.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders! Thank God Netflix has the Indiana Jones trilogy (plus one more regrettable film) available to stream or otherwise this list wouldn’t feel quite right.
Harrison Ford (oh, him again!) stars as the titular Indiana Jones, an archaeologist who has some pretty strong opinions on where important artifacts belong. Say it with me: museums! Indy is brought in by the U.S. government to foil a rival archaeologist and his Nazi friend’s attempt to acquire the mythical Ark of the Covenant. The Nazis believe that if they acquire the Ark, their armies will be invincible. But that can’t be right, right? It’s just some fossil.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas at the height of their powers. It’s quite simply one of the best action/adventure films ever.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
After a detour into the dark and uncomfortable in Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones returns to world of adventure in The Last Crusade
The Nazis are back in The Last Crusade and spoiler alert: they’re still dicks. They’ve kidnapped Indiana’s father, Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery) while he was off searching for the literal Holy Grail. Indiana must find and rescue his father and maybe even look into this whole Holy Grail business while he does.
Together Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade represent some of the most purely fun and exciting action movies of the modern era.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp is reportedly the last Marvel movie that will be coming to Netflix before Disney fires up its own streaming service. So enjoy this last trip into the MCU while you can.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a nice little palette cleanser after the enormous and universe-altering events of Avengers: Infinity War. The film catches up with our old friend, Scott Lang, as he attempts to finish out his time under house arrest due to his involvement in Captain America’s insurrection. Scott can’t stay home forever though as father-daughter team Hank and Hope Pym need Scott’s help retrieving Hope’s mom from the quantum realm.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is the increasingly rare Marvel movie with reasonably low stakes and it helps the action at hand feel lighter and fresher as a result.
The Incredibles 2
Pixar’sThe Incredibles was not only one of the best Pixar movies ever but one of the best action movies of its generation. Its follow-up, 2018’s The Incredibles 2, doesn’t quite reach the same heights of the original but still contains some of the best action storytelling you’re likely to see.
After the events of the first film, the Parr family is ready to accept their roles as superheroes once again. Problem is, the public still isn’t quite fully ready to receive them. So they team up with billionaire industrialist and public relations extraordinaire, Winston Deavor, to develop a plan. Suddenly Helen Parr/Elasti-Girl is the main breadwinner and public darling as Bob Parr struggles with parenting duty. Then, of course, the world needs saving once again.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an important historical document for Western audiences on two fronts. For most viewers it was an introduction to both the Chinese wuxia style and director Ang Lee. More importantly than that, however, it’s also very, very good.
Set in 18th Century Qing Dynasty China, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon follows a young Chinese warriors Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) as they embark upon an adventure across the country to deliver the sword “Green Destiny” to a benefactor in Beijing. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is visually beautiful and features some of the most thrilling martial artistry committed to film.
Triple Frontier is one of Netflix’s biggest action hits…and all it takes is one quick glance at the cast to figure out why.
Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam, and Pedro Pascal all star as former Special Operations soldiers in need of some cash following their military careers. As fate would have it, Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Isaac) works as a private military advisor in Colombia and comes to find out where a major drug lord is hiding his cash.
Pope and his friends then reunite for a spectacular South American heist job.
Plenty of sci-fi action films try to come up with a unique visual representation of a real life theme they’re trying to address. 2013’s Snowpiercer develops a simple, yet brilliant way to present class disparity. Remember all those passenger classes on the Titanic? What if basically the whole world was Titanic?
Snowpiercer is set in a future in which climate change has turned planet Earth into Hoth, basically. The remnants of humanity all live on a globe-spanning train, called the Snowpiercer. The rich passengers of Snowpiercer live in the lush cabins up front while the poor passengers are forced to do unthinkable things to survive in the back train cars. Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a coup from the back passengers as the ragtag team makes its way to the front of the train to see how the other half really lives.
Inglourious Basterds is World War II – Quentin Tarantino style. What that means is a lot of action, blood, guts, and delectable French pastries. Basterds is split up into five “chapters” and follows two converging threads. Shosana (Melanie Laurent) is a Jewish theater operator living in Nazi-occupied France. Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his crew of “inglourious basterds” or American soldiers/psychopaths who operate behind enemy lines with a singular goal: kill Nazis.
Inglourious Basterds tells an alternate history of how World War II could have ended – with a lot more stylized violence. It’s an exciting, cathartic, and action-packed thrill ride and love letter to film, itself.
Jet Li is a wuxia/action icon for a reason. 2002’s Hero represents a compelling reason why. Hero is revelatory in its simplicity. Li stars as a nameless…hero who sets off on an epic mission to topple an empire after any army massacres his people.
The simple plot allows for the movie’s lush visuals and Li’s martial arts to shine. And not for nothing, but the guy can really act too.
Not many martial arts action films from Vietnam crack the Western market, but thank the action gods that Furie did.
2019’s Furie follows Hai Phuong (Ngô Thanh Vân), a gangster who seeks to retire from a life of crime to live peacefully with her daughter. When a trafficking ring kidnaps her daughter, Hai Phuong has no other choice but to get back into the game and kick unholy amounts of ass. Have Vietnamese human trafficking rings not seen Taken or John Wick?
Sin City is the end result of one person finally having the novel idea of “what if we didn’t so much adapt a comic book so much as we just literally put it on a movie screen with live-action actors?” That person is director Robert Rodriguez and the end result is the black, white, and red all over noir action thriller Sin City.
Sin City is adapted from the Frank Miller comic of the same name and follows several disparate threads in the vice-filled Basin City. One hulking monster of a man (Mickey Rourke) embarks on a revenge-filled odyssey to find his female friend’s killer. One metaphorical monster of a man (Bruce Willis) embarks on a revenge-filled odyssey to find his female friend’s killer. And one man (Nick Stahl) is yellow.
Sin City is a fun, hyper stylized ode to violence and action in all their glorious forms.
Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer are controversial figures in the film industry, with their penchant for explosions in place of believable characters. Bad Boys is their first collaboration and typifies exactly what their careers would become. Bad Boys is a ludicrously over-the-top action cop film.
Miami detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowery (Will Smith) have five days to recover $100 million in Mafia heroin before the department of Internal Affairs shuts their division down. Their “investigation” mainly consists of insane fire fights and explosions all while sharing funny quips with each other. Bad Boys is brainless, big, and fun.
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.
On its surface, Inception is a purely science fiction blockbuster. Its plot is famously complicated, involving multi-layered dreams and various “kicks” to get out of them.
At it’s core, however, Inception is a James Bond-style action movie, one directed by Christopher Nolan, no less. That’s what all the sci-fi trappings are there for: to make a better taut, exciting action thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a professional thief who extracts memories from people’s minds. Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) approaches Dom with a unique proposition: incept (create memories) inside the mind of his business rival, Robert Fischer.
Cobb takes the job and viewers are entreated to an action thriller within the architecture of the human mind.
It’s unclear just how much of Starship Troopers is sincere and how much is satire. Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 sci-fi action thriller follows young soldier Johnny Rico and his compadres in the Mobile Infantry as they travel to new planets humanity hopes to colonize and clear out giant insectoid creatures call Arachnids.
Starship Troopers seems to have a lot to say about the grim future of humanity and the concessions we make as we grow larger and lose our personhood. On the other hand, those space soldiers sure do shoot those bugs good.
The Other Guys
Everybody loves action hero cops. They’re the guys who track down criminals by any means necessary whether it be via foot races, car chases, gun fights, or bare-knuckle brawling. But behind every action hero cop is a police department filled with…well, other guys. The guys who clock in to work, do their reports, marvel at their peers’ abilities, then head home. 2010’s action comedy The Other Guys tells the story of two of those other guys.
Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star as two unremarkable detectives who are thrust into the investigation of their lives when the precinct’s best and brightest are no longer available. The Other Guys is a hilarious and often exciting film that reminds viewers to spare some thought for the working Joes and not just the action heroes on TV.
Even if you’ve never seen Clint Eastwood’s 1971 noir classic, you still know the monologue. “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five’? Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, i kind of lost track myself. But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”
Well…do ya?? What you might not realize is that there’s a pretty fantastic action film wrapped around that most epic of quotes. Eastwood stars as the titular Dirty Harry Callahan, a San Francisco Police Department inspector who goes through hell to track down a psychopath similar to the real life Zodiac killer.
Action movies are littered with the likes of athletes from combat sports like boxing, wrestling, and mixed martial arts. Few of those athletes have had a stronger debut in recent memory than MMA fighter Gina Carano in 2011’s Haywire.
Carano stars as a black ops operative named Mallory Kane. After freeing a Chinese journalist held hostage, Mallory is betrayed by her own agency and must go on the run. While she flees from her pursuers, director Steven Soderbergh puts Carano’s MMA skills to great use.