The Best Action Movies on Netflix
Whether you enjoy seeing a hero succeed, a villain brought down or the spectacle of everything exploding for 2 hours, action films offer something exciting for every moviegoer. Thanks to Netflix, there's more to watch than ever. We've pulled together the best films in the category, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Credit: Francois Duhamel
Captain America: Civil War (2016) — 90% Rotten Tomatoes
Netflix is light on Marvel superhero films, but Captain America: Civil War made the cut. When the Avengers' heroics cause an international incident, the United Nations steps in to regulate their missions. This doesn't sit well with Captain America, creating a split within the team as Iron Man attempts to bring him in line. Civil War is arguably the best example of cinematic hero-versus-hero brawling to date, and a great example of why Marvel films are worth watching.
Credit: Zade Rosenthal
The Siege of Jadotville (2016) — 60% Rotten Tomatoes
This Netflix exclusive depicts the rarely explored Siege of Jadotville, a real-life battle that occurred in 1961. When a battalion of Irish soldiers is deployed to the Congo at the behest of the United Nations, the men believe it will be an easy posting. Instead, they must defend an exposed base from overwhelming enemy forces for six days, running low on ammo and supplies in the process. If you're interested in war stories about little-known conflicts, look no further than this film.
Credit: Karen Ballard/Netflix
Spectral (2016) — 80% Rotten Tomatoes
There are too few military thrillers about armies dedicated to fighting supernatural forces. Thankfully, this Netflix-exclusive film fills the gap. When American special forces are deployed to assist with a European war, the last things they expect to face are intangible monsters, which are visible only through hyperspectral imaging goggles. Now, the soldiers and technicians must destroy this threat before it surges across the entire region.
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Train to Busan (2016) — 96% Rotten Tomatoes
There's no shortage of zombie films cluttering Netflix, but this recent South Korean film should be near the top of your list. In the movie, set on a high-speed train during a zombie outbreak, a group of unprepared passengers must survive long enough to find a station that isn't overrun by the undead. From wide-open foot chases at stations to claustrophobic crawls through zombie-packed train cars, the action in Train to Busan should not be missed.
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) — 85% Rotten Tomatoes
Previously Star Wars films may have taken place during the intergalactic war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, but none carried the action movie vibes of Rogue One, which feels like Saving Private Ryan, but in space. The film, which tells the tale of smuggling the plans for the first Death Star out of The Dark Side's computer systems, provides Mads Mikkelsen (as Galen Erso) and Forest Whitaker (as Saw Gerrera) room for dramatics, but scene after scene is stolen by the snarky K-2SO, a Rebel-owned Imperial enforcer droid voiced by Alan Tudyk.
Credit: Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm
Kung Fury (2015) — No Rotten Tomatoes Score
Sure, Kung Fury debuted on YouTube, but this short film deserves all the extra viewings it can get. The crowdfunded love letter to ridiculous '80s genre films follows Detective Kung Fury, a police officer and martial arts expert whose precinct is under attack from Adolf Hitler. Fury's quest for revenge takes him across time to face Vikings and dinosaurs before he finally confronts the Third Reich at its robotic height.
Credit: Under The Milky Way
Saving Mr. Wu (2015) — 100% Rotten Tomatoes
This Chinese action film gets a bonus "based on a true story" accolade, as it's been authenticated by a former kidnapping victim who joined the cast. It follows Mr. Wu (Andy Lau), a film star kidnapped by a gang that targets wealthy businessmen for ransom. The action moves between a police task force charged with finding Wu, and Mr. Wu's own attempts to save the life of another hostage who couldn't obtain his ransom.
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A Hard Day (2014) — 81% Rotten Tomatoes
When a corrupt police officer runs over a man with his car, the safest choice is to hide the body in his mother's coffin during a funeral (naturally). There are only two problems: First, the victim is a murderer the police want brought to justice, and second, there was a witness who recognizes a perfect opportunity to blackmail a police officer. If you're in the mood for a solid action-thriller, this South Korean film won't disappoint.
Credit: Kino Lorber
Inglourious Basterds (2009) — 88% Rotten Tomatoes
Of the pulpy classics in Quentin Tarantino's storied filmography, none is more epic than the wide-reaching Inglourious Basterds. Sure, its title may be spelled incredibly poorly, but this tale of revenge in World War II-era Europe has it all. The film offers dual storylines where our heroes attempt to take down the political leadership of Nazi Germany, since just one clearly wouldn't do. The first features Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a young French Jewish cinema proprietor, out for personal revenge, while the second involves a team of Jewish American soldiers led by the scalp-hungry Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt).
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Ip Man (2008) — 84% Rotten Tomatoes
If you're scrolling through Netflix, looking for a solid martial arts film, you can't go wrong with Ip Man, the biographical story of Bruce Lee's teacher. Donnie Yen plays Ip Man, a humble fighter who would rather fish than prove his martial arts prowess. But when the Japanese army occupies his home during the Sino-Japanese War, he becomes an unlikely hero by standing up to corrupt military leaders.
Credit: Mandarin Films
Kung Fu Panda (2008) — 87% Rotten Tomatoes
While it's technically a family film, Kung Fu Panda still has all the hallmarks of a strong martial arts action film. You've got the bumbling hero, the wise master, the former-pupil-turned-menacing-villain and the fantastic fight scenes that tie them all together. Add a dash of food-based humor, and Kung Fu Panda remains a fun action movie for both kids and adults.
Credit: DreamWorks Animation
Hot Fuzz (2007) — 91% Rotten Tomatoes
Technically, Hot Fuzz may be an action-comedy, but it satirizes the genre so lovingly that it clearly stands on its own merits. Nicholas Angel is an effective, by-the-book cop who relocated to the village of Sandford. There, absolutely nothing dangerous ever happens — at least until civilians start dying under mysterious circumstances. Angel eventually uncovers a deadly conspiracy that can only be defeated in one way: a hilariously excessive third-act gun battle that draws in the entire community.
Credit: Matt Nettheim
Bon Cop Bad Cop (2006) — 71% Rotten Tomatoes
Want a modern buddy-cop movie with a Canadian twist? Bon Cop Bad Cop features two police officers — one anglophone, one francophone — forced to work on the same case when they find a corpse straddling the Ontario-Quebec border. Their investigation uncovers a murderous plot directed against Canadian hockey players, and they'll have to use their unique police skills to crack it — if they can learn to tolerate each other first.
Credit: Les Films Séville
Hellboy (2004) — 81% Rotten Tomatoes
Hellboy was part of the first wave of big-budget superhero films, debuting soon after Spider-Man, X-Men and Blade. The film remains as entertaining as ever. When American soldiers and scientists disrupt a Nazi ritual, they meet Hellboy — a human-demon hybrid — and raise him to defend humanity from supernatural threats. Ron Perlman's performance as the gruff, blue-collar Hellboy is inspired, and watching him face down cultists and outlandish monsters will absolutely satisfy your action-movie cravings.
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The Host (2006) — 93% Rotten Tomatoes
Just to be clear, The Host is not to be confused with the Stephenie Meyer (of "Twilight" fame) adaptation of the same name. This one is much more fun. When a giant sea monster drags a young girl into the sewers, no one believes her family's story. Her relatives respond in the usual way: loading up with weapons and going underground to find her themselves. The movie remains the highest-grossing film produced in South Korea, and a benchmark for monster movies overall.
The Punisher (2004) — 29% Rotten Tomatoes
After Netflix's Daredevil series, Jon Bernthal may be the definitive live-action Punisher, but Thomas Jane's performance was an underappreciated gem. His sole Punisher film presented a strong origin story for the anti-hero, a respectable antagonist in John Travolta and several solid gunfights. But the real joy comes from the film's smaller scenes, including memorable encounters with a gun-toting musician and an enormous Russian brawler. Watch this before the Punisher TV series reaches Netflix.
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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) — 79% Rotten Tomatoes
While the appeal of this franchise wore off faster than you can say "Jack Sparrow," the opening chapter is a strong pirate yarn. When the Black Pearl and its cursed skeletal crew kidnaps the governor's daughter, her admirer recruits the ship's former captain to mount a rescue. Filled with intrigue, swordfights and inevitable backstabbing, it's no wonder fans craved the (in retrospect, lackluster) sequels.
Cradle 2 the Grave (2003) — 26% Rotten Tomatoes
When you take a chance on an action movie starring the rapper DMX, action movie superstar Jet Li and comedy greats such as Anthony Anderson, you know what you're signing up for. While the film starts with master thief Anthony Fait (DMX) hunted by Taiwanese Intelligence Office Su (Jet Li) because Fait stole a trove of black diamonds, the film flips the script on the two with a series of twists that force the two to work as the unlikeliest of partners.
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xXx (2002) — 48% Rotten Tomatoes
When the US government needs a new undercover agent to infiltrate a Russian crime organization, they call upon the one guy they've never been friends with, nor able to stop: Xander "xXx" Cage. Why Cage? Well, he's an extreme sports athlete with a penchant for breaking the law to get his thrills, so of course the Russians would never expect he'd work for Uncle Sam. And if you're not sold by the face of the Fast and Furious franchise starring, this flick also offers Samuel L. Jackson as NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons.
The Matrix (1999) — 87% Rotten Tomatoes
While it's just as much a sci-fi movie as it is an action movie, few movies offer wonderfully chaotic pacing like The Matrix does. From its tense opening scene where Neo (Keanu Reeves) gets a special delivery to his subway station fight scene with Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), this masterpiece from the Wachoskis will keep your eyes darting around the screen with each and every frame. Oh, and it gave us Bullet Time slow-motion.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Wild Wild West (1999) — 17% Rotten Tomatoes
After Will Smith began his ascent to box office royalty with his role in Men In Black, he parlayed that success into the steampunk action movie Wild Wild West, an adaptation of the 1960's TV series of the same name. Just as he Will Smith bounced off of Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black, he found excellent, playful chemistry with co-star in Kevin Kline, who costars as both Artemus Gordon and as President Ulysses S. Grant. Critics may have thought it was lame, but this fun romp made tons of money as families flocked to the theaters for its fun.
Small Soldiers (1998) — 48% Rotten Tomatoes
This is a fairly goofy movie even by '90s standards, but who cares? Tommy Lee Jones plays a toy soldier, so your argument is invalid. When a greedy executive makes an outrageous decision to place advanced missile chips inside action figures, the toys become self-aware, bringing their fictional war into backyards and city streets. Throw in some adorable toy "aliens" and a surprisingly dark tone for a PG-13 film, and you've got a fun family action flick.
Armageddon (1998) — 39% Rotten Tomatoes
Near the end of the 1990's, Hollywood released a series of budget disaster-based action movies, and Armageddon is one of the most complete. Not only does it had a rag-tag group of blue-collar manly men (including Owen Wilson and Michael Clark Duncan)( ready to take down a meteorite threatening to annihilate Earth, but two of them (played by Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck) have a personal conflict: Willis' daughter (played by Liv Tyler) is dating Affleck's character. And wouldn't you know it, dear ol' dad does not approve.
Spawn (1997) — 18% Rotten Tomatoes
If you want some schlocky bloody violence with your action, the film adaptation of the Spawn comic book series is worth a stream. It's a dark, brooding superhero movie before those became the standard, and stars Michael Jai White as Al Simmons, a solider and assassin who comes back from the dead as the vicious Spawn. It's not lacking for star power, as John Leguizamo and Martin Sheen fill out the rest of the top-billed roles.
Jaws (1975) — 97% Rotten Tomatoes
The classic thriller-action film Jaws is the iconic shark film, telling a tale of a giant man-eating great white that terrorizes the waters of a fictional New England summer resort destination called Amity Island. One of director Steven Spielberg's finest, Jaws is based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel, which bears the same name. While it spawned a trilogy of sequels, none reached the heights of the original, seen as the quintessential summer blockbuster.
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The African Queen (1951) — 100% Rotten Tomatoes
When the Germans destroy a missionary camp deep within Africa during World War I, two survivors — a strong-willed woman and a gin-soaked boat captain — escape on a small steamship called the African Queen. Knowing that the river they follow leads to a German warship, they devise a cunning plan: convert the boat into a torpedo that the Germans won't see coming. First, they must survive hostile wildlife, enemy gunfire and, of course, each other.
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