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Photograph: Aimee Spinks/NETFLIX

The 20 best action movies on Netflix in the UK

Fancy a quiet night in? Well then stay the hell away from the best action movies on Netflix in the UK.

Written by
Andy Kryza
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Real talk: While we all like to pretend that we spend our time seeking out cinematic perfection by watching the best films ever made, sometimes the smashiest, crashiest, explodiest action movies are what we’re really craving. Luckily, with a vast array of old-school beat-em-ups, modern superhero flicks and blood-pumping spy blockbusters, Netflix can provide a movie for every kind of thrill seeker, and you don’t even have to leave your sofa.

To help you pick from newcomers, hidden gems, cinematic classics and trash-cinema treasures, we’ve locked and loadedthe best action movies streaming on Netflix right now.

Recommended: The best films streaming on Netflix UK.

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Made at the peak of Hollywood’s studio system and a flawless example of robust mainstream entertainment, John Sturges’s proto-blockbuster turned Steve McQueen into a marquee idol. He gobbles up the lens even before he jumps the barbed-wire fence of his World War II prisoner-of-war camp on a motorcycle, a stunt scene that’s every bit as thrilling and impressive today as it was six decades ago.

The Matrix (1999)
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  • Science fiction

With The Matrix Resurrections out in December, now is the time to jack back into the Wachowskis’ sprawling blend of sci-fi dystopia and leather-clad martial-arts chaos. More than 20 years on, The Matrix still feels fresh in its collision of rain-soaked noir and sleek neofutirism. The pioneering special effects hold up, but they’re simply window dressing on a white-knuckle gun-fu masterpiece that makes up for its philosophising with some of the best – and most frequently mimicked – action sequences ever put to film. 

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The Night Comes for Us (2018)
Photograph: Netflix

3. The Night Comes for Us (2018)

For any sadistic soul who watched The Raid and thought: ‘That was good and all, but it could use more violence’, Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto would like a word. The Night Comes for Us is wall-to-wall carnage, a cartoonishly ghastly ordeal in which throngs of fighters sustain all manner of injury courtesy of blunt objects, bladed edges and fists that function like meat tenderisers. It’s a breathlessly ghastly triad flick that will get your blood pumping while the red stuff paints the walls, with The Raid alumnis Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim taking the spotlight amid waves of foes. It’s a film best followed by an ice bath. 

The Old Guard (2020)
Photograph: Aimee Spinks/Netflix

4. The Old Guard (2020)

Smart action movies don’t come along often, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s adaptation of Greg Rucka’s superhero comic cracks like a whip. Following a group of immortal mercenaries on a revenge mission, it’s a surprisingly human addition to the genre that grounds itself in the complexities of its characters, making space for queer representation and the painful realities of immortality. 

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

With Tom Holland’s Spider-man preparing for his third solo outing and director Sam Raimi poised to enter the MCU with his Doctor Strange sequel, there’s no better time to revisit the Evil Dead director’s original journey into the Spiderverse. This is very much an old-fashioned superhero tale, and not just because of the somewhat-dated effects: Raimi and star Toby Maguire beautifully capture the gee-whiz wonder of Stan Lee’s greatest creation, staging thrilling action scenes amid a sunny New York and setting the stage for the superhero invasion of the multiplex. If anything, this should have fans extra excited for the return of Willem Dafoe’s scenery-eviscerating Green Goblin in No Way Home

Ip Man (2008)
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  • Action and adventure

Martial arts megastar Donnie Yen’s biggest role is the titular grandmaster who famously trained Bruce Lee. This biopic plays fast and loose with history as Ip squares off against invading Japanese forces in World War II-era China, but you’re not here to learn about wartime atrocities. You’re here to watch Yen rabbit punch hordes of soldiers and bend their limbs into pretzels. And on that front, Ip Man delivers with spectacular results. 

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When an Australian mercenary called Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is hired to rescue the sensitive son of an Indian drug baron, things don’t go as planned and Rake must go to extreme lengths to protect his charge. This Netflix Original is directed by former Marvel stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave and written by Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo, so action fans know they’re in good hands.

Akira (1988)
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  • Animation

Akira isn’t just the film that brought anime to the global audience: It’s a cyberpunk masterpiece packed with huge ideas, intricate detail and some of the greatest and most wildly imaginative visions to ever flow from the pen of an animator. You’ll find shades of Akira in everything from Inception to The Matrix, but even those game-changing sci-fi opuses can’t match the awe of watching motorcycle gangs in Neo-Tokyo laying waste to the city like well-coiffed cousins of Immortan Joe

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  • Film
  • Animation

Studio Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki’s fantasy masterpiece is the high watermark for the Japanese animation house: a hugely ambitious tale of warriors and forest spirits, warring clans and ancient gods. Of a piece with The Lord of the Rings, Miyazaki’s film is loaded with environmental messaging and deeply philosophical pondering... but good luck catching that as the heroine journeys between a land of increasing perils to eye-popping effect. 

Dredd (2012)
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  • Action and adventure

After the debacle that was the 1995 Sly Stallone adaptation, Pete Travis and Alex Garland returned to Mega-City One with this gnarly, hyper-stylised bullet opera in which Karl Urban’s perpetually scowling hero takes on a ruthless drug kingpin holed up in a high-rise penthouse. Essentially unfolding level by level like a video game, the film follows similar beats as The Raid, and that’s a very good thing for comic fans eager to see the helmeted badass dole out slow-motion justice upon an army of sleazeballs. The film famously tanked, denying us a new franchise. But for true action fans, Dredd is the stuff of midnight movie legend. 

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Blood Red Sky (2021)
Photograph: Netflix

11. Blood Red Sky (2021)

As far as high-concept ideas go, ‘Passenger 57 but with a vampire’ is pretty hard to screw up. But Blood Red Sky is so much more than Bats on a Plane: It’s a hijacking movie that pits a crew of track-suited terrorists against an unlikely survivor, sure, but the vamp at the center of the carnage that unfolds in the fuselage isn’t just a bloodsucker. She’s a protective mother in mama bear mode. And what unfolds is the most unpredictable flight since flights to Florida resumed. 

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
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  • Action and adventure

Stephen Chow’s daffy martial-arts comedy plays out like a bizarro combination of Drunken Master, Looney Tunes, A Fistful of Dollars and Buster Keaton as a small town is besieged by an axe-wielding gang of mobsters. Oh, and it’s also sort of a musical comedy to boot. Just go with it: Once the gravity-defying carnage amps up, each set piece offers its own jaw-dropping spectacle, particularly when a group of elderly villagers reveal themselves to be legendary warriors harnessing ancient powers. 

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3:10 to Yuma (2007)
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  • Action and adventure

An old-fashioned oater with a mean streak courtesy of Logan director James Mangold, this remake has all the hallmarks of a good western: An everyman (Christian Bale) forced into violence to protect his family. A smirking villain (Russell Crowe) with a sympathetic backstory. A snarling henchman (Ben Foster) with a sadistic streak. But in updating the template for a modern era, Mangold’s film emerges as an action-packed dad movie for the ages, with some of the screen’s best gunslinging and horse chases, period. 

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  • Fantasy

Before the world of Jumanji was invaded by Jack Black and a Jonas Brother, Robin Williams was our leading man in this tale about a supernatural board game that sucks players into its world, only to spit them out again decades later, along with a couple of rhinos for good measure.

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Ridley Scott’s historical epic is a sword-and-sandal spectacle, packed with pomp and pageantry, dastardly plots, massed action and forthright, fundamental emotions. Starring Russell Crowe at his most dashing and Joaquin Phoenix at his most villainous, this might not be the most historically accurate depiction of Ancient Rome, but it’s certainly the most entertaining.

Robocop (1987)
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  • Action and adventure

Dutch maniac Paul Verhoeven is currently basking in the controversy surrounding his nunsploitation film Benedetta, but the mind behind Showgirls, Basic Instinct and Total Recall first turned heads with this explosively violent satire about a zombified cop in shining robotic armour. Far from the '80s trash relic it's assumed to be, RoboCop lampoons '80s corporate greed and corrupt politicians with an enduring relevance. It's a rowdy, hilarious blast from start to finish, and a film that has more on its mind than the splattered bodies onscreen let on. 

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Baby Driver (2017)
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  • Action and adventure

Edgar Wright’s first American film (and his last feature prior to Last Night in Soho), Baby Driver took some flack from fans expecting another comedic tour de force from the Hot Fuzz director. But even those who can’t jive with Wright’s narrative rhythms – every movement is set to the beat of the soundtrack – can’t deny that Baby Driver is one of the best car-chase films of all time, a ballet of bent fenders and burning rubber that pushes the pedal to the floor and never lets up. The pure jolt of adrenaline is enough to make you forget that Simon & Garfunkel-quoting title. 

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  • Drama

Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom star in this blockbuster adaptation of Homer’s war epic. Pitt is muscular and brusque as the fated Achilles, a bit wooden at times but that seems fitting for a film that centres itself around a giant wooden horse. Those seeking an emotional interpretation of the Battle of Troy would be better off reading Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. This one is for fans of big set pieces and bloody battles, both of which arrive smothered in lashings of CGI.

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Triple Frontier (2019)
Photograph: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

19. Triple Frontier (2019)

Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal star in this heist movie about a group of former US Army soldiers who steal an absolute fortune from a South American crime lord. Getting the money to safety proves complicated, however, and the group must overcome violent and deathly obstacles that will leave them questioning their morality and the lengths they’d go to for a hefty wad of cash. 

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  • Thrillers

Angelina Jolie stars in this action-packed spy movie about a CIA agent who is accused of being a Russian sleeper spy and must clear her name. It’s actually all a lot more complicated than that, but it would be impossible to outline the absolutely absurd plot of Salt in so few words. Jolie is so good, however, that she manages to (almost) sell it, while also commanding all manner of stunts, violence and high-speed chases.

Find more great movies on Netflix

The 100 best movies on Netflix
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We’ve all been there. You cosy down on the sofa for an evening watching Netflix, log in and… nothing. A total lack of inspiration. Which is why we’ve put together this list of the very best films on Netflix UK, from comedy classics and recent multiplex smashes to animated gems and arthouse wonders.

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