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The 20 best action movies on Netflix

Fancy a quiet night in? Well then stay the hell away from these adrenaline-pumping, shrapnel-flinging streamables

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Let’s be real – 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 like ‘The Old Guard’ and ‘Extraction’, and cinematic classics such as ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, we’ve narrowed down the best action movies streaming on Netflix right now.

Recommended: The best films streaming on Netflix UK.

 

Best action movies on Netflix, Mission Impossible ghost protocol
Photograph: Paramount Pictures

20. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Film Action and adventure

Also known as the One Where Tom Dangles Off the Very Tall Building. The stunts in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies may be more memorable than the characters (which isn’t saying much), but there’s lots of fun to be had as The Cruiser trots the globe trying to clear his name of terrorism charges.

Best action movies on Netflix, Disciples of the 36th Chamber
Photograph: Celestial Pictures

19. Disciples of the 36th Chamber (1985)

It may not quite match up to its legendary predecessor, ‘The 36th Chamber of Shaolin’, but this is a prime slice of kung-fu insanity from chopsocky icons the Shaw Brothers. A young student on the run from government officials claims asylum in the Shaolin Temple of San-Te and receives training in the ancient ways of warfare.

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The Raid 2
Photograph: Sony Pictures Classic

18. The Raid 2 (2014)

Film Action and adventure

It may lack the propulsive simplicity of the first film, but Gareth Evans’s bigger, beefier, ‘Godfather’-ier sequel has its fair share of mental dust-ups. We’d have preferred a little less conversation, a little more action – but when the fists start flying, it’s hard to complain.

 

THE OLD GUARD (2020) L-R: Kiki Layne ("Nile"), Charlize Theron ("Andy�). Photo Credit: AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX �2020
Photograph: Aimee Spinks/Netflix

17. 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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Extraction
Photograph: Netflix

16. Extraction (2020)

Film

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.

Underground 6
Photograph: Christian Black/Netflix

15. 6 Underground (2019)

Naturally, a Michael-Bay-helmed Netflix movie is going to be as loud, in-your-face and preposterous as you’d expect it to be. If you're a fan of that in-your-face approach then you’ll get a kick out of ‘6 Underground’. It stars Ryan Reynolds as an unnamed American billionaire (with a specialism in magnets) who fakes his own death in order to form a squad of vigilantes to take down criminals and terrorists. Absolutely barmy.

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TRIPLE FRONTIER
Photograph: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

14. 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. 

Jurassic Park
Photograph: Universal Pictures

13. Jurassic Park (1993)

Film Fantasy

Yes, this Steven Spielberg classic might technically be considered sci-fi, what with the cloning dinosaurs and all that, but when you’ve got Laura Dern facing off against a velociraptor and a high-speed chase involving a peacocking Jeff Goldblum and a T-Rex, it also definitely qualifies as an action movie. If you need persuading, Netflix currently has the two sequels and the two ‘Jurassic World’ movies streaming, too. Dinotastic.

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Jumanji
Photograph: 20th Century Fox

12. Jumanji (1995)

Film 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.

Godzilla,Godzilla
Photograph: Sony Pictures Entertainment

11. Godzilla (1998)

Film

Who doesn’t love a movie where a giant monster completely decimates an instantly recognisable American metropolis? In this late-’90s American take of the ‘Godzilla’ franchise, it’s New York that gets destroyed, as an unlikely band of heroes, led by Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno, attempt to thwart further destruction. It’s definitely not the best iteration of Toho’s monster, but this blockheaded big-budget attempt is still a thrill. 

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The Terminator
Photograph: MGM

10. The Terminator (1984)

Film Science fiction

James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi cheapie is still damn close to perfect. From the slam-bang direction to the relentless pace to the not-a-word-wasted dialogue, and even the driving synth score, everything about ‘The Terminator’ just works. Arnold Schwarzenegger may just be the most convincing killer robot from the future ever, while Linda Hamilton’s bouffanted Valley girl Sarah Connor goes through action cinema’s most believable cowardly-to-kickass character arc. More than three decades on, this masterpiece still looks, sounds and feels incredible.

Brad Pitt in Troy.
Photograph: Warner Bros.

9. Troy (2004)

Film 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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Gladiator, 100 best action movies, Russell Crowe
Photograph: Universal Pictures

8. Gladiator (2000)

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.

Inception, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Leonardo DiCaprio
Photograph: Stephen Vaughn/Warner Bros.

7. Inception (2010)

Film Fantasy

It’s been ten years and we’re still not 100 percent sure what the meaning of the spinning top is. Not that its ending prevents ‘Inception’ from being one heck of a ride. Christopher Nolan takes a universal concept – dreams – and merges it with the thrust of a fast-paced, men-on-a-mission movie and a startling visual language that mirrors their strangeness. The cast, made up of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Caine, are stellar, too.

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John Wick 3
Photograph: Niko Tavernise

6. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

Film Action and adventure

Picking up mere minutes after the second film in the series (unfortunately, not streaming on Netflix at the time of writing), ‘John Wick 3’ focuses on the titular character, played by a sombre and suited Keanu Reeves, after he learns of a contract out on his life. What results is more than two hours of violence, remarkably well-staged gun-fu and a sword fight on speeding motorcycles. Just delicious.

Salt.
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

5. Salt (2010)

Film 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.

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The Hurt Locker
Photograph: Summit Entertainment

4. The Hurt Locker (2009)

Film

Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq war drama scooped up six Oscars in 2010, including Best Picture, and with good reason. Written and co-produced by war reporter Mark Boal, Bigelow’s film combines an expert management of tension with a sensitive and journalistic attention to detail. It’s still entertaining, but she grabs hold of the truth, which, if you can forgive her the odd sentimental or sensational flourish, makes for an unusual mix of thrilling but sobering viewing.

The Fast and the Furious 7
Photograph: Universal Pictures

3. Fast & Furious 7 (2015)

Film Action and adventure

The seventh outing of Universal’s street-racing-cum-spy franchise is a slightly different affair. It’s the last film to feature the late Paul Walker, who died in an unrelated car accident while shooting was taking place, and as such it has some emotional heft to hit, paying tribute to the actor and his character, the boy-next-door ex-cop Brian. That’s not to say that there’s no action – this is still a ‘Fast and Furious’ movie, and so any softness is equally matched with high-octane action scenes, drone strikes and a face-off between Jason Statham and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Photograph: Sony Pictures Animation

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Film Animation

While there are more Spider-Man movies than we’ve had hot dinners, this animated take embraces the weird and wonderful bits of the Spidey-verse and creates something totally new. It does touch on yet more origin stories and sets up another villain with a giant multiverse-opening thingamajiggy, but the animation style is so groundbreaking and the package so fun that by the time they’ve also chucked a Spider-pig into the mix all resistance is futile.

The Great Escape
Photograph: MGM

1. The Great Escape (1963)

Film

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 57 years ago.

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