Netflix Instant’s “Action & Adventure” category includes subgenres like Action Classics, Action Comedies, Action Thrillers, Comic Books and Superheroes, Spy Action & Adventure and Westerns. But the main page only features a small sampling, and it can be difficult navigating through the categories. We picked our favorites to make it just a little easier to find something to go with that big bowl of popcorn and a free evening.
Check out our full list of the 100 Best Movies on Netflix Instant or peruse the 25 Best Action & Adventure Movies on Netflix Instant below:
25. Once Upon a Time In Mexico
Robert Rodriguez’s final installment of the “Mariachi Trilogy” holds the box office record for being the most improved second sequel of all-time, grossing 122 percent more than Desperado. We can’t help but attribute much of that success to the riveting performance Depp created on-screen. In a 2003 interview with Rolling Stone Depp said of his role as Sands, “The idea behind him is there was this guy I used to know in Hollywood who on the outside was very charming—soft-spoken and almost hypnotic in the rhythm he used to speak. You knew this guy was aiming to fuck you over, but somehow you stuck around because he was just so fascinating to watch.”—Kristen Blanton
24. Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior
After a decade-long trend toward ever more prominent wire work and special effects, Tony Jaa’s 2003 Thai star vehicle Ong Bak was a return to crazy stunts (all performed by Jaa himself) and hard-hitting action. Featuring a total lack of both wire-fu and CGI of any sort, Ong Bak is incredibly impressive to watch. The story is little more than an excuse to trek across Thailand (both Bangkok and the countryside) in a constant stream of crazy chase sequences and even crazier fights, but the film is so unashamed of what it is that you can’t help but smile and resign yourself to being blown away by some of the most impressive displays of martial arts and physicality in general to come out in the last 10 years or so.—K. Alexander Smith
23. The Crow
Director: Alex Proyas
Spawning three more films, the goth-favorite original morphed into a cult classic, aided by its stylish cinematography, slick soundtrack and the tragedy of star Brandon Lee (the son of Bruce Lee), who died during the final days of production when he was accidentally shot by an improperly loaded stunt gun on the set.—Angela Pham
Director: Russell Mulcahy
A cult favorite, Highlander spawned a TV show and several even-campier sequels, but this first film is all you need to grasp the mythology. There can, after all, be only one. Christopher Lambert stars as one of Earth’s last Immortals, trained by Sean Connery and hunted by an evil rival.—Josh Jackson
21. Escape From Alcatraz
Clint Eastwood plays bank robber Frank Morris, who is sent to Alcatraz after already having escaped from several other prisons. Morris eventually realizes that some of the concrete in his cell can be chiseled away, so he and some of the other inmates he befriends start chipping away with sharpened spoons. The actual escape will have you looking at raincoats in a different light.—Ryan Bort
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Thor is a very well-executed superhero movie, offering corny one-liners and plenty of muscle-bound heroism to whet fan appetites. Featuring characters taken from the Marvel comic universe, the film stars Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman and is directed by Kenneth Branagh (a guy more normally associated with the Great Bard than with Stan Lee). The story has warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) exiled by his father Odin (Hopkins) to Earth from his fantastical home of Asgard. It’s surprisingly literate and even sharp in places, while never losing its tongue-in-cheek tone.—Jonathan Hickman
19. Super 8
Director: J.J. Abrams
Proving that star power isn’t limited to those in front of the camera, Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams delivered a little bit of old-school, mainstream, pop-corn, sci-fi summer fun. The film is as much a celebration of filmmaking and a coming-of-age story as it is an action alien-invasion flick. It feels like those sci-fi movies of the ‘80s (the decade of its setting). You know, the ones made by folks like Spielberg.
Ronin boasts two impressive feats: some pretty memorable car chase scenes and the first known example of figure-skating sniper murder in film. Now that’s ice cold…hold your applause, please. Robert De Niro in a spy film is almost a fool-proof cinematic recipe; add the fact that the screenplay is pretty competent and the explosions explode pretty well, and Ronin quickly becomes a beloved example of espionage.—Darren Orf
17. Batman: Year One (2011)
Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic-book storyline of 1987 partially inspired Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins by showing how Bruce Wayne adopted his Bat-iconography and found an unexpected ally in future commissioner Gordon. Here, Batman plays more of a supporting role to Gordon (“Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston) who mounts a lonely, Serpico-style crusade against the corrupt Gotham police force. Many of the DC animated films feature superfluous violence or swear words to ensure a PG-13 rating and attract grown-up viewers, but Batman: Year One’s grim, compelling portrayal of urban rot comes by it honestly.
16. 13 Assassins
I hesitate to make any grand statements about Miike growing as an artist because he’s always shifting and most of his pictures don’t find distribution here—case in point one of his 2011 productions is the certain-to-be-ridiculous Ninja Kids!!!. But 13 Assasssins feels like the work of a more mature filmmaker and perhaps the beginning of a new road for Miike, still unrestrained in its content but more considered with what that content is saying. It’s a Miike film that for once can be recommended without caveats, boldly treading new ground but also taking stock of what’s come before and not rejecting it outright.—Sean Gandert
15. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Director: Brad Bird
When last we left Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) of the Impossible Mission Force, he and his new bride were traipsing off to a car chase-free life of early retirement. But as we all know, Hollywood cops and spies are never allowed to stay retired for long. Kicking off with a thrilling opening sequence, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the best entry in the Mission Impossible franchise, and one of the best action movies in recent years. Not bad for first-time live-action director Brad Bird, though with his widely acclaimed previous work on animated features The Iron Giant, and Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille, it’s not a huge surprise.—Michael Dunaway
Director: Guy Ritchie
Love or hate him, Guy Ritchie has redefined the gangster genre with his hyper-stylized touch. Snatch may be a lesser remix of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but it boasts a multifaceted plot, frenzied action and dazzling eye candy. And how can you not love characters with names like Franky Four Fingers, Bullet Tooth Tony and Doug the Head?—David Roark
13. Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
When a violent figure known as the Red Hood throws Gotham’s underworld into chaos, Batman must track down his connection to the late Jason Todd, who became Dick Grayson’s successor as Robin until being beaten to death by the Joker. The darkest and most intense of the DC animated films culminates with a three-way battle between Batman, the Red Hood and the Joker that evokes The Good, The Bad and the Ugly in its conflict between three comparably-matched opponents, each of whom embodies a different moral worldview. It should go without saying that it, like Batman: Year One, is not even remotely for kids. Maybe you should steer them toward Batman: The Brave and the Bold instead.