The 35 Best Action Movies on Netflix

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The 35 Best Action Movies on Netflix

The best action movies deliver a gripping plot along with the requisite jaw-dropping fight scenes, and Netflix is full of great examples. From martial arts movies and Westerns to war films and action-comedies, this list of the Best Action Movies on Netflix is sure to get the adrenaline pumping.

For a more general list, check out the constantly updated 100 Best Movies on Netflix.

Here are the Best Action Movies on Netflix:

death-race-2050.jpg 35. Death Race 2050
Year: 2016
Director: G.J. Echternkamp
The first official sequel to Paul Bertel’s Death Race 2000—43 years later—the almost mathematically sound Death Race 2050 is almost worthy of inheriting its predecessor’s cult lineage, but can’t quite get an insightful enough bead on the many issues it attempts to skewer. It’s dumb, and it knows it’s dumb—knows that it should be dumb—but it doesn’t actually want to be dumb, which is probably where it goes from sci-fi action romp to dour thriller and pushes to a climax that literally burns everything to the ground. Just as our country deserves. Still, director G.J. Echternkamp—who’s on Netflix five times, twice as the director of the documentary and the film based on the documentary about his dysfunctional parents—knows how to squeeze every drop of insanity from an already-strangled budget, which makes the scope of Death Race 2050 even more impressive. It’s a big dumb movie about a future cross-country race in which killing innocent people is rewarded and mass destruction a given, but it’s also a Marxist screed against a dystopic future in which the means of labor are taken from us and society is subdued by virtual reality fantasy, as well as the best representation in over a decade of Malcolm McDowell at his purest: puerile, pompous and entirely game for whatever. —Dom Sinacola

escape from ny poster (Custom).jpg 34. Escape From New York
In the far future of 1997, when the president’s Air Force One flight is hijacked and crash-lands in the now-maximum security prison of Manhattan, there’s only one man who can save him: a one-eyed Kurt Russell who goes by the name of Snake. He struggles to thwart The Duke’s plans to use the President as a human shield in his march to freedom, all while maintaining his badass disdain for the U.S. government. —Sean Doyle

journey-to-west.jpg 33. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
Year: 2013
Director: Stephen Chow and Derek Kwok
No list like this would ever be complete without an entry care of Stephen Chow, and so while the Hong Kong director’s Western breakthrough, the bonkers Shaolin Soccer, is also available to stream, the even bonkers-ier Journey to the West is a better place to start. Monumentally popular in China, breaking all-time box office records (even beating out Transformers 4, so you know this shit means business), Journey is based on a Chinese literary classic of the same name, but saturated with Chow’s now infamous wit, slapstick, and barely-containable glee at the possibility of fantasy filmmaking. Every scene is an elaborate tour de force of stunts and battles and exaggerated athleticism—just like every scene in every film of his to come before—but Journey takes that extra step to imbue its traditional genre tropes with grotesquerie and phantasmagorical imagination, transforming a pretty basic story about one monk’s path to enlightenment into Terry Gilliam’s wet dream, replete with pig monsters and monkey spirits and steampunk and practically everything in between. So much more than a martial arts flick, this feels like a super-gifted filmmaker doing exactly what he was born to do. —Dom Sinacola

punisher-movie-poster.jpg 32. The Punisher
Year: 2004
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
Thomas Jane as Frank Castle—he doesn’t announce that he is the Punisher until the movie’s last dud of a moment—looks good in a black tee-shirt and a leather duster. He is the Perfectly Serviceable Punisher, and as the PSP, Jane’s whole dead-eyed android schtick seems like a reasonable character decision to make for an actor responding to the script before him. So when he stabs a slimy thug through the jaw—when he, inevitably, kills everybody—you feel fine about it. He has well-sculpted muscles. The film’s real treat is John Travolta as Tampa crime lord Howard Saint, a damnedly vain man slowly transforming into a bitter gargoyle, and a prime argument for Travolta’s late-career purpose as VOD cinema’s go-to slick asshole/bad guy. In fact, once The Punisher reaches its third act, when all of Castle’s “punishments” start clicking into place, Jonathan Hensleigh’s film feels like it could, just maybe, have been something great—capped off with a final murder so satisfying it should both shame and captivate you. Meanwhile, Rebecca Romijn listens to some dope-ass nü-metal and Beta version Ben Foster is here, real sweaty. —Dom Sinacola

newton-boys.jpg 31. The Newton Boys
Year: 1998
Director: Richard Linklater 
Between 1919 and 1924, the Newton Gang—a family owned and run operation based in Uvalde, Texas—robbed over 80 banks and six trains, sparing bloodshed in their outlaw ventures. The sibling quartet—Willis, Wylie, Jess and Joe—cut their legend from the same cloth as Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, sharing more in common with the latter by virtue of their humanitarian ideals; theft is one thing, but killing people is another entirely. Maybe that’s what drew Richard Linklater to the four brothers and their exploits when he cobbled together his 1998 heist flick, The Newton Boys. Today the film feels like an anomaly in his body of work, a straight-up genre exercise that sticks out like a sore thumb against the vast majority of his catalog. But sixteen years have passed since the film’s release, and a steady glance into the rearview reveals a movie that only Linklater could have made. The Newton Boys is a portrait of youthful angst and unrest, couching Willis’ motivations to live a life of crime in his own societal frustrations. If it’s an overlooked, lesser entry in his filmography, it’s also just as important to defining him as a narrator as his best received and most widely hailed offerings. —Andy Crump

untitled.jpg 30. Hellboy
Year: 2004
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
If you were making a list of comic book film adaptations that truly understood their source material, that accurately capture the tenor of the comic, then you’d have a hard time keeping Hellboy off the top of the list. Mike Mignola’s epic comic is one of the best sequential graphic stories of the ’90s and 2000s, and leaving its adaptation to the loving hands of Guillermo Del Toro turned out better than fans could have dared hope. Hellboy is by no means an easy story to commit to film, but it benefits hugely by the perfect casting of Ron Perlman in the role he was born to play—the irascible but goodhearted Anung un Rama, the demon “fated” to bring about the end of the world. Naturally, the perpetually stubborn Hellboy has some differing opinions on the nature of free will. What follows is a joyously vivid, fast-paced feature, full of Lovecraftian monsters but none of the author’s pomp and circumstance. Del Toro’s take on Hellboy crackles with the unabashed energy and enthusiasm of an old-time adventure serial—call him a devilish Indiana Jones, with only a shade less charm. —Jim Vorel

headshot-poster.jpg 29. Headshot
Year: 2016
Directors: Timo Tjahjanto, Kimo Stamboel
Anyone familiar with the tropes of this kind of flick can pretty easily guess that Ishmael (Iko Uwais) is a veritable killing machine, a man bred to wreck any poor bastard fool enough to tangle with him. The film takes his backstory beyond the edges of obviousness, though, eventually landing somewhere in the same neighborhood as movies like Louis Leterier’s Unleashed (a.k.a. Danny the Dog), where childhood innocence is tied to adult barbarity. Headshot is surprisingly melancholic, an actioner built to break hearts as easily as Uwais breaks bones, characters paying for the crimes of their past with their lives in the present. In several instances, innocent people end up paying, too: Lee’s thugs hijack a bus on its way to Jakarta, intending on finding Ishmael. When they realize he isn’t aboard, they murder the other passengers and burn the evidence, which just adds to Ishmael’s moral onus. —Andy Crump

nightwatch.jpg 28. Night Watch
Year: 2004
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
A huge hit in its native Russia, Night Watch is a preposterous celluloid Rorschach blot, the backstory and main narratives of which are too feverishly convoluted to summarize. But it works. As an epic about Good and Evil warriors scrapping on the streets of modern Moscow, the film is blissfully free of faux history lessons from the Obi-Wan and Elrond School of Film Exposition. The audience is tossed into a 1,000-year conflict involving witches, curses, vampires, shapeshifters and hypersonic public-utility vehicles and told to sink or swim. Thus, Night Watch feels like Harry Potter’s first week at Hogwarts—crammed with the giddy culture shock of constant discovery. —Michael Marano

daywatch.jpg 27. Day Watch
Year: 2006
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Day Watch is the sequel to Night Watch in which we learn that the world is in balance because of a centuries-old truce between the dark-siders and the light-siders who live amongst we clueless mortals.The truce is strained when one of the light guys, Anton, is suspected of murdering a couple of dark side vampires while searching for the mystical “Chalk of Fate.” He’s also looking for his son who has gone to the dark side. And he’s dealing with temporarily inhabiting the body of a woman who used to be an owl. Needless to say, Day Watch can be a tad confusing despite the fact that we are quickly updated on what happened in the first film. But the acting is superb, the dialogue is incredibly sharp and humorous, and the effects are amazing. Even the subtitles are entertaining as the words change color, bounce and crash into pieces. —Tim Basham

tai-chi-master.jpg 26. Tai Chi Master
Year: 1993
Director: Yuen Woo-ping
Leave it to Jet Li to invent Tai Chi. Another potboiler plot filmed with epic scale and impeccable grace, Yuen Woo-ping’s Tai Chi Master pits the mild-mannered Junbao (Li) against childhood friend and wildcard Tienbo (Chin Siu Ho) in a rapidly escalating yarn about what happens when great power is grabbed without responsibility. See also: Michelle Yeoh transubstantiating table legs into stilts, upon which she balances while attempting to brain an opponent with a lute; an extended high-wire act dappling the side of an executioner’s tower, alternately kept up and torn apart mid-brawl by Junbao and a furious Tienbo, respectively; and a final battle atop precariously bouncy netting, Tienbo literally getting his come-uppance. Also? Junbao handles a ball of wind-bonded leaves as a raver would a pair of glowsticks. Every set-piece Yuen sets his eye to is a dead-serious lark, halfway between hilarity and awe, so that by the time Junbao’s kung fu is an equal match to Tienbo’s, their showdown is settling nothing less than an ultimate power struggle between good and evil. —Dom Sinacola

legend-drunken-master.jpg 25. Legend of Drunken Master
Year: 1994
Director: Chia-Liang Liu
1994’s Drunken Master II (released in the US as The Legend of Drunken Master) is Jackie Chan’s best movie by far—it has everything that makes him uniquely awesome as a martial-arts movie star and each of his prime elements (fluidity of motion/technique, comedic timing, sheer athleticism) is showcased better than in any of his other films, including the original 1978 Drunken Master (starring a much younger Jackie Chan). Chan stars as Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung who utilizes his Zui Quan (Drunken Boxing) skills to stop the corrupt British consul who is illegally exporting Chinese artifacts out of the country. While nearly all the action sequences are impressive and memorable, the final fight is a real show-stopper. —K. Alexander Smith

35.13assassins.NetflixList.jpg 24. 13 Assassins
Year: 2011
Director: Takashi Miike
An adaptation of Seven Samurai more in spirit than in tone and plot, Miike’s 13 Assassins is a sprawling blood bath of mythic proportions—so, in other words, nothing new for the Japanese auteur. What Miike later expounded upon with his faithful adaptation of Masaki Kobayashi’s Hara-kiri he began here, translating classic chambara films into neo-realistic accounts of a gritty, painful time for Japanese culture, making historical epics literally eviscerating experiences. Seemingly long and definitely gruesome, 13 Assassins could easily be Miike’s best film—a high honor coming from such a multifaceted and unsettling filmmaker—but the film is worth watching if only for the moment when the phrase “TOTAL MASSACRE” makes its reappearance. Just… goosebumps. —Dom Sinacola

braveheart-netflix.jpg 23. Braveheart
Year: 1995
Director: Mel Gibson 
Like any number of other artists, we should be able to separate the creator from the creation. Sure, what we might now know or think about Mel Gibson as a person might not be very nice but, wow, do few films say “epic” quite like this one? Sprawling, bloody, beautifully realized and rich with meaning, this film is everything we hope for from this type of film. —David J. Greenberg

longest-day.jpg 22. The Longest Day
Year: 1962
Directors: Bernhard Wicki, Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton
Forget about the gore-soaked backdrops of Saving Private Ryan; more than five decades after its premiere, The Longest Day remains the D-Day film to end all D-Day films. There’s an easy joke in the title – just call it The Longest Movie – but the immense running time covers a lot of ground, from paratrooper counterattacks, to infiltration and sabotage, to British glider missions; it’s also stacked in the casting department, boasting the likes of John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Ford, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Rod Steiger, and countless others. You’ll need to block off three hours of your day to get through the whole shebang, but it’s more than worth the time investment. —Andy Crump

33.Oldboy.NetflixList.jpg 21. Oldboy
Year: 2005
Director: Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy is a mind-trip like no other, not to mention so violent it puts Quentin Tarantino’s flicks to shame. The film’s setup: A man thirsts for revenge and answers after he is held prisoner in a hotel room for 15 years, without ever knowing why. As the story movies from one bloody rampage to another, the film’s daring audacity gives away to a beating heart behind the madness. Packing a potent psychological punch, Oldboy is in a category all its own. —Jeremy Medina

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