Netflix isn’t just a great place to find high-quality TV shows like The Witcher, Stranger Things, and Dark. The popular streaming service also has a treasure trove of excellent and underrated films, some of which have flown under the radar in recent years. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the action-adventure category, a genre built on hair-raising explosions and the harrowing exploits of a select few.
Whether you prefer gritty films or the charm of modern superhero movies, the premium streaming service has it all. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of action films on Netflix you may want to avoid — including a shocking number of late-period Steven Seagal films — so we’ve curated a list of the best action movies currently on Netflix.
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As one of their first films following Avengers: Endgame, Joe and Anthony Russo re-teamed with Chris Hemsworth for Extraction, a Netflix original. This particular comic book adaptation is much more down-to-earth, however, as Hemsworth’s black-ops mercenary, Tyler Rake, is recruited for a mission to protect Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of a local drug lord. Hemsworth’s performance carries the movie, and first-time director Sam Hargrave delivers next-level action and stunt sequences. This is one of the best popcorn flicks of recent memory, and it didn’t even need a theater.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal
Director: Sam Hargrave
Runtime: 117 minutes
The Old Guard (2020)
In a year largely without theaters, this comic book adaptation has stepped up to fill the blockbuster void. Charlize Theron headlines The Old Guard as Andy, a warrior who was once Andromache of Scythia. Andy and her fellow immortal mercs are exposed by ex-CIA spook James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor). However, Andy’s quest to reclaim her secrets is complicated by the emergence of Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne), a Marine who becomes the first new immortal in a long time. Andy reluctantly takes Nile under her wing as previously unknown enemies close in on them. This may be the start of a new franchise, and Theron has once again demonstrated her impressive action chops.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Charlize Theron, Chiwetel Ejiofor, KiKi Layne
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Runtime: 125 minutes
Ninja Assassin (2009)
Sometimes, you just need a good old-fashioned ninja fight. The Wachowskis produced Ninja Assassin for director James McTeigue with a script co-written by Sense8 co-creator J. Michael Straczynski. Korean pop star Rain has a terrific turn as Raizo, an orphan who was inducted into a band of ninjas and trained to kill on command. After Raizo’s first love dies at the hands of the ninja clan, he strikes out on his own and becomes a force of vengeance. Naomie Harris co-stars as a Europol agent, Mika Coretti, who befriends Raizo and gets closer to him. However, the real star of this film is the intense action throughout. Ninja Assassin updates a classic martial arts movie formula and takes it several notches higher. Ignore the critics, this one is really fun.
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Stars: Rain, Naomie Harris, Sho Kosugi
Director: James McTeigue
Runtime: 98 minutes
Total Recall (1990)
Total Recall is Arnold Schwarzenegger at his finest. Paul Verhoeven’s wild sci-fi action ride casts Schwarzenegger as a 21st-century construction worker called Quaid who discovers that his memory is based on a memory chip that has been implanted in his brain. That chip is blocking his true identity: That of a secret agent who became a threat to the government. Infuriated by this betrayal, Quaid travels to Mars to piece together the final parts of his true identity while seeking vengeance on the man who implanted the chip. Total Recall is fast, furious, gratuitously violent, and a ton of fun — all while maintaining many of the provocative themes from the Philip K. Dick short story that inspired the film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Runtime: 113 minutes
The Night Comes for Us (2018)
Timo Tjahhanto’s The Night Comes for Us is a brutal martial arts thriller that moves at a furious pace. The film begins as a group of enforcers for the South East Asian Triad massacres a village. Ito (Joe Taslim), one of the elite enforcers called the Six Seas, spares a little girl named Reina and kills the rest of the Triad soldiers present. Now on the run with Reina in tow, Ito must fight an army of goons and legendary assassins if he wants the two of them to survive. The Night Comes for Us is a stylish thriller, with deft camerawork and a pulsing soundtrack; it’s also a wildly violent one. Most of the fight scenes leave the rooms decked in blood and limbs, and one particularly gnarly kill somehow combines an air conditioner and piano wire.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais
Director: Timo Tjahjanto
Runtime: 121 minutes
Ip Man (2008)
Based on the life of martial arts grandmaster and Bruce Lee teacher, Ip Man, 2008’s Ip Man is one of the most successful martial arts films of the 21st-century. The film focuses on events in Ip’s life that supposedly took place during the Sino-Japanese War when Japanese forces occupied parts of China. When an occupying general challenges Chinese men to duels to prove Japanese superiority, Ip Man initially refuses to fight until he discovers the Japanese are going far beyond just hand-to-hand combat. Starring Donnie Yen as Ip Man, this beautifully choreographed film is a delight for fans of martial arts films and the entire trilogy is currently on Netflix. We’ve also found some of the best Bruce Lee movies to stream.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam
Director: Wilson Yip
Runtime: 106 minutes
Bong Joon-ho cleaned up at the 2020 Oscars for Parasite, but before that, his most popular film in the U.S. was 2013’s Snowpiercer. Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and John Hurt, Snowpiercer is a fascinating take on an apocalyptic Earth. Survivors of the planet’s second Ice Age live on a continuously running train that plows through the snow and ice. Like society before the Ice Age, the train divides the classes by car, with the decadent and rich at the front of the train, controlling the engine and all government, while the poorest and most disenfranchised live in the squalid caboose. When a revolution forms in the caboose, however, it threatens to derail more than just the complacent aristocracy. Snowpiercer is action-packed and more insightful than your average action movie, a testament to its excellent writer-director.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Runtime: 126 minutes
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is unlike any other superhero movie. For one, it won the Best Animated Picture Oscar. For another, it features an extremely well-known superhero (Peter Parker’s Spider-Man) and completely subverts decades of canon with an ingenious origin story for not just the new Spidey, Miles Morales, but several other quirky Spider-Beings, too. Morales has been Spider-Man in the comics for a few years now but Into the Spiderverse is the first real attempt to introduce mainstream audiences to a completely new person inheriting a classic superhero mantle. It works. Into the Spiderverse is delightfully tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at the faux-sanctity of origin stories while creating an action-packed, brilliantly animated story about finding your way in the world.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Runtime: 116 minutes
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
There have been a few entries in the Indiana Jones franchise over the decades, but the first remains the best. Set in the 1930s, Raiders of the Lost Ark follows Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), a professor of archaeology who moonlights as an adventurer, exploring ancient ruins and plundering their treasures in the name of science. When he learns that Nazis are seeking the legendary Ark of the Covenant, Jones and his former lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) head to Egypt to find the Ark first. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a pitch-perfect throwback to classic pulp adventure stories, with a charming, wisecracking hero, nefarious villains, and spectacular set-pieces sprinkled throughout a tight script.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
Director: Steven Spielberg
Runtime: 115 minutes
Green Room (2015)
Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room is a furious thriller movie — tense, violent, and clocking in at a brisk 95 minutes. The film follows a punk band called The Ain’t Rights — bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), singer Tiger (Callum Turner), and drummer Reece (Joe Cole) — who, after playing a show at a neo-Nazi bar in Oregon, stumbles upon a murder in the green room. The neo-Nazis decide to cover up the crime, and for that, they’ll need to kill the witnesses. The Ain’t Rights don’t go gently, however, arming themselves and proceeding to fight their way out of the bar. With tight direction and great performances — including Patrick Stewart as the skinhead leader — Green Room is an excellent, fast-paced slaughterhouse of a film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Runtime: 94 minutes
End of Watch (2012)
End of Watch is not reality, but it’s to the credit of writer and director David Ayer that it feels real for the majority of its runtime. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña co-headline the film as LAPD officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, respectively. The conceit of the movie is that Taylor is filming their days on the force as a side project for himself. Gyllenhaal and Peña inhabit their roles very convincingly as the pair deal with the day-to-day struggles of South Los Angeles and the people who live there. There’s trouble brewing on the streets, and the two officers find themselves swept up in events beyond their control.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick
Director: David Ayer
Runtime: 109 minutes
The Other Guys (2010)
The Other Guys is the complete antithesis of End of Watch. But that’s the joy of this movie: It’s not trying to be real as it sends up other action comedies that would have paired up Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson as the ultimate supercops. Johnson and Jackson even play those roles in this movie, but the focus is actually on Will Ferrell’s Detective Allen “Gator” Gamble and his temperamental partner, Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). Gamble and Holtz have toiled in obscurity and infamy within the shadow of other, more competent cops. But even when the pair gets a chance to really become heroes, their own personal hang-ups and flaws get in their way. Thankfully, this is a comedy, so we get to laugh at their ineptitude while the action spirals out of control. That’s why we love it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes
Director: Adam McKay
Runtime: 107 minutes
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Stephen Chow co-wrote, directed, and stars in Kung Fu Hustle, a movie best described as a live-action cartoon masquerading a period martial arts film. This is a relentlessly silly movie, so you’re just gonna have to go with it. Chow portrays Sing, an inept criminal who has big dreams of becoming a member of the infamous Axe Gang. At a young age, Sing was duped into believing that he was a natural Kung Fu prodigy before he was humiliated in front of a girl whom he liked. Sing considers that to be his origin story as a villain, but he just isn’t very good at being bad. In an odd turn of events, Sing gets a chance to chart a new direction in his life … if he can get past the Beast (Bruce Leung Siu-lung) and his followers.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Stephen Chow, Danny Chan, Yuen Wah
Director: Stephen Chow
Runtime: 98 minutes
The Outpost (2020)
In 2009, 53 American troops were attacked at the remote Combat Outpost Keating during the war in Afghanistan. The Outpost tells the story of these soldiers as they attempt to hold off an enemy force that has them severely outnumbered. More alarmingly, the army has stripped the small fortress of its resources, leaving the remaining troops in a very dangerous situation. The majority of the film takes place before the attack, and it paints a relatively realistic depiction of the lives of American soldiers caught up in a brutal war. But when the attack begins, The Outpost is elevated and becomes even more visceral as the soldiers face overwhelming odds while fighting for their lives. It’s a gripping battle sequence that makes this film an unforgettable experience.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom
Director: Rod Lurie
Runtime: 123 minutes
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
When Scott (Michael Cera) falls for the new girl in town, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he realizes that she has a bit of baggage. That baggage being seven evil exes, whom he must literally battle to the death to win her heart. Much like the graphic novel series on which it is based, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is part video game, part love story — an inventive pairing that should sit well with anyone who grew up amid the SNES craze of the early-’90s. The splashy visuals, deadpan dialogue, and numerous speech bubbles just add to the film’s comedic charm.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Stars: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza
Director: Edgar Wright
Runtime: 113 minutes
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