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The 20 Best Action Movies on Netflix Right Now

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  • Posted on 08th Apr, 2022 20:31 PM

This eclectic collection of classic and modern action movies are among the very best available to stream on Netflix right now.

p>Though much has changed in modern cinema over the past few decades, one genre continues to be built upon the same ideas and principles. Whether through high octane car chases, massive explosions, or perfectly choreographed fight scenes, the very best action movies are the ones able to get viewers' hearts racing at a million miles an hour. Thankfully for Netflix subscribers, there are plenty of those on the platform.

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The streaming giant offers up an excellent selection of both modern and classic examples that have been sourced from all over the globe. Whether big-budget blockbusters or more modest passion projects, these cinematic set-pieces are some of the best action movies to watch on Netflix and are perfect for those looking for a shot of adrenaline on a lazy afternoon or evening.

300 (2007)

  • Runtime: 116 Minutes
  • Budget: $60-65 Million
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey & David Wenham

Based on the Frank Miller comic book series of the same name, 300 tells the story of Leonidas of Sparta and the 299 Spartan soldiers who bravely followed him into battle against the Persian forces. Some may choose to see this as an example of how sheer power of will and unyielding determination can help to bring about the impossible, but, for most, it's just an excellent action flick with great choreography and one or two unforgettable set-piece moments.

Perhaps more than any other director before or since, Zack Snyder really does seem to have a gift for adapting Miller's signature style for the big screen. The cast also play their part well, with most considering this to be Gerard Butler's best and most memorable performance to date and the one that really helped to establish him as one of the genre's heavy hitters.

American Gangster (2007)

  • Runtime: 157 Minutes
  • Budget: $100 Million
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington & Chiwetel Ejiofor

Those looking for a good gangster movie would perhaps be better served watching something like Goodfellas, but anyone who's after a movie that's a little more action-oriented will probably prefer American Gangster. It's one of several great Ridley Scott movies starring Russell Crowe and is based on a true story that seems almost too good not to have been completely made up.

Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas, the former right-hand man of infamous Harlem mob boss Ellsworth Johnson. When Johnson dies from a heart attack, Frank begins to sell heroin and quickly becomes one of the most powerful men in New York. Crowe's character, Richie Roberts, is one of many law enforcement agents tasked with bringing the drug kingpin to justice.

Batman Begins (2005)

  • Runtime: 140 Minutes
  • Budget: $150 Million
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine & Liam Neeson

Marvel may be the bigger name in the world of superhero movies these days, but, back in the early two-thousands, all eyes were on the Batman. Christopher Nolan's fantastic Dark Knight trilogy really helped to bring the superhero genre to the mainstream with its gritty tone, explosive action scenes, and fantastic lineup of memorable villains.

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Following a spell on the sidelines, Batman Begins recently returned to Netflix, as too did its much-loved sequel, The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, the third and final part of Nolan's Batman trilogy isn't available on Netflix in the states right now, but, as many consider it to be the weakest of the three movies anyway, this really shouldn't stop viewers from enjoying the first two.

Blade Runner (1982)

  • Runtime: 117 Minutes
  • Budget: $30 Million
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer & Sean Young

Blade Runner is another great Ridley Scott movie that falls firmly into two different genres and is considered by many to be one of the best sci-fi movies ever made. It has plenty of action elements as well though, making it a bit like The Matrix: a solid choice for those who are fans of both action and sci-fi flicks.

Based on Phillip K. Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the movie stars Harrison Ford as bounty hunter Rick Deckard, who is responsible for tracking down and killing escaped androids known as Replicants. It's one of the best-looking movies of the eighties and features an incredible plot with plenty of great setpiece moments.

The Debt Collector (2018)

  • Runtime: 95 Minutes
  • Budget: $3 Million
  • Director: Jesse V. Johnson
  • Starring: Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor & Vladimir Kulich

Considering how little money was spent on its production, The Debt Collector looks absolutely fantastic. It perfectly captures LA's darker side in terms of both its visuals and its tone and is able to back all of this up with some impressively well-choreographed hand-to-hand action scenes. For fans of Jesse V. Johnson's work, it's very much more of the same.

The plot may be a little basic, but the acting is solid enough throughout and the direction is mostly on point. When all's said and done, this really isn't the kind of movie that one watches for its story, with the narrative instead serving more as a vehicle with which to guide viewers from fight scene to fight scene; all of which are perfectly composed to keep the heart pumping at a rapid pace.

Desperado (1995)

  • Runtime: 105 Minutes
  • Budget: $7 Million
  • Director: Robert Rodriguez
  • Starring: Antonio Banderas, Joaquim de Almeida & Salma Hayek

Of the three movies that make up director Robert Rodriguez's Mexico Trilogy, the second, Desperado, is arguably the pick of the bunch. It once again stars Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, a guitar-playing gunslinger who's willing to do whatever it takes to avenge his murdered lover. This time, however, he's joined by Salma Hayek in what many consider to be her breakthrough role.

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The editing and shot composition are fantastic throughout, helping to create one of the best neo-westerns of its era. It's much much more than just mindless action though, with the narrative offering up a surprising amount of depth and plenty of wonderfully creative and unpredictable moments as well.

Extraction (2020)

  • Runtime: 117 Minutes
  • Budget: $65 Million
  • Director: Sam Hargrave
  • Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal & Randeep Hooda

Anyone looking for a deep or original plot will probably want to give Extraction a miss, but those looking for high-octane action that will have them glued firmly to the edge of their seat should definitely consider giving it a watch. Its $65 million budget makes it one of the most expensive Netflix originals to date: a title that it more than lives up to.

The movie was co-written by the Russo brothers and stars Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake: a black ops mercenary tasked with saving the kidnapped son of an Indian drug lord. There are some pretty big twists and turns along the way, however, ensuring that viewers are always left guessing what exactly is going to happen next.

Fearless (2006)

  • Runtime: 105 Minutes
  • Budget: $14 Million +
  • Director: Ronny Yu
  • Starring: Jet Li, Mikihiro Ogawa & Sun Li

First released in Hong Kong in January of 2006, many consider Fearless to be Jet Li's very best movie of all time and it's easy to understand why. His performance is excellent and the martial arts on display are some of the finest onscreen showings since the days of the peerless Bruce Lee.

The movie is based loosely on the life of Huo Yuanjia, a talented Chinese martial artist who became famous for defeating foreigners in combat around the turn of the twentieth century. It's a wild ride from start to finish, and though the ending is a bit of a downer, it's still well worth watching for the fantastic combat scenes.

Gladiator (2000)

  • Runtime: 155 Minutes
  • Budget: $103 Million
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix & Connie Nielsen

When it comes to directing amazing action movies, few can hold a candle to the great Ridley Scott. The veteran director's name is firmly attached to some of the genre's very best movies and franchises of all time, including his 2000 masterpiece, Gladiator. With no fewer than twelve Oscar nominations to its name, it's one of Scott's most critically acclaimed movies ever and well worth a watch.

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Gladiator tells the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius, a high-ranking Roman officer who is forced into slavery following the death of his family. Maximus, who is played by Russell Crowe, eventually becomes a gladiator and vows to work his way up through the ranks so that he can take revenge on the man responsible for the deaths of his family and his former emperor.

Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

  • Runtime: 114 Minutes
  • Budget: $30 Million
  • Director: Navot Papushado
  • Starring: Karen Gillan, Lena Headey & Carla Gugino

Gunpowder Milkshake is one of those movies that most viewers will forget almost immediately after they've watched it. Sadly, there just isn't enough depth to it to leave a lasting impression. The good news is that most people don't watch action movies for deep storylines or heartfelt moments. They want excitement, and that is something that Navot Papushado's movie delivers in great abundance.

In many ways, this is the very embodiment of all style and no substance, but that actually ends up looking a lot better than the negative connotations of that old adage might otherwise suggest. When all's said and done, it's definitely worth watching, and, with a sequel currently in the works, there's every possibility that the returning cast will get a chance to stretch their creative legs a little more next time out.

Ip Man (2008)

  • Runtime: 108 Minutes
  • Budget: $11.7 Million
  • Director: Wilson Yip
  • Starring: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam & Lynn Hung

Cantonese Kung Fu movies aren't quite as popular in the west these days as they once were, but that's no reason to overlook Wilson Yip's fantastic Ip Man series. Based on the life of a Wing Chun style Grandmaster who once taught Bruce Lee, the movies are full to the brim with exciting moments and masterful choreography.

Though one or two of the sequels are a little rough around the edges, the original really is top tier and still holds up very well today despite now being well over a decade old. Donnie Yen really stands out as the titular character, and his mixed martial arts background helps to provide an air of believability that only the very best martial arts actors are able to pull off.

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

  • Runtime: 92 Minutes
  • Budget: $130 Million
  • Director: John Stevenson & Mark Osborne
  • Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman & Angelina Jolie

Given the genre's proclivity for violence, it can sometimes be difficult to find an action movie that's suitable for both adults and kids. Kung Fu Panda definitely fits the bill though, with its thoughtful humor, tight animation, and fantastic martial arts fight scenes all coming together seamlessly. Better still, the movie also has a half-decent plot, which is more than can be said for a lot of other high-octane action movies.

Jack Black may be a little one-dimensional at times, but he always brings his A-game to the table when it matters most. He's a surprisingly safe pair of hands in that regard and therefore the perfect person to lead the Kung Fu Panda cast as Po. With the trilogy now completed, there's arguably never been a better time to check out this massively underrated series, starting, of course, with the 2008 original.

Midnight Run (1988)

  • Runtime: 126 Minutes
  • Budget: $35 Million
  • Director: Martin Brest
  • Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin & Yaphet Kotto

Perhaps due to its comedic moments, Midnight Run is often overlooked during conversations surrounding the best Robert De Niro best movies. The actor's on-screen chemistry with co-star Charles Grodin is fantastic throughout, however, and showed eighties audiences that there was far more to the actor than just gangster flicks and serious dramas.

The movie sees De Niro play a bounty hunter named Jack who's tasked with transporting a crooked accountant back to LA after he skips bail. With the FBI trying to convince the criminal to provide evidence against his former employers though, Jack soon finds himself serving as the under-siege accountant's bodyguard instead. This all makes for an incredibly exciting affair, with a healthy dose of humor sprinkled on top.

The Night Comes for Us (2018)

  • Runtime: 121 Minutes
  • Budget: Unknown
  • Director: Timo Tjahjanto
  • Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim & Julie Estelle

If Squid Game and Parasite have proven anything, it's that some of the foreign-language productions on Netflix are definitely worth checking out. The Night Comes for Us is another great example of this, with the Indonesian action thriller providing plenty of high octane moments throughout its two-hour runtime.

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Centered around an Asian Triad, the movie takes place in a variety of locales including Jakarta and Macau, and features some truly stunning scenes and stunts. It can be a little graphic at times and so is definitely not one for the squeamish, though those able to look past the violence will find a fantastic movie with a unique style and one or two unforgettable moments.

The Old Guard (2020)

  • Runtime: 125 Minutes
  • Budget: $70 Million
  • Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
  • Starring: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne & Marwan Kenzari

Marvel may lead the way when it comes to superhero movies, but that's not to say that there aren't still others who know how to get the job done. Gina Prince-Bythewood and Greg Rucka are two such people, with the pair teaming up tremendously well to bring the latter's comic book series The Old Guard to the big screen.

The movie tells the story of a group of immortal mercenaries as they seek revenge against a former CIA operative who set them up. Charlize Theron plays the oldest member of the team and provides the perfect punctuation for the movie's pulsating action scenes. It's also one of the very few superhero movies to include LGBT characters, for which it has garnered widespread praise from both critics and viewers alike.

Red Notice (2021)

  • Runtime: 118 Minutes
  • Budget: $200 Million
  • Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds & Gal Gadot

Few movies have found quite as much success on Netflix as Red Notice, which is already the most-watched movie in the platform's history despite being less than one month old at the time of writing. With a budget of around $200m and an all-star cast that sees Gal Gadot teaming up with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Ryan Reynolds though, its success probably shouldn't be all that surprising.

The plot can be a little generic in places, but the on-screen chemistry between the three leads is really quite brilliant, as too are some of the movie's setpiece moments. Those hoping for a fresh take on the genre will probably come away disappointed, as the movie tends to stick to the tried and tested tropes that have been around for the past few decades. To its credit though, it does tend to execute them pretty well for the most part.

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

  • Runtime: 106 Minutes
  • Budget: $33 Million
  • Director: David R. Ellis
  • Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies & Nathan Phillips

From its over-the-top action scenes to its downright ridiculous premise, pretty much everything about Snakes on a Plane deserves to be mocked. Despite this, however, it remains an enjoyable movie with some truly shocking moments that will have adrenaline junkies glued firmly to the edges of their seats.

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In truth, the first act of the movie is a little slow, but, once things start to take off, they don't come close to slowing down until the titular plane has landed firmly back on the ground. Ophidiophobes will probably want to give this one a miss, but for those looking for a movie that manages to be both silly and exciting, Snakes on a Plane should tick all the right boxes.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

  • Runtime: 137 Minutes
  • Budget: $94 - 102 Million
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton & Robert Patrick

No list of great action movies would be complete without at least one entry dedicated to an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. The former Mr. Olympia was the de facto face of the genre throughout the last two decades of the twenty-first century and appeared in some of the very best action movies of all time during that period.

Recent installments of the Terminator franchise may have left a sour taste in the mouths of many, but the series' first two entries remain cinematic masterpieces. Sadly, the original Terminator flick isn't available on Netflix at the time of writing, but its sequel, Judgment Day, was added not too long ago. It's not quite as good as its predecessor, but still crams in scene after scene of memorable moments and works perfectly well as a standalone movie.

The Harder They Fall (2021)

  • Runtime: 139 Minutes
  • Budget: $90 Million
  • Director: Jeymes Samuel
  • Starring: Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba & Zazie Beetz

The Harder They Fall is far from the first western movie with an all-black cast, nor does it really push any boundaries as some of its predecessors once did. That was never really the point though, with the movie's director instead wanting to tell an engaging and enjoyable story in which the characters' skin color is neither their defining characteristic nor of any real narrative significance. In that respect, Jeymes Samuel definitely succeeds.

Through its many shootouts and robberies, the movie is able to provide more than its fair share of high-octane action, while the well-written revenge story helps to keep everything chugging along in the right direction. The real highlights, however, are some of the excellent acting performances that are on display, with the likes of Regina King and Lakeith Stanfield arguably outperforming some of their more experienced peers.

Wheelman (2017)

  • Runtime: 82 Minutes
  • Budget: $5 Million
  • Director: Jeremy Rush
  • Starring: Frank Grillo, Garret Dillahunt & Caitlin Carmichael

With 286 instances in total, Wheelman holds the record for the most uses of the F word in a narrative film. For those wondering, that works out at around once every 17 seconds. Behind all of the foul-mouthed language, however, beats the heart of an excellent action movie, and one that fans of the genre really do owe it to themselves to watch should they find themselves with nothing else to watch.

Frank Grillo's performance as the titular wheelman is one of the actor's very best, while the narrative takes viewers on an enjoyably wild ride; the latter being all the more impressive due to this being writer and director Jeremy Rush's first time behind the wheel. Given the movie's modest budget, viewers should keep their expectations in check when it comes to special effects, but there are still a fair few explosive moments to enjoy nonetheless.

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