Last Updated: February 21st
The term “action movie” runs the spectrum of CGI explosion-filled spectacles and highly choreographed fight scenes to movies with heroes who deliver cheesy one-liners right before the last rocket-powered grenade is fired. It can mean shutting your brain off, or it can mean complex stories that use action to benefit the plot.
Luckily, Netflix has most subgenres covered when it comes to good action films, whether you want kung fu, superhero-ing, or anything in between. Here are the 20 best action movies on Netflix streaming right now, so grab some popcorn and enjoy.
1. The Matrix (1999)
Run Time: 136 min | IMDb: 8.7/10
The Wachowski sisters created one of the greatest sci-fi films in cinematic history with their mind-bending Matrix trilogy but the original is hard to top. Keanu Reeves plays Neo, a young man unplugged from the matrix — a kind of alternate reality that keeps humans docile, so machines can harvest their life energy. He teams up with a band of rebels fighting the machines (Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus and Carrie-Ann Moss as Trinity) and faces off against a henchman named Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). The real draw of this trilogy, besides its inventive storyline, is the CGI effects. The movie also sports some of the most imaginative fight sequences you’ll ever see on the big screen.
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Run Time: 120 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning martial arts flick defied the odds to become one of the most influential films in the genre, crossing multicultural barriers and introducing audiences to some great talents in the international acting world. The film follows the story of Li Mu Bai, an accomplished Wudang swordsman who retires his legendary weapon only to be pulled back into a battle with his arch-nemesis, a woman who killed his master years earlier and seeks to claim his sword for her own. There’s more happening plot-wise — Bai has a love interest in another skilled warrior, Yu Shu Lien, and they’re both forced to face off against a Wudang prodigy that’s been studying under their enemy — but the real draw here is the perfectly-mapped-out fight sequences, which include just enough special effect to be awe-inducing, but not too much to distract from the beautiful choreography that Lee puts on display.
3. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
The Oscar-winning animated film is making its way to Netflix this summer, which means if you didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters, you no longer have to wonder what all the hype is about. The story follows a young kid named Miles, who becomes the web-slinging hero of his reality, only to cross paths with other iterations of Spider-Man across different dimensions that help him defeat a threat posed to all realities. Mahershala Ali, John Mulaney, and Jake Johnson make up the film’s talented voice cast, but it’s the striking visuals and daring story-telling technique that really serves the film well.
4. Minority Report (2002)
Run Time: 145 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Steven Spielberg is the genius behind this mind-bending futuristic crime drama starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell. Cruise plays John Anderton, a police chief in charge of a unit capable of arresting criminals before they commit their crimes thanks to a trio of psychics called “precogs.” When Anderton is identified as a future murderer, he goes on the run with one of the precogs and uncovers a deeper conspiracy that forces him (and us) to question the nature of free will.
5. Defiance (2008)
Run Time: 137 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell star in this war drama based on a true story about a trio of brothers who lead a group of Jewish refugees to freedom during World War II. The Bieliski brothers rescue Jews from the Ghetto before they’re sent to concentration camps, fleeing deep into the Belarussian forests as the Nazi’s invade Eastern Europe. Craig’s Tuvia builds a community there, teaching the people how to fight and survive while Shreiber’s Zus joins a group of Russian resistance fighters. Their harrowing journey to freedom doesn’t happen until the end of the film, but it’s worth sticking around to see.
6. Inception (2010)
Run Time: 148 min | IMDb: 8.8/10
Christopher Nolan’s imaginative sci-fi adventure will most likely be remembered as one of the best genre films in cinematic history, and for good reason. The movie — which stars everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy to Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, and Michael Caine — is the ultimate heist flick, following a group of thieves who must repurpose dream-sharing technology to plant an idea into the mind of a young CEO. DiCaprio pulls focus as Cobb, a troubled architect with a tragic past who attempts to pull off the impossible so that he can return to his family.
7. Snowpiercer (2013)
Run Time: 126 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Chris Evans stars in this sci-fi thriller from auteur Bong Joon-ho. The film, set years into the future following a devastating ice age caused by mankind, follows Evans’ Curtis who lives in poverty on a train that continuously circles the Earth and contains all that remains of human life. Curtis is part of the “scum” that the people relegated to the back of the train while the “elite” enjoy the privilege of wealth and status that comes with living in the front. Curtis sparks a rebellion that ends in bloodshed and a devastating reveal when he makes it to the train’s engine room and discovers just how the elite have been fueling their operation. It’s a dark, grimy action piece that should give fans a new appreciation for Evans’ talent.
8. Cloverfield (2008)
Run Time: 85 min | IMDb: 7/10
Disappointing sequels aside, the original installment in J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield trilogy remains one of the greatest works of found-footage in the history of film. Most of that is because the narrative style lends itself to the tension, chaos, and horror of fleeing a monster destroying New York City. The film follows a group of friends caught in the bedlam after a Godzilla-like creature begins attacking the Big Apple. While trying to save each other and make it out of the city before the bombs drop, the friends document their journey. The directing by Matt Reeves is superb, almost too good, because you often feel a part fo the action, for better and worse.
9. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Run Time: 99 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
The early aughts action-comedy borrows elements from famous Kung Fu films of the ’70s and pairs them with a completely ridiculous plot and some impressive cartoon-style fight sequences to produce a wholly original flick that we guarantee you’ll marvel at. The film follows the exploits of two friends, Sing and Bone, who impersonate gang members in the hopes of joining a gang themselves and inadvertently strike up a gang war that nearly destroys the slums of the city. Of course, the real draw here is the absurdist, over-the-top comedy that takes place during some of the film’s biggest action sequences. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but only if you check your brain at the door.
10. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
Run Time: 166 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
You can’t have a list of best action movies without the wild west, so it helps that Netflix has given us one of the best. Once Upon A Time In The West ticks almost all the boxes for a good western movie, including: Sergio Leone; a mysterious stranger with even more mysterious motives; heroes with shades of grey; and just enough gunplay to accompany long stare downs. All that’s missing is Clint Eastwood, who actually turned down a role in the film. The unknown ‘Harmonica’ (Charles Bronson) and shady Cheyenne (Jason Robards) team up to stop ruthless killer Frank (Henry Fonda) and his boss from taking the valuable land of a widow. Fonda made waves with his role as audiences weren’t used to seeing him as a villain, but you never would have guessed it based on how chilling he plays it. Definitely one that’s worth its near-three hour runtime.
11. Sin City (2005)
Run Time: 124 min | IMDb: 8/10
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez team up for this stylish crime thriller drowning in corruption, comic book references, and A-list actors playing varying degrees of anti-hero. Based on the first, third, and fourth books in Miller’s original series, the film jumps between three different stories all set in the seedy underworld of Basin City. Bruce Willis plays an aging police officer framed for crimes he didn’t commit and who must protect a young woman he’s come to love. Clive Owen plays a vigilante who protects prostitutes from bad guys. And Mickey Rourke plays a man seeking revenge for the death of his lover. It’s a lot of action and bloodshed, all done in Miller’s signature tone and Rodriguez’ recognizable flair.
12. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Run Time: 153 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Christoph Waltz, and Eli Roth star in Quentin Tarantino’s imaginative World War II drama about a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers with a plan to assassinate Hitler. The film flip-flops between Pitt’s Southern-accented Lt. Aldo Raine’s mission to scalp Nazis and blow-up an exclusive event for SS officers in Paris and French actress Melanie Laurent, who plays a theater-owner with a devious plan of her own. It’s full of mesmerizing performances and Tarantino’s unique brand of humor — oh, and a lot of Nazi killing.
13. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
Run Time: 112 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Edgar Wright’s 2010 action comedy about a hapless boy, who must defeat evil ex-boyfriends in order to win the hand of the girl he loves, is a fast-paced ride that bombards the senses. Michael Cera plays a loveable goof in the titular hero, a young man enamored with a woman named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be with his lady love, Scott takes on her exes (six guys, one girl) that challenge him to truly strange contests. The film is a cinematic mash-up of Japanese anime and gamer culture, intended for the crowd who grew up on Nintendo and comic books, but it brings plenty of overall laughs all the same.
14. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Harrison Ford’s lived long enough to see quite a few of his sci-fi franchises get the reboot treatment but this futuristic 80s flick still ranks as one of his best genre outings. Ford plays Rick Deckard, a blade runner charged with terminating four replicants — synthetic humans — who have escaped captivity and are plotting rebellion. Deckard treks across a dystopian Los Angeles, confronting ideas about humanity and morality while fighting off bioengineered humanoids and his fellow man.
15. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Set fives years after Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade marks Indiana Jones’ journey to rescue and reunite with his estranged father, a historian who goes missing after searching for the Holy Grail. Harrison Ford returns to play the swashbuckling archeologist while Sean Connery — most famous for his role as James Bond at the time — plays Indy’s absentee father. Most of the fun in this film can be chalked up to the pair’s chemistry. Indy and his dad don’t get along and their bickering, even as they’re avoiding assassins and tracking down ancient relics, is played up for laughs, rightly so.
16. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
This classic Western starring Clint Eastwood follows the adventures of a stiff-lipped bounty hunter, a sociopathic mercenary, and a fast-talking Mexican bandit. The trio is connected by a grave full of gold, a few near executions, and a lot of bad blood. Highway robberies, assassination attempts, and a famous Mexican standoff make this a worthy entry on the action flicks list, plus it’s one of Eastwood’s most iconic roles.
17. Bad Boys (1995)
Run Time: 119 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in this foul-mouthed buddy comedy film as two detectives tasked with protecting a witness while investigating a case of stolen heroin from their own precinct’s evidence storage facility. Marcus (Lawrence) and Mike (Smith) have been friends since childhood and are now working the beat together in Miami. When $100 million of heroin goes missing from their unit’s storage facility, they’re sent to track down who might have taken it before Internal Affairs intercedes. Smith and Lawrence have an easy, lived-in chemistry that really sells this thing, and the action’s not too bad either.
18. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Run Time: 109 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
A staple action movie of the ’80s, Lethal Weapon still stands up as a buddy cop movie that’s tough not to love. Mismatched partners — one suicidal, the other overly aged for various things — must learn to work together and stop a ring of drug smugglers. Its action hijinks are as indicative of the era as its jazzy music, and the film was even nominated for an Oscar for its sound. Lethal Weapon not only brought us Mel Gibson’s hair but the work of writer Shane Black, who has continued to pen noteworthy crime movies for over three decades.
19. Ip Man (2008)
Run Time: 106 min | IMDb: 8/10
In a town filled with aspiring martial artists, the best of the best is Ip Man, a father and husband who just wants to keep his quiet way of life even in the midst of the Japanese occupation of China. In discovering that sometimes fighting is the only way to keep the peace, Ip inspires many by taking a stand during war-torn times. As a subtle reflection on war mixed with a healthy dose of fast-paced, mesmerizing combat, Ip Man is actually based on the real life of Yip Man, the grand master who trained Bruce Lee.
20. Equilibrium (2002)
Run Time: 107 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Christian Bale and Season Bean star in this Sci-Fi drama set in an oppressive future where all forms of emotion are outlawed. Bale plays a man named John Preston, who’s charged with enforcing the law but when he accidentally forgets to take a dose of the medicine that suppresses feelings and artistic expression, he begins to question the system he upholds and eventually, leads an uprising.
Recent Changes Through April 2020:
Removed: The Dark Knight, Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2, Hell Boy, Men In Black
Added: The Matrix, Minority Report, Lethal Weapon, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly