From blockbusters to low-budget productions, from Hollywood movies to foreign films, Netflix has something for every kind of action junkie. Here are the best action movies you can stream on Netflix.
Update, 12/2/21: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident these are still the best action movies on Netflix.
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This adaptation of the goofy 1970s TV series Charlie’s Angels keeps the bubbly tone of the original while adding some clever self-awareness. Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu star as the title characters, private investigators working for a mysterious unseen boss named Charlie. They’re hired to find a missing tech mogul, but the plot is just an excuse for silly comedy and equally silly action sequences, delivered with brightness and exuberance by director McG.
Charlie’s Angels never takes itself seriously, but it’s still more enjoyable than many of the overblown action blockbusters of its era.
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The biggest star in B-movie action over the past decade or so has been English actor Scott Adkins. The Debt Collector is a great showcase for Adkins’ signature blend of martial-arts prowess, intimidating screen presence, and sardonic humor. Working with director and frequent collaborator Jesse V. Johnson, Adkins plays a trained fighter who reluctantly puts his skills to use convincing deadbeats to pay what they owe to a shady underworld figure.
The world of Gunpowder Milkshake is a stylized fantasia of rival factions of assassins, all operating under strict yet esoteric rules. Expert assassin Sam (Karen Gillan) breaks those rules when she’s targeted for death after a job gone wrong, and she takes down nearly the entire establishment in the process. Gillan delivers a perfect combination of deadpan snark and combat prowess, as Sam protects a young girl from the dangerous forces aligned against her. She’s surrounded by elaborate, colorful locations and characters, making the movie into a neon-soaked dream world.
Filmmaker Jeymes Samuel brings a new perspective to the classic Western genre in The Harder They Fall. Samuel builds a fictional story around various real-life Black figures of the Old West, teaming them up for a showdown between two rival gangs on the American frontier. Jonathan Majors plays Nat Love, an outlaw with a code of honor, who’s sworn revenge against the sinister Rufus Buck (Idris Elba).
Samuel stages exciting, kinetic shoot-outs and chase scenes, combining the familiar aesthetics of Westerns with elements of music videos drawn from his own background as a hip-hop artist.
Based on the comic book series by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez, The Old Guard is Netflix’s take on the big-budget superhero movie. The film features a team of immortal warriors led by Charlize Theron’s Andromache. The centuries-old heroes operate in secret until the emergence of a new immortal forces them to confront the modern world, with lots of kicking, punching, and explosions along the way.
French filmmaker Luc Besson had his American breakthrough with thriller The Professional, which also features a young Natalie Portman in her debut role. Portman plays a 12-year-old orphan taken in by the title character (Jean Reno), an Italian hitman working in New York City. Reno’s taciturn Leon eventually warms to Portman’s eager Mathilda, and together they go after the corrupt DEA agent (played by Gary Oldman) responsible for the death of Mathilda’s family. Besson balances intense action with warm sentiment in what would become a signature style for him.
French action movie Sentinelle is a lean thriller about a traumatized soldier (Olga Kurylenko) seeking revenge for an attack on her sister. Klara (Kurylenko) returns from the Middle East only to encounter more danger at home in Nice, where her sister is raped and beaten by a powerful Russian gangster.
Director Julien Leclercq delivers a simple but brutal story of vengeance, and Kurylenko brings a haunted, mournful quality to her performance as a trained operative pushed too far.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the defining action star of the 1980s and ’90s, takes a sci-fi turn in Total Recall, from vulgar auteur Paul Verhoeven. Based on a Philip K. Dick story, Total Recall stars Schwarzenegger as a man who gets a memory implant about a vacation to Mars and discovers that he may be a brainwashed secret agent (or is just being brainwashed to think that he is).
Liam Neeson’s late-career resurgence as an action hero has included several collaborations with director Jaume Collet-Serra, including Unknown. The movie stars Neeson as a doctor who is in Berlin for a conference, who wakes up to discover that his entire life seems to have been erased. He must fight against a shady conspiracy to discover who he really is and why nothing he took for granted is actually what it seems.
Frank Grillo stars as the nameless title character in Wheelman, and he spends nearly the entire movie behind the wheel of a car. In the aftermath of a bank robbery, the getaway driver (Grillo) tries to figure out who double-crossed him, while keeping his daughter safe and outrunning (and outdriving) various pursuers. Grillo’s grizzled charm makes the wheelman easy to root for, and director Jeremy Rush keeps the action lively even when it’s contained to a single vehicle.
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