The selection of movies on Amazon Prime Video can be daunting, especially when it comes to the highly variable action genre. Here are 10 reliably entertaining action movies that you can stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Update, 8/16/22: Two of our picks left Amazon’s platform, so we’ve changed them out with up-to-date recommendations. We’re still confident these are the best action movies you can stream for free with an Amazon Prime account.
On the surface, Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto sounds like an inaccessible cinematic experiment, set in the 16th-century Yucatan (in what would later be Mexico) with dialogue entirely in the ancient Mayan language. But Gibson puts together a thrilling action movie in this unfamiliar setting, telling a recognizable story about a desperate man racing to save his family. That man is fighting against members of a literally cutthroat rival tribe, running through the thick, unexplored jungle, but the emotional and narrative stakes remain universal and timeless.
The first of five movies starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, Casino Royale takes the British superspy back to basics. The movie jettisons the ridiculous gadgets and goofy villains of the past, focusing on grittier action as Bond tracks the terrorist Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) and builds his reputation as a deadly and efficient field agent. Director Martin Campbell delivers large-scale, globe-trotting thrills, plus tender personal moments between Bond and love interest Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).
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Director Ang Lee combines the long tradition of wuxia, the Chinese historical martial arts epics, with his experience in American indie dramas to create Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s an action-filled saga that’s as rich in emotion and character development as it is in elegant fight scenes. The Oscar-winning film stars Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Zhang Ziyi in an 18th-century story about political intrigue and unrequited love.
The multi-faceted movie/TV franchise about immortal warriors began with the original Highlander, starring Christopher Lambert as a 16th-century Scottish clansman now living in 1985 New York City. Lambert’s Connor MacLeod fights other immortals in a battle to be the last one standing and win the mysterious “prize.”
The fight scenes combine old-fashioned swordplay with sci-fi effects, and the action takes place across centuries. Sean Connery hams it up as Connor’s mentor, Clancy Brown makes for a menacing villain, and the soundtrack of Queen songs gives the story a suitably epic feel.
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It may not be the best movie from Liam Neeson’s late-career action-star period, but Honest Thief is a solid thriller with a reliably compelling performance from Neeson. Neeson plays Tom Dolan, a notorious bank robber, who plans to go legit for the sake of his new girlfriend Annie (Kate Walsh). But the FBI agents who take his case decide to eliminate him and take his money, so he has to clear his name while protecting Annie. There are some exciting chases and tense confrontations, and Neeson brings gravitas to the B-movie concept.
Jean-Claude Van Damme shows another side of his personality in the self-aware action drama JCVD. As the title implies, Van Damme plays a version of himself, an action star whose glory days are behind him. The movie’s version of Van Damme is out of work and stuck in a custody battle with his ex-wife.
But when he inadvertently stumbles into the middle of a hostage situation at a bank, he gets the chance to prove himself as a real-life hero. The movie combines a meditation on celebrity and Van Damme’s own onscreen persona with a satisfying, well-crafted thriller.
Amazon original movie Jolt stars Kate Beckinsale as a woman with an unusual affliction: She has intermittent explosive disorder, which causes her to essentially Hulk out when she gets angry, leaving paths of destruction in her wake. She controls her condition via a custom rig that delivers electric shocks, but when the first man in years she’s allowed herself to get close to is killed, she goes on a rampage against the criminals responsible.
The movie has a playful tone and plenty of absurd action sequences, and Beckinsale is a delight as the misanthropic protagonist.
The second movie in the rebooted Star Trek movie series, Star Trek Into Darkness continues director J.J. Abrams’ action-oriented approach to the sci-fi franchise. He presents a new version of classic Trek villain Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch), facing off against Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the rest of the Enterprise crew. Abrams destroys an entire city in the finale, but he balances the large-scale action with a timely, serious story about covert warfare and personal vengeance.
While barely saying a word, Arnold Schwarzenegger embodies one of the all-time great action-movie antagonists as the title character in The Terminator. He plays a cyborg sent from the future to kill waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to humanity’s future savior. James Cameron’s combination of big sci-fi ideas and gritty action launched a major franchise, but this scrappy first installment presents a straightforward vision that remains viscerally exciting.
Tom Cruise established his position as one of the world’s biggest movie stars with bombastic military action movie Top Gun. He plays Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who’s accepted for training at an elite flight school. Maverick competes with his fellow trainees in thrilling aerial sequences from director Tony Scott, but then sets aside that competition for a climactic mission. As cheesy as it is exhilarating, Top Gun soars on its stars’ charisma and Scott’s kinetic, aggressive filmmaking.
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