There’s no need to pay for a streaming subscription to get your action-movie fix. Free streaming services have plenty of action-packed movies from a variety of eras and subgenres, from martial arts to crime thrillers. Here are the best action movies to stream for free.
Update, 1/25/23: Because they left the free streaming platforms, we’ve replaced Hero, John Wick, Live Free or Die Hard, Robocop, and The Rundown with fresh action flick recommendations.
Before The Hunger Games, there was the Japanese movie Battle Royale. It’s also about a future in which school-age kids are pitted against each other in deadly games, with only one emerging as the victor. Director Kinji Fukasaku stages some brutal fights between the students, keeping the focus almost entirely on the island where a high school class has been trapped and forced into combat.
Banned in some countries for years, Battle Royale is equally thrilling and nasty, a demented dystopian vision that makes the audience root for innocent children to fight and kill.
Kevin James fighting a 13-year-old girl doesn’t necessarily sound like the formula for a successful action movie, but the filmmakers behind Becky pull it off remarkably well. James is surprisingly convincing as the menacing leader of a gang of neo-Nazis, who take young Becky (Lulu Wilson) and her family hostage at their vacation house.
The gang is looking for an unspecified hidden item in the house, and they’re willing to torture and kill everyone in order to get it. Becky escapes and mounts a counterattack that’s part Rambo, part Home Alone, in a creative and often gruesome battle to the death.
Becky is streaming for free via local libraries on Hoopla.
Jason Momoa has proven himself in big-budget franchises like Aquaman and Game of Thrones, but in Braven he shows he’s just as capable of carrying a gritty, small-scale action movie. He plays the title character, a rugged, devoted family man, who finds himself in a stand-off with ruthless drug dealers at his secluded cabin.
Director Lin Oeding stages some nasty close-quarters action, with Braven using every tool at his disposal to take on the bad guys. Garret Dillahunt snarls and sneers as the villain, and Stephen Lang gets his own action-hero moments as Braven’s ailing but still fierce father.
Quentin Tarantino’s contribution to the Grindhouse double-feature bill doesn’t get as much attention as some of his other movies, but it’s an entertainingly sleazy no-frills exploitation-style movie with fantastic stunt work. Kurt Russell plays the hot rod-driving killer known as Stuntman Mike, who meets his match in a quartet of women who decide to stop his murderous rampage.
With stuntwoman Zoë Bell leading the cast, Tarantino delivers stunning car-chase footage, alongside his typical razor-sharp dialogue and effortlessly cool characters.
Star Scott Adkins and director Jesse V. Johnson are an action B-movie dream team, and The Debt Collector may be their best collaboration. It’s a breezy, comedic thriller starring Adkins as a struggling martial-arts instructor who takes a job collecting debts for the mob.
Adkins has great chemistry with fellow B-movie veteran Louis Mandylor as the seasoned debt collector who shows him the ropes. The two of them travel around Los Angeles, beating up lowlifes, collecting debts, and heading toward an inevitable showdown with the real bad guys.
The Debt Collector is streaming for free with ads on Plex.
Michael Mann’s classic crime drama is more than just an action movie, but it features one of the most intense shootouts ever depicted onscreen, between the LAPD and members of a robbery gang led by criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). The movie is built around the interplay between McCauley and LAPD Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), who’s tracking McCauley’s crew.
McCauley and Hanna don’t directly interact for most of the movie, but they influence each other’s every move. Mann masterfully examines masculine identity in the context of a sprawling, suspenseful thriller.
Immortal warriors battle across the centuries in director Russell Mulcahy’s bombastic action fantasy. With its soundtrack full of Queen arena-rock anthems, Highlander sometimes comes across like a two-hour music video, in only the best ways. Christopher Lambert plays one of the last of the eternal combatants, living in modern-day New York City and preparing for a final battle with his longtime enemy. As the lore goes, “there can be only one,” so the two must fight to the death—which can only be achieved via decapitation. It’s an over-the-top epic that launched a franchise full of dense mythology.
An early breakout role for Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kickboxer is undeniably silly, but it’s a fantastic showcase for the martial-arts skills that made Van Damme into a superstar. Van Damme co-wrote the story and choreographed the fights, creating a perfect vehicle for his talents. He plays an American kickboxer out for revenge after his brother was paralyzed in a fight. Van Damme’s Kurt Sloane participates in awesomely cheesy training montages as he prepares to take on the corrupt Thai fighter who crippled his brother.
Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa burst onto the scene with this kinetic showcase for his talents. The plot is rudimentary, starring Jaa as a villager who travels to Bangkok to recover a stolen statue, taking on a variety of thugs and criminals in the process. The simple story provides room for Jaa to practice his dazzling Muay Thai moves, in a form of martial arts that had rarely been highlighted onscreen before this movie. Jaa and director Prachya Pinkaew use slow motion and multiple camera angles to make sure each amazing stunt can be fully appreciated.
Legendary Hong Kong action director John Woo returned from his stint in Hollywood to direct this exhilarating war epic full of breathtaking action. The movie is set during the Battle of Red Cliffs in third-century China, starring Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro as commanders in the vastly outnumbered forces of two regional leaders holding out against a brutal warlord.
Woo prizes excitement over historical accuracy, but the expertly staged large-scale battle scenes easily make up for any liberties taken with actual history.
- › How to Stream Liam Neeson’s Action Thriller Movies in 2022
- › The Best Action Movies on Netflix in 2023
- › The 10 Best Tom Cruise Movies to Stream in 2022
- › The 10 Best Hulu Original TV Series in 2022
- › The 10 Best Horror Movies on HBO Max in 2022
- › The 10 Best Brad Pitt Movies to Stream in 2022
- › How to Watch the ‘Fast and Furious’ Franchise
- › Samsung Made a Music Video for the Galaxy S23’s Ringtone