Netflix has a pretty vast collection of good action movies (including the Hindi dub of RRR and S.S. Rajamouli’s fantasy epic Baahubali movies), but it can be hard to sort through the deluge of new titles regularly dropped onto the platform. That’s what we’re here for. We’ve collected a list of great action movies that span eras, subgenres, and nations, all of which you can watch on Netflix in the U.S. Whether you’re looking for a hard-boiled crime thriller, a period-piece swordplay adventure, a military drama, standout martial arts movies, or any other kind of action vehicle — we’ve got you covered.
In addition to Rajamouli’s movies, it’s worth mentioning The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill. The Japanese action comedy is the hard-hitting sequel to 2019’s The Fable (both are available on Netflix), and featured some of the best action sequences of 2021.
If you’re looking for something that spans across genres, be sure to check out our frequently updated list of the best movies on Netflix. If you’ve decided you’re in the mood for a different genre on Netflix tonight, check out our lists of the best horror movies and comedy movies on the platform. Our latest update adds Thallumaala and The Big 4.
Editor’s pick: Thallumaala
The best action movie that not enough people talked about in 2022, Thallumaala (which literally translates to “Ballad of Brawls”) is an ambitious nonlinear narrative telling the story of a young man who meets a group of friends through their shared love of fighting, and the viral brawl that ensues at his wedding that makes him an internet superstar. Featuring sharp and inventive editing that keeps things fresh at all times, soaring musical numbers that will stay in your head, and just a ton of cute boys who bond over brawling, Thallumaala is one of the most fun times you could possibly have at the movies.
It’s not light on action, either. The movie opens with a series of cascading brawls that brings the group together, and it’s one of many fights we see throughout the movie (and some we see multiple times, as Thallumaala unspools its complicated narrative). It’s a movie that looks good and feels good at all times, and is as close to a guaranteed good time as you’ll ever get. This is one of those rare “watch this movie, even if you don’t consider yourself an action fan” recommendations: Watch Thallumaala! —Pete Volk
The Big 4
Timo Tjahjanto burst onto the scene for many international audiences with his bloody 2018 new action classic The Night Comes for Us, but that was after proving his bona fides as a horror director with his feature debut, Macabre (co-directed with Kimo Stamboel), segments in The ABCs of Death and V/H/S/2, as well as his solo feature debut May the Devil Take You. That horror background was definitely present in The Night Comes for Us, considering the amount of blood and gore Tjahjanto fit in that movie. With The Big 4, that energy is still there, but you can see Tjahjanto stretching himself as a filmmaker.
The Big 4 is a buddy action comedy about a group of quirky and lovable retired assassins who reunite after the suspicious death of their father figure. From there, mayhem and chaos ensue, with visceral and brutal fight scenes aided by Tjahjanto’s skill with the camera and his sick sense of humor (complimentary).
Tjahjanto is the rare filmmaker who lives up to the oft-used “from the twisted mind of…” label. You likely already know whether or not The Big 4 is up your alley. It’s certainly up mine. —PV
A loving throwback to ’80s-era mid-budget action comedies, Day Shift is the debut of legendary stunt man, fight coordinator, and action director J.J. Perry. Jamie Foxx is Bud Jablonski, a down-on-his-luck vampire hunter trying to get back in the good graces of the Vampire Hunters’ Union. He needs a big score, fast, and teams up with an eclectic group including a hapless office worker (Dave Franco), an eccentric pair of vampire hunting brothers (Scott Adkins and Steve Howey), and an old friend (Snoop Dogg).
Day Shift combines action, horror, and comedy in exciting ways, including an unconventional camera trick to make the vampires’ movement new and fresh. Foxx’s leading-man charisma helps make up for some script inconsistencies, but the whole thing works because of the action sequences. Perry’s one of the best in the business at that, and you get a sense of the kinetic energy flowing through this whole movie from the jump. —PV
Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning
Though it’s the fifth and final installment of this live-action adaptation, you can still safely watch The Beginning first, as it is a prequel to the four movies that precede it (it does clue you into some parts of the story that are left a mystery in the previous movies, though). 50% origin story, 50% love story, and 110% kick-ass, The Beginning (and the rest of the Kenshin franchise) should be your first destination if you’re looking for terrific swordplay on Netflix. —PV
Lost Bullet and Lost Bullet 2
Lost Bullet has a simple setup, right there in the title — a man framed for murder has to find the missing bullet that will prove his innocence. That man is an expert mechanic who has been strong-armed into working for a group of corrupt police officers. With thrilling car chases, great fight scenes (our protagonist is played by former stunt man Alban Lenoir), and a simple premise executed to perfection, Lost Bullet is a 92-minute thrill ride, and the sequel rules, too. —PV
The Ip Man franchise
There are five movies in the Ip Man franchise, all of them rule, and the four starring Donnie Yen and directed by Wilson Yip are all on Netflix. If you have not seen them yet, what are you even doing?
The dramatized retelling of the life of the infamous Wing Chun grandmaster who trained Bruce Lee is one of Yen’s most iconic performances, and features some of the most stunning martial arts choreography of the century. With guest stars like Sammo Hung (who also choreographed the first movie), Max Zhang, Mike Tyson, and Scott Adkins, there are plenty of big-name opponents for Yen to fight, but it’s all grounded in a very human story of a man attempting to live peacefully in a chaotic world. —PV
There are a lot of movies about wars in the Middle East from American points of view. Mosul, while written and directed by American Matthew Michael Carnahan (Joe’s brother, by the way), instead follows a group of Iraqi soldiers fighting against ISIS forces in the 2016 Battle of Mosul. In addition to offering a different perspective than the vast majority of American war movies set in Iraq, Mosul has a terrific cast led by Waleed Elgadi, and tense, immersive action sequences that will keep you on the edge of your seat. —PV
Illang: The Wolf Brigade
Kim Jee-woon’s 2018 sci-fi action film brilliantly reworks Hiroyuki Okiura and Mamoru Oshii’s 1999 anime thriller Jin-Roh for live action. Altering the setting from the original’s alternate 1950s Japan to a reunified Korea circa 2024, Illang: The Wolf Brigade follows a disaffected member of an elite squad of paramilitary hitmen on his personal journey for meaning and purpose in a world wracked by domestic terrorism and authoritarian overreach. What Illang: The Wolf Brigade may lack in mood and ennui it makes up for in sheer ballistics, with blisteringly intense firefights and pulse-pounding close-quarters combat scenes. Don’t think of Illang: The Wolf Brigade as a replacement for Jin-Roh, but rather as a companion piece with its own take on the nuances and dehumanizing effects of militarism. —Toussaint Egan
Yeon Sang-ho started his career in animation, before breaking out with the excellent 2016 zombie movie Train to Busan (no longer on Netflix, but it’s one of our favorite horror movies you can stream at home). He’s also made the great horror series Hellbound (on Netflix), but we’re here to talk about a project of his that went a little under the radar. —PV
As Matt Patches put it in our list of great superhero movies that don’t come from Marvel or DC:
Psychokinesis follows Shin, a bumbling, borderline-alcoholic security guard who drinks from a mountain spring recently contaminated by a meteorite and gains telekinetic powers. Ryu Seung-ryong is a joy as an oaf who’s learning to control his abilities, just as his estranged daughter re-enters his life and sucks him into a real-estate-driven class war. Psychokinesis plays Shin’s “fighting style” for laughs, and while it’s not as cartoonish as Chinese director Stephen Chow’s genre hybrids, the movie can make the flying object mayhem both cheeky and thrilling. The political edge gives weight to Shin’s super-powered decisions, but Sang-ho never loses sight of why everyone showed up: to push the psychic conceit to bigger and bigger heights.
The Debt Collector movies
Regular Polygon readers will know that I love action star and martial artist Scott Adkins and his frequent collaborator, director Jesse V. Johnson. The two have combined to make quite a few quality DTV action flicks, but none captured my heart more than the two Debt Collector movies.
Adkins plays a down-on-his-luck martial arts instructor who is deep in debt and about to lose his business. He turns to the murky world of debt collecting, teaming up with a boy named Sue (Louis Mandylor) in a delightful buddy comedy with great fight scenes aided by tangible chemistry between the two leads. —PV
Den of Thieves
“Los Angeles heist movie” is a tried and true genre of action thriller, blessed with titles like Heat, The Italian Job remake, Point Break, and one of the best movies of 2022, Ambulance. 2018’s Den of Thieves fell a little bit under the radar in comparison, but it’s well worth your time as a grimier version of that kind of movie.
To quote myself, from our list of the best movies new to streaming this past May:
Starring a Pepto Bismol-chugging Gerard Butler, Den of Thieves could accurately be described as “dirtbag Heat.” The movie follows a team of former Marines (including Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and 50 Cent) who plan to rob the Federal Reserve in Los Angeles, and the amoral detective (Butler) who hopes to stop them. The debut feature film for director Christian Gudegast, with sharp editing by frequent Clint Eastwood collaborator Joel Cox and an energetic score by former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez, Den of Thieves is a hard-hitting heist movie that delivers on its scheme.
The one thing I’ll add since I wrote that — the score is so good it’s become my go-to music to write and edit to. —PV
I absolutely love it when big movie stars decide to make some direct-to-video action movies. Antonio Banderas has done a few of them over the years, and Security is my favorite. Banderas plays an overqualified mall cop who used to be a Marine and has to protect a young girl who takes shelter in the mall. The girl is being chased by a group of heavily armed mercenaries (led by Ben Kingsley), and it’s a tight 92-minute thrill ride led by Banderas’ incredible screen presence in a very different kind of role. —PV
This Cambodian action movie is about a group of police officers (including the excellent martial artist and actor Jean-Paul Ly) escorting a high-value prisoner. When a bounty is put on the prisoner’s head, the group must work together to protect themselves and make it out alive. With kinetic, brutal action sequences, a terrific leading man, and a tight narrative set-up, Jailbreak was a huge success in Cambodia and is well worth your time. —PV
The Night Comes for Us
The only two ways The Night Comes for Us could be better are if a) it were available on home video, and b) it had a sequel. Even so, Timo Tjahjanto’s bloody 2018 Indonesian action thriller inarguably stands as one of the best action films Netflix has to offer.
The Night Comes for Us is an unrelentingly brutal martial arts thriller packed with scenes of breaking bones, gushing geysers of blood, and no less than three impalements. Joe Taslim (Mortal Kombat) and Iko Uwais (The Raid) star as Ito and Arian, two childhood friends and Triad enforcers who find themselves at odds when the former turns his back on his life as a killer to save a child. That’s not even mentioning Julie Estelle’s scene-stealing turn as The Operator, a mysterious covert agent who faces off against two assassins in one of the most spectacular fight scenes in a film with no shortage of them. It’s a thrilling five-minute set-piece packed with brutal choreography, beautiful strobing light effects, a grisly garrote wire execution, and a tense one-on-one knife-fight finale. —TE
This dark French revenge thriller follows a traumatized solider (Olga Kurylenko) who returns home and seeks revenge on the men who assaulted her sister. It’s a pretty standard (and dark) narrative structure, but it works because of the people behind it. Directed by Julien Leclerq, known for the excellent crime thriller The Crew and the outstanding series Ganglands (on Netflix!), Sentinelle thrives through Kurylenko’s commanding lead performance, a lean 80-minute running time, and Leclerq’s skill at filming action sequences — especially close-quarters action, with a terrific bathroom fight and an unforgettable final kill. —PV
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