Netflix pumped $65 million into Extraction, a streaming blockbuster directed by stunt performer Sam Hargrave and starring freaking Chris Hemsworth. And after watching a 12-minute single take that required Hargrave to literally strap himself to a car, filming a high-speed chase that turns into a residential hide-and-go-gun fight, you might have wondered why other action movies don’t, you know, like, give stunt people more control over cinematic direction. Who knows.
But what we do know is there are actually lots of other great action movies that make even this 12-minute oner seem only slightly impressive. If you’re willing to go outside of Netflix and (god forbid) rent some films, we recommend checking out the Raid and John Wick films, if you haven’t already. Their combination of martial arts, gun fighting, and car chasing is just about the best of the last ten years.
But if Extraction roped you into another month on Netflix, and if you’re looking for more streaming flicks to fill those many bullet-sized holes—which Chris Hemsworth’s character somehow/maybe/almost survived—we’ve got your fix.
Here are the 27 best action movies on Netflix right now.
Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais. Are you not sold yet? It features just the sort of mercenary-trying-to-protect-important-female-character-from-assassins storyline to make your eyes roll (the plots for most of these films are, to be honest pretty dumb), but that’s not the point. The point is it stars freaking Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa and is a great action movie.
The Night Comes for Us
Ito, a brutal enforcer for the Six Seas Triad, turns on his gangster bosses in order to protect Reina, an innocent girl who was orphaned when the Triad killed her family. Ito spirits her away to his hometown of Jakarta, and as he tries desperately to acquire a new passport for Reina and move her to safety, his former employers close in, leading to a series of bloody, bone-cracking confrontations with figures from his past.
Ip Man 1, 2, and 3
Well Go USA
In case it isn’t clear, Ip Man 1, 2, and 3 isn’t the name of one horribly-titled film, but is rather a trio of biopics based extremely loosely on the life of Ip Man, a famed martial artist who actually happened to train Bruce Lee. The best of the bunch is the first. The second one is about his move to Hong Kong. And the third one has Mike Tyson playing the role of a street fighter. It's worth watching for that reason alone. Oh, and Donnie Yen. You watch this movie for the master.
Post-apocalyptic thrillers featuring dystopian societies might be a dime a dozen these days, but few manage to infuse their premise with as much originality as Snowpiercer. In a future where the planet is in the middle of a second ice age, the surviving remnants of humanity live aboard a giant train where “first class” is taken literally: the wealthiest live in luxury at the front of the locomotive, while the poor live in squalid darkness at the back. Naturally, a rebellion forms, led by a grizzled Chris Evans who spends the movie fighting his way to the front of the train to confront his oppressors.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection
(Yes, they’re calling it Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that’s an absurd title change and is not to be taken seriously.) There is still, to this day, nothing quite like this one—despite the sequels and the imitators. Harrison Ford’s first outing as daring archeologist Indiana Jones, in which he races against the Nazis in an effort to unearth the Ark of the Covenant, is still one of the all-time greatest action movies, a relentless chase flick that offers up one eye-popping sequence after another, each more heart-stoppingly entertaining than the last.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive strikes that perfect balance between traditional action and art house originality. It’s car chases with mood. Ryan Gosling plays a near expressionless “Driver” (the no-name straight out of Clint Eastwood), a getaway driver who takes on one assignment that doesn’t turn as planned. You know the drill. It’s not about the story; it’s about the way it’s told.
Beasts of No Nation
Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation follows a boy constricted to serve a West African warlord. The film is brutal in almost every way and features one of Idris Elba’s most terrifying characters (as if Stringer Bell merged with Omar and left his code behind). Director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) utilizes many of the same battlefield-sweeping tracking shots that made the first season of True Detective so mesmerizing. It’s beautiful and awful in equal measure.
Calling Blade Runner an action film might be selling it a bit short. While there are plenty of chase and fight scenes, Blade Runner (based on the novel by Philip K. Dick) has always been notable for its quieter moments–when the camera lingers, when it lets its universe simply exhale. In that way, Blade Runner was a genre defining sci-fi experience. But it also made the moments of action that much more intense.
Kung Fu Hustle
While you await the return of Shaolin Soccer to Netflix, check out Stephen Chow’s other work of zany kung-fu mayhem. You might laugh at first, but trust us, you’ll realize the fight choreography (employing more than a couple wires) is actually really awesome.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Let’s jump into some westerns now. And why not start with one of the most refined of the form. Sergio Leone is the king, Clint Eastwood the … other king? … and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is basically as royally famous as the genre comes. And for good reason. Great gunplay. Great directing. Great music. Great everything.
If you’ve already seen all of Leone and are insulted we’d suggest otherwise, check out Hostiles. Christian Bale stars in this slower, more meditative take on the western. Cue long shots of unforgiving frontier and random horseback attacks to make even Cormac McCarthy grimace a little bit. Max Richter provides a score you’ll want to find on Spotify later.
Missing the grimy, bloody battles of Game of Thrones? Chris Pine dons the chainmail (and a Scottish-ish accent) to play Robert the Bruce, the real life 14th Century king who revolted against the rule of Edward I and led fifty soldiers in a guerrilla war against the vast English army. And if the medieval warfare isn’t enough of a GoT connection for you, Stephan Dillane, aka Stannis Baratheon, plays Edward, the English king.
The other Netflix sword-crossing original is The King, based on the various historical plays contained within the “Henriad.” Timothée Chalamet plays a young Henry V in maybe the best Shakespeare-inspired film in recent memory. It captures the muddy terror of 15th century warfare and features a fiery night-time siege that has to be seen.
When are highly-trained assassins going to learn that retirement rarely lasts very long? Mads Mikkelsen stars in this pulpy comic book adaptation as Duncan Vizla, a.k.a. the “Black Kaiser”, a contract killer who works for the shady Damocles corporation. Retiring from the hitman game, Vizla moves to snowy Montana to live in quiet seclusion. He strikes up a friendship with his shy young neighbor Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), just in time for his former colleagues to come after him.
For something that leans more art house, there’s Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, a bloody revenge thriller that manages to not be like every other bloody revenge thriller.
Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaac), a private military adviser in Colombia, recruits a team of former Delta Force soldiers from his special ops days (Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal and Garrett Hedlund) to pull off a heist at the home of a filthy rich drug lord. But when did a movie heist ever go to plan? Pretty soon everything hits the fan, and the group find themselves facing a series of increasingly dire obstacles as they try to make their getaway.
Jean-Claude Van Damme might appear in this 2016 reboot of the original Kickboxer franchise, but this time around he’s playing the mentor, while the main character of Kurt Sloane is played by Alain Moussi. After his brother Eric, a world karate champion, is murdered by the villainous Tong Po, Kurt travels to Thailand in search of revenge. And if you enjoy this take on the Kickboxer movies, you’ll be glad to know it spawned a sequel, Kickboxer: Retaliation, which is also on Netflix.
Adrenaline junkie Tony (French newcomer François Civil) spends all of his time on his bike, and dreams of one day becoming a professional motorcycle racer. But when the mother of his child reveals that she owes a huge sum of money to the mob, he has to use his skills in another way: moonlighting as a courier for dangerous drug dealers until her debt has been cleared.
Little Big Pictures
In the near future, the world’s most dangerous criminals are imprisoned on a remote, hellish island. Bruce Khan plays husband and father Yool in this South Korean revenge story: when his entire family is murdered, Yool purposely gets himself arrested and sent to the prison island to exact brutal, bloody retribution on the criminals who took his loved ones from him.
Personal bodyguard Sam Carlson takes what is supposed to be a simple job watching Zoe, the heiress to a mining fortune, while on a visit to Morocco. When they are attacked by masked intruders, Sam is forced to take Zoe on the run and teach the young woman how to defend herself. Noomi Rapace stars as Sam, who is based on real-life close protection officer Jacquie Davis.
He might still be best known as one of the bad guys in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Frank Grillo has been building a steady resume as an action star over the last few years, including a recurring role as Sergeant Leo Barnes in The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year. In Wheelman, Grillo takes center stage as the getaway driver in a botched bank robbery. Instead of going down the route of shiny car chases, Wheelman keeps the camera largely inside the car and places the viewer very much in the passenger seat.
The Old Guard
Charlize Theron stars in this action-packed flick about a team of immortals on the run from an evil pharmaceutical company. (Gasp!) Check it out before the sequel comes out, which hasn't technically been announced, but we'd bet on it given the massive critical success of the original.
The Girl with All The Gifts
A zombie plague has ravaged the world. Down in the basement of a locked-down facility somewhere in England is a group of zombified kids who are able to resist their urges for human flesh (for the most part, that is). One girl stands out from the rest of them, seemingly more sentient and empathetic than the others.
Speaking of zombie flicks, Alive is easily one of the best horror films of the last decade. In it, a young gamer is stranded in his apartment complex, just as a zombie apocalypse takes over South Korea. His only goal is to survive, but things get difficult when he runs out of food, water, and any true will to live.
Da 5 Bloods
In this Spike Lee film, five Black Vietnam war vets return to Ho Chi Minh City with the goal of finding the remains of their fallen leader, and a treasure trove of gold they'd buried as soldiers. Though we're a little far out from awards season, Oscar buzz is already aflutter.
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
After their mother goes to jail, two young sisters decide to do everything they can to protect their family and provide for themselves—including robbing actual trains. It's true crime, action, and comedy all-in-one (and one hell of a watch).
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This latest iteration of everyone's friendly neighborhood superhero follows Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) as he takes on the infamous Kingpin, who wants to bring back his deceased wife and son and kills Peter Parker in the process.
Bilge EbiriBilge Ebiri is an American journalist and filmmaker who writes frequently for The Village Voice and other outlets.
Joshua St. ClairAssistant EditorJoshua St Clair is an Assistant Editor at Men's Health Magazine.
Philip EllisPhilip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues.