The top 20 action movies to watch on Netflix

With so much to choose from on streaming services, Daniel Rutledge cuts to the chase with the top 20 action movies available to watch on Netflix.



The best movie in years from the undisputed king of modern B-grade action, Scott Adkins. In this he plays a bulky, ugly Cockney thug who beats the shit out of couple hundred guys in prison in the lead-up to one of the all-time greatest British pub fight scenes. Thankfully Netflix has a bunch of Adkins movies on it, but this is the one you should start with.

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Baby Driver

This 2017 Edgar Wright flick has about as much infectious, gleeful fun as a modern action possibly can without getting too silly. It encapsulates that feeling of grooving along to music by yourself better perfectly while also delivering mint car chase action, super cool shootouts, a stellar foot chase, a supremely kick arse soundtrack and loads of hilarious, quotable dialogue.


Wildly over the top, stylised as if by a videogame addict with ADHD and dumb to the point of being braindead, this frenetic 2006 Jason Statham vehicle is super gratuitous B-movie goodness. Thanks to a cartoonish villain’s dastardly ways, the beefy Brit has to keep his adrenaline cranking to stay alive—sort of like Speed but with his body instead of a bus. Cue hilarious sex scenes, gratuitous drug use and lots and lots of violence. It’s also aggressively anti-politically correct in the sort of way where it probably couldn’t be made today.

Crank: High Voltage

The original film’s absurdity and crassness are ramped up to an even more insane level in this 2009 sequel. It kicks off with Statham inexplicably surviving falling out of a helicopter and landing on a city street before being promptly carted off by Chinese gangsters for organ harvesting. Then we get an extremely gross and obscene heart surgery scene, two or three dick jokes, some bare boobs, a strangulation, murder via syringe stab, groin trauma, four dudes shot to bits and a shotgun rammed way the hell up another guy’s arse. That’s all within the first ten minutes, I shit you not.

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s first western is an amazing slavery revenge pic that’s wildly entertaining. Being a Tarantino flick it of course offers brilliant actors giving superb performances and is about as richly cinematic as movies get. It might not be as clever as most of Tarantino’s films, but damn it delivers cathartic, bloody as hell action thrills oh so sublimely.

Edge of Tomorrow

One of the best video game movies ever made, even though it’s not actually based on a novel rather than a video game. Its alternate title, which was favoured by director Doug Liman and is way better, tells you a lot of what you need to know about the movie: Live Die Repeat. It’s an underrated action/sci-fi with great comedic moments, it’s Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt kicking just so much arse, it’s one of the late, great Bill Paxton’s last roles and yes, it’s time you watched this again.


This Netflix original film boldly tries to emulate the John Wick method of turning a stunt pro into a director, with the Russo brothers producing. Sam Hargrave’s impressive, hard R-rated violence is clearly influenced by The Raid movies as well as the John Wick ones and it’s a terrific debut, with a spectacular oner as a centrepiece that absolutely rules. I had more to say about how Extraction rules in my review.

Hard Target

John Woo’s first American film remains his best—sorry Face/Off fanatics, but it’s true. This follow-up to Hard Boiled shares more DNA with Woo’s earlier Hong Kong films than anything the legend has since made in Hollywood. It’s packed with his amazing, trademark gun ballet sequences, nice big explosions and insane motorbike stunts. The action is so over-the-top it’s as comedic as it is thrilling, and even though many considered it disappointing upon release, it’s aged like a fine wine since and is a film I cherish a lot.


Another post-The Raid Indonesian flick that shares some of the same talent, this is a near non-stop assault of brutality that features stunning choreography and special effects together with some highly impressive camerawork. Its story is cartoonish and silly, its characters one-dimensional, but it delivers the goods action-wise with aplomb. Again, there’s more said about the film in my review.


Michael Mann’s 1995 cult classic is remembered by many as the first film to feature Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on-screen together, but by many more for evolving the action genre with its legendary bank heist scene. This changed the game with as an incredibly well-staged shootout put together with sound military supervision and a supreme attention to detail, down to how many bullets each magazine takes before needing to be reloaded to accurate discharge sounds for each of the firearms used. The whole film is great, but that scene in particular is absolutely jaw-dropping.

Ip Man

Quite possibly the very best kung fu film of the 2000s, this original went on to spawn a vast number of sequels and spin-offs and rip-offs. The exhilarating central fight is Ip Man taking on a whole dojo of Japanese martial artists and brutally smashing them all, echoing the iconic scene in Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury and later Jet Li’s Fist of Legend. It’s amazing.

John Wick

Two franchises ruled the action genre in the 2010s—The Raid and John Wick. They combine virtuoso stunt work and choreography with subtle visual effects in sequences featuring nice wide shows and long takes, making every impact as explicit and visceral as possible. The first John Wick set the initial bar really high and is the best in terms of plot, stripped of the bloaty lore that bogs down the sequels. It has a wonderfully gratifying amount of headshots, some of the best of which I catalogued in this feature on the franchise’s most brutal moments.

The Karate Kid

Cobra Kai is one of the best TV shows on Netflix and this 1984 classic is where the ‘Miagi-verse’ all started, so what better time to revisit it? It’s a beautifully quaint American take on a Japanese martial art as part of a quintessential ’80s coming-of-age high school tale. Unlike most of the films in this list, this one is refreshingly PG family entertainment, but it still kicks arse.

The Last Boy Scout

Tony Scott was at his nastiest in the early 90s and if you’re in the mood for a wildly un-PC action-comedy romp, this one is wonderfully entertaining. In it an ex secret service agent teams up with an ex pro quarterback to solve a murder and bring down a crime syndicate. Expect plenty of mean-spirited, hard-R rated violence that still packs a punch today, as does the sleazy, smarmy, grubby vibe of the whole thing.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Easily one of the best action flicks of the millennium so far, George Miller’s return to the franchise that made him famous is just straight up exhilarating. Its narrative is far more engaging than it needs to be and the wondrous world-building is adept in a way that’s often missing from modern movies, but driving it all is a near non-stop assault of unforgettable, breathtaking action sequences that truly raised the bar. Genre fans have this on heavy rotation for good reason.

The Night Comes For Us

A wildly over-the-top splatter action flick, this offers some wonderfully cringe-inducing uses of weapons like broken glass, craft knives and even cattle bones. Hailing from Indonesia in the wake of The Raid it boasts a bunch of stunning choreography and joyfully inventive ultraviolence. Narrative-wise there’s not a great deal to remember but if you want loads of thrilling combat served up with buckets of blood, this is the one. Let’s put it this way, in my review I said it made 2008 bloodbath Rambo seem restrained.

The Old Guard

This comic book adaptation features a bunch of immortal mercenaries who can’t be killed doing a bunch of killing with swords, fantasy art axes and a truckload of different firearms. Like I said in my review, this might have been a lot better if it let itself have a bit more fun and it’s a bummer a lot of the actual action is hidden behind editing and digital effects, but it’s the sort of cool, easy watch that’s perfect for when you’re in a silly action mood.

Triple Threat

A B-grade reply to The Expendables starring Scott Adkins, Iko Uwais, Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen and Michael Jai White, amongst others. Like its Stallone-produced big budget cousin, this one also fails to deliver on the promise of its line-up, with generally underwhelming face-offs. But the gun battles are sweet and it’s still an exciting watch, just don’t get too excited by the potential of that amazing cast.

Triple Frontier

This one is an interesting B-grade grunter with a stellar A-grade cast. It’s worth watching for its thematic oomph and unpredictable narrative rather than straight-up action thrills, but they’re not too bad in it either. There’s also mint old school Metallica used on the opening and end credits. “Two of the very best tracks recorded by any band ever,” I correctly noted in my review.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

A rather weird, very dark, super-duper violent modern cult classic, this film has an army of passionate fans for a very good reason. There are several incredible fight scenes, including a oner in which Scott Adkins wastes a dozen or so bad guys that is just exhilarating. The whole thing is held together with a really sinister, trippy feel that’s clearly influenced by Gaspar Noé and the story makes for a great conclusion to the Universal Soldier franchise.