While Netflix offers up a bunch of different movie genres to choose from, action films remain one of the most popular. Let’s face it, these days CG allows filmmakers to put pretty much anything they want on the screen. Wanna stage an alien invasion? We’ve got that covered. A planet of talking monkeys? Don’t worry, be apey. Care to plunge the audience into a completely different world ala Avatar? We can do that for you. Yet with all of that, there is simply nothing that compares to a well-made action film.
Don’t believe us? David Leitch, the uncredited co-director of the first John Wick, as well as this Friday’s Charlize Theron spy action flick Atomic Blonde and the currently-shooting Deadpool 2, shares with us his view of the action film — particularly fight scenes — as part of an exclusive interview coming this week.
“The reason fight scenes are so important to film is that they’re personal,” he says, “and they bring the characters together. They bring you face to face and they can be very emotional. Sometimes with these big CG set piece movies, you’re so detached from the characters that it loses something. It’s great for spectacle, but it really isn’t emotional and isn’t as rewarding as when you watch a great fight scene — which, by the way, is a fraction of the cost to produce. And they’re more visceral.”
The beauty of the action film is that it can include many different types of movies, ranging from science fiction (you going to argue thatthe Star Wars saga isn't action?) and, of course, superheroes. Any doubt of that, just take a look at the airport scene in Captain America: Civil War, where Cap, Iron Man, Spider-Man and a dozen other heroes are all kicking each other’s ass.
And the beauty about Netflix, of course, is that you can do an action marathon whenever you’re in the mood. So to make things easier, we’re offering up a guide to 45 of those films, some of which you’re likely familiar with and others which will be a new discovery. Incredibly, this is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
It’s World War II as seen through the twisted lens of director Quentin Tarantino. In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds, lead by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers. Co-stars include Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender and Diane Kruger.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
This was a real experiment in that it was a standalone tale in what had previously been the on-going Star Wars saga. Of course, it's connection as a prequel to Episode IV: A New Hope didn't hurt, and neither did the fact that it worked beautifully as a band of resistance fighters, who couldn't be more different from each other, are brought together on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star and give the galaxy a renewed sense of hope. Extra bonus: we get some Darth Vader bad assery!
It's kind of Rush Hour but without Chris Tucker. Jackie Chan is in familiar territory as a detective from Hong Kong who teams up with an American gambler (Johnny Knoxville) to battle against a notorious Chinese criminal. The director is Rennie Harlin, whose credits include Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Deep Blue Sea.
The Double (2011)
Says JustWatch, "The mysterious murder of a US senator bearing the distinctive trademark of the legendary Soviet assassin 'Cassius', forces retired CIA operative, Paul Shepherson to team with rookie FBI agent, Ben Geary to solve the crime. Having spent his career chasing Cassius, Shepherdson is convinced his nemesis is long dead, but is pushed to take on the case by his former supervisor, Tom Highland. Geary, who wrote his Master's thesis on Shepherdson's pursuit of the Soviet killer, is certain that Cassius has resurfaced." The cast includes Richard Gere, Stanic Katic, Topher Grace and Stephen Moyer, who will be seen on the X-Men TV series, The Gifted.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl (2005)
Remember when the Pirates Of The Caribbean concept was fresh, fun and innovative? That would really be the first film in the series, which is available on Netflix. In it, notes the streaming service, Johnny Depp is introduced as Jack Sparrow, a freewheeling 17th-century pirate who roams the Caribbean Sea, butts heads with a rival pirate bent on pillaging the village of Port Royal. When the governor's daughter is kidnapped, Sparrow decides to help the girl's love save her. But their seafaring mission is hardly simple. Co-starring are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Personally, we would have been happy if the series stopped with this one.
Airplane Vs Volcano (2014)
We'd be lying if we didn't say that this one was included in the list simply because of its title. Seriously, when have you ever heard a title like that? When a commercial airliner is trapped within a ring of erupting volcanoes, the passengers and crew must find a way to survive - without landing. Dean Cain, from Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, stars.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Set between Episode II: Attack Of The Clones and Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, The Clone Wars was the theatrical feature that served as an entry point to the television series of the same name. Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold) must find out who kidnapped Jabba the Hutt's son and return him safely. The Separatists will try anything to stop them and ruin any chance of a diplomatic agreement between the Hutts and the Republic.
The Hollow Point (2016)
This one tells the story of a botched Mexican cartel deal in the back roads of a border town. The town's new sheriff (Patrick Wilson) must team up with the retired lawman (Ian McShane, who is amazing as Wednesday on the Starz TV series American Gods) he replaced to investigate the source of the deal in order to stop a mysterious cartel butcher and his systematic brutalization of the town's residents.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
This movie is insane in the best possible way. It's a comedy but loaded with tons of action. Vietnam veteran 'Four Leaf' Tayback's (Nick Nolte) memoir, Tropic Thunder, is being made into a film, but Director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) can’t control the cast of prima donnas. Behind schedule and over budget, Cockburn is ordered by a studio executive to get filming back on track, or risk its cancellation. On Tayback's advice, Cockburn drops the actors into the middle of the jungle to film the remaining scenes, but, unbeknownst to the actors and production, the group have been dropped in the middle of the Golden Triangle, the home of heroin-producing gangs. The cast includes Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr., who within the film takes on the role of an African-American as only he could.
Johnny English Reborn (2011)
Wanna have some fun at the spy genre's expense? Look no further than Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English. Netflix describes, "The most prominent heads of state in the world begin gathering for a conference that could have a major impact on global politics. When MI-7 receives word that the Chinese premier has become the target of some high-powered killers, it falls on Johnny English to save the day. Armed with the latest high-tech weaponry and gadgets that would make even James Bond jealous, the once-disgraced agent uncovers evidence of a massive conspiracy involving some of the world's most powerful organizations, and vows to redeem his tarnished reputation by stopping the killers before they can strike." A bit of trivia: Atkinson actually appeared in a James Bond movie. It was Sean Connery's return as agent 007 in 1983's Never Say Never Again. Needless to say, he was played for laughs in that, too.
If you prefer your action on the creepy side, give Nightcrawler a try. It works largely because of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Lou Bloom, a guy desperate for work, who muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism. He blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina (Rene Russo), a TV-news veteran.
Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead (2014)
Given how many zombie film and TV projects there are out there, it's not so easy to say that something represents an original vision, but this Australian horror film, directed by Kiah Roache-Turner, is. Barry is a talented mechanic and family man whose life is torn apart on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. His sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers & experimented on by a psychotic doctor. While Brooke plans her escape Barry goes out on the road to find her & teams up with Benny, a fellow survivor - together they must arm themselves and prepare to battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating monsters in a harsh Australian bushland. The energy of this one is frenetic.
Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses (2014)
Ah, there's nothing quite like a revenge flick. Vietnam vet Frank Vega (Danny Trejo) now runs an East L.A. community center where he trains young boxers to survive in and out of the ring. But when his prize student falls in with the wrong crowd and turns up dead, Frank teams up with his pal Bernie (Danny Glover, Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon films, among others) to take matters into their own fists and prove that justice never gets old. Yeah, that's what we're talkin' about!
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The creative folks behind Winter Soldier are back, and they somehow manage to surpass themselves. Instant conflict brought into things by the fact that the government is trying to control the Avengers, while Captain America is off on a personal mission to bring Bucky Barnes (aka The Winter Soldier) in before the government kills him. Genuine emotional stakes and conflict between Chris Evans' Cap and Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man. It feels like an Avengers movie and could have easily been crushed by the weight of the many characters that appear in it (most of whom we've seen before, but with the welcome additions of Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Most impressive about the film is that there is a massive airport battle between the various characters that is mind-blowing in its inventiveness about two thirds of the way through, and then the story shrinks down and becomes genuinely emotional between Cap and Iron Man.
These days Vin Diesel is everywhere with the Fast & Furious franchise, but people seem to forget (even with a third chapter in the series being released earlier this year) that he has this other franchise. When it was originally released, it was described as being the anti-Bond, pretty much everyone involved proclaiming that James Bond’s time had passed (four years later, of course, 007 was back in Casino Royale, easily retaking the action crown). Describes JustWatch, “Xander Cage is your standard adrenaline junkie with no fear and a lousy attitude. When the US Government 'recruits' him to go on a mission, he's not exactly thrilled. His mission: to gather information on an organization that may just be planning the destruction of the world, led by the nihilistic Yorgi [Marton Csokas].” Also starring are Samuel L. Jackson, Asia Argento and Leila Arcieri.
Tiger House (2015)
This one very nicely fits into the Die Hard formula: Kelly, a young gymnast, sneaks into her boyfriend's house, but tonight, she's not the only unwelcome visitor. As the situation spirals out of control, the suburban house becomes a terrifying arena for violence and Kelly finds herself going up against a group of bank robbers. Consider this one Die Hard in a...uh...house.
It’s difficult to think of boxing movies — especially one about a southpaw fighter — without Rocky Balboa coming to mind, but this one takes a far grittier look at that world. From JustWatch, “Billy ‘The Great’ Hope, the reigning junior middleweight boxing champion, has an impressive career, a loving wife and daughter, and a lavish lifestyle. However, when tragedy strikes, Billy hits rock bottom, losing his family, his house and his manager. He soon finds an unlikely savior in Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), a former fighter who trains the city's toughest amateur boxers. With his future on the line, Hope fights to reclaim the trust of those he loves the most.”
Gantz: O (2016)
This Japanese import is a well done sci-fi superhero-like adventure. Somewhere in Tokyo, there is a room. In that room is a black sphere. Periodically, people who should otherwise have died are transferred to the room. There, the sphere gives them special suits and weapons, and sends them out on a mission to kill aliens here on Earth. While these missions take place, the rest of the world is largely oblivious to them. These missions are lethal and few participants survive them.
Tomorrow, When The War Began (2010)
Imagine Red Dawn taking place in Australia rather than America, and you've got a pretty good idea how this one goes. Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey), a teen from an Australian coastal town, leads her friends on an excursion to a camp deep in the woods, dubbed "Hell." Upon their return, the youths find that their town has been overrun by an enemy army (don't you hate when that happens?), and their friends and family have been imprisoned. When the hostile invaders become alerted to their presence, Ellie and her friends band together to escape — and strike back against — this mysterious enemy.
The Gunman (2015)
Describes Netflix, "Eight years after fleeing the Congo following his assassination of that country's minister of mining, former assassin Jim Terrier is back, suffering from PTSD and digging wells to atone for his violent past. After an attempt is made on his life, Terrier flies to London to find out who wants him dead -- and why. Terrier's search leads him to a reunion with Annie, a woman he once loved, who is now married to an oily businessman with dealings in Africa." The film stars Sean Penn as Terrier, and he's joined by Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem and Idris Elba.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Superheroes? Check. Cosmic heroes? Check. Mystical heroes? Marvel starts here and it's off to a great start. Benedict Cumberbatch is oh-so-arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange, who, in the aftermath of a car accident that renders his hands useless, pursues a solution that quite literally is beyond imagination. He finds himself drawn into the world of mystic arts that pits him against other magic forces that threaten the world. A welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a character audiences will be able to see again in November's Thor: Ragnarok.
It seems that Pierce Brosnan finally gets a bit of revenge for having been dropped as James Bond after four films, returning to the world of espionage. Here he’s an assassin who has been given the target of foreign service worker Kate Abbott (Resident Evil’s Milla Jovovich), who has herself been framed for a terrorist bombing. Now she’s on the run, trying to stay alive as she heads to New York to stop a terrorist attack intended for that city.
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
When the Valley of Peace is threatened, lazy Po the panda (voiced by Jack Black) discovers his destiny as the "chosen one" and trains to become a kung fu hero, but, as Wikipedia notes, "transforming the unsleek slacker into a brave warrior won't be easy. It's up to Master Shifu and the Furious Five — Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey — to give it a try. We recommend the same for this film, which launched a truly successful CG franchise, and is a lot of fun to boot. Other voice artists include Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and David Cross.
The Prince (2014)
Bruce Willis (who won the heart of action fans with his portrayal of cop John McClane in the Die Hard films), seems to have starred in a wide variety of films that people aren’t even aware of. One of them could be this one. In it, he plays a retired assassin who finds himself drawn back into the world he left behind when his daughter is kidnapped. His return also means he will have to confront an old rival. Co-stars include Jason Patric, John Cusack, Jessica Lowndes and Gia Mantegna.
Deja Vu (2006)
A bit of sci-fi for the alway-so-cool to watch Denzel Washington. Called in to recover evidence in the aftermath of a horrific explosion on a New Orleans ferry, Federal agent Doug Carlin gets pulled away from the scene and taken to a top-secret government lab that uses a time-shifting surveillance device to help prevent crime. Co-starring are Paula Patton, Val Kilmer and Jim Caviezel.
Kung Fury (2015)
We make absolutely no apologies for this one (though we probably should): During an unfortunate series of events, a friend of Kung Fury is assassinated by the most dangerous kung fu master criminal of all time, Adolf Hitler, a.k.a Kung Führer. Kung Fury decides to travel back in time to Nazi Germany in order to kill Hitler and end the Nazi empire once and for all.
Enemy Of The State (1998)
Admittedly this one is getting up there in years (2018 will be its 20th Anniversary), but this is an excellent thriller dynamically shot by director Tony Scott. Details Google, “Corrupt National Security Agency official Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight) has a congressman assassinated to assure the passage of expansive new surveillance legislation. When a videotape of the murder ends up in the hands of Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith), a labor lawyer and dedicated family man, he is framed for murder. With the help of ex-intelligence agent Edward "Brill" Lyle (Gene Hackman), Dean attempts to throw Reynolds off his trail and prove his innocence.”
London Has Fallen (2016)
Whereas 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen felt like one of many Die Hard clones (this one Die Hard In The White House), this 2016 sequel took things in a bit of a different direction. Notes Google, “After the death of the British prime minister, the world's most powerful leaders gather in London to pay their respects. Without warning, terrorists unleash a devastating attack that leaves the city in chaos and ruins. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) springs into action to bring U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety. When Asher falls into the hands of the sinister organization, it's up to Banning to save his commander in chief from a horrible fate..” Along the way, he may have also saved this franchise, this sequel costing $10 million less to produce than the first one and generating considerably more profit. Expect something else to fall soon.
Okay, your first impulse might be to roll your eyes at the thought of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but this CG adventure is excellent. When the world is threatened by an ancient evil, the four adolescent turtles must reunite and overcome their faults in order to stand against it. The plot is pretty standard Turtles fare, but what's surprising is the depth of the characters and their relationship. There are some moving moments among the martial arts action.
Admittedly we haven’t seen this one, but the concept sounds really cool: When an otherworldly force wreaks havoc on a war-torn European city, an engineer teams up with an elite Special Ops unit to stop it. The cast includes James Badge Daly, Emily Mortimer, Clayne Crawford (Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon TV series) and Bruce Greenwood (who’s always awesome in whatever role he plays).
Now here's a combustible combination: Director Michael Bay, writer J.J. Abrams and Bruce Willis at the height of his movie career. In the film, when an asteroid threatens to collide with Earth, NASA honcho Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) determines the only way to stop it is to drill into its surface and detonate a nuclear bomb. This leads him to renowned driller Harry Stamper (Willis), who agrees to helm the dangerous space mission provided he can bring along his own hotshot crew. Among them is the cocksure A.J. (Ben Affleck — he's Batman!), who Harry thinks isn't good enough for his daughter (Liv Tyler), until the mission proves otherwise.
True Memoirs Of An International Assassin (2016)
If you’re looking for some lightness in your action, you’ve found it with Kevin James in this outing.. Netflix, which premiered the film, describes it as follows: "After a publisher changes a writer's debut novel about a deadly assassin from fiction to nonfiction, the author finds himself thrust into the world of his lead character, and must take on the role of his character for his own survival." Humorous both physically and verbally, James provides some solid laughs and action.
The Monkey King (2014)
For straight out martial arts action, just go with Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage) and you won't be disappointed. Says Netflix, "Sun Wukong (The Monkey King) is a monkey born from a heavenly stone who acquires supernatural powers. After rebelling against heaven and being imprisoned under a mountain for 500 years, he later accompanies the monk Xuanzang on a journey to India. Thus, according to legend, Buddhism is brought to ancient China." Lots of action on display here.
Adventures In Babysitting (1987)
It's celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year, but this film, which marked the directorial debut of Chris Columbus (the first two Home Alone and Harry Potter films), is still tremendous fun. And while a comedy, there is absolutely plenty of action as high school senior Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) ends up babysitting the Anderson kids, Brad and Sara. What should be a quiet night in, however, turns into a series of ridiculous exploits, starting when they leave the house to pick up Chris' friend Brenda. Soon, Brad's buddy Daryl is involved, and the group must contend with car thieves, blues musicians and much more.
Judge Dredd (1995)
While nothing tops the mock factor better than Sylvester Stallone proclaiming, "I am the law!" (at least that's what we think he's saying, this is a pretty solid sci-fi actioner. In a dystopian future, Dredd, the most famous judge (a cop with instant field judiciary powers) is convicted for a crime he did not commit while his murderous counterpart escapes. Also starring Diane Lane.
USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage (2016)
There is a truly harrowing moment in the original Jaws which has nothing to do with the shark, but completely to do with Quint's (Robert Shaw) memory from World War II as a member of the battleship USS Indianapolis. Their ship, following the delivery of atomic weapons that would end the war, was attacked and stranded in the Philippine Sea. The crew must await rescue while trying to survive hunger, thirst and relentless shark attacks. Director Steven Spielberg would have directed Jaws 2 if he could have told this story. It's taken several decades, but somebody finally did. Nicolas Cage stars along with Tom Sizemore and Matt Lanter.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
From the game, of course, this is nothing but action. For nine generations an evil sorcerer has been victorious in hand-to-hand battle against his mortal enemies. If he wins a tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, desolation and evil will reign over the multiverse forever. To save Earth, three warriors must overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, their own inner demons, and superhuman foes. Gee, hope they can do it. And just because we like offering trivia where possible, there have been two additional films (one animated, one live action), two TV series (one animated, one live action), a live action short film and a live action webseries. That's a whole lot of Kombat.
Death Race 2050 (2017)
By 2050, Earth has become overpopulated, and the government, as is their wont in these kind of movies, comes up with a plan to control the population: they've developed the Death Race. It's an annual competition where drivers race across the country, scoring points for killing people with their vehicles. Offers Wikipedia, "Spanning from Old New York to New Los Angeles, the current Death Race features reigning champion Frankenstein, genetically engineered athlete Jed Perfectus, hip hop sensation Minerva Jefferson, female cultist Tammy the Terrorist, and the self-driving car ABE. Each driver is assigned a proxy, a broadcaster who allows the audience to experience the race through virtual reality. Frankenstein is immediately put off by his proxy Annie Sullivan and ignores her attempts to interview him, and her suggestions to let his opponents pass him." This is a remake of 1975's Death Race 2000.
Navy Seals Vs. Zombies (2015)
Here's what Netflix says: "A team of highly skilled Navy SEALS find themselves embarking on the battle of their lives when they come face-to-face with the undead. After a deadly outbreak occurs in New Orelans, the SEALS must fight for their lives, and the city, against an army of zombies." Here's what we say: This movie is probably crap, but it sounds like it could be entertaining crap, and sometimes there ain't nothing wrong with that.
Jane Got A Gun (2016)
Maybe Natalie Portman got tired of standing around while Thor took on all the action, so she decided to seek out some action of her own. In this film, after her outlaw husband returns home shot with eight bullets and barely alive, Jane reluctantly reaches out to an ex-lover who she hasn't seen in over ten years to help her defend her farm when the time comes that her husband's gang eventually tracks him down to finish the job.
In the world of independent superhero films, this one is probably the most twisted. After his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer, an everyday guy transforms himself into Crimson Bolt, a superhero with the best intentions, though he lacks for heroic skills. He also really starts to lose his mind during the process. Rainn Wilson, who plays the Crimson Bolt, also plays intergalactic conman Harry Mudd on the new Star Trek series, Discovery.
One of those non-Marvel or DC superhero movies that is pretty inventive. Created by modern comic book legend Todd McFarlane, in the film, after being murdered by corrupt colleagues in a covert government agency, Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) makes a pact with the devil to be resurrected to see his beloved wife Wanda (Theresa Randle). In exchange for his return to Earth, Simmons agrees to lead Hell's Army in the destruction of mankind. Hmmm. Not sure how heroic that really makes him. A remake is in development.
Vampire Academy (2014)
We're happy to report that there are no sparkling vampires in this one like in that Twilight stuff. Rose (Zoey Deutch), a rebellious half-vampire/half-human guardian-in-training and her best friend, Lissa -- a mortal, royal vampire Princess - have been on the run when they are captured and returned to St. Vladamirs Academy, the very place where they believe their lives may be in most jeopardy. Rose will sacrifice everything to protect Lissa from those who intend to exploit her from within the Academy walls and the Strigoi (immortal, evil vampires) who hunt her kind from outside its sanctuary.
Final Girl (2015)
Abigail Breslin is Veronica, new to town and seemingly very vulnerable. When a group of senior boys draw her into the woods, it isn't long before they realize that she is anything but a victim. In fact, she's been trained to handle herself in any situation.
Seal Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden (2012)
Torn from the headlines, when the rumored whereabouts of Osama bin Laden are revealed, the CIA readies a team of seasoned U.S. Navy SEALs for the mission of a lifetime. Despite inconclusive evidence that bin Laden is inside the compound, and ignoring the possible ramifications of an unannounced attack on Pakistani soil, the Pentagon orders the attack. The SEAL Team bands together to complete their mission of justice in a riveting final showdown.
You know, there's nothing quite like watching a lady kick some serious ass, and Salma Hayek gets to do exactly that in this action thriller. She plays Everly, who, after betraying a powerful mob boss, finds that she has to match wits and weaponry with a legion of killers who are out to collect the bounty place on the heads of her and her family. Jeez, some people just can't take a joke.