20 of the best action movies on streaming right now
Check out these must-watch action flicks.
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The action film occupies an interesting place at the movies, holding hands with the spy film, the martial-arts picture, the Western, the monster movie, and even science fiction. Where once there were innumerable movies about cowboys and samurai wandering into a small, lawless village to dole out justice, today we tend to think of action films as something slightly different: Keanu Reeves brandishing a pair of polished handguns, long hair slicked back, in a neon nightclub full of Russian mobsters. This is the cinema of stylized violence, high speeds, and an emphasis on choreographed movement.
Below, we’ve recommended 20 of the best action movies you can stream now on Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Hulu, and other big streaming services. They’ve got everything from Japanese sword fighting to Italian race cars and all the bloody spectacle in between.
1. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
In John Carpenter’s sophomore feature, cops, convicts, and a pair of secretaries fight alongside one another in an L.A. precinct besieged by gangbangers out for vengeance. “There are no heroes anymore,” a police captain tells Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) in the film’s first act. “Only men who follow orders.”
This 1976 throwback to American Westerns like Rio Bravo seems a prelude to the director’s imaginative ’81 thriller, Escape from New York. It stars Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer, Martin West, and Tony Burton.
2. Blackhat (2015)
Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth and Tang Wei as a hacker and network engineer, respectively, hunting down a cyberterrorist in the signature neon-lit underworld of director Michael Mann.
Inspired by last decade’s headlines, the film explores the ways in which the internet has made the world a prison of surveillance, and ultimately feels like a post-cyberpunk reprise of Thief, Mann’s 1981 debut.
The cast also includes Viola Davis and Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany, and the mysterious baddie—played by Yorick van Wageningen—delivers some chilling dialogue that speaks volumes about the world we’re living in.
3. Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig’s first outing as the iconic MI6 agent James Bond is among the best in the long-running series, offering a rich origin story while bringing the character firmly into the post-9/11 era.
It features a thrilling foot chase with freerunning pioneer Sébastien Foucan, as well as famed Dutch actor and all-around übermensch Mads Mikkelsen as the sinister Le Chiffre. Eva Green plays the otherworldly Vesper Lynd.
It’s helmed by GoldenEye (Bond ’95) director Martin Campbell, and includes Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name,” one of the best theme songs in the franchise’s 59-year history.
4. Dunkirk (2017)
More Titanic than Saving Private Ryan, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk treats war as a disorderly and senseless disaster. It follows British and French forces as they struggle to evacuate Dunkirk in the midst of German occupation. It’s tense and horrific—it’s also one of the director’s most technically proficient films.
Fionn Whitehead stars as the rank-and-file infantryman at the heart of the picture. He’s joined by the likes of Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, and Spielberg favorite Mark Rylance.
5. Ford v Ferrari (2019)
An astonishing work from James Mangold, the writer-director behind the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones entry, Ford v Ferrari is the ultimate racing movie. Based on the real story of the Ford Motors team that beat Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans race, its climactic sequence is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
It’s a towering achievement in the realm of high-speed stunt driving—one that doesn’t get in the way of a good story. The film stars Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as his star driver, Ken Miles.
6. Hell or High Water (2016)
Two brothers embark on a spree of bank robberies to save their family’s farm—and the oil recently discovered on the land. Ben Foster, one of the most underappreciated actors working today, shines here as fearless troublemaker Tanner Howard, while Chris Pine turns on the charm as his well-meaning younger brother, Toby. Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham play the seasoned lawmen out to nail them.
This is a powerful movie with plenty to say about 21st-century American life, but it’s also terrific fun.
7. The Hidden Fortress (1958)
You don’t get to modern action films like John Wick or Nobody without the classic Westerns and samurai pictures—those of John Ford, Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone. Their rugged, complex antiheroes are ingrained in the language of cinema, and Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress is as good a place to start as any.
Misa Uehara’s Princess Yuki was one of two or three main inspirations for Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the film’s male lead, Toshiro Mifune, is among the most famous actors who ever lived.
8. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Kill Bill is a stylistic tour de force from Quentin Tarantino. It’s neither the sort of warm character study found in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood nor the finely made watch that is Pulp Fiction—this is Tarantino unchained, reveling in his most niche video-store obsessions and painting the walls red in the process.
It follows Uma Thurman on the warpath, tracking down the league of assassins who betrayed her and left her for dead at the altar. With a fun soundtrack by the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, you’ll also find grainy black-and-white sequences, an entire section by famed anime studio Production I.G., and a few truckloads of fake blood.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Margaret Sixel had never cut an action movie before Fury Road; four years later, she was onstage at the Oscars accepting the award for best editing. Her husband, George Miller, received nominations for both best picture and best director, and the film wound up on countless best-of-the-decade lists when 2020 rolled around.
It truly is a landmark achievement in the realm of action films, and its scarcity-ridden wasteland offers no end of awesome images.
10. Minority Report (2002)
This trippy tech-noir flick represents the best of both mid-career Spielberg and mid-career Tom Cruise. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick—Hollywood’s go-to sci-fi writer—it follows a police chief in the year 2054, when Washington, D.C., has effectively eliminated murder crimes.
Cruise is joined by the likes of Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max von Sydow as he fights to prove his innocence, having been accused of “future murder” by the very system he helped create. From its prophetic depiction of a near-future surveillance state to its unbelievably slick action sequences, this is a cream-of-the-crop work by one of our most inspired filmmakers.
11. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol (2011)
If you’ve never seen a Mission: Impossible movie, consider this permission to skip ahead to the fourth (probably best) installment.
In this one, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt shares the screen with Simon Pegg, Léa Seydoux, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, and Michael Nyqvist as a nuclear extremist with some pretty scary ideas. The film’s jaw-dropping centerpiece, filmed in IMAX, finds Cruise climbing on the side of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure in the world.
12. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
If The Hidden Fortress is a great entry point into the world of samurai films, then Once Upon a Time in the West is the perfect introduction to its counterpart, the spaghetti Western. Claudia Cardinale and Charles Bronson deliver immortal performances as two people seeking justice in a cruel, unforgiving world. And Henry Fonda’s villain, the savage mercenary Frank, is one of the most chilling figures in cinema—right up there with Anton Chigurh and Darth Vader.
Sergio Leone’s ’68 Western boasts some of the most beautiful imagery ever put to film, accompanied by an Ennio Morricone score full of harmonica and haunted Italian voices.
13. Point Break (1991)
Picture the original Fast and the Furious with surfers instead of street racers, and you’ve pretty much got Point Break, an unmissable piece of ’90s pop culture. Skydiving, bank heists, romance, surfing, a fistfight with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis—what doesn’t this movie have?
The film stars Keanu Reeves as an undercover FBI agent and Patrick Swayze as a zen surfer who does crimes. And it’s directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who went on to nab the Oscars for best director and best picture with 2008’s The Hurt Locker.
14. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The first Indiana Jones film just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and with a fifth installment on the horizon, there’s no better time to revisit this ageless Harrison Ford vehicle.
It’s one of Ford’s most iconic performances and proof of Spielberg’s technical mastery. It’s also got all the magic of a John Williams soundtrack, and of course Karen Allen appears as the beloved Marion Ravenwood. A roguish archeology professor scours the Earth for mythical relics, getting into trouble along the way, and there’s never a dull moment.
15. Red Tails (2012)
A longtime pet project for the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas finally managed to get this production off the ground in the wake of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. He enlisted Anthony Hemingway—best known for television shows like The Wire, ER, Battlestar Galactica, True Blood, and Shameless—to handle directing duties.
There’s plenty of romance here, but Red Tails is inspired by the real Tuskegee Airmen, a largely all-Black cadre of fighter pilots who fought in World War II. The cast includes Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Michael B. Jordan, Bryan Cranston, and Leslie Odom Jr.
16. Sin City (2005)
This grimy black-and-white noir anthology comes straight from the comic-book source material, delivering strikingly unique visuals as well as compelling performances.
It’s directed by Robert Rodriguez and Sin City creator Frank Miller, with contributions from Quentin Tarantino, and features an all-star mid-aughts cast: Clive Owen, Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Powers Booth, Rutger Hauer, Benicio Del Toro, and a sublime Mickey Rourke.
17. Speed (1994)
When I think of the quintessential ’90s action flicks, Speed is the first that comes to mind. A longtime TV staple, it was the directorial debut of Die Hard cinematographer Jan de Bont, who went on to make The Haunting and Twister.
As cheeky as Die Hard, as absurd as Mission: Impossible, this made the perfect Keanu Reeves vehicle in a time before The Matrix or John Wick. It’s full of familiar faces, too: Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, a delightfully fiendish Dennis Hopper, Ferris Bueller’s Alan Ruck, Mulholland Drive’s Patrick Fischler, Terminator 2’s Joe Morton. And the screenplay alone is incredible.
18. Thief (1981)
The blueprint for much of the career that followed, Thief established director Michael Mann as a master of the character-driven crime epic. James Caan stars as a professional jewel thief making his way in the dark, rain-slicked streets of Chicago. Jim Belushi, in his first serious acting role, plays his partner.
Willie Nelson also turns in a memorable performance as Caan’s mentor, Tuesday Weld is perfectly cast as the love interest, and Robert Prosky makes for one of the most hateable villains in movie history.
19. Unstoppable (2010)
Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, two of the most charming actors alive, hunt a runaway train in this masterful action picture from the late Tony Scott. Frank (Washington) has worked on the railroad for 28 years; today’s Will’s (Pine) first day on the job. Inspired by the true story of the CSX 8888 incident, Scott and screenwriter Mark Bomback manage to turn this high-speed flick into a moving allegory about job security and the anxieties that come with growing older in the workplace.
By the film’s 39-minute mark, an unmanned train (called a “coaster,” we’re told) is doing 71 miles per hour down the track—full throttle—toward a densely populated area. But Frank’s been at this a long time. Have a little faith.
20. The War of the Worlds (1953)
This 1950s blockbuster used sequences of apocalyptic destruction from an alien invasion to explore the Cold War and the ever-present threat of the Bomb.
It’s a special-effects marvel, given its age, featuring Martian war machines inspired by cobra heads and manta rays. And it’s got some truly fantastic scenes of horror and suspense. It’s no wonder Steven Spielberg decided to remake it in the age of CGI.
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