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The Best Action Movies You Can Watch On HBO Max

If you're a longtime fan of action movies, you know there's something strangely comforting about settling in with a good one. Yes, stuff's blowing up and things are crashing into each other onscreen, but a good action film can make all that (very fictional) destruction feel like pure poetry. There's something about watching it all come together, watching the storytellers make it fall into place, that feels downright soothing. Or, failing that, it's sometimes just cool to watch people do an amazing stunt or two.

There are already plenty of places to find great action movies just a click away, but the rise of HBO Max means another great film library is now at our disposal any time of day to watch as many action movies as we'd care to. Whether you love car chases or shootouts, big stunts or tightly controlled fight scenes, we've got you covered. Here are the best action movies you can watch on HBO Max.


Ridley Scott's Alien is a slow-burning sci-fi spectacle that essentially functions as a haunted house film in space. Its tone is so specific and so instantly memorable that you could imagine a sequel might simply try to be a carbon copy of what came before. Then James Cameron came along and gave us Aliens, something that somehow paid homage to Scott's film while delivering something completely different.

Cameron envisioned a story of cocky American soldiers who were about to face an enemy they couldn't possibly predict, constructing a rollercoaster of a story about a group of Colonial Marines trapped in an outpost and surrounded by vicious xenomorphs. The scares of Alien are still there — particularly in an unforgettable Face Hugger sequence — but Cameron also added a good deal of action movie humor, spectacle, and pure swagger to the story. Aliens still stands today as not just one of the best action films of the 1980s, but one of the greatest movie sequels of all time.

Casino Royale

Each new actor to take on the iconic role of James Bond has to do a certain amount of work establishing what kind of tone they're going to set with the character. Roger Moore leaned heavily into the humor, for example, while Sean Connery brought a certain ruggedness to his 007. When Daniel Craig made his debut in Casino Royale, the character was re-envisioned as a younger, darker, colder version of the legendary spy, and that paid off in big ways with the film's action sequences.

Craig has spoken frequently over the course of his tenure as Bond about the grueling physical training he applied to the role, and it shows in the actions sequences. Casino Royale kicks off with a parkour-inspired foot chase through the streets of Madagascar and maintains a blistering pace through. Craig's Bond plays like a coiled spring, just waiting to pounce into action whether he's driving or shooting, and the resulting tension makes for a different kind of Bond film and an instant action classic.


By the mid-1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a movie star, but he wasn't yet the Arnold we know today. His biggest box office hits up to that point had been the sword and sorcery Conan films and James Cameron's The Terminator, in which he played the clear villain. The Arnold we'd all come to love as an action movie icon spouting puns and flexing his biceps while shooting machine guns was still waiting to emerge. Then came Commando.

The film casts Schwarzenegger as John Matrix (a strong contender for best Schwarzenegger character name ever), a retired special forces colonel who finds himself at the mercy of a South American tyrant, with orders to help carry out a military coup. Of course, as you may have guessed, they picked the wrong guy to mess with, and Matrix sets out to destroy the entire operation while racing against a ticking clock.

When we think of '80s action movies, films like Commando are what we think of. Everything about it is just unapologetically big and bold and bloody, right up to Schwarzenegger's last kill and the amazing pun that accompanies it.

The Die Hard trilogy

Die Hard is such an essential action movie in the overall landscape of the genre that we no longer debate its importance as an essential in that regard. We'd rather debate whether or not it's a Christmas film, because its place in the action movie canon is set forever, and with good reason. John McTiernan's film about a New York cop who heads out to LA to patch up his marriage and ends up roped into a hostage situation in a skyscraper remains a classic of blockbuster 1980s filmmaking, from the careful way it lays everything out in the opening to the way it all explodes into chaos by the time the cops show up.

The first two Die Hard sequels are not nearly as revered as the original film, but both still have ardent defenders, and HBO Max offers access to all three. That means you can watch the original John McClane action classic, then watch him do the same thing in an airport and in the whole of New York City. The action setpieces aren't quite as memorable, but the wild car chases through the streets of Manhattan in Die Hard with a Vengeance are worth the trip all by themselves.

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee's breakthrough film is still best remembered for its place in martial arts movie history as a major moment that united Hollywood and Hong Kong, and for its status as the film that put Lee and his talent on the map in the weeks and months following his untimely death. Place in history aside, though, the film still holds up as an action classic with some of the most carefully choreographed fight scenes of the 1970s.

Lee stars as a man who's enlisted by intelligence officials to infiltrate a secretive martial arts tournament on a remote island, where he'll also be able to resolve a personal vendetta. Once he arrives, Lee and his new friends find themselves part of a deadly game that extends beyond the borders of the tournament itself, and the deeper he gets into his investigation, the more dangerous it becomes. It's not a car chase or a shoot-out film, but Lee's tremendous grasp of human physicality makes it more compelling than any machine-driven action, and the final fight in a hall of mirrors remains one of the most unforgettable sequences in martial arts movie history.

Fast Five

All of the Fast & Furious films are action-packed to some degree, but one of the most fascinating aspects of the franchise as a whole is watching their evolution from street-racing films to massive action spectacles that seem determined to go bigger and faster with each passing installment. Fast Five is arguably the point when that effort really accelerated, and even if you're not a fan of the previous films in the series, it's probably worth your time to see if this one changes your mind.

The film follows Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew as they head to Brazil to regroup after busting Dom from a prison bus. Once there, a relentless federal agent (Dwayne Johnson in his first outing of the series) decides he'll stop at nothing to take Toretto and his friends down, even as Dom and company are laser-focused on toppling a local crime lord by stealing all of his financial assets.

Fast Five is packed with memorable action setpieces, and culminates in one of the most dynamic and clever car chases in movie history.

From Dusk till Dawn

In 1996, as they were each riding the first wave of their mainstream success, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino decided to collaborate on a project. Tarantino supplied the script (and co-starred), while Rodriguez directed and cast the film with many of his favorite stars, including Salma Hayek and Danny Trejo. The result is the wild action-horror ride known as From Dusk till Dawn.

The film begins as a crime drama in the classic Tarantino sense, following two notorious criminal brothers as they take a family hostage en route to Mexico. Once they get where they're going, though, they learn that the bar where they've been asked to meet a contact isn't just some out-of-the-way roadhouse, but a nest of vampires. What follows is a night of pure mayhem that features some of the most creative monster kills you're ever likely to see. Raunchy, wicked, and packed with humor, From Dusk Till Dawn is one of those films that could turn into movie comfort food for you.


Some people like their action movies big, while others prefer a more tightly controlled, intimate environment, where the stakes can perhaps feel a bit more realistic. Hanna, from director Joe Wright, is for the latter crowd, and it delivers the goods in a particularly stylish way.

The film follows the title character (played with vulnerable ferocity by Saoirse Ronan) as she faces off against a shady CIA operative (Cate Blanchett) in a confrontation that will only end when one of them is dead. What starts as a tense little thriller soon explodes into action, as Wright shows Hanna picking apart a government facility with the ease of a seasoned professional. The deeper Hanna gets into the web that holds the secret of her gifts, the tighter and more gripping the the film is. Ronan is absolutely breathtaking in one of her earliest starring roles, Wright directs the hell out of it, and the pounding Chemical Brothers score does the rest.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

The John Wick films are unforgettable action movie spectacles not because of the size of the action, but because of the style of it. What started with the story of a retired assassin trying to take revenge for a dead pet and a stolen car has evolved over the course of three films to cover a complex mythology of criminal organizations, assassins, and the code they all attempt to keep. At their heart, though, the Wick movies still have the same mission: to bring fans precise, high-stakes action as stylishly and cleverly as possible.

In that regard, Chapter 3 might actually be the most successful of the series so far. As John Wick fights through entire cities of assassins in an effort to save his own life and reputation after being excommunicated, he does everything from killing a guy with a library book to fighting a guy in room full of antique knives to facing off against an army of killers who descend on the Continental hotel. It's an epic, but it never loses its intimate focus.

Police Story

Though casual American viewers might only know him as "that guy who does the crazy stunts" or "that guy who made those movies with Chris Tucker," Jackie Chan is not only a great action movie star. He's also one of the greatest action filmmakers who's ever lived, and he proved it to audiences worldwide in 1985 when he released Police Story.

The film stars Chan as a cop on a mission to take down a crime lord, but the real focus is on the sheer amount of mayhem the film packs into less than two hours. Chan, who also co-wrote and directed, designed the film to be a showcase for his particular brand of fight choreography, action comedy, and pure sense of destructive fan. It paid off. The film remains one of the most influential films in the action movie genre, and among the greatest action movies ever made. What starts with a wild car chase that runs downhill through a shanty town builds to an all-out brawl in a shopping mall that includes one of the wildest Jackie Chan stunts ever performed. It's essential for a lot of reasons, but that's a big one.