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Action Movies On Netflix You Need To Watch At Least Once

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

Sometimes, you open up Netflix and you're not quite sure what movie you want to watch, but you do know what type of movie you want to watch. You crave action, the kind of movie laden with gunfights and martial arts and car chases and explosions, with maybe a few laughs along the way. You want to see a hero go after the bad guys, or a villain come up with a massive scheme, or an action set piece play out in exactly the right way. You might even want a little sci-fi and fantasy thrown into the mix.

Netflix is, of course, packed with options that fit those descriptions, but sometimes minute after minute of scrolling can be a little frustrating if you're eager to watch something right now. So, we're here to help. Whether you're after an action-comedy, a set piece-laden period adventure, a monster-hunting extravaganza, or an '80s classic, these are action movies on Netflix everyone should watch at least once.


Chris Hemsworth is, without question, best known for his role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even within the world of the God of Thunder he's displayed a lot of versatility. Though he's got a gift for lighthearted action, Hemsworth has also proven he can go darker, and Extraction is a gripping example of what that looks like.

Hemsworth stars in the film as Tyler Rake, a mercenary who's hired to rescue Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal), the son of a prominent Indian crime lord, from kidnappers. What starts as a relatively simple job soon turns to something more violent, as Tyler is first betrayed by the people who hired him, then told to simply forget about the boy entirely. It's here that the nature of his mercenary life proves difficult to embrace, as a personal tragedy from his old past leads Tyler to form a deeper bond with Ovi, one that goes beyond money and into survival.

Thanks to its intense action sequences and the lead performances of both Hemsworth and Jaiswal, Extraction was an immediate hit among viewers when it hit Netflix in April 2020. The next month, a sequel entered development, promising more adventures from Tyler Rake in the future.

The Old Guard

Sometimes you want to watch an action movie that throws as much supernatural stuff at the screen as possible, and other times you want an action movie that gives you just a hint that something fantastical is going on beneath the surface. The Old Guard, from director Gina Prince-Bythewood, is an example of the latter category going very, very well.

Charlize Theron stars as Andy, the leader of an elite mercenary group who all have one thing in common: They can't seem to die, or at least it takes them a really, really long time to get there. Andy's walked the world for millennia, fighting countless battles in the hope of helping people. After centuries of the same routine, her long life is about to change in two big ways, as Andy and her crew face both a new immortal arriving in the world and the threat of someone who's learned what they really are.

Based on the acclaimed comic book series by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez, The Old Guard packs a lot of action and some surprising heart into its two-hour runtime. Plus, it's yet another example of Theron's amazing action hero prowess.


By 1995, James Bond fans hadn't had a new entry in one of the most beloved action franchises of all time in six years. It was the longest drought in the history of the series, and it meant that everyone was especially eager to see what Pierce Brosnan brought to the role of Agent 007. What we got was arguably the best film in Brosnan's entire tenure as Bond.

GoldenEye follows 007 as a "relic of the Cold War" as he attempts to navigate a changing world that includes a dangerous crime syndicate, a superweapon with the power to devastate the United Kingdom, and an old friend Bond thought he'd lost.

At the time of its release, GoldenEye was a dazzling blend of old and new, combining many classic James Bond hallmarks with new versions of old characters like M and Moneypenny, and a more modern action style that placed it distinctly in the 1990s action movie sphere. Today it stands as one of Brosnan's finest hours, and features standout performances from Sean Bean, Famke Janssen, Izabella Scorupco, Alan Cumming, and more.


Jean-Claude Van Damme rose to prominence as an action movie superstar in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and at this point you've got dozens of films to choose from if you're a fan of the Van Damme myth as we now know it. If you want to see where that myth started, though, you need to go to Bloodsport.

Van Damme's breakout film tells the allegedly true story of Frank Dux, a martial artist turned U.S. Army officer who goes AWOL in order to attend a secretive, illegal martial arts tournament known as the Kumite in Hong Kong. Once there, Frank makes friends with some of the other fighters and makes enemies of others, as he gets deeper and deeper into a web of violence that can only end with a total victory.

Bloodsport is the kind of film to watch when you're looking for a pure, earnest 1980s action movie experience packed with big fight moments and over-the-top drama. It's also the perfect film to watch if you want to understand how Van Damme became a star. Everything we love about him, including his trademark splits, is here.

Knockaround Guys

There are a lot of films out there about gangsters, how they rise and how they fall, but they usually focus on the big shots. Then, occasionally, you get a film about the guys behind the big shots, and if it's done right the results are very entertaining.

Knockaround Guys is one of those films. It's the story of a group of friends, all children of prominent wise guys, who seem unable to rise through the ranks of organized crime. Matty (Barry Pepper) thinks he sees a way out of permanent errand boy status when he realizes he and his pals can retrieve a bag of money for his crime boss father (Dennis Hopper). But when the money is unexpectedly lost at a quiet airport in rural Montana, the crew finds themselves in a tough spot. Caught between their bosses back home and the surprisingly tough law enforcement out in the middle of nowhere, the boys fight to get their money back, but they might not make it out alive.

Featuring an ensemble cast that also includes Vin Diesel, Seth Green, and John Malkovich, Knockaround Guys is a compelling, small-scale action movie that layers in plenty of fish-out-of-water comedy along the way.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Longtime action movie fans know the legend behind the beginning of the Indiana Jones franchise. Steven Spielberg told his friend George Lucas that he'd always been interested in making a Bond film, Lucas said he had something better, and the result was a collaboration that produced one of the most acclaimed and compulsively rewatchable action/adventure films of all time.

In case you somehow still haven't seen it, let's get one thing straight right from the beginning: Yes, Raiders of the Lost Ark really is as good as you've heard. Harrison Ford is completely in his element as Indiana Jones, an in-over-his-head hero who somehow manages to look cool even when he's running for his life. Karen Allen is gloriously game for everything as Marion Ravenwood, the stunt work is so detailed and beautifully choreographed that it still holds up decades later, and that ending is still capable of stunning audiences. It's an action movie masterpiece by which other films are still measured, and an essential piece of cinema even outside the action genre. It also doesn't hurt that, when you're done streaming it, you can go stream the sequels on Netflix, too.

The Other Guys

Will Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay have managed to apply their particular brand of comedy to a wide variety of subgenres, so it makes sense that they'd getting around to riffing on the buddy cop movie eventually. The Other Guys is the result of that riff, and it's a film that not only pokes fun at classic buddy cop conventions, but pays loving tribute to them.

Gamble (Ferrell) and Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) are two NYPD Detectives who, as the title suggests, are not really the guys you call when you need someone to work a high-profile case. One's a forensic accountant who's just happy to be making a contribution, and the other is an ambitious hothead who's stuck in the shadows because of a past mistake. They're an unlikely pair, but when the top detectives on the force end up dead, Gamble and Hoitz suddenly find themselves on the trail of a massive conspiracy that gives them a chance to be their own kind of action heroes.

If you're a fan of the other Ferrell/McKay collaborations, you definitely want to see this one as well. It packs the same kind of joke-a-minute humor into a film that's also packed with some legitimately compelling action sequences, and the chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg is palpable.


Paul Bettany is one of those actors with the ability to transform himself without ever fully sacrificing his recognizable qualities, something he's proven over and over again as Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Priest is a supernatural action film that demonstrates this ability yet again, this time with Bettany as an exiled warrior fighting monsters in a wild post-apocalyptic landscape.

Bettany stars as an unnamed Priest in a world devastated by wars between humans and vampires. To the Church which now rules the world, the vampire conflicts are behind them, but to Priest, a new fight is just beginning. After his niece is kidnapped by vampires, Priest asked to be reinstated as a sanctioned vampire killer, only to be denied. So he does what any self-respecting action hero does: He goes rogue.

Priest is a film packed with big ideas, from the nature of the vampires themselves to the ambitious world-building, but if that's not enough to grab you: Hey, it's Paul Bettany fighting vampires. That alone is worth taking the ride.


Every once in a while a respected actor decides it's time to hit the gym, start a high-protein diet, and get their physique in hero shape to tackle an action project. Whether it sticks or not, it's always interesting to see what these actors manage to do when they finally enter the action hero arena. For Guy Pearce, that entry was Lockdown, and the result is a very intriguing film anchored by his performance.

Pearce stars as Snow, a former CIA agent framed for murder who is offered freedom if he's able to venture into a high-tech prison in space and rescue the President's daughter (Maggie Grace), who was abducted after investigating human rights concerns at the prison. If this sounds slightly familiar to you, it's because a French court officially ruled that the film is very, very similar to John Carpenter's classic Escape from New York.

Similarities to Carpenter's film aside, Lockout is a showcase for Pearce as an action hero, allowing him to dig deep into high-concept genre work and fight scenes while retaining his charisma and screen presence. It's definitely worth seeing if you like your action mixed with a lot of sci-fi.

Sucker Punch

Over the course of his career as a director, Zack Snyder has made a lot of films, and earned a lot of fans, by riffing on stories originally told elsewhere. He's done comic book movies, remakes of horror classics, and even an animated film adapted from a beloved series of fantasy novels. Then there's Sucker Punch, the first film Snyder directed based on an original story, and one that's packed with showcases of his signature style.

The film follows Babydoll (Emily Browning), a young woman who's committed to an asylum and copes with her circumstances by coming up with new, metaphorical layers of existence. First she images she's actually in a brothel, and then she images that beyond the brothel is a vast dark fantasy world where she and her new friends can wage metaphorical war against all manner of enemies for the sake of their own survival.

It's in these sequences, which range from riffs on World War I trench warfare to battles in feudal Japan, where Snyder really shines. Sucker Punch might just be a framework that allows him to showcase his particular visual sensibility through these fantasy sequences, but even if that's all the film is, those sequences are dazzling. If you're a Snyder fan, or even if you're just interested in high-concept visual storytelling, it's worth a stream.