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The Best Action Movies Of 2020

2020 was a difficult year for the movie industry. The COVID-19 pandemic closed theaters around the world for extended periods of time, throwing the world of cinema into chaos. Action movies were hit especially hard — these expensive blockbusters are simply too risky to see release in such an environment, meaning many highly anticipated movies like No Time to Die and Black Widow had to be shelved.

That said, movies tend to find their way to viewers, even in the midst of a pandemic. We still saw a handful of big releases, both in theaters and on streaming services, and the slowdown of "major" releases allowed a few under-the-radar films to garner more attention than we would have anticipated. We still got our superheroes, we still got our special ops, and we still got our sequels and remakes. 2020 may have looked a little different, but some things just never change.

If you're craving the best action movies 2020 had to offer, you're in the right place. Here are our picks for the best new releases of the year.


Tenet was supposed to be one of the major releases of 2020, as Christopher Nolan's first feature since 2017's celebrated Dunkirk. But summer blockbusters were hit especially hard by theater shutdowns, and the curious decision to move forward with a standard theatrical release of Tenet hurt its bottom line significantly. This is too bad, because Tenet is extremely good, and a major treat for fans of Nolan's work.

Tenet is an action spectacle with plenty of twists and a fascinatingly complex plotline. The gist of things is that the film's unnamed protagonist (played by the always excellent John David Washington) joins a special ops unit to help prevent World War III. The group specializes in the ability to manipulate time, leading to some absolutely amazing backwards-running stunt work. Like a lot of Nolan films, there are a ton of layers at play in Tenet, including multiple timelines, double-crosses, shady organizations, and a plethora of characters working to their own ends.

Tenet is tough to follow, but Nolan's films are always more about the experience than they are about catching every little plot point. The film's amazing cast features the likes of Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Himesh Patel, Kenneth Branagh, and many more. Check it out when you can.


Chris Hemsworth has made good use of the fame he's gained as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it should come as no surprise that he seized the chance to star in one of 2020's best action titles. Extraction debuted on Netflix at the exact right time, releasing at the end of April and quickly becoming the streaming network's most-watched original film ever.

Extraction focuses on a team of black ops mercenaries on a mission to rescue a kidnapped child in Bangladesh. Like a lot of movies that focus on soldiers of fortune, there are a whole lot of betrayals and a constant struggle between the different players as they each work towards their own ends. Hemsworth plays his conflicted mercenary very convincingly here — he doesn't get much room to showcase his comedic abilities, but that makes room for his commanding presence to fill the screen.

Extraction is big, loud, and violent, with plenty of impressive action set pieces and strong central performances. Netflix bet big on Extraction and walked away with a winner on their hands.


Disney's live-action remake of Mulan seemed destined for trouble. The studio has enjoyed success with live-action remakes of other classics like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, but Mulan isn't a true remake as those films are, which spurred fan outrage. Specifically, it isn't a musical, and characters like Mushu the dragon are not involved. Instead, the story is much more focused on the original folk ballad, and features impressive military and martial arts sequences.

Essentially, you shouldn't go into Mulan expecting the same movie you saw as a kid. The film earned a PG-13 rating, a first for a Disney remake, and with good reason. Though you aren't going to see massive blood splatter or body parts go flying, Mulan has several intense battle sequences and more than a few frightening moments. The witch, played by the ever-impressive Gong Li, is a particular standout of the film, wielding near limitless power in several well-shot scenes.

Mulan has a lot to offer, as long as you leave your memories of the original at the door. Sing "I'll Make a Man Out of You" on your own time, then find a moment afterwards to give this one a go.

Birds of Prey

Okay, the full title of the film is actually Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), but we'll just go with the shortened version here. Suicide Squad didn't achieve the most positive reviews in the world, but fans and critics alike tended to agree that Margot Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn is a bright spot in the messy film. It's fitting Robbie took the reins in her own film (which she also produced), and Birds of Prey proved to be a massive step in the right direction.

Harley has gotten away from the Joker, but she's fallen into another toxic situation — this time with Roman Sionis, AKA Black Mask. A group of women who all run afoul of Sionis in different ways end up coming together with Harley to fight back against the fiendish mob boss. Ridiculous action sequences pepper the film: A particularly memorable one features bags of cocaine ripped open by machine gun fire, which fuel a wide-eyed Harley as she gleefully destroys her attackers.

The cast of Birds of Prey is a big part of what makes the movie special. Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, Rosie Perez, and Ali Wong are all at the top of their game, while Ewan McGregor is a charismatic sleaze as Sionis. The music and action sequences are great, it's wildly funny, and the actors all seem like they're having a blast. You'll never look at an egg sandwich the same way again.

The Old Guard

Netflix had more than their fair share of 2020's most impressive action movies, and The Old Guard is one of the best of the bunch. It boasts a very strong cast, slick action scenes, and a fascinating premise that sucks viewers in.

Charlize Theron headlines the cast as Andy, the leader of a special ops team that offers more than just an impressive combat pedigree. In addition to being incredible soldiers, her little group literally cannot be killed. Andy herself is thousands of years old (her real name is Andromache of Scythia), and she's grown weary of how the world never seems to get better, no matter how many times her team saves the day. Their secret gets out eventually, and a new threat emerges, looking to harness their gifts for the greater good. On top of that, being unable to die does have its personal drawbacks, which Andy's team confronts head-on.

Alongside Theron, The Old Guard features some extremely strong character work and a ton of fun action scenes. The final showdown is an especially memorable sequence. There's plenty more story to dig into in the source material as well, as it's based on a comic series by Leandro Fernandez and Greg Rucka, the latter of whom also wrote the screenplay. Fingers crossed for a sequel!


Bloodshot is easy to write off, but this Vin Diesel-led superhero flick is actually a surprising amount of fun. Diesel has more than enough charisma to carry the show, and the concept behind the plot will keep you guessing as it moves forward.

Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a soldier who is killed by a mercenary group after successfully completing a mission. However, a shady company uses state-of-the-art nanites to bring Ray back to life, essentially making him unkillable and giving him superhuman abilities. The company directs Ray to help seek revenge for his murdered wife but, as you'd expect, not everything is on the level –- for one thing, Ray's memories of who actually caused his suffering keep changing.

Vin Diesel may not be the strongest dramatic actor around, but he's one of the best in the business at putting together a kick-butt action hero. Bloodshot is supposed to be the first film in Valiant Entertainment's attempt at an interconnected cinematic universe. Hopefully they can all be so entertaining.

Bad Boys for Life

It's actually incredible that Bad Boys for Life got made in the first place, to say nothing of the fact that it's actually really fun. Bad Boys 2 came out nearly two decades before this film finally released in 2020, and it had been delayed so many times that it seemed dead in the water. Add to that the fact that Martin Lawrence has faded significantly from the limelight since his heyday in the early 2000s, and the very premise of Bad Boys for Life seemed impossible. Despite all of this, Bad Boys for Life turned out to be one of the most fun and well-received movies of the year.

Michael Bay wasn't directly involved with Bad Boys for Life, but directing duo Adil & Bilall clearly did their research. It's funny, ridiculous and full of the type of escalating action you want from a Bad Boys movie. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence still have amazing chemistry, and actors like Vanessa Hudgens and Joe Pantoliano slide comfortably into their roles like Bad Boys 2 came out yesterday. There's a plot involving criminal organizations operating in Miami, as you'd expect ... but the plot to a Bad Boys movie doesn't really matter, does it? Things go boom, there are plenty of jokes, and it's all ridiculously stylish. In short, it's everything you want.

Love and Monsters

If you like plenty of snark in your action movies, then Love and Monsters might be just your speed. This under-the-radar flick owes more than a little to movies like Zombieland, but its grotesque monster design and appealing chemistry makes it a worthwhile watch.

The film focuses on a young couple named Joel and Aimee, who are separated when a catastrophe mutates many animals into horrifying, man-eating monsters. Seven years later, Joel learns that Aimee is alive and leaves his colony to go find her. He encounters some colorful characters along the way, including a veteran monster hunter (played by the always awesome Michael Rooker), and learns to grow up quite a bit through his journey. Star Dylan O'Brien is effortlessly charming and likable in Love and Monsters – an especially impressive feat, given the freak accident he survived on the set of Maze Runner: The Death Cure. You can't help but root for O'Brien, both as an actor and as the character he plays.

Project Power

Project Power's elevator pitch is immediately intriguing: Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt use pills that grant superpowers for a short period of time. Add in a handful of great supporting characters — Rodrigo Santoro and the absolutely amazing Dominique Fishback stand out particularly — and some thrilling action sequences, and you've got another winner on Netflix.

The story takes place in the near future, where a drug called Power grants its users five minutes of a single enhanced ability. However, the power bestowed is different for everyone: Some gain super strength, some invisibility, and some just explode after taking it. As more details about Power emerge, a group of people with wildly different goals come together to help stop the threat that the distributors of the drug pose to the world.

The opening action sequence of Project Power, which features Jamie Foxx going up against Machine Gun Kelly, a Power user who can become a walking fireball, will hook you immediately — and there's plenty more superpowered shenanigans where that came from. Even in an age bursting with superhero movies, Project Power stands out.

Lost Bullet

Lost Bullet may not look like much on its Netflix splash page, but don't let its amateur marketing presentation fool you. This French film is nonstop action from start to finish, utilizing some absolutely incredible practical effects to showcase the many ways to wreck a car.

Lost Bullet is indeed one of those car-centric action movies, where ridiculous driving stunts become even more amazing when you realize that actual drivers are actually doing the things you're watching on screen. It follows a car mechanic named Lino who moonlights as a thief. He strikes a deal with the police after he gets caught — he'll spruce up their vehicles in return for his release. A few deals with shady cops ensue, and eventually Lino is forced to use his impressive skills against enemies from all sides.

The film is a little rough around the edges, and has a few elements that might seem alien to non-French viewers, but impressive auto-action will always hold our attention. Take a turn behind the wheel of Lost Bullet and we think you'll agree.

Blood On Her Name

Good noir is hard to come by, and Blood On Her Name is one of the best examples of the genre we've seen in a long while. It's an extremely tense movie, full of characters making bad decisions and causing situations to spiral rapidly out of control. It also has one of those plots that manages to surprise at each turn: Every time you think you've figured out where it's headed, it dodges in another direction.

Blood On Her Name starts with Leigh Tiller, a small-town business owner, looking at a dead body. We quickly learn that Leigh is responsible for this person's very dead state, and we're left shouting at the screen as she tries to figure out how best to cover up the dirty deed. Through a series of flashbacks and character conversations, we start to piece together how Leigh wound up covered in blood and why she makes the decisions she does in dealing with the aftermath.

Though there are plenty of other characters moving through the film, Blood On Her Name's success all comes down to Bethany Anne Lind, who plays Leigh. She delivers a thrilling performance here that elevates the entire film. This slow-burn drama packs plenty of action into its short runtime, making it one of the most unique entries on this list.


Not all of Netflix's military action movies are created equal. Mosul might not boast the star power of some of their other films, but it does feature some of the most riveting and well-paced action sequences of any movie that debuted in 2020. It also explores an overlooked perspective on military conflict in the Middle East: That of the actual inhabitants of the affected countries.

Mosul focuses on an elite SWAT team of Iraqi soldiers, battling against ISIS through the war-torn streets of the titular city. These battle-hardened veterans definitely have the experience to take out the forces that outnumber them, but there are unfriendly watchers everywhere. Mosul does an amazing job of ramping up its tension throughout its runtime, and making you question who, if anyone, is safe. All the while, the body count rises.

Mosul is action-packed from start to finish, and its Hollywood pedigree (the film was produced by Joe and Anthony Russo, while Matthew Michael Carnahan took the director's chair) elevates what might have been a generic military flick into a breathtaking action spectacle.