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16 Best Action Movies Of 2021

The year 2021 was a weird one for movies, but one genre that's remained strong is action. If you're a fan of explosions, fist fights, and gun battles, then 2021 has been delivering non-stop thrills. Superheroes and secret agents made their big return, dominating streaming services and theaters. But we've also been treated to hilarious action comedies, brilliant foreign films, and wild genre mash-ups. In other words, the best action movies of 2021 feature everything you could possibly want, from monster battles and crazy car chases to female assassins and video game mayhem.

Updated on December 31, 2021: As the year progresses, we'll be sure to keep an eye on all the heroes beating up bad guys on both the big screen and streaming services. And if a modern-day classic emerges, we'll be sure to add it to our list and keep you current on the best action flicks of the year.

Army of the Dead

Thousands of zombies have been contained in Las Vegas, and they sit atop millions of dollars that no one is brave enough to recover. That is until a group of mercenaries are recruited to break into a casino vault right in the middle of the mayhem. "Army of the Dead" is especially horrifying due to more intelligent, faster zombies known as alphas, who are a far cry from the walkers of "The Walking Dead." Fans of the zombie genre will no doubt love the film, which sees plenty of blood spilled through gunfire and even a massive buzzsaw.

Black Widow

The long-overdue solo film for Natasha Romanoff is worth the wait. Taking place between the events of "Captain America: Civil War" and "Avengers: Infinity War," we see Natasha reconcile her past with the help of her adoptive family. The mission is to take down the Red Room and the villainous Dreykov, who's responsible for Natasha's tragic upbringing and training. Many secrets are revealed along the way, and some fantastic new characters are introduced into the MCU, so don't skip out on "Black Widow" just because you know what's to come in Natasha's future. And despite being a Scarlett Johansson film, the light shines bright on Florence Pugh, who's set to become a force in the MCU going forward.

Boss Level

It's "Groundhog Day" meets "Edge of Tomorrow," only without Bill Murray or invading aliens. "Boss Level" follows a former special forces agent who relives the same day over and over again as he tries to uncover who's behind his murder — and each day, he gets killed again and again and again. The movie is one of Hulu's best originals to date, with critics praising Frank Grillo's performance as the protagonist, in addition to the stunning action sequences.


"Dune" isn't just one of the best action movies of 2021 — it's one of the most impressive cinematic adventures of the year. Denis Villeneuve's long-awaited adaption of Frank Herbert's novel was everything fans hoped it would be: mesmerizing, stunning, and action-packed. While some might identify the film as a sci-fi adventure, there were definitely enough swordfights to solidify it as one of the action greats of 2021. The impressive flight sequences mixed with the massive explosions and battles on Arrakis earn "Dune" a spot on our best-of list, and we're just hoping "Part 2" can deliver that same momentum when it arrives in theaters.

  • Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Runtime: 155 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%


Dom and company are back in this ninth installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, which introduces John Cena as assassin Jakob Toretto. Yeah, that's right — he's Dom's brother, and the two aren't going to be sharing a lot of hugs at this family reunion. The resulting action is everything you'd expect from a "Fast" film. The car chases are enthralling, and the fight sequences are pulse-pounding. It mostly serves as a setup for the final two films in the saga, but it's worth the watch for fans of the genre and those who've been a part of the family since 2001.

Free Guy

Set within a video game, "Free Guy" follows the story of Guy, a background character in the popular open-world game known as "Free City." Once Guy becomes aware of his world and his role in it, he takes matters into his own hands and vows to become the hero for once. Audiences absolutely lost it for "Free Guy," and the film boasts an incredible 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. A good bit of the action is over the top, but it aligns with the expectations of video game shenanigans.

  • Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery
  • Director: Shawn Levy
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Godzilla vs. Kong

There's no need to do a deep dive into the plot here, as you can probably figure what this one's about from the title. It was only a matter of time before we saw the two legendary beasts come together after their first showdown in 1962's "King Kong vs. Godzilla." As these are both fan favorites, it's hard to root for one over the other. If only there were a looming threat to prevent us from having to pick a favorite. With impressive battle sequences and a pretty awesome sequence that takes place in the center of the Earth, "Godzilla vs. Kong" will satisfy both action lovers and kaiju fans.

  • Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall
  • Director: Adam Wingard
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

Mortal Kombat

You know the story. You played the video game. And this year's "Mortal Kombat" film features some of the franchise's most famous characters, including Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, Jax, Raiden, and Scorpion. The movie follows martial artist Cole Young who becomes a target of the ice cold assassin Sub-Zero. Why? Well, Cole is oblivious to the fact that he possesses some pretty mystical powers, and as he tries to escape his pursuer, he eventually teams up with a group of fighters to protect Earthrealm from Outworld. Critics weren't wild about "Mortal Kombat," but audiences were rather smitten with it. Tune in for the hand-to-hand combat and for the battle between Scorpion and Sub-Zero that'll transport you right back to a '90s arcade.

  • Starring: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Joe Taslim
  • Director: Simon McQuoid
  • Runtime: 110 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%

No Time To Die

Daniel Craig's last go-round as James Bond proves to be one of the best in the actor's run as 007. Substantially better than its predecessor, "Spectre," "No Time To Die" delivers on all fronts, providing top-notch action sequences, high-stakes emotional drama, and a satisfying plot. This time around, Bond just wants to enjoy his retirement, but when a scientist is kidnapped, the agent is called back into action and must face an all-time villain — a terrorist with some very scary tech. The result is a must-watch for fans of Craig's Bond, and critics promise it's a gratifying end for the character that the actor began portraying back in 2006.

  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek
  • Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
  • Runtime: 163 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%


This is definitely one of 2021's biggest surprises in the action genre, as Hollywood nice guy Bob Odenkirk takes the lead in this fast-paced flick. The "Better Call Saul" actor plays an unsuspecting family man named Hutch, who could be described as a nobody. However, he's actually a former assassin for a government agency.  And after a home invasion, Hutch finds himself unleashing the dark side he's kept locked up for all these years. He ends up taking on a Russian crime lord and must protect his own family at all costs.

  • Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielson, Alexey Serebryakov
  • Director: Ilya Naishuller
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

Riders of Justice

Danish soldier Markus is forced to return home to take care of his daughter when his wife is killed in a train accident. But was it an accident? When Markus is approached by an analyst suggesting the train incident was no accident at all, he takes it upon himself to uncover the truth of what happened that fateful day. One of the few films on our list to intersperse a good bit of comedy into the ongoing action, "Riders of Justice" is worth a watch for not just foreign language film lovers but thriller junkies as well.

  • Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg
  • Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Speaking of MCU solo films that are worth your time, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is one of the most beautiful origin movies in the Marvel universe. The story revolves around the titular hero and his father, Wenwu (aka the Mandarin), who possess the all-powerful and mysterious Ten Rings. When his mother's people are at risk and an even bigger threat is uncovered, Shang-Chi must channel his power to bring down his father. The film has some of the best hand-to-hand combat scenes you'll find in the MCU, which are beautifully choreographed at every step.

  • Starring: Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina
  • Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
  • Runtime: 133 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Major spoilers below.

As if there was any doubt, "Spider-Man: No Way Home" proved to be one of the best action films of the year. With its lengthy runtime, the third Tom Holland Spidey flick had plenty of action sequences, from Peter Parker fighting Doctor Strange in the mirror dimension to Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, and Holland's web-slingers fighting a gaggle of villains in the final act. The one-on-one battles were just as engaging as the three-on-three, thanks to performances from the three Spider-Men and past foes like Alfred Molina's Doc Ock and Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin. With spot-on CGI and perfectly choreographed fights sequences, "No Way Home" might just be the best MCU film of the year in terms of action.

  • Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Director: Jon Watts
  • Runtime: 148 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

The Suicide Squad

To say 2016's "Suicide Squad" was an abysmal mess would be an understatement. However, 2021's "The Suicide Squad" is neither a sequel nor a reboot, but it's everything the David Ayer film should have been and more. Its R-rating provides for some rather gory fight sequences, perfect for fans who can't stand a PG-13 rated comic book flick that's pretending to be edgy. The film's stellar action scenes are matched by the outstanding development of otherwise laughable characters. Seriously, characters like the Polka-Dot Man and King Shark never should've worked, but writer-director James Gunn and his talented cast bring real humor and heart to these weirdo anti-heroes.

Wrath of Man

Patrick Hill begins his employment at an armored truck company and proves himself when he single-handedly takes down a group of thugs who try and rob his truck while on a job. Patrick, known as H by his coworkers, becomes a legend as he demonstrates his skill set on jobs, although he's something of a mystery. But over time, H's intentions become clear as we discover why he's chosen this new life for himself. Fans of Guy Ritchie films should not pass this flick up, as its stellar cast and impeccable action sequences rank atop some of the director's best.

  • Starring: Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan
  • Director: Guy Ritchie
  • Runtime: 119 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%

Zack Snyder's Justice League

If one thing is for sure about this film, it's significantly better than Joss Whedon's "Justice League," which hit theaters in 2017. Yes, it's very, very long but worth it if you were disappointed in the former film. It gives much more of a spotlight to the character of Cyborg, and the final battle scene features the team of superheroes at their best as they fight to take down Steppenwolf. Snyder's "Justice League" also introduces audiences to Darkseid — a terrifying, all-powerful villain who was always the looming threat in the original "Justice League."