Netflix is not just a wonderful place to discover high-quality TV shows like The Witcher, Stranger Things, and Dark. The iconic streaming service also has a wealth of excellent and overlooked films, some of which have gone under the radar in recent years. Nowhere is it more obvious than in the action-adventure category, a genre built around hair-raising explosions and the harrowing adventures of a small few.
If you like gritty classics or the charm of classic superhero movies, the premium subscription service has it all. So in this article, you will be greeted with some of the best action films available on the streaming service.
1. Olympus Has Fallen
Olympus Has Fallen is a gritty, often outright ugly, and mean-spirited action film, directed by Gerard Butler as an absolute force of head-stabber, who ends up stuck in the White House after a terrorist attack and sets out to protect the president from sinister intruders. Excessive, ultra-violent, and profane, Olympus Has Fallen is the sort of hard-R action movie we haven’t seen many of these days, and director Antoine Fuqua revels in the excesses, delivering an unrelenting action movie that’s easily one of the most extras of the Die Hard-inspired subgenre.
2. Ninja Assassin
You just need a true old-fashioned ninja battle sometimes. The Wachowskis created Ninja Assassin for director James McTeigue with a script co-authored by Sense8 co-creator J. It’s Michael Straczynski. Korean pop star Rain has a terrific turn as Raizo, an orphan who was inducted into a ninja band and trained to kill on orders. Since Raizo’s first love dies at the hands of the ninja clan, he comes out on his own and becomes a force of revenge. Naomie Harris co-stars as an informant for Europol, Mika Coretti, who is a neighbor of Raizo’s and grows closer to him. The true star of this film, though, is the violent action of the whole film. Ninja Assassin upgrades the classic martial arts film formula and takes some notches higher. Ignore the skeptics, this one is a lot of fun.
3. The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino has plenty to say about race, crime, and American life, and it’s going to blow up feathers. Like Django Unchained, the writer-director represents contemporary times on the Old West, but with more scalpel-shaped dialogue, profane writing, and gore. Stewed from the parts of Agatha Christie, David Mamet, and Sam Peckinpah, The Hateful Eight catches a bunch of blowhards (including Samuel L. Jackson as a veteran of the Civil War, Kurt Russell as a bounty hunter known as “The Hangman,” and Jennifer Jason Leigh as a psychiatric gang member) in a blizzard-wrapped supply station. Tarantino lifts the excitement by shooting his suffocating “glorious 70 mm” space. Treachery and moral compromising never seemed so sweet.
4. Ocean’s Twelve
Ocean’s Eleven might not be available on Netflix at the time, but the second and third installments of the George Clooney-starring Rat Pack are definitely available. You know the drill: Danny Ocean has an intricate heist that he’s desperate to carry off, only this time around he doesn’t need 11, but 12 to do it. Yeah, and this is going down in Europe. It’s meeting all the action movie sequel marks — a larger scale, the A-list cast seems like they’re down to the time of their lives, and a little sillier — but with Steven Soderbergh back in the director’s chair, Twelve is just as elegant and retains the franchise’s old-school extravagance and enjoyment.
5. Triple Frontier
Led by J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) from a script he co-wrote with Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), Triple Frontier is essentially a man-cave film; part military thriller, part action-packed heist, and all the tale of men who have crazy bro-love for each other. Oscar Isaac stars as Santiago “Pope” Garcia, a DEA agent who puts the former Special Forces team back together to steal a drug lord’s jungle hideaway. Isaac joins the equally strong crew of Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund. Triple Frontier’s kicker is that there’s still a lot of brains beneath all the brawn; it’s an explosion-and-helicopter flick first, yes, but it still has a lot to say about what happens to professionally aggressive men after the shooting ends.
Polar is a very funny, very absurd, very violent film starring Mads Mikkelsen as a hitman called Black Kaiser. In a film directed by the Swedish director Jonas Akerlund (based on Victor Santos’ graphic novel series of the same name), the Black Kaiser feels he’s just about ready to withdraw from his high-intensity murder lifestyle—until he hears that a gang is tracking down his associates, and he’s next on their hit list. Polar doesn’t even enjoy high-brow entertainment; instead, it’s a comically gruesome hitman movie where every action set piece is more over-the-top than the previous one, but that’s what makes it so watchable.
7. Total Recall
Complete Recall is Arnold Schwarzenegger at his best. Paul Verhoeven’s insane science-fiction adventure coaster stars Schwarzenegger as Quaid, a 21st-century construction worker who learns that his memory is dependent on a memory chip embedded in his brain. The chip is blocking his real identity: that of a secret agent who has become a threat to the government. Infuriated by this deception, Quaid flies to Mars to unite the final pieces of his real identity while finding revenge on the man who implanted the chip. Absolute Recall is hard, furious, gratuitously aggressive, and a lot of fun — all while retaining much of the suggestive themes of the Philip K. Dick short story that influenced the film.
Director Park Chan-wook’s action thriller is one of Korea’s most popular New Wave movies. Based on a Japanese manga, Choi Min-sik stars as a man captured and isolated in a hotel room where he learns that his wife has been murdered. 15 years later, he wakes up outdoors and embarks on an intensely brutal journey of vengeance that ends with a completely shocking twist. Oldboy is not a squeamish guy, but Park brings such visceral and raw energy to the table that it’s hard to turn away.
Some mysteries are simmering; this one is smoldering. In his adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story, writer and producer Lee Chang-dong incorporates several elements of the acclaimed slyly mischievous style of the author — cats, music, cooking, and an estranged male writer all pop-up — but he also invests the material with his own dark comedy, stray references to current news, and an unyielding sense of wonder. We watch aimless novelist Lee Jong-Su (Yoo Ah-in) as he reconnects with Shin Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-SEO), a young woman he grew up with, but the film never lets you feel too relaxed in a single scene or setting. As Steven Yeun’s Ben, a charming rich man with a stunning apartment and a love for burning down the greenhouses, arrives, the film moves to an even more tremulous register. Can you believe Ben? Yeun ‘s performance is ideally tuned to entice and confuse, like the gentle, pyromaniac version of Tyler Durden. Each frame leaves you wondering about it.
10. Time To Hunt
Time to Hunt is a South Korean thriller who knows exactly what stylistic register he’s playing in, unrelenting in his creation of scenes where guys aim big guns at each other in barely lit hollow hallways. A party of four friends, including Parasite and Train to Busan Breakout Choi Woo-Shik, knock over a gambling home, snatch a hefty bag of money and a set of even more lucrative hard-drives, and then find themselves attacked by a merciless contract killer (Park Hae-soo) who moves like the T-1000 and shoots like henchmen in a Michael Mann movie. There are dystopian aspects of the world — protests are taking place in the streets, the police are fighting a tech-savvy assault on people, assault weapons are freely accessible to all potential buyers — but they all create a simmering atmosphere and raising the crushing bits instead of having needless allegorical padding. Time to Hunt uses its elongated runtime to create sequences in a careful manner.
11. End of Watch
End of Watch isn’t fact, but it’s to the credit of writer and producer David Ayer that he feels genuine for much of his career. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña co-directed the film as LAPD officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, respectively. The premise of the film is that Taylor is filming his days on the force as a side project for himself. Gyllenhaal and Peña are very compelling in their positions as they deal with the day-to-day challenges of South Los Angeles and the people who live there. There’s trouble brewing in the streets, and the two officers find themselves swept up in circumstances outside their grasp.
12. The Outpost
In 2009, 53 U.S. soldiers were targeted by the remote Combat Outpost Keating during the Afghanistan war. The Outpost tells the tale of these troops as they try to fight back an enemy army that has severely overwhelmed them. More alarmingly, the army deprived the tiny fortress of its wealth, leaving the remaining troops in a very precarious position. Most of the film takes place before the invasion and paints a reasonably accurate view of the lives of American soldiers caught up in a violent battle. But as the assault begins, The Garrison is lifted and even more visceral, as troops meet daunting odds while battling for their life. This is a gripping fight scene that makes this film an unforgettable experience.
13. Django Unchained
Perhaps the best of Tarantino’s revisionist-favored films (including Inglourious Basterds and the latest Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Django Unchained is the 1800s Wild West photo of Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave who meets and deals with the friendly bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Django’s goal is to rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is owned by the terrifying plantation owner, Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio in a spectacular, nasty performance). It’s got all the ingredients you like from the new western world.
14. Sucker Punch
Throughout his career as a director, Zack Snyder has made a lot of movies and received a lot of followers, racking up stories that were originally told elsewhere. He also created comic books, horror movie remakes, and even an anime feature adapted from a famous series of fantasy novels. Then there’s Sucker Punch, the first film directed by Snyder based on an original novel, and one full of signature-style showcases. The film follows Babydoll (Emily Browning), a young woman who is committed to an asylum and is coping with her condition by building new, metaphorical layers of life. Second, she imagines that she’s just in a brothel, and then she imagines that there’s a vast dark dream world beyond the brothel, where she and her new friends can fight a metaphorical war against all kinds of enemies for their own safety.
Brick and mortar video stores may have been a thing of the past, but low-budget, direct-to-video adventure flicks are far from gone. Just ask about Scott Adkins and Jesse V. Johnson. Over the last 15 years, the martial artist and stuntman-turned-director have made almost a dozen savagely violent action movies that would have been right at home on the rack of the favorite Films— if, you know, they still exist. Of note, the latest partnership between Adkins and Johnson, Avengement, is still their strongest. In the film, Adkins stars as Cain, a former martial artist who had partnered with his criminal brother, only to quickly get stabbed in the back. A seven-year spell in England’s most infamous gaol took Cain to his limits, and now that he’s out, he’s going to do whatever it takes to track down his brother and take vengeance. God helps all those who are struggling to get on their way.
16. The Town
More of an action-thriller than a pure action movie, the city still rules. Ben Affleck famously turned his career around with his 2007 debut producer, Gone Baby Gone, but he proved that he wasn’t a one-trick pony with his excellent 2010 feature. The plot follows four lifelong buddies in Boston who rob a bank, only because it’s all too nosedive. Yet Affleck injects a profound empathy into all the characters that make this a remarkably empathetic saga, which also boasts Affleck’s swelling performance (and, of course, Jeremy Renner, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work). And at the grassroots level, this is just a genuinely convincing and successful thriller that sets explosive bits