Skip to main content

7 best action movies of 2023, ranked

This year at the movies has largely been defined by the cultural phenomenon of comedies and dramas like Barbie, Oppenheimer, or Killers of the Flower Moon. However, the year in action has been quietly wonderful.

While this year’s action movies may not have an absolute crowd-favorite like 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick, 2023 still dashed out a handful of wonderful action flicks. The year had a variety of options for action fans, from family-friendly flicks about talking turtles to brutal gore fests featuring exploding Nazis and flaming shotgun blasts. So, whether you’re a die-hard action fanatic or a casual moviegoer, 2023 likely has something for you.

Now that 2023 is winding to an end, let’s take a look at the seven best action movies of the year.

7. Sisu

A group of Nazis stand next to 2 trucks in Sisu.
Lionsgate

Sisu is the kind of movie that die-hard action fans drool over: simple plot, cool kills. The movie from Finnish director Jalmari Helander is a wild, awe-inducing journey of literal blood, sweat, and tears through the Finnish countryside. Set in 1945, Sisu follows an ex-Finnish soldier named Aatami Korpi as he tries to venture into the city to cash in a bag of gold he recently mined. The Nazis currently enacting a scorched-earth policy on the region, though, have different ideas.

Aatami’s journey becomes an epic battle featuring flying landmines and underwater knife battles, resulting in a gritty movie whose brutal images will be remembered for a while. Sisu isn’t reinventing the genre, but it’s an efficient and well-constructed action flick worthy of a watch.

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Leonardo stands in front of his brothers in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Paramount Pictures

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a different flavor of action movie. In fact, I won’t be shocked if readers are a bit surprised that this film made the list. However, Mutant Mayhem is more than just a kid-friendly animated movie with doses of action.

The film, which follows the Turtle brothers as they try to be accepted as normal New York City teenagers, is beautiful in its construction, introducing a refreshing new animated style that rivals Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse in terms of visual ingenuity. But the movie is also just a good time full of heart. It abounds with care and authenticity; it is unapologetic about its maturity, resulting in a fun and touching flick about acceptance and brotherhood.

5. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

A female and male character duck for cover in a scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Aidan Monoghan / Paramount

In all honesty, nobody really expected a Dungeons and Dragons movie to be this good. However, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Things is great. The film, starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, uses the role-playing game as a blueprint for a fantastical adventure movie abounding with heart and hilarity. Modern Hollywood is defined by franchises, and Honor Among Thieves could have been a lifeless movie intending solely to cash in on the game’s name recognition.

Instead, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, along with the rest of the cast and crew, created a breath of fresh air of a movie. The movie’s plot and stakes aren’t breaking any genre trends, but Honor Among Thieves is a raucous good time. Oh, and you can’t forget that this movie has by far the best cameo seen in years.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

The Guardians step into battle in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Disney

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a bittersweet thing. On one hand, it’s a funny yet heart-tugging story outfitted with all sorts of classic Guardians antics. On the other hand, it’s a touching farewell to a team — and a director — that Marvel fans have come to love. The Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy is the best in the MCU, thanks in large part to James Gun’s direction.

With Vol. 3, Gunn takes us to the heart of Rocket Raccoon and creates a truly horrifying yet lovely story about family and friendship. The action, too, is at the top of the MCU; the hallway scene is one of the greatest action sequences in any Marvel movie. Despite the tumultuous current state of the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 shines.

3. John Wick: Chapter 4

John shooting someone with the "dragon's breath" in "John Wick: Chapter 4."
Lionsgate

Expectations were through the roof for director Chad Stahelski’s fourth installment to the beloved John Wick series. After all, how do you top ninjas on motorcycles? Well, Stahelski and Keanu Reeves never fail to satisfy. John Wick: Chapter 4 is an epic movie, a nearly three-hour barrage of some of the craziest action put on the big screen.

With such a long runtime, it’s impressive that Stahelski is largely able to hold his audience. There are moments that feel repetitive, yes, but the movie is saved by the hard-to-describe absurdity of the action. There is a flaming shotgun. There is Donnie Yen slicing people up. There is a sequence in which Reeves fights up — and falls down — the longest staircase you’ll ever see. John Wick: Chapter 4 is beautiful in a way that only the sickest action fans will understand.

2. Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla strikes an impressive pose in Godzilla Minus One.
Toho

One of the biggest surprises of the year, Godzilla Minus One serves as a wonderful cap on the year’s action movies. Released just a few weeks ago, the Japanese monster flick from director Takashi Yamazaki puts other big-budget action blockbusters to shame. The movie, which reportedly had a budget of around $15 million, is an awe-inducing wonder of filmmaking.

It follows Koichi Shikishima, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who faked a mechanical problem to save his life in the waning days of World War II. Just as Shikishima — and the rest of the nation — have finally started to recover from the war’s destruction, a new threat emerges from the sea: Godzilla. The movie is as gigantic as the monster itself, a tender drama about war and Japanese identity interspersed with some of the greatest monster movie filmmaking you’ve ever seen. Godzilla has rarely been better.

1. Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One

Hayley Atwell and Tom Cruise hang precariously in a train car in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One.
Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures

No movie suffered from a worse release schedule this year than Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One. The seventh installment in the Mission: Impossible series was released just one week before Barbie and Oppenheimer took the world by storm, so its box office numbers were severely impacted.

Nevertheless, Dead Reckoning Part One has gone largely unappreciated for its signature antics, unrelenting pace, and incredible action set pieces. There are so many moments in the movie that call for one’s jaw to drop, whether it be the high-intensity stunts or tensely constructed spy sequences. Every ounce of Dead Reckoning Part One breathes of epic filmmaking. Tom Cruise is one of the greatest stars Hollywood has today, and he continues to prove his excellence year after year.

Editors' Recommendations

Carson Burton
Carson Burton is an writer, entertainment fanatic, and a proud Crocs owner that loves everything from Spider-Man: Into the…
3 great free movies to stream this weekend (February 23-25)
A man puts a bolt gun to another man's head in No Country for Old Men.

If you haven't heard, Dune: Part Two is coming out. The sci-fi film is sure to be a spectacle, and deserves to be seen on premium screens like IMAX. But doing that can be quite costly, and if you factor in gas and refreshments, that's already a lot of money devoted to one feature that's still weeks away.

A good way to save money this weekend, yet still watch some good movies, is to stream them for free. Several platforms like Amazon Freevee, Tubi, and YouTube offer movies for no monetary charge. All you need to do is watch a few ads here and there, and that's it. The three movies we've selected this weekend are definitely worth it.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
No Country for Old Men Miramax

Read more
3 Hulu movies you need to stream this weekend (Feb. 23-25)
A woman sits in Watcher.

February's been a pretty dreary month if you're single and/or a San Francisco 49ers fan. Ditto if you're a movie lover. Seriously, has there been a worse time for movies than 2024? It's been pretty bleak these last eight weeks, and March, with its promises of Dune: Part Two and 3 Body Problem, can't come soon enough.

To celebrate February's end, Digital Trends has a suggestion for you: stay in, log on to Hulu, and watch the movies on this list. One is a critically acclaimed drama that was just released in December 2023, another is an underrated thriller from 2022, and the last film is one of Quentin Tarantino's best movies ever.
All of Us Strangers (2023)

Read more
Like the 1997 action satire Starship Troopers? Then watch these 3 classic sci-fi movies now
Johnny runs from a giant alien bug in Starship Troopers

Since its release more than 25 years ago, more and more people have come to realize that Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is actually something close to a masterpiece. (Well, except for one Twitter user, who went viral with his tone-deaf take on it.) The 1997 film, which is set in a future in which young army officers battle against massive alien bugs, is a hilarious send-up of the military-industrial complex and the ideologies that propel it.
Given its incredibly specific tone, though, it’s fair to say that there aren’t a lot of movies out there that are like Starship Troopers. That doesn’t mean there are none, though, so we’ve done our best to come up with a list of three great sci-fi satires that will remind you of what Starship Troopers is able to achieve.

Mars Attacks! (1996)
Mars Attacks! (1996) Official Trailer #1 - Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan Sci-Fi Comedy
One of Tim Burton’s least hyped films, Mars Attacks! is a pretty straightforward story about what would happen on Earth if Martians invaded. While something like Independence Day takes that story with a certain amount of seriousness, though, Mars Attacks! emplys the opposite approach.
The film is a camp comedy where Jack Nicholson has two roles, James Bond's Pierce Brosnan plays a scientist, and all of Washington, D.C. is totally destroyed by the end of the movie. It’s one of the very best sci-fi comedies of its kind, and one of Burton’s most underrated films.
Mars Attacks! can be rented or purchased on Amazon Prime Video.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Galaxy Quest (1999) Theatrical Trailer
Ostensibly a parody of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest has built up its own fandom thanks to its tremendous success. The film follows a group of actors who once starred in a Star Trek-esque series as they discover that real aliens exist -- and that the aliens believe these actors are actually the characters they played on the show.
Thanks to brilliant work from a great ensemble cast, as well as a premise that lends itself to plenty of comedy, Galaxy Quest is a sci-fi romp of the highest caliber, and it's also surprisingly moving when it needs to be. Add in a dash of Tony Shalhoub’s expert comic timing and a healthy dose of Alan Rickman, and you have a genuine comic masterpiece. 
Galaxy Quest is streaming for free in Pluto TV.
They Live (1988)
They Live Official Trailer #1 - Keith David Movie (1988)
John Carpenter has long been a master of sci-fi satire, and They Live might be his magnum opus. The film tells the story of a working-class guy who discovers that the entire world he believed he lived in is actually run by aliens who look like people.
The film is both deeply silly and a little bit serious, as it suggests that everything from the news to advertisements is designed to hypnotize the populous into unthinking compliance. Is it a pretty blunt allegory? Undoubtedly, but it’s one that Carpenter manages to pull off with aplomb.
They Live can be rented or purchased on Amazon Prime Video.

Read more