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The 5 best action movies of 2023 so far

If there’s one genre that audiences never seem to get tired of, it’s action movies. By comparison, there haven’t been many big-screen comedies, sci-fi adventures, or fantasy flicks in 2023. But action films are in abundance, both in the streaming realm and in theaters. If you happen to love action like we do, this is a very good thing. And some of the action movies that hit theaters this year may be among the best of the last 10 years.

It may be a little premature to name any film as the best action movie of this year. But since we are currently almost seven-and-a-half months through the year, we can confidently say that the following films are the five best action movies of 2023 so far.

5. Extraction 2

Chris Hemsworth in Extraction 2.

Do you know how you can tell that Extraction did really well for Netflix? Because Netflix coughed up the money to bring Chris Hemsworth back for the sequel even though his character, Tyler Rake, looked pretty dead at the end of the original film. Extraction 2 finds Tyler briefly out of the mercenary game while he recovers from his ordeal, only to be drawn into a new mission because the woman he’s been hired to save, Ketevan Radiani (Tinatin Dalakishvili), is the sister of his ex-wife. So she’s kind of like family.

And family is the real issue at the heart of Extraction 2, since Tyler’s efforts to get Ketevan and her children away from her dangerous husband, Davit Raidani (Tornike Bziava), results in Davit’s death. This attracts the attention of Davit’s even more deranged brother, Zurab Radiani (Tornike Gogrichiani), who comes after Tyler and his team for payback of his own.

Watch Extraction 2 on Netflix.

4. Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Jake Gyllenhaal in The Covenant.

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant had the misfortune to arrive in theaters just when The Super Mario Bros. Movie was sucking all of the air out of the box office. A similar phenomenon is currently playing out thanks to Barbenheimer. Regardless, Ritchie crafted one of this year’s best action thrillers with the story of Master Sgt. John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal), and his Afghan interpreter, Ahmed Abdullah Yousfi (Dar Salim).

During the waning years of the war in Afghanistan, Kinley is badly injured by a Taliban ambush. And despite great risk to himself, Ahmed leads the wounded Kinley to safety. However, Ahmed and his family are denied the visas that could save them from the vengeful Taliban. Enraged at the injustice of leaving Ahmed behind, Kinley returns to Afghanistan to repay the favor he owes to the man who saved his life.

Rent or buy The Covenant on Prime Video, Apple TV+, Google Play, and YouTube.

3. Fast X

Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto stands in front of the Coliseum in Fast X.
Universal Pictures

In the latest installment of the Fast & Furious movies, a bad guy who looks remarkably like Aquaman, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), targets Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and “the family.” So just know that a lot of car carnage goes down in Fast X. And Dante isn’t just another run-of-the-mill would-be James Bond villain.

He puts his plans in motion long before Dom and his wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), realize that everyone they know and love is in danger. To survive this threat, Dom is going to need the help of his estranged brother, Jacob Toretto (John Cena), as well as a few of his former enemies.

Buy Fast X on Prime Video, Apple TV+, Google Play, and YouTube.

2. John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick loads his gun in John Wick: Chapter 4.

John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers something that Fast X and the latest Mission: Impossible movie could not: An ending. After John Wick (Keanu Reeves) escalates his personal war against the High Table, the organization steps up the pressure on John himself by casting out his friend, Winston Scott (Ian McShane), and sending two of the most lethal assassins in the world after John: Caine (Donnie Yen) and Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson).

One of the High Table’s most prominent members, the Marquis Vincent Bisset de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), also makes it his personal goal to see John dead, which opens the door for an intriguing way for John to finally free himself from the criminal underworld. But to do so, John will have to face an army of trained killers from around the world just for the chance to find peace.

Rent or buy John Wick: Chapter 4 on Prime Video, Apple TV+, Google Play, and YouTube.

1. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell turn around in a small car, looking concerned.
Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures

Did you know that Tom Cruise is 61? He still runs like a much younger man in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and once again personally performs some potentially dangerous stunts on-screen. Cruise and his frequent Mission: Impossible collaborator, writer and director Christopher McQuarrie, always seem to be intent on topping the previous film’s action sequences, and this is by far the best action movie of 2023 to date.

This time, the story ventures into full sci-fi territory when Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team become aware of The Entity, a sentient AI program that is well on its way to controlling the world, if it doesn’t already. Complicating Ethan’s quest to destroy The Entity is Grace (Agent Carter‘s Hayley Atwell), an enigmatic thief who has her own agenda. Atwell really steals the movie and steps up to become the new female lead of the series while holding her own opposite Cruise. Given the relatively light movie schedule for the rest of the year, it’s hard to see another film that can take Dead Reckoning Part One‘s action crown before the end of this year.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is now playing in theaters.

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
The 7 best Tom Cruise action movies, ranked
Tom Cruise holds onto a cargo plane in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

Very few movie stars have been at the center of more well-regarded action movies than Tom Cruise. It’s not hard to see why, either. Over the course of his career, Cruise has developed an obsessive devotion to practical action sequences, the kind that make audiences gasp and cheer when they’re brought to life on the big screen. His desire to wow and thrill has resulted in him putting himself in some serious danger over the years. It’s also led to some of the greatest action movies ever made.

With Cruise’s latest film, Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, hitting theaters this week, now seems like as good a time as any to look back at his career and celebrate some of his biggest achievements. So, without any further ado, here are the seven best action movies that Tom Cruise has ever starred in. (Dead Reckoning Part One notwithstanding.)
7. Minority Report (2002)

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Since it first arrived on the big screen in 1996, the Mission: Impossible film franchise has thrilled audiences with increasingly ambitious practical stunts. Star and producer Tom Cruise won’t be satisfied until he’s shown gravity who’s boss once and for all, diving off of increasingly high platforms at increasingly deadly speeds. The daredevil feats have become such essential parts of the Mission: Impossible films and their marketing that one could almost forget the stories that these stunts are meant to service.
In most M: I movies, at least one of those miraculous action set pieces is attached to some sort of heist or caper. Ethan Hunt is a spy, after all, and his quests typically require that he infiltrate a highly secure location and intercept an important item, person, or piece of information. With respect to the remarkable craft put into each of the daredevil actions, how often is the payoff equal to the setup? Is there a correlation between the magnitude of the danger to Tom Cruise and the stakes to Ethan Hunt? On the occasion of Dead Reckoning Part One’s theatrical release, we’re ranking the action scenes in the Mission: Impossible series and our preferences might surprise you.

7. Stealing the Rabbit’s Foot (Mission: Impossible III)
Mission: Impossible III: Daring Leap (HD CLIP)
Mission: Impossible III gets a bit of a bad rap for its efforts to ground the series in something approaching reality, and it can definitely be argued that director J.J. Abrams’ more TV-style aesthetic was an overcorrection from John Woo’s unrestrained bombast. We’ll stand behind M:I-3’s more human and emotional characterization of Ethan Hunt, the romance subplot, and of course, the outstanding performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the villain, but we do have to admit that the choice to essentially skip this movie’s main heist sequence is pretty disappointing.
In the second act of M:I-3, Ethan’s wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) has been kidnapped by terrorist Owen Davian (Hoffman), who promises to kill her unless Hunt retrieves the mysterious “Rabbit’s Foot” weapon from a secure facility in Shanghai. Hunt goes rogue and, with the help of his team, plans a daring swing between two skyscrapers, using a third, taller building as a fulcrum.
However, while we see Ethan’s leap and his tricky landing on the roof of the facility, we don’t follow him inside for the rest of the heist. Instead, we remain with his teammates Zhen (Maggie Q) and Gorley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) as they wait to hear whether or not he’s acquired the Rabbits Foot. We only catch up with Ethan once the mission has gone sideways, and Zhen, Gorley, and trusty tech wizard Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) participate in a wild, shaky-cam car chase away from the building’s facility. It’s a cute subversion of the franchise’s usual structure and it allows the plot to continue at an even clip, but for the purposes of this list, we can’t put it anywhere but dead last.

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Tom Cruise looks and stares in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.

It's been five years since the release of Mission: Impossible - Fallout, but the latest film in the series has finally arrived. Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie have reunited for the new sequel, Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1, and this is a story that has finally given Ethan Hunt (Cruise) a foe that he can't easily dispatch. The Entity is something that Ethan has never had to contend with before, and it will push him and his team to their limits.

Mission: Impossible regulars Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson are all back as Luther Stickell, Benji Dunn, and Ilsa Faust, respectively. Vanessa Kirby also reprises her role from Fallout as the White Widow, Alanna Mitsopolis. And for the first time since the original Mission: Impossible film in 1996, Henry Czerny has returned as IMF director Eugene Kittridge.

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