Netflix isn’t just a great place to find high-quality TV shows like Mindhunter, Stranger Things, and Jessica Jones. The popular streaming service also has a treasure trove of excellent and underrated films, some of which have flown under the radar in recent years. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the action-adventure category, a genre built on hair-raising explosions and the harrowing exploits of a select few.
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Whether you prefer gritty films or the charm of modern superhero movies, the premium streaming service has it all. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of action films on Netflix you may want to avoid — including a shocking number of late-period Steven Seagal films — so we’ve curated a list of the best action movies currently on Netflix.
The original Bad Boys paired Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as two Miami narcotics detectives who don’t exactly always do things by the book. However, when they realize during an investigation into a heroin dealer that their department has been infiltrated, they go completely off the cuff to protect a crucial witness and root out the treachery. The chemistry between Smith and Lawrence, along with the high-octane, explosive, doesn’t-take-itself-too-seriously fun of the original helped launch a sequel and — nearly 25 years later — a third film in the franchise.
All the Marvel movies will be heading to Disney+ over the next year so, unless you plan on getting another subscription, you should jump on all the MCU content you can while it’s available on Netflix! As such, please consider one of the most underrated superheroes: Ant-Man. This sequel finds Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grappling with the challenges of balancing life as a superhero and life as a father. However, when an old rival of Lang’s mentor Dr. Hank Pym breaks ground on a powerful, dangerous new technology, Lang has to don the Ant-Man suit again and team up with the Wasp, Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Powered by the charisma of Rudd and the chemistry between him and Lilly, the Ant-Man movies are some of the most fun and charming of the MCU.
Timo Tjahhanto’s The Night Comes for Us is a brutal martial arts thriller that moves at a furious pace. The film begins as a group of enforcers for the South East Asian Triad massacres a village. Ito (Joe Taslim), one of the elite enforcers called the Six Seas, spares a little girl named Reina and kills the rest of the Triad soldiers present. Now on the run with Reina in tow, Ito must fight an army of goons and legendary assassins if he wants the two of them to survive. The Night Comes for Us is a stylish thriller, with deft camerawork and a pulsing soundtrack; it’s also a wildly violent one. Most of the fight scenes leave the rooms decked in blood and limbs, and one particularly gnarly kill somehow combines an air conditioner and piano wire.
Based on the life of martial arts grandmaster and Bruce Lee teacher, Ip Man, 2008’s Ip Man is one of the most successful martial arts films of the 21st-century. The film focuses on events in Ip’s life that supposedly took place during the Sino-Japanese War when Japanese forces occupied parts of China. When an occupying general challenges Chinese men to duels to prove Japanese superiority, Ip Man initially refuses to fight until he discovers the Japanese are going far beyond just hand-to-hand combat. Starring Donnie Yen as Ip Man, this beautifully choreographed film is a delight for fans of martial arts films and the entire trilogy is currently on Netflix. We’ve also found some of the best Bruce Lee movies to stream.
In an alternate 1980s, the United States is losing the Cold War and communism has become more powerful than ever. When Soviet soldiers invade a small Colorado town, brothers Jed (Patrick Swayze) and Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen) escape with some friends into the forest, while their father and many of the townspeople are taken prisoner by the invading army. Rather than run, the kids decide to mount an attack against the Soviets, allying with Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner (Powers Boothe) to make a stand against the Soviet invasion. This movie was made at the height of the Cold War during a particularly patriotic time and become a cult hit for a generation as a result. There’s even a remake! (That’s also on Netflix, but is probably worth skipping.)
Bong Joon-ho cleaned up at the 2020 Oscars for Parasite, but before that, his most popular film in the U.S. was 2013’s Snowpiercer. Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and John Hurt, Snowpiercer is a fascinating take on an apocalyptic Earth. Survivors of the planet’s second Ice Age live on a continuously running train that plows through the snow and ice. Like society before the Ice Age, the train divides the classes by car, with the decadent and rich at the front of the train, controlling the engine and all government, while the poorest and most disenfranchised live in the squalid caboose. When a revolution forms in the caboose, however, it threatens to derail more than just the complacent aristocracy. Snowpiercer is action-packed and more insightful than your average action movie, a testament to its excellent writer-director.
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is unlike any other superhero movie. For one, it won the Best Animated Picture Oscar. For another, it features an extremely well-known superhero (Peter Parker’s Spider-Man) and completely subverts decades of canon with an ingenious origin story for not just the new Spidey, Miles Morales, but several other quirky Spider-Beings, too. Morales has been Spider-Man in the comics for a few years now but Into the Spiderverse is the first real attempt to introduce mainstream audiences to a completely new person inheriting a classic superhero mantle. It works. Into the Spiderverse is delightfully tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at the faux-sanctity of origin stories while creating an action-packed, brilliantly animated story about finding your way in the world.
There have been a few entries in the Indiana Jones franchise over the decades, but the first remains the best. Set in the 1930s, Raiders of the Lost Ark follows Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), a professor of archaeology who moonlights as an adventurer, exploring ancient ruins and plundering their treasures in the name of science. When he learns that Nazis are seeking the legendary Ark of the Covenant, Jones and his former lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) head to Egypt to find the Ark first. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a pitch-perfect throwback to classic pulp adventure stories, with a charming, wisecracking hero, nefarious villains, and spectacular set-pieces sprinkled throughout a tight script.
Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room is a furious thriller — tense, violent, and clocking in at a brisk 95 minutes. The film follows a punk band called The Ain’t Rights — bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), singer Tiger (Callum Turner), and drummer Reece (Joe Cole) — who, after playing a show at a neo-Nazi bar in Oregon, stumble upon a murder in the green room. The neo-Nazis decide to cover up the crime, and for that, they’ll need to kill the witnesses. The Ain’t Rights don’t go gently, however, arming themselves and proceeding to fight their way out of the bar. With tight direction and great performances — including Patrick Stewart as the skinhead leader — Green Room is an excellent, fast-paced slaughterhouse of a film.
The first thing viewers may notice about John Maclean’s Slow West is just how bright it is. The greens of the trees, the vast blue of the Western sky, everything pops with such striking color. Maclean has captured the raw beauty of the Old West, but the bright palette doesn’t mean this is a happy film. As Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) leads his horse through a burned-down village, the movie reminds viewers that this was a land where death was never far from your trail. Jay is searching for a young woman he loved back in Scotland, who fled with her father to America after an unfortunate incident. Following a run-in with some soldiers, Jay finds help in the form of a bounty hunter, Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), who offers to be his bodyguard. Silas isn’t being honest with the naive Jay, however, and as they venture west, their interests, and those of a rival gang of bounty hunters, are at odds.
When Scott (Michael Cera) falls for the new girl in town, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he realizes that she has a bit of baggage. That baggage being seven ex-boyfriends, whom he must literally battle to the death to win her heart. Much like the graphic novel series on which it is based, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is part video game, part love story — an inventive pairing that should sit well with anyone who grew up amid the SNES craze of the early-’90s. The splashy visuals, deadpan dialogue, and numerous speech bubbles just add to the film’s comedic charm.
2005’s Sin City features an all-star creative cast, from directors through to the cast. Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino all contribute to this stylized adaptation of Miller’s classic graphic novel about violent men and femme fatales. Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Benicio del Toro, Elijah Wood, and Jessica Alba all contribute to slowly intertwining vignettes that reveal a larger conspiracy. A strange blend between modern noir and grindhouse, Sin City is an unusual, endlessly entertaining movie for any action or mystery fan.
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