15 Best Action Movies on Netflix

15 Best Action Movies on Netflix

March 15, 2024

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Action movies can get a bad rap for being shallow or brainless (which isn’t always a bad thing), but there really is an artistry to getting action right—making sure it flows coherently, looks beautiful, and carries narrative or emotional weight. On Netflix you can find a huge number of action films, though many of them might only be good for a quick fix or a background watch. So for this list below, we’ve put together a number of lesser-known movies that we believe have gripping, well-made action, while also still being strong films in one’s own right.

1. Shéhérazade (2018)

best

8.6

Country

France

Director

Jean-Bernard Marlin

Actors

Dylan Robert, Idir Azougli, Kader Benchoudar, Kenza Fortas

Moods

Action-packed, Intense, Romantic

A gritty and realistic thriller set in France’s notorious capital city of crime – Marseille. 

Zachary is released from Juvenile prison to learn that his mother has abandoned him. He finds kinship in an underage sex worker by the name of Shéhérazade. 

This seems like the set-up for a tough watch, but Shéhérazade plays like a romance when it’s slow, and a crime thriller when it’s fast (it’s mostly fast). Everything about the story and two leads’ relationship rings true. Added to the fact that it has no interest in emotionally manipulating you, the movie is more gripping and thought-provoking than sad.

A great story, fantastic acting from the cast of first-timers, and outstanding direction give the feeling that Shéhérazade is bound to become a modern classic. If you liked City of God, you will love this. 

2. Queen and Slim

best

8.1

Country

Canada, United States of America

Director

Female director, Melina Matsoukas

Actors

Andre De'Sean Shanks, Andy Dylan, Benito Martinez, Bokeem Woodbine

Moods

Action-packed, Thrilling

On their drive back from a Tinder date that was only average, a couple are pulled over by a racist police officer. Things escalate unexpectedly and the couple, one of whom is a lawyer aware of the corruptedness of the system, start a life on the run together. This thrilling set-up mixing social commentary and romance is a movie that’s actually many movies in one. And almost as if to cut in-between the different tonalities, there are so many quiet and beautiful shots of the couple: silent, still or dancing – these moments are true cinematic magic. 

3. Lawless (2012)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

John Hillcoat

Actors

Alex Van, Bill Camp, Bruce McKinnon, Chad Randall

Moods

Action-packed, Dramatic, Thrilling

Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, and Shia Laboeuf (the good Shia Laboeuf) all star in this true-story-based gangster tale. As a result, Lawless is cliché-free, fast, and violent – yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bootlegging Bondurant brothers live according to different rules, yet run a successful business during the prohibition era. When new authorities try to shut them down violently, each one of them has a way of dealing with it. The story runs very smoothly, and added to the perfect performances and great staging, Lawless becomes very entertaining, and a true pleasure to watch.

4. The Raid: Redemption (2011)

best

8.0

Country

France, Hungary, Indonesia

Director

Gareth Evans

Actors

Acip Sumardi, Alfridus Godfred, Ananda George, Bastian Riffanie

Moods

Action-packed, Intense, Thrilling

A special forces team conducts a raid at a multi-story ghetto building where a criminal boss runs his business. Things quickly go wrong and chaos ensues. Full of pure action, with no overblown Hollywood-type CGI nonsense. It is made the way action movies should be made, full of realistic fight scenes. It is exciting, brutal and thrilling. The Raid: Redemption is definitely among the best action movies ever made.

5. The Siege of Jadotville (2016)

best

8.0

Country

Ireland, South Africa

Director

Richie Smyth

Actors

Ashish Gangapersad, Charlie Kelly, Conor MacNeill, Conor Quinlan

Moods

Action-packed, Inspiring, Raw

The Siege of Jadotville is a different kind of war movie. It doesn’t recount famous battles or portray renowned heroes – instead, it’s about heroes and events that went completely unnoticed. Namely, the Irish 35 Battalion ‘A’ Company – a group of youngsters who are sent out on a U.N mission to the Congo. What was supposed to be a simple positioning quickly becomes one of the most sought-after locations and the battalion of 150 ‘war-virgins” find themselves up against 3000 mercenaries led by experienced French commandants. And what a tribute this film is: it’s well-paced, powerfully shot, and the acting, led by Jamie Dornan on one side and Guillaume Canet on the other, is absolutely perfect.

6. Okja (2017)

best

8.0

Country

Korea, South Korea, United States of America

Director

Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Actors

Adam Auslander, Ahn Seo-hyun, Ahn Seong-bong, Amber Snow

Moods

Action-packed, Sunday, Thought-provoking

Director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) does something quite amazing with the $50 million budget Netflix gave him: he makes a simplistic movie. But man, is it good. Okja tells the story of a “super pig” experiment that sends genetically modified pigs to top farmers around the world. In Korea, a farmer’s granddaughter forms a special relationship with one of these super pigs (Okja). When the company who originally ran the experiment want their pig back (performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton) – the two find an ally in an animal advocacy group led by Jay (Paul Dano). This is a straightforward movie, but nevertheless it is entertaining and full of thought-provoking themes and performances from an excellent cast.

7. Train to Busan (2016)

best

8.0

Country

Korea, South Korea

Director

Sang-ho Yeon, Yeon Sang-ho

Actors

Ahn So-hee, An So-hee, Baek Seung-hwan, Cha Chung-hwa

Moods

Action-packed, Intense, Thrilling

A zombie virus breaks out and catches up with a father as he is taking his daughter from Seoul to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. Watch them trying to survive to reach their destination, a purported safe zone.

The acting is spot-on; the set pieces are particularly well choreographed. You’ll care about the characters. You’ll feel for the father as he struggles to keep his humanity in the bleakest of scenarios.

It’s a refreshingly thrilling disaster movie, a perfect specimen of the genre.

8. Contratiempo (2016)

best

8.0

Country

Spain

Director

Oriol Paulo

Actors

Ana Wagener, Annick Weerts, Barbara Lennie, Betsy Túrnez

Moods

Action-packed, Suspenseful, Thrilling

This movie is like thriller-candy. It is full of twists, it is very atmospheric, and in nicely predictable fashion it will deliver that excitement rush we (most of us) love. Accused of murder, a wealthy entrepreneur hires the best witness preparation expert he can find. They have three hours before the trial to come up with the most solid, plausible defence. But ?, a new witness surfaces. Don’t expect anything overly original, but expect to be entertained.

9. Snowpiercer (2014)

7.9

Country

Czech Republic, Japan, Korea

Director

Bong Joon-ho

Actors

Adnan Haskovic, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Clark Middleton

Moods

Action-packed, Depressing, Dramatic

Snowpiercer is an under-the-rader post-apocalyptic thriller that offers the grittiness that many times only Asian cinema may achieve. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong forces audiences to forget that Chris Evans was ever a Marvel superhero, as he leads a revolt of his fellow “low-class” citizens against the self-appointed gentry in a train that contains all remaining members of the planet. With immersive environments and a layered script, this film melds together social commentary and moral discourse in a visually arresting and vastly entertaining package.

10. Uncut Gems (2019)

7.9

Country

South Africa, United States of America

Director

Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Actors

Abel Tesfaye, Adam Sandler, Alexander Gilkes, Andrea Linsky

Moods

Action-packed, Dark, Intense

A crazy, anxiety-inducing thriller that turns Adam Sandler into a thrill-generating machine, which in its own speaks volumes about the rhythm of this movie. It follows a jeweler who gets himself in trouble with what feels like all of New York – a gang, Kevin Garnett (the NBA player), other jewelers, his family, odd twins that appear out of nowhere – everyone. This all happens in the backdrop of him feeling he has “hit big” and is on the verge of receiving a lot of money.

If you watched Good Time, you know what to expect from directors Safdie brothers: excruciating tension that keeps building up when you thought it wasn’t possible. And that might be the only problem with Uncut Gems; the tension doesn’t feel that different from Good Time, and having watched one you can guess where the other one is going.

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