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 soon — nearly 25 years later — a third film in the franchise.
The Night Comes for Us
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.
One of the most critically lauded and financially successful films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther was a full-blown cultural phenomenon when it was released in 2018. Kendrick Lamar saw an early cut of the movie and was inspired to produce an entire album to accompany the release; some of which appears in the film itself. Black Panther follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), king of the reclusive African nation of Wakanda, which has long willfully shrouded itself from the rest of the world because of its possession of an incredibly valuable and powerful element endemic to their lands, vibranium. (Yes, that’s the stuff Captain America’s shield is made out of.) When American Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) discovers he is a cousin to T’Challa and, therefore, has a claim to the Wakandan throne, he returns to his ancestral home to claim what he feels is his by right. A complicated, provocative, tragic story about diaspora and the historical consequences and responsibilities of imperialism, Black Panther takes on more serious and present political and societal themes than most MCU movies and does it with aplomb. It is legitimately culturally significant, a touchstone achievement for Marvel.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
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 Castle of Cagliostro
Years before founding Studio Ghibli, animation legend Hayao Miyazaki made his feature debut with The Castle of Cagliostro, a film in the Lupin III franchise. For those not familiar with the franchise, The Castle of Cagliostro follows the thief Arsène Lupin III, grandson of Maurice Leblanc’s iconic gentleman thief. The film opens as Lupin and his partner, Jigen, rob a casino, getting away only to discover that the cash they stole is counterfeit. They trace the counterfeit money to the country of Cagliostro, a country whose ruler, Count Cagliostro, is planning to marry Princess Clarisse, giving him total control over the country and its hidden treasure. The Castle of Cagliostro gallops from scene to scene, with daring set pieces and smooth animation. Although hardcore Lupin fans may dislike Miyazaki’s lighter, more heroic interpretation of the character, viewers open to Miyazaki’s vision will find this a fun adventure.
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.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
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 in order 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.
Nicolas Cage has been languishing so long in the dungeons of bad B-movies that it’s easy to forget he was once one of Hollywood’s most dynamic leading men, headlining a variety of wild, big-budget action films like 2004’s National Treasure. The film stars Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian who, hailing from the Indiana Jones school of academia, moonlights as a treasure hunter. Ever since he was a kid, Gates has sought one treasure above all others: A mythical object found by the Knights Templar and passed down through the ages to America’s Founding Fathers, who, it turns out, hid clues to its location in the Declaration of Independence. When Gates’ former comrade, the nefarious, British treasure hunter Ian Howe (Sean Bean), attempts to steal the Declaration, Ben decides to steal it first. National Treasure is a delightful romp, as Gates and his companions traverse the world in search of more clues and hidden secrets. If you’re seeking an adventure film about secret societies and historical conspiracies, this will do nicely.