There’s always those films that will move you and that will get about a billion Oscar nominations, but sometimes all we want is to sit down with a mindless action flick on Netflix. We’re talking bodies getting thrown around, a fair bit of blood and guts, some dizzying fight scenes and guns… so many guns. While we’ve moved on from peak 1980s cheesiness, the action genre is still very much alive and kicking. A lot of recent-ish action films aren’t even that cringeworthy, so let’s get to the bottom of it and find out what the best action flicks are on Netflix.
What are the best action films on Netflix?
The top 10 action films on Netflix – in this author’s opinion – aren’t necessarily the mindless ‘run and gun’ type of movies with cheesy one liners. Most have some sort of compelling plot, maybe a twist and even a love story/’save the girl’ type of scenario. Here they are in no apparent order.
The National Board of Review rated Prisoners one of the best films of its release year, and you can bet there’s no cheesy one-liners in this flick. Big Aussie Hugh Jackman is at it again, in a role you probably wouldn’t associate him with. This time he’s a polarising father in rainy Pennsylvania. Long story short, his daughter and her friend go missing and later found out to be abducted. It delves into quite a thrilling film that plays on a kind of psychological thriller vibe. Jackman is the strongest, but is supported by Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard and Paul Dano. It’s a powerful ensemble cast for a gritty movie. It gets violent, and is quite haunting and graphic in parts, so send the kids to bed for this one.
Ah yes, now this is more your classic action film. Here you’ve got Ben Affleck directing himself being a hero, seemingly like in every other one of his movies. He’s got the cash, the guns, the smarts, the fighting skills and the girl. Affleck plays – you guessed it – an accountant, but he’s like, really, really smart and autistic. Despite this, he can still attract women by saying very little, and he’s also got a fair bit of cash – plus he can really kick butt. He’s also got a tortured past that is all conveniently revealed in literally the dying breaths of the film. The Accountant, though it sounds like a smart movie, is actually pretty dumb but it’s great if all you want is cheap entertainment.
If you desire more blood and guts in your action film, Fury is for you. Plus, it has a smouldering Brad Pitt. Loosely based on a medley of true accounts in World War II, Fury details a US tank crew in their final days of the war. It’s not exactly a pretty film and doesn’t portray the US army in the best light, which is refreshing. As the crew moves across Nazi Germany, they are told to capture and hold a crossroads. From there, all hell breaks loose. The film has, aside from Pitt, Shia LaBeouf – who apparently didn’t shower while shooting so he could get in character – Logan Lerman and Michael Pena. The film received praise for its use of real tanks, so history buffs can rejoice as well.
You know a film based on a graphic novel isn’t going to be exactly normal, don’t you? Sin City is a neo-noir crime film. It’s also an anthology film, which means there’s a few stories all interwoven. This can make it hard to keep up, and the film nearly warrants a second screening just to understand and appreciate it. If comic books and stylised violence are your thing, Sin City could be for you. The cast is pretty heavy-hitting, including Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood. Oh, and Alexis Bledel from Gilmore Girls fame – though in a vastly different character to Rory.
You’ve got Bruce Willis, you’ve got the 1990s and you’ve got weapons… but it’s not Die Hard. It’s Mercury Rising. The film also has Alec Baldwin for a bit of star power. Willis plays an undercover FBI agent who protects a 9-year-old autistic kid who is targeted by government assassins after cracking a top-secret code. OK, look; it’s not the most believable plot line and the film was savaged by critics, but you’ve got old Brucey boy, some big guns and corrupt government officials – it’s the perfect trio for a lazy popcorn-fuelled night in.
The first Bourne is the best. Don’t argue. While technically all of the Matt Damon ones are pretty good, the Bourne Identity is the one that will be remembered. It’s the most realistic, the grittiest and the one with the least-dizzying shots of fight scenes. Those fight scenes in later films could really make your head spin! The Bourne series is based on the Robert Ludlum novels of the same name. The film features Matt Damon as a man suffering extreme memory loss in a quest to uncover his true identity among a shady CIA conspiracy to shut him down. The film has arguably one of the best car chase scenes of all time – all very realistic as well. This isn’t a film just for the action buffs; anyone looking for entertainment should be satisfied.
Black Hawk Down
The early 2000s was a rich time for action movies, as we’ve seen in this list. Black Hawk Down is a continuation of that. As the title suggests, Black Hawk Down is a war film and is directed by Ridley Scott. However, it’s not World War II or Vietnam or Afghanistan – it’s Mogadishu. It stars some heavy hitters and heart throbs including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana and more. Tom Hardy also made his film debut in this one. Basically, the Somali militia gives a chopper crew hell in the film and it’s well over two hours of loud noises and gunfire. It’s loosely based on a true story, with the idea plucked from a series of articles published in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Oh, hello it’s Ben Affleck again. Again, he’s a hero in a film he’s directing. However, Argo is based on a true story. Argo details the story of CIA operative Tony Mendez in which he led the rescue of six US diplomats from Iran in the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis. The twist is that he rescued them under the guise of filming a science fiction film. Look, as far as action goes it’s a bit light on, but it’s got all the necessary ingredients; Ben Affleck playing a hero, intense dialogue, and a plot that carries you to the last minute. Despite widespread critical acclaim, the film has come under fire for downplaying the role of the Canadian embassy in the rescue as well as other exaggerated scenes. At the end of the day it’s two hours of entertainment; can you really blame them for exaggerating?
Action films are dominated by three actors – Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg. Marky Mark is in this one and is again based on a true story. The film depicts a Navy SEALs mission in the war in Afghanistan, labelled Operation Red Wings. Basically, the team has to track down Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The film has some intense battle sequences and the good guys don’t always win. Despite being action-heavy, the film was praised for its general sensitivity around the real-life veterans, so nothing is overly exaggerated. Plus, it was in the National Board of Review’s top ten list for 2013, so there’s that.
For those who perhaps value a lot of style over substance, Drive is probably the film for you. It’s somewhat light on dialogue and a rich plotline but it oozes 80s retro style cues, glorious violence, fantastic cinematography and a wicked soundtrack. In a somewhat left-of-field role for Ryan Gosling, Drive details an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver. It is based on the novel of the same name, but the novel features a non-linear narrative. Of course, like all good action films, there’s a girl that needs to be saved, and that’s Carey Mulligan’s character Irene. Gosling’s unnamed character doesn’t say much, but he can drive fast, beat up thugs and get girls. How good is that?
What action movie should I watch on Netflix?
The action genre is one that’s frequently bashed by critics as being cheesy, but as we’ve seen here there are some gems to be found. Sometimes we don’t want to think about character development, plotlines and imagery – we want guns, car chases, fight scenes and more. Netflix is laden with some of the most prominent action films to come out in the last 20 years – so don’t just stop at these 10. If you’ve got yourself a spare couple of hours and you don’t want to think too hard or be peppered with pretentiousness, these films are for you.