The 25 best Netflix action movies (December 2018)

An image from Rogue One - one of the best Netflix action movies

The wham-bam explosions that barely ruffle the bad guy’s hair, the insane car chases that defy physics, and the heroes who only talk in one-liners. The best Netflix action movies offer those cheesy - sorry, I mean classy - prospects, amongst many others. What like? Well, people drilling holes in meteors! Criminals swapping faces with cops! And half-vampires killing other vampires! 

The action genre certainly deserves its rep as the home of the most exhilarating cinema ever made, but, let’s not forget: some of this stuff was cooked up by filmmakers who were also tripping balls. That’s what makes it one of the most exciting genres: you never know what you’re going to get. 

Being able to crash out on the couch with one, nay 25, of the best Netflix action movies, is clearly one of the premium ways to relax at the end of a long week. So go, binge on this batch of tantalising adrenaline-packed tales. And if you're just looking for the best action movies period, we've got them as well!

25. A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

Region: US

The movie: Picture the scene: you’re in the middle of nowhere with your pals, having a simply lovely time hiking… only to find your outdoorsy weekend interrupted when you discover a kid buried in a box in the middle of nowhere. That’s the predicament the group in this flick find themselves in. That sort of thing doesn't just happen, of course, and it's not long before they're being pursued by loads of very athletic bad guys. If you like balls-to-the-wall action flicks with a side order of thrills add this to your queue. Now.

Why it’s worth a watch: If you've skipped past this thinking 'Ugh, it's that bleak rock climbing documentary AGAIN' then fix that problem, pronto. I won't lie, there is mountaineering involved but watching Melissa George and co. navigate some absolutely horrendous terrain makes this movie worth a watch.

24. Armageddon (1998)

Region: US

The movie: The 1998 blockbuster season saw two practically identical movies about Earth on the verge of impending disaster thanks to pesky meteors; Deep Impact and this one. When it comes to far-fetched plots, over-the-top explosions, and flagrant sentimentalism, Michael Bay's your guy, really. Driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) is enlisted to lead a group to drill into the surface of a meteor, in order to prevent it from colliding with Earth. Sounds daft? Yeah, but you won’t care. 

Why it’s worth a watch: Armageddon's not a perfect film by any means. A large chunk of its A-list cast are underused and most of its plot is utterly ridiculous. And yet, for a mega-budget popcorn flick about a bunch of astronauts tasked with landing on a giant rock hurtling toward the planet? You can't help but grit your teeth when the going gets tough.

23. National Treasure (2004)

Region: US

The movie: If you took The Da Vinci Code and replaced all of its scenes wherein characters are explaining the plot to each other - approximately 72% of the movie - with actual action you’d have National Treasure. Nicolas Cage leads this adventure as historian Ben Gates, whose interest in code-breaking finds him in pursuit of a fabled treasure that dates back to the birth of the United States. After locating a clue that’s connected to the Declaration of Independence, at the same time as a baddy, the race is on. 

Why it’s worth a watch: This arrived a few years before Cage started his stint of back-to-back thrillers with one-word titles, so his playing it straight here is part of why it's such fun. It makes you forget about his typical manic, bug-eyed performances: think Indiana Jones with a hint more quirk, and you’re there. 

22. The Expendables (2010)

Region: UK

The movie: Chuck together an all-star cast of grizzled action stars and let them do their thing: that’s the basic gist of The Expendables. What more could you want from a throwback actioner directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone? The seasoned beefcakes joining him include Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who play their part in a by-the-numbers double cross situation. Large and in charge, Stallone’s Barney Ross rallies together his crew to take out a scheming South American dictator, until their real target is someone else entirely.

Why it’s worth a watch: Uniting a horde of classic action heroes, many of whom have never shared a screen before, is every action fan’s dream. The story’s hardly original but that’s not a huge concern when you’ve got so many recognisable faces kicking ass left, right, and centre. 

21. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Region: UK, US

The movie: Straight off of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino penned this ode to schlocky horror, a fast-paced yarn about two crooks on the lam. George Clooney and Tarantino himself play the Gecko Brothers, a dubious pair who would sooner shoot you than ask you for help. The brothers take the Fuller family hostage in their own RV, in order to find safe passage over the US-Mexico border after blowing away loads of cops following a failed bank heist. With plans to meet a contact named Carlos, at a dingy bar not far from the crossing, they’re all completely unaware of what awaits them...

Why it’s worth a watch: A masterclass in building tension by having you look completely the wrong way for about 45 minutes, there’s a real thrill from thinking you know what the movie is about, only to be disarmed midway through. Director Robert Rodriguez brings a stylised eye to the action, that’s comedic and kinetic. The brawl at the Titty Twister flat-out rocks. 

20. V for Vendetta (2005)

Region: US 

The movie: When you think of action movies, the mind usually leaps to Baybuster-inspired explosions and tough guys with mullets walking away from said explosions. Action's often seen as the 'check your brain at the door' genre. V for Vendetta asks: why can't we have brains AND explosions? A dystopian tale based on the Alan Moore comics and written for the screen by the Wachowskis, it takes place in a fallen London - and there's no Gerard Butler in sight. No, this is V's show, a masked vigilante who leads a rebellious movement to overthrow the fascist government regime. Think Brazil meets The Matrix and you're getting close. 

Why it's worth a watch: What separates this from other movies by the Wachowskis - who produced the flick - is how well it has aged. Less reliant on cutting edge tech, the underlying message of V for Vendetta, the fight against oppression, is one that still rings true today. And you’ll remember thanks to the non-stop action.

19. Iron Man (2008)

Region: UK

The movie: Way before Thor and Cap and Black Widow became household names, there was Iron Man. The first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe blew audiences away, storming onto the scene with its sumptuous mix of solid action and political commentary. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, the billionaire with a penchant for building weapons that piss people off and suits that turn people into superheroes. With easily the MCU’s best open, the movie follows Stark as he becomes Iron Man and takes down his foe.

Why it’s worth a watch: Sorely underrated, especially in comparison to the more-recent showy titles of the MCU. Iron Man’s a stripped-back, almost basic superhero flick, that’s absolutely stuffed to the gills with corking action sequences right from the start. Sure, it’s not got the colossal budget of say, Avengers: Infinity War, but looking at the methods of crafting blazing action sequences, I’m not sure it needed one.

Read more: "A franchise that is already beginning to rust" - Here's what the critics originally said about the first Iron Man movie

18. xXx (2002)

Region: UK 

The movie: Only Vin Diesel could take a title like xXx, wrestle it away from its X-rated connotations and turn it into a pretty fun action franchise. This is Bond meets Fast and Furious. Well, what would you expect from a protagonist like Xander Cage, an extreme sports nut with a penchant for doing dangerous stunts and working as a freelance spy for the NSA? This first outing finds him on a mission to infiltrate a bunch of Russian terrorists. Switch your brain to chill and soak up the thrills. 

Why it’s worth a watch: Forget your high-brow swanky drinks combos and steam-cleaned suits, 'cause Diesel ain't got time for that. This is all about hard-edged machismo with an even harder-edged rock soundtrack. 

17. Blade (1998)

Region: US

The movie: One of the earliest Marvel adaptations to hit the big screen, Blade is a fantastic mish-mash, an imaginative dive into a fanboy’s dream: what if you were half-human, half-vampire? Enter Blade, who lets face it, couldn’t have a cooler name if he tried. Shunned by both humans and vamps, he’s not exactly overflowing with social engagements, which works out well as he’s got a lotta shit to get done. In addition to to the small matter of avenging his mother’s death, he’s up against a new slick breed of vampires who want to wipe the human race off the planet. 

Why it’s worth a watch: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is great and all, but it failed to include this late ‘90s piece of camp. Blade makes no bones about what it is, and that’s a superhero flick that’s cheesier than the stinkiest Roquefort. You’ll not see an MCU actioner that’s this crammed with blood and bad language. 

16. Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Region: US

The movie: On the surface Lenny Harlin's giant shark actioner looks, well, like your run-of-the-mill giant shark actioner. While it might simply scream Bargain Bin, Deep Blue Sea is one of the best mega-monster flicks. Samuel L. Jackson - the obligatory "big name" - plays an executive visiting one of his company's research facilities, where Saffron Burrows' scientist is playing god with a bunch of genetically-modified sharks. It's all in the name of curing Alzheimer's, but still. A shark that's extra large on account of all the DNA-meddling? That's still a shark that needs to eat. 

Why it’s worth a watch: These sharks are MASSIVE. That’s where most of the action stems from - their desire to break down doors, or ovens, with their immense snouts. Seriously. Harlin says he made the sharks extra long - 26ft - to try and do better than Jaws, and even if he doesn't quite accomplish it, you'll have a hoot regardless. 

Read more: 11 big dumb shark movies to guarantee you'll never go swimming again

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