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The 25 best Netflix action movies (March 2019)

5. Face/Off (1997)

Region: US

The movie: What do you get when you cross Nicolas Cage at his most histrionic, and John Travolta at his most “I need a hit!”? Face/Off. The height of ‘90s action decadence, John Woo's bonkers shoot ‘em up is simply brilliant. The plot follows an FBI agent (Travolta) and a terrorist (Cage) who swap faces. Because... Well, just because. Watching Travolta mimic Cage's speech patterns is fantastic. And, being John Woo, it involves plenty of slow motion dives, dual wielded gold handguns, and a load of random doves.

Why it’s worth a watch: If Cage’s utterly over-the-top tics hasn’t sold you, then what about the fight sequence where Archer (Travolta), Troy (Cage), and a whole room full of disposable feds trade bullets in slow-motion - all to the tune of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. That’s the good stuff.

4. Battle Royale (2000)

Region: UK, US 

The movie: The Hunger Games is unfairly compared to this Japanese film. I say unfairly because Battle Royale is sooooo much worse. The premise is similar - a bunch of schoolkids forced to fight one another to the death - and yet, the great thing about this movie is that it had no PG-13 restrictions. Instead of having to run across a field to get weapons, Class 3-B are armed by their captors from the start. It's the luck of the draw - they might get a crossbow or a pencil. It's as if the movie craves blood. 

Why it’s worth a watch: Unlike Katniss and her preened teens, there's no hope for any of these youngsters. Either their deaths are brutalised or their souls are. Yeah, it's pretty dark.

3. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Region: US

The movie: The third entry for the amnesiac spy. Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne, who decides to pursue the government after they try to assassinate him, uncovering yet another shady conspiracy. Business as usual, right? Director Paul Greengrass brings his A-game once more, making this the finest Bourne adventure of the bunch, pitting the spy against a range of assassins, and putting him in a number of nail-biting scenarios. 

Why it’s worth a watch: Often, the third in a trilogy can be where things run out of juice. Not so here. In fact, Ultimatum pushes harder. Bourne himself is more relentless, the plot bounds along at a sprint, and the action sequences are, frankly, breathtaking. It’s easy to lose track of which is your favourite bit, when the entire movie is one long actionpiece, destined to blow you away. Mine? Bourne vs. Desh. That window jump is masterful. 

2. Ip Man (2008)

Region: UK, US

The movie: Everyone knows who Bruce Lee is. A legend on the screen and in a fight. What about the man who taught him? That's sort of the inspiration for Ip Man. Donnie Yen made his mark playing a fictionalised version of the Wing Chun grandmaster Yip Kai-man who mentored several major martial arts experts, and this takes you back to where it all began. In 1930s China the Japanese invade Yip's town, and it's up to him - and his amazing skills - to take down their leader. 

Why it’s worth a watch: The appeal here is finding out about the man who trained Lee. That in itself is intriguing, because it’s a blast learning about his past. Who doesn’t like an action biopic? That being said, it’s well worth checking out to see Yen deliver some historic beat downs, and to see where so many moves we recognise today originated. 

1. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Vol. 2 (2004)

Region: UK, US

The movie: Tarantino’s double-bill oozes with blood. It’s so doused with the stuff, that a majority of its most violent scenes are shown in black and white, so as to avoid a harsher rating. That should give you an inkling as to the type of fare on offer from the pop culture connoisseur-turned-director. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 bludgeons together a number of grindhouse cinema genres, and shapes them into a revenge flick that finds Uma Thurman’s The Bride cruelly double-crossed on her wedding day. 

Why it's worth a watch: Oh, there are all sorts of stand-out moments that make it worth watching, and it’s mostly down to the superb performances from its main cast. But for me? The Bride’s first visit on her kill-list tour to the abode of one Vernita Green is the clincher, one of Tarantino’s best openings, that finds the pair beating seven shades out of each other.

Read more: The 25 best movies that pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors