Apart from Superhero movies, Action movies are perhaps the most widely consumed form of cinema the world over owing to their higher entertainment value, enabling certain franchises to run into their ninth or even tenth entries, and still charting out huge numbers across the globe, especially the Asiatic regions. Invariably so, owing to their global appeal, close to 25% of the films released annually have an overlap with action films in an attempt at genre intermixing, making them the fodder of the masses, cementing the fact in the minds of moviegoers as well as makers.
While the theatrical gross is another story, these films also perform invariably well over home media, and in the current age of digital streaming, over several viewing platforms as well. Netflix, the current global leader in streaming content online hosts a number of action films, both from famous franchises and individual productions, often proving to be the viewers’ go to films on mundane afternoons.
Immortalised by the likes of ‘Die Hard’, the Bond films, the MI series, the Bourne series, and currently in the shared era spearheaded by the John Wicks, Atomic Blondes, Liam Neeson being Liam Neeson, and the MI series still going strong, the action genre is more or less characterized by some common quips that we as an audience are now used to and love. Car chases and crashes, explosions, bare knuckled brawls, machine gun fights, and the action hero, who is made to acquire an almost immortal image on celluloid, are now things without which an action film seems almost incomplete, and boy are we thankful for those. After all, there is only so much of serious cinema viewing that can be done until you find yourself inadvertently breaking to some bone crushing adrenaline inducing action flick. In that vein, here is the list of really good action movies on Netflix that you can stream right now. The list includes action adventure movies, action thriller movies and funny action movies.
If the trailer and promos didn’t put it out for you, ‘Polar’ is one of the most violent movies of this year, with the violence bordering on intense torture. However, as you see the film, you realise and begin to see the film for what it is, a delightfully gory B-movie adaptation of a graphic novel, with an abolsute badass for a protagonist at its centre in Mads Mikkelsen. There is something about putting older men in the roles of retired hitmen forced out of retirement to confront the perpetrator who did this to them, a certain appeal that hasn’t died down since ‘Taken’ and ‘John Wick’ were made into entire franchises. ‘Polar’ cranks the violence up several notches, and while it may become unpleasant once in a while, the absurdist humour should make you realise that you are in fact, in a very different world. A film that is exactly what it promises without any scope for contention.
19. Hardcore Henry
Imagine an action film made by a lover of first person shooter videogames, because that is exactly what ‘Hardcore Henry’ is, nothing more, nothing less. That however doesn’t take away from the film how relentlessly fun it is. The film wears its R-rating and videogame obsession on its sleeve as you become Henry and navigate your way through waves upon waves of henchmen and cyborgs out to kill you. Kudos to the cinematography team for pulling a film off entirely in first person, the style putting you right in the middle of the gunfire and hand to hand, resulting in some gleefully over the top violence. Not to be missed if you are looking for some harmless, no consequences fun.
18. What Happened to Monday
Putting the “original” in Netflix, ‘What Happened to Monday’ soars on account of its imaginative sci-fi plot. The year is 2073, and while the human population is left scrambling for resources in a now famished but technologically advanced world, the government has imposed a one child per family policy as a curbing measure. In that, seven identical sisters, all played by Noomi Rapace, named after the seven days of the week are forced to live an existence wherein they are allowed to go out only once a week corresponding to their name, in an attempt to outwit the Child Allocation Bureau (headed by an excellent Glenn Close as Nicolette Cayman), until Monday doesn’t return home one day. If the above plot doesn’t entice you into giving this film a try, I don’t know what will.
17. The Boondock Saints
‘The Boondock Saints’ has a plot that is fascinating to say the least, and is one of the better examples of action comedy films from the 90s, the decade responsible for popularising the subgenre in the first place. Among Willem Dafoe’s best works who stars as a detective hot on the heel of two catholic brothers who have turned killers, knocking off mafia thugs one by one, ‘The Boondock Saints’ is a stylistic victory more than anything, touching on themes of faith, brutality, altruism, and humour in unmistakable fashion, one that surely belongs to the Tarantino school of thought. Watch this if you are in the mood for some old-testament justice.
16. Hot Fuzz
The second film in the Cornetto trilogy released in 2007 is virtually everything that ‘Shaun of the Dead’ was, but only slightly better. ‘Hot Fuzz’ is not only a worthy sequel to the horror comedy, it is also funnier and more action oriented in my opinion. The trio strikes again, this time in the roles of police officers, and are joined by Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy to add to the crazy proceedings. The film works best when it shows the duo in action and hilarity, or while mocking the standard American action film, and the people obsessed with them, brilliantly embodied by a hilarious Nick Frost.
15. Black Panther
‘Black Panther’ made a stellar appearance in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ to make his way to probably the most surprising superhero movie this year, and an origin film in general, taking out more than a billion dollars in global revenue. Nobody, not even Marvel I guess, was prepared for the kind of storm ‘Black Panther’ would usher in, especially given the fact that it is also officially the most awarded Superhero movie, including three wins at the Academy awards. However, if I am to be honest, I would consider ‘Black Panther’ an important film with its cultural and political undertones, more than an excellent one. On its evaluating grounds as a superhero film, ‘Black Panther’ has enough packed in its runtime to keep you invested, although much of it may be standard Marvel fare. The action is good, but the CGI does appear to be a bit off in some of the scenes. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger is the best and most fleshed out Marvel villain in years, and his angst and motivation are among the better bits of the film. All in all, ‘Black Panther’ is gorgeous to look at (especially the parts in Wakanda), culturally informed, handsomely mounted in terms of execution although sloppy in parts, and has a completely functional plot. If that sounds like almost every other superhero movie except the cultural connections, it probably is just that.
14. The Night Comes for Us
If I were to show you ‘The Night Comes for Us’ sans the title cards in the beginning and end of the movie, you would have taken less than two seconds to guess that it was the third installment in the ‘Raid’ franchise of Indonesian martial arts films. Positively so, ‘TNCFU’ is almost exactly that, with a slight shake up in cast. Iko Uwais is fantastic again as Arian, both in the acting and martial arts departments, but the real star here is Joe Taslim, whose Ito has deeper motivations than any other recent action star, and his act reflects that. Undoubtedly so, the fight between the two stalwarts is hands down the best part of the film, and that is a feat considering the entire film for its 120 minute duration is a relentless gore fest, with intense bare knuckle, bone crushing, bloody sequences of fighting and mayhem. Trust me when I say that you’d be relieved to see them use a gun for an easy kill. The film would almost seem like a sadistic effort to test the stomach on skirmish viewers, and it succeeds.
13. Black Hawk Down
Not your typical action film, ‘Black Hawk Down’ is a wrenching documentation of the war like situation in the declared failed state of Somalia in 1993, wherein close to a hundred army rangers and Navy SEALS were sent in to capture two Somali war lords when two of their Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, and the remaining survivors must face an entire hoard of highly armed Somali gunmen. With an ensemble cast of now well-known faces and director Ridley Scott in top shape at the peak of his career, ‘Black Hawk Down’ is a memorable albeit harrowing experience about the horrors of war, expertly shot and performed in its most tense bits.
With the franchise all set to reboot this April, you might consider returning to Guillermo Del Toro’s original Hellboy film, starring the now legendary Ron Perlman in the titular role. I still feel the original duology of ‘Hellboy’ films deserves its fair due, given how the ideas of a sequel were scratched in favour of a new Hellboy in the form of David Harbour. The film definitely benefits from Del Toro’s deft imagination, both in creating the world from the comics and the creatures that inhabit it. With the biggest heart possible for an unlikely superhero film, ‘Hellboy’ continues to be one of the films I keep going back to still in reminiscence of the good old days.
11. Ip Man
The biography of the great Bruce Lee’s mentor. I am honestly not a fan of martial arts films, but I do appreciate a good film whenever I see one, and believe me when I say this, ‘Ip Man’ will challenge all preconceived or ill-informed notions you may have of martial arts films. The fight choreography in the film is wondrously done, with each of the actors, especially Donnie Yen in the titular role, whose stardom only multiplied following this film, visibly putting in the required effort to make It look as real as possible. If you plan to foray into martial arts cinema, there perhaps may not be an easier, more fluid transition.
10. Casino Royale
The film that is responsible for giving to the world one of the best Bonds of all time in Daniel Craig, and ushering in a new, more grounded era of Bond films. All my reservations regarding the tone of the film and the new bond were quickly overcome within minutes, given the terrific parkour opening sequence, surpassed only by ‘Skyfall’s, as I sat and let the film’s rather suave confines and Craig’s class act consume me. However, the best bit of the film remains what is now an iconic moment for Bond films, the winning of the high stakes poker tournament by Bond at the titular Casino Royale. The beginning of a new era in Bond films slated to come to an end with ‘Bond 25’ next year.
9. Avengers: Infinity War
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ was the movie event fans had been waiting for since ages, the culmination of a cinematic universe, or atleast the beginning of the end. The film turned out to be bigger and better than what anyone expected, and blew a storm across ticket windows grossing more than $2 Billion at the world box-office. That should have been no surprise given the massive popularity Marvel films enjoy anyway, but ‘Infinity War’ was more than a film ever since it came into being. The film brought together virtually every Marvel hero introduced over a course of eighteen movies over ten years and pitted them against an all-powerful titan of a villain, Thanos, whose overarching presence was only hinted at in numerous post credits scenes. The film does demand a sense of appreciation at all the setting up that took years and farsightedness in the business, and the story of Thanos, his motivations as a villain and his menacing resolve to balance the universe add a lot of emotional weight to the story that I earlier found missing from most Marvel outings, and frequently lamented over. The cinematography and special effects were a huge step up from previous Marvel movies, and even the score was considerably better. It might feel overstuffed to a certain amount of viewers, but if one manages to squeeze in at least one badass scene for every hero, and absolutely killer entries for Cap, Iron Man and Thor, that alone deserves commendation.
The perfect comic book adaptation in my opinion. Watchmen is dark, gritty, violent, and features some nudity as well, that makes it more than warrant the R-rating. But, despite all that, what makes it work so well (apart from its source material) is that it receives just the right amount of stylistic treatment in Snyder’s hands. Action sequences are brilliantly shot and edited, the atmospherics work at large, characterisation and casting is near perfect, (especially Rorscach) and the story set against the cold war setting, in a world where people grow wary of the role of vigilantes in the society (which has also become Snyder’s recurring motif in the DCEU) is solid. The ultimate cut with ‘The Tales of the Black Freighter’ incorporated in the main cut is just icing on the cake.
7. Enter the Dragon
‘Enter the Dragon’ is legendary. No other word can possibly define the film’s legacy and the influence it has had on martial arts films ever since. If you are a fan of martial arts films, I am assured that you have watched this film already. If you are not and have not, do you really need any other reason than the master, Bruce Lee himself?
6. The Raid
Relentlessly breathtaking action that on the contrary will leave you gasping for breath. You are simply in the wrong place if you are looking for some complex plot or deeply involving characters. ‘The Raid’ is straight up kick ass, and wastes virtually no time in bringing the action home when a group of 20 men are trapped inside a 15 storey building, who now must fight their way through waves altogether of highly trained and heavily armed henchmen, until they can face the big baddie. Knives, guns, bare knuckles, walls, brick bats, an axe, and even refrigerators, nothing is spared as a tool to kill in this brutal mano-a-mano. The fight choreography is a-rate, and the intense atmosphere of the film will catch hold of you refusing to let go until the final survivors emerge out of the building. This one is not to be missed.
5. The Dark Knight
There is perhaps no film I have written so much about in my tenure here, in every capacity and stance possible. I have praised it, criticised it, and even tried to break down the film’s mass hysteria and why it appealed to the audiences’ psyche the way it did. The reason is simple: ‘The Dark Knight’ took everything that was conventional for a superhero film and turned it on its head, and it is able to establish a vast majority of that by virtue of its legendary villain, the Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger. In all plausibility, I don’t see a time when the dialogues of this film, and the Joker’s sermons are not part of the common tongue, and eleven years hence, we have still been waiting for a better superhero film to close our lists with.
4. Kill Bill (Vol. 1 and 2)
You seem to be missing the point of the ‘Kill Bill’ films when you start demanding things like character development or a sane plotline from the film. ‘Kill Bill’ is essential, unfiltered Tarantino, untethered in its total four hour runtime, and undeterred in his visual pursuit of creating an extremely relentless, ultra-stylistically ultra-violent martial arts revenge flick, giving us a heroine for the ages in Uma Thurman, playing the wronged Bride. It’s all of that and just that, quite simply put.
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Bearing an incredible legacy, ‘Heat’ is still the best heist action movie, more than two decades hence. Reuniting two legends, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino on the screen is a mammoth task ‘Heat’ handles with ease, and the rather straightforward yet effective direction by Michael Mann ensures that you are in the thick of happenings, even during its entire runtime of close to three hours. A modern classic and the definitive heist action film for decades together.
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2. The Crow
‘The Crow’ is a film that is always associated with a bit of melancholy upon mention, mainly because of the fact that the film’s lead actor, Brandon Lee, accidentally passed away while shooting for this film. However, that doesn’t once shadow the fact that ‘The Crow’ is a great film. The film’s setting seems mostly Gothic, and the background score and cinematography are perfectly in sync with the moody revenge thriller that the movie is. The dialogue too is hard hitting, with a sort of darkly philosophical undertone to it. The violence is a handful too, in both, the wrongs inflicted upon the lead characters and the revenge exacted from the assailants when Lee’s character is resurrected as The Crow. Brandon Lee puts forth an excellent but haunting final performance, one that would have been a benchmark in an otherwise illustrious acting career cut short by his untimely death. The film is a faithful adaptation of its source material, maintaining the trademark grunge and visual style of storytelling too.
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1. The Terminator
Terming this film the definitive blockbuster of the 80s decade and the single most defining film for sci-fi and action during that decade, and even decades hence wouldn’t be a complete long shot. From the blockbuster churning director James Cameron, ‘The Terminator’ was an experience unlike anything when first watched, cinematically paralleled by and even surpassed by its rather excellent sequel. The film is responsible for transforming Arnold Schwarzenegger into a star overnight, and is absolutely essential viewing as far as action movies, or good movies are concerned. A definitive classic in every way.
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