The Matrix and Bad Boys II. Pic credit: Warner Bros/Sony
When looking for an exciting action movie, Netflix has most fans covered.
The streaming giant has licensed many of the best action movies of the last 40 years, and that includes award winners, genre favorites, cult classics, and crowd-pleasers.
Sadly, many top action movies have left Netflix and will never return thanks to new streaming services like Disney+ bringing Star Wars and Marvel home and the new HBO Max doing the same for DC movies and Warner Bros entertainment.
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With that said, Netflix has also been working hard over the last few years to bring its own action movies to the service – films that will never leave because they belong to Netflix and Netflix alone.
Here is a look at 15 great action movies to watch on Netflix as of July 2020.
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The Matrix (1999)
Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Pic credit: Warner Bros.
In 1999, The Wachowskis changed the way that action movies were made.
The siblings wrote and directed The Matrix, and it went down as a game-changer – an action movie like none that anyone had ever seen before.
When watching it in 2020 on Netflix, it is easy to see its influence on the movies of the last 20 years, and it is still one of the best action flicks of all-time regardless of the copycats that followed.
The movie stars Keanu Reeves as a hacker who learns that the world is not what it seems and sets out to uncover the truth and wake up the world to its actual situation.
Starship Troopers (1997)
The Paul Verhoeven movie Starship Troopers. Pic credit: Sony
Released in 1997, Starship Troopers is a non-stop action war movie about military forces sent in to battle bug creatures known as Arachnids.
Interestingly, the movie is based on the propaganda styled fascist pro-military novel by Robert A. Heinlein. The film is almost seen as more of a military satire and makes fun of the fanaticism that critics laid on the book’s story.
Whatever the case, the action here is ridiculous and never stops and was one of the best action films in the ’90s. The story is about a future military unit involved in an interstellar war.
Chris Hemsworth in Extraction. Pic credit: Netflix
Extraction is one of the most violent Netflix original action movies on the service today.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor) stars as a black ops mercenary who is hired to go to Bangladesh and rescue an Indian drug lord’s kidnapped son. The film, from that point on, is a non-stop action chase flick.
Netflix even joked about the death count in the movie, tweeting that Chris Hemsworth’s mercenary killed 183 people in the film, which is even more than someone like Rambo or an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie like Commando (81 people).
Kate Beckinsale in Underworld. Pic credit: Screen Gems
Len Wiseman created an excellent action horror movie in 2003 with Underworld.
While critics like to make fun of the movie and it hasn’t received the best reviews, it was a load of fun and garnered several sequels — and one prequel — building the exciting world.
Vampires and werewolves have been fighting for years, and when the first movie starts, the vampires are living in luxury with the werewolves living underground. Kate Beckinsale is Selena, a Death Dealer who hunts down and kills werewolves.
However, nothing is as it seems as the war becomes personal. Both the prequel and immediate sequel are also available on Netflix.
6 Underground (2019)
The cast of 6 Underground. Pic credit: Netflix
Michael Bay created some of the most over-the-top action movies in the history of cinema, from Bad Boys and Armageddon to Transformers.
In 2019, Bay signed a deal to make a Netflix exclusive action movie, and that film arrived as 6 Underground, starring Ryan Reynolds.
Reynolds is a “ghost,” an anonymous vigilante who recruits five other people to give up their lives and disappear from the real world to bring down criminals and terrorists that seem to get away with their crimes.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures
Arguably, the most celebrated action-adventure movie of all-time came in 1981 with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Ford stars as Indiana Jones, a university professor who moonlights as a treasure-hunting archeologist. In this movie, he is searching for one of history’s most elusive treasures, the Ark of the Covenant, which he wants to find before the Nazis who were sent to secure it for Hitler.
The sequels are also available on Netflix, with the second and third movies quality followups and the fourth an acquired taste.
Will Smith and Joel Edgerton in Bright. Pic credit: Netflix
Will Smith stars in the Netflix original action sci-fi movie Bright, released in 2017 on the streaming giant.
Smith is Daryl, a human police officer whose partner is an orc named Nick (Joel Edgerton).
This world sees humans living with other races, including orcs and elves, although racism is still prevalent. There are also Brights, who can cast magic spells using rare wands.
When they find a young elf girl who can wield the wands, these two officers set out to protect her while Nick faces intense racism, and Daryl uncovers police corruption that threatens the world.
Spencer Confidential (2020)
Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke in Spenser Confidential. Pic credit: Netflix
In the ’80s, there was a popular detective TV show called Spenser: For Hire, starring Robert Ulrich. The series had a similar story every week, with Spenser solving crimes with his friend Hawk (Avery Brooks).
In 2020, Netflix brought Spenser back with an original action movie called Spenser Confidential.
Based on the novels by Robert Parker, Mark Wahlberg takes on a different version of Spenser. He is a former cop who lost his job and spent time in prison after beating up his captain for abusing his wife.
He is now out of prison and finds himself in the middle of another criminal case, with police corruption threatening his freedom once again. Winston Duke (Black Panther) portrays Hawk.
Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport. Pic credit: Warner Bros
The oldest action movie on this list that is airing on Netflix as of July 2020 is Bloodsport.
This is a classic B-grade action movie from ’80s action maestro Jean-Claude Van Damme and it might be the best action movie of his career.
In the film, Van Damme is Dux, a U.S. Army Captain who goes AWOL to compete in an illegal martial arts tournament in Hong Kong.
He makes friends with an American fighter named Ray Jackson, and when Ray is beaten viciously and hospitalized by Chong Li, Dux promises to avenge him.
The Christopher Nolan movie Inception. Pic credit: Warner Bros
One of the first movies to hit theaters when they reopen following the shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic is Tenet, the new film by Christopher Nolan.
Some people believe that Tenet might be based in the same world as another Nolan sci-fi movie in Inception.
Inception is available on Netflix and is one of the most creative and inventive action movies made in the last decade.
Leonardo DiCaprio is Dom, an extractor. This means that he and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) go into people’s dreams and extract information. Outside of that, the less you know about the plot, the better.
Bad Boys II (2003)
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II. Pic credit: Sony
Michael Bay’s Bad Boys is a great action movie, and it is available to stream on Netflix. However, if we only add one film from the franchise to this list, it is Bad Boys II.
Bad Boys II takes everything great about the first movie and amps up the action 100 percent.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are police officers who investigate the illegal import of drugs into Miami. Explosions, car chases, and non-stop gunfights explode throughout the entire movie.
As Danny Butterman said in Hot Fuzz, “you ain’t seen Bad Boys 2?” Fix that while it is on Netflix.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
The cast of Kung Fu Hustle. Pic credit: Columbia
The early 2000s saw the influx of Wushu martial arts movies, starting with the Oscar success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
While most of those movies are very serious affairs, there is one that takes the entire Wushu fighting and sends it into an absurd direction.
In Kung Fu Hustle, a gang heads into the slums to try to force some money from the tenants there, but they discover a tough-as-nails landlady who starts to destroy them all.
The entire fight scenes are overlaid with Loony Tunes style sound effects, and there is a ridiculous Road Runner-inspired chase scene.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
The cast of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Pic credit: Universal
Edgar Wright has a spotless track record with his movies. After making the brilliant horror satire Shaun of the Dead and the pitch-perfect action cop movie Hot Fuzz, he turned his attention to an adaptation.
That movie was the comic book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, based on the comics by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
Michael Cera was perfect in his role as Scott Pilgrim, an awkward teen who wanted to date Ramond Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
However, he learns he has to fight and beat her exes before she can date him, and they include fantastic performances from names like Brandon Routh, Chris Evans, and Jason Schwartzman.
Sin City (2005)
The cast of Sin City. Pic credit: Miramax
It is easy to look at Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City and see what might be the most loyal comic book adaptation of all-time.
In 2005, Rodriguez directed Sin City, based on the comics by Frank Miller. It ended up as almost a page-by-page recreation as the cast performed in front of a green screen with nearly exact replicas of the comic panel designed as the background.
The cast was spectacular, with Mickey Rourke as the iconic Marv and Bruce Willis turning in a good performance as one of the few good cops in Sin City, Det. John Hartigan.
Minority Report (2002)
Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Pic credit: Fox
Steven Spielberg is the master of almost every sort of filmmaking, from horror (Jaws) and sci-fi (E.T.) to drama (Schindler’s List) and action (Raiders of the Lost Arc).
In 2002, he took two of those genres in sci-fi and action and adapted the Philip K. Dick story, Minority Report.
The film starred Tom Cruise as John Anderton, a cop in the future, where the police used “precogs” to see crimes before they happen so the police can arrest the criminals before they commit the crimes.
However, when John’s name comes out as a murderer in the future, he goes on the run to try to see if he controls his fate or if he is destined to become one of the killers he spent his career hunting down.