The Best Action Movies to Watch Right Now

The best must-watch action movies on streaming platforms

Nothing beats a good action movie when it comes to getting the most out of your home cinema setup. Choosing which one to watch can create its own set of problems. Do you go with a classic action hero pick (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, or Van Damme) or something more modern and gritty? While far from the only choices out there, you can't go wrong with any of the following movies, which represent some of the best action fare available on streaming platforms today.

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Ziyi Zhang as Jen Yu in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Sony Pictures Classics

  • IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
  • Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang
  • Director: Ang Lee
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hours

Perhaps the most famous kung fu movie of all time (at least in the Western world), Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, more than lives up to its reputation. Visually arresting and exquisitely choreographed, Lee's movie features some draw-dropping fight scenes, including the iconic bamboo forest battle between Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) and Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi).

Although the plot is secondary in a movie like this, Crouching Tiger tells a surprisingly engaging story involving unspoken love, extensive flashbacks, and vengeance.

The film was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2000, winning more than 40 awards and receiving 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It won four: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, and Best Cinematography.

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Dredd (2012): Best Hyperviolent Comic Adaptation

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd in Dredd


  • IMDb Rating: 7.1/10
  • Genre: Action, Crime, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey
  • Director: Pete Travis
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Anchored by a delightfully deadpan Karl Urban as the titular "street judge," Dredd is a movie that lets the action do the talking. Set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) where the remainder of Earth's inhabitants live in crime-riddled megacities, the movie follows Judge Dredd and a new recruit (Olivia Thirlby) as they attempt to rid a 200-story high-rise of its violent drug lord (Lena Headey).

It's a basic setup that allows director Pete Travis to cut loose with a brisk 95 minutes of stylized ultraviolence that easily surpasses the terrible 1995 Judge Dredd adaptation starring Sylvester Stallone.

Despite positive reviews, Dredd was a box office failure but has since become a popular cult favorite.

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The Raid: Redemption (2011)—Most Non-Stop Action

Iko Uwais in The Raid: Redemption

Sony Pictures Classics

  • IMDb Rating: 7.6/10
  • Genre: Action, Thriller
  • Starring: Iko Uwais, Amanda George, Ray Sahetapy
  • Director: Gareth Evans
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Best described as a feature-length fight scene, The Raid is 101 minutes of pure adrenaline. The second collaboration between filmmaker Gareth Evans and actor/martial artist Iko Uwais, the movie is notable for showcasing the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat.

Uwais stars as a rookie cop who must battle his way through a drug lord's goons to escape a dangerous high rise. The Raid lets its action tell the story; there are no frivolous romances or other subplots to detract from the artful violence.

The Raid would spawn an arguably even better sequel, but the original is a must-watch thanks to its simplistic genius. It won several film festival awards, and a Best Supporting Actor win for Yayan Ruhian at the Indonesian Movie Awards.

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Fast Five (2011): Best Enjoyed With a Corona

Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and rest of cast in Fast Five

2011 Universal Pictures

  • IMDb Rating: 7.3/10
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
  • Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
  • Director: Justin Lin
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

The Fast and Furious films have only gotten more outrageous as the sequels and spinoffs have piled up, but the series arguably reached its peak with this fifth installment. Reuniting series stars Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker alongside newcomers like Dwayne Johnson, Fast Five succeeds because it finds a way to pair the franchise's machismo street racing subculture with an action-heavy heist flick.

Somehow, it all works, and even though the film rewards longtime fans with callbacks to past installments, you can also enjoy it as an adrenaline-pumping standalone experience.

Fast Five's most significant accomplishment is revitalizing an entire franchise (both commercially and critically). And it also won a BMI Film Music Award for Brian Tyler's score and a Teen Choice Award for Best Action Movie.

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Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)—Best Globe-Trotting Spy Thriller

Henry Cavill, Tom Cruise, and Rebecca Ferguson in Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Paramount Pictures / James Chiabella

  • IMDb Rating: 7.7/10
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames
  • Director: Christopher McQuarrie
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes

Mission: Impossible has quietly been one of the most consistent blockbuster franchises of the past few decades, and it only seems to get better with each new release. The sixth installment is arguably the best of the bunch, with an excellent array of returning characters and newcomers like Henry Cavill and Vanessa Kirby.

While Fallout features a surprisingly compelling end-of-the-world plot, it's the set pieces that distinguish the film. Series star Tom Cruise throws himself into one amazing stunt after another, as if he's desperately trying to win the favor of audiences.

Earning widespread critical acclaim, Fallout is currently the top-earning Mission: Impossible film and the highest-grossing film of Cruise's career.

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The Bourne Supremacy (2004): Best Gritty Spy Thriller

Matt Damon and Franka Potente in The Bourne Supremacy

Universal Pictures

  • IMDb Rating: 7.7/10
  • Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller
  • Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen
  • Director: Paul Greengrass
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

While the Bourne movies are best enjoyed in order, the second installment is the franchise's greatest achievement and its most action-heavy chapter. Picking up where the first film left off, The Bourne Supremacy finds amnesic CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) forced to resume his former life after tragedy strikes.

While Paul Greengrass's shaky-cam and quick-cut directing style would go on to be aped by far too many movies, it's used to great effect here, helping lend a sense of urgency and grittiness to the action.

Damon earned an Empire Award for his lead performance, while The Bourne Supremacy's stunt team won a Taurus Award for its work on the film's exhilarating Moscow car chase.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)—Best Time-Travel Action Movie

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

TriStar Pictures / IMDb

  • IMDb Rating: 8.5/10
  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

One of the most influential blockbuster movies ever made, Terminator 2 is a near-perfect sequel that sets new standards for action and visual effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his iconic role as an advanced cyborg from the future, but this time he's protecting a target rather than killing them.

Whereas the original Terminator was more of a sci-fi thriller with action elements, director James Cameron goes all out in the action department with T2, as Schwarzenegger and his co-stars shoot their way through one set piece after another. Speaking of co-stars, Linda Hamilton pretty much steals the movie as a buff, battle-hardened Sarah Connor. 

Terminator 2 is beloved by critics and fans alike and got a ton of awards recognition. In all, it was nominated for six Academy Awards and won four of them, including a well-deserved win for visual effects.

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Mad Max Fury Road (2015): Best Post-Apocalypse Car Chase

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Warner Bros. Entertainment / IMDb

  • IMDb Rating: 8.1/10
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
  • Director: George Miller
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hours

Fury Road isn't just one of the greatest action movies ever made; it also makes a strong case for being one of the best movies, period. George Miller spent years trying to get this loud, colorful, post-apocalyptic adventure off the ground, and the effort was worth it.

It follows outlaw Max Rockantansky (Tom Hardy) as he helps a hardened warrior (Charlize Theron) save a group of young women from an evil warlord. Fury Road is nearly two hours of some of the most incredible car chases, and practical effects ever put to film. 

This awards juggernaut has been honored by numerous critical publications and received 10 Academy Award nominations. It won six in total, including Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.

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Edge of Tomorrow (2014): Best Time-Loop Adventure

Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow

Warner Bros. Pictures

  • IMDb Rating: 7.9/10
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

While it may look like a generic sci-fi action flick, Doug Liman's film is a novel take on the Groundhog Day story structure. Cruise plays against type as a cowardly PR officer thrust into combat against an alien menace. After getting stuck in a time loop, he eventually teams up with a war hero (Emily Blunt) to save Earth from the invaders.

Cruise is a delight (especially when his character dies in hilariously brutal ways), but it's Blunt who steals the show as the seasoned warrior Rita Vrataski.

In addition to establishing Blunt as an action star and helping lift Cruise out of a career slump, Edge of Tomorrow won several awards, including Best Actress for Emily Blunt at the Critics' Choice Awards.

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Aliens (1986): Best Alien Blockbuster

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Aliens

20th Century Fox

  • IMDb Rating: 8.3/10
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

Whereas Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) is lauded as a sci-fi horror masterpiece, its sequel has earned similar accolades for being quite different. Rather than retread the same ground, incoming director James Cameron made Aliens into a guns-blazing action romp.

Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley, who emerges as a reluctant hero when she must survive on a space colony overrun by the terrifying xenomorphs. From the compelling supporting characters to the epic final fight against the Alien Queen, Aliens represents the pinnacle of a great action movie.

Aliens is an awards outlier in that it's the rare action movie to earn an acting Oscar nomination (Sigourney Weaver for Best Actress). Weaver didn't win, but the film still took home two awards: Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.

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Inception (2010): Best Mind-Bending Action Movie

Cast of Inception on theatrical poster

Warner Bros.

  • IMDb Rating: 8.8/10
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 28 minutes

Christopher Nolan's mind-bending dream heist is so cerebral that it's easy to forget it's also a sensational action movie. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a professional thief who must lead a team of operatives through a target's (Cillian Murphy) dreams to plant information in his subconscious.

Nolan famously uses practical effects whenever possible in his films. That commitment is on full display in Inception's set pieces, including a dizzying hallway fight and an avalanche shootout.

Inception is the rare action movie to receive numerous Academy Award nominations. It received eight nominations in total, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and won four: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.

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The Matrix (1999): Best Sci-Fi Action Adventure

The Matrix theatrical release poster

Warner Bros. Entertainment / Village Roadshow Pictures

  • IMDb Rating: 8.7/10
  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
  • Directors: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes

Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Laurence Fishburne star in this modern classic, which follows a computer hacker who discovers he's been living in a false reality. As iconic and trendsetting as it is, it's incredible that The Matrix still holds up as a top-class action movie more than two decades after its release.

For as much as the Wachowskis innovated with their use of groundbreaking special effects and philosophical concepts that had viewers questioning their realities, they also heavily influenced action filmmaking as a whole. The Matrix popularized spinning cameras and bullet time while moving Hollywood toward adopting Hong Kong cinema techniques like wire-fu.

In addition to several BAFTA wins and nominations, The Matrix won four Academy Awards: Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects.

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Die Hard (1988): Best Holiday Action Movie

Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard (1988)

20th Century Fox

  • IMDb Rating: 8.2/10
  • Genre: Action, Thriller
  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes

Whether or not you think it's a Christmas movie, one thing almost everyone can agree on is that Die Hard is a must-watch action classic. Starring Bruce Willis as an NYPD officer who must thwart a group of terrorists led by Alan Rickman, the film helped breathe new life into the action genre by moving away from invincible hero types (your Schwarzeneggers and Stallones).

Though competent, Willis's John McClane portrays an everyman who beats the bad guys but goes through hell doing so. It helps that he's facing off against Rickman's Hans Gruber, easily one of the greatest villains in cinematic history.

Die Hard spawned several sequels of varying quality and earned four Oscar nominations: Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Sound.

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John Wick (2014): Best Revenge Thriller

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick (2014)

John Wick PPNY, Inc. / Lionsgate

  • IMDb Rating: 7.4/10
  • Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen
  • Directors: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch
  • Motion Picture Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

John Wick was a cult sensation that spawned sequels and reestablished Keanu Reeves as a bonafide action star. Reeves portrays a retired assassin who gets pulled back into his former life after a crime boss's son kills his puppy.

While on-screen animal violence is never OK, what follows this cruel act is cool. Reeves punches, flips, and headshots his way through one stylish action scene after another, including a nightclub shootout that stands as one of the decade's best action scenes.

While both John Wick sequels up the ante in the action department, they also get a bit bogged down by the franchise's increasingly bizarre assassin universe. The original strikes an excellent balance between the two and is the place to start.

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