It’s been a great year to be a fan of action movies.
With Hollywood productions reviving old ways of storytelling in new and exciting ways (Top Gun: Maverick, Ambulance), stunning adrenaline-filled projects from around the world (RRR, Thallumaala, Lost Bullet 2), and under-the-radar gems (Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday, Baby Assassins), there was something for every kind of action fan in 2022.
I love action movies, and spent much of this year catching up on them. There are many I’m excited about and haven’t been able to see yet (looking at you, Bad City), but it was such a good year in action that there are bound to be ones left over.
We’ve managed to put our action-loving heads together and put together this list of our favorite action and fight scenes of the year, for you to enjoy at home. Earlier this week, we went over our favorite movie scenes of 2022. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Lino’s super car, Lost Bullet 2
Where Lost Bullet was a (great) by-the-numbers thriller about a man racing against time to prove his innocence, the sequel is a souped-up action thriller, and our hero Lino (Alban Lenoir) gets a souped-up car to boot.
In Lost Bullet 2, Lino is a bit of a mad scientist, but for cars. His most exciting invention? A pair of rods he sticks on the front of his car and electrifies, which allows him to ram into other cars and then explode them. It rules, just like this movie. —Pete Volk
Lost Bullet 2 is available to watch on Netflix.
The final fight, Accident Man 2: Hitman’s Holiday
The Accident Man movies are a passion project for legendary action movie star Scott Adkins. A fan of the comic growing up, Adkins co-wrote the screenplay for the original Accident Man and this year’s sequel with his longtime friend Stu Small.
As a big fan of Adkins’ work, I was disappointed by the first Accident Man. The humor was too juvenile for my taste, and even some solid fights (including one where Adkins takes on both Michael Jai White and Ray Park) couldn’t make up for that for me. That’s why I was so surprised and delighted by how much I took to the sequel, which reins in the sophomoric humor and delivers on some of the best-choreographed fight sequences of 2022.
The stand out of the bunch is the final fight, between Adkins and Andy Long (who also served as fight choreographer on the movie). Long is an up-and-coming star in the action world best known for his work on the TV show Into the Badlands and with Adkins on Boyka: Undisputed, and he gets a great opportunity to show off all his skills. I also wanted to shout out Sarah Chang, who gets kicked to the side at the start of this clip but is an excellent martial artist who has a breakout role in this movie. —PV
Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday is available to watch with a library card on Hoopla, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu.
The opening scene, Athena
In 11 minutes, the French thriller Athena lays out its stakes in stunning, violent clarity: A boy has died in an alleged act of police brutality, and there’s nothing the government can do to stop the trail of dominoes that are now cascading uncontrollably. A police press conference gives way to a raid on the precinct by protestors, and in a single take, director Romain Gavras lays out every raw emotion running through the community. In its single unbroken depiction of revolt, there is rage, there is sorrow, there is frustration, all of palpable, all of it neglected for far too long. It’s kinetic action filmmaking that takes viewers from claustrophobic hallways to roaring streets, and it’s also heart-rending drama that introduces the audience to a city that’s been on the brink longer before the film began. —Joshua Rivera
Athena is available to watch on Netflix.
The ego check, Top Gun: Maverick
Thank God for Tom Cruise. There are plenty of regular cinematic reasons to say that this year, and even a few commercial ones, but in this case it’s his ego that saves the day. In another movie, led by another 60 year-old star, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s first experience with the pilots of tomorrow would be a bit of a gut check for both sides, where they realize he still has something to teach them and he realizes he isn’t as fast as he used to be. Except, Tom Cruise is faster than he used to be. And Top Gun: Maverick knows that, god dammit.
This montage is pure dogfighting bliss. Just snippet after snippet of clearly gifted, and incredibly charismatic, pilots getting taken down a peg or two by the greatest pilot the fake-United States has ever seen. Of course, it serves a few story purposes, like re-proving Maverick’s bona fides to us, showing off the personalities and flying styles of the new recruits, and introducing us to a few key dogfighting terms. But more importantly, it’s just brilliant aerial photography and people in planes pushing them way past their limits in the spirit of unfriendly competition and what more could you possibly want from a Top Gun movie than that? —Austen Goslin
Top Gun: Maverick is available to watch on Paramount Plus.
The perfect meeting, RRR
If you haven’t already seen the joyously over-the-top Telugu action movie RRR yet, stop reading this and go watch RRR already! It’s an absolute banger, it’s our number one movie of 2022, and if you’re the kind of person who reads lists of incredible action scenes, you’re the kind of person this movie was made for. Besides, I don’t want to spoil this sequence for anyone who hasn’t already seen it. RRR is absolutely packed with giddy action, including a double-decker human jailbreak, a deliberately engineered chaotic animal jailbreak, and a sequence where one man fights an entire raging mob just to get his boss’s attention.
But it’s hard for any of them to top the moment where heroes Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Raju (Konidela Ram Charan) first meet, in an explosive spectacle designed to establish both of them as superhero-level figures who are entirely on each other’s wavelength. When a train derailment threatens a child, a vast crowd of onlookers wring their hands and play the “Someone should do something!” game. Amid the chaos, two strangers make eye contact from a distance and nod at each other in recognition, both immediately recognizing that the only possible way to save the kid is through an absolutely bonkers scheme involving poignant national symbolism and a lot of leaping wildly through the air in perfect coordination. The whole sequence is ridiculous. It’s hysterical. And it’s utterly satisfying, in the way recognizing a possible soulmate for the first time always is. —Tasha Robinson
RRR is available to watch in its original Telugu on Zee5, and the Hindi dub is available on Netflix.
The first berserker raid, The Northman
The Northman has a few great action scenes but the first village raid is perhaps its most chaotic and effective. Alexander Skarsgård was born to play a giant terrifying viking and director Robert Eggers knows how to use the actor’s impressive physicality to full effect. Skarsgård’s brutal in this scene, hunched over, full of menace, and a potent reminder that oftentimes it wasn’t about how sharp a medieval weapon was but how hard you swung it that mattered. And he swings his ax pretty fucking hard.
Perhaps the best part of this scene though is that it pays careful attention to an often neglected element of the action oner: blood. The squibs in this scene are frequent and graphic and absolutely cover Skarsgård by the time he tears a man’s throat with his mouth and wolf-howls about his own victory. It’s bloody, wet, disturbing, muddy, and gross all at the same time, which is exactly how a viking revenge epic should be. —AG
The Northman is available to watch on Prime Video.
The LA river chase, Ambulance
If we’re talking about an ambulance speeding down the L.A. river while being chased by helicopters, there’s no person on Earth I’d rather have behind the camera to capture it than Michael Bay. This year, the patron saint of bombastic action emerged from his Transformers-sequel cage to deliver one of the best chase movies of the decade and there’s no greater showcase of its greatness than the chase through the L.A. river.
The scene itself is a carefully choreographed ballet of helicopters, cars, and drones. As the pair of thieves played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul Matteen III hop into the titular ambulance, a police chopper flies down to buzz them and gives chase as soon as they floor it. Shortly after, a second helicopter joins the pursuit and Gyllenhaal responds by hanging out of the side of the vehicle and firing his assault rifle at them with one hand while hanging on for dear life with the other. Meanwhile, all of this is being filmed with the gorgeous sweeping drone shots Bay uses so well in the movie, capturing both the intensity of the moment and the sheer precision required to pull all of this off practically.
All this chaos finally culminates in a singularly iconic shot of the ambulance speeding through the river and kicking up plumes of water water into the choppers while Gyllenhaal hangs out the windows spraying every bullet he’s got. That’s cinema right there. —AG
Ambulance is available to watch on Prime Video.
Knife fight on a boat, Avatar: Way of the Water
James Cameron is a man who knows how to sink a boat. He did it with 1997’s Titanic — which is still the best historical period drama meets tragic doomed romance meets epic disaster movie of all time — and in this year’s Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron decided to up the ante. What if the boat was sinking, but also most of the characters were blue cat-like space aliens, but also they were all fighting to the death, but also they were fighting to the death with knives, but also there’s a thread about fathers and sons and the sins and grudges we inherit, but also someone uses magical jelly fish to breath underwater, but also —
It just rules, is what I’m saying. —Petrana Radulovic
Avatar: Way of the Water is in theatres.
Never dirty up someone’s fresh white kicks, Thallumaala
The Malayalam movie Thallumaala is one of those under-the-radar gems from 2022 that not enough people have been talking about in the States. It’s a nonlinear story about a man who goes viral after kicking ass in a brawl at his wedding that traces all the events that led to that moment — how he met his bride-to-be and how he got his group of friends (by fighting them. They bonded over a shared love of fighting).
The wedding scene itself is great (although not available on YouTube), but I wanted to highlight this scene, where our protagonist Waseem (Tovino Thomas) first meets someone who will soon be one of his best friends, Jamshi (Lukman Lukku). When Waseem puts his muddy shoes on top of Jamshi’s pristine white sneakers, not even all the patience in the world can keep him from holding back. —PV
Thallumaala is available to watch on Netflix.
The convenience store opener, Baby Assassins
Baby Assassins is one of 2022’s many happy surprises. Director Yugo Sakamoto worked with Kensuke Sonomura, one of the best action choreographers working today, to put together this irreverent slice-of-life action comedy that has great fight scenes and plenty of teen angst, all in the same movie.
In Baby Assassins, two teenage girls struggle to find their place in the world as they reach the age where they finally have to go out there and get a real job. It’s not that they need the money — on the contrary, they make a tidy living as assassins. The problem is they lack some social skills, and tend to solve their problems through killing people.
In the opening sequence, one of the two girls tries to interview for a job at a convenience store. When it goes wrong, mayhem ensues in a beautifully choreographed sequence that makes full use of the store’s geography and clutter. —PV
Baby Assassins is available to watch on Hi-Yah!, or for digital rental or purcahse on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
The Hive, Day Shift
Netflix’s Day Shift is the directorial debut of legendary stuntman and fight choreographer J.J. Perry, so, naturally it has some great fights. The standouts to me are the opening sequence, where Jamie Foxx fights an old woman who is a vampire inside an L.A. house, and when Foxx, Dave Franco, and the Nazarian brothers (our old friend Adkins and Steve Howey) fight a whole mess of vampires inside a house.
The sequence displays Day Shift’s blend of action, comedy, and horror, but also the unique way Perry chose to have the vampires move. The blend of gymnastics, contortionism, and martial arts gives the movie a unique flair in a sea of vampire movies and TV this year, and helps the action scenes stand out. —PV
Day Shift is available to watch on Netflix.
The bus fight, The Roundup
Ma Dong-seok, also known as Don Lee, is a unique screen presence. American moviegoers might know him as Gilgamesh in Eternals, or as Sang-hwa in Train to Busan, but he’s also the lead in a pair of very popular police crime dramas. The first, The Outlaws, was a big hit in 2017. The sequel, The Roundup, is the highest-grossing movie at Korean box offices of 2022.
Ma’s screen presence and charisma is undeniable, as anyone who has seen any of his movies can tell you. But what makes him special, and what The Roundup leans so heavily into, is his unique frame. The dude is massive. His shoulders look about the width of a semi truck, and his arms approximate tree trunks. The Outlaws and The Roundup have a blast framing him in fun ways to take advantage of this, both in and out of fight scenes. But this fight on the bus is my favorite of either movie, cramping our big lad in a small space and making him do work. —PV
The Roundup is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
The river brawl, Pushpa
Pushpa: The Rise - Part 1 is a fun crime thriller with incredible dance sequences, great fight scenes, an electrifying lead performance from Allu Arjun, and an entrancing animation scene towards the beginning of the movie. This scene, where Pushpa goes ham on some dudes in a river with the backdrop of red sandalwood trees, is a solid representation of the visual approach of the movie and Arjun’s undeniable charisma. —PV
Pushpa: The Rise - Part 1 is available to watch on Prime Video.
The Battle of Hansan, Hansan: Rising Dragon
The sequel to the wildly successful Korean naval blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents, takes us back in time, replacing Choi Min-sik with Park Hae-il as the legendary military general Yi Sun-sin. The climactic naval battle is terrific, alternating between immersive chaos on the ships involved and bird’s eye view shots that allow us to take in the whole scope of the battle. For a movie focused so heavily on battle tactics, it’s an excellent choice that keeps the movie’s long battle sequence gripping. —PV
Hansan: Rising Dragon is available on Prime Video or with a library card on Hoopla.
The final, mirror-heavy fight scene, The Assistant (Netflix)
Scott Adkins’ introduction in the casino, Section 8 (AMC+ or rental)
Hallway fight, The Big 4 (Netflix)
The hay burning scene, Medieval (Rental)
The restaurant scene, Weird (Roku Channel)
The hallway fight, Vikram (Hulu)
Fights... on ice!, Black Crab (Netflix)
The escape, Ben & Jody (Netflix)
The highway chase, Carter (Netflix)
The opening dual, Dual (Hulu)
The stowaway wakes up, Project Wolf Hunting (Not yet available)
The rescue, Thirteen Lives (Prime Video)
Black Adam destroys an entire platoon, Black Adam (HBO Max)
Leo vs. Krang, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (Netflix)
Elsa Pataky fights the movie’s second unit director, Interceptor (Netflix)
Waymond fights outside the elevator, Everything Everywhere All At Once (Showtime)
Joey King twists a dude’s helmet so hard she breaks his neck, The Princess (Hulu)