After a 2022 that gave us RRR, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Top Gun: Maverick, it was hard to imagine this year could match that level of action excellence. But 2023 came through.
Mainstay action franchises like John Wick and Mission: Impossible released scintillating new entries, long-running genre auteurs like Michael Mann and Guy Ritchie breathed new life into their evolving style, and nations around the world contributed their own depictions of kick-ass cinematic violence. Even television stepped its game up this year, with a bevy of exciting action series.
I love action movies, and spent much of this year catching up on them. This list isn’t the best action movies of the year (although many are included), but rather the best action scenes of the year — including both movies and TV. If you want the best action movies of the year, you can find them among the best movies of the year.
This list only includes movies that had theatrical or at-home releases in the US in 2023 (so festival releases like Mayhem! aren’t eligible, but will be next year). It was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to 10, so I’ve included some honorable mentions at the bottom. I also haven’t seen Napoleon yet, which likely has strong contenders, and the brilliant Mayhem! is technically a 2024 release, so it is unfortunately not eligible here.
Here’s our list of the standout action and fight scenes of the year for you to enjoy at home. We’ve got the 10 best at the top (in no particular order), followed by some top honorable mentions and others for you to consider. Where possible, we’ve included a link to watch the scene. Let’s get into it.
John Wick: Chapter 4 — The Arc de Triomphe chase
Where to watch the movie: Starz, or for digital rental/purchase
OK, I said no specific order, but we have to start here, because no movie was more committed to non-stop action in 2023 than John Wick: Chapter 4. As a result, this was the hardest movie to choose one scene from, because theoretically all of John Wick: Chapter 4 could count as the year’s best action sequence.
For me, though, it all comes back to the Arc de Triomphe car sequence. It’s a mesmerizing display of choreography, camera work, danger, and the tremendous amount of work Keanu Reeves has put in to be the action star he is today. But I’ll also add a special shoutout to the Sacré-Coeur steps sequence — Lionsgate made a 10-hour version of Keanu falling down the stairs
Bad City — Tak Sakaguchi is unstoppable
Where to watch the movie: Prime Video, free with a library card on Hoopla, or for digital rental/purchase
Bad City is a down-and-dirty throwback to Japan’s direct-to-video V-cinema era, starring former V-cinema star Hitoshi Ozawa (Yakuza 0), but that’s not the main selling point. The main selling point is matching director Kensuke Sonomura’s hyperkinetic choreography with former underground street fighter Tak Sakaguchi’s fighting prowess, creating a hypnotic effect every time the latter is on the screen.
Shin Kamen Rider — Super speed
Where to watch the movie: Prime Video
I’m not as down on The Flash as it seems everyone else is (I think it’s better than most of the year’s other DC offerings), but there’s no arguing the movie is a mess. Shin Kamen Rider, on the other hand, is not a mess — along with Maaveeran, it’s one the very best superhero movies of the year, and it undoubtedly has the best depiction of super speed of any movie this year.
Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One — Train fall
Where to watch the movie: Digital rental/purchase
Like the Sacré-Coeur steps in John Wick 4, Dead Reckoning reminds us that action sequences can be funny as well as exciting. It’s the perfect injection of slapstick hijinks into a stressful movie (and a stressful sequence), leaning on Tom Cruise’s oft-underutilized skills as a comic actor.
Ferrari — Mille Miglia
Where to watch the movie: Theaters
You may not think of a car race as an action sequence, but A) the Mille Miglia was no ordinary car race, B) this is Michael Mann we’re talking about, and C) this is my list. One of the most intense sequences of the year, Ferrari’s Mille Miglia follows the one-thousand-mile endurance race. Mann effectively combines the excitement of motorsport with the danger around every high speed corner.
Blue Eye Samurai — Mizu vs. Thousand Claw army
Where to watch the show: Netflix
One of the best shows of the year, Blue Eye Samurai really kicks into high gear in the fifth episode. There’s nothing really wrong with the previous four, that’s just how good the fifth one is. And it culminates in a banger of a showdown, as Mizu takes on an entire army by herself. Shout out to her ankle-slicing technique from under the door.
The Continental — Rooftop fight
Where to watch the show: Peacock
I entered The Continental cynically — I love the Wick movies, but didn’t really see the need for Winston/hotel backstory. But when I learned action director Larnell Stovall would be joining the project, I changed my tune completely. Stovall peppers the show with strong action beats, but none are stronger than the third episode’s rooftop sequence, where MMA-trained actor Nhung Kate squared off against contortionist Marina Mazepa (Malignant). The best fights, real or fictional, often come from stylistic differences, and this one’s a great example.
The Roundup: No Way Out — Ma Dong-seok vs. Hong Joon-young
Where to watch the movie: Nowhere yet! Justice for Ma Dong-seok!
The Roundup trilogy has been a box-office sensation in South Korea, resting on the mighty shoulders and heavy punches of star Ma Dong-seok. No Way Out is the franchise’s strongest entry yet, and Ma’s showdown with Korean champion MMA fighter Hong Joon-young is one of the many highlights of the movie. The fight isn’t available in full online, so instead, enjoy the above supercut of every wicked punch Ma throws in No Way Out.
Sakra — Donnie Yen vs. the world
Where to watch the movie: Prime Video, Peacock, free with library card on Hoopla, or for digital rental/purchase
I had trouble following Sakra’s labyrinthine plot, but I had no trouble enjoying the hell out of this fight. In it, star and co-director Donnie Yen destroys an entire room worth of adversaries as his punches hit like shotgun blasts.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem — No Diggity
Where to watch the movie: Paramount Plus
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse broke new ground in blending different animation styles, but it was the reliable ‘Turts that came through with the best animated action sequence in movies this year. It’s rhythmic, funny, makes the most out of the medium, and like the rest of the movie, it’s full of silly teenage joy.
Fist of the Condor — Opening beach fight (Hi-Yah!, Hoopla, Tubi, Plex)
Jawan — Father and son team up (Netflix)
Extraction 2 — The 21-minute oner (Netflix)
The Channel — The bank shootout (Digital rental/purchase)
Maaveeran — Sathya gets his powers (Prime Video)
Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant — Mine ambush (Prime Video)
Kandahar — The helicopter chase (Hulu)
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse — The Paper Vulture (Netflix)
The Killer — The Killer fights Sauron (Netflix)
Best of the rest
RDX — Boat fight (Netflix)
Leo — Coffee shop fight (Netflix)
Bloodhounds — The Bloodhounds vs. the giant (Netflix)
Warrior — Li Yong vs. [REDACTED for spoilers] (Max)
Sick — Parker vs. the invader (Peacock)
Jung_E — Train fight (Netflix)
Thunivu — Dark Devil introduces himself (Netflix)
Furies — Bi’s final fight vs [REDACTED for spoilers] (Netflix)
Pathaan — Train fight (Prime Video)
Murder Mystery 2 — Van fight (Netflix)
Kill Boksoon — Red marker (Netflix)
The Wandering Earth 2 — Attack on Space Lift (Prime, Peacock, Hoopla)
Plane — The captain’s interrupted phone call (Starz)
Hidden Blade — Apartment fight (Prime Video, Hoopla)
Expendb4les — Jason Statham rides a bike with machine guns around a ship (digital rental/purchase)
The Squad: Home Run — Sporting goods store fight (Hulu)
Ride On — Food court fight (Hoopla, digital rental/purchase)
Boudica — Final siege (Hoopla, digital rental/purchase)
Silent Night — Garage fight (Theaters)
Twisted Metal — Sweet Tooth’s machete massacre (Peacock)
Titans — Nightwing zaps ‘em up (Max)