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A collage image featuring pictures of movies featured in this story Graphic: Pete Volk/Polygon | Source images: Netflix, Well Go USA Entertainment, Screen Media Films, KHV Media Group, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Millennium Films

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The best action movies on Netflix from around the world

The best fight scenes and the highest-octane set-pieces Netflix has to offer

Netflix has a pretty vast collection of good action movies (including the Hindi dub of RRR and S.S. Rajamouli’s fantasy epic Baahubali movies), but it can be hard to sort through the deluge of new titles regularly dropped onto the platform. That’s what we’re here for. We’ve collected a list of great action movies that span eras, subgenres, and nations, all of which you can watch on Netflix in the U.S. Whether you’re looking for a hard-boiled crime thriller, a period-piece swordplay adventure, a military drama, standout martial arts movies, or any other kind of action vehicle — we’ve got you covered.

In addition to Rajamouli’s movies, it’s worth mentioning The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill. The Japanese action comedy is the hard-hitting sequel to 2019’s The Fable (both are available on Netflix), and featured some of the best action sequences of 2021.

If you’re looking for something that spans across genres, be sure to check out our frequently updated list of the best movies on Netflix. If you’ve decided you’re in the mood for a different genre on Netflix tonight, check out our lists of the best horror movies and comedy movies on the platform. Our latest update added Extraction 2.


Editor’s pick: Extraction 2

Chris Hemsworth holds an assault rifle outside of a jail cell holding Tinatin Dalakishvili in Extraction 2. Photo: Jasin Boland/Netflix

In 2020, Netflix scored a big hit with its Chris Hemsworth-led action thriller Extraction. Directed by former stuntman Sam Hargrave, the movie leaned into an emerging trend in a post-John Wick world: hard-hitting, practical action shown cleanly in-camera, and performed by the A-list star.

Extraction was a fun time with solid action, but the movie struggled with the all-too-common yellow-washed tone meant to signify the movie takes place in Bangladesh. Thankfully, Extraction 2 is just a better version of the first movie.

Hargrave returns in the director’s chair, and Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as super-agent Tyler Rake. The movie’s fantastic set-pieces shine, especially the 21-minute prison break sequence, presented as a no-cut “oner.” But Extraction 2 also gives Hemsworth’s co-stars more time to shine, especially sibling mercenary duo Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Bessa. There are plans in place for an Extraction 3, and a late casting reveal in Extraction 2 promises even more hard-hitting action on the way. —Pete Volk


Thallumaala

Tovino Thomas and Kalyani Priyadarshan face each other in a barber shop in Thallumaala. She sits on a counter, with her left leg on the right arm of the chair he sits in, while they look at each other. Image: Central Pictures

The best action movie that not enough people talked about in 2022, Thallumaala (which literally translates to “Ballad of Brawls”) is an ambitious nonlinear narrative telling the story of a young man who meets a group of friends through their shared love of fighting, and the viral brawl that ensues at his wedding that makes him an internet superstar. Featuring sharp and inventive editing that keeps things fresh at all times, soaring musical numbers that will stay in your head, and just a ton of cute boys who bond over brawling, Thallumaala is one of the most fun times you could possibly have at the movies.

It’s not light on action, either. The movie opens with a series of cascading brawls that brings the group together, and it’s one of many fights we see throughout the movie (and some we see multiple times, as Thallumaala unspools its complicated narrative). It’s a movie that looks good and feels good at all times, and is as close to a guaranteed good time as you’ll ever get. This is one of those rare “watch this movie, even if you don’t consider yourself an action fan” recommendations: Watch Thallumaala! —PV

The Big 4

Four people, three men and one woman, walk alongside one another carrying weapons and looking disheveled. Image: Netflix

Timo Tjahjanto burst onto the scene for many international audiences with his bloody 2018 new action classic The Night Comes for Us, but that was after proving his bona fides as a horror director with his feature debut, Macabre (co-directed with Kimo Stamboel), segments in The ABCs of Death and V/H/S/2, as well as his solo feature debut May the Devil Take You. That horror background was definitely present in The Night Comes for Us, considering the amount of blood and gore Tjahjanto fit in that movie. With The Big 4, that energy is still there, but you can see Tjahjanto stretching himself as a filmmaker.

The Big 4 is a buddy action comedy about a group of quirky and lovable retired assassins who reunite after the suspicious death of their father figure. From there, mayhem and chaos ensue, with visceral and brutal fight scenes aided by Tjahjanto’s skill with the camera and his sick sense of humor (complimentary).

Tjahjanto is the rare filmmaker who lives up to the oft-used “from the twisted mind of…” label. You likely already know whether or not The Big 4 is up your alley. It’s certainly up mine. —PV

Day Shift

Snoop Dogg and Jamie Foxx hold big guns in Day Shift. Photo: Parrish Lewis/Netflix

A loving throwback to ’80s-era mid-budget action comedies, Day Shift is the debut of legendary stunt man, fight coordinator, and action director J.J. Perry. Jamie Foxx is Bud Jablonski, a down-on-his-luck vampire hunter trying to get back in the good graces of the Vampire Hunters’ Union. He needs a big score, fast, and teams up with an eclectic group including a hapless office worker (Dave Franco), an eccentric pair of vampire hunting brothers (Scott Adkins and Steve Howey), and an old friend (Snoop Dogg).

Day Shift combines action, horror, and comedy in exciting ways, including an unconventional camera trick to make the vampires’ movement new and fresh. Foxx’s leading-man charisma helps make up for some script inconsistencies, but the whole thing works because of the action sequences. Perry’s one of the best in the business at that, and you get a sense of the kinetic energy flowing through this whole movie from the jump. —PV

Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning

Takeru Satoh as Kenshin Himura holding a sword in his mouth with his hands tied behind his back in Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning. Image: Netflix

Though it’s the fifth and final installment of this live-action adaptation, you can still safely watch The Beginning first, as it is a prequel to the four movies that precede it (it does clue you into some parts of the story that are left a mystery in the previous movies, though). 50% origin story, 50% love story, and 110% kick-ass, The Beginning (and the rest of the Kenshin franchise) should be your first destination if you’re looking for terrific swordplay on Netflix. —PV

Lost Bullet and Lost Bullet 2

Alban Lenoir drives his red car in Lost Bullet Image: Netflix

Lost Bullet has a simple setup, right there in the title — a man framed for murder has to find the missing bullet that will prove his innocence. That man is an expert mechanic who has been strong-armed into working for a group of corrupt police officers. With thrilling car chases, great fight scenes (our protagonist is played by former stunt man Alban Lenoir), and a simple premise executed to perfection, Lost Bullet is a 92-minute thrill ride, and the sequel rules, too. —PV

Kill Boksoon

Jeon Do-yeon as Boksoon looks tired while wearing a uniform with an apron and holding a hatchet in Kill Boksoon. Photo: No Ju-han/Netflix

An expert mix of action thrills and domestic drama, Kill Boksoon follows an assassin who is at the top of her prestigious company of killers, but is pulled back home to her teenage daughter, who she barely knows. When a job goes wrong, Boksoon finds herself on the run, all while trying to keep her daughter safe.

It’s a simple enough setup, but Kill Boksoon excels due to its layered lead performance — Jeon Do-yeon brings emotional depth and nuance to a difficult and complicated character — and the attention to detail in its presentation. Filled with bright colors in the costuming and production design, Kill Boksoon’s action sequences soar without ignoring the sequences devoted to the domestic drama of Boksoon and her teenage daughter.

With multiple standout fights, a cast of memorable characters, and efficient world-building for the movie’s hitman-centric economy, Kill Boksoon is one of Netflix’s standout 2023 releases and the best action movie released on the platform so far this year. —PV

Mosul

Mosul (L to R) Tarik Belmekki as “Youness,” Qutaiba Abdelhaq as “Kamal,” Mohamed Attougui as “Akram,” “Adam Bessa as “Kawa,” Moh Photo: Jose Haro/Netflix

There are a lot of movies about wars in the Middle East from American points of view. Mosul, while written and directed by American Matthew Michael Carnahan (Joe’s brother, by the way), instead follows a group of Iraqi soldiers fighting against ISIS forces in the 2016 Battle of Mosul. In addition to offering a different perspective than the vast majority of American war movies set in Iraq, Mosul has a terrific cast led by Waleed Elgadi, and tense, immersive action sequences that will keep you on the edge of your seat. —PV

Psychokinesis

Random household objects float in front of a stunned-looking man, who is sitting cross-legged on the floor. Image: Next Entertainment World

Yeon Sang-ho started his career in animation, before breaking out with the excellent 2016 zombie movie Train to Busan (no longer on Netflix, but it’s one of our favorite horror movies you can stream at home). He’s also made the great horror series Hellbound (on Netflix), but we’re here to talk about a project of his that went a little under the radar. —PV

As Matt Patches put it in our list of great superhero movies that don’t come from Marvel or DC:

Psychokinesis follows Shin, a bumbling, borderline-alcoholic security guard who drinks from a mountain spring recently contaminated by a meteorite and gains telekinetic powers. Ryu Seung-ryong is a joy as an oaf who’s learning to control his abilities, just as his estranged daughter re-enters his life and sucks him into a real-estate-driven class war. Psychokinesis plays Shin’s “fighting style” for laughs, and while it’s not as cartoonish as Chinese director Stephen Chow’s genre hybrids, the movie can make the flying object mayhem both cheeky and thrilling. The political edge gives weight to Shin’s super-powered decisions, but Sang-ho never loses sight of why everyone showed up: to push the psychic conceit to bigger and bigger heights.

The Debt Collector movies

Scott Adkins and Louis Mandylor as French and Sue in The Debt Collector. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Regular Polygon readers will know that I love action star and martial artist Scott Adkins and his frequent collaborator, director Jesse V. Johnson. The two have combined to make quite a few quality DTV action flicks, but none captured my heart more than the two Debt Collector movies.

Adkins plays a down-on-his-luck martial arts instructor who is deep in debt and about to lose his business. He turns to the murky world of debt collecting, teaming up with a boy named Sue (Louis Mandylor) in a delightful buddy comedy with great fight scenes aided by tangible chemistry between the two leads. —PV

Security

Eduardo ‘Eddie’ Deacon (Antonio Banderas) and Jamie (Katherine de la Rocha) in Security (2017). Image: Millennium Films

I absolutely love it when big movie stars decide to make some direct-to-video action movies. Antonio Banderas has done a few of them over the years, and Security is my favorite. Banderas plays an overqualified mall cop who used to be a Marine and has to protect a young girl who takes shelter in the mall. The girl is being chased by a group of heavily armed mercenaries (led by Ben Kingsley), and it’s a tight 92-minute thrill ride led by Banderas’ incredible screen presence in a very different kind of role. —PV

The Night Comes for Us

Joe Taslim stands in front of a “Safety starts with me” sign toting a shotgun facing several men on fire in The Night Comes for Us. Photo: Eriekn Juragan/Netflix

The only two ways The Night Comes for Us could be better are if a) it were available on home video, and b) it had a sequel. Even so, Timo Tjahjanto’s bloody 2018 Indonesian action thriller inarguably stands as one of the best action films Netflix has to offer.

The Night Comes for Us is an unrelentingly brutal martial arts thriller packed with scenes of breaking bones, gushing geysers of blood, and no less than three impalements. Joe Taslim (Mortal Kombat) and Iko Uwais (The Raid) star as Ito and Arian, two childhood friends and Triad enforcers who find themselves at odds when the former turns his back on his life as a killer to save a child. That’s not even mentioning Julie Estelle’s scene-stealing turn as The Operator, a mysterious covert agent who faces off against two assassins in one of the most spectacular fight scenes in a film with no shortage of them. It’s a thrilling five-minute set-piece packed with brutal choreography, beautiful strobing light effects, a grisly garrote wire execution, and a tense one-on-one knife-fight finale. —TE

Sentinelle

Olga Kurylenko as Klara wearing camo and beret holding a pistol in Sentinel. Image: Netflix

This dark French revenge thriller follows a traumatized solider (Olga Kurylenko) who returns home and seeks revenge on the men who assaulted her sister. It’s a pretty standard (and dark) narrative structure, but it works because of the people behind it. Directed by Julien Leclerq, known for the excellent crime thriller The Crew and the outstanding series Ganglands (on Netflix!), Sentinelle thrives through Kurylenko’s commanding lead performance, a lean 80-minute running time, and Leclerq’s skill at filming action sequences — especially close-quarters action, with a terrific bathroom fight and an unforgettable final kill. —PV

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