clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
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

Filed under:

20 hard-hitting 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 adds Day Shift and Psychokinesis, and removes some movies no longer on the platform.


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. —Pete Volk

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

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. A sequel is coming to Netflix in November. —PV

The Ip Man franchise

Ip Man gets ready to fight dozens of men clad in white robes in Ip Man. Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

There are five movies in the Ip Man franchise, all of them rule, and the four starring Donnie Yen and directed by Wilson Yip are all on Netflix. If you have not seen them yet, what are you even doing?

The dramatized retelling of the life of the infamous Wing Chun grandmaster who trained Bruce Lee is one of Yen’s most iconic performances, and features some of the most stunning martial arts choreography of the century. With guest stars like Sammo Hung (who also choreographed the first movie), Max Zhang, Mike Tyson, and Scott Adkins, there are plenty of big-name opponents for Yen to fight, but it’s all grounded in a very human story of a man attempting to live peacefully in a chaotic world. —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

Illang: The Wolf Brigade

Gang Dong-won as Im Joong-kyung in his armor holding a pistol in Illang: The Wolf Brigade. Photo: Cho Won Jin/Netflix

Kim Jee-woon’s 2018 sci-fi action film brilliantly reworks Hiroyuki Okiura and Mamoru Oshii’s 1999 anime thriller Jin-Roh for live action. Altering the setting from the original’s alternate 1950s Japan to a reunified Korea circa 2024, Illang: The Wolf Brigade follows a disaffected member of an elite squad of paramilitary hitmen on his personal journey for meaning and purpose in a world wracked by domestic terrorism and authoritarian overreach. What Illang: The Wolf Brigade may lack in mood and ennui it makes up for in sheer ballistics, with blisteringly intense firefights and pulse-pounding close-quarters combat scenes. Don’t think of Illang: The Wolf Brigade as a replacement for Jin-Roh, but rather as a companion piece with its own take on the nuances and dehumanizing effects of militarism. —Toussaint Egan

Psychokinesis

Psychokinesis - objects floating in front of a man using telekinesis 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

Paper Tigers

Ron Yuan and Ray Hopper in The Paper Tigers Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

Tran Quoc Bao’s 2020 action comedy Paper Tigers merits inclusion on this list for not only being one of the best action movies on Netflix, but for being one of the best movies on Netflix period. I’ve previously described the film as:

Three former martial arts prodigies, after a lifetime of strenuous training and hard fighting, have grown into beleaguered, middle-aged nobodies. But when their master is murdered, the three swear an oath to avenge his memory and bring his killer to justice. If that sounds serious, please know this falls into the Apatowian camp of Dumb Man comedy.

There’s a lot of laughs, a lot of heart, and a lot of kick-ass kung fu in Paper Tigers, the latter quality a testament to the choreography of Andy Le, Brian Le, and Daniel Mah of the Martial Club. The three self-made YouTube stars not only cameo as a trio of adversaries in the film, but are also notable for having contributed to films like 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and this year’s Everything Everywhere All At Once. —TE

Blood and Bone

Michael Jai White kicks a man just so incredibly high in Blood and Bone, while Dante Basco looks on in awe. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michael Jai White is a treasure around these parts and of the many excellent DTV action movies he has starred in, Blood and Bone may be the best. White is Isaiah Bone, an ex-Marine martial artist recently out of prison, who meets an eccentric local fight promoter named Pinball (Dante Basco) and starts entering underground fights. When he falls deeper into the world of underground fighting, he learns just how far the powerful people who run the circuit will go to maintain their illegal business. With jaw-dropping fights featuring former professional fighters Bob Sapp, Kimbo Slice, and Matt Mullins, Blood and Bone is an appropriately stellar vehicle for White as a movie star and as a screen fighter. —PV

Den of Thieves

Gerard Butler as “Big Nick” O’Brien in Den of Thieves. Image: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

“Los Angeles heist movie” is a tried and true genre of action thriller, blessed with titles like Heat, The Italian Job remake, Point Break, and one of the best movies of 2022, Ambulance. 2018’s Den of Thieves fell a little bit under the radar in comparison, but it’s well worth your time as a grimier version of that kind of movie.

To quote myself, from our list of the best movies new to streaming this past May:

Starring a Pepto Bismol-chugging Gerard Butler, Den of Thieves could accurately be described as “dirtbag Heat.” The movie follows a team of former Marines (including Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and 50 Cent) who plan to rob the Federal Reserve in Los Angeles, and the amoral detective (Butler) who hopes to stop them. The debut feature film for director Christian Gudegast, with sharp editing by frequent Clint Eastwood collaborator Joel Cox and an energetic score by former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez, Den of Thieves is a hard-hitting heist movie that delivers on its scheme.

The one thing I’ll add since I wrote that — the score is so good it’s become my go-to music to write and edit to. —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

Jailbreak

Three police officers stand beside a man in a bloodied white shirt in a hallway lined with iron bars in Jailbreak. Image: Solar Pictures/Netflix

This Cambodian action movie is about a group of police officers (including the excellent martial artist and actor Jean-Paul Ly) escorting a high-value prisoner. When a bounty is put on the prisoner’s head, the group must work together to protect themselves and make it out alive. With kinetic, brutal action sequences, a terrific leading man, and a tight narrative set-up, Jailbreak was a huge success in Cambodia and is well worth your time. —PV

The Night Comes for Us

Joe Taslim stands in front of a “Safety starts with me” sign touting 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

Starship Troopers

Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though derided when first released, Paul Verhoeven’s biting 1997 sci-fi film Starship Troopers has undergone a critical reappraisal as one of the most prescient and incisive satires of the late ’90s, depicting the story of a group of soldiers in a fascistic far-future military who are forced to wage a war against a race of giant alien insects. Starship Troopers elevates a B-movie premise and dreadful source material into a tongue-in-cheek dissection of militarism, “forever war” politics, and the death of individuality in the service of nationalistic warmongering. —TE

What to Watch

The Halloween Countdown: 31 days of horror to watch

What to Watch

11 great movies new to streaming to watch in October 2022

What to Watch

29 great comedies to watch on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and more

View all stories in What to Watch

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon