For far too long, the idea of an action movie has been chucked aside as an art form not worthy of attention. Derided as mindless entertainment and reduced to the act of explosive materials combusting, the genre is frightfully underrated. Below, we’re picking out five of our favourite action movies to watch on Netflix right now.
Action cinema has come a long way since its heyday in the 1980s, where action heroes were infallible boulder-trains of masculinity, from the likes of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator.
In contemporary film, action heroes are far more broken individuals, capable of emotional torment and physical degradation, as their involvement in high-stakes shootouts and brawls are felt as harrowing experiences.
It makes the genre far more interesting for cinephiles and promotes a new sense of the style. While there is still a heartbeat of explosive attitude within the body of work below, it is far more nuanced than ever before.
Five best action movies on Netflix:
Casino Royale (2007)
2021 saw the end of a particularly brilliant chapter in James Bond history. The iconic role of 007 will now no longer be played by the astounding talent of Daniel Craig, featuring in his last picture for the notorious story, No Time To Die. However, that isn’t Craig’s best moment in a tux. Instead, we think, that was reserved for his first outing as Her Majesty’s most dangerous weapon, the brilliant Casino Royale.
Now showing on Netflix, the movie is a high-powered, high-voltage introduction to Craig’s tenure as 007. Pulsating and powerful, it lifted the campy premise of Piers Brosnan and gave Bond some grit once again. Ever since Craig gave us a fallible action hero in the parkour chase scene at the start of Casino Royale, we knew we were in for something special.
Watch Casino Royale on Netflix now.
The Gray Man (2022)
With huge numbers being racked up by the no-holds-barred action flick, The Gray Man, it didn’t take long for Netflix to greenlight and confirm a spin-off sequel with Ryan Gosling attached. Given Gosling’s role as Hollywood’s go-to cool guy, his role as the titular hero is succinct in capturing his deftly habitable shyness alongside his effortless aloofness. It’s one of the better action movies of the last decade and deserves its sequel.
One of the most expensive movies Netflix has ever made accrued nearly 100 million hours of viewing on the opening weekend of the film. Considering it not only boasted Gosling in the lead role but with Chris Evans as his adversary, Ana De Armas as his partner-in-crime, Rege Jean-Page as his former boss and Billy Bob Thornton as his mentor, things were always likely to be heading skyward.
Watch The Gray Man on Netflix now.
Apocalypse Now Redux (1979)
Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s famous 1902 novella Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 epic Apocalypse Now is arguably the most ambitious project in his extensive filmmaking career. It is a retelling of the problematic source text in the context of the Vietnam War, which allegorically deconstructs the evils of American interference, colonialism and the human capacity for unabashed hatred.
“What is considered avant-garde in one moment, 20 years later, is used for wallpaper and becomes part of the culture. It seemed that’s what had happened with [Apocalypse Now],” Coppola said. “When I was making this, I didn’t carry a script around. I carried a green Penguin paperback copy of Heart of Darkness with all my underlining in it. I made the movie from that.”
Watch Apocalypse Now on Netflix.
Natural Born Killers (1994)
The innovative 1994 crime drama is an intriguing and unique exploration of American society and its dangerous relationship with violence. It stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a pair of co-dependent lovers who embark on a cross-country murder spree while attempting to escape the trauma caused by their abusive parents.
According to director Oliver Stone, Natural Born Killers was an attempt to conduct a radical reconceptualisation of the road movie genre by trying to analyse the narrative through the lenses used by contemporary media institutions. The satirical gem has garnered praise from fans in the years that have followed, but when it was first released, critics dismissed it as a failed project. Now it is regarded as a cult classic.
Watch Natural Born Killers on Netflix now.
Training Day (2001)
LAPD Officer Jake Hoyt is assigned for an evaluation which is headed by narcotics officer Sergeant Alonzo Harris. However, Hoyt soon realises that Alonzo’s methods are not ethical; he is corrupt and hopes to frame Hoyt for his crimes.
Although the thriller has the classic ‘good cop’ meets ‘bad cop’ plot, Denzel Washington’s role as the malicious Alonzo earned him truckloads of praise from critics for venturing “into the dark side as a seriously corrupt narcotics cop…. And the results are electrifying”. Ethan Hawke as the beat and honest cop who despises dishonesty is compelling; his timid moral uprightness keeps the audience debating over whether he shall sell out. Brutal violence and crude profanities heighten the tension in this intensely gripping film.
Watch Training Day on Netflix now.