The Best Action Movies on Netflix Canada, According to Rotten Tomatoes
Whether they're serving up suave secret agents or high-flying superheroes, these certified fresh action flicks are guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping.
25. Atomic Blonde (2017)
Ever wonder what a James Bond flick would be like with a female lead? Between its Cold War-era setting and secret agent protagonist—an MI6 spy with an insatiable appetite for liquor and ladies—Atomic Blonde is likely the closest we’ll get. Rumour has it, star Charlize Theron performed all her own stunts without the aid of a body double—quite the feat, given the ultra-violent (yet beautifully choreographed) action sequences. Lifted by her charismatic performance, as well as a healthy sense of humour and infectious period soundtrack, Atomic Blonde is easily one of the best action movies on Netflix Canada.
24. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Steve Rogers wants to join the fight against the Nazis by enlisting, but is rejected on the grounds that he’s too scrawny. What’s a patriot to do? Volunteer for genetic modification, of course. Chris Evans is perfectly cast as the beloved “Cap”—a role he would reprise at least a half-dozen more times before the decade was out. Although Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull doesn’t pack much of a punch in the supervillain stakes, more worthy adversaries for Marvel’s most iconic hero were just around the corner…
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23. Furious 7 (2015)
Who’d have guessed back in 2001 that a little flick about street racing would spawn seven sequels (with two more currently in development) over two decades. This star-studded seventh instalment of what’s now known as The Fast Saga, is arguably the best of the bunch, earning the highest rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Big bad Jason Statham gives the franchise a shot in the arm as a special forces assassin seeking vengeance against Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto. Luckily, Vin’s got backup in the form of The Rock, Tyrese Gibson and Paul Walker, in his final screen role before his tragic death.
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22. Ant-Man (2015)
Now that it spans 20-plus films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t always easy for casual viewers to dip into. What’s beautiful about 2015’s Ant-Man, however, is that it stands perfectly well on its own. Unburdened by continuity and very, very funny, Ant-Man introduces Paul Rudd as lovable loser-turned-incredible shrinking man, Scott Lang. Instead of the bog-standard origin story we’ve come to expect from a superhero’s debut, however, what follows is a fast-paced heist flick that’s enlivened by a surprising amount of humour. In other words, the superhero movie for people who generally don’t like superhero movies.
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21. Batman Begins (2005)
After Joel Schumacher’s disastrous Batman & Robin (1997), it seemed like the Caped Crusader’s celluloid adventures had come to an undignified close. If Batman was to continue into the 21st century, what it desperately needed was a dark, gritty reboot—and that’s exactly what director Christopher Nolan delivers in this opening instalment of his much-vaunted Dark Knight Trilogy. Yes, it’s a superhero movie, but it’s grounded in a Gotham City that’s bleak, corrupt and almost uncomfortably real—something that truly sets it apart from its contemporaries in the genre. Batman himself, as portrayed by Christian Bale, is flawed and fallible, and for the first time on film, utterly fascinating.
20. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
The “guilty pleasure” of the Indiana Jones Trilogy (can we all agree that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull never happened?) is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. The first 15 minutes alone are worthy of a spot on this list, somehow packing a poisoning, jewel heist, car chase and musical number into one frenetically-paced set piece. That this Shanghai nightclub opener has absolutely nothing to do with the plot—an Indian death cult is enslaving children to mine for mystical stones—doesn’t for a minute take away from the breathless fun. Harrison Ford is at the height of his powers as the intrepid archaeologist, and the decision to pair him with a comedy sidekick in the form of Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) is inspired. The pulse-pounding climax, which puts Indy between a rock and a hard place on a rickety rope bridge, is the stuff of legend.
19. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
If you’re going to rub out a former colleague, make sure you do a thorough job of it—particularly if that person is a sword-wielding killer herself. That’s a lesson the members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad learn the hard way after making a hash of offing Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Volume 1. The super-stylish revenge flick sees director Quentin Tarantino at the top of his game, and although it may not have won any Oscars, it certainly cleaned up at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards, snagging trophies for Best Fight, Best Villain (Lucy Liu) and Best Female Performance (Thurman).
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18. American Made (2017)
Although this is the first time Tom Cruise pops up in our countdown of the best action movies on Netflix Canada, it certainly won’t be the last. What sets this apart from Cruise’s other action hero roles, however, is that his character in American Made, charismatic commercial airline pilot Barry Seal, actually existed. In this strange-but-true tale, Seal starts off providing recon for the CIA in Central America. It doesn’t take long, though, for him to start playing both sides of the fence, smuggling guns and drugs on behalf of the cartels. Despite the grim-sounding subject matter, veteran action director Doug Leman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) keeps the tone remarkably light—and exciting—throughout.
17. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Who else could be revealed as Indy’s dad other than James Bond himself, screen legend Sean Connery? Watching Connery and Ford—two titans of the genre—work together (and often against each other!) to escape a burning chateau, flee a German zeppelin, and dodge bullets from a biplane is the greatest joy of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Everything else in this conclusion to the original trilogy is just gravy—but what gravy! From the rat attack in the sewers of Venice to the terrifying close encounter with Hitler himself, the set pieces are unforgettable, elevated as always by Steven Spielberg’s supremely confident direction.
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16. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Speaking of conclusions to epic action trilogies, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises sees Christian Bale donning the batsuit for a third and final showdown against the forces of anarchy. This time, he’s up against Bane (Tom Hardy), an enigmatic brute whose methods and motives remain a mystery, thanks to a mask that renders much of his dialogue unintelligible. Despite that drawback, Hardy’s screen presence is undeniable, and Bane’s orchestration of the breakdown of civilization as we know it is nothing short of terrifying. Throw in Anne Hathaway’s charismatic Catwoman and a few genuinely unexpected plot twists, and you’ve got yourself a top-notch actioner.
15. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
If you could wish for superpowers, “shrinking” probably wouldn’t even make your top five—unless, of course, you’ve already watched Ant-Man and the Wasp. Never has the ability to shrink to nothingness (or grow to giant-size, for that matter) looked more fun than in this follow-up to 2015’s Ant-Man. Stars Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas are reunited with director Peyton Reed in this rollicking ride, which sees sad-sack Scott Lang saddled with a (vastly superior) partner, the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). Although you could argue that the legendary car chases of Bullitt and The Blues Brothers will never be topped, this film’s eye-popping chase scenes—involving cars constantly changing dimension—are in a class of their own.
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14. The Matrix (1999)
Whoa, indeed. It’s hard to overstate how much of an impact The Matrix had on audiences—and filmmaking—when it came out in 1999. The Wachowskis’ groundbreaking use of special effects would transform the genre, giving us gravity-defying, time-freezing, mind-bending sequences that would set the standard for the next two decades of action flicks. With a fourth instalment of the franchise set for release in 2022, this is the perfect time to get reacquainted with the original.
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13. The Hunt For Red October (1990)
Before John Krasinski, Chris Pine and Harrison Ford, even, the role of CIA analyst Jack Ryan belonged to none other than Alec Baldwin. In this earliest incarnation of novelist Tom Clancy’s wholesome hero, Ryan squares off against a Russian submarine commander (Sean Connery) who pilots his game-changing silent-running sub towards American shores, in an apparent bid to defect. With John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) in the director’s chair, the pace is relentless and delivers as many thrills today as it did 30 years ago.
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12. Bumblebee (2018)
Surprised to see a Transformers flick make the top 25 best action movies on Netflix Canada? Given the critical bashing Michael Bay’s blockbuster franchise has taken since it kicked off in 2007, you’re not alone. (The films average a measly 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight earning an abysmal 15%.) Bumblebee, thankfully, represents a fresh take on the much-maligned series: a standalone spin-off that returns to the original cartoon’s 1980s roots.
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11. Spider-Man (2002)
Peter Parker is definitely a “glass-half-full” kind of guy. Instead of cursing his luck for getting bitten by a genetically-modified spider, he sees it as an opportunity to make a difference, donning the red-and-blue tights to become everyone’s favourite web-slinger. The unabashedly joyful scenes in which Peter (Tobey Maguire) starts exploring his new-found powers make being a superhero look like so. Much. Fun. Fuelled by Sam Raimi’s enthusiastic direction, that sense of fun is tempered with just the right amount of gravitas, with Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin making for a particularly memorable adversary.
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10. District 9 (2009)
Classifying District 9 as an action movie isn’t doing this truly original film justice. Although the concept reads like sci-fi (extraterrestrial refugees are treated as second-class citizens in South Africa), it packs a devastating emotional punch as an allegory about segregation. With Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) in the producer’s seat, it’s no surprise that District 9 is also visually astonishing, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, as well as three other categories.
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9. Jurassic Park (1993)
It turns out the self-proclaimed “adventure 65 million years in the making” was well worth the wait. With Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg seems determined to pack as many goosebumps as possible into 120 minutes. From the terrifying build-up of the T-Rex’s first reveal to the nerve-shredding velociraptor chase through the visitors’ centre, Jurassic Park delivers non-stop thrills, and special effects that continue to impress nearly 30 years on. Although the action sequences would get increasingly elaborate in the Jurassic World sequels that followed, nothing would ever come close to the conviction and sheer spectacle of the original.
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8. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Poor Police Constable Nicholas Angel. Having made a name for himself as one of London’s top cops, he’s unceremoniously shuffled off to a quaint backwater where the only action is the annual church fête. Until the townsfolk start turning up dead, that is. The shot in the arm that the stale buddy cop genre desperately needed, Hot Fuzz is as hilarious as it is action-packed. The sparkling script, co-written by star Simon Pegg, is laugh-out-loud funny, quickly evolving from a “fish out of water” comedy into a surprisingly explosive actioner. Satire it may be, but the heavy firepower in the finale ensures Hot Fuzz ranks up with the big guns.
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7. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Rating: 91% (413)
Whether you’re Team Cap or Team Stark, there’s no denying the decision to split the Avengers into warring factions makes for a compelling actioner. Civil War‘s much-vaunted airport showdown between the forces of good and, well… good is nothing short of exhilarating. Having fleshed out these charismatic characters over the past couple of films, there’s plenty of guilty fun to be found in pitting them against each other, and seeing exactly how they’ll exploit the various vulnerabilities of their former allies. (Ant-Man’s takedown of War Machine is punch-the-air cool.)
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6. Sicario (2015)
The war against drugs is about to get intense for FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt). When she’s sent to the U.S./Mexican border to eliminate a vicious drug cartel, the viewer comes along for the pulse-pounding, sometimes stomach-churning ride. Gruesome, gritty and utterly gripping, Sicario is the perfect palate-cleanser after you’ve binge-watched the lighter, brighter comic book fare on our countdown.
5. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
The gang’s all here! Boasting an all-star cast the length of your arm, this superhero crossover event was every comic book fan’s dream come true when it hit theatres in the summer of 2012. Not to take away from the grand spectacle of director Joss Whedon’s action sequences, but the real treat here is the interplay between the leads. Perfectly cast and now firmly established in their roles, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth are clearly having the time of their lives—and so were audiences. The Avengers would go on to earn a staggering $1.5-billion worldwide, and pave the way for even bigger blockbuster team-ups to come.
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4. Baby Driver (2017)
Baby (Ansel Elgort) isn’t your typical con. Curious name aside, his skills behind the wheel have made him the best getaway driver in the business—if he’s got the proper soundtrack to fire him up, that is. Set to a rocking score, Baby Driver is a fast-paced thrill ride that boasts some truly spectacular stunt driving.
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3. The Dark Knight (2008)
“Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker elevates the second instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy to classic status. Between his gruesome makeup, sneering delivery of dialogue and constantly-twitching tongue, this take on the Clown Prince of Crime is deeply unsettling, and more than a match for Christian Bale’s Batman. Although the climactic battle between the two titans is curiously subdued, the high-speed armoured truck/Batmobile/tractor-trailer chase sequence through the streets of Gotham more than makes up for it.
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2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
When George Lucas and Steven Spielberg set out to create an homage to the action serials of the 1930s, they struck gold. Not only did Raiders of the Lost Ark earn several big category nominations at the Oscars (a relatively rarity at the time for an action picture), but it also kicked off the definitive adventure series of the ’80s. It’s one of those rare movies that gets absolutely everything right, from the casting of Harrison Ford as the lovable lead, to the irresistibly hummable theme by John Williams. And despite being 40 years old, it hasn’t aged a day—a true testament to the artistry involved in its production.
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1. Mission: Impossible—Fallout (2018)
Indiewire called it “the best action movie ever made,” and although we all take movie poster hype with a grain of salt these days, this isn’t a stretch. Any one of Mission: Impossible—Fallout‘s dozen odd set pieces would serve as a more-than-satisfying climax to another action flick. Here, they’re presented in an unbroken sequence that very nearly takes your breath away. Death-defying stunts and seamless CGI come together in some of the most gorgeously shot action scenes ever filmed. The motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris, for example, is stunning in its audacity, as well as its cinematography—part Grand Theft Auto, part travelogue of the City of Light. You’d think after this monumental achievement, star Tom Cruise might be tempted to retire Ethan Hunt on a high note, but you’d be mistaken: Mission: Impossible 7 is already slated for release in 2021.
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