20 Best Action Movies on Netflix Canada Right Now
Whether they're serving up suave secret agents or high-flying superheroes, these action flicks are guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping.
Photo: STX Entertainment
Den of Thieves (2018)
In this sprawling heist flick, Orange is the New Black’s Pablo Schreiber plays the leader of a top-notch gang of criminals, with Gerard Butler as the burly detective dead-set on taking them down. Writer-director Christian Gudegast manages to recreate the moral murk of classic thrillers from the past, while up-and-coming actor O’Shea Jackson Jr. impresses as a getaway driver playing both sides. Den of Thieves may read like a mere Heat remake on paper, but it boasts enough twists and turns to make it one of the best action movies on Netflix Canada.
Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing
The Equalizer (2014)
A high-budget spin on the low-tech 1980s television series of the same name, The Equalizer has Denzel Washington starring as Robert McCall, a retired intelligence agent who now lives a quiet life as a hardware store employee. One day, McCall learns that a local teen, Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz), is being trafficked by the Russian Mafia and has been brutally assaulted; he later uses his black ops skills to exact vengeance on her captors. Washington, at once clinical and charismatic, is in fine form, while New Zealand native Marton Csokas (Kingdom of Heaven) is wonderfully sleazy as Nicolai, a ruthless, hyper-intelligent mob enforcer with a mysterious past of his own.
John Wick (2014)
When all is said and done, the John Wick series may prove to be Keanu Reeves’s greatest role. And while the second and third chapters of the franchise up the body count and deepen the character’s mythology, there’s no beating the original in terms of plot, world-building and yes, cheesiness. John Wick’s got it all: Reeves at his somber best, a shadowy New York City setting, thrillingly-choreographed set pieces and a mob boss briefing the audience on just how impossibly badass our hero is (see: the now-famous “pencil” monologue). And the extended nightclub action sequence, complete with pulse-pounding electronic music, raises the bar for the genre.
Photo: STX Entertainment
21 Bridges (2019)
Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is a skilled NYPD detective who also has a reputation for being trigger-happy. After two war vets (Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James) steal a shipment of cocaine from a Mob-run restaurant and kill seven cops in the ensuing shootout, Davis is assigned to the case. His solution? Shut down all 21 river crossings on Manhattan Island in order to corner the suspects. One of the last films Boseman made before his death in 2020, 21 Bridges is both a satisfying thriller and an impressive late entry in the actor’s all-too-brief career.
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Photo: New Line Cinema
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Released just nine months after the legendary flop that was Cutthroat Island (1995), The Long Kiss Goodnight is the Renny Harlin shoot ‘em up that time forgot. Starring Geena Davis as an amnesiac housewife who discovers her former life as a highly trained CIA assassin, it underperformed at the box office thanks to a convoluted marketing campaign and an audience still drunk on Schwarzenegger and Stallone. The Long Kiss Goodnight is more than just a female Bourne Identity, however—it’s a mayhem-filled, side-splitting romp that immediately goes from zero-to-100—and stays there. In 2019, co-star Samuel L. Jackson declared it his favourite film he’d done. Enough said.
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First Blood (1982)
This survival-adventure about a Vietnam War veteran, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), who takes on small-town law enforcement could have easily strained credibility; instead, First Blood is one of the few action movies where the wounds—both physical and psychological—feel too real. Stallone and Richard Crenna (who plays Rambo’s hardened but sympathetic former superior) are superb, and Brian Dennehy—the petty sheriff that drives our hero over the edge—provides another thrilling showcase. First Blood is not only the first entry in a seemingly never-ending franchise, it’s the best.
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3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Mainly known for well-meaning Oscar bait (Cop Land, Walk the Line), director James Mangold entered the world of the western in 2007 and came out with a near-masterpiece. A remake of the 1957 film of the same name, 3:10 to Yuma replaces the original’s claustrophobia and redemptive themes with stark violence and impressive action sequences. Hell-bent on saving his land, impoverished rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) agrees to escort notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to a train station for a $200 reward; during the journey, the polar opposites manage to find some semblance of a common ground, while Wade’s old gang plans to rescue their boss. Slick and bloody, 3:10 to Yuma will stand up to repeat viewings.
The Harder They Fall (2021)
This Jay-Z produced action flick features a stacked ensemble cast that includes Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo and the brilliant LaKeith Stanfield. Based on historical figures who loomed large in the American Wild West, The Harder They Fall packs in more explosions and gun battles than a Michael Bay movie—but boasts far superior storytelling. Plus, the soundtrack includes new music from Jay-Z and tracks by Kid Cudi, Lauryn Hill and Seal.
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One of the most-viewed Netflix original movies ever, Extraction follows Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), a black-market mercenary sent to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to retrieve the kidnapped son of an Indian drug lord. In an action movie world filled with rapid-fire editing, lazy choreography and bad CGI, it’s a sight to behold Extraction’s now-famous 12-minute, single-shot fight scene. (The film’s director, Sam Hargrave, was a stunt coordinator for several movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) Add this one to your queue—if you can stomach the endless body count.
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Red Notice (2021)
Some of the most memorable action movies come with a healthy side of humour, and in Red Notice, Ryan Reynolds delivers precisely that. With Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot, the Canadian actor stars as one of three characters at the centre of an art theft ring. Over the course of two snappy hours, the trio play a game of continent-hopping cat-and-mouse, switching roles along the way as a priceless artifact from ancient Egypt slips through one set of sticky fingers and into the next. Plots twist, major cameos pop up out of nowhere and the ending, though satisfying, hints at the possibility of a sequel. Fingers crossed.
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Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino’s debut delves into a world where trust is the one thing you can’t put a price on. Centered on a diamond heist that goes very, very wrong, this low-budget, ultra-violent movie is not for the faint of heart—but if you can stomach the gore and the unending barrage of four-letter words, you’ll want to stick around for standout performances from Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth. In the past, Tarantino has toyed with the idea of remaking Reservoir Dogs with a larger budget (it was made for under $3-million) but wisely, he decided against it.
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Army of Thieves (2021)
Would any “best of” movie list be complete without a prequel? Obviously not. Enter: Army of Thieves, the prequel to Army of the Dead. The story starts out in the sleepy Berlin suburb of Potsdam where banker-by-day, YouTube-safe-cracking-enthusiast-by-night Sebastian (director Matthias Schweighöfer doing double duty) naively gets himself involved in multiple bank heists that feature double- and triple-crosses. Meanwhile, a zombie plague rages in Nevada, providing an ominous backdrop for what’s to come.
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The Hurt Locker (2008)
It’s rare that an action movie wins an Academy Award, but The Hurt Locker won six, including Best Picture, Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow) and Best Original Screenplay. An otherwise serious film about the physical and psychological devastation of war, it just so happens to have a lot of action peppering its gripping storyline. Jeremy Renner plays a U.S. Army team leader tasked with disabling explosive devices. Distrust and alienation soon haunt his squad, but the constant threat of violence leaves no time to deal with anything less than the immediate. Bigelow’s nuanced storytelling finds a solid base in the reporting of screenwriter Mark Boal, who spent two weeks with a bomb squad in Iraq in 2004.
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Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006)
Oh, how marvelously Canadian this darkly funny buddy cop movie is. Non-Canadians might be shocked at the culture clash that can result from the meeting of two police officers (played by Colm Feore and Patrick Huard) from the adjoining Ontario and Quebec. It’s precisely that clash, however, that’s played for well-deserved laughs when the officers are forced to cooperate to solve the murder of a man whose body is found on the exact demarcation between the two provinces. Naturally, hockey plays a major role in the plot, too: several NHL teams are parodied while the narrative pivots around one of the beloved sport’s more unstable fanatics.
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Photo: Universal Pictures
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
When it comes to action movie franchises, Netflix is currently offering up an embarrassment of riches—including every single Fast and Furious film up until the seventh instalment, plus the 2019 Hobbs and Shaw spinoff! The high-octane series launched in 2001 with the original crew of Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster, introducing fans to the world of street racing, highway heists and rival gangs—an underworld we can’t get enough of as evidenced by the fact that more films have been planned for as far off as 2024.
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Photo: Paramount Pictures
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.
Photo: Netflix Canada
Triple Frontier (2019)
Starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Issac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal, Triple Frontier is one of the most underrated action movies in recent memory. In this high-octane thriller, five former U.S. soldiers struggling to make ends meet set out to steal $75 million from a drug lord’s compound—located in the notorious “triple frontier” border zone between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Their skill sets—and loyalties—are put to the test when the world’s most violent cartel seeks revenge.
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Point Blank (2019)
Not to be confused with the classic 1967 Lee Marvin film, Netflix’s Point Blank tells the tale of an ER nurse (Anthony Mackie) who must team up with a badly-injured criminal (Frank Grillo) in order to save the lives of his kidnapped wife and unborn child. To complicate matters further, they’ve got rival gangs and corrupt cops in hot pursuit!
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Photo: Paramount Pictures
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.
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Photo: Paramount Pictures
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.
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