The best action movies on Netflix Australia

There’s tonnes of action movies to check out on Netflix Australia—featuring assassins, cops, thieves and other purveyors of on screen carnage. Here’s the best, picked by critic Luke Buckmaster.

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* Best new movies & series on Netflix
* All new streaming movies & series

Assassin’s Creed (2016)

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Justin Kurzel’s under-rated adaptation of the blockbuster video game franchise is an intensely sombre work that never condescends, in a genre that almost always infantilises audiences. A rich painterly look brings visual flair to an admittedly challenging script—with too much rather than too little plot—that follows Michael Fassbender as he inhabits the body of an assassin circa 15th century Spain.

Baby Driver (2017)

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Edgar Wright’s sassy crime caper follows a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who is on the autism spectrum, putting his foot to the floor only if listening to killer tracks on his headphones. Fair enough. The story of a decent kid embroiled in a life of crime becomes a quasi-musical and a possessed jukebox of an action movie; by matching visual and audio in such a way, Wright made a genuine original.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

 

Making a sequel to one of the most influential sci-fi movies is a piece of piss, said nobody ever. Denis Villeneuve succeeded magnificently with his deep, downcast, Roger Deakins-shot sequel to Ridley Scott’s rain-clogged classic. Ryan Gosling plays a replicant guiding us through a future that’s bleak and biblical, in a ghost-in-the-machine sort of way.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)

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Very few films are as aesthetically influential as Ridley Scott’s dystopian classic, which came to define the look and tone of cyberpunk motion pictures and video games. Harrison Ford patrols dark and dank streets, retiring very human-esque replicants, forming the centre of a philosophically chewy sci-fi with big questions on its mind. Is he a robot too? Do androids dream of electric sheep?! The more recent Blade Runner 2049 is also a magnificent and intensely cerebral achievement.

BMX Bandits (1983)

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A frizzy-haired, rosy-cheeked young Nicole Kidman (16 at the time of filming) stars as one of the titular whippersnappers who scoot around Sydney on bicycles, foiling the plot of criminal masterminds. Stuffed full of playful shots, unconventional angles and DayGlo colours, this bona fide Aussie classic is kitschy and gaudy, set to the tune of a pumping synth soundtrack.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

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Craig Zahler’s nerve-jangling second feature (following the 2015’s Bone Tomahawk) is less a brawl than a bloodbath. The titular location refers to a place that incarcerated tough guy protagonist Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn) must go to find a man he’s been instructed to murder; if he fails, his wife and their unborn child get killed. The ensuing heavy-duty action is wild and terrifying.

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

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Peter Berg’s riveting, pressure-packed dramatisation of America’s worst oil spill is The Towering Inferno for a new generation, with a politically salient message against oil companies and a strong leading performance from Mark Wahlberg as a technician fighting to save himself and his colleagues. What could be more American than a disaster movie about workers scrambling to save their lives because of multinational corporations making cost-cutting decisions?

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

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Tom Cruise plays an alien-fighting US solider who cannot die and experiences the same day over and over, Groundhog Day style, in Doug Liman’s rootin’-tootin’ video game-esque sci-fi. The fight/die/repeat format keeps a ferocious pace and doubles as a commentary on the infallibility of the Hollywood hero.

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

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Stop-motion animation allows Wes Anderson to accelerate his already intensely fastidious style. This witty adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel is a kitschy and kooky pleasure, every frame a delight. The titular fox (irresistibly voiced by George Clooney) goes toe to toe with farmers intent on destroying him, his craftiness given the ultimate workout.

Gladiator (2000)

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The roar of the crowd in Ridley Scott’s hell-unleashing swords and sandals epic isn’t just the sound of people clamouring for spectacle, but a through line to the film’s core political message: about wielding power by winning over over the masses. A mustily styled worn-in look gives the clanging steel and spurting blood a credible veneer, and a pacey momentum compensates for a very chunky running time.

The Great Wall (2016)

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The look and feel of Chinese director Yimou Zhang’s fantastical battle epic couldn’t be further from the rapid-fire freneticism de rigueur in Hollywood. The director is unafraid to hold the frame, savouring the beauty of his compositions, many of which evoke jaw-dropping vertical depth. Loads of battles are staged atop the titular wall, which is attacked by vicious beasts, Matt Damon’s warrior joining Chinese forces to fend them off.

Hellboy (2004)

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Guillermo del Toro’s first two Hellboy movies are far nmore idiosyncratic and thoughtful than the vast majority of superhero movies. A makeup-caked, tomato-red Ron Perlman stars as a human-like half-demon who is actually one of the good guys, working for an elite team to save humankind from a various terrible threats. The production design is out of this world.

Jumanji (1995)

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Robin Williams plays a character who got lost in an alternate universe as a child, and is returned to reality when new players (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce) of the titular board game roll the dice. Joe Johnston’s 1995 hit is to some extent a coathanger for special effects—but it’s unusual to see a family film so alive with paranoia, so dripping with dread. Jumanji was under-appreciated back in the day but time has been kind to it; even the special effects still look pretty good.

Jurassic Park (1993)

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Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur theme park is so vividly rendered it feels like we’ve been there for ourselves. Not that we’d want to, given how things turned out. Widely considered a turning point for computer-generated effects, Spielberg elegantly mixes real and virtual elements and suspensefully draws out his set pieces.

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)

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The story is a simple revenge arc: Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo will find and kill Bill. What makes this film so rewatchable—and superior to volume 1—is that irresistible, Tarantino-flavoured dialogue, the characters stopping everything to chew the fat. The scenes with David Carradine are particularly irresistible.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

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I am far from the first critic to liken Stephen Chow’s zany chopsocky period movie to a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon, but sometimes the collective wisdom gets it right. Chow (also the writer and director) plays a blunderous small-time con artist who, in a rural slum in China in the 1940s, becomes embroiled in an epic brouhaha between the murderous “Axe Gang” and a trio of genuine kung fu masters. The story is OK; the execution is delightful.

Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

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There was every indication that George Miller’s fourth Mad Max movie would turn into a fizzer, enduring a famously difficult shoot and arriving three decades after the previous installment. But when Fury Road roared into cinemas, depicting cinema’s most elaborate U turn, it became clear the director had delivered a face-melting modern classic. And that the titular character (Tom Hardy) had finally met his match with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.

The Man from Snowy River (1982)

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Tom Burlingon stars as the Man from You-Know-Where: a decent-hearted cowboy who pursues Sigrid Thornton’s Jessica and finally proves his mettle by retrieving a prized colt. Kirk Douglas plays not one but two supporting characters: Jessica’s cranky father Harrison and his peg-legged brother Spur. An Aussie classic, with a rousing score and majestic green landscapes a-plenty.

Malcolm (1986)

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Who could forget that getaway car?! This beloved Australian classic famously features a yellow Honda Z that splits in half, transforming into two motorbike-like vehicles. The kooky titular protagonist (Colin Friels) teams up with a career criminal (John Hargreaves) and gives him various irresistible inventions to assist in his thieving, including armed remote-controlled rubbish bins.

The Mask (1994)

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Produced in the giddy era of 90s Jim Carrey comedies, the star’s rubber-faced antics inform the tone and even the aesthetic of this stupidly enjoyable film about a mild-mannered bank clerk who dons a magical mask and becomes a kind of live action cartoon—as Carrey always was. It’s a Jekyll and Hyde story and, in today’s context, a kind of anti-superhero movie, the protagonist transforming into a human pogo stick wreaking Looney Tunes style carnage.

Okja (2017)

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Tilda Swinton plays the Willy Wonka-esque CEO of a company that produces a not-so-sweet product: giant genetically engineered pigs to carve up and sell worldwide. Chaos ensues when a young girl (Seo-Hyun Ahn) puts up a fight to save the titular character’s bacon. There’s Spielbergian largesse in Bong Joon Ho’s brisk direction, but he goes places Spielberg wouldn’t—with pointy messages about anti-meat consumption and corporate malfeasance.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

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The titular, swashbuckling, self-aggrandising feline (voiced by Antonio Banderas) believed his own legend, but is thrown into existential crisis when he realises he’s on his last (ninth) life. Death is literally not far behind, taking the form of the “Big Bad Wolf.” The sharp writing and visual innovations of this Shrek spin-off (the second Puss in Poots film) took critics by surprise; many adults will dig it as much as the kids.

The Revenant (2015)

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Leonardo DiCaprio has never copped it harder than in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s neo-western survival film: he’s beaten, slashed, shot, mauled, frozen, buried alive, flung off a cliff…and that’s just the first 30 minutes. Beginning with a breathtaking early skirmish, Emmanuel Lubezki’s striking camera work follows poor Leo in close proximity, as he embarks on quest for revenge against rotten old Tom Hardy.

RRR (2022)

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SS Rajamouli’s sensationally loud Telugu-language spectacle pivots around two Indian citiziens rebelling against the British Raj circa the 1920s. The plot moves in long and large chunks, and just when you start to get antsy come the thunderclaps of overblown action. There’s no edge to it, stylistically, but it reeks of sheer decadence, even by the standards of Bollywood epics.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Not an origins film, but a film about the myth of origins. This restlessly inventive visual cocktail depicts a multiverse of realities, each harbouring a different version of the titular superhero—and each painted with a distinct aesthetic. The adhesive binding these universes together is the eponymous web-slinger, who saves the world from a super-gangster with a little help from his friends (who are actually different versions of himself).

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

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Part of the appeal of Tom Cruise’s hotshot pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell aligns with the appeal of Cruise himself: he’s a titan from another era, still standing in a rapidly changing world. An air of pathos lingers throughout this belated and unexpectedly excellent sequel to Tony Scott’s 80s classic.

Two Hands (1999)

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Gregor Jordan’s offbeat Australian crime caper casts a then little-known Heath Ledger as a bird-brained wannabe crook, who misplaces a big bag of cash and finds himself tumbling down the “in over your head” crime movie trajectory. It’s not a great performance, but it suits the scratchy, uneven but endearing charm of the film, which mixes Lock Stock-esque crime shenanigans with a quintessentially Aussie sense of humour.

Titles are added and removed from his page to reflect changes to the Netflix catalogue. Reviews no longer available on this page can be found here.