Top 20 Netflix Guilty Pleasure Action Movies

Vin Diesel, The Rock and Jason Statham - all in the same film - what more could you want?

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Article


Top 20 Netflix Guilty Pleasure Action Movies

If you thought Amazon Prime had some Guilty Pleasure Action Movies, then check out Netflix, with easily more than double the catalogue titles to choose from. 

20. Foxy Brown

Sure, you're probably better off watching Quentin Tarantino's ode to Pam Grier's cult classic Blaxploitation flicks of the 70s, Jackie Brown, but since this is an action movie list, that hardly qualifies. Honestly, Foxy Brown barely qualifies, but in lieu of any Richard Roundtree's Shaft action we have to make do with Grier's schlock sex-and-violence crime flick. Thankfully, Grier herself more than makes up for it, positively stunning in the lead role, and a confident fit for the lead in this violent thriller.

Want more Blaxploitation on Netflix? Coffy – considerably better than the lacklustre latest Netflix Original addition, Shaft, Coffy is still not a patch on Foxy Brown, but nonetheless delivers Pam Grier.

19. Headshot

Iko Uwais really has tried his best to forge a Hollywood action career for himself beyond his The Raid movies, popping up in the cheap but trashily fun sequel Beyond Skyline, the Peter Berg / Mark Wahlberg by-the-numbers actioner Mile 22, and the action/comedy Stuber, but really still faring better in productions like Netflix's The Night Comes for Us and this feature, Headshot, which mostly requires Uwais to break heads in increasingly imaginative way as he wanders around with his own broken head and memory problems. It's not groundbreaking, but it's just what the fantastic martial artist needs to show off his skills.

Want more Iko Uwais on Netflix? The Night Comes for Us – The Raid doesn't qualify because, well, it's hardly a guilty pleasure if it's one of the best action movies of all time, but Netflix's impressive The Night Comes for Us is good enough to vie for a top spot, and only drops to second because it'll likely make a top Netflix Originals list in due course. It's well worth checking out.

18. Avengement

Scott Adkins has been trying his best to becomes a household action name, but has never really graduated from the DTV ranks his fare tends to mainline in. That doesn't mean that there haven't been some awesome gems - including the superb and highly underrated Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (available on Amazon Prime) - but he simply hasn't ever hit mainstream beyond roles like Thug #2 in Doctor Strange. Avengement is a brutal, brutal actioner and features Adkins on fierce form, tearing his way through Brit locations - including a jaw-dropping prison sequence - with aplomb. It's the sixth collaboration between him and the director, Jesse V. Johnson, giving you plenty more to enjoy if you liked this.

Want more Adkins on Netflix? The Debt Collector – Adkins hits Netflix in this bruiser, also from Jesse V. Johnson. Again, it's violent and action-packed, and Adkins kicks serious ass, so if you enjoy decent action even without a household name, check it out.

17. Faster

Before Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson turned into one of the biggest action stars on the planet, injecting Box Office clout into almost everything he turned his hand to, he embarked upon Faster, a rare straight revenge actioner, stripped of dialogue and even characters names - he plays Driver, being chased by Cop whilst looking for Killer - but nowhere near stylish or atmospheric enough to live up to its homages to better features like Walter Hill's The Driver (which uses similar monikers). Nonetheless it's unusual to see The Rock go full vengeance mode (even in the Fast & Furious films you can't help laugh at his straight-faced aggression) and the all-star supporting cast help deliver some cheesy entertainment.

Want more Dwayne "The Rock" Johson on Netflix? Walking TallJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is hardly a guilty pleasure; it's an excellent reinvention/reworking/reboot of the old franchise, so instead we have to look to another one of The Rock's remakes, of the cult classic 70s flick (strangely based on a true story). It's neither a terribly good action film, nor anywhere near a plausible biography, only intermittently entertaining mostly when The Rock is hitting people with 2x4s.

16. A Man Apart

Way way way back in the days before he became the world's first (self-proclaimed) multi-cultural megastar, a slightly less ego-centric Vin Diesel made a very successful trifecta attack on stardom, through the excellent Pitch Black, the entertaining The Fast & The Furious and the frivolous but forgivable XXX, also shooting this ill-fated 2001 revenge thriller in the midst all of this with future The Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray, although it was not to be released until 2003 due to lawsuits over its original title, Diablo. Following extensive reshoots, including a new ending, it would unsurprisingly end up a Box Office Bomb, but it's a guilty pleasure curio, in part because it's that rare early era Diesel-driven production which doesn't feature his now-mandatory ego. 

Want more Vin Diesel on Netflix? Riddick – Sure, Pitch Black is on Netflix, but that's actually a very good movie. Chronicles of Riddick might be a bit cheesy but it blew the landscape wide open, a little like the Aliens to Pitch Black's Alien, whilst Riddick is the love/hate third sibling, like Alien 3. Once you accept that it's a zero budget attempt to return to Pitch Black scale and pave the way for a further, bigger, tie back into Chronicles, there's a decent amount of schlock fun to Diesel's violent trek through the desert, even if his character's ability to change a person's sexuality purely through flexing his muscles appears ambitious.

15. Conan the Barbarian

Post-Aquaman, a new Jason Momoa-led interpretation of the Robert E. Howard character, made famous by Arnie's classic Oliver Stone-scripted actioner Conan, would have possibly seen significant Box Office success, but almost a decade ago he didn't even have a Game of Thrones following to support this effort. All-star (it's scary that the demonic role here is probably the closest we'll get to a Rose McGowan Red Sonja), with solid effects, Conan the Barbarian was unfortunately an utter Box Office bomb, and a bit of a mess to boot. But it was entertaining nonetheless, and probably deserved better than this.

Want more muscle-bound swords and sandals He-Manery on Netflix? Immortals - Mission: Impossible - Fallout's Henry Cavill goes up against a post-Iron Man II Mickey Rourke in this Clash of the Titans-esque romp.

14. Death Race

A reboot / remake / prequel to Stallone's cult classic Death Race 2000, this Jason Statham, erm, vehicle is suitably violent and petrol-driven, a trashy but inventive blend of Mad Max, Gladiator and any take-your-pick B-movie prison flick, with Statham in the driving seat and Deadwood's Ian McShane, The Fast & Furious saga's Tyrese Gibson, Zero Dark Thirty's Jason Clarke and even Joan Allen turning up for a paycheque to colour in this throwaway actioner. The straight-to-video sequels, starring Blade II's Luke Goss, are actually worth a look too.

Want more Jason Statham movies on Netflix? The Mechanic – Just be patient waiting for Fast & Furious 7 to appear on the list, but in terms of one-man-army Statham actioners, his remake of The Mechanic is perfectly competent if not particularly coherent. It's a hell of a lot better than his botched attempt at a Parker franchise though, wasting the character who was previously perfectly - and disparately - brought to life by both Lee Marvin in Point Blank and then Mel Gibson in Payback.

13. Red 

Loosely based on Warren Ellis' comic book run of the same name, Red is one of the very scant few offerings from Willis in the last decade where he actually appears to be invested in the production. Indeed, for an actor who has done a staggering 35 films in the last 10 years, it's equally shocking to realise that only a small handful of them (2010's Red, 2012's Moonrise Kingdom and Looper - if you're very kind, his 2013 sequel A Good Day to Die Hard - and last year's Glass) display an even recognisable 'performance' from a non-comatose Willis. Here, he appears to be having a lot of fun - even if he's wildly overshadowed by a scene-stealing nutso John Malkovich - with a game cast and some over-the-top comic-book insanity. It's hardly great cinema, but it's pretty damn entertaining.

Want more Bruce Willis on Netflix? Death Wish - Yes, modern Willis does sleep-walk his way through almost everything and, yes, Eli Roth movies are largely unpleasant and, triple yes, a remake of the Charles Bronson classic was unnecessary, but as recent efforts from Willis go, this is surprisingly gritty and watchable, and a rare film where he's actually playing the lead rather than phoning in a supporting role.

12. Non-Stop

Since he hit his mid-50s, Liam Neeson has done more action that in the preceding 30 years of his career, tapping into an unexpectedly popular middle-aged-action-man sub-genre and paving the way for any number of imitators (as we'll shortly find out, the likes of Kevin Costner, John Travolta and Guy Pearce all jumped on this bandwagon). Following his career comeback success in 2008's Taken, he went full throttle with the likes of Unknown, Taken 2, Taken 3, A Walk Among the Tombstones and The Commuter all providing varying degrees of twists on the same basic formula). 2014's Non-Stop was arguably one of the more engaging - if preposterous - efforts, trying to give Neeson a different, more troubled setup (alcoholic) before heading down an increasingly ludicrous path towards the slow-mo free-fall action sequence so heavily promoted in all the trailer material.

Want more Liam Neeson action on Netflix? Run All Night - Yes, you can also find the perfectly serviceable Taken 3 (which, like Angel Has Fallen, is a step up over a lacklustre second entry), but Run All Night is another example of Neeson attempting to push the boundaries of the format, albeit incrementally, and has a nice supporting cast including Ed Harris and Joel Kinneman.

11. From Paris with Love 

Luc Besson may be best known for masterpieces like Leon and Nikita, but he's also cashed in on his name to churn out a slew of cookie-cutter actioners which basically use the same formula: take ageing actor not known for action and cast them as a special forces something or other, and mix-and-match plot elements normally involving revenge and blowing stuff up. Taken was the head of the pack, his first teaming with Pierre Morel, but Besson would engineer a similar attempt at 'older' action for John Travolta in From Paris with Love, a cheesy and eminently silly international terrorist romp that just about gets by on Travolta's superbly over-the-top lead performance (something which could be levelled at a number of features, like Broken Arrow). 

Want more Luc Besson-scripted nonsense on Netflix? 3 Days to Kill – Kevin Costner's shot at latter-career action is just as silly - and directed by McG to boot - with Costner desperately trying to retain his dignity as he's called upon to go through Besson's schoolchild-scripted nonsense. Still, seeing Costner kicking ass and taking names is not without its charms.

10. The Gunman 

Clearly Pierre Morel caught the bug from working with Besson on Taken and From Paris with Love, as even some of his independent-of-Besson productions have followed the exact same formula, like the engaging Jennifer Garner revenge romp Peppermint and this, which was an older Sean Penn's invitation to the over-50s action party. The Gunman is based on a book, and has an absolute all-star cast, including Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Javier Bardem, but it's just another Taken movie, only with Penn - and his ridiculously buff physique - in the lead. Still, as guilty pleasure cheese goes, it's an engaging effort, particularly if you've had enough of Neeson's signature schtick.

Want yet more Morel/Besson-style nonsense on Netflix because you simply haven't had enough? Lockout – Basically this Die Hard-in-Space riff (had to happen eventually) takes an shot at updating Escape from New York, and gives Guy Pearce his chance in the ageing action icon stakes.

9. Stealth 

After The Fast and the Furious and XXX, director Rob Cohen went large with Stealth, a futuristic riff on Top Gun (crossed with the Japanese anime Macross / Robotech) about an AI-driven stealth fighter going haywire, and the pilots who have to deal with the fallout. It's poorly scripted and insanely cliched, but Josh Lucas - sporting some serious chemistry opposite Jessica Biel - and Jamie Foxx all commit to their egotistical pilot roles with aplomb, whilst the CG barely holds up, but the action is still pretty great, and the soundtrack engaging, letting you get carried away for a surprisingly intoxicating high speed ride.

Want more high speed insanity on Netflix? Need for Speed – No, it's not really very good at all, but it involves high speed stuff, and since fighter-plane-based movies are a relatively rare commodity (unsurprising considering how much they cost to make, and how much of a flop Stealth was), the best you'll have to make do with is fast cars.

8. Hunter Killer 

Gerard Butler's Hunt for Red October is surprisingly enjoyable nonsense - hell, most sub movies have an edge, but this one is wonderfully action-orientated and even features a pretty engaging land-based set piece to boot. Butler does what Butler does these days, and that's enough, whilst Gary Oldman phones it in back at the base. Hunter Killer is preposterous, over the top and thoroughly entertaining.

Want more tangentially-related-to-Gerard-Butler-action films on Netflix? White House Down – Ok, there's no Olympus Has Fallen, but this competent actioner released at the same time (and boasting a much bigger budget, but also a PG-13 rating) sports a suitably manic James Woods (is there any other James Woods) chewing up the White House as Channing Tatum borrows Bruce Willis' vest to save Jamie Foxx's President.

7. Escape Plan

Yes it's skirting straight-to-video quality, but Stallone and Schwarzenegger keep their heads above the water, irrespective of the likes of 50 Cent trying to bring the quality down. Stallone doesn't try much different here - he's been down this road before in Lock Up and Tango & Cash - but Schwarzenegger has an absolute blast, enjoying his first proper co-starring work with Stallone and playing with the character, albeit within the confines of the strictly by-the-numbers genre piece. Escape Plan is fun, over-the-top, hardly memorable, but never less than entertaining.

Want more Escape Plan action on Netflix? Escape Plan 2: Hades – A strong contender for one of the worst sequels to a theatrical action movie starring the original lead actor, Stallone's recently gone on the record as saying this was one of his worst movies ever, desperately trying to turn in a low budget third movie which made up for that, and somewhat succeeding in Escape Plan 3.

6. Navy Seals 

After Red Dawn, for about a decade Charlie Sheen was on something of a roll. Platoon and Wall Street remain at the top of his entire career, the Porsche-centric No Man's Land is underrated, and then you have the engaging Young Guns, the flawed and occasionally so-bad-it's-good The Rookie, with Eastwood shooting in his trademark near-darkness throughout, which was still pretty entertaining, the surprisingly good Terminal Velocity (far better than Snipes' Drop Zone) and the underacknowledged, possibly even impressive, sci-fi flick The Arrival. Smack in the middle of that Golden Era of Charlie Sheen we had Navy Seals, which was pure jingoistic Delta Force-esque nonsense, but never less than entertaining nonetheless, with an Aliens-era Michael Biehn along for the ride, as well as a scene-stealing (as always) Bill Paxton and the inimitably voiced future The Unit mainstay Dennis Haysbert (also The President in the early seasons of 24).

Want more military trash action featuring snipers on Netflix? Sniper: Ghost Shooter and Sniper: Legacy (not in that order) – Tom Berenger's original Sniper was an enjoyable B-movie featuring an inexplicably unhinged Billy Zane (alas, is there any other?), and the rare narrative of following snipers in action, with Berenger returning for a lesser second and third entry and then disappearing (along with his character) whilst his character's son took centre stage and Billy Zane returned. Ghost Shooter and Legacy are later entries in the inexplicably endless franchise, notable mostly because Berenger's Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett makes a welcome return. And, just for good measure, we've got Dennis Haysbert too.

5. The Foreigner 

Not to be confused with the confused 2003 Steven Seagal spy thriller of the same name, this generically-titled action-thriller from Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness director Martin Campbell is one of Jackie Chan's absolute best 'serious' films, going full vendetta when his daughter is killed, and tearing his way to Pierce Brosnan's former IRA politician. It's arguably not even a guilty pleasure, but actually a rare good film within the Netflix Original banner, and comes recommended.

Want more Jackie Chan action on Netflix? Bleeding Steel – There are actually a few Jackie Chan films on Netflix, none of them particular classics, but banding the full range you might get from the master, from an impressive serious turn in Shinjuku Incident to full metal fury in the over the top sci-fi action flick Bleeding Steel, to slapstick hijinks opposite Johnny Knoxville in Skiptrace and family fun in The Spy Next Door. There's also some classic Chan in Young Tiger and The Twins Effect II, and the surprisingly good The Myth. Take your pick, but since this is an action movie list, let's go with Bleeding Steel! (arguably a more appropriate 'guilty pleasure' than The Foreigner, in the same way that Under Siege 2 would have been a more appropriate 'guilty pleasure' than the genuine good movie that is Under Siege in the Amazon Guilty Pleasures list)

4. Last Action Hero 

In 1991 Arnold Schwarzenegger was on top of the world - Commando, Predator, Running Man, Red Heat and Total Recall had all propelled him to Judgement Day, his Terminator sequel which remains likely the highest point in his Hollywood A-list action star career. Unfortunately, it was all a long slow ride downhill from there, with the Austrian Oak taking a number of perhaps ill-advised, ambitious affairs which tried to capitalise more on comedy than straight action. Certainly, nobody was expecting his follow-up to Terminator 2 to be anything other than grade-A amazing, particularly with John "Die Hard" McTiernan behind the camera. Unfortunately, the very last thing that people wanted was Arnie to suddenly send up all the roles that had made him a star in the first place, responding negatively to the parody and flocking to see the simultaneously released Jurassic Park instead. A troubled production, with almost zero post-production, means the film is little more than a flawed shell of what was originally intended, but there's still a lot of charm there, no doubt because of behind the scenes work done by the likes of Shane Black (ironically one of the writers whose works were originally intended to be parodied), but also thanks to a slew of excellent supporting actors popping up - heavyweights like the inimitable destined-to-be-a-sith-lord Charles Dance, the late, great, Anthony Quinn, and Amadeus's F. Murray Abraham, as well as Manhunter's Tom Noonan (and countless cameos too), who would do their best to keep the train on its tracks, no matter how messy a ride it was. There's a lot of fun to be had here, once you know what to expect, and some of the in-jokes are tremendous (especially the faux trailers, which promote outlandish movies that looks even better than Last Action Hero itself, Machete-style).

Want more Arnie on Netflix? The Last Stand – Sure, you could try to watch Terminator: Genisys again, but your system my restart halfway through in order to avoid you having an aneurysm when it goes off the rails. Far more consistently enjoyable is the fun little throwback flick The Last Stand, which was Arnie's first real solo effort post-politics.

3. The Equalizer 

Considering it spawned from the dated 80s Edward Woodward series, which hardly relied on action as its staple, Antoine "Training Day" Fuqua's first (of several) reteaming with star Denzel Washington is a slick and at times brutal thriller, and one of many action thrillers where Washington almost single-handedly elevates the production through presence and star power, as well as a trademark charismatic and nuanced performance and commitment to impressive action (secretly proficient in martial arts, he is one of the few people on the planet who actually trained with one of Bruce Lee's disciples). The Equalizer is hardly groundbreaking, but certainly a guilty pleasure, almost so much so that it's hard not to let that entertainment spill over into the lesser sequel.

Want more Denzel Washington action on Netflix? 2 Guns - You can watch Training Day on Netflix, but it's actually a very good movie, and hardly an actioner, so probably best to turn your attention to the 'two Bergs' frolic, 2 Guns, co-starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg. It's utter nonsense, even for a comic book adaptation, but again Washington elevates it, and has some decent banter with Wahlberg, quashing his otherwise irritating arrogance. There's also the serviceable remake of the far superior original, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, with a rare recent, decent, effort from John Travolta.

2. Road House 

Before the absolute classic Point Break, a young Patrick Swayze dipped into action with the likes of Red Dawn and Next of Kin, but the late Swayze will likely best be remembered for Road House, at least on the action front, turning bar room brawls into an entire narrative (rather than a single scene out of a Seagal movie) as his zen bouncer high-kicks and throat-rips his way through a small but troubled town. On scene stealing form is Sam Elliott, as the least likely veteran bouncer (worth watching just to see him attempt a kick) whilst Kelly Lynch drools over Swayze and struggles to remain clothed and Ben Gazzara hams it up in the background.

Want more high-kicking on Netflix? Bloodsport – There are a few Van Damme bruisers on Netflix, including his recent Kickboxer remake sequel(s), as well as the (incredibly!) Charlton Heston co-starring The Order, but none of them come close to making this list apart from perhaps Bloodsport, the bone-cracking, quintessential early era Van Damme flick. 

1. Fast and Furious 7

Almost not qualifying for the list at all, the Fast and Furious franchise has easily transcended the seeming limitations of its initial racing action crime thriller format to become simply genre-defying in its provision of grandstanding blockbuster entertainment at a level hitherto unseen for this kind of traditional barely above straight-to-DVD fare. This is pure cheesy 90s action, reworked with a blockbuster budget and starring the best ensemble cast this side of The Avengers. Statham, Diesel, Johnson - all with their own entries further up the list - coming together in a movie with the likes of Kurt Russell, Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey as well? This series does a far better job at bringing together action icons than The Expendables ever did, and, even if the franchise's only bona fide good entry is Fast Five, an argument can be made that almost all of the subsequent sequels provide simply some of the best over-the-top blockbuster entertainment in the last decade. And, at the very least, the best guilty pleasures you could imagine. Fast and Furious 7 is possibly the most emotional entry for fans, as it was the late Paul Walker's final appearance, making for a tearful finale that lends this Hollywood blockbuster some surprising weight. It's also the one where they launch their cars out of a plane. Guilty pleasure action movies simply don't get better than this.

Want more Fast & Furious on Netflix? Fast & Furious: Spy Racers - With about 10 seconds of voice work by Diesel himself (hilariously imagined as a cartoon character who Diesel must have personally overseen in terms of youth and over-the-top physicality), this engaging little Netflix animation is unfortunately neither quite right for a younger audience, nor gripping enough or stylish enough for an older audience, with some insane stunts that wouldn't even make the movies, and an odd comedy streak that undermines any tension. Still, since Fast & Furious 7 is the only entry on either Netflix or Amazon, if you want more, the series is the best you can do as far as this franchise is concerned.

What no John Wick: Parabellum? As with the Amazon Top 10 Guilty Pleasure Action Movies list, you might be wondering why Keanu Reeves' excellent career-comeback action extravaganza sequels aren't headlining this list? Well that's they're hardly a guilty pleasure. They are unequivocally some of the best movies in the entire genre.

What trashy, maybe even so-bad-they-are good action flicks available on Netflix make your list?

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