Action movies 2019

Action movies 2019 DEFAULT

The Best Action Movies of 2019

The best action movies of 2019 make clear how much it the genre of the moment, whether it’s the MCU, high-budget remakes, or new entries in beloved franchises. John Wick, Iron Man, Godzilla, and even Jesse Pinkman returned to the genre, and all ended up in films the staff of considered one of the best action movies of 2019. The array of reviews linked below to all of the action films of 2019 that we gave 3-4 stars reveal a wealth of not just different styles but delivery systems. There are major blockbusters like the latest “Avengers,” “John Wick,” “Jumanji,” “Godzilla,” and even a reboot of “Charlie’s Angels,” but there are also Netflix originals like “El Camino,” and the latest from Sion Sono, “The Forest of Love.”

What can we learn about the genre by looking at the full collection of the best action movies of 2019? It seems pretty vibrant. Studios learned long ago that people like to see things go boom, and these are the films in which things went boom with the most artistic integrity in 2019.


Captain Marvel (March)

At long last Marvel debuted its first film starring a female superhero in March of 2019. Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers—an alien super-soldier who crash lands on earth just in time to team up with Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and help save the day.

Shazam! (April)

Imagine if you could just figure out the one word it takes to be transformed into a superhero. In the case of 14-yaer-old Billy Batson, this word is “shazam!” Billy is a kid, so he uses these powers to have a lot of fun—until he has to fight real danger. The film opened up what will hopefully be a revamped DC universe in the coming years. Maybe.

Avengers: Endgame (April)

This was the film action fans had been waiting for. It was all the Avengers, together in one final movie to fight Thanos, who previously wiped out half the population of every species in the galaxy. If you’re this writer, then you got pretty annoyed when your partner made you watch all the Avengers films before going to see Endgame. But it really was worth it.

John Wick 3: Parabellum (May)

In the third movie in this series, international hit man John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has a $14 million-dollar bounty on his head. He’s used to this kind of dicey stuff, but this time, he’s lost the protective services of the High Table.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May)

Godzilla battles other God-sized monsters, including Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Rodan. They battle for ultimate world supremacy, and you know, possibly destroy all of humanity. Oh, and Millie Bobby Brown is there, too.

Dark Phoenix (June)

Sophie Turner is Jean Grey, one of the X-Men’s own, who ends up being one of their greatest threats when she gets hit by a mysterious force. She then becomes so powerful that she’s not predictable, which is never what we want from a superhero. We hoped this would be a bit better than what it turned out to be, but Sophie Turner still delivers.

Men in Black: International (June)

The Men in Black are now a global operation. Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and rookie agent M (Tessa Thompson) have to save the world when aliens able to take the form of any human come to Earth.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (July)

Peter Parker goes on a school trip to Europe (lucky), but he’s a kid superhero, so he ends up having to save the world instead of going on a normal high school trip, like a regular teen. He teams up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and fellow superhero Mysterio.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (August)

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw who team up to try to prevent cybernetically enhanced soldier Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba) from destroying the world. Three cheers to this line up of movies for managing to transform itself into a superhero franchise.

Jumanji 3 (December)

Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Awkwafina, and more star in this third film in the Jumanji franchise. This time, the game is fighting back harder than it has in the past (apparently giant mosquitoes in the 1995 film are nothing compared to what’s going on here).

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (December)

Coming in just under the wire, Star Wars is making history (again) with its final installment. Early reviews are a bit of a mixed bag, but the final film is a bit of a love letter to fans doing them a service by giving them what they want... even if it might have been too much fan service.

Hilary WeaverHilary Weaver is a freelance writer based in New York who writes about politics, queer issues, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and every woman the Queen has ever made a dame.

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The Best Action Movies of 2019

By Haleigh Foutch


From space battles to barroom brawls.

The tentpole age is a great time to be an action fan -- whether you like superhero action, sci-fi action, or straight-up John Wick style set-piece mayhem, there was something for you in 2019.

This year marked a major turning point in the MCU; a trio of films that will give us the first female-led Marvel film, the culmination of a decade's worth of world-building, and the film that will lead us into the next phase. On the heels of DC's billion-dollar trip to Atlantis, we'll also get the next step in the new cinematic DC universe. And that's just the superhero stuff!

There were also kick-ass DTV and international gems that slipped under the radar, a new direction for the Fast & Furious franchise, the culmination of the Skywalker saga, another good Terminator movie (finally!), and the joyous insanity of Alita: Battle Angel.

Whatever you're looking for, we've got you covered with a rundown of the best action movies of 2019 below. Click here for more of our Best of 2019 content.

Cold Pursuit

Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland remade his own 2014 film, Kraftidioten (or, In Order of Disappearance), replacing Stellan Skarsgård with Liam Neeson, and the result is a revenge actioner in the snow with more laughs than you’d expect. Not exactly cerebral material, Cold Pursuit is about a young man who’s killed by the henchmen of a drug lord, and the bloody chain of events that follow. That young man just happens to be the adult son of Nels Coxman (Neeson)—Kehoe, Colorado’s Citizen of the Year. Kehoe is a small, Rocky Mountain town, and Nels is its lone snowplow driver. With his boy dead and no answers emerging, Nels begins offing goons, one at a time, climbing the ladder in the hopes of reaching the man called “Viking” (Tom Bateman). But some confusion in the process leads to a war between Viking and a rival Native American drug outfit. Many people die, and the film has a morbidly funny way of tallying each one. Cartoonish villains (Viking especially), extreme violence, and grisly humor, this flick is a self-aware, bitterly frigid romp. -- Brendan Michael

Alita: Battle Angel

About halfway through the Robert Rodriguez manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel, Rodriguez alumnus Jeff Fahey is introduced as McTeague, a grizzled warrior who is the master of a group cyborg dogs whom he loves very much. It is at this point precisely that Alita: Battle Angel made the click in my brain from “a curious, satisfyingly atypical experiment” to “a cult classic that this generation will not love but future generations will eat up like delicious genre soup.”

Rodriguez’s vision is so purposefully strange and so delightfully, lovingly earnest -- i.e., a grizzled warrior who loves his good cyborg doggos. Rosa Salazar delivers -- and I’m not exaggerating in any way -- an Academy Award-worthy performance as the title character, a cyborg with big eyes and a bigger heart. Salazar makes the curious CGI choice work, using her eyes’ enhanced absorption as a guidepost for her performance. She physically leans forward, eager to make sense of what’s in front of her, eager to help however she can, no matter if it hurts her. Her performance shook me -- and when she starts getting into some dope robo-action sequences, Rodriguez’s filmmaking shook me even more. These sequences are surprisingly brutal, favoring visceral-feeling combat rather than the sometimes ephemeral nature of sci-fi laser fights. They’re rendered in crystal-clear, fluid accessibility by DP extraordinaire Bill Pope (you know, The Matrix and Edgar Wright, no big deal), and they crunch. Alita: Battle Angel’s screenplay sometimes gets too knotted in details and franchise set-ups (looking at you, Edward Norton), but overall, its heart-on-its-sleeve gonzo pleasures are too big-eyed to ignore. -- Gregory Lawrence

Extreme Job

Dear gods, I love this movie. Part slapstick ensemble comedy, part cop thriller, and ultimately, one heck of a delightful action movie, Extreme Jobis without question one of the best times I had in a theater all year. Seung-ryong Ryu stars as Captain Ko, the leader of a ragtag squadron of undercover drug enforcement who just absolutely cannot stop botching the job. With one last chance to prove themselves, they go undercover at a fried chicken restaurant and... get so caught up in their thriving chicken business they almost forget about their real jobs. Featuring an ace ensemble cast playing loveable oddball characters, Extreme Job is pure movie-going joy, an energetic and exuberant crime comedy that will keep a smile plastered on your face throughout, from the banter and silly antics to the best-of-the-decade-worthy finale fight scene. -- Haleigh Foutch

Avengers: Endgame

It's almost unfair to describe Avengers: Endgameas purely an action movie because it's also kind of a superhero time-travel heist with healthy portions of comedy, sci-fi, and melodrama. (It's also kind of unfair to describe Avengers: Endgame as just a "movie" because it's also kind of the finale to like 20 movies, but that's neither here nor there.) But there's no denying that Marvel's massive conclusion to the Infinity Saga contains some of the most bombastic action beats not only of 2019, but arguably of all time. Really, there's no argument at all when it comes to the film's final third, one long battle-a-palooza between Thanos' (Josh Brolin) forces of evil and every gosh dang MCU hero you can imagine, most of which had just returned from the dead. Between a score by Alan Silvestri that could have you running through brick walls, Captain America (Chris Evans) wielding a mythical hammer, and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) making his final stand, Endgame's action is pretty much guaranteed to turn every viewing into a rock concert, whether you're in a theater or alone on a couch.  -- Vinnie Mancuso

John Wick 3: Parabellum

If the first John Wick introduced the world to a new action icon and John Wick: Chapter 2 showed the world what he could really do, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is pretty much just showing up. Once again starring the timeless Keanu Reeves as the titular super-assassin, the film is basically one extended eff you to anyone else trying to do practical, in-camera action right now. You've seen chases through the city, but have you seen a man racing through Brooklyn on horseback? You've heard the rule about working with animals, but what if this movie specifically trained attack dogs to take part in the best animal action scene of all time? The third John Wick basically breaks the rules bullet by bullet, sending Reeves through glass cabinet after glass cabinet in pursuit of action hero perfection. In the case of John Wick, the third time might just be the charm.  --Vinnie Mancuso

The Kid Who Would Be King

Why didn’t more people see The Kid Who Would Be King, 2019’s perfect family film? Joe Cornish’s follow-up to his perfect horror film Attack the Block lost was a bonafide box office block that lost 20th Century Fox a bunch of money right before getting acquired in full by Disney, which is not a great look in front of your new bosses. So, to everyone who hasn’t seen this film (which statistically is a lot of you), I say this: See this film. It's modernized, savvy-but-never-overly-clever retelling of the King Arthur legend will unlock the joyous potential in every child, both literal and inner.

Like other perfect 2010s British family film Paddington 2, The Kid Who Would Be King is interested in three things. One: Entertaining the heck out of you. Two: Quietly, incisively, simply discussing that love and camaraderie will always triumph over hate and division in our contemporary, troubled times. Three: Charming the heck out of you. And wouldn’t you know it, it succeeds wildly on all three fronts! Cornish continues to be an excellent director of young performers, with all of the children starring in the film delivering lived-in portrayals of youth that are goofily endearing, yes, but don’t shy away from the dark complexities lurking in the shadows of any present-tense child. I want to give a special shout-out to Angus Imrie, who plays a fish-out-of-water version of Young Merlin with gleefully un-self-aware abandon. It’s one of 2019’s funniest performances, particularly the physicalization of his spells. And when The Kid Who Would Be King settles into its third-act battle for humanity, it does so by cutting through the noise of many other blockbuster third-act battles for humanity, and rendering moments of actual humanity amidst its carefully choreographed carnage. Again, I reiterate: See The Kid Who Would Be King! -- Gregory Lawrence

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Keeping with the tradition of Warner Bros. new Monarch monster-verse (which also includes Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island,) the human drama in Godzilla: King of the Monstersis more ore less a total snooze (excepting Ken Watanabe's highkey relatable spiritual bond to Godzilla himself,) but fortunately filmmaker Michael Dougherty came to play with the Kaiju action scenes, which not only brought Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra into the fold, but countless creature creations new and old alike in an absolutely bonkers giant monster bonanza. There's a real reverence for the key creatures and their cinematic history on display in King of the Monsters and Dougherty uses every penny of the film's blockbuster budget to duck and weave in and out of the monster brawls with the humans, while also showing the whole possibly apocalyptic melees in colorful, epic wide shots. The biggest complaint about 2015's Godzilla was that it didn't have enough action -- clearly the feedback was heard, and King of the Monsters is an all-out monster mash. -- Haleigh Foutch

Spider-Man: Far from Home

I don’t need Spider-Man: Far from Home to become a sci-fi leaning action film. I don’t need it to interact with the ramifications of Avengers: Endgame or any other MCU movie. Heck, I don’t need Peter Parker to ever don his Spidey suit and swing around. It’s because at the core of Spider-Man: Far from Home, like the previous Jon Watts/Tom Holland solo Spidey MCU movie, is character. As Parker, Holland continues to delight and endear, diving headfirst into the “John Hughes teen comedy” of the material with relatably awkward chutzpah. Zendaya, who with this and Euphoria is having the best 2019 ever, plays MJ as a controlled force of bemused nature, and she and Parker’s budding young love is beyond sweet to witness. Spider-Man: Far from Home could simply be a European-set teen romcom with a charming AF ensemble cast and I’d be perfectly happy. But when it does click in to being a sci-fi leaning action film: Look out!

The set pieces on this sucker are rollicking good times, bursting with imagination and visual clarity. In large part, this is thanks to the addition of Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio. His performance, like many of the best Gyllenhaal performances, feels a little “off.” And when his big twist is revealed, it makes all of it make sense, and gives the film an appealingly prescient commentary on what we can actually believe despite “seeing it.” One of my favorite sequences in the film is when Parker is sent, via incredibly believable forces of illusion, on a hallucinogenic dark night of the soul, taunting him with personal visions of pain and anguish. It’s a keen summary of the film’s pleasures: Action and sci-fi are good, yes. But character always comes first. -- Gregory Lawrence

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil

Nobody does hulking, imposing physicality like Ma Dong-seok, aka Don Lee, the South Korean superstar who broke out with international audiences in Train to Busan and has a knack for channeling preternatural likability into his tough-guy roles. That signature quality is on full display in The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, a sleek but grim action-thriller that stars Ma as a mob boss who randomly ends up on the wrong side of a serial killer's knife and makes a devil's bargain with an ambitious renegade cop (Kim Mu-yeol) to bring down the devil himself. Unfortunately, The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil doesn't quite dig deep enough into the depravity of its sinister slasher figure to balance its title trifecta, but Ma is a force on-screen, and never better here than when he's unleashed in the film's bloody action scenes. -- Haleigh Foutch

Hobbs and Shaw

The first Fast & Furious spinoff pairs up Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, and let me tell you I want to see these two gentlemen do absolutely everything together. The gonzo action the series has become known for is in top form in this film, including a sequence wherein our invincible protagonists chase Idris Elba and his men down the side of a skyscraper, and one in which Johnson pulls a helicopter out of the sky with nothing but a chain and his muscles. It’s loud and ridiculous (Johnson and Statham defeat the villain by verbally realizing the power of teamwork), but it doesn’t take itself seriously for a single moment and never expects you too, either. Vanessa Kirby balances out the testosterone a tiny bit as Statham’s secret agent sister, and Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Hart, and Helen Mirren contribute fun cameos as wacky characters in Hobbs and Shaw’s orbit. It’s one of the dumbest movies of the year in the best possible way. -- Tom Reimann

Terminator: Dark Fate

At long last, we finally got another good Terminatormovie! Deadpool director Tim Miller worked closely with producer and franchise creator James Cameron to craft a new direction for the franchise, which retconned all the sequels after T2 and picked up with Linda Hamilton's iconic Sarah Connor on a new and treacherous mission to save the world. It's a dedicated sequel that plays like a love letter to the genre-defining original movies, sometimes too faithfully, but the play-by-play devotion never undercuts the thrills. And the action, oh yes, it is good. Mackenzie Davis is a force as a new type of human-Terminator hybrid sent to protect the young woman who is the new future of the human race (Natalia Reyes) and Hamilton is cool as ever, even more gritty and no-bullshit than ever. Arnold Schwarzenneger is, of course, excellent in his action moments (though he shines best in his comedic beats here), but the real star of the action here is Miller's staging, which embraces all the strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies of his ensemble to create extended well-articulated and intense set-pieces between the character beats. -- Haleigh Foutch

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

The Donnie Yen-led Ip Man series is one of the great action franchises of our era, and with Master Z: Ip Man Legacy, it gets the ass-kicking spinoff it deserves. Fair warning, Yen sits this one out, but fans will recognize a familiar face in Jin Zhang's Cheung Tin-chi, the antagonist from Ip Man 3 who was soundly defeated in the third act and walks into Master Z downtrodden and determined to leave Wing Chun behind -- until he gets caught up in a battle against opium-slinging crimelords. Directed by the legendary Woo-Ping Yuen with an ensemble cast that includes Michelle YeohDave Bautista, and Tony JaaMaster Z is a wonderful spectacle of a martial arts film, sending the heroes and villains swinging from rooftop neon signs and trading blades in epic ensemble fights, and it introduces a completely different tone to the Ip Man franchise -- electric guitar riffs and all -- that promises a potential future for the series after next year's Ip Man 4: The Finale. -- Haleigh Foutch


The main draw here is watching Scott Adkins get into all kinds of brawls. Bar brawls, prison brawls, any ol' brawl will do, really. If that sounds good to you, then settle in for Avengement, the latest collaboration between DTV action champion Adkins and his Savage Dog and Accident Man director Jesse V. Johnson. This time around, Adkins and Johnson are clearly riffing on the Guy Ritchie/Matthew Vaughn brand of British crime thrillers, with a lot more roundhouse kicks. The film's structure is at first confounding and ultimately pretty satisfying, following Adkins' Cain Burgess, fresh out of prison, to a local pub where he holds the men responsible for his horrifying prison term to task for their bad deeds, jumping from flashback to flashback while he holds them at gunpoint. Few action performers can match the physical prowess Adkins brings to the table and with veteran stuntman Johnson, Adkins gets plenty of steadily shot scenes, montages, and set-pieces to show off his skills. If you're a fan of DTV actioners, this one's a gem with some genuinely surprising moments of violence. -- Haleigh Foutch

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

If you like your action with lightsabers and pew-pew guns and epic intergalactic battles, then Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was the movie for you in 2019. The Force Awakens helmer J.J. Abrams returns for the final installment in the Skywalker Saga, which brings together forty years of world-building, and while the screenplay and choppy execution might not hit all the right notes when it comes to tying together a grand finale, the action is without a doubt some of the best choreographed and performed of the year. Nothing quite has the inspiration and je ne sais quoi of The Last Jedi's throne room scene, but Rey and Kylo's lightsaber duels are fueled and elegantly performed, pitting Daisy Ridley's balletic grace against Adam Driver's brute force. They make for quite an athletic duo to behold and the film surges to life every time they share the screen. Of course, there are also some grand space battles, Star Wars helped write the book for the blockbuster film spectacle and Rise of Skywalker never holds back, sometimes to its own detriment, but always in pursuit of massive-scale entertainment. -- Haleigh Foutch

Rambo: Last Blood

The absurdly violent Baby Boomer revenge fantasy film Rambo: Last Blooddeserves some sort of special achievement Oscar for being the most tone-deaf film Sylvester Stallone has ever produced. Stallone reprises his role as the titular Vietnam War veteran, trying to live out the rest of his twilight years in quiet peace with his niece. But wouldn’t you know it, she goes across the border into Mexico to locate her biological father and is immediately abducted by a cabal of sex traffickers. Rambo has no choice but to murder his way through scores of brown people and pry justice from their ragged chests. (I’m not kidding - Rambo literally pulls body parts out of more than one person with his bare hands.)

If you can get around the film’s embarrassing optics and misguided script, Rambo: Last Blood is kind of fun as a completely batshit action slasher film. Rambo kills the absolute shit out of every bad guy he comes into contact with in sequences of escalating violence that suggest he’s trying to one-up himself with each murder. It’s like watching Jason Vorhees slaughter his way through National Guard training. -- Tom Reimann 


On the heels of the divisive blowback to the whole early DCEU debacle, DC Films and Warner Bros. made the wise decision to lean into the skills of individual filmmakers well-paired with charms individual heroes rather than leaning into their shared universe, and the result has been a series of hits from Aquaman to Joker -- which is pretty exciting since those couldn't be more different films! But where Aquaman is batshit fantastical indulgence and Joker is relentless bleak revisionism, David F. Sandberg's Shazam! is unadulterated feel-good fun.

Angel Asher stars as Billy Batson, a foster kid who finds his way to a new family and some world-saving superpowers, transforming into the fully-grown superhero Shazam! His adult counterpart is played by an impeccably cast Zachary Levi, who mines the physical comedy and wide-eyed wonder for all its worth. Big as a superhero movie is a great hook and Shazam! absolutely delivers on the comedy and heart, but it also has some great action beats (yes, also often comedic), none better than the big finale fight that packs in heartwarming surprises for a flashy send-off battle for the forces of good. -- Haleigh Foutch

Triple Frontier

A handsomely made action thriller, J.C. Chandor’s Triple Frontieris a tale of five disgruntled former special forces operatives who re-team to steal a fortune from a drug lord in South America. Written by Mark Boal, known for his gritty and intense war dramas—Zero Dark ThirtyThe Hurt Locker—and Chandor, the movie’s self-serious and brooding tone overshadows the riveting set pieces, which are plausibly done. And the group of five, led by Oscar Isaac and Ben Affleck, are believable as able-bodied anti-heroes who might embark on such a high-risk mission. With occasional thrills and punishing violence, it’s the story choices that keep you rapt. A big-budget film for Netflix ($115 million), Chandor makes good use of the funds. The movie has an expansive scope that transports you to the precarious jungles and mountains the cast is forced to trek through. It’s not an action film that’s having any fun, but it’s a beautifully gloomy affair that makes up in aesthetic what it lacks in emotional potency. -- Brendan Higgins

Black and Blue

Black and Blueis my favorite kind of mid-budget original genre picture. It’s a film in which every single craftsperson involved seems to have looked at each other, definitively decided to make sure their craft would allow the material to both play pleasurably into and rise above the “corrupt cop movie” tropes we’ve seen countless times before, and succeeded with aplomb. It’s a movie that grabs you both in the story it’s telling and how it’s telling its story.

Moonlightstandout Naomie Harris stars as a hard-working rookie cop thrown headfirst into a cop culture defined by corruption, dehumanization of non-cops, racism, and straight-up murder. Her performance is raw and gritty, a guttural, clenched-teeth sprint through horrible circumstances while trying to maintain a baseline of humanity. As for Tyrese Gibson, a liquor store clerk forced to help Harris? Revelatory. Smart, small, nuanced, achingly real. His work here deserves awards attention and then some. As these two scramble their way through New Orleans, fighting for truth and for their lives, director Deon Taylor stages the action sequences with appealingly slow-burning suspense -- moments of wide, eerie calm crescendoing into close-up cacophony and brutality. If the film sometimes hits nerves of melodrama in its reach, it does so with deserving intention. Corruption, dehumanization, racism, targeted executions -- all within structures that are supposed to provide authority and peace. If these aren’t the kind of real-world horrors that can’t be shouted at full volume in a crowd-pleasing Hollywood genre picture, I don’t know what is. -- Gregory Lawrence

Buffalo Boys

Released in Indonesia last year before landing stateside in 2019, Buffalo Boys a ballistic, polished Neo-Western that transplants the tropes of the Wild West to Indonesia, where two brothers of royal blood look to reclaim their land from the brutal colonist Captain Van Trach. The film has some silly moments of forced drama and an unfortunate reliance on sexual assault as narrative shorthand for villainy in men and backstory in women, but overall Buffalo Boys is a rousing, thrilling action-packed Western with a refreshing infusion of international culture. As the brothers, Yoshi Sudarso and Ario Bayu make for a charismatic and commanding duo, and they sure know how to handle an action scene. Thankfully, so does debut director Mike Wiluan (who produced Crazy Rich Asians and Headshot), and he gives them plenty of rollicking, explosive sequences to show off their skills. It's got big knives, bigger guns, and lots of style, a solidly ferocious anti-tyranny and colonialism backbone, and the film's riffs on classic barroom shootouts are not to be missed. -- Haleigh Foutch

Triple Threat

Triple Threatis a whole lot of movies. Some might say too many movies, but what do you expect when you assemble an absolute arsenal of the world's best martial arts performers this impressive. Jesse V. Johnson assembles Tony JaaScott AdkinsIko Uwais, Tiger Hu ChenCelina Jade, and darn Michael Jai White in a relentless action-fest that finds a team of mismatched mercenaries on a mission to protect a crime-fighting heiress from deadly assassins. That sounds a lot more cohesive than the movie ends up being, but the joy is in watching these knockout talents square off in different pairings and set-pieces. It's like an algorithm of ass-kicking and no matter which of the action greats are sharing the screen, Triple Threat serves up some ferocious fights and excess swaggering. There's battlefield combat! Cage fights! A whole lot of automatic weapons! And most importantly, a steady stream of swinging kicks and fists to keep the blood pumping when the story gets thin. -- Haleigh Foutch


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About The Author
Haleigh Foutch (3299 Articles Published)

Haleigh Foutch is a writer, editor, host, actor, and cat enthusiast based in Los Angeles. She's currently Senior Editor of Content Strategy and Analytics at Collider, where she's been climbing the ranks and screaming about the unsung genius of Grosse Pointe Blank for nearly a decade. She also oversees Collider's horror content and co-created The Witching Hour podcast, previously appeared as a regular panelist on Movie Talk, and has written for Rotten Tomatoes, Complex, Birth.Movies.Death., and more. You can usually find her sharing Buffy the Vampire Slayer memes on Instagram, rehearsing the Five Movements from The OA, and asking people about their pets.

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The 10 Best Action Movies Of 2019, Ranked

Who doesn't love a good action movie? We all do, right? A well-done action sequence can make a good movie great, and a mediocre movie at least worth watching. Action movies are one of the major reasons that we like to go to the theater in the first place. Sometimes, to fully appreciate great action, it need to be experienced on the big screen.

The year 2019 was a pretty good one for action movies, although not all the best examples came from the big screen. Nonetheless, Hollywood brought us some fantastic action movies this year, and here are the favorites.

One important note on this list, the definition of "action movie" is far from settled. Lots of movies have action sequences in them, but not every movie with action is an action movie. I've done my best to stick to films where the action is more than simply there, but where the action sequences themselves are largely meant to be "the point," though, of course, that's a moving target as well. As such, you won't find your favorite comic book movie or space battle movie on this list. While some of them have great action, they're not quite the same thing as "action movies." When you look at this list, you'll see what I mean.

10. Angel Has Fallen

The Has Fallen series feels like it's getting a little long in the tooth. I'm not sure anybody was expecting we'd get a second one of these, much less a third. And yet, here we are in 2019, with Angel Has Fallen. The movie brings back Gerard Butler as the Secret Service agent who's got John McClane's luck of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, he's suspected of attempting to kill the President of the Unites Stares, so instead of going after the bad guy, he's on the run himself.

Angel Has Fallen is clearly the third go-round here, and so while we've seen a lot of this before, it doesn't mean that the action we get here isn't worthy of note. The plot is pretty run of the mill, so the action is basically the only reason to bother if we're being honest. And there are some great sequences here worth enjoying and it's mostly, if not entirely, done with practical effects, which is nice to see in this day and age.

9. Cold Pursuit

Ever since Liam Neeson brought his "particular set of skills" to the big screen in Taken he launched a second career for himself, and several other older actors, as the elder statesmen of the action movie. Cold Pursuit sees Neeson as a mild mannered man who gets pushed over the edge when his son dies under mysterious circumstances. Determined to punish those responsible, he takes the fight to them himself.

Cold Pursuit isn't Taken, to be sure. Hell, none of Liam Neeson's excursions into action have reached that plateau, including the sequels to Taken themselves. Having said that, Cold Pursuit is one of the better examples of why this sort of movie works at all. Neeson is clearly enjoying making these movies and that goes a long way to letting the audience go along for the ride.

8. Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier is one of the better action movies we saw in 2019 that nobody ever had the chance to enjoy on the big screen outside of limited engagements. It was a film released exclusively on Netflix, but even on the smaller screen, it's worth checking out. It has an amazing cast that includes Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal, and while the film may not break much new ground, it succeeds at everything it tries to do, including putting forth some solid action sequences.

It's unlikely that anybody who queued up Triple Frontier on Netflix was looking for solid action sequences. The film billed itself much more dramatically, but the movie's action succeeds as well, if not better, than everything else it's trying to do. The fact that it's a solid movie, in addition to being a great action film, certainly helps as well.

7. 6 Underground

Like Roland Emmerich, if Michael Bay has a new movie out, then it's something that you need to see, and one should not let the fact that all the action takes place on a small screen detract from that fact. The newest movie on the list, 6 Underground, just came out on Netflix this month, and it sees Ryan Reynolds as a billionaire determined to make the world a better place by putting together an elite team of mercenaries and killing a whole bunch of (very bad) dudes.

The first 20 minutes of 6 Underground consists of a single car chase. 20 minutes. One car chase. The scene lasts so long it needs like four separate needle drops in the soundtrack just to get through. That really should be enough to tell you that, as an action movie, it is worth your time. 6 Underground feels like a Michael Bay movie, and honestly, since it doesn't include giant robots, it feels more like a Michael Bay movie than much of the director's recent output. Is it over the top and a bit ridiculous at times? Sure, but what exactly were you expecting?

6. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

If the day ever comes when a Fast & Furious movie comes out and doesn't make a list like this, something has gone terribly wrong. While the first franchise spinoff, Hobbs and Shaw, is a significantly different movie than the main franchise's installments, it still brings top notch action, and has the incomparable action director David Leitch making sure that that action works.

Not all of Hobbs and Shaw's action is automotively based as it is in the main series, but there are plenty of cool car chases. There's also great physical action sequences for everybody in the main cast. Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Idris Elba all get to shine. Also, somebody needs to give Vanessa Kirby her own action franchise like now. The Fast & Furious franchise as a whole has been reaching cartoonish levels of action in recent years, and this movie is no different. Yeah, The Rock totally tries to pull down a helicopter with his bare hands. Of course he does.

5. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

And then, sometimes, you want your action in the form of giant monsters beating the crap out of each other. 2014's Godzilla was a generally well received movie, but if the film had any faults, it's that the giant monster action was a bit lacking. Godzilla: King of the Monsters clearly heard that critique, because a lack of action is not a problem here. In addition to Godzilla we got a bunch of new Titans in the sequel, and they all get to beat the hell out of each other.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters didn't do nearly as well at the box office as the last movie, and that's truly unfortunate because it feels like this was the movie people really wanted to see last time around. Perhaps everybody will come around next year when Godzilla Vs. Kong finally arrives.

4. Terminator: Dark Fate

How in the hell did 2019 become the year we got a good Godzilla movie and a good Terminator movie, and nobody cared about either one? Although, to be fair, it's not like the Terminator franchise didn't have several bites at that apple in the past and basically failed every single time.

However, Terminator: Dark Fate was the Terminator movie everybody had been waiting for. Arnold was back. Linda Hamilton was back. They both got to kick ass. And Mackenzie Davis is welcome to join Vanessa Kirby in the female action movie I've started to create in my head. This was the first Terminator movie in a long time to feel like a worthy part of the franchise. If you missed it, go fix that.

3. Alita: Battle Angel

Man, somehow, this list has become really depressing all of a sudden. Alita: Battle Angel wasn't a sequel nobody cared about, but it was a long gestating dream project for James Cameron that finally became a real thing thanks to Robert Rodriguez... that also not enough people saw. I was utterly shocked at how much I enjoyed Alita: Battle Angel. It's too bad the chances of an Alita sequel being made seem slim, for now.

Based on a Japanese manga series, Alita: Battle Angel looks like what would happen if you could fed a manga into a machine and have it come out at a movie on the other end. The futuristic and fantastical world is realized perfectly. It looks amazing, especially during the action beats. Unlike something like Gemini Man, which falls apart visually when the action gets going, Alita holds up and actually looks that much more stunning when the action gets going, whether we're watching a bar fight or an extremely violent game of roller derby.

2. 1917

No offense to Roland Emmerich's Midway, but if you are going to see a war movie this year, 1917 is the one you shouldn't miss. The upcoming WWI adventure from director Sam Mendes is chock full of action. It's also been shot in one long take, which makes the grueling action sequences even more astounding.

War movies are not traditional action movies in the usual sense. However, 1917 certainly warrants being on this list. It starts off at a quick clip and moves at a breakneck pace through all kinds of hazards and scenery. It's an unrelenting movie and one of the best 2019 has to offer, period. On the action front, it's a great example for how directors can experiment in the genre as well. Catch it in theaters starting on Christmas Day.

1. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Was... was there really any chance in hell it was anything else? If a John Wick movie ever comes out and it's not at the top of a list like this, it's either a really good sign for action cinema, or a really bad sign for John Wick. Keanu Reeves returned for a third installment of the killer franchise with John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, and he hasn't lost a step yet.

At some point, the John Wick series might start to falter, but if it keeps finding new ways to expand the universe and make action sequences feel fresh, like the addition of Halle Berry and her trained attack dogs, then this franchise will continue to be the top of the action genre for a long time to come. We can't wait until John Wick: Chapter 4.

What was your favorite action movie of the year? Was it one of these, or something else we didn't cover? Let us know in the poll and comments below.

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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.


Movies 2019 action

The 20 Best Action Movies of 2019

As a cultural commodity, the action movie is in a state of flux. On one end of the spectrum, you have enormous, globe-devouring public spectacles like Avengers: Endgame, last year's biggest blockbuster and a genuine pop culture phenomenon; on the other end, smaller crime thrillers and adventure stories, once the beating heart and lifeblood of the genre, have been relegated to relatively under-the-radar releases on streaming platforms and on-demand services. Except for the rare successful franchise like John Wick, it feels like the middle class of action movie-dom has been hollowed out.

Still, the current moment is a fascinating time to be a fan of movies where cars blow up and people kick each other in the throat. Like last year's list, the goal here is to celebrate the best action titles of 2019 on the big screen and on streaming platforms, which could mean superhero epics, foreign language slugfests, and, more likely than not, at least one movie starring a former professional wrestler. As the grizzled, tobacco-spitting squad leader in an action movie might say, we're getting the gang back together. 

New year, new movies: check out our list of the Best Movies of 2020, Best Action Movies of 2020, and Most Underrated Movies of 2020.

20. Polar

Release date: January 25
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick, Matt Lucas
Director: Jonas Åkerlund (Lords of Chaos)
Why it’s worth watching: On the surface, this adaptation of a graphic novel about a globe-trotting hitman nicknamed Black Kaiser (Mikkelsen) looks like a John Wick clone, complete with absurdist world-building and balletic gun-fighting. But the actual tone of movie, which follows the Kaiser on the verge of his retirement from the murder business, is hyper-kinetic and more than a little sleazy. Instead of the stylized, craft cocktail veneer of Wick, director Jonas Åkerlund, who has directed music videos for artists like Madonna, Taylor Swift, and Maroon 5, pursues the garish chaos and screaming tastelessness of the Crank series. Not all of the provocations are effective -- for example, the opening scene with Johnny Knoxville getting assassinated mid-blowjob will likely send squeamish viewers back to the Netflix homepage -- but Mikkelsen gives a moving, soulful performance. Whether he's instructing children on how to disembowel an enemy or dodging bullets in the nude during a log-cabin siege, Mikkelsen keeps the movie grounded, and, ultimately, makes it worth watching despite its flaws.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix (Watch the trailer)

19. Cold Pursuit

Release date: February 8
Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, Tom Bateman
Director: Hans Petter Moland (In Order of Disappearance)
Why it’s worth watching: More of a darkly comedic crime saga than a straightforward action-thriller in the mold of Taken, this Colorado-set revenge tale is centered around a snowplow driver named Nels Coxman (Neeson) who kills drug dealers and dumps their bodies in an icy river. He's set on this violent, chilly path after the tragic death of his son Kyle, who suffers a heroin overdose despite Nels' claims that Kyle was never "a druggie." The various criminals Nels antagonizes, plus their low-life associates and a couple local cops, take up more screen time than you'd expect, giving the proceedings a rollicking, shaggy-dog ensemble vibe that can be an odd fit with Neeson's angry dad schtick. (Neeson also made some horrifying comments during the film's press tour, which make some the script's crude attempts at "edgy" racist humor feel particularly misguided.) Though the film's central revenge plot can be tedious, the margins of the story are filled with scraggly character actors like William Forsythe, some genuinely clever bits of dialogue, and a handful of inspired visual moments of whimsy. Overlong and undercooked, Cold Pursuitis not in the same league as The Commuter or Non-Stop, Neeson's recent collaborations with director Jaume Collet-Serra, but it has a droll quality that shines through the piles of snow.
Where to watch: Stream on HBO Go; rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

18. The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil

Release date: June 7
Cast: Ma Dong-seok, Kim Mu-yeol, Kim Sung-kyu, Heo Dong-won
Director: Lee Won-tae (Man of Will)
Why it’s worth watching: The Korean crime thriller The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil has one of those simple, straight-forward premises where you'll likely know if you're in or out right away. (Sylvester Stallone has already scooped up the remake rights, so he's all in.) As the title suggests, the plot follows a gangster (Train to Busan's break-out star Ma Dong-seok) and a cop (Kim Mu-yeol) who temporarily join forces, putting aside their natural distrust and simmering animosity, to hunt down a serial killer known only as K (Kim Sung-kyu). He's not exactly the devil, but he's close enough. Dashing and terrifying, K selects his victims by getting into minor traffic accidents with them, bumping their cars and then stabbing them when they get out to inspect the damages. For fans of Thomas Harris novels or Michael Mann films, The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil will feel familiar -- the procedural aspects are too formulaic at points, leaning on stock characters and rote conflicts -- but Ma Dong-seok, a burly and wry performer, makes the most of his role as the heavy. He's good enough that you wish the rest of the movie was operating at the same level.
Where to watch: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

17. Terminator: Dark Fate

Release date: November 1
Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes
Director: Tim Miller (Deadpool)
Why it’s worth watching: All of the post-T2Terminator movies have felt encumbered by the apocalyptic implications of the series, particularly the deterministic time-loop narrative acrobatics, and Terminator: Dark Fate, the latest attempt to revive the franchise, is no exception. Even though the movie brought back James Cameron in a producing role, erased the plot baggage of the non-T2 sequels, and recruited Linda Hamilton to reprise her role as Sarah Connor, it has some of the same problems as other recent Terminator chapters. (Let's be honest: No villain is going to top Robert Patrick's liquid-metal bad guy.) Still, the middle section of the film, which traces a race across the border that eventually leads to Schwarzenegger's aging cyborg, succeeds as a nervy science-fiction parable with real-world implications and hard-earned tension. Before it descends into all-out vehicular mayhem and CG chaos in its final stretch, Terminator: Dark Fate paves a new road forward with the confidence that's been lacking in many other recent high-profile reboots this century. 
Where to watch: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

Thrillist TV

16. Dragged Across Concrete

Release date: March 22
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White
Director: S. Craig Zahler (Brawl in Cell Block 99)
Why it’s worth watching: The vivid title of this unapologetically provocative, occasionally ponderous cop epic serves as either a welcome mat or a warning sign depending on your tolerance for hard-boiled dialogue, shocking violence, and the screen presence of controversial star Mel Gibson. Playing Officer Brett Ridgeman, Gibson brings a weary stillness and a wounded pride to the role of a racist cop suspended for getting caught on video using excessive force on the job. Strapped for cash and looking to make one big score, Ridgeman and his younger partner Lurasetti (Vaughn) plan to steal money from a team of bank robbers, including a criminal (Kittles) just released from prison and looking to make life better for his family. The set-up is familiar, riffing on similar heists you've seen in noir films and in crime novels, but Zahler's staging of the major sequences, like a prolonged gun battle near the end, can be gripping and his writing, particularly in the drawn-out stake-out scenes, can be pleasing to the ear. While Dragged Across Concrete lacks the punch of Brawl in Cell Block 99, his previous (and much stronger) collaboration with Vaughn, it's clearly the work of an artist looking to expand his scope and willing to test his audience's patience.  
Where to watch: Stream on HBO Go; rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

15. Domino

Release date: May 31
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten, Guy Pearce, Nicolas Bro
Director: Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible
Why it’s worth watching: Brian De Palma's taste for the grotesque both drives and ultimately derails this fascinating, maddening late-career terrorism thriller, which arrived unceremoniously on VOD after being delayed for vaguely troubled reasons and talked down in the press by the legendary director himself. Game of Thrones star Coster-Waldau brings flickers of roguish charm and heaps of weary resignation to the role of Christian, a Copenhagen cop who gets wrapped up in an admittedly confusing international web of lies spun by an obnoxious heel of a CIA agent (Pearce). Mostly, Christian wants to avenge the death of his partner, who was having an affair with another cop played by van Houten. As disjointed and wrong-head as the film can be, Domino is worth seeking out for a handful of deliriously staged, virtuosically shot suspense sequences, including a shocking murder that leads to a rooftop chase and a bewildering set-piece involving a bullfight and a drone. (Just like in classics like Blow Out and Femme Fatale, De Palma remains obsessed with visceral questions of perspective.) Even in its possibly compromised state, the movie has more visual spark than most of the blockbusters rolling off the assembly line this summer.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

14. Furie

Release date: March 1
Cast: Veronica Ngo, Cát Vy, Phan Thanh Nhiên, Phạm Anh Khoa
Director: Le-Van Kiet (The Rich Woman)
Why it’s worth watching: Kidnapping the child of an action hero has to be one of the dumbest things a villain can do. Don't you know that person you just messed with is going to come after you with all their special skills, their physical strength, and their righteous anger? Apparently, the child-smuggling, organ-stealing black market gang at the center of Furie, a brisk Vietnamese action thriller, had no idea that local debt collector and single-mother Hai (Ngo of Star Wars: The Last Jedi) was so resilient when they decided to pluck her daughter from a crowd. Hai runs, kicks, punches, and shoots her way to her daughter. From a story-telling perspective, the plot isn't that different from various Taken-like tales of parental vengeance, but the filmmakers have tricked out the story with enough emotional flashbacks and specific cultural details to make it stand out. The use of color in some of the dimly lit fights is particularly impressive, like when Ngo becomes a blur of pink as she battles an attacker on a rickety train. 
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

13. Triple Frontier

Release date: March 13
Cast: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund
Director: J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year)
Why it’s worth watching: Any movie that inspires you to listen to Metallica's Ride the Lightning for a week after seeing it is doing something right. In addition to opening up with "For Whom the Bell Tolls," this military heist thriller, which finds Affleck leading a team of ex-Special Forces hotshots on a mission to rob a drug dealer in the jungle, hits all the necessary action movie beats: There's a "getting the gang back together" scene, a "are you in or are you out?" sequence, a "put the money down we gotta go" moment, and, sure, a "holy shit" helicopter crash in the mountains to show how much money Netflix was willing to shell out. So why does the movie feel underwhelming? Triple Frontier started life as another tactics-obsessed Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal project -- one that nearly every famous male actor in Hollywood was rumored to star in at some point -- but it was eventually taken over by Chandor, the helmer of the macho finance drama Margin Call and the sleepy '70s crime riff A Most Violent Year, and he gives the material an occasionally ponderous touch. Caught between an ultra-tense Bigelow epic and a scrappier WWE Studios thrill ride, the movie never quite finds its footing, particularly in the second half. Still, those Metallica songs sound great.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix (Watch the trailer)

12. Angel Has Fallen

Release date: August 23
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte
Director: Ric Roman Waugh (Shot Caller)
Why it’s worth watching: Growing increasingly weathered and grizzled with each passing year, Gerard Butler has become a surprisingly endearing, warm screen presence in various cookie-cutter action movies. Deviating from the siege-structure of Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen, Angel Has Fallen takes a slightly grittier approach, following Butler's put-upon Secret Service Agent Mike Banning as he goes on the run, Fugitive-style, after being framed for an assassination attempt on the President of the United States (Freeman). Thanks to Butler's lunkhead charm, a self-aware performance from Nolte as Banning's bearded Vietnam veteran father, Waugh's taut direction of the bullet-ridden set-pieces, and a script peppered with amusing references to current events, this is the rare threequel that easily tops the previous entries in the series. Over a decade after yelling his way through Zach Snyder's macho dorm room staple 300, Butler has learned how to anchor a movie like this with a gruff, gun-toting form of grace.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

11. Triple Threat

Release date: March 19
Cast: Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Scott Adkins
Director: Jesse V. Johnson (The Debt Collector)
Why it’s worth watching: If you're the type of person who reads a list like this, Triple Threat has probably been on your radar. Marketed as an Expendables-like team-up military adventure featuring three of the biggest names in modern martial arts movie-dom (Jaa of the Ong Bak series, Uwais of The Raid series, and Chen of The Man of Tai Chi and John Wick: Chapter III), along with DTV favorites Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White in crucial bad guy roles, the project gives off an immediately appealing All-Star Team vibe. But, like many battle royale style action movies, the execution doesn't always live up to the potential. For such a short feature, the plot, which mostly revolves around the protection of a billionaire heiress, can feel overly complicated and there are simply too many scenes of grisly, hurried gunfire when you'd rather see the cast engage in some less bullet-ridden, more naturalistic hand-to-hand combat. Enough with the assault rifles already, guys. Still, the performers are all giving it their all and the fist-throwing climax of the movie is a blast. Director Jesse Johnson, who has another Adkins movie further down this list, knows how to make these movies tick.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

10. 6 Underground

Release date: December 13
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ben Hardy
Director:Michael Bay (Transformers)
Why it’s worth watching: Michael Bay's Netflix-funded action extravaganza opens with a 20-minute car chase through the streets (and museums) of Florence that includes an annoyed nun giving our heroes the finger, a group of cute puppies running in slow-motion, and Dave Franco yelling "fuck" at the top of his lungs while repeatedly almost crashing into pedestrians. Before that, Ryan Reynolds, playing a tech billionaire who made his money with "magnets," fakes his death in a plane while wearing a helmet with a Red Bull logo on in it. That should give you a sense of what you're dealing with here. Every aspect of this globe-trotting adventure team-up, from its gleefully silly libertarian politics to its sadistically gross splatter effects, feels designed as an affront to collective notions of "good" taste. No longer reigned in by the relative limitations of the Transformers franchise, Bay leans into his most obnoxious tendencies here, giving 6 Underground a crude type of artistic integrity that's become all too rare in blockbuster filmmaking.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix (Watch the trailer)

9. Gemini Man

Release date: October 11
Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong 
Director:Ang Lee (Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk)
Why it’s worth watching: Audiences mostly skipped this Ang Lee directed science-fiction thriller, which failed to light up the box office, but they missed a sturdy, thoughtful star vehicle with a fascinating, expertly calibrated performance from Will Smith. Playing a retired assassin and his younger clone, who hunts him down with deadly accuracy, the former Fresh Prince actor brings sensitivity, wisdom, and humor to bear on a challenging double role that might have felt cheesy in less experienced hands. Confronted with his own capacity to kill, you feel his pain and his bewilderment as his violent past catches up with him. Like he did with 2003's underrated Hulk, Lee finds psychological nuance in cheesy B-movie material, staging bullet-ridden action set-pieces that push technological limits while still reflecting heavier themes about identity, guilt, and the passage of time.
Where to watch: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

8. Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy

Release date: April 12
Cast: Max Zhang, Dave Bautista, Liu Yan, Xing Yu
Director: Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny)
Why it’s worth watching: There's a sequence in Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy, the latest entry in the massively entertaining series of martial arts films, where Michelle Yeoh, playing crime boss Tso Ngan Kwan, faces off against an attacker, and the whole movie gets a jolt of electricity. Yeoh's part in the film is small, but hardly insignificant: She lends gravitas and kineticism to the proceedings. The larger narrative, which follows gifted fighter Cheung Tin Chi (Zhang) as he opens a grocery store and attempts to stay out of trouble, is packed with similar bursts of energy, hand-to-hand combat scenes that make the viewer gasp, laugh, and cheer at the physical grace and choreographed precision on display. Though it largely abandons the gestures towards actual history that defined the original Ip Man entries and doesn't feature Donnie Yen, the stoic face of the series, Master Z has a welcome sense of humor, a winsome tone, and a mustache-sporting Dave Bautista wearing suits that struggle to contain his giant frame. What more do you want?
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

7. First Love

Release date: September 27
Cast: Masataka Kubota, Nao Ōmori, Shōta Sometani, Sakurako Konishi
Director: Takashi Miike (Audition)
Why it’s worth watching: Leaping from heart-tugging romance to stomach-churning bloodshed, Takashi Miike's crime lark First Love never settles down. That type of stylistic hyperactivity, a reluctance to find a lane and stay in it, can be irritating if improperly executed, but Miike, a prolific filmmaker with over 100 genre-spanning movies under his belt, is a master of controlled chaos. The relationship between despondent young boxer Leo (Kubota) and haunted young prostitute Monca (Konishi) provides a structural backbone for the narrative, which ricochets across a city as Yakuzas, Triads, cops, and underlings scheme away the night. Guns get pulled, swords get drawn, and, in one particularly kinetic moment, the movie switches to brightly colored animation, perhaps to cover for an effect the production couldn't afford. Who knows? First Love's restless energy keeps you swooning even as the bodies pile up. 
Where to watch: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer) 

6. The Bouncer

Release date: January 11
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sveva Alvit, Sami Bouajila, Kaaris
Director: Julien Leclercq (The Crew)
Why it’s worth watching: When it comes to aging action stars from the '80s and '90s, it can be hard to know which of their new movies are truly worth watching and which ones you wouldn't even pick up in a Blockbuster bargain bin. For example, the title and the poster for The Bouncer, a new crime thriller starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as the titular enforcer, are altogether unremarkable and don't really give you an idea of how good this movie is. This is a smart, no-nonsense, character-based action movie featuring one of Van Damme's finest broken-down, hollowed-out performances. The Bloodsport star plays Lukas, an ex-bodyguard turned nightclub tough guy who gets recruited by the cops to spy on his boss at a strip club. (He's not a willing snitch: The government suspects the crime boss of being in charge of a counterfeiting ring and they squeeze Lukas, who takes care of his young daughter, into serving as their mole.) While the setup is basic neo-noir stuff, the execution here is top-notch, from the direction and writing to the performances and the fights, which are brutal and quick. With his gaunt face and expressive eyes, Van Damme is perfect as a man consistently pushed to the brink.
Where to watch: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

5. Alita: Battle Angel

Release date: February 14
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Mahershala Ali
Director: Robert Rodriguez (Sin City)
Why it’s worth watching:The first thing you notice are the large eyes, beckoning like portals to another dimension. Alita, a cyborg discovered in a junkyard by a possibly mad scientist consumed with grief over the death of his daughter, is played by the actress Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner, Bird Box), but she's brought to uncanny life via technology Alita producer and co-writer James Cameron developed for his alien environmental opus Avatar. (Cameron was originally going to direct Alita, but he got sidetracked by the world of the Na'vi.) Compared to Avatar, or other recent colorful acts of gonzo-world-building like Jupiter Ascending or Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets, Alita: Battle Angel moves in fits and starts, occasionally struggling to merge Cameron's hyper-earnest, ponderous sensibility with Rodriguez's more garish, ironic approach. Still, when the movie connects, like in the ridiculous and kinetic "motorball" sequence, which finds Alita fending off brutish attackers in a violent, X-Games version of tag, it's as exhilarating as this type of reality-altering, money-burning sci-fi blockbuster gets. Perhaps fitting for a story about a character's complicated relationship to her own body, the movie takes time to feel comfortable in its own CG skin.
Where to watch: Stream on HBO Go; rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

4. Avengement

Release date: May 24
Cast: Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Thomas Turgoose, Nick Moran
Director: Jesse V. Johnson (The Debt Collector)
Why it’s worth watching: DTV action star Scott Adkins knows how to land a punch, but this chronologically fractured fight film, which combines a bloody prison drama with a Guy Ritchie-esque underworld plot, also lets the absurdly buff actor show off his acting chops as well. With a metal grill on his teeth and gnarly scars on his face, Adkins plays the Biblically named Cain, a former boxer turned convict who starts the movie by escaping his security detail on a trip to the hospital to visit his dying mother. On the run, Cain ends up at a pub in the middle of the day, where he entertains the assembled goons with his convoluted life story, which involves a betrayal by his older brother and many grueling jailhouse brawls. Johnson, a stuntman-turned-filmmaker who has directed Adkins features like Accident Man and Triple Threat, co-wrote the refreshingly sharp script, which has more on its mind than your average fight-driven revenge film, and he stages the ferocious, bare-knuckle melees with appropriate vigor, allowing Adkins to give one of the best performances of his career. 
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

3. Shadow

Release date: May 3
Cast: Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan
Director: Zhang Yimou (Hero)
Why it’s worth watching: In a city covered in gray clouds and besieged by constant rain, an umbrella can become your last line of defense against the elements. In Shadow, the latest visually stunning action epic from Hero and House of Flying Daggers wuxia master Zhang Yimou, parasols are more than helpful sun-blockers: They can be turned into deadly weapons, shooting boomerang-like blades of steel at oncoming attackers and transforming into protective sleds for traveling through the slick streets. These devices are one of many imaginative leaps made in telling this Shakespearean saga of palace intrigue, vengeance, and secret doppelgangers set in China's Three Kingdoms period. Commander Yu (Deng) serves at the mercy of the cruel King Peiliang (Zheng), who rules like a petty and petulant teenager, but the brave Commander is actually a "shadow," a body double recruited to serve as a potential replacement in a time of crisis. The "real" Commander Yu, also played by Deng, nurses a festering battle wound underground, training his double and scheming to overthrow the king. This is a martial arts epic where the dense plotting is as tricky as the often balletic fight scenes. The narrative does lose steam in stretches, but the brilliantly designed and impeccably edited action sequences are simply on another level. If the battle scenes in Game of Thrones left you frustrated, Shadow provides a thrilling alternative.
Where to watch: Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

2. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Release date: January 18
Cast: James Badge Dale, Brian Geraghty, Patrick Fischler, Happy Anderson
Director: Henry Dunham
Why it's worth watching:The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a movie that understands the value of restraint. After a mass shooting at a police funeral, a militia group in Michigan assembles at a warehouse to double-check the status of their massive stockpile of deadly weapons, including a batch of AR-15s. Turns out one of the guns is missing -- the radio has confirmed that the shooter used an AR-15 -- and only one of the men in the group could have grabbed it. Quickly, the Reservoir Dogs-like scenario spirals out into a simultaneously chatty and gripping whodunit with James Badge Dale's gruff ex-cop Gannon interrogating his fellow conspiracy-minded associates, mostly played by brilliant character actors given room to flex here, in an effort to find the killer before the shooting can be pinned on the group as a whole. But can any of these shadowy figures be trusted? This isn't an anthropological study of right-wing paranoia under Donald Trump or a treatise on white male rage in the age of InfoWars -- the exact specifics of what all these guys believe and hope to achieve with their considerable firepower are kept vague -- but Dunham, making his feature debut here, zeroes in on the personalities and attitudes of the men drawn to these fringe groups. He shows you what makes them tick. Then, he makes them squirm. 
Where to watch: Stream on Hulu; rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

1. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Release date: May 17
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos
Director:Chad Stahelski (John Wick: Chapter 2)
Why it’s worth watching: Whether he's slamming an enemy in the face with a book in a library or dodging stray bullets while galloping down a Manhattan street on horseback, John Wick remains calm. The always-on-the-run assassin, returning for the third entry in this surprisingly resilient series, shows weakness, pain, and even vulnerability, but no weapon can puncture the armor of stillness Reeves brings to the role, and his performance is what makes these movies so gripping. The story is mostly silly -- Wick has been declared "excommunicado" by the order of assassins he used to belong to and must seek out old allies across the globe -- but Reeves and his collaborators, including series director Stahelski and the top-notch stunt team, never lose sight of the core elements that make Wick tick. Even as the mythology grows more complicated, the cast expands to introduce comically named characters like The Adjudicator (Billions break-out Asia Kate Dillon) or The Director (Angelica Huston), and the fights become even more elaborate, Reeves floats through the film. Even if some of the original's underworld grit has been shined away, replaced with scuff-free comic-book opulence and whiskey commercial ambiance, the series stays committed to simple pleasures. Alongside Tom Cruise's more outwardly stressed Ethan Hunt, Wick remains the best action hero Hollywood has to offer.
Where to watch: Stream on HBO Go; rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.

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His friend from Koktebel. We played it out. He has a strange call sign in the team, but I forgot his name. Got badly said that next year he wants to work in the nuclear zone of. The reactor and he will need his own team: Avatar gave a voice, saying that the bath was full.

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