23 Best Action Thrillers Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

This film really satisfied my craving for an original thriller, despite the fact that I spent most of it thinking about how Logan Marshall-Green looks like a budget Tom Hardy.

He plays a guy whose wife is killed during a violent mugging that also leaves him paralyzed in the aftermath. When a billionaire approaches him with an Artificial Intelligence solution that would "upgrade" his body, he has a chance to take vengeance.

This is Robocop meets Ex Machina meets Blade Runner. It's original, low-budget without feeling low-budget, and honestly just so thrilling. It gives the genre of sci-fi a much needed upgrade.

Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Abby Craden, Arthur Angel, Benedict Hardie, Betty Gabriel, Christopher Kirby, Clayton Jacobson, Douglas Embry, Emily Havea, Harrison Gilbertson, James Ao, Kai Bradley, Kenny Low, Liam Howarth, Linda Cropper, Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Michael M. Foster, Ming-Zhu Hii, Puven Pather, Renah Gallagher, Ri-Jie Kwok, Richard Anastasios, Richard Cawthorne, Rosco Campbell, Sachin Joab, Simon Maiden, Steve Danielsen, Yuki Nagashima, Zia Kelly

Director: Leigh Whannell

Rating: R

Robert Downey Jr's triumphant return to film, this movie is a satirical take on film noir and detective movies in general. The screen chemistry between Gay Perry the private eye, played by Val Kilmer, and Downey Jr's robber turned actor, Harry Lockhart, is hysterical, and the film's tongue in cheek nature is witty, smart, and delivers. Directed by the man who directed Lethal Weapon, the action is top notch, the laughs are pretty much constant, and the mystery is compelling. It's mind boggling that nobody saw this when it came out.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ali Hillis, Angela Lindvall, Ariel Winter, Ben Hernandez Bray, Bill McAdams Jr., Brendan Fehily, Brian Simpson, Cole S. McKay, Corbin Bernsen, Daniel Browning Smith, Dash Mihok, David Newsom, Evan Parke, Harrison Young, Indio Falconer Downey, Jake McKinnon, Joe Keyes, Josh Richman, Judie Aronson, Kathy Lamkin, Larry Miller, Laurence Fishburne, Lela Edgar, Martha Hackett, Michelle Monaghan, Nancy Fish, Robert Downey Jr., Rockmond Dunbar, Saida Pagan, Shannyn Sossamon, Stephanie Pearson, Tanja Reichert, Teresa Maria Herrera, Val Kilmer, Vincent Laresca, Wiley M. Pickett

Director: Shane Black

Rating: R

Kathryn Bigelow has a knack for action-packed scenes without compromising on the affective qualities of film style. It is precisely this combination that makes her a rare gem in American cinema, where the values of entertainment soar high. Point Break is one such example of controlled chaos, impeccable framing, and a convincing use of fast-paced editing to really get you as close to the action as possible. But what gives the film its flavour is how developed and synced the characters are and the Reeves-Swayze duo here belongs in the pantheon of equally hot frenemies, providing an apt, but subtle comment on the dangers of toxic masculinity. 

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Kiedis, Anthony Mangano, Betsy Lynn George, Bojesse Christopher, Chris Pedersen, Christopher Pettiet, Daniel Beer, Dave Olson, Debra Lamb, Galyn Görg, Gary Busey, Gary Roberts, Gloria Mann, Jack Kehler, James Le Gros, Jared Chandler, Jeff Imada, John Apicella, John C. McGinley, John Philbin, Julian Reyes, Julie Michaels, Keanu Reeves, Lee Tergesen, Lori Petty, Michael Kopelow, Mike Genovese, Patrick Swayze, Peter Phelps, Ping Wu, Randy Walker, Raymond Forchion, Richard Grove, Sydney Walsh, Tom Sizemore, Vincent Klyn

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Rating: R

Get ready for one hell of a journey. From the writer of City of God, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is a poignant and powerful action-packed movie. Set in Brazil, the film follows two seemingly opposed characters (one a police officer, one a professor) as they both work to treat the systemic social ills that corrupt the country. As much a social commentary as it is an action-packed drama (think The Departed and The Wire), Elite Squad will take you on a whirlwind journey that will leave you considering the larger issues of poverty, crime, and "doing good" in the world.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Actor: Adriano Garib, Andre Mattos, André Ramiro, Cadu Fávero, Caio Junqueira, Charles Fricks, Emílio Orciollo Netto, Fabrício Boliveira, Irandhir Santos, Juliana Schalch, Kikito Junqueira, Luca Bianchi, Luciano Vidigal, Marcelo Freixo, Maria Ribeiro, Milhem Cortaz, Pedro Van-Held, Pierre Santos, Prazeres Barbosa, Rogério Trindade, Roney Villela, Sandro Rocha, Seu Jorge, Taina Muller, Thogun Teixeira, Wagner Moura

Director: José Padilha

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

True Romance is a wildly entertaining and twistedly enjoyable crime film, directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun) and written by a young Quentin Tarantino. It stars Christian Slater as a young nebbish comic book store employee named Clarence who falls in love with a prostitute named Alabama (Patricia Arquette), and sets his mind to rid her of her indebtedness to a volatile pimp named Drexel (Gary Oldman). The story eventually finds them absconding to California with a suitcase full of cocaine, with the intention of selling off their illicit cache to a Hollywood bigwig in order to pursue their dreams of freedom and opportunity. Replete with a remarkable cast of famous names and familiar faces (including Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken and even Val Kilmer as the ghost of Elvis), True Romance is a true 90’s-era classic. It showcases Tarantino’s trademark witty dialogue throughout, enmeshed with the savage humor and jarring violence that he has become so well known for. It’s very much an homage to Hollywood classics such as Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands (including a rousing score by Hans Zimmer inspired by George Tipton’s score for Badlands), and ultimately serves as one of Tarantino’s most underrated career accomplishments.

Genre: Action, Crime, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Anna Levine, Anna Levine Thomson, April Freeman, Brad Pitt, Bronson Pinchot, Chris Penn, Christian Slater, Christopher Walken, Conchata Ferrell, Dennis Garber, Dennis Hopper, Ed Lauter, Enzo Rossi, Eric Allan Kramer, Frank Adonis, Gary Oldman, Gregory Sporleder, Hilary Klym, Jack Black, James Gandolfini, Joe D'Angerio, John Bower, John Cenatiempo, Kevin Corrigan, Laurence Mason, Maria Pitillo, Michael Beach, Michael Rapaport, Nancy Young, Patricia Arquette, Patrick John Hurley, Paul Bates, Paul Ben-Victor, Said Faraj, Samuel L. Jackson, Saul Rubinek, Steve Gonzales, Tom Sizemore, Tony Scott, Val Kilmer, Victor Argo

Director: Tony Scott

Rating: R

An offbeat film with a more than decent amount of suspense. To that it adds really good music and unexpected animation, to make for a very audacious, interesting and mostly fun film. It uses all this to show how life can change in a twist and how it can be influenced by weird connections of otherwise unrelated events.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Armin Rohde, Beate Finckh, Franka Potente, Hans Paetsch, Heino Ferch, Herbert Knaup, Joachim Krol, Julia Lindig, Lars Rudolph, Ludger Pistor, Marc Bischoff, Monica Bleibtreu, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nina Petri, Peter Pauli, Sebastian Schipper, Suzanne von Borsody, Ute Lubosch, Utz Krause, Volkhart Buff

Director: Tom Tykwer

Rating: R

A zombie virus breaks out and catches up with a father as he is taking his daughter from Seoul to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. Watch them trying to survive to reach their destination, a purported safe zone.

The acting is spot-on; the set pieces are particularly well choreographed. You’ll care about the characters. You’ll feel for the father as he struggles to keep his humanity in the bleakest of scenarios.

It’s a refreshingly thrilling disaster movie, a perfect specimen of the genre.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Ahn So-hee, An So-hee, Baek Seung-hwan, Cha Chung-hwa, Chang-hwan Kim, Choi Gwi-hwa, Choi Woo-shik, Choi Woo-sung, Dong-seok Ma, Eui-sung Kim, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-eun, Han Sung-soo, Jang Hyuk-jin, Jeon Ye-eun, Jeong Seok-yong, Jung Seok-yong, Jung Young-ki, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Chang-hwan, Kim Eui-sung, Kim Jae-rok, Kim Joo-heon, Kim Joo-hun, Kim Ju-hun, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Soo-ahn, Kim Soo-an, Kim Su-an, Kim Won-Jin, Lee Joo-sil, Lee Joong-ok, Ma Dong-seok, Park Myung-shin, Sang-ho Yeon, Seok-yong Jeong, Shim Eun-kyung, Sohee, Soo-an Kim, Soo-jung Ye, Terri Doty, Woo Do-im, Woo-sik Choi, Ye Soo-jung, Ye Su-jeong, Yeon Sang-ho, Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jeong, Yu-mi Jung

Director: Sang-ho Yeon, Yeon Sang-ho

Rating: Not Rated

The Siege of Jadotville is a different kind of war movie. It doesn’t recount famous battles or portray renowned heroes - instead, it’s about heroes and events that went completely unnoticed. Namely, the Irish 35 Battalion ‘A’ Company - a group of youngsters who are sent out on a U.N mission to the Congo. What was supposed to be a simple positioning quickly becomes one of the most sought-after locations and the battalion of 150 ‘war-virgins” find themselves up against 3000 mercenaries led by experienced French commandants. And what a tribute this film is: it’s well-paced, powerfully shot, and the acting, led by Jamie Dornan on one side and Guillaume Canet on the other, is absolutely perfect.

Genre: Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ashish Gangapersad, Charlie Kelly, Conor MacNeill, Conor Quinlan, Danny Sapani, Emmanuelle Seigner, Fiona Glascott, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Gérard Rudolf, Guillaume Canet, Jamie Dornan, Jason O'Mara, Jason O'Mara, Jordan Mifsud, Luc Van Gunderbeeck, Mark Strong, Michael McElhatton, Mikael Helmuth, Mikael Persbrandt, Mike Noble, Richard Lukunku, Ronan Raftery, Sam Keeley

Director: Richie Smyth

Rating: Not Rated, TV-MA

A special forces team conducts a raid at a multi-story ghetto building where a criminal boss runs his business. Things quickly go wrong and chaos ensues. Full of pure action, with no overblown Hollywood-type CGI nonsense. It is made the way action movies should be made, full of realistic fight scenes. It is exciting, brutal and thrilling. The Raid: Redemption is definitely among the best action movies ever made.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Acip Sumardi, Alfridus Godfred, Ananda George, Bastian Riffanie, Donny Alamsyah, Eka 'Piranha' Rahmadia, Gareth Evans, Henky Solaiman, Iang Darmawan, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Melkias Ronald Torobi, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Rully Santoso, Saad Afero, Tegar Satrya, Tuhen, Ubay Dillah, Umi Kulsum, Verdi Solaiman, Very Tri Yulisman, Yandi 'Piranha' Sutsina, Yayan Ruhian

Director: Gareth Evans

Rating: R

Snowpiercer is an under-the-rader post-apocalyptic thriller that offers the grittiness that many times only Asian cinema may achieve. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong forces audiences to forget that Chris Evans was ever a Marvel superhero, as he leads a revolt of his fellow “low-class” citizens against the self-appointed gentry in a train that contains all remaining members of the planet. With immersive environments and a layered script, this film melds together social commentary and moral discourse in a visually arresting and vastly entertaining package.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction

Actor: Adnan Haskovic, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Clark Middleton, Dana Green, Ed Harris, Emma Levie, Ewen Bremner, Go A-sung, Go Ah-sung, Griffin Seymour, Jamie Bell, Jim High, John Hurt, Joseph Bertót, Kendrick Roger Ong, Kenny Doughty, Ko A-sung, Ko Asung, Luke Pasqualino, Luna Sophia Bar-Cohen, Magda Weigertová, Marcanthonee Reis, Octavia Spencer, Parry Shen, Paul Lazar, Peter Hallin, Robert Russell, Sean Connor Renwick, Seisuke Tsukahara, Song Kang-ho, Stephen Park, Steve Park, Tilda Swinton, Tomáš Dianiška, Tómas Lemarquis, Tyler John Williams, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Rating: R

When citizenship and rights can only be achieved through federal service, you have no choice but to militarize. Johnny Rico is young, impressionable, but noble; in other words, he is an archetypal hero even if he initially enlists just to be close to his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards). From then on, Starship Troopers unfolds as a high-strung high school drama, but in the middle of a space colonization. During one such mission, a highly evolved insectoid race, Arachnids, proves to be the most dangerous enemy to human supremacy and the fight is on. What's interesting about Starship Troopers is that it shows how a well-oiled propaganda machine works and for that reason, it was accused of indoctrination and army endorsement. Even more, it was dubbed fascist, instead of the fascist satire it claimed to be. But today, it's indisputably a cult film and a great introduction to the Paul Verhoeven's work in Hollywood.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Stielstra, Amy Smart, Anthony Ruivivar, Betty Hankins, Blake Lindsley, Brad Kane, Brenda Strong, Brooke Morales, Bruce Gray, Bruce Holman, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Curry, Clancy Brown, Curnal Achilles Aulisio, Dale Dye, Dan Olivo, Dean Norris, Denise Dowse, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Edward Neumeier, Eric Bruskotter, Eric DaRe, Greg Travis, Hunter Bodine, Jake Busey, John Cunningham, Jon Davison, Julianna McCarthy, Julie Pinson, Kai Lennox, Lenore Kasdorf, Marshall Bell, Mary Ann Schmidt, Matt Entriken, Matt Levin, Michael Ironside, Michael Papajohn, Neil Patrick Harris, Parry Shen, Patrick Bishop, Patrick Muldoon, R. Lee Ermey, Robert David Hall, Rue McClanahan, Seth Gilliam, Stephanie Erb, Steven Ford, Tami-Adrian George, Timothy McNeil, Timothy Omundson, Ungela Brockman, Zoë Poledouris

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rating: R

Robert Redford and Brad Pitt make quite the ensemble in this edgy game of espionage. With performances as strong as their jawlines, this action-packed rescue mission will keep you in suspense! Be sure to keep up with all the witty banter and interesting plot twists shifting between flashbacks and present-day scenarios. Keep in mind that this isn't your average spy movie, with a more realistic approach and a character-driven storyline, most of the flash happens cinematically.

Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Pang, Amidou, Andrew Grainger, Balázs Tardy, Benedict Wong, Bill Buell, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Charlotte Rampling, Colin Stinton, Dale Dye, David Hemmings, David K.S. Tse, David Tse, Demetri Goritsas, Eddie Yeoh, Freddie Joe Farnsworth, Garrick Hagon, Hon Ping Tang, Ian Porter, Imre Csuja, In-sook Chappell, James Aubrey, Joerg Stadler, Ken Leung, Kimberly Tufo, Larry Bryggman, Logan Wong, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Matthew Marsh, Michael Paul Chan, Mohamed Quatib, Nabil Massad, Omid Djalili, Pat McGrath, Peter Linka, Robert Redford, Rufus Wright, Shane Rimmer, Stephen Dillane, Stuart Milligan, Ted Maynard, Todd Boyce, Tom Hodgkins, Tony Xu, Vincent Wang, Zsolt Zágoni

Director: Tony Scott

Rating: R

There are far too many things that are worse in life than being on a journey with Danish super talent Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, The Hunt).

And that is what this 98-minute movie is: an almost one-actor movie set in the arctic. Mikkelsen plays a man trying to survive a plane crash, which at some point becomes about deciding whether to embark on a dangerous journey or stay in the plane rubble and risk a slow death.

It’s an extremely well-acted movie with nail-biting suspense. Bonus fact: it received a 10-minute standing ovation when it premiered at the Cannes film festival this year.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Joe Penna, Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir, Tintrinai Thikhasuk

Director: Joe Penna

Rating: PG-13