There’s nothing quite like a great action movie to pump some excitement into the box office. Netflix and all of the major streamers may have action flicks of their own, but they rarely seem to be able to match the quality of the movies that were made for the big screen.
When making our picks for the five best action movies from the past five years, we decided to exclude superhero movies entirely, since they are technically a different genre altogether. Similarly, one of the top post-pandemic hits, Top Gun: Maverick, was left off of this list because it’s more of a military drama and thriller than a pure action film. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t see Tom Cruise on this list. And he’s not the only familiar face in our choices for the five best action movies from the past five years.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Ever since Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation hit theaters in 2015, Tom Cruise and director/screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie have been delivering action films on another level. Last summer’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One was also a top-tier genre film, but for our money, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best of those three… which just happens to have come out in the last five years.
In Fallout, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team – Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) – are in hot water when they accidentally let terrorists get away with enough plutonium for three nuclear bombs. That’s why they’re saddled with CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) to keep them in line as they attempt to retrieve the plutonium during a globetrotting chase. Along the way, Ethan once again comes across ex-MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) as well as his ex-wife, Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan).
Watch Mission: Impossible – Fallout on Paramount+.
No Time to Die (2021)
Daniel Craig’s 15-year run as James Bond came to a spectacular end in No Time To Die, which put a definitive exclamation point on this chapter of 007’s history. During the film’s prologue, Bond (Craig) doesn’t get a chance to enjoy his retirement when he believes that his lover, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), betrayed him to Spectre.
Five years later, Bond is convinced to temporarily come out of retirement to help his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). But this is a world that has seemingly passed Bond by, as even MI6 has a new 007 agent named Naomi (Lashana Lynch). Additionally, Bond’s ongoing feud with his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), is complicated by the rise of a new villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who has a vendetta against both Bond and Blofeld.
Watch No Time To Die on Prime Video.
The Northman (2022)
If you’re looking for some truly visceral action, The Northman stands head and shoulders above the pack. Former True Blood star Alexander Skarsgård headlines the film as a Viking prince named Amleth. In the tenth century, young Amleth witnesses the murder of his father, King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), and the abduction of his mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). And the man responsible for both crimes is Amleth’s uncle, Fjölnir (Claes Bang).
Two decades later, Amleth is ready to get his revenge, and it’s a bloody journey that pushes him to his physical limits and beyond. Compared to The Northman, the Conan the Barbarian movies look pretty tame. That’s a big reason why this film is likely to go down as a classic in the action genre.
Watch The Northman on Peacock.
Better Call Saul‘s leading man, Bob Odenkirk, is one of the most unlikely action stars in recent memory. That’s an idea that Nobody runs with by casting Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell, an office drone and family man who was once someone who was truly dangerous. Now, Hutch’s wife, Becca Mansell (Connie Nielsen), doesn’t see the man that he used to be, and their kids, Blake (Gage Munroe) and Abby (Paisley Cadorath), think that he’s a loser.
In the aftermath of a home robbery, Hutch rediscovers his gift of violence and accidentally makes an enemy out of a Russian crime lord, Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov). When Kuznetsov tracks down the Mansell family, Hutch goes the full John Wick on anyone who dares to threaten the people he loves.
Watch Nobody on Freevee.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
Speaking of John Wick, the first film would have been the action movie of the decade if it came out in this decade. But only two John Wick movies have been released in the last five years, so we’re going with John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum over John Wick: Chapter 4. Both are great action flicks in their own right, but Parabellum gets the edge because it actually makes Keanu Reeves’ John Wick look vulnerable and believably in jeopardy.
Following the events of John Wick: Chapter 2, John has been blacklisted by the High Table and a literal world of assassins is gunning for him everywhere that he runs. The opening minutes of John Wick: Chapter 3 are particularly intense as killers from all walks of life target John before he can get out of New York City. And even if John can get back into the High Table’s good graces, it may cost him more than just his soul.
Watch John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum on Peacock.