Since the turn of the century, there’s been no shortage of action movies. It is, after all, one of the most popular film genres in the world. It may also be one of the hardest to get right since there was no shortage of bad action movies even before streamers like Netflix and Prime Video started making bad action flicks of their own.
So why take the time to watch a bad action movie when you could watch a good one instead? Because sometimes it can be fun to watch bad movies just to laugh at how awful they are. The following list doesn’t contain the greatest action movies ever made, but they are still enjoyable enough to give them a watch.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)
It feels like no one at the studio ever asked two important questions about Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever: “Who are Ecks and Sever? And why will people care if they fight?” While the film does introduce viewers to FBI Agent Jeremiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas) and renegade DIA Agent Sever (Lucy Liu, right before she appeared in one of Quentin Tarantino’s best movies), it never managed to answer the second question. Even the relatively few people who saw this turkey in theaters couldn’t find much to latch on to.
Surely director Wych Kaosayananda didn’t set out to make one of the worst movies of all time (which has a rare 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes). But that’s exactly why it deserves a re-watch. It’s never so bad that it’s good, but there’s a lot of comedic value to be found in watching this movie with friends.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is completely unavailable online.
Blade: Trinity (2004)
The first Blade movie gave superhero movies a boost two years before X-Men officially kicked off the modern era of comic book cinema. Blade II has the distinction of being Guillermo del Toro‘s warm-up for Hellboy. And Blade: Trinity … exists. It’s more famous for the behind-the-scenes blow-ups between Wesley Snipes and second-time director David S. Goyer. That surely did not help Blade: Trinity live up to the two previous films.
This movie is also a transparent ploy to create a Nightstalkers spinoff film starring Ryan Reynolds’ Hannibal King (an actual comic book character) and Jessica Biel’s Abigail Whistler (a character invented for the film). The problem is that they weren’t any more compelling than Blade was, and the Nightstalkers sucked the oxygen out of every scene they were in.
The reason that you should still see this one is that it’s a master class on how to tank a franchise, from a dumbed-down take on a classic villain like Dominic Purcell’s Dracula (whom the film renames “Drake”) to WWE wrestler Triple H attempting to find stardom like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with a minor role as one of the supporting villains. But there might be a great movie about the making of Blade: Trinity, if anyone ever dares to tell that story.
Watch Blade: Trinity on Max.
The Marine (2006)
The idea of wrestler John Cena as an action star didn’t come out of nowhere. WWE tried to make it happen during an era when it first started WWE Studios to create films for its wrestlers to star in. The Marine was Cena’s first-ever starring role in a movie, and it shows. In the film, Cena plays Sergeant John Triton, a Marine who is honorably discharged after he disregards orders by rescuing hostages in the Middle East.
Back in the States, John and his wife, Kate Triton (Kelly Carlson), are in the wrong place at the wrong time when they run afoul of a group of jewel thieves led by Rome (Terminator 2‘s Robert Patrick). When Rome kidnaps Kate, John spends the rest of the movie pursuing the gang to get her back. This is far from anything resembling a good movie, but it does have some unintentionally hilarious bad writing which makes the experience worthwhile.
Watch The Marine on Tubi.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
The 21st century has not been kind to the Terminator franchise, which hasn’t had a great movie since Terminator 2 in 1991. But among the truly awful sequels, Terminator Salvation looks pretty good in comparison to the others. What this movie really has going for it is that it actually tries to advance the narrative and show audiences something that they didn’t see in the first three films: John Connor (Christian Bale) in the future as one of the last hopes in humanity’s war against the machines.
Almost everything surrounding John is pretty good, including his private moments listening to tapes from his late mother, Sarah (as voiced by an uncredited Linda Hamilton), to John’s alarm when he learns that the machines are targeting his father, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), as if they know why he’s so crucial to the timeline. Where the movie falls off is by splitting the focus between John and Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), the first-ever Terminator/human hybrid. Marcus is less compelling than John, but this movie is still light years ahead of the Terminator movies that came after it.
Rent or buy Terminator: Salvation on Google Play, Prime Video, YouTube, and Apple TV+.
Van Helsing (2004)
The 2017 reboot of The Mummy gets all of the blame for tanking the Dark Universe of the famous Universal Monsters, but Van Helsing beat it to the punch 13 years earlier. Stephen Sommers (the director of the 1999 reboot of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns) tried to bring the comedic tone of his Mummy films to the Dracula mythos in Van Helsing. And it didn’t really work well at all.
If there’s a saving grace for Van Helsing, it’s the two leads: Hugh Jackman (Deadpool 3) as Gabriel Van Helsing and Kate Beckinsale as Anna Valerious. This movie is too silly to ever be scary or suspenseful, but Jackman and Beckinsale are at least fun to watch. Even the Brides of Dracula add some unintentional hilarity that helps this one go down. But the sad thing about modern movies is that Van Helsing looks like a masterpiece compared to a lot of the original action flicks made for the streamers. At least this one can be entertaining.
Rent or buy Van Helsing on Google Play, Prime Video, YouTube, and Apple TV+.