Best Action Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

Discover the best action movies, ranked by Metascore.

Erin Gobler

Jeremy Renner in 'The Hurt Locker'

Courtesy of YouTube

Whether you're looking for a high-speed chase, a harrowing tale of survival, or a high-octane fight, the best action movies can deliver an adrenaline-packed evening. If you like cinematic escapades to keep you on the edge of your seat, then action movies might be right up your alley. 

Here, we highlight the top-rated action movies, based on their Metascore.


Metascore: 98
Best for: Fans of the silent film era and action movie aficionados who want to watch an early artistic take on the genre
Where to watch: 

Google PlayiTunesPluto TVVudu
Runtime: 153 minutes

In a city dramatically split by class divide, the titular Metropolis appears to be a bright utopia but actually features a dark underbelly: Impoverished and extorted workers are what make the seeming utopia possible. When Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), a privileged youth from above, discovers this sad truth, he is determined to correct the imbalance. He makes a new friend, Maria (Brigitte Helm), who is also focused on this mission, and she helps Freder find his path — even though it may pit him against his father.

"A masterpiece of art direction, the movie has influenced our vision of the future ever since, with its imposing white monoliths and starched facades." — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

North by Northwest

Metascore: 98
Best for: Fans of witticism and clever dialogue within action movies, and people looking for a spy thriller with a comedic twist
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 136 minutes

When Roger O. Thornhill, played by Cary Grant, is mistakenly identified as a government agent in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 film, things get complicated for this New York advertising executive. Chased across the country by foreign spies, Roger struggles to escape and meets some new friends in the process. The beautiful but enigmatic Eve Kendall, played by Eva Marie Saint, joins Roger in his journey. As they get to know each other, the plot only thickens, until Roger finds himself on board with a scheme of international proportions.

"One of Hitchcock's very best comic thrillers, North by Northwest features scene after unforgettable scene." — Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle

Seven Samurai

Metascore: 98
Best for: Fans of Japanese action movies with a heavy focus on swordplay, martial arts, and samurai culture
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 207 minutes

A rōnin named Kambei (Takashi Shimura) accepts a poor village's request for aid against bandit attacks in director Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film. The villagers have been attacked regularly by bandits that steal what little they have, including their crops. Accepting meager food and lodging for payment, Kambei pledges to help the villagers. He recruits six other samurai to contribute to the village's defenses. The samurai help the village prepare for an assault, and in high-action style, confront the entire gang of bandits in a climactic battle.

"It's impossible to imagine how the action genre would have developed without Akira Kurosawa's watershed 1954 movie Seven Samurai." — Jami Bernard, New York Daily News

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Metascore: 97
Best for: Fans of the Robin Hood tales and themes of noble outlaws protecting everyday people from corruption
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 102 minutes

When King Richard (Ian Hunter) is captured on his return from the Crusades, his brother, Prince John (Claude Rains), takes advantage of the power vacuum and names himself regent of England. The new regent makes life unbearable by raising taxes and exploiting his people. Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn), a nobleman, defies the regent and stands up for the people. This leads to his land being confiscated and the beginning of his career as a forest outlaw. Robin forms a gang of fellow outlaws and together they fight against the tyranny of Prince John. 

"Made with sublime innocence and breathtaking artistry, at a time when its simple values rang true." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Dragon Inn

Metascore: 97
Best for: Fans of martial arts action movies and the Wuxia genre in general
Where to watch: Google PlayiTunes
Runtime: 111 minutes

After a general is framed by his political rival and executed, his family must go on the run. As they flee the emperor's secret police, the children of the late general are aided by several heroes who are masters of martial arts. These protectors gather at the titular Dragon Inn to search for the general's children. Unfortunately, this is also where the secret police lie in wait for the fleeing family. The conflict grows more intense as one side strives to save, while the other wants to kill.

"Its historical influence aside, Dragon Inn delivers pure cinematic pleasure. I'm not sure it can be overpraised." — Tirdad Derakhshani, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Wild Bunch

Metascore: 97
Best for: Fans of Westerns and people interested in action-packed outlaw movies that don't mind a high degree of graphic violence
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 135 minutes

Things don't go according to plan when an aging outlaw decides on one final heist before retirement in Sam Peckinpah's 1969 film. Pike Bishop (William Holden), a veteran outlaw leader, assembles a gang for his last robbery. When it turns out to be a setup, he and his crew have to flee across the Mexican border, where they end up in the middle of the Mexican Revolution. The Wild Bunch is a tale of bad people making their last foray through a changing world.

"The on-screen carnage established a new level in American movies, but few of the films that followed in its wake could duplicate Peckinpah's depth of feeling." — David Kehr, Chicago Reader


Metascore: 96
Best for: Fans of Shakespeare and people who enjoy action movies with a strong element of familial drama and the large-scale consequences of political conflicts
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 162 minutes

After spending his life building and consolidating his empire, Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) decides to split the realm into thirds to parcel it out to his three sons in Kirosawa's 1985 film. Although his wish is that his youngest two will have lesser dominions and accept the eldest son as their lord, one defies this intent. Lord Hidetora exiles this son for his subversive stance, and the family's path to war begins. The film is an exploration of family loyalty shattered through ambition and explores a complex variety of human values.

"All that matters is that emotions be real, and so they are: wracking grief, harrowing madness, unquenchable hate." — Lawrence Thompson, The Charlotte Observer

The Hurt Locker

Metascore: 95
Best for: Fans of war films that blend action and drama with an air of suspense
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, , , Vudu
Runtime: 131 minutes

A U.S. bomb disposal team in Iraq loses their commanding officer to an improvised explosive device. They are soon paired with a new leader whose methods cause immediate tension. Seemingly indifferent to the risk of death for himself or his men, Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) leads his team through life-or-death situations that put his unit through inner turmoil and place them at odds with their new officer. To decide how to handle it, each must learn who they are, while also understanding more about their comrades.

"The result is an intense, action-driven war pic, a muscular, efficient standout that simultaneously conveys the feeling of combat from within as well as what it looks like on the ground." — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

Zero Dark Thirty

Metascore: 95
Best for: Fans of action dramas with modern settings that are based on real events
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 157 minutes

A fictional portrayal of the events following the 9/11 terrorist attacks from director Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty follows the efforts to capture Osama bin Laden. For years, U.S. troops searched for the man who orchestrated the largest terrorist attack on American soil. Eventually, thanks to the efforts of a hard-working CIA agent (played by Jessica Chastain), the U.S. government is able to locate bin Laden. Once they do, a Navy SEAL team is sent on a daring nighttime mission to attack the terrorist leader in his secret compound.

"Zero Dark Thirty is precise, definitive filmmaking, yet Bigelow refuses to hand over easy answers. Some people call that evasion. I call it the ultimate despair." — Stephanie Zacharek, Film.com


Metascore: 94
Best for:
 Fans of war and history thrillers with a heavy emphasis on action and drama
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, , iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 106 minutes

During World War II, hundreds of thousands of French and British soldiers are trapped on the Dunkirk coast by their enemies. Beset by enemy attack and logistical nightmares, the French and British governments try to evacuate their soldiers before the Nazis can destroy the cornered forces. The difficulties of such a tense evacuation play out through multiple viewpoints, highlighting the dangers of war. This is an epic adaptation of historical events that stars Tom HardyMark RylanceFionn WhiteheadHarry StylesKenneth Branagh and more.

"This is a powerful, superbly crafted film with a story to tell, avoiding war porn in favour of something desolate and apocalyptic, a beachscape of shame, littered with soldiers zombified with defeat, a grimly male world with hardly any women on screen." — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian