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15 Best Action Movies of 2023, Ranked

February 16, 202415 Mins Read

2023 was a solid year for action movies. It saw the release of new entries in some of the genre’s biggest franchises, like Fast & Furious, Indiana Jones, John Wick, and Mission: Impossible. In addition, veteran directors Guy Ritchie and David Fincher delivered more restrained (but still highly enjoyable) action dramas. Surprising gems like Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and martial arts comedy Polite Society also made a splash.

All this means that there was plenty on our screens this year to get the adrenaline pumping. And, for the most part, audiences showed up, with films like John Wick, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 posting impressive box office returns. It goes to show that the public still craves high-voltage action stories with relatable heroes. As we look forward to 2024’s hotly-anticipated projects like Deadpool 3 and Furiosa, now is as good a time as any to reflect on this year’s finest action achievements.

15 ‘Plane’

Directed by Jean-François Richet

Gerard Butler and Mike Colter crouching and holding guns in Plane
Image via Lionsgate

Gerard Butler stars as the commercial pilot Brodie Torrance in director Jean-François Richet‘s action-thiller, Plane. On an initially routine flight, the protagonist ends up saving passengers through an emergency landing following a lightning strike. What they’ll soon find out is that they’ve landed in hostile territory and will face a militant group that’s willing to use them for leverage. With Torrance being a former RAF pilot, he uses what he knows alongside a prisoner on the plane, Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter).

Plane is nothing groundbreaking, using known plot devices in the action and thriller genres along with a familiar reluctant hero story. That said, any hardcore thriller fans looking for a popcorn flick will likely still find entertainment value in the 2023 movie, largely carried by Gerard Butler’s reliable performance and undeniable star power.


Release Date
January 13, 2023

Jean-François Richet

107 minutes

Watch on Starz

14 ‘Kill Boksoon’

Directed by Byun Sung-hyun

Kill Boksoon’ (2023) (1)

A South Korean crime action movie, Kill Boksoon has mostly flown under the radar but deserves much more attention from viewers and critics alike. It tells the story of the contract killer Gil Bok-Soon (Jeon Do-yeon), who, after a successful career with a 100% success rate, refuses a final sensitive job. This leads to her being targeted and thrown into a dangerous and chaotic situation where one mistake could lead to death.

Kill Boksoon wears its influences on its sleeve, paying homage to franchises like John Wick and masters like John Woo. Its pacing is sometimes questionable and it doesn’t really offer anything new, but it does take everything fans know and love about the best revenge movies and runs with it. Plus, the protagonist’s arc about attempting to reconnect with her daughter makes it easy to root for her, giving the film a touching mother-child storyline.

Kill Boksoon

Release Date
March 31, 2023

Sung-hyun Byun

Jeon Do-yeon , Esom , Koo Kyo-hwan , Hwang Jung-min

137 minutes

13 ‘One Percenter’

Directed by Yûdai Yamaguchi

Tak Sakaguchi stopping an attacker with a knife in One Percenter (2023)

Tak Sakaguchi stars as Takuma Toshiro, an actor who is shooting an ambitious action flick in an abandoned factory on a deserted island in One Percenter. When two yakuza gangs pop up on the island and interrupt the shoot, the action star isn’t too happy. Surrounded by armed yakuza, the action star starts to show off his real-life skills, in front of a rolling camera of course.

Director Yūdai Yamaguchi is known for his work in the comedy and horror genres, and it’s easy to argue that One Percenter (bizarrely stylized as 1%Er) doesn’t stray too far. Its premise borders on hilarity, as the protagonist just happens to be a skilled martial artist who’s about to go against a hundred men on an island. It takes a while to become an actually immersive film, but it does eventually get there, and One Percenter‘s numerous flawlessly choreographed sequences are undeniably entertaining, in large part thanks to the talented Sakaguchi.

One Percenter is currently not available to stream, rent, or purchase.

12 ‘Fast X’

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Dominic Toretto using a car door as a shield in Fast X
Image via Universal Pictures

The tenth go-around in the main Fast & Furious franchise sees Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and co. teaming up to thwart Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), the son of mobster Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) who was shot dead by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in Fast Five. Dante is now out for revenge and has turned Cipher’s (Charlize Theron) crew against Dom. From here, the story plays out like a Greatest Hits collection, revisiting key moments from previous installments. One particularly iconic scene reappears but with a de-aged Momoa edited in.

The result is a movie that will delight the franchise’s fans without winning over new converts. Depending on your point of view, you’ll either find the fan service rewarding or frustrating. Fast X‘s plot is a little cheesy and some of the stunts border on self-parody, but an abundance of high-octane action and a delightfully psychopathic performance from Momoa hold the film together. The Fast & Furious series continues to offer diminishing returns but it hasn’t quite jumped the shark yet.

Fast X

Release Date
May 19, 2023

141 minutes

Watch on Amazon Prime

11 ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’

Directed by James Mangold

dial of destiny0

Another nostalgia trip, the first Indiana Jones movie since the much-maligned Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. This time round, Indy (Harrison Ford) is on the hunt for a legendary artifact that his goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) plans to sell on the black market. Nazi scientist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) also seeks the device but for more nefarious purposes.

Dial of Destiny boasts many great action set pieces that hark back to the series’ heyday, like the horse chase on the subway. Director James Mangold also does a fine job with the period touches that evoke the look and feel of 1969 (something which was lacking from the last movie). However, there are also times when the film stumbles, such as the World War II flashback featuring a de-aged Ford is somewhat unsettling, and the script feels a little too color-by-numbers. However, when Dial of Destiny works, it works. The scene where John Williams‘ iconic theme music hits as Indy and Helena are adventuring makes for one of the year’s most satisfying movie moments.

10 ‘Ballerina’

Directed by Lee Chung-hyeon

Ballerina Netflix Jeon Jong-Seo
Image via Netflix

In one of the many films clearly following in John Wick‘s stylish footsteps, Jeon Jong-seo stars as Jang Ok-ju, a former bodyguard who turns into an unstoppable force for revenge in Ballerina. The South Korean film sees Ok-ju relentlessly pursue a sex trafficker who’s responsible for harming her recently deceased best friend. The victim’s last wish is for Ok-ju to exact retribution on the person who had pressured her into filing a video before extorting money from her.

What follows is a slick, if not somewhat formulaic revenge thriller that sees Ok-ju stop at nothing to avenge her friend’s death, using her investigation skills to track him down before setting up a trap. Jeon Jong-seo’s icy performance and the film’s stunning visuals are the true standouts here, marking Ballerina as a must-see for fans of the genre, despite its shortcomings.

Ballerina (2023)

Release Date
October 6, 2023

Lee Chung-hyun

Jeon Jong-seo , Kim Ji-hoon , Park Yu-rim

1 hr 33 min

Watch on Netflix

9 ‘Polite Society’

Directed by Nida Manzoor

Priya Kansara in Polite Society
Image via Focus Features

London teenager Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) dreams of being a stuntwoman. She spends her days filming martial arts clips with her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) and writing unanswered emails to her idol, stunt performer Eunice Huthart. However, her life is disrupted when Lena becomes engaged to Salim (Akshay Khanna), a seemingly perfect geneticist. Ria begins to suspect that Salim is up to no good, so she and her pals plan a daring heist to rescue Lena from her own wedding.

Polite Society is one of 2023’s martial arts gems, a rollicking, genre-bending affair that features action and humor in equal measure.Writer-director Nida Manzoor has described it as “a joyful kung fu Bollywood epic.” It’s jam-packed with intense fight scenes, but there’s also much social commentary here. Manzoor considers themes of sisterly love, cultural expectations, and the experiences of immigrants and their children. It’s like Kill Bill meets Get Out by way of Bend It Like Beckham.

Polite Society

Release Date
April 28, 2023

Nida Manzoor

Priya Kansara , Ritu Arya , Renu Brindle , Seraphina Beh

104 minutes

Watch on Amazon Prime

8 ‘Sisu’

Directed by Jalmari Helander

Image via Lionsgate

Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila) is a solitary prospector living with his horse and Bedlington Terrier in the Finnish Lapland wilderness at the end of World War II. Sisu sees the character encounter a Nazi death squad, who, along with their SS officer, engage in scorched-earth tactics as they retreat. When they try to steal Aatami’s gold, they quickly realize they’ve made a terrible mistake, and that the protagonist is not a miner to be messed with.

Directed by Jalmari Helander, Sisu is an intense yet bonkers action film that is perfect for fans looking for an excitingly brutal movie that makes use of practical effects. Its straightforward plot fades into the background and gives way to hand-to-hand combat, dramatic explosions, and stressful knife duels. It’s a gritty, gory, and often ridiculous yet satisfying film that sees the main character find increasingly creative ways to combat the Nazis and give them what they deserve.


Release Date
April 28, 2023

Jalmari Helander

Jorma Tommila , Onni Tommila , Jack Doolan , Aksel Hennie

91 minutes

Watch on Starz

7 ‘The Killer’

Directed by David Fincher

Image via Netflix

Michael Fassbender stars here as an unnamed assassin who meticulously plans and executes his hits. He prepares for his jobs by doing yoga and listening to The Smiths, all while explaining his mantras and philosophy. That is, until a botched job in Paris throws his life, and those of the people around him, into peril. The killer sets out to eliminate those who would do him harm, embarking on a mission to the Dominican Republic and across the United States.

In some sense, The Killer is a standard hitman movie – the plot is nothing special, but the movie stands out thanks to its execution. David Fincher is a master stylist, and here he tells this story through sleek visuals, gorgeous cinematography, and a great soundtrack. It’s the classiest action movie of the year, hands down. Fincher also balances out the scenes of intense violence with long periods of silence, waiting, and conversation. The Killer may not rise to the heights of David Fincher’s greatest movies, but it remains engaging throughout, something which can’t be said for all films in its subgenre.

Watch on Netflix

6 ‘The Equalizer 3’ (2023)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

the equalizer 30

“I believe that everything in life is about timing. Now unfortunately for you, yours isn’t very good.” The final entry in this trilogy unfolds in Sicily, where former U.S. Marine and Defense Intelligence Agency officer Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) resolves to protect his friends from a violent crime syndicate. Cue a series of shootouts, chases, and bloody showdowns, replete with copious gore and carnage. The action is hardcore in The Equalizer 3, which will entertain many viewers but make others wince.

The narrative is a little generic, serving more as a means of connecting the finely-crafted action sequences. But when the action is this well done and the lead performance so compelling, that’s alright. The Equalizer 3 is the fifth collaboration between Washington and Antoine Fuqua, who first made magic together with Training Day. They’re unlikely to ever top that project, but The Equalizer 3 is a solid consolation. It succeeds thanks to Washington’s effortless charm and the beautiful cinematography courtesy of Robert Richardson.

Watch on Netflix

Directed by Sam Hargrave

extraction II0

Following the death of his son and the dissolution of his marriage, Australian special forces soldier Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) becomes a mercenary. His latest mission takes him to Georgia, where he must rescue a woman and her children from her drug dealer husband Davit (Tornike Bziava), and his vicious brother Zurab (Tornike Gogrichiani). When the operation goes south, Rake has to fight to keep both his charges and himself alive.

Director Sam Hardgrave started out as a stunt coordinator and here he once again flexes his talent for adrenaline-pumping action. One particularly memorable scene involves Rake and the family escaping on a train across a frozen vastness as helicopters full of armed goons bear down on them. Sam Hardgrave’s shooting style is influenced by video games, with frequent over-the-shoulder and POV shots along with digitally crafted extended long takes. The highlight, though, is Hemsworth, who adds much-needed depth to what could have been a stock character.

4 ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ (2023)

Directed by Daniel Goldhaber

how to blow up a pipeline0

Although based on a nonfiction book, this action thriller spins a fictional story about eight young environmental activists who plot to blow up a West Texas oil pipeline as a protest against climate change. They begin making preparations and producing homemade explosives, but a series of setbacks threatens to undermine their mission. At the same time, they must evade the prying eye of law enforcement.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a controversial but solid ensemble film, with complex and three-dimensional protagonists. They seem like real people wrestling with the climate issue and questions around what kinds of destructive protest action are justifiable. Its conclusions are certainly provocative, as the source book by Andreas Malm argues that such radical acts of destruction are necessary in light of the risks of global warming. The directors take a more subtle and open-ended view, balanced out by scenes of white-knuckle tension, explosions, and exchanges of gunfire.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Release Date
April 7, 2023

Daniel Goldhaber

104 minutes

3 ‘Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant’ (2023)

Directed by Guy Ritchie

the covenant0

Guy Ritchie took something of a left turn with The Covenant, an action drama set during the War in Afghanistan. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Master Sgt. John Kinley, leader of a special forces unit. He hires Ahmed Abdullah (Dar Salim), a man who once worked with the Taliban through the opium trade, as his new interpreter. At first, they are wary of one another, but soon earn one another’s respect. After Ahmed saves Kinley’s life, the soldier determines to obtain visas for Ahmed and his family – if he can find them, that is.

The Covenant makes for a satisfying and surprisingly restrained war movie and an intriguing snapshot of the waning years of the American mission in Afghanistan. Some of the montages are a little over-the-top, but fundamentally, this is a well-acted and well-told story hitting on under-explored subject matter. It may be Ritchie’s best work of the last ten years.

The Covenant

During the war in Afghanistan, a local interpreter risks his own life to carry an injured sergeant across miles of grueling terrain.

Release Date
April 21, 2023

Watch on Amazon Prime

2 ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ (2023)

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Keanu Reeves as John Wick Walking in a Church in John Wick Chapter 4
Image via Lionsgate

After John Wick (Keanu Reeves) kills the Elder of the nefarious organization known as The High Table, the villainous Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) sets out to kill him, with unlimited resources at his disposal. The Marquis even manipulates the blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen), an old friend of Wick’s, into hunting the hero down by threatening his daughter. Wick has no choice but to track down and eliminate his enemies before they can do the same to him.

As usual, the film boasts exotic locales and exquisite fight choreography. The stunt work is simply phenomenal and the effects are sleek. Wick chops, kicks, and blasts his way through countless bad guys, and the whole thing is a pure treat to watch. The film could have used a little more judicious editing (the movie is close to three hours long) but John Wick: Chapter 4 deserves props for more than matching the high bar set by its predecessors.

1 ‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ (2023)

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell in 'Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One'
Image via Paramount Pictures 

Former IMF director Eugene Kittridge (Henry Czerny) returns with a mission for veteran agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). He informs him that a dangerous A.I. has gone rogue and that it can be activated by a key that has been split in two. Hunt must track down the halves of the key before they fall into the hands of the myriad of villains who would use the technology for evil. His quest takes him across the globe, from Washington, D.C., and Abu Dhabi to Venice and the Arabian Desert.

It’s an intriguing and topical premise given the recent strides in AI and renewed concerns about where the technology might be headed. McQuarrie fleshes the narrative out with a sprawling ensemble cast including wonderful performers like Hayley Atwell, Simon Pegg, and Pom Klementieff. He also raises the stakes when it comes to the stunts, most notably with Hunt’s death-defying motorcycle ride off a cliff face. Dead Reckoning did not perform as well as hoped at the box office, but this was not due to any flaws with the film itself but rather competition from Barbenheimer and Sound of Freedom. It’s spectacle filmmaking done right; combining epic scope with interesting characters, and it may be the best entry yet in the monumental Mission Impossible franchise.

Watch on Amazon Prime

NEXT: The Best Thrillers of 2023, Ranked

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