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20 Best Action Movies on Max (Formerly HBO Max): March 2024

March 4, 202410 Mins Read

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road.
Photo: Warner Bros.

This article is updated frequently as titles leave and enter Max. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.

Action movies have long been the most successful genre at home, as viewers try to replicate that rush they got at the movie theater in their own living room. The Max (formerly HBO Max) selection of action flicks is predictably dense, bringing in some of the DC Universe, classic genre movies, and modern hits. Everyone from Martin Campbell to Martin Scorsese can find a home here, and you’ll often find a Batman, too. We will update this list regularly to give readers a new action movie to watch whenever they need a fix, or a reminder to watch a classic they’ve already seen.

Year: 1989
Runtime: 2h 7m
Director: Tim Burton

The modern superhero movie owes an incredible debt to what Tim Burton did in 1989 with Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger. It wasn’t the first superhero movie, but it felt darker and different from the candy-coated men in tights movies that came before, especially the superior sequel, also on Max. Watch them both.

Year: 2022
Runtime: 2h 56m
Director: Matt Reeves

Matt Reeves now owns the saga of the Dark Knight as a sequel to his March 2022 action blockbuster has already been announced. Dropping on Max while it was still in theaters, The Batman is an ambitious epic reboot of the legendary hero, anchored by Reeves’s craft and fascinating performances from Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, and many more.

Year: 2014
Runtime: 2h 10m
Director: Matt Reeves

Any list of the best modern action trilogies really needs to include the rebooted Planet of the Apes series that started with Rise of the Planet of the Apes over a decade ago. The series arguably got even richer in the follow-up from The Batman director Matt Reeves, which is currently the only one in the trilogy on Max for some inexplicable reason. Still, it’s a great movie, even if it’s weird to not have the whole saga of Caesar to marathon for your subscription fee.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Year: 2021
Runtime: 2h 36m
Director: Denis Villeneuve

The second part of this epic action tale was delayed from the holiday season of 2023 into 2024 because of the strike, but that just means more time to catch up with the first Best Picture nominee. Timothee Chalamet stars in this sci-fi blockbuster from one of the most popular current directors in the world. It’s kind of half of a movie, but it won’t be for long.

Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 57m
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick made one of the most unforgettable war films of all time in this drama based on the novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford. A darker vision of Vietnam then we had really been seen before, Full Metal Jacket tracks the boot camp experience for its first half and time in country for its second. It’s an unforgettable vision of the brutality of being an American soldier.

Year: 1996
Runtime: 1h 47m
Director: Robert Rodriguez

Remember when George Clooney was a legitimate action star? There was a brief window there, and his best film with a gun in his hands is probably this Robert Rodriguez cult classic, written by Clooney’s co-star Quentin Tarantino. What starts as a straightforward crime flick becomes something else altogether when Clooney and Tarantino get to a strip club that has a very dark and supernatural secret.

Year: 2014
Runtime: 2h 4m
Director: Gareth Edwards

The new MonsterVerse is on Max in its entirety, but let’s take a minute to lavish some praise on the one that restarted it all, Gareth Edwards’s underrated 2014 blockbuster. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, and Bryan Cranston star in the reboot of the classic Toho series that pits the big lizard guy against two monsters of equally unfathomable size. It’s a rocking good time.

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director: Ric Roman Waugh

An end-of-the-world movie released during the first Summer of the pandemic, this genre exercise wasn’t seen by enough people. It’s really solid, a reminder of how much Gerard Butler can carry a movie like this one, which reunites him with his Angel Has Fallen director in a film that’s quite literally about the end of humanity. The movie takes a micro approach to the most macro issue as it tracks one family trying to find a way to survive the impending impact from a planet-destroying comet.

Year: 2012
Runtime: 1h 58m
Director: Joe Carnahan

One of the best films in that transition period from “Liam Neeson, Serious Actor” to “Liam Neeson, Action Dude” was this survival thriller about a group of men who go down in a plane crash in the snowy mountains of Alaska. As if surviving the conditions and each other isn’t bad enough, they have to deal with packs of grey wolves looking for dinner. The Grey is a smart thriller with one of Neeson’s best late-career performances in any genre.

Year: 2001
Runtime: 2h 58m
Director: Peter Jackson

The Oscar-winning franchise by Peter Jackson bounces around the streaming services with alarming regularity, now finding its way to Max for an indeterminate amount of time. Watch the entire saga of Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gange, and the rest of the Fellowship while you can.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Year: 2015
Runtime: 2h 1m
Director: George Miller

Have you seen the Furiosa trailer?!!? It’s insane and easily one of the most anticipated films of 2024. Go back to its predecessor, one of the best action movies ever made. This sequel rocked the world when it was released in 2015 on its way to winning multiple Oscars and really setting a new bar for practical action effects. George Miller went into the desert and returned with one of the most ambitious, insane, downright impossible action epics ever made.

Year: 2004
Runtime: 2h 26m
Director: Tony Scott

One of Tony Scott’s last (and best) films is this action flick based on the 1980 novel of the same name. Scott collaborates with his regular star Denzel Washington, who plays a former G-man turned private bodyguard who scorches the earth after the 9-year-old he’s protecting is kidnapped. It’s one of those “they messed with the wrong guy” action flicks that really works.

Year: 1999
Runtime: 2h 16m
Director: Lilly and Lana Wachowski

Neo and the gang returned to Max in late 2021 with The Matrix Resurrections, and the response was predictably divisive. You know what’s not divisive? The fact that the first movie still absolutely rules. The story of an average guy who learns that nothing is what it seems has influenced so much pop culture in the over-two decades since this movie was released. You can see Neo everywhere. (And you can watch the entire saga on the streamer if you want.)

Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 43m
Director: Paul Verhoeven

People like to point at ‘80s movies and say they were ahead of their time, but this may be most true about Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 masterpiece, a film that foretold how technology would impact law enforcement in ways that took decades to come true. A brilliant action satire, this is the story of a Detroit cop who is murdered and revived as the title character, a superhuman cyborg enforcer. It’s even more riveting and relevant almost four decades later. Note: Both original era sequels and the 2010s reboot are also on Max.

Year: 2015
Runtime: 1h 55m
Director: Brad Peyton

Some action movies are about heroism; some are about spectacle. This falls into the latter category, an ode to the ‘70s disaster movies with the CGI of the 2010s. Dwayne Johnson stars as an L.A. Fire Department helicopter pilot who becomes our eyes into the “big one” hitting California. As earthquakes ravage the landscape and send buildings tumbling, the film never lets up. Is it highbrow genre fare? Nah. But it’s undeniably fun.

Year: 1956
Runtime: 3h 26m
Director: Akira Kurosawa

They don’t get more classic than Akira Kurosawa’s classic that inspired generations of action filmmakers. Co-written, directed, and edited by one of the best filmmakers of all time, it’s the story of seven ronin who are hired by farmers to fight the bandits who are ruining their village. It’s a formative text for the action genre, and quite simply one of the best movies ever made.

Year: 2004
Runtime: 1h 46m
Director: Kerry Conran

Audiences had little idea what to do with this crazy film when it was released back in 2004, but it’s developed a pretty strong following over the years. Filmed using a bluescreen and fascinating CGI, this is an old-fashioned adventure film with modern tricks, and it uses Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow well.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Year: 1995
Runtime: 2h 25m
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Largely unavailable in the United States, Max subscribers were stunned when Strange Days dropped on the streaming service to start 2023. A sci-fi masterpiece from the director of Near Dark and Point Break, Bigelow’s epic stars Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, and Juliette Lewis in a vision of the end of the millennium that blends sci-fi and noir. A bomb when it came out, this is a flick begging for a reappraisal. (Sad note: It appears the version on Max is in the wrong aspect ratio, but we’ll take what we can get right now.)

Year: 2000
Runtime: 1h 46m
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan’s best film remains this story of an unexpected hero, a man who gets into a car crash and discovers that he may not be like most ordinary men. Bruce Willis is great in the lead role, his stoicism balanced by a fun performance from Samuel L. Jackson as his worldly opposite. Follow it up with the sequel Glass, which isn’t currently streaming for subscribers anywhere but is widely available for rent or purchase.

Year: 2009
Runtime: 2h 43m
Director: Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder fans, assemble! In 2009, the controversial director finally got his chance to adapt arguably the best graphic novel series of all time, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons brilliant unpacking of heroism and the history of America in Watchmen. The result was kind of a miss — and this film doesn’t remotely compare to the superior HBO series version — but there are some interesting scenes and performances here that make it worth this list.

All recommendations are made independently by our editors. Services you subscribe to through our links may earn us a commission.

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