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The 30 best action movies on Max (March 2024)

March 26, 202429 Mins Read

Aliens (1986)

Sigourney Weaver and Lance Henriksen in ‘Aliens’.
Everett Collection

James Cameron‘s follow up to Ridley Scott‘s 1979 sci-fi horror film Alien, the sequel Aliens — released after years of delays and development apathy — picks up where its predecessor left off. After more than half a century in stasis, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is rescued and agrees to accompany her employers to an exomoon so they can exterminate the creatures that destroyed her former ship and murdered its crew. But when their mission goes similarly awry, it’s up to Ripley to help evade the aliens and find a path back to Earth. The film earned Weaver an Oscar nod for Best Actress, and her performance as an action star was credited with elevating the film beyond typical B movie fare. The movie also helped establish Cameron’s Hollywood reputation as a craftsman with a talent for pacing action films and a nose for employing cutting-edge visual effects. —Ilana Gordon

Where to watch Aliens: Max

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton

Related content: I’m still not over…Ripley’s elevator ride to hell in Aliens

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) finds a new kind of mount in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’.
20th Century Studios

It took 13 years (and lots of underwater technology), but James Cameron finally released the follow-up to his visual masterpiece, Avatar. The second film in the series picks up 16 years after the first: With Earth’s Resources Development Administration expelled, former human and current Na’vi chief Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is living happily with his wife and children — until the RDA returns, intent on colonizing Pandora and seeking vengeance on Sully and his family. Forced to flee to a remote part of the planet occupied by a clan of reef Na’vi, our heroes now must connect with a new culture and prepare to fight for their home and way of life. —I.G.

Where to watch Avatar: the Way of Water: Max

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Winslet

Related content: How Avatar: The Way of Water ending sets up Avatar 3

Birds of Prey (2020)

The cast of ‘Birds of Prey’.
Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.

“There’s no wrong way to process a breakup” is one interpretation of the message behind Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the 2020 action film and eighth addition to the DC Extended Universe. Four years following the events depicted in 2016’s Suicide Squad, the Joker breaks up with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who — without the benefit of his protection — finds herself a vulnerable target for the many criminals she’s angered over the years. After freeing Cass, a young pickpocket with a bounty on her head, Harley finds herself at a crossroads. Now, she must team up with a Gotham City detective, a mysterious vigilante named Huntress, and a nightclub singer with a fatal voice to defeat a crime lord known as Black Mask. As an origin story for the Birds of Prey superhero team, the film is arguably one of the most enjoyable to emerge from DC Studios of late, a credit to Robbie’s unhinged (but deeply controlled) performance. —I.G.

Where to watch Birds of Prey: Max

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Director: Cathy Yan

Cast: Margot Robbie, Ella Jay Basco, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor

Related content: Jurnee Smollett says she’d play Black Canary ‘again in a heartbeat’

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Matt Damon in ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’.
Jasin Boland/Universal

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is back for round three in the series about a CIA assassin with psychogenic amnesia — and he’s closer than ever to uncovering his true identity. Still healing from the murder of his girlfriend Marie and a grueling chase with the Russian police, Bourne finds himself experiencing more flashbacks to his time in Operation Treadstone; and the more the agency tries to eliminate him, the more determined Bourne becomes to evade their attempts and to reconnect with his past. In an action thriller that spans multiple continents — traversing Moscow, London, Madrid, and Tangier — Bourne outruns and outwits those who once controlled him while finally finding answers to questions that have plagued him since the series began. Shot mostly with handheld cameras and employing as much tension as director Paul Greengrass can muster, The Bourne Ultimatum offers a strong and satisfying follow up to The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, creating fertile ground for the next two films to tread. —I.G.

Where to watch The Bourne Ultimatum: Max

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Édgar Ramírez, Albert Finney, Joan Allen

Related content: Bourne vs. Bond: Who ya got?

The Dark Knight (2008)

Christian Bale in ‘The Dark Knight’.
Everett Collection

Christopher Nolan‘s stunning sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins positions Christian Bale‘s buff and brooding, caped and hooded vigilante, along with his allies James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), against the anarchistic machinations of the the Joker, the legendary Batman villain brought back to life with vivid, tremulous energy and rank nihilism by Heath Ledger, who passed away a few months before The Dark Knight was released. Jack Nicholson will always have a seat at the Joker table, but Ledger’s performance is the definition of must-watch, and rightly earned him a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The Dark Knight was the highest-grossing film of 2008, and has continued to resonate with audiences and critics as an example of superhero filmmaking that conducts itself with singular style and deeper, more lyrical intent. —Johnny Loftus

Where to watch The Dark Knight: Max

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

Related content: Heath Ledger’s Joker diary for The Dark Knight surfaces in documentary

Date Night (2010)

Steve Carell and Tina Fey in ‘Date Night’.
Suzanne Tenner

A screwball comedy modernized to highlight the exhausted suburban parent, Date Night follows Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carell), a New Jersey couple who decide to break out of their mundane routine by enjoying a trendy dinner in the city — only to find themselves confused for another pair and embroiled in a corruption scandal. Pursued around New York City by cops and mobsters, the two rediscover their connection at gunpoint, but have their years of marriage prepared them enough to survive date night? Carell and Fey — both operating at the height of their TV comedy careers — are perfectly matched and happy to elevate an already solid script with improvised ad libs. Also benefiting from a supporting cast of reliable comedy favorites, Date Night is the perfect film to watch on a date night, or any time you’re craving a zany caper that travels from reality to absurdity and back again. —I.G.

Where to watch Date Night: Max

EW grade: B (read the review)

Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Taraji P. Henson, Common, Mark Wahlberg

Related content: Date Night: Could the comedy’s cast get any better?!

Deadpool (2016)

Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool.
20th Century Fox

Superheroes can save the world, but they can’t always land a joke. Luckily for comedy fans, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) isn’t a superhero — he’s an antihero, and he knows his way around a punchline. After Wade Wilson is permanently disfigured and imbued with regenerative powers, he takes on the alter ego of Deadpool and starts looking for retribution. A story about love and vengeance with strong ties to the X-Men universe, Deadpool is the movie for those looking for an R rated take on the superhero genre. The action and the jokes come at you fast — a lot of those jokes were improvised by Reynolds — but Deadpool also has a surprising amount of heart, and EW’s critic writes, “Reynolds and his character are a blast of laughing gas in a genre that tends to take itself way too seriously.” —I.G.

Where to watch Deadpool: Max

EW grade: B (read the review)

Director: Tim Miller

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand

Related content: Deadpool 3 is bringing back one of the best parts of Deadpool 2

Deadwood: The Movie (2019)

Timothy Olyphant in ‘Deadwood: The Movie’.
Warrick Page/HBO

HBO‘s show Deadwood is considered one of the greatest premium series of all time, despite only airing for three seasons in the mid-aughts. The film — set during the last year of the 19th century, a few decades after the show ended — returns fans to the now well-established town of Deadwood and reunites the beloved ensemble cast as South Dakota celebrates its transition from territory to statehood. Storylines from the TV show, (including the return of Senator George Hearst, who’s on a mission of personal enrichment and surprised to find the prostitute whose murder he ordered years ago is still alive) are resurrected in the film, giving Deadwood lovers consolation and closure after the show’s abrupt and unexpected ending in 2006. Featuring all the profanity, violence, and chaos that helped establish the series as a credible interpretation of life in the Wild West, Deadwood: The Movie is, as EW’s TV critic describes it, “a gift, and a fond farewell.” —I.G.

Where to watch Deadwood: The Movie: Max

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Director: David Milch

Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Brent Sexton, Sean Bridgers, Franklyn Ajaye, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young

Related content: Deadwood: Kim Dickens says David Milch read her new scenes

Die Another Day (2002)

Pierce Brosnan in ‘Die Another Day’.

MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

Die Another Day (2002) may have earned itself the nickname “Buy Another Day” because of the sheer amount of product placement incorporated into the film, but the 20th James Bond movie also represents Pierce Brosnan’s best work as the character. Brosnan’s fourth and final Bond chapter before handing the reins over to Daniel Craig, Die Another Day offers the usual spy gadgetry, the death-defying stunts, and the smirking villain (played by Toby Stephens, Maggie Smith’s son), not to mention the ice palace scene, which, depending on who you ask is either the best or worst part of the film. EW’s critic at the time writes, “Die Another Day is the savviest and most exciting Bond adventure in years, and that’s because there’s actually something at stake in it.” —I.G.

Where to watch Die Another Day: Max

EW grade: N/A (read the review)

Director: Lee Tamahori

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, John Cleese, Judi Dench

Related content: What Die Another Day did better than the Daniel Craig movies

Dune (2021)

Timothée Chalamet in ‘Dune’.

Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures

David Lynch‘s subpar attempt at adapting Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel in 1984 suggested that Dune might be better left on the page. Thus, many raised an eyebrow when Denis Villeneuve announced his own plans to tackle a film adaptation, but this 2021 epic proved the doubters wrong. Following Paul Atreides, a young heir with superhuman powers fighting for control of the planet Arrakis, Villeneuve’s Dune was lauded for its stunning technical craft — which won six Oscars — and grand-scale storytelling that doesn’t talk down to the audience. EW’s critic praises its “breathtaking” scope, citing the “vast desertscapes unscrolling like oceans and helicopters with dragonfly-wing blades where the rotors should be; the kidney-piercing resonance of Hans Zimmer‘s soundtrack poured over sets of towering, planet-scaled enormity.” —Kevin Jacobsen

Where to watch Dune: Max

EW grade: B (read the review)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem

Related content: Denis Villeneuve wants to make ‘at least three’ Dune movies

Furious 7 (2015)

Michelle Rodriguez and Paul Walker in ‘Furious 7’.
Scott Garfield/Universal

It’s raining cars in Furious 7, the action franchise that is now best known for driving cars anywhere but on the road. Marking Paul Walker‘s final film in the series after his 2013 death — and Jason Statham‘s real introduction into the Fast family as this installment’s primary antagonist, Deckard Shaw — Furious 7 represents a final chapter in what the movies used to be, and a preview into what the franchise will become. The film traffics in the usual chase sequences and action stunts, but it’s the ending and emotional tribute to Walker that helps it rank as one of the top three films for Fast fans. EW’s critic writes, “It’s a rare moment of subtlety in a franchise that otherwise has no use for it. And it’s as cathartic as any car flying through the air could ever be.” —I.G.

Where to watch Furious 7: Max

EW grade: B (read the review)

Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham

Related content: The Fast and the Furious cast: Where are they now?

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’.

What could possibly be better than a blockbuster film featuring a legendary movie monster? How about two legendary movie monsters pitted against each other? Both King Kong and Godzilla have definitely had their fair share of sympathetic screen moments, so it’s hard to know who to root for here, as Godzilla goes on a rampage and Kong is roused from his Skull Island-like habitat to try to stop him. But we’re not going to knock ourselves out looking for logic or plot here. If you’re watching this madcap rollercoaster of a movie, it’s because you want to see a giant gorilla punch a reptilian beast in the face. And you will, as EW’s critic promises: “Godzilla vs. Kong is the loud, [silly] monster mash you came for.” —Gwen Ihnat

Where to watch Godzilla vs. Kong: Max

Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Lance Reddick, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir

Related content: Godzilla vs. Kong director treated monsters like action stars

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Clint Eastwood in ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’.

Courtesy Everett Collection

In the middle of the Civil War, three men search for a grave filled with Confederate gold. These three men — a bounty hunter, a bandit, and a mercenary — must navigate the battles and bloodshed of the national conflict as they strive to be the first to reach and claim the treasure. Directed by Sergio Leone, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the ultimate spaghetti Western; Quentin Tarantino once referred to it as ”the best-directed film of all time.” Clint Eastwood stars as Blondie (the good), Lee Van Cleef plays Angel Eyes (the bad), and Eli Wallach appears as Tuco (the ugly): All three are fantastic. If watching what one EW contributor calls “the Kill Bill of the ‘60s” sounds like your idea of a good time, check out The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. —I.G.   

Where to watch The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Max

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach

Related content: The Sergio Leone Anthology

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Toshiro Mifune in ‘The Hidden Fortress’.
Everett Collection

Master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) has been an indelible influence on cinema for decades, and this acclaimed adventure through feudal Japan even helped inspire George Lucas‘ original vision for Star Wars. In it, peasants Tahei and Matashich have been enlisted by a defeated general to escort him and a princess to friendly territory. Like the best action comedies, the chemistry between the leads makes us care about their plight, with a fun, swaggering performance by frequent Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune as the general. As EW notes, “Mifune’s iconic full-body laugh is one of the greatest small pleasures in cinema.” —K.J.

Where to watch The Hidden Fortress: Max

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara

Related content: Akira Kurosawa’s seven magnificent films

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Martin Freeman in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’.

Released over a decade after the first film in The Lord of the Rings hit theaters — but set 60 years before the events taking place in the trilogy ever occurred — The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of three films chronicling the adventures of Frodo’s uncle Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he is recruited by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to accompany a group of dwarves on a quest. Adapted from J.R.R Tolkien‘s eponymous book and filmed against the same New Zealand backdrops that populated the first three films, The Hobbit — and its two sequels — feel like natural successors to Peter Jackson‘s original trilogy. LOTR fans who haven’t read the books will benefit from the added context The Hobbit provides, namely, how Bilbo came to possess the One Ring, and Freeman’s scene with Gollum (Andy Serkis) is both a highlight and a lynchpin for the first movie in Jackson’s newest trilogy. —I.G.

Where to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Max

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis

Related content: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was 2013’s most pirated movie

The Hunt For Red October (1990)

Sean Connery (standing) and Alec Baldwin in ‘The Hunt For Red October’.

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine, and John Krasinski have all portrayed CIA analyst Jack Ryan at one point or another, but their performances never would have happened if not for The Hunt for Red October. The first film to introduce the character from Tom Clancy’s 1984 novel, Red October stars Alec Baldwin as former U.S. Marine Jack Ryan. Ryan believes Russian captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) and the senior crew of the new silent-running submarine Red October are looking to defect — and he must prove to his commanders that his hunch is correct, lest Cold War tensions escalate to World War III. “At first, Alec Baldwin is disconcertingly boyish as Ryan, the anonymous CIA analyst thrust into heroism,” writes an EW critic. “But he grows on you; the film needs his slightly geeky, head-of-the-class wit.” —I.G. 

Where to watch The Hunt For Red October: Max

EW grade: B (read the review)

Director: John McTiernan

Cast: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Sam Neill

Related content: Inside the Red October submarine

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’.
Warner Bros.

While there are seemingly far more DC superhero clunker movies (2016’s unfortunate Suicide Squad) than there are successful ones (its 2021 glow-up The Suicide Squad), the DCEU’s feature-length animated comic-book capers are more reliable in quality. (But be sure to check the ratings: Just because they’re animated doesn’t mean they’re kid-friendly.) If you’re familiar with the Flash, you know about the time-travel “flashpoint” (and if you’re a fan of the TV show, ad nauseam), but this direct-to-video film offers an intriguing “what-if” look at the members of the Justice League in alternate timelines, with Thomas Wayne replacing Bruce as Batman, for example, and Aquaman and Wonder Woman at war. Multiverses may be the latest trend, but this thoughtful yet dark examination of the fine line between heroes and villains did it a decade before it was cool. —G.I.

Where to watch Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox: Max

Director: Jay Oliva

Cast: Justin Chambers, C. Thomas Howell, Michael B. Jordan, Kevin McKidd, Cary Elwes, Vanessa Marshall, Kevin Conroy

Related content: From Batman to Zeta Project: A guide to the DC animated universe

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Sean Astin and Elijah Wood in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’.
Pierre Vinet/New Line

Fantasy fandoms are rarely happy with the filmic adaptations of their beloved books, but lovers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series had little to complain about when they saw the results of Peter Jackson’s work on the first movie in the long-awaited trilogy. The New Zealand backdrops Jackson chose to help convey his vision of Middle Earth seem ripped from Tolkien’s original pages, and the nine actors selected to make up the Fellowship of the Ring, and accompany the cherubic-faced hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) on his action-packed journey into Mordor to destroy Sauron’s ring — and subsequently, Sauron himself — could not have been more aptly cast. Narratively faithful to Tolkien’s story, but emotionally affecting enough to make longtime readers feel like they are entering Frodo’s world for the first time, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the best cinematic literary adaptations of all time. — I.G.

Where to watch The Lord of the Rings; The Fellowship of the Ring: Max

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler

Related content: James Corden auditioned to play a hobbit in the Lord of the Rings

The Matrix (1999)

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in ‘The Matrix’.
Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.

As anxiety over artificial intelligence continues to accelerate, The Matrix still resonates after its initial millennium-approaching release. Online hacker Thomas Anderson is offered a pill that will enlighten him to reality: He and most of humanity are stuck in a simulation called the Matrix, as created by intelligent machines while they rule the real world’s dystopian hellscape. Anderson, a.k.a. Neo, takes the bait and joins a group of fellow awakened humans who are rebelling against the machines to free those still in the Matrix. Directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski blend a cyberpunk aesthetic with anime-inspired action sequences and a cerebral, 2001-esque depiction of man vs. rapidly evolving technology, creating something wholly original in the process. —K.J.

Where to watch The Matrix: Max

Directors: The Wachowskis

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

Related content: Hugo Weaving blasts alt-right for exploiting The Matrix: ‘I am befuddled by it’

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock in ‘Ocean’s 8’.
Warner Bros.

Eleven years after Ocean’s Thirteen premiered, the family legacy lives on through Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the recently paroled younger sister of Danny. Debbie spent her time in prison concocting a plan for the ultimate heist: a massive diamond robbery that will take place during the annual Met Gala. While Ocean’s 8 doesn’t reinvent Steven Soderbergh’s franchise by any means, it does provide the vehicle for a fun and feminist continuation of the series. Bolstered by an ensemble cast and littered with the unexpected twists and betrayals audiences have come to expect from the Ocean’s films, this is a high-fashion crime comedy with style to spare. As EW’s critic writes, “Ocean’s 8’s girls-just-wanna-have-grand-larceny conceit is the kind of starry, high-gloss goof the summer movie season was made for.” —I.G.  

Where to watch Ocean’s 8: Max

EW grade: B (read the review

Director: Gary Ross 

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter

Related content: 8 classic female ensemble films to watch before Ocean’s 8

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

George Clooney in ‘Ocean’s Eleven’.
Warner Brothers/Everett

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — unless you’re a casino owner squaring off against Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew of fellow con artists. Recently released from prison with a plan to rob three casinos and win back his ex-wife (Julia Roberts), Ocean’s elaborately choreographed heist is a masterclass in maximalist audacity. A blockbuster action film crammed with movie stars and charisma — most notably evidenced in the bromance between Ocean and his right-hand man, Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) — Ocean’s Eleven is fast, funny, and endlessly entertaining. In their review at the time, EW’s critic writesOcean’s Eleven has no pretenses, yet it’s a scrumptious and dizzy-spirited lark, a what-the-hell-let’s-rob-the-casino flick made with so much wit and brains and dazzle and virtuosity that the sheer speed and cleverness of the caper hits you like a shot of pure oxygen.” —I.G.

Where to watch Ocean’s Eleven: Max 

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: Steven Soderbergh 

Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy García, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner

Related content: Eddie Redmayne compares his Fantastic Beasts role to Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven

Princess Mononoke (1997)

‘Princess Mononoke’.
Everett Collection

Frankly, all the Studio Ghibli films offer action and adventure to spare, and the fact that many of them reside on Max is reason enough for you to subscribe to the streamer. But the riveting battles in Princess Mononoke, and its epic parable about the conflict between humans and nature, landed it on our list above the rest. The film references ancient tribes and enduring myths while crafting an enchanting tale in its own right, as the titular princess attempts to defend the forest — and the spirit who rules it — from the corrupting influences of industrialization. Director Hayao Miyazaki, who also wrote the movie, had apparently intended this to be his final film before retiring, but its success convinced him to hold off, leading to the also-exemplary Spirited Away a few years later. EW’s critic stresses that the film’s brutal violence makes it a suitable fit only for older kids, but it’s still “wondrous and otherworldly” in it’s vision. —G.I.

Where to watch Princess Mononoke: Max

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Yōji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yūko Tanaka, Kaoru Kobayashi, Masahiko Nishimura, Tsunehiko Kamijo, Akihiro Miwa, Mitsuko Mori, Hisaya Morishige

Related content: See how Hayao Miyazaki’s graphic novel Shuna’s Journey foreshadowed his classic films

Pulp Fiction (1994)

John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in ‘Pulp Fiction’.
Everett Collection

One of Quentin Tarantino’s many seminal works, Pulp Fiction isn’t so much a film as it is an experience. Set in Los Angeles, the movie follows four intersecting stories, all centered around violent crime. Rife with loquacious hitmen, boxers past their prime, cocaine-fueled trophy wives, and assorted criminals from all walks of life, Pulp Fiction was lauded upon its release for successfully employing a circular narrative structured with overlapping timelines told from multiple points of view. The screenplay is brilliantly written, subversive — especially for the ’90s — and violent with a capital V. EW’s critic at the time describes it as “new punk virtuoso,” writing, “It is, quite simply, the most exhilarating piece of filmmaking to come along in the nearly five years I’ve been writing for this magazine.” And if that’s not enough to sell you, Samuel L. Jackson’s triumphant performance whilst wearing a Jheri curl wig might put you over the edge. — I.G.

Where to watch Pulp Fiction: Max

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Bruce Willis

Related content: Pulp Fiction stars Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman reunite for new film The Kill Room

The Revenant (2015)

Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’.
Kimberley French/20th Century Studios

Leonardo DiCaprio earned his Oscar for this startling, nauseating revisionist Western. He stars as adventurer Hugh Glass, who’s left for dead by his tribe after enduring a horrific bear attack. When his son is killed by one of his own men (a sneering Tom Hardy), Glass goes on a life or death journey of revenge. More of an action blockbuster than anyone could’ve anticipated from Birdman-director Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant is one of the most unrelenting and visceral adventure pictures in modern memory. It’s not for the faint of heart (or stomach), but those who can sit for its duration will be well-rewarded. —Declan Gallagher

Where to watch The Revenant: Max

EW grade: B (read the review)

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Cast: Leonard DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Lukas Haas

Related content: The Revenant: Leonardo DiCaprio, Alejandro G. Iñárritu talk survivalist themes in featurette

Slow West (2015)

Michael Fassbender (standing) and Kodi Smit-McPhee in ‘Slow West’.

A coming-of-age Western, Slow West is an action film that moves at its own pace, imbued with a melancholy not often attempted within the genre. Scottish 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has come to America with the hopes of locating Rose, his sweetheart from home, but the teenager is unprepared to weather the Wild West alone. When he happens upon bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), Jay hires him to help him track down Rose and her father, but is unaware that the pair already have a bounty on their heads, and he is leading Silas straight to them. Written and directed by Scottish director John Maclean in his directorial debut, the film infuses the Old West with love and languor, approaching the bullet-ridden battle scenes with a balletic touch, and finding the beauty within the bloodshed. —I.G.

Where to watch Slow West: Max

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Director: John Maclean

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Caren Pistorius, Ben Mendelsohn

Related content: Michael Fassbender on Macbeth, Slow West, Jobs and more

Spy (2015)

Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham in ‘Spy’.
Larry Horricks/20th Century Studios

Melissa McCarthy is a force, and in 2015’s Spy, she finally finds a project that befits her many comedic gifts. McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who routinely nails her role as a behind-the-scenes player in the agency’s most dangerous missions, but has never entered the field — until now. After the CIA’s best agents are presumed compromised or killed, Susan volunteers to go undercover and save the world from a deadly arms dealer intent on provoking global disaster. McCarthy is typically excellent, but her rapid-fire put downs and fearless pratfalls are elevated by her costar, Jason Statham, who kills it in an out of character comedic role. An odd couple action movie that gives director Paul Feig an opportunity to show off his cast’s wide range of tricks and talents, Spy is a comedy that will make you laugh even as it’s punching you in the face. —I.G.

Where to watch Spy: Max

EW grade: B+ (read the review)

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Jude Law, Nargis Fakhri

Related content: The best spy movies to stream on Netflix

Superman (1978)

Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve in ‘Superman’.
Everett Collection

Before the superhero takeover of the 21st century, or even Tim Burton‘s gothic take on Batman, there was Richard Donner‘s Superman. Christopher Reeve was launched into stardom for his dashing portrayal of Clark Kent and his famous alter ego, supported by an all-star cast including Marlon Brando as Jor-El (Superman’s biological father), Gene Hackman as villain Lex Luthor, and ’70s favorite Margot Kidder as Lois Lane. Like many big-budget films released decades ago, not every component holds up, but its earnest depiction of Superman’s good nature appeals to viewers of all ages and transcends any dated visual effect. As EW notes of the film, “None of our modern green screens and volume technology can compete with the simple magic of watching Christopher Reeve fly through the sky on those invisible wires.” —K.J.

Where to watch Superman: Max

Director: Richard Donner

Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Trevor Howard, Margot Kidder

Related content: Henry Cavill dons Christopher Reeve’s Superman suit in test shot

V For Vendetta (2005)

Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving in ‘V For Vendetta’.
Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett

Remember, remember, the 5th of November. Anarchy faces off against fascism in V For Vendetta, a sci-fi action thriller set in a dystopian version of the UK. When the Norsefire political party, known for jailing and executing anyone in the population considered “undesirable,” find themselves unable to contain V (Hugo Weaving), an anarchist terrorist on a personal mission to disrupt their policies, the police are instructed to stop him by any means necessary. V’s revolutionary antics — meant to provide hope for the populace and stir them into rebellion — find a more intimate audience in Evey (Natalie Portman), a fearful young woman whose parents were killed after they opposed the government in the early days of the Norsefire regime. After Evey repeatedly finds herself enmeshed in V’s activities, she discovers a strength within herself — but will her evolution and V’s elaborate plans be enough to spring the UK from Norsefire’s stranglehold? A cross between 1984 and The Matrix (courtesy of the Wachowskis, who wrote the screenplay), V for Vendetta is an action movie with a fine-tuned political message. —I.G.

Where to watch V For Vendetta: Max

Director: James McTeigue

Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt

Related content: V for Vendetta gets a little too real

Wonder Woman (2017)

Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman’.
Clay Enos/Warner Bros.

Hopes were sky high for the Patty Jenkins directed version of Wonder Woman, and to audiences’ delight, the film delivered. Set during World War I, the sheltered Diana (Gal Gadot) has grown up living amongst the Amazons on the island of Themyscira. When US pilot Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) washes up on shore, Diana is exposed for the first time to both men and the world’s evils, deciding to leave home with Steve to help end the conflict and rid the world of Ares, God of War. The first actress since Lynda Carter to take on the role in a live-action film, Gadot’s spin on the character is both wide-eyed and fierce, an equal blend of humor and heart — at least until it’s time to fight, at which point all bets are off. —I.G.

Where to watch Wonder Woman: Max

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Lucy Davis, Connie Nielsen

Related content: Wonder Woman-based TV series is like Game of Thrones but with Amazons, says James Gunn

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