Instant streaming on Netflix is terrific, but it’s also become a little bit difficult to navigate. There are now so many titles available, and so many different genres (and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres) to sift through that it can be hard to figure out to watch if you don’t already have something in mind. Then again, part of the fun is stumbling on films you might otherwise never have looked into.
To save you the process of scrolling through endless titles the next time you feel like watching an action film you haven’t seen before, here’s my list of five of the best and most underrated films in the genre that are available on Netflix.
The Gunman didn’t exactly score with critics, or fans for that matter. A 17% rating at Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t advertise it very well, and according to records at Box Office Mojo, the film made only about $10 million on a $40 million budget. That pretty much classifies it as a disaster. Nonetheless, watching Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, and Ray Winstone in any action movie is worth a few hours of your time, even if this one is far from perfect. Essentially the tale of a former assassin roped back into his past life against his will, it’s not very original—but it certainly has its moments.
Lord Of War
This is probably the most well-known film included on the list, though it’s still surprising it wasn’t a bigger deal. Designed as a semi-satirical commentary on weapons dealing, it stars Nicolas Cage as Yuri Orlov, a shrewd but reckless businessman who becomes an elite gun runner when he stumbles on a limitless cache of leftover weaponry from Soviet Russia. It’s a very clever film, and refreshingly, its violent scenes have real purpose (as opposed to simply being done for the sake of violence, as we see so often these days).
It’s kind of shocking that this Roman war epic wasn’t a bigger deal. It starred Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, and Olga Kurylenko, and it focused almost entirely on warring Roman legions. Yet it appears to have been largely overlooked. The reviews weren’t terrible, and it does actually seem to have inspired a game—a slot reel at Gala’s bingo site, also called Centurion. A Roman-themed slot machine featuring “Caesars free spins” and a “Road to Rome” bonus, it’s not officially related to the film, but it’s about the closest thing to a pop-culture impact the film seems to have made. Give this one a watch regardless. Fans of ancient swordplay will fall in love, and Fassbender, as always, is terrific.
Brick Mansions never did particularly well with critics, though it did get some attention in large part because it starred Paul Walker and was released just after his passing. For his part, Walker is very enjoyable in the film, and the dystopian setup of a future Detroit in which criminals occupy former residential mansions in a walled-off portion of the city makes for some interesting sequences. And as Grantland’s review pointed out, the commentary on class warfare is “surprisingly subversive,” if perhaps a bit obvious.
Interview With A Hitman
Interview With A Hitman seems to have slipped through the cracks, perhaps largely because it’s a British film. Directed by Perry Bandhal, it’s an interesting idea for an action film, the premise being that a career hitman agrees to lend his true story to a film director who’s in need of a hit. Perhaps intentionally designed somewhat in the image of IO Interactive’s games (as in, the Hitman series), the film would seem to appeal pretty naturally to a broad American audience. There’s no actual connection between the two, but the atmosphere feels somewhat similar, and at the end of the day this is a pretty enjoyable action flick with some satisfying shoot-em-up scenes.
These are just a few to consider. But again, sometimes the fun is in stumbling on something unexpectedly, so scrolling through the action category is worth your while as well!