Streaming and VOD had an amazing year for action films. Sure, there were some fun theater-only ones (a few of which are on the list) but streaming busted the doors off the genre this year. From love letters to to icons, to video-game mechanics made real, Westerns with bite, and a group of middle-aged childhood friends who try to beat the bad guys without blowing out their knees, we rounded up the Top Action Movies of 2021.
Now, a little ground rules for our Top Action Movies of 2021 list. First, the film had to have released to audiences in theater, VOD, or streaming subscription within the 2021 calendar year – festival-only screenings don’t count. Next, the Top Action Films of 2021 have to be considered action in some way – but of course genre blends and we gladly include the action-hyphenates as well (hello action-sci-fi). And that’s it. So, without further ado, here are our top action movies of 2021.
Richard Brumère, aka “La Brume”, a former French secret service special agent turned mercenary, is back in the saddle as the immunity he was granted 25 years earlier for his son Archibald is lifted. A mob operation threatens Archibald’s life. To save him, Richard will have to reach out to his old contacts, join forces with a bunch of reckless youngsters from the projects and an offbeat bureaucrat – but mostly find the courage to let Archibald know he’s his father.
14. Boss Level
Trapped in a time loop that constantly repeats the day of his murder, former special forces agent Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) uncovers clues about a secret government project that could unlock the mystery behind his untimely death. In a race against the clock, Pulver must hunt down Colonel Ventor (Mel Gibson), the powerful head of the government program, while outrunning skilled ruthless assassins determined to keep him from the truth in order to break out of the loop, save his ex-wife (Naomi Watts) and live once again for tomorrow.
Shang-Chi must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
12. Free Guy
A bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides to become the hero of his own story…one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way…before it is too late.
11. Godzilla vs Kong
The epic next chapter in the cinematic Monsterverse pits two of the greatest icons in motion picture history against one another – the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong – with humanity caught in the balance.
10. Army of the Dead
Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.
Set in 2092, spaceship Victory is one of the many that live off salvaging space debris. Crewed with a genius space pilot Tae-ho, a mysterious ex-space pirate Captain Jang, a spaceship engineer Tiger Park, and a reprogrammed military robot Bubs, Spaceship Victory surpasses all other space sweepers. After successfully snatching a crashed space shuttle in the latest debris chase, Victory’s crew finds a 7-year-old girl inside. They realize that she’s the humanlike robot wanted by UTS Space Guards, and decide to demand ransom in exchange.
Director: Jeymes Samuel
Writer: Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin
Stars: DeWanda Wise, Jonathan Majors, Edi Gathegi, Woody McClain, Damon Wayans Jr., Danielle Deadwyler, Zazie Beetz, Julio Cesar Cedillo
Where to Watch: Netflix
In this Western, outlaw Nat Love discovers that his enemy, Rufus Buck, is being released from prison, so he reunites his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge.
7. Riders of Justice
Riders of Justice follows recently-deployed Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), who is forced to return home to care for his teenage daughter after his wife is killed in a tragic train accident. But when a survivor of the wrecked train surfaces claiming foul play, Markus begins to suspect his wife was murdered and embarks on a revenge-fueled mission to find those responsible.
Kenshin’s past catches up to him causing the destruction of Akabeko Restaurant, which was Kenshin’s favorite place to eat. There, he finds a note with the word “Junchu” on it.
5. Deliver Us From Evil
As teenagers, kung fu disciples Danny, Hing, and Jim were inseparable. Fast forward 25 years, and each has grown into a washed-up middle-aged man seemingly one kick away from pulling a hamstring—and not at all preoccupied with thoughts of martial arts or childhood best friends. But when their old master is murdered, the trio reunites, soon learning that avenging their sifu will require conquering old grudges (and a dangerous hitman still armed with ample knee cartilage) if they are to honorably defend his legacy.
Assemble a collection of cons, arm them heavily and drop them on the enemy‐infused island of Corto Maltese. If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.
After failing to fight for his family during a robbery, an unassuming father calls on skills from his hidden past to become a lethal vigilante blazing a wild ride to revenge.
1. Raging Fire
Bong is a highly respected hardline cop with a long history of success on dangerous cases. However, his past unexpectedly comes back to haunt him when a sting operation is attacked by a mysterious group of criminals led by Ngo (Nicholas Tse), his former protégé, a talented former officer who had once respected and admired Bong. However, a terrible mistake years prior landed him in prison, quickly turning the once rising star into a furious man with a grudge, and the will to destroy everyone who had wronged him—including his former mentor.
With everything available to watch at home right now, open your new year with the top action movies of 2021 and get excited. With films across the world, there was a lot to love and sure there are some honorable mentions: No Time to Die, F9: The Fast Saga, and Raya and the Last Dragon. Did your favorite make our Top Action Movies of 2021 list? Let us know on social media: @butwhythopc.
Synopses for films on the Top Action Movies of 2021 list were taken directly from details pages for the films.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.