The best action movies of the year so far

The action genre had a fantastic 2023, with strong new entries in banner franchises and exciting one-off films from both established and emerging creators.

If the first few months are any indication, 2024 picks up where its predecessor left off. Countries around the world have already contributed great entries to the genre, with both big-budget spectacle and clinical low-budget projects offering the pleasure of hard-hitting action.

Here are the best action movies of 2024 so far. This list is updated throughout the year and is sorted in reverse chronological order so the newest films always appear first.

One percent

Where to watch: For digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV and Vudu on March 12

Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

An eccentric meta-actor with thrilling fight choreography, One percent (also known as One percent warrior) is one of the most unusual entries of the year. Real cult action hero Tak Sakaguchi (Versus) stars as a character who is quite simply a version of himself: Takuma Toshiro, a self-serious action star who invented his own martial arts technique and had a cult hit several years ago. One percent is about Toshiro’s quest to make a ‘pure action’ film. He is tired of the feeling of dance in the genre and longs for something more dangerous. While on location for an indie project, he comes across a yakuza dispute perfect chance for him to get some footage for his film. So Toshiro takes out dozens of gangsters with his Wave technique, dodging bullets and targeting a few poor fools.

Sakaguchi, a former underground street fighter and one of the most extraordinary action stars of his generation, is hypnotic as Toshiro and uses his Wave technique to great effect. The combination of Sakaguchi with fight choreographer Kensuke Sonomura (Baby killers), perhaps the best in the business at what he does is a dream. The two have already played together a few times, most recently in the very good class Bad cityand it’s a joy to see their talents working together again.

One percent gets a little too caught up in narrative gimmicks towards the end, but it’s a fun time for fans of the genre with an all-time combination of star and choreographer (and an extended fight scene using only a flashlight that sees Sonomura breaking again based on cinematic expression through action).

Badland Hunters

Where to watch: Netflix

Ma Dong-seok fires a gun in a hallway full of slumped bodies in Badland Hunters

Photo: Cha Min-jung/Netflix

There are few joys in life as consistent as Ma Dong-seok beat up some guys.

A bizarre sequel (tonal) to the much more serious drama Concrete utopia, Badland Hunters is set in a post-earthquake apocalypse, where a group of survivors try to rescue a kidnapped teenager from a mad scientist.

Badland Hunters may not reach the high standards of Ma’s Roundup films, but it’s a very fun piece of genre filmmaking that puts the burly action star in the middle of a sci-fi scenario and lets him do his thing. Directed by former stunt coordinator Heo Myeong-haeng (who directed the fourth Roundup film), Badland Hunters has solid action sequences with satisfyingly different fighting styles for the three leads. But the star of the show is, as always, Ma and his sturdy fists. Wherever they go, I will follow.

Sixty minutes

Where to watch: Netflix

A man with blond hair kneels on top of another man as he prepares a blow.

Photo: Reiner Bajo/Netflix

An under-the-radar film from Germany, Sixty minutes has a game cast, a tight script and an attractive gimmick.

As he’s about to enter the ring for his next big fight, professional fighter Octavio (former German National Karate Champion Emilio Sakraya) finds out that if he doesn’t make it to his ex-wife’s house within 60 minutes, she will. . file for sole custody of their daughter. He decides not to continue his fight and just book it there, angering elements of the criminal underworld who had a lot of money on hand to win. The film plays out in real time during those 60 minutes, as he makes his way through Berlin to his daughter (and essentially tries to run away from the movie he’s in).

Sakraya excels in the role, in a true star performance. He can make it clear that Octavio has been an absent father – this ultimatum does not come out of nowhere – but that he really cares about his daughter and has now decided that he would do anything for her. He’s also a great fighter, all the same Sixty minutes occasionally the fight scenes cut too much for my taste, the choreo is strong and Sakraya still delivers in those moments.

One last chance

Where to watch: For digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TVand Vudu

Scott Adkins stands next to an injured Hannah Arterton, with a bandage on her arm, at the airport in One More Shot.

Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

In 2021, director James Nunn and star Scott Adkins teamed up for an experimental action film, A shot. It combined the one-take gimmick from films like Birdman And 1917 (remark: A shot was written earlier 1917, but then came out) with the post-John Wick wave of tactical action films, all in a thrilling package that looked absolutely exhausting for its star. So of course they came back three years later to do it again, and this time they did it even better.

One last chance‘s best change from the original is the setting. The first was set in a Guantanamo-style military prison – a setting that made sense for the film, but was pretty boring all things considered. One last chance was able to shoot in a real international airport, immediately familiarizing audiences with the environment and allowing even more confident use of the gimmick and real-time travel through space.

Adkins is once again great as the film makes the most of his considerable skills as an actor and athlete, and this time action legends Michael Jai White and Tom Berenger join him in the cast. But the best fight is between Adkins and Aaron Toney (Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther stuntman) on a moving train that was actually going 30 miles per hour. It makes fantastic use of space, especially the train poles, as instruments of movement and violence. Like much of the rest of the film, the realness is palpable and helps the entire experience shine.

The beekeeper

Where to watch: For digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TVand Vudu

Jason Statham bullies Jeremy Irons, who raises his hands in defense while blocking a door, in The Beekeeper

Photo: Daniel Smith/Amazon MGM Studios

David Ayer brought back the tongue-in-cheek actioner from the late ’80s/early ’90s with The beekeeper, an absolutely ridiculous, over-the-top Jason Statham vehicle seemingly designed for the star to deliver bee-themed one-liner after bee-themed one-liner.

If it had just been Statham’s charisma, the silly bee tricks and the golden cinematography (Ayer told Polygon it was meant to evoke honey), that would have been enough for The beekeeper to make this list. But the film went ahead and hired Jeremy Marinas (John Wick: Chapter Four) to direct the second unit and choreograph the fight sequences. He is one of the very best in the business and helps out The beekeeper on to the next echelon of action films with fast choreographies that make extensive use of props. Buzz buzz, join the beehive.


Where to watch: For digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TVand Vudu

Nassim Lyes, looking absolutely torn, gets his arm raised in the ring after a fight in Mayhem!

Image: IFC Films

A brutal masterclass in choreographing and framing action from some of the minds behind it Gangs of Londonthe French thriller Bend! (also known as Farang) is an experience not to be missed for fans of the action genre.

A revenge thriller about a working-class fighter (former French national kickboxing champion Nassim Lyes) who hopes to avenge the loss of a loved one at the hands of some unsavory individuals. Bend! stands out from other similar stories by adding details and desires to the characters’ lives.

But Bend! really shines in the fight sequences. Second unit director and fight choreographer Jude Poyer comes from the Gareth Evans school of motivated camera movement (Poyer worked with Evans on Gangs of London), where the camera is used in combination with the choreography to amplify the impact of each blow. Add in a high-caliber fighter like Lyes and one of the greatest elevator fight scenes of all time, and a new action classic has officially been minted.

Noryang: Deadly Sea

Where to watch: Awaiting digital release

A chaotic battle scene on ships in Noryang: Deadly Sea, as armed soldiers attack each other

Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

All three films in director Kim Han-min’s trilogy about the legendary Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin are fairly compact historical dramas. But they succeed because of the attention to detail in their intense naval battles and the top-notch production design in period work. Noryang: Deadly Seathe final film in the series, is no exception.

Each of the three films features another notable Korean star, Admiral Yi, this time it’s Kim Yoon-seok (Escape from Mogadishu), following Choi Min-sik (Old boy) and Park Hae-il (Decide to leave) of the first two. All three do a great job of bringing the stubborn but brilliant Admiral Yi to life, but these films really shine when they take a step back to show the tactics of the Navy.

The battle sequences are occasionally shown from a bird’s eye view to better convey the tactics of both sides, which is exciting. When you add in the measured use of one-take sequences that draw out the carnage of war, these films do an excellent job of showcasing the combination of deep calculation and chaos inherent in these battles. And you better keep that in mind when you watch these movies: The Last 90 Minutes of Noryang is essentially one long sea battle.