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The Best Action Movies of 2022

It was a fantastic year for action cinema and action fans.

By Rob Hunter · Published on January 2nd, 2023

This article is part of our 2022 RewindFollow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, we explore the best action movies of 2022.


The pandemic pressed pause on numerous facets of our daily lives, but 2022 is the year the movies came roaring back to life. The genre at the forefront of that rebirth is, perhaps unsurprisingly, action cinema. The genre is most loudly represented by big franchises from the MCU to Jurassic World, but it’s best represented elsewhere — with a couple of exceptions — in the form of non-English movies, smaller fight films, a handful of streamer originals, and more.

It’s fair to ask what exactly constitutes the best “action film,” so here’s the subjective and (probably) obvious answer. The best action movies prioritize action above all else — they can share the stage with comedy, drama, or thematic stylings, but capturing, presenting, and executing terrific action beats should be the primary goal. It’s not an issue of quantity, it’s an issue of quality. It’s why films like Hydra (2020) and Baby Assassins (2021) both made the cut last year despite the minimal amount of fight scenes contained within their short running times. Some of this year’s films are loaded with action beats, while others are a bit more surgical, but all of them deliver greatness filled with anticipation, adrenaline, and impact.

This year’s best cover the gamut of what the genre offers, from martial arts to car chases, from scrappy indies to giant blockbusters, and from newcomers to veteran stars, but the common thread between them is that they’re all unforgettable action movies. They include nine films from outside of the U.S.! Five sequels! Four movies from South Korea! Three Netflix originals! Two films about the yakuza! Two movies starring Scott Adkins! And one Indian masterpiece!

Keep reading for a look at the 15 best action movies of 2022!


15. Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun Maverick

Paramount Pictures

Say what you will about his personal life, but Tom Cruise really is the James Cameron of movie stars in that you should never bet against him. A sequel to Tony Scott’s uber-patriotic hit from 1986? Seemed risky in theory, but the combination of Cruise’s star power and meticulous effort with director Joseph Kosinski‘s detail-oriented filmmaking has gifted moviegoers with one of the best legacy sequels yet. The film is somehow both the best superhero movie and the best Star Wars film of the past decade while still being a simple story about a man and the metal beasts he loves. Minimal CG and plenty of real-life flight action make for a thrilling return to the danger zone as the film puts audiences in the cockpit and makes them feel the excitement in their bones.

Available on UHD, Blu-ray, and VOD.


14. Special Delivery (South Korea)

Park So-dam in Special Delivery

Clover Films

Park So-dam was one of the breakout stars from Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019), and while she’s continued showcasing both her dramatic and comedic chops since, she also headlines one of this year’s more entertaining action pictures. She plays a skilled driver — the kind who would make Jason Statham proud — who gets caught up in a violent scheme that leaves her trying to protect a young boy. So yes, this is the remake of John Cassavetes’ Gloria (1980) that you’ve been waiting for. There’s probably a bit too much CG with some of the car action, but practical stunts and some fun fight action take priority resulting in a highly satisfying ride. [My review]

Not currently available.


13. The Woman King

The Woman King Viola Davis

TriStar Pictures

It’s never a bad thing when a new Gina Prince-Bythewood film drops, and while 2014’s Beyond the Lights remains her underappreciated gem, I am thrilled to see her move into bigger arenas. Yeah yeah, The Old Guard (2020) is perfectly fine, but it’s her newest action film that hits the higher notes. The film is based somewhat on history, and while an unnecessary romantic subplot muddies the waters, the action and character beats hit their mark. Female warriors showcase weapon skills up close and from afar, grapple to the death, and deliver with an endlessly powerful presence in their fight against baddies, both foreign and domestic.

Available on UHD, Blu-ray, and VOD.


12. Bad City (Japan)

Bad City

Well Go USA

The first of two yakuza-focused films to make the list, Kensuke Sonomura‘s gangster romp is a blistering tale of violence unleashed. An ex-cop (sixty-year-old fire brand Hitoshi Ozawa) is released from prison to help take down mobsters, henchmen, corrupt politicians, and a wickedly dangerous Tak Sakaguchi. The plotting is dense with characters and motivations, but when things boil over, the action spills out across the screen. The fights are less about stylized choreography and more about punching, kicking, stabbing, brutal beatdowns, and all of it rules. Masanori Mimoto, star of Sonomura’s excellent Hydra, co-stars and gets his hands equally dirty. [My review]

Not currently available.


11. Prey

Prey

It’s hard to make a bad Predator movie (although lord knows Shane Black and 20th Century Fox tried their best back in 2018), but Dan Trachtenberg and friends went the extra mile with their take just to make sure that didn’t happen again. The first step is a setting that sees the big-mouthed alien landing on Earth in the 18th century meaning its prey won’t have big guns at their disposal. Second step? Finding a stellar lead in Amber Midthunder as a young Comanche woman tired of being underestimated by her elders and male counterparts. Strategy, ingenuity, and luck play a big part here in fueling some thrilling action set-pieces against an atypical landscape. [My review]

Available on Hulu.


10. The Killer (South Korea)

The Killer

The title choice may be poor — not only do you never want to compete with John Woo, but the chosen subtitle is A Girl Who Deserves to Die — but Choi Jae-hoon‘s hitman thriller is an exciting and entertaining ride. A retired assassin is tasked with babysitting an unruly teen, and soon his particular set of skills is called into action when she’s abducted. It’s mean fun set across varied locales, and Choi captures the sharp choreography with wide-shot admiration that gives the action room to breathe. Lead Jang Hyuk has the chops and the skills, and the beatdowns that follow are stylish and satisfying.

Not currently available.


9. Day Shift

Day Shift Explained

Netflix

This won’t surprise anyone who’s visited, but it seems Los Angeles is overflowing with vampires. Good thing there are vampire hunters culling their numbers in this breezy action/comedy pitting Jamie Foxx‘s vampire hunter against a growing pest problem in the big city. The result is a blast with comedy that works often enough and action that never disappoints. Not enough Scott Adkins or Natasha Liu Bordizzo and too much Dave Franco, but bloody kills, a terrific car chase, and some wildly acrobatic vamp action make for a great time from director J.J. Perry. Credit also to the film’s world-building that leaves it feeling akin to John Wick (2014) — here’s hoping this one gets the same franchise treatment. [My review]

Available on Netflix.


8. Hell Dogs (Japan)

Hell Dogs

Two Netflix originals made the cut? In this economy?! I didn’t expect it either, but the streamer dropped this banger mid-December, and it immediately demanded a spot on this list. Like Bad City above, it’s a meaty tale of yakuza allegiances, betrayals, and carnage with action that hits fast and hard. Writer/director Masato Harada crafts a rich, character-filled story fueled equally by revenge, honor, and the complicated nature of male relationships. Junichi Okada — star of 2019’s excellent The Fable and its equally great 2021 sequel — is at the center of it all, and when the film’s sporadic action beats arrive, he’s typically the driving force (and fist, foot, blade, gun, etc) behind it.

Available on Netflix.


7. Ambulance

Ambulance

While most of the films on this list feature fisticuffs, brawling, and martial arts antics, Michael Bay‘s latest is more about vehicular action. The result? It absolutely rules, and it’s easily Bay’s most purely entertaining movie since 1996’s The Rock. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play brothers whose attempt at a robbery goes terribly, excitingly awry, leading to a chase through Los Angeles. Bay’s talents bring an electric eye to the chase through the streets and highways of the city, peppered with thrilling stunts and dialogue that finds laughs and a little heart. Bay’s use of drone cameras arguably revolutionizes how immersive they can be in the service of action — cars flip through the air as we glide beneath them, and it’s exhilarating. [My review]

Available on UHD, Blu-ray, and VOD.


6. Lost Bullet 2 (France)

Lost Bullet 2

From one vehicular action gem to the next… this French sequel edges out Michael Bay’s film, though, for a few reasons. One, it’s a faster-moving tale — both literally in that it’s forty minutes shorter, and also because there’s not an ounce of fat to be found here. The film picks up shortly after its predecessor and kicks immediately into gear with mechanic extraordinaire Lino riding hard for vengeance. Adrenalized car stunts and chases are interrupted only for some equally fantastic fight action. Watch both Lost Bullet films back to back, and you’re in for a treat with wit and thrills to spare.

Available on Netflix.


5. Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday (UK)

action in Accident Man Hitmans Holiday

There are a few action stars in decades past who you’d call reliable 100% of the time, even if the film itself left much to be desired, but today’s equivalents are fewer in number. One that does make the cut, though, is Scott Adkins. Even in lesser films, he typically brings the high-kicking goodness, but when he’s heading up a good film? Watch out. This sequel to his fun original ramps up both the action and laughs as Adkins is tasked with protecting a real tool from multiple top assassins. The budget is tight, but the fight scenes are phenomenal and terrifically varied in styles and locales, meaning you’re smiling as much from the humor as from the high of killer action beats. [My review]

Available on VOD.


4. The Roundup (South Korea)

The Roundup

The fourth of five sequels to make this year’s list, this South Korean entry sees the return of the “beast cop” from 2017’s The Outlaws for an even more entertaining outing. Ma Dong-Seok plays a Korean cop tasked with returning a prisoner from Vietnam, but all hell breaks loose when he tries to make the pickup. Ma (aka Don Lee) is a burly, charismatic talent, and in action mode, he’s a powerhouse who simply pummels enemies into non-existence. He’s wild fun, and along with laughs and a wickedly evil lead villain, he helps turn the film into a pitch-perfect piece of action entertainment. [My review]

Available on Blu-ray and VOD.


3. Avatar: The Way of Water

Avatar The Way Of Water

My taste in action leans heavily away from CG creations, as evidenced by the general lack of Marvel films and other big franchise entries on this list over the years. James Cameron‘s long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time is a rare exception. For one thing, Cameron’s characters are motion-captured actors/performers, both above and beneath the waves, which gives them a tangible film absent from purely CG characters flying through the sky. But also? Cameron is an absolute master when it comes to crafting action scenes and set pieces. This film’s third act is an hour of just such brilliance stringing one beat to the next, and all of it thrills and mesmerizes. [My review]

Available in theaters.


2. Project Wolf Hunting (South Korea)

seo in guk in project wolf hunting

Some films punctuate drama and character beats with action, but Kim Hong-sun had another thought — what if he punctuated his action set pieces with more action beats? And what if all of it was bloody as hell, violent as all get out, and increasingly wild? This South Korean gem does for action what The Sadness does for horror in that it turns the dial to eleven and never looks back. A ship filled with prisoners, a monstrous creation below decks just waiting to stomp heads, and a non-stop barrage of cruel carnage is really all you need to expect heading into this eye-popping good time. It may be too relentless for some viewers, but that is absolutely not a criticism. [My review]

Coming to Blu-ray and VOD in early 2023.


1. RRR (India)

RRR K.K. Senthil Kumar

Was there ever any doubt? I’ve been singing the praises of S.S. Rajamouli‘s absolute masterpiece since March (and will continue doing so until I stop breathing) as it fulfills every need you might have from cinema. It shines especially bright on the action front through a combination of elaborate set pieces, glorious execution, and an abundant amount of creativity. From a fight between Ram Charan Teja and hundreds of extras to N.T. Rama Rao Jr. throwing a motorcycle to the two men dancing in arguably the most unforgettable scene of 2022. RRR is three hours of pure, unfiltered joy. This is just a magical time at the movies on first watch and rewatch (and rewatch again). [My review]

Available on Netflix.


Honorable mentions: Alienoid, The Batman, Beast, The Big 4, Blade of the 47 Ronin, Bullet Train, The Gray Man, Medieval, The Princess, The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One


Follow along with more of our 2022 Rewind!

Related Topics: 2022 Rewind, Action

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he’s so damn young. He’s our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists ‘Broadcast News’ as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.

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