The 17 Best Action Movies of 2017

Action movies come in varied flavors with martial arts fights and brutal brawls, car chases and super-powered destruction, and 2017 has seen a treasure trove of good to great ones. The plots are a mix of characters seeking revenge, characters on the run, and characters fighting Nazis, but they all deliver the knuckle-bruising goods along the way. Some of the best action movies that I saw this year only played festivals and have yet to be released, but seeing as there are currently no dates set I’m including them on this year’s list anyway.

Keep reading for a look at the 17 best action movies of 2017.

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Wonder Woman

17. Wonder Woman (USA)

Patty Jenkins‘ blockbuster superhero origin tale is understandably heavy on the CG, but from the beach assault to later Nazi beat-downs the energy and fun are kept high throughout. The killer sequence, though, is the WWI battlefield scene known as “No Man’s Land.” Gal Gadot stands strong in the face of bullets and bombs, and audiences stand to cheer. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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Wheelman

16. Wheelman (USA)

Netflix had more than a few memorable original films this year, and while this one slipped by a lot of people it’s worth checking out for some unique action on a budget. The amazingly-coiffed Frank Grillo headlines and holds the screen while much of the car chase action and gun play is shot from inside or on the car itself. [Watch on Netflix]

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Mayhem

15. Mayhem (USA)

Few films live up to their title as well as Joe Lynch‘s latest, and as he did with Everly he infuses the film with fun and excessive amounts of action. The weapons of choice are fists, staplers, and anything office workers can get their hands on resulting in some very creative brutality. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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Baby Driver

14. Baby Driver (USA)

Edgar Wright‘s getaway driver flick with a dance beat has charm and style to spare, but it’s the rubber-peelin’ action (and a fun little foot chase) that lands it on this list. Wright and director of photography Bill Pope capture the car chases with creativity and energetic set-pieces, and the breathe new life into the expected. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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Star Wars Teh Last Jedi

13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (USA)

Episode VIII of the long-running Star Wars saga has only just hit theaters, but it’s already proven itself to be the most beloved entry yet without a critical word to be uttered against it. Ha, kidding. It’s divisive as hell, but even those who take issue with plot choices can’t argue with the action beats. Space battles, stampedes through a casino, and more keep the energy high, but it’s the epic showdown in Snoke’s chambers that mesmerizes, anchors the entire film, and won’t soon be forgotten. [Currently in theaters]

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12. Logan (USA)

Wolverine, aka Logan, has always been the most engaging of the X-Men in part because his “power” is a pure physicality. He’s older and very tired when we reunite with him in James Mangold‘s modern-ish day western, but his claws are every bit as sharp. Sharper even, as now we can finally see the bodily damage those blades cause as Logan (Hugh Jackman) slices and dices his way across America. Toss in the pint-sized Dafne Keen as an equally deadly and dangerous sidekick and you have a film that tears at flesh even as it tears at your heart. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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The Foreigner

11. The Foreigner (UK)

Jackie Chan is a legend, but while he continues to churn out new movies each year (typically two per year!) they don’t typically make the cut on these annual lists. His latest, though, is an exception. Director Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale) proves a great partner for an older, more serious Chan, and together they pair a heartfelt story with fierce action beats. Chan’s old, but he’s still a formidable foe in close-quarters combat and beyond. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon] 1/9/2018

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Confidential Assignment

10. Confidential Assignment (South Korea)

Is it formulaic? Hell yes, and anyone who’s seen the likes of Lethal Weapon, Red Heat, and Rush Hour will recognize the structured beats, but none of that stops this buddy comedy from being an absolute blast. It’s funny, but the action is where it shines in ways only South Korean cinema can with brawls and set-pieces that wow even as we wonder about their believability. Realism be damn, though, this is incredibly entertaining action. [Currently unavailable]

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Headshot

9. Headshot (Indonesia)

The Indonesian filmmakers behind more horror-oriented fare like Macabre and Killers go full-on action with their latest — while still ensuring it’s a gory and grisly affair. The carnage comes via brutal fights and bloody weapon-work including guns, blades, and in one case a bullet simply pressed all the way into someone’s eye socket. It’s gnarly, but while it’s a messy and wet romp The Raid‘s Iko Uwais is on-hand to ensure it’s also stylish and painfully acrobatic. [Buy on DVD from Amazon]

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Dunkirk

8. Dunkirk (UK)

I’m generally more partial to the small-scale action of martial arts, gun fights, and even car chases, but some war films manage to pair intensity with their larger-scale action. Like Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan before him, Christopher Nolan‘s latest crafts massive set-pieces awash with adrenaline, energy, and visceral reactions to what we’re seeing onscreen. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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Wolf Warrior

7. Wolf Warrior 2 (China)

The film opens with director/co-writer/star Wu Jing (SPL) kicking butt in an underwater martial arts brawl, and it only gets nuttier and more awesome from there. Big action with tanks, rocket launchers, and machine guns shares the screen with terrific hand-to-hand bouts including a brutal end battle with the always impressive Frank Grillo. There’s a reason it’s earned nearly one billion dollars — that’s billion with a B — at the international box-office. (That reason is in part its flag-waving Chinese propaganda, but the killer action plays an equally big role.) [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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Jailbreak

6. Jailbreak (Cambodia)

Cambodia isn’t the first — or even twenty-first — country you think of when you think of action cinema. It’s not even a quality issue as they just didn’t make action movies. Until now. And even more impressive? Their first time out of the gate is a raucous blast of energy, fun, and massive displays of skill. The single location of a jail may seem limiting, but the leads — mostly championship fighters — bring the hallways alive with their antics. [Currently unavailable]

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Atomic Blonde

5. Atomic Blonde (USA)

Any doubts about the future of action cinema should be squashed in general by this year’s fantastic output and squelched more specifically by the filmmakers behind 2014’s John Wick. The pair split direction this year with one delivering that film’s sequel (see below) and the other knocking out a Cold War action feast starring Charlize Theron in the lead role. She proves herself (once again) capable of handing out some real beat-downs with her fists, feet, and from behind the wheel of a car. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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Blade Of The Immortal

4. Blade of the Immortal (Japan)

You don’t expect someone in this day and age to direct one hundred feature films, and if they do you really don’t expect them to be any good. Well Takashi Miike (Audition, The Happiness of the Katakuris) is having none of that, and he doubled down this year by not only delivering his 100th film but also making it kick ass. It’s an epic tale of an immortal ronin, and his death-dealing fills the screen with blood, violence, and mesmerizing swordplay. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon] 2/13/2018

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Plan B

3. Plan B (Germany)

This is probably the most unlikely action film on the list as it’s from Germany, features complete unknowns, and is successful at bringing the comedy as it is at delivering the ass-kicking greatness. The main quartet here, three of whom display stunningly impressive fighting skills, are endlessly charismatic. Their charm is outweighed solely by their abilities, and while the story stays simple enough it still manages some fun twists and beats. [Currently unavailable]

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The Villainess

2. The Villainess (South Korea)

Action fans really can’t go wrong with any of the movies on this list, but the top half in particular are ridiculously fantastic examples of exciting, kinetic, and thrilling film-making. This South Korean gem from Jung Byung-gil (Confession of Murder) is a brilliant slice of action entertainment with a stellar collection of beautifully-choreographed fight scenes, chase scenes, and big stunts. What lands it confidently at #2, though, is the presence of at least one show-stopper that left me boggled as to how exactly it was accomplished. That’s the definition of movie magic. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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John Wick Dog

1. John Wick 2 (USA)

Actions have consequences, and in this case it’s the beautiful action from the first film that results in the even more electrifying antics of this follow-up. We’re once again treated to gun-fu and a crunch/crash-filled car chase, but it’s all elevated even more through some of the most gorgeous cinematography and production design you’re likely to find in the genre. You’re wowed by the action and simultaneously stunned by the visuals, and you can’t help but want to re-watch it all immediately. [Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon]

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Honorable mentions: 24 Hours to Live, American Assassin, Free Fire, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Kidnap, Master, Overdrive, The Prison