From the sublime in style and substance, to the ridiculous and over-the-top silliness that we sometimes love so very much, action movies can fit a wide range of moods. When we look across the landscape of the best action movies on Amazon Prime Video, we find action epics, cheesy thrillers, adventures that take us to other worlds, and so much more.
The “action” part of the action movie can come in a variety of ways. With commercial filmmaking, at least in western culture, playing it safer and safer, it can be easy to forget just how many different types of action films are out there.
You’re going to get to see that for yourself with this look at some of the most popular and highest-rated action movies available on Amazon Prime. Do you want something that is aggressively and gleefully bonkers? Are you in the mood for a classic? How do you feel about car chases?
Prime Video isn’t perfect, but you’ll find they have answers to all of those action film-related questions, and then some.
The Best Action Movies On Amazon Prime Video
1. The Abyss (1989)
Director: James Cameron
Who doesn’t like an action movie that may have given some of the cast and crew PTSD? I’m guessing, but it’s clear from any behind-the-scenes account of James Cameron’s 1989 science fiction action film The Abyss that everyone went through a certain kind of hell. A lot of that intensity is up there on the screen, to be sure.
When The Abyss isn’t an almost-overwhelming series of action sequences and exponential stakes, this story of scientists and Navy SEALS making a fantastic discovery during a deep-sea recovery mission also offers a strong cast. The Abyss keeps us nicely invested in these characters, as we get closer to the truth of what exactly is waiting for them at the bottom of the ocean.
Like the best James Cameron movies, The Abyss is a balance of action movie parts, including good editing and a well-written screenplay, that can’t help but be impressive.
2. Blue Thunder (1983)
Director: John Badham
An ever-weary Roy Scheider uses an experimental law enforcement helicopter to solve a conspiracy built around the experimental law-enforcement helicopter. For some, that really is all you need to know this is at least going to be a lot of fun.
However, if you need a little more than that, Blue Thunder builds engaging suspense, while also relying on Scheider to provide this somewhat-ridiculous premise with that impressive degree of gravitas that he managed to keep in even the silliest of premises.
Also, when it comes to Warren Oates, who plays Scheider’s superior, I have to recommend virtually everything that guy ever did.
Blue Thunder may not be a masterpiece, but it’s the kind of entertainment that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The movie is a little too serious for its own good, but at least it’s not pretentious.
3. The Towering Inferno (1974)
Director: John Guillermin
To this day, disaster movies are still being churned out. They might involve a tornado made out of sharks, or something else along those lines, but the core concept created by first The Poseidon Adventure and then The Towering Inferno over 40 years ago is still being mined to this day.
Of course, none of those movies have the budget, cast and crew, or sheer scale of this film, which was followed by several similar action disaster epics with similar bells and whistles. Most of those films aren’t as entertaining as The Towering Inferno. With a massive skyscraper engulfed in flames, the film moves amongst dozens of characters, several stories, and a consistent mix of human drama and physical efforts to survive and contain the roaring flames.
Keep in mind the running time of almost 3 hours, most of which is justified. Even if this movie doesn’t click for you as a serious action movie, it retains considerable value as something very much of its time and place. Either way, you’re having fun.
4. Congo (1995)
Director: Frank Marshall
If you’re expecting a slick, sophisticated adaptation of a Michael Crichton work, then you’ve come to the wrong masterpiece about killer gorillas. Congo was not a critical success upon release, but I would argue most of those bad reviews came from people who don’t know how to have fun.
Because I’m ultimately hard-pressed to imagine someone not having fun with that premise. Or with the fact that this sweaty lunatic of a movie features Ernie Hudson as the heroic lead, Bruce Campbell in a fun cameo, Laura Linney (who is surprisingly suited to an action movie), Joe Don Baker, Delroy Lindo, AND Tim Curry.
Again, while this movie is likely to have you muttering “What the hell is going on” more than once, you owe it to yourself to see a perfect marriage of cheesiness and genuinely memorable action.
5. The French Connection (1971)
Director: William Friedkin
I don’t expect you to like Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, played by Gene Hackman. While he’s our hero for The French Connection, rightfully seen by many as one of the greatest movies of all time, I don’t think he has ever been someone we were also supposed to like.
At the very least, if you’ve never seen the film before, steel yourself for a whole lot of casual bigotry. It’s unquestionably a hallmark of a character who might just be dirtier in determination and occasionally ethics (when they interfere with the perception of the task at hand) than Dirty Harry himself.
I want you to stick with this movie. It presents some of the most thrilling car chase sequences ever put to film, boasts a pitch-perfect villain (Fernando Rey), and never lets up on tension or suspense-building. The final 15 minutes are a masterwork from William Friedkin, a legendary filmmaker at the height of his powers here.
Also, The French Connection features a version of New York that will feel to younger viewers like another dimension entirely. If you ask some of the people who were there, it was.
6. Guns Akimbo (2019)
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Bless Daniel Radcliffe and his ongoing commitment to appearing in as many weird-ass movies as possible post-Harry Potter.
Guns Akimbo is among his strangest. The premise is that of a man who wakes up to discover that two pistols have been permanently attached to each of his hands, as part of a global underground fight club that promotes actual death matches between two combatants (participation is more or less compulsory). Radcliffe brings just the right amount of understandable anxiety and gallows humor to this manic, endlessly entertaining film.
The real MVP of Guns Akimbo is Samara Weaving. Between this, Ready or Not, Mayhem, and other films in the horror/weird vein, she is quickly becoming one of the most versatile actors in the world.
7. Hard Rain (1998)
Director: Mikael Salomon
Hard Rain’s a little on the convoluted side. It’s also one of the pulpiest movies made in the 90s to not rip off Pulp Fiction. Rather, the film is a curious union of noir traits, combined with a premise built around the need to find money in a town that is rapidly drowning in a massive thunderstorm.
Hard Rain is an action movie from a seemingly simpler time. These were the days when Christian Slater could still potentially headline a major motion picture. Although the fact that this movie lost a little over $50 million at the box office made it clear that those days were numbered.
But who cares 20+ years on? Hard Rain is briskly-paced, hits the right notes for a heist film, and even features a sublimely sleazy performance by Randy Quaid. What else do you really need? Morgan Freeman? Ed Asner and Betty White? Hard Rain has them, too.
8. Hellboy (2004)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Still one of the best comic book movies of all time. It also isn’t very difficult to feature Hellboy, released right at the point in which Guillermo del Toro was picking up dramatically in worldwide popularity, on this list of the best Action Movies on Prime Video. It is a beautiful, unique comic book adaptation with all the necessary action movie trimmings. On both fronts, it is pretty close to perfect, and has been so for over a decade and a half at this point.
Hellboy has its anchor in the form of Ron Perlman as the titular character. Perlman drives this movie with a spot-on take, but Del Toro packs this movie with a lot of other fun stuff. The action set pieces themselves may perhaps be a little slower than some would like, as the creativity focuses slightly more “on” performances (Selma Blair, John Hurt, and Doug Jones all stand out here), building tension, and the long list of creatures populating this universe.
You’re not really going to notice these “slower” moments, as you’ll be too busy enjoying yourself.
9. Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
Director: Jason Eisener
I sometimes like to pretend the visceral, disconcertingly-satisfying Hobo with a Shotgun is the Batman movie that we all deserve. No spectacular heroics. No breathtaking feats of human brilliance. Just a profoundly angry old man with a shotgun and almost unfathomable determination to set right his surroundings.
Rutger Hauer is the hobo in question. He finds depths to his character that only adds to the frantic energy, with violence that somehow becomes both cartoonish and painfully grounded in the reality of the worst ways to maim and kill other human beings. Rutger is an antihero with a soul, but that never stops his quest for vengeance against a local mob from reaching levels of drive-in brutality.
This is a modern grindhouse classic. It is the sum of numerous influences, yet remains original where it really counts.
10. The Italian Job (1969)
Director: Peter Collinson
Any list of Prime Video action movies that doesn’t include a couple of flawless heist movies isn’t a list I could ever take seriously. A complex plan with dozens of moving parts, forced to react on the fly to the inevitable circumstances which occur, and seek to change or destroy the ambitions of those involved in the heist.
When done correctly, as it was in the original The Italian Job, it is the action movie in its best and perhaps most memorable form.
With Michael Caine in his prime as the leader of a group of robbers planning to take down an armored car for a massive score, The Italian Job doesn’t let up for a second. The wonderful ensemble (including Noël Coward, Benny Hill, and Maggie Blye) moves at the same breathless pace as this film, as we move from establishing, to planning, to carrying out, and then to fleeing.
Not even the pretty good 2003 remake can top this film for thrills.
And have fun debating about the ending.
11. The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Director: Martin Campbell
If any other aging actors want to get in on making 15 good-to-meh action movies per year, I really hope Antonio Banderas considers it. Partially because he’s enjoyable in virtually everything he does. Partially because, as The Mask of Zorro emphasized in the late 90s, he has always been one of the most underrated action stars of the modern age.
Certainly, if they made this film today, a classic swashbuckler wrapped in the blockbuster mentality of the period, Banderas could very easily play Anthony Hopkins’ Zorro. Hopkins is here in the mentor role, handing over the reins of the infamous hero to Banderas’ drunken fool. The movie borrows from a lot of different places, but brings those pieces together in a package that still stands out from the long list of hit summer movies in the 1990s.
The film remains so much fun, with great fight choreography and plot, you won’t even care that two of the three leads (the other being Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is still very good) are not even vaguely Spanish.
12. The Package (1989)
Director: Andrew Davis
Gene Hackman’s back, and this time, he’s chasing a fugitive Tommy Lee Jones across the country, as various conspiracy theories swirl around them. Eventually, everything comes to a successful boiling point, with The Package ultimately being one of the most underrated political thrillers of its time.
Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, and John Heard round out an offbeat approach to casting. The Package also finds a surprising amount of space for humor, as Hackman and Jones seem to sincerely enjoy the opportunity to play off one another.
The Package isn’t really high drama, but it makes the most of its well-written script and Hackman’s commitment to being a far better action star than I think he sometimes got credit for.
13. Ronin (1998)
Director: John Frankenheimer
Few names have as much weight in the history of action movies as John Frankenheimer. His best works aspired to create the notion of an action film through measures other than simply sharp cuts and furious brawling. Acting, writing, and pacing all conspire in his works, including the 1998 mini-classic Ronin, to create a situation that you simply cannot look away from.
His style of action demanded that degree of attention, or else you would miss a plot point, a small detail in the characters, or something else that created a wide range of critical and commercial hits.
Ronin, a film in which a group of professionals and experts aspire to steal a mysterious briefcase, was perhaps the last truly great release by Frankenheimer. Offering a tremendous cast, featuring Robert De Niro, Sean Bean, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, and Stellan Skarsgård, Ronin is clever and decidedly pure entertainment.
14. Small Soldiers (1998)
Director: Joe Dante
Despite the movie’s anti-war statement, which comes with the novelty of being applied to a deadly conflict between war-mongering action figures (the Commando Elite) and peaceful action figures (the Gorgonites), Small Soldiers is a decidedly strong example of an action movie. The message might be clear, but the movie never stops piling on intensity, real peril, and the kind of sense of humor we expect from the director of Gremlins and The Burbs.
For example? The varied, talented voice cast, including Tommy Lee Jones and Frank Langella, consists almost entirely of actors from 1967’s The Dirty Dozen and 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap.
The special effects hold up as nicely as the story and curious balance between legitimate social commentary and off-the-wall chaos. Better than simple nostalgia, Small Soldiers is still something quite different from virtually anything else on this list.
15. Tropic Thunder (2008)
Director: Ben Stiller
Tropic Thunder is admittedly one of the most impressive action-comedy hybrids ever made. Not only does it function as an extreme parody of action films featuring guys with names like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, it is also one of those types of movies in of itself. Explosions are relentless, with a tall body count, and a surprising amount of gore.
At the same time, the film’s story of several waning Hollywood movie stars trying to get through an on-location drama about Vietnam is a madhouse comedy of the most reckless kind. Ben Stiller, who somehow is extremely believable as a washed-up action star, has often found strange ways to create comedy. A lot of satire can be found here, but there is also an element of slapstick in just how decadent the violence can get.
It isn’t for everyone. That’s also the best way to describe Robert Downey Jr. as an obnoxiously-committed method actor, who takes the historical weight of blackface to an entirely new plateau. I think it works, but it’s easy to see why some would disagree.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.