This article is part of our 2020 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, we scramble and search for the best action movies of 2020.
It’s admittedly far down the list of 2020’s offenses, but this has been an abysmal year for action movies. Several higher-profile movies that would most likely have earned a spot on this list have moved to 2021, some others were only released overseas, and plenty of smaller films just never went into production at all. It hasn’t affected all genres as evident by the abundance of terrific horror films released in 2020, but action movies took a real and tangible beating.
What does that mean for a list of the year’s twenty best action films? Well, it means several movies have landed a spot here that in a normal year would have managed only an honorable mention. It should also come as no surprise that Netflix landed more spots on the list than its originals would typically secure too. So yes, some of these are far from “great” action films, but guess what? They’re still the best US-released action flicks that 2020 had to offer. So keep reading for the best action movies of 2020!
20. The Beast (Italy)
Italy enters the list for the second year in a row here, but while 2019’s Il Primo Re is a brutal period piece this is more of a contemporary Taken-lite. Fabrizio Gifuni plays a military veteran who returned from war a wounded man resulting in a separation from his wife and children, but when his young daughter is abducted his fatherly instinct returns with a determined vengeance. Director Ludovico Di Martino delivers a small scale car chase and some mean brawls with a film that’s less interested in style, “cool” set-pieces, or memorable fight choreography. Available to stream on Netflix.
19. The Outpost
Director Rod Lurie adapts journalist Jake Tapper’s best-seller about U.S. servicemen stationed at one of the most dangerous outposts in Afghanistan, and the result is a compelling action/drama about the longest running U.S. war to date. The ensemble comes to life naturally through character beats (and less so through an incessant amount of onscreen name introductions), and Lurie finds emotion in the deaths sprinkled throughout the constant insurgent attacks. The low budget leaves viewers stuck with some ugly digital effects, but the cast (including a fantastic Caleb Landry Jones) does good work making us care all the same. Available to stream on Netflix.
18. Time to Hunt (South Korea)
Ten years after delivering the award-winning drama Bleak Night (2010), writer/director Yoon Sung-hyun finally returns with a second feature — and it’s nothing like his first. His latest kicks off in the near future as a group of young friends plan and execute a heist to lift themselves out of poverty only to end up with a merciless hitman on their tail. It’s overlong and the action is a bit too sparse for the running time, but but once it hits the run and gun action thrills. The film’s score and cinematography are even more compelling, though, making for an attractive action/drama. Available to stream on Netflix.
17. Monster Hunter
Paul W.S. Anderson is no stranger to adapting videogames to the big screen, and Monster Hunter (my full review) lands somewhere between his Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil films. It’s a big creature feature with Milla Jovovich and Tony Jaa facing off against the big beasties, and there’s fun to be had in the carnage. The film ends before the third act really even begins, and some of the action is edited in a blender, but it’s an entertaining diversion thanks to the slaughter and some terrific CG monsters. Available to rent.
16. Peninsula (South Korea)
2016’s Train to Busan remains the rare genre hybrid that excels as both a horror film and an action flick, so it was never fair to expect the sequel to manage the same. What Peninsula (my full review) lacks in terror, though, it nearly makes up for with its premise involving a heist set during a zombie apocalypse. It gets a bit too cutesy with its child protagonists, but the car chases and zombie hordes combine to deliver some fun thrills and CG-assisted stunts. It’s solid entertainment. Available to rent.