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Updated for February 2019.
As a Time Warner company, HBO gets access to a lot of recent mainstream movies. In recent years that has meant access to some truly great action films. Those looking for the best action movies that the streaming world can offer can likely find them on HBO Now and HBO Go.
Here are the best action movies available to stream on HBO Now and HBO Go
The Bourne Identity
2002’s The Bourne Identity marks the beginning of one of the better American action trilogies ever (yes, it’s no longer a trilogy but also: shhhhhhh). It’s also represents the heights of Matt Damon: movie star.
Damon stars as the titular Jason Bourne. Bourne is a man suffering from dissociative amnesia. Some Italian fishermen fish him out of the Mediterranean and the only clue he has to his identity is the number for a safe deposit bank at a bank in Zurich. So Bourne heads off to Europe and soon discovers there might be a compelling reason he has no memories
The Bourne Identity is based on a book by Robert Ludlum and helped establish the character of Jason Bourne as an iconic American action star.
The Bourne Supremacy
It’s ya boy again!
After making some important discoveries in The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) returns in The Bourne Supremacywith something else in mind: revenge. Bourne now knows that he is a creation of the CIA through the shaodwy Operation Treadstone, so he once again travels the world looking to take them down…even making a little trip to New York in the process.
Paul Greengass takes over directing duties on this second film in the series and for better or worse establishes his very kinetic style as the default for many action series of the era.
The original Deadpool was a fun, unexpected treat so of course there would be a sequel. Thankfully Deadpool 2 is also a fun, albeit more expected treat.
Ryan Reynolds returns as the fourth wall breaking merc with a mouth. After experiencing a personal tragedy, Wade Wilson a.k.a. Deadpool struggles to find meaning in his life, which takes him through a brief stint with the X-Men and a mutant jail. He eventually finds it, however, in what every great hero is truly looking for: a great bad guy. Josh Brolin does Marvel double duty, starring as Cable right around the same time he embodies Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
Deadpool 2 is the odd duck among superhero movies, featuring a relatively low budget and small cast. That just makes the charm of Ryan Reynolds and Wade Wilson all the more apparent.
On its surface, Inception is a purely science fiction blockbuster. Its plot is famously complicated, involving multi-layered dreams and various “kicks” to get out of them.
At it’s core, however, Inception is a James Bond-style action movie, one directed by Christopher Nolan, no less. That’s what all the sci-fi trappings are there for: to make a better taut, exciting action thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a professional thief who extracts memories from people’s minds. Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) approaches Dom with a unique proposition: incept (create memories) inside the mind of his business rival, Robert Fischer.
Cobb takes the job and viewers are entreated to an action thriller within the architecture of the human mind.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
2003’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the third installment in Robert Rodriguez’s unofficial “Mexico” trilogy after El Mariachi and Desperado.
Antonio Banderas returns enigmatic Mariachi musician known as…well, El Mariachi. After his crime-fighting and survivalist adventures in previous films, the CIA recruits him to assassinate a corrupt Mexican Army officer. That’s a simple enough plot and goal but things spiral quickly out of control.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico has plenty in common with other violence – friendly indie action movies but it also has something that none of those other movies do: Johnny Depp in a truly weird, truly captivating performance.
Ready Player One
Ready Player One is set in the year 2045 when the planet is in bad shape and impoverished citizens seek escape in the massive alternate reality game known as “OASIS.” The creator of OASIS dies and in a posthumous message announces that he has hidden an Easter egg in the game that will grant ownership of OASIS to the finder. Countless gamers join the hunt, including Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan). Wade (gamer tag: Parzival) may be the key to finding it.
Ready Player One was a natural candidate for Spielberg to direct since it pays homage to many of his early works and other pieces of classic ’70s and ’80s pop culture. Even with that in mind, however, Spielberg does a solid job of depicting a digital universe.
1998’s Ronin is the final film from Manchurian Candidate director John Frankenheimer and it’s a fitting send off.
Robert De Niro and Jean Reno star as Sam and Vincent American and French mercenaries who are hired to steal a mysterious, Pulp Fiction-esque briefcase. In the pursuit, Sam, Vincent, and other members of their team contend with shifting loyalties, brutal interrogations, and revenge plots.
Ronin is loosely based on the Japanese legend of forty-seven ronin and finds a way to tell a timeless story of vengeance in a modern action movie setting.
Say it with me now: “I have a very particular set of skills.”
Taken proves that all simpler is often better when it comes to action. All Taken needs for success is Liam Neeson and a compelling reason to crack some skulls. Neeson stars as retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (though let’s be real here…the guy is just Liam Neeson and we will continue to refer to him as such). Neeson is happy to live a peaceful, serene life until Albanian sex traffickers make the incredibly awful decision to kidnap Neeson’s daughter (played by Maggie Grace).
Neeson kills them. And kills them and kills them and kills them and kills them. Taken rules.
The Underworld franchise ended up getting pretty bloated and unnecessary, with star Kate Beckinsale having to come out and clarify that she was done with the many sequels lest they keep trying to cast her in them.
This first go-around is actually very fun though! Underworld follows the centuries old conflict between werewolves (called lycans) and vampires. Selene (Beckinsale) is a vampire known as a Death Dealer, which basically means lycan hunter. Selene is charged with rescuing a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) from the lycans’ clutches. Little does she know that Michael may contain the key to ending this war once and for all.
Underworld is pure atmosphere – fun, creepy, and bloody.
Wonder Woman stars the perfect Gal Gadot as the eponymous Diana/Wonder Woman. Diana is an Amazonian raised on the remote island of Themyscira. Diana spends her days on Themyscria happily training away and hanging out with her Amazonian friends in complete seclusion. Then one day the outside world leaks in. American pilot Steve Trevor’s plane crashes on the island in the midst of World War I and Diana is drawn into a larger world that she believes she can save.
Wonder Woman works because Wonder Woman works. As lovingly created and depicted by Gadot and director Patty Jenkins, Diana is a wonderfully fleshed out comic book movie creation and leads a fun, action-heavy movie.
One has to wonder if 20th Century Fox back in 2003 knew how big a deal search engines would eventually become in mass media they would have still named their X-Men sequel the surprisingly minimalist X2.
Regardless of its weird name, X2 (sometimes subtitled as X-Men United) is easily the best of the pre-Logan X-Men films and still remains among the best comic book movies ever. Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) has plans to find an kill every mutant on Earth using Professor X’s Cerebro technology. The X-Men, led by Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is forced to team up with the Brotherhood of Mutants, led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) to stop Stryker.
X2 is filled with amazing action setpieces (woah Jean!) but truly excels in its quiet moments when it explores what it’s like to be different…like really different.
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