Upcoming Action Movies To Keep On Your Radar

Superhero movies haven't killed action films the way video did the radio star dirty, but they have boxed them out as the genre entertainment of choice for audiences seeking high-octane thrills and spectacle. And even most of the action franchises that have continued to thrive over the last decade, like "Fast & Furious," have evolved in such a way that they're practically superhero films in their own right now. Heck, there was a whole running joke in "F9: The Fast Saga" about how invulnerable the series' heroes have become.

There have, naturally, been exceptions to the rule at the box office in recent years, and that will continue to be the case for 2022 and what little remains on the calendar for 2021. So, let's look ahead to the action movies that seem worth keeping on your radar.

Note: This list will not include any Marvel Studios or DC Comics films. Not because there aren't any promising-looking ones on the horizon (far from it) or none of them qualify as action movies, but, frankly, it's not as though they're hurting for attention at the moment.

The Matrix Resurrections

Neo and Trinity are back from the dead, Morpheus is younger than he was in the original "Matrix," someone made Neil Patrick Harris a licensed therapist — what upside-down simulated reality is this? 

Yes, "The Matrix Resurrections" looks as wild as everything else the Wachowskis have made in the 22 years since they first showed audiences how deep the rabbit hole truly goes. And while Lana Wachowski is directing without her sister for the first time here, that doesn't make me any less intrigued to find out what she's got up her sleeves this time, be it in terms of philosophical ideas, phantasmagorical imagery, or merely answering the question: Does "The Matrix" franchise have anything meaningful to say about the world we live in today? Hopefully, the answer is an emphatic "Yes."

"The Matrix Resurrections" opens in theaters and streams on HBO Max on December 22, 2021, making it the final Warner Bros. movie to release that way this year.

The 355

The last time Jessica Chastain and writer-director Simon Kinberg joined forces, the results were Not Great, Bob. Hopefully, things will go better with "The 355," an original spy movie that Chastain got the ball rolling on out of a want to create a women-led action flick in the vein of "Bourne" and "Mission: Impossible."

Chastian stars in "The 355" opposite Oscar-winners Lupita Nyong'o and Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, and Fan Bingbing, all of whom are playing secret agents from different countries who team up to retrieve a secret weapon from a sinister mercenary. (For those unfamiliar: "Agent 355" was the code name for a female spy who worked against the British during the American Revolution, which is where the movie gets its title.) It's a pretty basic premise for a globe-trotting tale of espionage and derring-do, but so long as the execution is up to scratch, that shouldn't be a deal-breaker.

"The 355" arrives in theaters on January 7, 2022.

Bullet Train

Five assassins on a bullet train discover their individual missions are all connected. That's the refreshingly simple concept for "Bullet Train," a film based on Kōtarō Isaka's novel (also known as "Maria Beetle") and starring the likes of Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, and "Warrior" actor-martial artist Andrew Koji. I say "refreshingly" because I feel like "Bullet Train" director David Leitch (who, true facts, used to be Pitt's stunt double) really shines as an action filmmaker when he's playing in a relatively constrained sandbox ("John Wick," "Atomic Blonde"), as opposed to crafting movies driven by big set pieces ("Deadpool 2," "Hobbs & Shaw"). And hey, after the exhilarating bus brawl in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," I'm all for more films with people beating the snot out of each other on rapidly moving vehicles.

"Bullet Train" debuts in theaters on April 8, 2022.

John Wick: Chapter 4

Speaking of Baba Yaga: Keanu Reeves is coming back for "John Wick: Chapter 4," with Chad Stahelski once again solo directing as he did on the previous "John Wick" sequels. (To clear up any confusion: Leitch was Stahelski's uncredited co-director on the first "John Wick.") Like Leitch, Stahelski is someone I would like to see scale things down a bit this time around. "John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum" boasted all the exquisitely choreographed martial arts-y brawls audiences now expect from this franchise, yet it seemed to lose track of John's arc a little among all the world-building and opulently staged violence. Fortunately, the ending to "Chapter 3" suggested "Chapter 4" will be all about John being done with the High Table's rules and seeking to reclaim his agency by taking the fight to them directly. Good luck with that, High Table-ites!

"John Wick: Chapter 4" charges into theaters on May 27, 2022.


Okay, so this list does include a superhero movie, just not one of the Marvel or DC variety. "Samaritan" adapts the Mythos Comics graphic novels co-created by the film's writer, "Escape Room" scribe Bragi F. Schut, and stars Sylvester Stallone as a famous superhero who's been living in retirement since a major battle twenty years earlier. It's an intriguing premise for a comic book-based action movie, least of all one from director Julius Avery: the helmer behind 2018's largely satisfying WWII Nazi monster horror thriller "Overlord." Sly's legacy as an action icon adds an extra meta layer of meaning to the story (something Avery is well aware of) and could be the ingredient that pushes "Samaritan" over the edge from "just another superhero flick" into being a more memorable and meaningful addition to the genre.

"Samaritan" has seen its release date change a few times due to Covid but is now set to bow in theaters on August 26, 2022.

Mission: Impossible 7

Tom Cruise's self-performed stunts have gotten as ludicrous as his off-screen antics, but gosh dang, it's fun to watch him cheat death in the "Mission: Impossible" movies. That should stay the case with "Mission: Impossible 7," a film that has already given the world the amusing image of Cruise's IMF agent Ethan Hunt hanging on a speeding steam train, as well as terrifying behind-the-scenes footage of the actor riding a motorbike off a ramp on the side of a cliff before parachuting down. (A completely normal thing to spend one's day doing.) And although Cruise isn't chilling on the movie's set with scary Covid robots (a rumor that's strangely believable), "Mission: Impossible 7" sees him once again working with Christopher McQuarrie, a filmmaker whose craft has only grown sharper and more refined each time he sits in the director's chair.

"Mission: Impossible 7" is making steady progress after several Covid-related delays and is now set to hit theaters on September 30, 2022.