10 Movies Like “John Wick” Franchise: The John Wick franchise is arguably the best action cinema franchise. If you ask me, there is not much of an argument in that statement either. The first film introduced the eponymous retired hitman (Keanu Reeves). The series has evolved from a badass assassin showing the brats their place (classic revenge) to an exploration of an elaborately structured and sophisticated world of crime organizations. Wick himself has evolved from the hunter to become the hunted, with the same results.
Naysayers of the film series might have a gripe or two about this particular evolution of the story. Or at Reeves’ possibly-intended flat acting. But, even the staunchest critic of ‘John Wick’ have to submit to the aura of the ‘Baba Yaga’; and the mindbogglingly, extensively and exhaustingly choreographed action set pieces. The story is stretched in this series. But, the degree of these action pieces increases with each installment, both in numbers and quality. Director Chad Stahelski understood what Mozart meant when he said, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” Stahelski applied that to his direction of actions set-pieces in this series.
In this list, I would try to veer towards suggestions that reflect the same ideology of action pieces, with a little bit of history of this particular type of action filmmaking, which is something known as ‘Gun Fu.’ The topic deserves a separate essay. Hence, I will gloss over it in this article. Let’s start then, shall we?
I have decided not to include some usual suspects in this list. For instance, the works involving one or two from the team of Keanu Reeves, Chad Stahelski, and David Leitch. “The Matrix” (1999) series, “Atomic Blonde” (2017), “Kate” (2021), and “Nobody” (2021) are obvious choices in this regard.
Also, films that strictly follow the first John Wick narrative of badass killers taking revenge are excluded too. The likes of Liam Neeson’s “Taken” (2008) and Denzel Washington’s “Equalizer” (2014) could be the ones to go for if you are in the mood for those films. This list is more oriented toward films that could remind you of the actions of John Wick.
1. Hard Boiled (1992)
Director: John Woo
The originator of “Gun Fu” is John Woo. The Hong Kong filmmaker is a master when it comes to action films. What John Woo did to create this portmanteau genre was mix the creativity (and sometimes humor) of kung fu action sequences with the bloodshed of gun battles. He experimented with this with “A Better Tomorrow” (1986) and “The Killer” (1989) before flourishing in “Hard Boiled.” Unlike the previously set norm of crafting gun battles, Woo tries to show the action and the reaction in one single shot. As opposed to the traditional way of showing one shot with the shooter firing the gun, followed by another shot of the victim keeling over.
“Hard Boiled” had plenty of such sequences with a fine story to boot. Chow Yun-Fat’s character “Tequila” is a loose-cannon officer, and Tony Leung portrays an undercover officer masquerading as a Triad assassin. The story is neat. But, as mentioned above, it is the action set pieces that would blow your mind. Especially if you think about the context of ‘Gun-Fu,’ which was novel at that time. I would recommend John Woo’s entire body of work in general, but let’s just go with “Hard Boiled” for this list.
2. Equilibrium (2002)
Director: Kurt Wimmer
This Cyberpunk science fiction film might not have worked for many as it did for me. This Christian Bale starrer has the story to intrigue most viewers, even with the usual dystopian tropes. “Equilibrium” introduces a world that punishes human beings for having emotions or artistic sensibilities. When a law enforcement officer (played by Bale) starts to experience some emotions, he embarks on a journey—a journey to evade the totalitarian society and to understand how amoral the world is.
The reason I would recommend this film to this list is due to the fact that Wimmer’s script provides a well-intended nod towards the aforementioned “Gun Fu” genre. The officers in this world of “Equilibrium” are experienced in a type of martial arts form called “Gun Kata,” which is an homage to how “Gun Fu” was formed. Consequently, the action pieces in this film also have sequences where the guns are treated as close-combat weapons. Thus, giving us “John Wick”-esque fights.
3. Raid (2011) and Raid 2 (2014)
Director: Gareth Evans
The Raid series is a gung-ho action film series directed by Gareth Evans. The Indonesian films follow the journey of a “Special Forces” officer, Rama, played by Iko Uwais. Uwais is an experienced martial artist and a fight choreographer. And Evans unleashes him (along with all the supporting actors/fighters) with all his ‘Pencak Silat’ prowess. Like the John Wick series, especially chapters 3 and 4, the “Raid” series is a relentless exploration of combats.
Whatever the situations are in both films, Uwais’ Rama needs to fight his way out. And that produces a plethora of beautifully choreographed hand-to-hand fights.
4. The Night Comes For Us (2018)
Director: Timo Tjahjanto
Fans of the John Wick series are also not unfamiliar with gore. Whether it is with guns, pencils, books, or nunchucks, Reeves’ Wick is a master at spilling blood. Tjahjanto’s visceral “The Night Comes for Us” would satiate most fans in that regard. We have the two “Raid” veterans in this film, Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim. Along with many others.
This time, however, it is Taslim who is the ‘hero’ of this film. There is a similarity with John Wick as well, with Taslim’s character trying to mend his hitman ways after saving a young girl. Uwais, on the other hand, is sent by the organization to end Taslim and the young girl. It is a blood-splattered ride all along.
5. Dredd (2012)
Director: Pete Travis
Directed by Pete Travis and written by Alex Garland (“Ex Machina,” ”Annihilation”), this adaptation of the “Judge Dredd” comic is a potent cocktail of sci-fi and action. In this dystopic world, law enforcers are given the power of judge, jury, and executioner. These officers are collectively called judges. Dredd (Karl Urban of “The Boys”) and his fellow ‘judge’ are assigned a task to bring order in an area where a drug lord oversees the process.
Built upon this thoroughly intriguing premise, the film produces electrifying action sequences with the right amount of special effects. Even though the film is centered (and named) on Karl Urban’s Dredd, we also have two badass women characters in it (which is not always the case in male-dominated action films). Lena Headey’s drug lord character “Ma-Ma” is a fantastic antagonist, whereas Olivia Thirlby’s Judge Anderson perpetually rises to the level of Judge Dredd.
6. Underworld (2003)
Director: Len Wiseman
“Underworld” is the first of a series of films that are set in a world of vampires and werewolves. Among fans of either of these creatures’ genres, the series is not particularly revered. I would not deny the detractors have certain points about this series. However, even the harshest critic would probably on two things about this film (and perhaps the series). And they are: Kate Beckinsale is a great action hero, and the stylish fights are quite entertaining.
Beckinsale’s werewolf-hunting vampire character, Selene, is a highly skillful combatant, especially with guns. Add to that, you have plenty of vile creatures at the end of her bullets. It is pulpy and shallow. But it is enjoyable nonetheless. You might not want to stick around for the entire franchise as you should do for “John Wick,” but it is still worth a try.
7. Wanted (2008)
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Like the “John Wick” series, the story here is just a premise to accommodate some absolutely joyful action sequences. When Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a frustrated office worker, learns about a secret society of assassins, of which his father was a part of, his life changes. One of the key members of that society, Fox (Angelina Jolie), helps Gibson train in the ways of assassins so that he can fight against the killer of his father.
The assassins in this world also have superhuman abilities, so it opens up a new way of fighting. The curved bullet scenes are quite ludicrous but unique. The crazy action pieces in “Wanted” should not be a thing to miss. Chances are, if you enjoyed the John Wick franchise, you would not mind “Wanted” at all.
8. The Man from Nowhere (2010)
Director: Lee Jeong-Beom
South Korean action thriller “The Man from Nowhere” would be the clear favorite in this list if you had liked John Wick 1 more than the other parts. A retired but prolific killer going on a rampage when the closest person to him gets taken away; this is quite the way we were introduced to Wick. Tae-Sik (Won Bin) lives a quiet life. When his only friend from the neighborhood, the little girl So-Mi gets in trouble, the former covert officer of the South Korean Army dons his killing suit.
The film is also reminiscent of Luc Besson’s “Leon: The Professional.” Which could be another suggestion if you have not seen it. “The Man from Nowhere” is an action thriller that even non-action film fans would love due to its strong emotional story. The action scenes are well-shot and obviously extensively choreographed too.
9. The Villainess (2017)
Director: Jung Byung-Gil
Another Korean entry. Another film that is inspired by Luc Besson’s works. Director Byung-Gil has mentioned “La Femme Nikita” as one of the inspirations for his explosive action thriller “The Villainess.” If you particularly like the unrelenting actions of the John Wick series, especially from the third installment, then you would probably love “The Villainess.”
Like John Wick, “The Villainess” is also a spectacle of a frenzied killing spree with vengeance in mind. Byung-Gil does not hold back, and the action pieces are way too engaging in bothering about other things. Sadly Byung-Gil could not replicate the same magic in the Netflix caper “Carter.” I would have liked to recommend that, but “Carter” is just a series of unappealing fight sequences, incoherently put together.
10. Kick-Ass (2010) and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Since this is the tenth and final entry in this list, I choose two different films and club them together as one entry. The reason for that is director Matthew Vaughn. Now both “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service” have become a franchise. The thing we love about the “John Wick” series is that it is over-the-top when it comes to action scenes. And Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” are the epitome of being over-the-top.
Whether it’s young Chloe Grace Moretz swearing and popping heads with bullets or the suave British agent of Colin Firth going on a killing frenzy in church, “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service” have maddeningly fun and visceral violent fight sequences. Add to that the spy world of “Kingsman,” which would be quite the reminder of Wick’s world of “High Table” and whatnot.
I would also mention three separate works. These are not technically of the same ilk as that of the “John Wick” series. However, they possess some similarities and at least one great action scene.
Park Chan-Wook’s “OldBoy” (2003) is often regarded as one of the greatest revenge films of all time. This magnificent and shocking (not just in action) film is a must-watch for any film lover. For action aficionados, there is especially the hallway scene where Choi Min-Sik goes ballistic with a hammer. The scene is one of the best realist action set pieces.
Marvel’s “Daredevil” (2015), featuring Charlie Cox as the blind superhero, is universally acclaimed. And for good reasons. The series completes its beautiful arc in three magnificent seasons. Filled with great performances, the series is also known for its beautiful action choreography. There are multiple one-take, gripping fighting sequences.
Michael Mann’s “Collateral” (2004) has Tom Cruise playing a ruthless hitman with gray hair. Cruise’s Vincent has a different aura about him. The film is a great thriller, not necessarily an ‘action film,’ though. However, it does have a cool nightclub gunfight. John Wick fans know a thing or two about a death match surrounded by dancing revelers.