15 Best Action Thriller Movies Like Sicario

15 Best Action Thriller Movies Like Sicario

Sicario is a slow-burning thriller about the nuances of drug cartel operations and the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The movie focuses on three different perspectives from an FBI agent played by Emily Blunt, a secretive government agent played by Josh Brolin, and an even shadowier hitman played by Benicio del Toro.

RELATED: Every Denis Villeneuve Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

Updated on July 7th, 2021 by Mark Birrell: Only the best action-thriller movies can be considered to be truly similar to Sicario, with its strikingly beautiful cinematography and deeply ugly subject matter. There are, however, many fan-favorite films, from both director Denis Villeneuve and many other acclaimed filmmakers, that are capable of hitting the same spots. A number of them are also available right now for subscribers on major streaming platforms or even for free.

So, no matter if they loved the explosive action, the thought-provoking political intrigue, or the awards-pedigree acting talent, every fan can find another movie like Sicario that they’ll love.

15 Wind River (2017)

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in Wind River (2017)

● Available on Vudu, Pluto TV, and Prime Video

The screenplay for Sicario was written by Taylor Sheridan who, since the movie’s release, has quickly transitioned into being a premier thriller director himself. Wind River may swap the sand for snow but the movie’s Wyoming backdrop is just as characterful and unforgiving as the scenery of Sicario.

The story follows a murder investigation on the Wind River reservation that’s lead by an out-of-their-element FBI agent, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and a local tracker, played by Jeremy Renner. The two Avengers stars get to stretch their dramatic acting muscles quite a bit more with some emotional scenes with the brutal action leaving just as much of an impression.

14 Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

● Available on Starz

A dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty is a great choice for fans of Sicario who want more of the movie’s most realistic elements.

As Sicario explores the war on drugs, Zero Dark Thirty delves into some of the darkest facets of the war on terror and it keeps the tension high throughout, all building to the blistering final setpiece as the story comes to a head and the raid on bin Laden’s compound is reenacted.

13 Syriana (2005)

George Clooney walking away from an explosion in Syriana (2005)

● Available to rent on Apple iTunes 

Another movie that examines the global war on terror, Syriana takes a non-linear approach and follows several main characters in a variety of situations across the world. The main motivation, or drug, driving the plot forward is oil, with nothing, including assassination, being off the table in the game of conflicting interests.

Fans of Sicario‘s stellar cast will be equally impressed by Syriana‘s ensemble, featuring George Clooney on Oscar-winning form alongside fellow Oscar winners Chris Cooper, Matt Damon, and Christopher Plummer, amongst many others.

12 Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

● Available on HBO Max

Denis Villeneuve pulled off an impressive feat in itself by wowing discerning sci-fi fans with a belated sequel to the beloved cult movie Blade Runner. The Oscar-winning effects and cinematography made it an experience within itself, however.

RELATED: 15 Gorgeous Sci-Fi Movies To Watch If You Loved Blade Runner 2049

The movie was shot by Villeneuve’s frequent collaborator Roger Deakins, who also shot Sicario, and creatively frames the outlandish action of the futuristic mystery in a way that almost makes its sprawling dystopian version of Los Angeles seem as real as Sicario‘s contemporary world.

11 Man on Fire (2004)

Creasy firing his gun in Man on Fire

● Available on Tubi

Though not a critical hit like Sicario, Tony Scott’s revenge thriller Man on Fire has developed a huge fanbase since its release. Set in Mexico, the movie sees Denzel Washington take on the role of a stoic bodyguard out for blood when his ward is taken in an ambush.

Fans of Sicario‘s most cold-blooded moments are all but guaranteed to have a blast with Man on Fire with Washington delivering a commanding lead performance. Whatever the movie lacks in subtlety is more than made up for by the pulse-pounding entertainment factor.

10 No Country For Old Men (2007)

Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men

● Available to purchase on Prime Video 

No Country for Old Men is an Oscar-winning triumph and one of the best movies from the Coen brothers. Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, the story centers on a cat-and-mouse hunt as a merciless killer hunts down the man who took the leftover cash from a criminal deal gone wrong.

Just like Sicario, there’s a quiet and mysterious hitman as a central character in the movie who provides gripping moments of suspense before the bloodily violent action sequences. It’s also another movie with a powerful visual style, capturing the beauty amongst the carnage, from director of photography Roger Deakins.

9 Prisoners (2013)

Prisoners 2013 Gyllenhaal

● Available on Hulu

Prisoners centers on a distraught father, played by Hugh Jackman, who will do whatever it takes to find his daughter after she disappears and has been presumably kidnapped. Jake Gyllenhaal co-stars as the determined detective assigned to the case.

RELATED: 10 Chilling Mystery/Thriller Movies To Watch If You Loved Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners

It’s another slow burn and intense action thriller from director Denis Villeneuve that feels very similar to Sicario although it’s about one suburban kidnapping case instead of international drug-related crimes. However, the stunning look of cinematographer Roger Deakins makes the intimate story feel huge in scale and laid some of the groundwork for his collaboration with Villeneuve on Sicario.

8 The Hunted (2003)

Benicio del Toro in the woods in The Hunted (2003)

● Available on Fubo TV

The Hunted is a cat-and-mouse thriller that stars Tommy Lee Jones as a tracker who helps the FBI hunt a rogue hitman played by Sicario‘s Benicio del Toro.

It’s an intense and suspenseful action-adventure that sees del Toro in familiar territory as he once again steps into the role of a skilled killer, even if the plot of the movie is a little Rambo than Sicario. It’s also full of government conspiracy, so fans of the dark secrecy in Villeneuve’s thriller won’t be starved for intrigue in the story.

7 Hell Or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water - Chris Pine and Ben Foster

● Available on Fubo TV

Hell or High Water is a modern western that focuses on two brothers at different points in their lives. Chris Pine portrays a man attempting to get his life back on track and take care of his son, but his brother, played by Ben Foster, pulls him into planning a series of heists so the two can raise money to save their family’s oil rich land from being seized by the bank.

Although the movie has a fair amount of action, it’s more about the acting, interpersonal relationships, and build-up to the action and that’s what really makes it similar to Sicario. The film’s unidyllic look at its desertous backdrop is also reminiscent of Sicario‘s harsh visual style and the sharp dialogue throughout comes courtesy of Sicario‘s screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan.

6 Savages (2012)

Two men in masks in Savages (2012)

● Available on Netflix

The story in Savages follows two characters in the California drug scene who have cornered the marijuana market in their area. They’re a success and both have a relationship with a woman called O but everything goes wrong when a Mexican cartel moves to town and their leader demands a cut.

Although the movie focuses on romance as well, which is not a main focal point in Sicario, it’s a movie that looks into the nuances of the world of drug distribution and Benicio del Toro also appears in this movie as an enforcer within the cartel.

5 Snitch‎ (2013)

Dwayne Johnson in Snitch

● Available on AMC+

Snitch revolves around a man, played by Dwayne Johnson, trying to save his son from a long prison sentence after they’re is caught with illegal drugs. The desperate protagonist attempts to go undercover to bring down a more substantial drug dealer involved in the criminal underworld in order to lessen his son’s sentence.

RELATED: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s 10 Best Movies (So Far), According To IMDb

The movie is another look at the Mexican and American drug trade and certainly isn’t short on action scenes, given that Dwayne johnson plays the role of the father, while also having several slower scenes for character development. The movie also stars Jon Bernthal, who Sicario fans will recognize as the duplicitous police officer Ted.

4 The Town (2010)

Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner in The Town (2010)

● Available on HBO Max

The Town is a Boston-set crime epic that centers around a group of professional thieves who mostly target banks but their leader, played by director Ben Affleck, starts to have second thoughts about his life of crime when he falls for a woman that they had held hostage in a heist.

Jeremy Renner co-stars in the movie as Affleck’s best friend and fellow robber who continues to push him to stay in the gang, tearing his loyalties in two. Although it doesn’t focus on drugs, there’s nail-biting action throughout the movie that any fan of Sicario would enjoy.

3 Drive (2011)

Ryan Gosling in Drive

● Available for purchase on Prime Video 

Drive is an intense slow-burn movie about an enigmatic protagonist and his career as a stunt driver by day and getaway driver by night. The iconic lead role makes for one of Ryan Gosling’s best movie characters and it has proven to be a defining performance for his career in front of the camera so far.

RELATED: 10 Stylish Crime Movies To Watch If You Love Drive

There’s gorgeous cinematography and creative action sequences like Sicario, plus a quiet and mysterious main character at the center of the plot similar to Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro Gillick in Sicario.

2 A Quiet Place (2018)

● Available on Fubo TV

A Quiet Place is a generally slow-paced psychological horror movie with a great balance of intense action and slower moments for character development. Although this movie doesn’t focus on drugs or law enforcement like Sicario and instead focuses on alien monsters hunting humans, the pacing of the movies is similar.

The film also stars Emily Blunt alongside her real-life partner John Krasinski as two parents just trying to protect their kids. Any fan of Sicario looking for more of a horror-based movie that has similar character-building scenes and action will enjoy A Quiet Place.

1 Sicario: Day Of The Soldado (2018)

● Available to rent on Prime Video 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado attempts to have the same tone as its predecessor and received high marks from fans even if wasn’t as well-reviewed as the original. Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro return as Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick respectively, but Emily Blunt is missing from the main cast and Denis Villeneuve didn’t return either.

The plot focuses on smuggling people across the border from Mexico into the U.S. and the CIA becomes involved after they learn terrorists are being brought into the U.S. via this smuggling system. It’s not quite the more linear experience of the original, but the searing action is much the same in the sequel.

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