Top Ten: Movie Fight Scenes

Violence is a funny thing. Few of us actually enjoy participating in it, but most of us will at some point thoroughly enjoy watching it in a movie. Ah, the magical catharsis of cinema!

The movies are replete with scenes of battle. Fight scenes are the meat and potatoes of the action genre, and most thrillers will either end on one or throw a couple in somewhere. Picking only ten was always going to leave this list with a whole heap of contenders unfairly cast aside, but there’s no way I’m going to sit here and write fifty of these bastards.

So here are my favourite ten. For the sake of making the choice easier, I’ve left out battle scenes between entire armies. Perhaps another time. Please feel free to add your own top ten, if you have one, or simply chastise me for omitting your single favourite. Maybe we can settle it outside.

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10. John Smith v Jane Smith

Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)

After five (or six) years of a slowly stagnating marriage, John and Jane Smith discover that not only are they both secret super-assassins, apparently using the marriage as cover, but they are also each others’ next target. Possibly the most contrived set-up in this top ten, but who cares? The resulting gun-play, fist-fight and kitchen utensil carnage as the Smiths (the couple, not the popular 80s band) do bloody battle in their big, suburban house is great fun.

Probably Jennifer Aniston’s favourite movie scene ever, as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie convincingly beat the crap out of each other. I wonder if they’re like this in front of the kids.

And the winner is: There’s make-up sex. Everyone’s a winner with make-up sex!

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9. Channel 4 News Team v Evening News Team v Channel 2 News Team v Public News Team v Spanish Language News Team

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy ( 2004)

Legendary news anchor Ron Burgundy and his team are out on the town, on their way to cheer themselves up by shopping for suits, when they find themselves confronted by several rival teams, all looking to take each other down. In the world of syndicated news broadcasting it’s best to be armed. Clubs, chains, machetes, hand grenades and even tridents can be the divide between life and death. Just don’t touch the hair or the face.

Featuring more cameo appearances than an entire season of Saturday Night Live, the news team street fight proves that even clueless, musky-smelling morons can be heroes.

And the winner is: Burgundy and his Channel 4 News Team are gonna straight up murder your ass.

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8. King Arthur v The Black Knight

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

During his noble quest for the Holy Grail King Arthur encounters the dread Black Knight, guarding a bridge (or a small plank of wood over a pathetic stream). Refusing to allow the King past, a mighty battle ensues. Well, mighty-ish. Actually, it’s just silly.

Arthur severs the Knight’s arms, only to be told that it’s just a scratch as the undeterred Knight then resorts to kicking the King’s ankles. Even having both his legs lobbed off doesn’t dampen this warrior’s ire and Arthur eventually gives up and leaves the wriggling torso of his foe behind, crossing the plank to cries of, ‘Come back here you yellow bastard! I’ll bite your legs off!’

And the winner is: Arthur, of course, although the Black Knight is having none of it. ‘Let’s call it a draw’. Loony.

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7. Ripley v Alien Queen

Alien (1987)

A classic bitch-fight and one of those David and Goliath moments when you know you should put your money on the smallest. Having escaped and nuked the planet LV421, with all its nasty little xenomorphs, Ripley returns to her ship to find a very pissed Queen has hitched a ride and is looking for a rumble. Never one to shy away from an invitation, Ripley grabs a mechanical power loader and gets busy.

Limited by the effects of the time, much of the action is seen only at head height, but it’s still one if the coolest, and most original, brawls in cinema.

And the winner is: I’ll give you three guesses, and since there’s only two participants, if it takes you three guesses you’re a moron.

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6. Léon v Half the NYPD

Léon (1994)

Having seriously pissed off both the Mafia and a corrupt New York cop in his quest to avenge the murder of 12-year-old Mathilda’s entire family, hitman Léon and the girl find themselves besieged in a hotel room with half the city’s police force trying to find a way in. Luc Besson’s perfectly choreographed scene sees the wily Italian allow a group of officers into the room, only to shut the door behind them and take them all out, unseen.

When the door reopens, the next group of hapless cops find themselves face-to-face with the slippery assassin, as he hangs upside down in the doorway. Inspired!

And the winner is: In this particular round, Léon. But give the guy a break, there’s a lot of people out there.

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5. Neo and Trinity v A Small Army

The Matrix (1999)

Keanu Reeves may not be the greatest actor in the world, but at least he looks good running in slow motion with a machine gun. And Neo and Trinity may have stupid names, and rarely crack a smile, but when it comes to tearing up a building lobby full of security guards and a SWAT team, they don’t even have to take off their cumbersome long coats or remove their sunglasses indoors. Oh, to be so cool.

With lots of slow-motion gunfire, running up walls and picking up M16 rifles while performing cartwheels, this was one of the most refreshingly executed fight scenes for years.

And the winner is: Never underestimate people who dress only in black. Neo and Trinity don’t even get a scratch on their sunglasses.

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4. George Nada v Frank Armitage

They Live (1988)

John Carpenter’s last great movie contains a strong contender for the longest fist-fight (outside of a boxing ring) in any movie. Ever.

After discovering that the American elite are all aliens in disguise, controlling a docile population with consumerism and subliminal messages, Nada is understandably keen to share his revelation with someone. Unfortunately, the aliens can only be seen with special sunglasses and George’s co-worker Frank isn’t feeling particularly co-operative. Cue a hilarious, brutal, six-minute brawl in a back alley as George and Frank bludgeon each other to bloody pulps.

And the winner is: Let’s just say Frank ends up wearing the damn glasses.

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3. Indiana Jones v Big Nazi Guy

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

He’s already been through the mill and has a gruelling truck chase to come, but first our intrepid archaeologist has to deal with the imposing Nazi mechanic who stands between him and the Ark-carrying plane. Tired, dusty and visibly fed-up with throwing punches, Jones proceeds to get the shit kicked out of him.

Clearly not a student of Eastern combat philosophy, Jones is a brawler and has no qualms about using wrenches and a little arm-biting in an attempt to overcome the German behemoth. All to no avail. Not even a sudden flurry of professorial jaw-socking is going to slow down this Teutonic brute.

And the winner is: Indiana Jones, with no small help from a whirring propeller blade. Look out, behind yo…never mind.

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2. Yu Shu Lien v Jen Yu

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Ang Lee’s sumptuous epic features a whole bunch of fantastic fight scenes, but the greatest is the lengthy dust-up between Michelle Yeoh’s noble Yu Shu Lien and Zhang Ziyi’s angry young Jen Yu. Jen is armed with the indestructible sword, Green Destiny, and Shu Lien breaks an insane array of different weapons against the sword in an attempt to defeat the petulant child.

The breathtaking scene is so beautifully choreographed it’s more akin to a dance than a battle. And, let’s face it, there’s nothing sexier than watching two graceful women locked in passionate combat. Or is that just me? Whoops.

And the winner is: Jen does a runner eventually, so we’ll give it to Shu Lien by default. Yay!

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1. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn v Darth Maul

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)

This is what we turned up for. The single greatest lightsaber fight in the entire franchise. Having sat through two hours of trade disputes, Natalie Portman’s clown make-up, petulant little Anakin’s feeble attempts to endear himself to us, and Jar Jar Bloody Binks, die hard Star Wars fans were treated to this triple-header between Jedi and Sith.

Horny badass Darth Maul takes on two Jedi with the aid of his indescribably cool double-ended sabre. The glowy blades whirl around like the original trilogy’s fight scenes on fast forward. This was the moment when cool got a little bit cooler. Magic!

And the winner is: Having dispatched Jedi Master Qui-Gon, Darth Maul gets his ass handed to him by a mere apprentice. Fail!

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35 people thought reading “Top Ten: Movie Fight Scenes” would be a good idea. Stranger still, they left messages...

  1. rtm

    Fantastic list, Rich… hard to argue w/ your choices. I keep nodding as I go down the list, a great combo of stylish, funny and downright bad-ass ones! The only one I haven’t seen is George Nada v Frank Armitage. I’d add this scene from ’300′ of Leonidas vs. the immortals: http://youtu.be/h8bIEk58LzI It doesn’t get any more sensational than that :D

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Thanks, Ruth. I did consider 300, but decided not to give unnecessary exposure to a bunch of guys with far better bodies than me. :-P

      Reply
  2. Castor

    Wow a really great list Richard! Absolutely loved the Mr and Mrs Smith house fight. The Anchorman man is simply hilarious (“Hey Brick, where did you get that grenade?”). Also the Leon last stand was brilliant.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Cheers, Castor. Such a quotable movie that one. ‘There were horses, and a man on fire, and I killed a guy with a trident.’

      Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      I’m going to hear that one a lot, methinks. It’s a good scene, to be sure, but the truth is Tarantino gets on my nerves. Still, that’s the first time I’ve seen the scene in colour. Much better. Cheers, C.

      Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Good call, Cro. That actually is a great scene. Add another one to the ‘slipped my mind’ list and thanks for stopping by. :-)

      Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      I haven’t seent that one, but I’ll try and check it out sometimes. Thanks for the suggestion, person who calls yourself ‘hello’. :-)

      Reply
  3. Dan

    Great choice to highlight the brilliant, if totally out of place, fight scene in They Live. An underrated film from John Carpenter in my opinion. Some other great fight sequences I love include the one in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and of course Ripley’s battle with the alien queen.

    I may have included the climatic battle in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back featuring Mark Hamill.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Good to see you again, Dan.

      I haven’t seen Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, funnily enough. One of those that passed me by. But it sounds like that scene is worth a watch, for sure. As for They Live, I really do think it was the last great Carpenter movie.

      Reply
  4. joem18b

    Great list.

    1. The fight between Shaw and Connery on the train in “From Russia with Love.” It impressed me when I saw it in the theater. Ultra-violent for the time, though it seems tame now.

    2. Pick one from the “Kill Bills”. Poor Lucy Liu!

    3. Arnold vs the Predator, just because that thing was so much bigger than him, it was ludicrous. In fact, I take that back. Make it Arnold in the Terminator in the fight that ends with his eye-lights going out, finally.

    4. Any one of the million saloon fights in the old westerns. In fact, one of them is especially famous and is on YouTube but I can’t remember which one it is, except that it was epic.

    5. Does the chariot race in Ben Hur count as a fight?

    6. One of the fights in “Raging Bull.”

    7. That fight on the golf course in the Sandler movie.

    8. The Jackie Chan fight where he does funny things with furniture. Or does that include all of them?

    9. Martha and George in “Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf.”

    10. Godzilla vs Mothra.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Okay…

      1) Very nearly made the list. It still remains one of the most brutal Bond punch-ups.

      2) I get this one a lot. I just have a strong anti-Tarantino streak.

      3) Terminator’s another one that made the short-list. Never even thought about Predator. Good one!

      4) Very true. There should have been at least one Western fight in here.

      5) No, not really. That was, well… a race.

      6) The 11th choice that got knocked out (pardon the pun).

      7) I can’t stand Adam Sandler. Never stood a chance.

      8) I could have included any number of Jackie Chan fights, but I don’t know them well enough, I guess.

      9) Good call!

      10) Now you’re just being silly. :-P

      Reply
  5. Val

    Yes, yes, yes! to the fight scene in Leon (one of my fave films) though it’s not so much a fight as a massacre by one man!

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Very true, but if the other guys are firing back then it’s officially a fight. ;-)

      Thanks for commenting, Val. Good to see you again. :-)

      Reply
  6. FilmSamurai

    There were some good fight scenes in Walter Hill’s THE WARRIORS. Speaking of Walter Hill, Michael Pare vs Willem Dafoe in STREETS OF FIRE was pretty good too.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Ah, Streets of Fire, one of my dad’s favourites. I haven’t seen that in ages so I don’t really remember the scene you’re talking about. Maybe it’s time to revisit.

      Thanks for reading, FS. :-)

      Reply
  7. joem18b

    Rather than just throw out 10 random fight scenes that I liked, I’ve spent the last two or three minutes giving this thing some serious thought.

    1. The first time one guy picks up a stapler during a fight in an office and staples the other guy in the forehead, that’s iconic. Even The Wrestler picked up on it.

    2. No list of top 10 fights can be missing one between (NLOTTFCBMOB) two women. Cat fight! Caged Heat?

    3. NLOTTFCBMOB bikers. You could go with Brando getting whupped in The Wild One (“My daddy can hit harder than that.”) but for me, it’s got to have Larry Bishop in it.

    4. NLOTTFCBMOB gladiators. Woody Strode winning his match and then getting skewered trying to off the Emperor might be a good pick.

    5. NLOTTFCBMOB animals. Snake vs mongoose? Dog vs grizzly? Chimp vs leopard? What did The Lion King have? I can’t remember.

    6. NLOTTFCBMOB werewolf vs vampire. Especially if the vampire is Kate Beckinsale.

    7. The Rocky ouvre. Rocky/Creed. Rocky/Russian (“I must break you.”) Rocky/Mr. T, fool.

    8. AVP. Grudge match!

    And now, seriously, my very favorite movies with fights:

    9. JCVD Bloodsport and Kickboxer

    10 Clint’s Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Jeez, you’ve put so much time and effort, even to the point of coining a new acronym, into this comment I wonder that you haven’t created a list of your own as a post!

      NLOTTFCBM movies made before 1999, it seems. :-P

      The only decent movie JCVD made was JCVD, and the opening fight scene in one take was actually a worthy contender for this list. Should have thought of that earlier.

      The Any Which Way movies, huh? Not too shabby. All I remember about them was the tune which played every time the crap biker gang were on screen. But the inclusion of one of those scenes would have satisfied NLOTTFCBMOB 3. :-)

      Reply
  8. Marc

    Good call on Leon…man I love that movie. The Matrix is still impressive as always but I prefer the Cheateau fight to the Lobby.

    Nice call on the Queen/Ripley, wouldn’t have thought about that one. But I love you adding the never never ending fight in They Live…smooth choice my man:)

    This reminds me of something I did called Best Melee Fights…curious to see what you think of it: http://www.goseetalk.com/?p=5497

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Thanks, Marc. I don’t recall which movie the Chateau scene was in. was it the second one? I didn’t think much of the sequels.

      Heading over to see you link. Cheers for the comment. :-)

      Reply
  9. Pingback: Weekend Links Collection #3 | FilmCredits.info

    1. Richard Post author

      Thanks, Eric. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people out there love that scene. Who says elongated scenes of brutal, grunting violence can’t be fun?

      Reply
  10. Russell

    I’m glad you included the Roddy Piper/Keith David fight scene from “The Live”, in fact, I clicked on the link to this article for the express purpose of finding out if that fight scene was included. Great list :)

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      I’m glad I didn’t disappoint, Russell. That seems to be the scene that has been most appreciated with its inclusion and I’m glad to say there was never any doubt. Talk about pushing the limits. ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply

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