Nothing cranks up the intensity and drama of a movie to eleven like a toe-to-toe brawl. Even in real life, we’re magnetized by fights because violence is hardwired into our bodies and makes us feel alive. When you see two burly badass characters clobbering each other and painting their knuckles red on screen, you’re entranced by it. Cinema provides us with a steady diet of entertaining combat violence to soothe our primal lust for blood.
In honor of the broken bones and blood that actors and stunt teams have sacrificed to deliver the goods, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of the best movie fight scenes. We’ve stuck to human characters fighting each other, leaving out aliens and robots for perhaps another time. The fight scenes we’ve gathered here have earned their spots thanks to beautiful fight choreography, amazing stunt work, realistic depiction, creativity, or a little bit of everything. There are also plenty of movie fights on this list that have been, and continue to be, a significant influence in the action movie world. We promise you’ll be bobbing and weaving imaginary punches and shadow boxing before you get to the end of the list.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Although it isn’t the best DC film out there, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arguably the best Batman fight scene. Inspired by the combat techniques in the Batman: Arkham video game series, Ben Affleck’s Batman goes beast mode to clear a room of thugs. Throwing goons across the room, utilizing his gadgets to put thugs in a world of pain, and slamming criminals down to the ground head-first, Batman is a complete animal in this segment. The Dark Knight is unchained and it’s a comic book fan’s dream come true.
Director(s): Zack Snyder
Stunt Coordinator(s): Damon Caro and Tim Riby
Trivia: Some moves Batman uses are taken directly from the Batman: Arkham video games.
Captain America: Civil War
The build-up of Tony Stark’s character is what makes this fight scene pack an emotional punch. We know how Stark was close to his mother but disliked his father, which makes the reveal at the end of the film the perfect trigger for Stark to attack the Winter Soldier and Captain America. The melancholy look in Tony Stark’s eyes before he drops the Iron Man helmet passionately ignites the phenomenal two vs. one battle. The fight is a perfect mix of CGI and realistic hand-to-hand combat between the leaders of the Avengers.
Director(s): Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Stunt Coordinator(s): Sam Hargrave, Mickey Giacomazzi, and Spiro Razatos
Trivia: Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier) sent Robert Downey Jr. a video of himself doing bicep curls next to an Iron Man helmet decapitated from the suit.
Drunken Master II
Jackie Chan is heavily influenced by comedic silent actors like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. However, he is one hell of an athlete and performer, and this list could easily be filled with all of his movies. One of his best fight scenes is in Drunken Master II, as he plays Wong Fei-hung, a martial artist who fights better with liquid courage. It’s a hard-hitting, comedic fight scene with blazing fast moves and Chan’s endless creativity no one can duplicate. At one point, Chan even falls backward onto a bed of flaming coals and then proceeds to fight. There will never be another Jackie Chan.
Director(s): Chia-Liang Lu
Stunt Coordinator(s): Jackie Chan, Man-Ching Chan, and Bruce Law
Trivia: Jackie Chan did two takes crawling over the burning hot coals.
With a name like Maximus Decimus Meridius, you really have to deliver epic bloodshed by way of your vengeful hand. Well, Maximus lives up to his heroic name and you’re so invested in his journey to annihilate his enemies before he takes a final bow that it’s easy to savor every showdown. Although the final brawl is the most emotional of them all, this complete slaughter-spectacle is the most riveting. After Maximus cuts all of his opponents open, he throws his sword at the rich onlookers in the VIP section and growls his famous line: “Are you not entertained?!” It’s impossible not to be entertained by such savagery.
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Stunt Coordinator(s): Phil Neilson and Steve Dent
Trivia: Russell Crowe sustained various injuries during the fight scenes, including a broken foot, cracked hip bone, and popped bicep tendons.
Grosse Pointe Blank
A romantic comedy about a hitman going to his high school reunion is not the first place you’d expect to find a well-executed fight scene. John Cusack has been training with American kickboxing champion Benny “The Jet” Urquidez for quite some time, and it shows in their showdown together in this scene. The fight contains realistic hits, feints, and parries by two combatants well-versed in kickboxing. It also helps to have The English Beat’s “Mirror In The Bathroom” playing in the background. Grosse Pointe Blank is a ‘90s comedy with a surprise fight scene that holds its own against the best one-on-one brawls in cinema.
Director(s): George Armitage
Stunt Coordinator(s): Benny Urquidez and Buddy Joe Hooker
Trivia: Benny Urquidez’s kickboxing record: 63 wins (57 by knockout), two losses
Christopher Nolan’s Inception is one of the most creative sci-fi films in the last two decades and it also contains one of the most inventive fight scenes ever put on celluloid. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Arthur has to take care of a few adversaries in a zero gravity rotating hallway and the execution of the segment is nail-biting and beautiful. Visionary director Nolan didn’t use any CGI for the scene and Gordon-Levitt performed most of his stunts. We haven’t seen anything quite like the innovative fight scene before or since its release.
Director(s): Christopher Nolan
Stunt Coordinator(s): Tom Struthers, Cedric Proust, and Sy Hollands
Trivia: The crew built the hallway inside a huge centrifuge.
No matter how amazing you are at martial arts, you simply can’t take down a group of trained martial artists in real life. However, in the world of cinema, you can take down a whole academy. Martial arts megastar actor Donnie Yen plays Ip Man, who is Bruce Lee’s former Wing Chun instructor, and he handles 10 black belts with ease simultaneously. Ip Man’s rapid chain-punching and laser focus portrayed wonderfully by Yen make this scene memorable. It’s as if Ip Man entered a turbo cheat code to express his rage.
Director(s): Wilson Yip
Stunt Coordinator(s): Chi Kit Lee and Donnie Yen
Trivia: Ip Man is only struck twice during the entire run time.
The resurrection of Keanu Reeves in the form of the lethal hitman John Wick was a sight to behold in theaters. Before this scene, characters were only talking about how dangerous Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman) is, but once the kill crew invades Wick’s home, you get to see the artist paint his canvas with bullets and broken limbs. What makes this non-stop action scene so enthralling is that it not only lives up to the Baba Yaga hype, it surpasses it. Wick uses a perfect blend of judo, jiu-jitsu, and tactical gunplay to become the Grim Reaper, and you can’t help but give a standing ovation for the stunt team and Reeves.
Director(s): Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
Stunt Coordinator(s): Jonathan Eusebio, Jon Valera, and Chris O’Hara
Trivia: Keanu Reeves claims to have done 90% of his own stunts for this film.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
The frenetic gunplay of Harry Hart in the church massacre portion of Matthew Vaughn’s film is absolutely ridiculous. Hart uses books, knives, and his bare-fists, in addition to his pistol, to take out the baddies in this battle royale. Colin Firth is flawless in the role of Hart and goes berserk in the hate-filled room. The scene was actually supposed to go on for a full seven minutes, but Mark Millar (the writer of the comic) said it was a bit excessive. The controversial brawl is one of the boldest fights in any comic book movie.
Director(s): Matthew Vaughn
Stunt Coordinator(s): Brad Allen and Adam Kirley
Trivia: Harry Hart takes out 58 people in the church sequence.
Richard Donner’s buddy-cop action comedy brought Shane Black’s fun screenplay to life, ending with a no-holds-barred scrap between Mel Gibson and Gary Busey. There’s no fancy moves, just two guys on opposite sides of the law slugging it out with realistic self-defense techniques that would work in a street brawl. The fight is actually choreographed by jiu-jitsu legends Royce and Rorion Gracie, which is why it’s technically sound and gritty as hell. Gibson finishes off the fight with a triangle (although he should’ve pulled the head down to make it more realistic) to end a well-choreographed scene.
Director(s): Richard Donner
Stunt Coordinator(s): Royce Gracie, Rorion Gracie, and Cedric Adams
Trivia: Richard Donner wanted to feature fight styles never before seen in movies.
We would like to make it clear this is not an action movie, but a mind-bending drama. However, it contains a fierce action scene to help define the tragic character at its center. It’s a messy, raw brawl in a hallway with a mob going up against a freshly released prisoner wielding a hammer. This one-take corridor fight scene is incredible, inspiring the brawls in Daredevil and the incredible hallway fight scene in Repo Men. The scene accurately conveys a sense of desperation, as the lone fighter continues to absorb the pain and persevere despite the odds.
Director(s): Chan-wook Park
Stunt Coordinator(s): Chan-wook Park
Trivia: No CGI was used to edit the corridor sequence.
Yes, Jake LaMotta loses the fight against Sugar Ray Robinson in this scene, but he wins the moment with what he says after the bell rings. Cinema master Martin Scorsese directs the boxing match as if LaMotta, who was played by the iconic Robert De Niro, was Jesus paying for his sins. Robinson pummels LaMotta and even in black and white, your imagination allows you to see the dirty red blood trickling from LaMotta’s cuts. When the fight is over, LaMotta walks over to Robinson and says what might be the most badass line any movie character’s ever said after taking a horrendous beating: “You never got me down.” After the battering of a lifetime, LaMotta stills has the brass balls to taunt the champ.
Director(s): Martin Scorsese
Stunt Coordinator(s): Jimmy Nickerson
Trivia: To prepare for the role, Robert De Niro entered three real Brooklyn boxing matches and won two of them after training with the real Jake LaMotta.
Sam Raimi tapped into his horror film roots with this gritty, ferocious final fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Spider-Man gets bruised and battered by the Green Goblin in this raw brawl, which feels like it came straight from an R-rated action film. If you think the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fights are a little too flashy, this match is the remedy. There’s barely any CGI and the hard-hitting, relentless choreography holds up very well.
Director(s): Sam Raimi
Stunt Coordinator(s): Jeff Habberstad
Trivia: CGI artists had to turn the blood pouring from Spider-Man’s mouth into spit to achieve a PG-13 rating.
Just when you think all hope is lost, Neo realizes he’s more than just an unplugged human when he goes toe-to-toe with Agent Smith in this classic scene. The wire-fu fight scene at the subway station, complete with dust flying after every impact and superhuman moves, will have your inner-child cheering. And when Neo finally realizes he’s The One and stops all the bullets dispersed from three Agents, it’s sci-fi cinematic bliss. We can see why The Matrix sequels struggled to follow up this sci-fi classic.
Director(s): Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski
Stunt Coordinator(s): Glenn Boswell and Phil Meacham
Trivia: The subway fight scene went 10 days over schedule.
This uncut fight scene in which the camera follows Tony Jaa through doors and up staircases is one of the longest unedited action scenes in cinema history. Of course, it wouldn’t have been as explosive and engaging if it weren’t for the stunt team and lead actor kicking butt in style. Tony Jaa employs a more stylish, contemporary style of Muay Thai, using flying knees and throwing people off staircase rails to get to the top level like this was a video game. What’s even more impressive is there were no wires or stunt doubles used in the scene.
Director(s): Prachya Pinkaew
Stunt Coordinator(s): Panna Rittikrai and Seng Kawee
Trivia: Tony Jaa’s new style of Muay Thai is inspired by elephant movements.
The Raid: Redemption
The Raid: Redemption is a raw, nonstop action-fest with some of the best martial arts choreography in cinema ever. It takes some inspiration from the Die Hard plot, except a whole team of police officers are deployed to infiltrate a building taken over by baddies. There are so many memorable fight scenes but the most brutal of them is the finale when two S.W.A.T. team members try to take down a character named Mad Dog. You won’t want to blink during this fight scene, as you will feel every punch and kick landed, jacking your heart rate up. The choreography is a whirlwind of hard-hitting pain, and once it’s over, you’ll feel just as tired as the characters onscreen.
Director(s): Gareth Evans
Stunt Coordinator(s): Iko Uwais, Yandi Sutsina, Esa W. Sie, and Eka Rahmadia
Trivia: Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog) trained Indonesian Presidential Security Forces in Pencak Silat (the martial art used in the film).
There are fight scenes with beautiful choreography and then there’s the street brawl in They Live. It’s far from pretty but it’s definitely a slice of realism dropped into an ’80s B-movie about aliens controlling our mind via subliminal messaging. Rowdy Roddy Piper plays a drifter who gets a hold of special sunglasses allowing him to see the truth. When he tries to get his friend to wear the sunglasses to justify his ridiculous claim of aliens controlling the world, it leads to a street brawl with big blows and dirty tactics. Piper’s character could be the most tenacious sunglasses salesman of all time — if he didn’t have to save the world.
Director(s): John Carpenter
Stunt Coordinator(s): Jeff Imada,
Trivia: Roddy Piper and Keith David only faked the hits to the groin and face.
This underrated action flick by James Cameron, starring the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a well-oiled blockbuster. The highlight of the film is Schwarzenegger taking on some henchmen in a restroom, as he uses his surrounding to gain an upper hand. The main goon is a hulking villain and Schwarzenegger has to rip out a hand dryer to whack him unconscious before sticking his face in a urinal. As you’ll see, the restroom gets completely wrecked. The underrated fight scene seems to have inspired the restroom fight scene in Mission Impossible: Fallout.
Director(s): James Cameron
Stunt Coordinator(s): Joel Kramer and Jay Amor
Trivia: Cameron’s signature swinging fluorescent light fixture is found in this scene.
Method actor Tom Hardy is a master of disappearing into any role, but he shines the brightest when playing violent, tragic characters. Here, he plays Tommy Conlan, a long-time wrestler teaming up with his alcoholic father to enter an MMA competition for mysterious reasons. When he offers his services to spar with a professional MMA fighter named Mad Dog, he shows the gym members and the audience his vicious skills, knocking Mad Dog out after a slam and a flurry of knees and punches.
Director(s): Gavin O’Connor
Stunt Coordinator(s): J.J. Perry and Fernando Chien
Trivia: Tom Hardy broke a toe, finger, and his ribs during the film.
Way of the Dragon
A fight scene that has influenced so many action movies and sparked the careers of martial arts superstars around the world really needs no introduction. In one corner, you have the iconic Bruce Lee with his lightning-quick kicks and highly adaptive style, and in the other corner is the legendary U.S. Karate Champion Chuck Norris. Utilizing slow motion, POV, and wide shots, this fluid fight pulls you into the moment. And it also gets extra points because Lee kills Norris with a standing guillotine. Not to mention, the fight takes place in and around the Colosseum. Try to think of a better place for these two legends to test their skills. Go ahead, we’ll wait. No matter how many times you watch this Colosseum showdown, it never gets old.
Director(s): Bruce Lee
Stunt Coordinator(s): Bruce Lee
Trivia: Bruce Lee spent 45 hours on the fight scene with Chuck Norris.
10 Best Movie Knife Fights
So you’re all amped up after checking out cinema’s ultimate brawls and you want more? Well, you’re in luck. Check out our picks for the best movie knife fights to get your fix.
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