While guns are quick and straight to the point, knives bring more intimacy to a fight. For the entire duration of a cinematic knife fight, you’re anticipating who’s going to feel the deep cut of that sharp steel first, and when it happens, you can almost feel the severing of the arteries on your own body. That is what makes movie knife fights exciting. Give two guys a blade each, or even give one guy a knife, and the fight becomes a tight-rope walk the whole way through.
There a slew of flicks that display some cool cutlery combat, making it quite a task to round up the cream of the crop. In chopping down our list to the best ten knife fights in cinema, we considered the techniques being used, the stakes at hand, visual flair and, last but definitely not least, the entertainment value. These are the knife fights that get your heart drumming while you lean closer to the screen with your eyes wide open, in fear that you might miss the killing stroke. Not only did we round up the best of the best, but we also honed in on the sharp steel being used, so you have the opportunity to add some silver-screen knives to your collection.
Kill Bill Vol. 1
Quentin Tarantino is no stranger to onscreen violence and his two-part revenge flick has a hearty helping of it. Right at the beginning of Vol.1, we are welcomed with a bloody knife fight between two highly lethal assassins: The Bride aka Beatrix Kiddo and Vernita Green. They slash it out right in a brightly colored, tranquil suburban living room and at one point they’re even interrupted by Vernita’s young daughter coming home from school. The juxtaposition of ultra-violent assassins and everyday suburbia really allows you to get intimate with the edge of your seat. Vernita’s wielding a kitchen knife and The Bride’s armed with a SOG Desert Dagger knife. Unfortunately, they don’t make the Desert Dagger anymore, but you can find one on eBay if you’re lucky or you can have a replica prop made by The Specialists Ltd.
Stunt Specialist: Scott Rhodes
Knife: SOG Desert Dagger
In Viggo Mortensen’s Academy Award-nominated role, he plays Nikolai, an enforcer for a violent Russian mob family. He is found at his most vulnerable in a sauna, completely naked, when two mobsters viciously attack him with linoleum flooring knives. In a brutal four-minute fight sequence, you fear for this man’s life and also the possibility of him being castrated. Director David Cronenberg, known as one of the originators of the body horror genre, is no stranger to bloody sets and he makes this scene realistically gory. The fighting technique is pretty decent, as Nikolai tries to keep his distance and uses his forearms to block the slashes and protect his vital organs. A linoleum flooring knife is cheap and disposable, perfect for the mobsters in the film looking for a quiet kill. You can find a flooring knife pretty much anywhere, and it’s an affordable way to remind you of this amazing scene.
Stunt Specialists: Paul Herbert and Julian Spencer
Knife: Irwin Tools Linoleum knife
The Magnificent Seven
They say that you should never bring a knife to a gunfight; however, one of the exceptions to that rule is Britt. Branded as the fastest knife in town, Britt, played wonderfully by the always cool James Coburn, uses what looks like a stiletto knife in a standoff against a gunslinging chump. With Steve McQueen’s Vin Tanner watching in awe, Britt handles business and walks off in a nonchalant manner, as if he’s done this a thousand times. We couldn’t find the exact blade, but it’s more than likely an Italian stiletto switchblade. The Frank B Italian Stiletto is a pretty close match and a fine knife from a legendary knife maker that’s been making blades for well over 40 years.
Stunt Specialist: Jimmy Reno
Knife: Frank B Italian Stiletto
Okay, so this isn’t the best movie ever, but it does have Jude Law’s character, Remy, slashing down foes in a hallway in spectacular fashion. The hallway scene in this film is better than the entire movie. Unsheathing two knives, Remy unleashes hell to get to the other end. His martial art of choice: Eskrima, a Filipino Martial Arts system that emphasizes weapon-based fighting, especially with knives, sticks, other bladed weapons and everyday items; however, everything translates to open hand techniques as well. In addition to using knives, Remy also mixes in a hammer and a hacksaw to turn it up a notch. His knife of choice is the Boker Applegate-Fairbairn Combat II Dagger and it’s up for grabs right now.
Stunt Specialist: Hubert Boorder
Knife: Boker Applegate-Fairbairn Combat II Dagger
The Raid 2
Just by looking at it, you already know that the karambit knife is lethal as hell. However, the karambit fight scene in The Raid 2 shows you just how destructive this knife can be when in the hands of martial arts professionals. Slashing, swirling, deflecting and disarming, Rama, the protagonist of the film, showcases his skills in Silat, an Indonesian martial art. Silat takes place in the trapping range, which is right in the middle of three common fight ranges, as it’s found between boxing and grappling (the most intimate range), allowing for hard-hitting, gritty combat. In the film, they use serrated karambit knives, which we didn’t have luck finding, but we did stumble upon the Bastinelli Kalinou Karambit fixed blade, which is a finely constructed karambit for knife enthusiasts.
Stunt Specialists: Gareth Evans, Yayan Ruhian and Iko Uwais
Knife: Kalinou G10 Karambit
There are a few spectacular knife fights in this film, but none of them are as intense as the finale. If there was an award for the most realistic knife fighting in a movie, The Hunted would definitely be a top contender. Benicio Del Toro, an AWOL Special Forces Assassin that’s hunting people for sport, is tracked down by L.T. Bonham, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who is the man that taught him how to kill. They both employ the brutal art of Sayoc Kali, which deals exclusively with close-quarter knife combat. Both savage and technically sound, the knife fight climax cuts deep and doesn’t let up. The two main characters actually make their own knives for the climactic fight; however, the star for most of the show is the Tom Brown Tracker 1.
Stunt Specialist: Hiro Koda
Knife: Tom Brown Tracker 1
SPL: Kill Zone
International martial arts movie star Donnie Yen and martial arts veteran Jing Wu give us a breathtaking show that’s the perfect cocktail of grittiness and slick, fancy combat. The protagonist, Ma Kwan, is armed with a retractable metal baton and the baddie is armed with about a six to eight-inch fixed blade knife. Rumor has it that some of this fight scene is improvised to make it more realistic. Either way, it’s a treat to watch the hero adapt to his foe’s fighting style, make the necessary adjustments and prevail. Adapt or die is the name of the game. We’re not too sure what blade Jing Wu is using, but it looks to be something close to Cold Steel’s Outdoorsman Hunting Fixed Blade.
Stunt Specialist: Donnie Yen
Knife: Cold Steel Outdoorsman Hunting Fixed Blade
Although the main character in the film is Kick-Ass, the star of the show, as everyone who watched this movie knows, is Hit-Girl. Every time she’s onscreen, she displays her lethal nature, but the first time she engages in combat to rescue the title character, she leaves quite the impression. After she chops up some thugs, one more pops up with a balisong knife and Hit-Girl playfully responds by twirling her own before finishing him off. It’s a short moment with a Benchmade 42 Balisong blade, but we just couldn’t deny the cool factor. Benchmade doesn’t make the 42 anymore, but you might be able to find it up for auction or you can grab the Benchmade 62 Balisong.
Stunt Specialist: Rudolf Vrba
Knife: Benchmade Balisong 62
John Wick: Chapter 2
Both of the John Wick flicks are some of the best action movies that have been released in the past couple of decades, so it’s no surprise that they have a knife fight in this film that caught our attention. Going up against Cassian, another well-trained hit-man, the Baba Yaga finds himself trading puncture wounds on a subway. The close-quarter knife fight is amazingly and both Keanu Reeves and Common are wholly convincing. Both men utilize Eskrima techniques and John Wick also throws in some Judo to fend off Cassian, in order to gain the upper hand. The fight scene is a gritty good time with bursts of some slick technique shown by both the Boogey Man and his opposition. His weapon of choice? A delectable 3.8-inch Combat Troodon that you can add to your collection.
Stunt Specialists: Eric Brown and Jonathan Eusebio
Knife: Microtech Combat Troodon
Sure, it’s a cheesy action movie from the 80s, and the moves are noticeably telegraphed, but a prime Arnold Schwarzenegger wielding Jack Crain’s beautiful Life Support knife satisfies our nostalgia. Besides, this is one of those flicks that was on rotation quite often back in the day, especially for action flick fans. Although there’s not any notable technique used in this knife fight scene, it is pretty bloody, as we see the men sustain some deep cuts. Also, when Arnold says the line “come on Bennett, let’s party” while holding a beastly knife, it’s a very noteworthy, badass 80s moment. It’s a bit difficult to find Jack Crain’s masterpiece, but there are some places that resell the knife if you look hard enough; however, it will cost a pretty penny. Note: we found the commando knife fight scene in VHS quality for an extra layer of nostalgia.
Stunt Specialist: Bennie E. Dobbins
Knife: Jack Crain Life Support
The Complete History Of Fighting Knives
After watching the absolute best knife fights in cinema, it’s time to get a little history lesson. Learn about the history of fighting and combat knives to immerse yourself even further in the bladed hand.