Fight Scene Faves: A Short List Of Memorable Fight Scene Moments In Film
Years ago, I became obsessed with listing my “top-tens” or “fives” in final fight scenes. There was a UK website that produced such lists and for their final fight scene list, it bothered me for the longest time that it never had the one featured in Drive between Mark Dacascos and Masaya Kato, so you can imagine how fulfilled I felt when the page loaded and I finally saw it listed.
That website has long since disappeared, but the practice of listing fight faves stands strong among the action genre fandom to this day. Thus, I felt compelled to just list my own top ten in final fight scenes just to feel it out some and see what folks think. For this, I applied several factors into this analysis; While choreography and cinematography are both important elements, I made other deductions as well which include the scene’s connection to the overall narrative, the connectivity of the fight scene from start to finish, and the KIND of fight scene.
Some final fight scenes see our leads facing odds from one to as many as a football team. Other fight scenes are cut and edited between other fights or climatic moments, and for me, the best kind of fight scene is the type that starts and finishes without any cut aways to other sequences. That kind of fight scene is what really gets the heart racing to the point of near-emotional involvement (you should’ve seen me in the theater with my friend Jon watching The Raid 2).
Anyway, these are some of the parameters applied for this breakdown and I’m only doing five – in no specific order. Enjoy!
Iko Uwais vs. Cecep Arif Rahman in THE RAID 2
I commend just about any film that lives up to the task of thrilling audiences with exhilarating fight scenery. As I so hinted above, however, this particular fight scene has to be the only one in my own moviegoing history that made me jump out of my seat with excitement midway of the scene. Several factors came into play: the crowd in the theater all reveling simultaneously, including my friend Jon who I was with that evening, and the notion at the time that The Raid 2 was going to be part of a much larger franchise brimming with the same style of action, accompanied by the kind of compelling narrative storytelling and setup that’s iconized Iko Uwais to this day.
His role: Rama, a rookie SWAT team member thrust into a day-long bout of survival against droves of killers in a high rise, only to be coaxed into an even bigger battlefield of underworld politics and police courruption that he must fight his way out of in order to get back to his family. From every punch and kick to every swing of a karambit, the fight is a true test of Rama’s mettle as he synthesizes his knife-wielding opponent from top-to-bottom, ultimately to finally finish him off in brutal and bloody fashion. Invariably, the three-man finale of The Raid (2011) set the tone of the franchise, its sequel upped the stakes and standards in most corners of the genre.
Jackie Chan vs. B.J. Allan in GORGEOUS
With nearly 60 years and almost 150 screen credits to his name, Jackie Chan stands as one of the most celebrated action stars still working to this day. For this, you can guarantee that anyone who’s seen a Chan film (regardless of director) has a fight scene favorite, including me for certain. For years though, I always favored the Wheels On Meals finale between Chan and Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, but there were other things I wanted to factor in going into this list if I were to include Chan, including the fact that Chan hasn’t really had a one-on-one fight as memorable as the superb romp he shot opposite fledgeling actor and stunt performer B.J. Allan, who – at the time – climbed his way up the ladder and ultimately earned his rightful place in Chan’s stewardship after performing in a few films.
The result? A Vincent Kok-directed romcom that sees Chan as a millionaire trash tycoon confronted by love, and a corporate rival who wants his ass kicked with the help of an elite kickboxer, in a pair of fight scenes both rich with strong characterizations to serve the drama, and the kind of athelticism, lighting speed, dexterity and timing that are all signature of the standard that’s inspired so many, including Allan who excelled greatly in stunts and action during the next 22 years before his untimely passing in August. The cheesy love story aside the action he and Chan created in Gorgeous are a gift to fans everywhere.
Scott Adkins vs. Marko Zaror in UNDISPUTED 3: REDEMPTION
For fans of action star Scott Adkins, Chornya Cholmi’s resident mixed-martial arts fighting champion, Uri Boyka, reigns as supreme as he’s portrayed on screen. The fictionalized character in the direct-to-disc Undisputed franchise (post Walter Hill’s inagural 2002 prison boxing drama) has even become lauded as a real symbol around the world, setting a prime example for martial arts fans of sport and/or cinema, including Instagrammers taking to their platforms to model themselves off of Boyka’s look and aura.
It’s kind of a miracle to see such a character shapen the map of film fandom, however which way you feel about the franchise as a whole, and you have to credit Adkins and director Isaac Florentine for putting in the work needed to help create such a cinematic genre mainstay, using Boyka’s self-proclaimed dogma as “the most complete fighter in the world” as a guide to recalibrate his moral compass through a transformative process that, in the aforementioned film, sees him competing in a gangster’s newly-expanded underground fight circuit – one with serious consequences if he loses. The fighters’ line-up is terrific in this film, but it’s the one and only Marko Zaror that stands alone as Boyka’s final opponent, putting our stoic protagonist through the ringer for nearly eight minutes. Zaror’s “Dolor” is as quick as he is vicious in his ways, and a fitting antagonist to Boyka for a riveting fight finale that serves up the brutality in spades.
Michelle Yeoh vs. Zhang Ziyi in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON
While there are numbers of sword fights on film that anyone can point to as their favorite or even their perceived “best”, Ang Lee’s Yuen Woo-Ping-directed fight finale in the critically acclaimed 2000 film from Sony between our two leading ladies has yet to lose its freshness, pitting an experienced and wise swordswoman against a rebellious governor’s daughter in wrongful possession of a renowned master’s fabled sword, in a room full of bladed weapons no less.
I wish I could see some behind-the-scenes footage of the rehersals that went into this film’s action. As it stands, I love watching BTS featurettes on discs for films, and I enjoy them about as much as I do watching the final product…maybe a little more, even. The level of camaraderie it takes to level up the kinds of feats performed in a film like this is immense, and it definitely served its target audience well enough to earn its place in cinema history, especially to largely entertain a market where wuxia films weren’t mainstream and would only be acknowledgeable among smaller niche audiences – the kind where action legend Yeoh is practically a household name and Zhang Ziyi would be an instant welcome to the tier after applying her dancing discipline and athelticism in order to adapt to Master Yuen’s rubric of screenfighting and dramatization.
Sylvester Stallone vs. Dolph Lundgren in ROCKY IV
…Or Rocky VS. Drago, or whatever you wanna call it between either titles. Rocky was certainly one of the more early franchises I was exposed to growing up, though we only owned the first film on VHS from CBS/FOX. At the time I learned about this film though, I was maybe seven or eight years old, and wouldn’t be until another decade that I’d finally get to see the four films leading up to Rocky V (which I saw second). And with that, the franchise’s most underlying messages, centered on triumph over tribulation, endurance of the human spirit, unity and never giving up, are what especially make Rocky such a special cinematic sports saga – messages that invariably carried over to Stallone’s 1985 continuation with our stoic boxing champion as he’s forced to surrender his championship in order to face Russia’s own boxing champion, Ivan Drago, in an unsanctioned bout, and avenge the death of his best friend.
I haven’t seen Stallone’s most recent recut and re-release of the film, and so I can only go by the explosive fight finale I’ve seen in the original, featuring Stallone opposite Dolph Lundgren looking as appropriately menacing as he should. The fight is truly significant of a “David V. Goliath” type of battle, one of epic proportions between all fifteen montaged rounds as both go all out in some of the most climatic, energizing and brutal screen boxing anyone’s ever seen. It’s one that’s etched into my memory from firstly seeing it on commercial TV growing up during my heyday of watching as many movies as I could; WPIX was usually the go-to since I didn’t have cable at the time. Ah, the nostalgia…
I might do another piece like this at another time if I’m up for it. In the meanwhile, feel free to measure your own fight scene faves against this one, and I may just touch base with a second write-up at some point. And don’t be upset that I didn’t display the fight scenes right here on this article from lose YouTube embeds. Those things are always at risk of being taken down and at any rate, you can always buy the films and enjoy them with these memorable fight scenes collectively.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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