Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My 20 (+1) Favorite Fight Scenes

Here are my top 20 martial arts fight scenes, in no particular order.
  1. Bruce Lee versus Han’s mooks (Enter the Dragon) -- Bruce Lee in possibly his most iconic fight (his fight with Chuck Norris is probably number 2). Also features a brief appearance by Jackie Chan and Bruce's never-equaled display with the nunchaku.
  2. Morpheus versus Neo (The Matrix) -- While surpassed by many other fight scenes for speed and complexity, this scene was massively important from a technical standpoint. It showed that with the right choreographer and prep work, a Western (i.e. Hollywood) movie could have fight sequences just as good as Hong Kong's.
  3. Jet Li versus the "Supreme Killer" (Fist of Legend) -- While Jet Li has done some really amazing stuff since then, this fight, in this remake of Bruce Lee's Fists of Fury, shows why Fist of Legend is one of the best martial arts movies ever made. It pits Jet Li (as “Chen Zhen”) versus Billy Chow (the "Supreme Killer"/General Fujita). Not to be topped until some of the fights in Fearless (specifically the fight in the restaurant [see #12 below]).
  4. Jackie Chan versus Ken Lo (Drunken Master II) -- You might know this better as The Legend of Drunken Master. Jackie fights Ken in a steel foundry and ends up drinking industrial alcohol in order to use his most potent forms of Drunken Boxing.
  5. Chun Li versus Vega (Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie) -- Vega thinks he has Chun Li trapped. She's just stepped out of the shower, she's relaxed, at home, and totally unaware. Then the fight starts. It ends with Chun Li kicking Vega through a wall! Interestingly, this movie, as well as Drunken Master II and Fist of Legend all came out in 1994, showing what an amazing year that was for martial arts cinema.
  6. Son Goku and Vegita versus Metal Cooler (Dragon Ball Z: Cooler's Revenge) -- Dragon Ball Z fights are always over the top, but this one stood out for the teleporting stunts all three fighters pulled as they blasted about across the sky.
  7. The Thing, Johnny Storm, and the Silver Surfer versus Terrax the Tamer and Doctor Doom (Fantastic Four #258-260) -- Doom brings Terrax back from near death and powers him up. Terrax than decides to exact his revenge on the Fantastic Four. A whopping fight over three issues results, ending with the Doom getting fused into this armor and the Silver Surfer taking Terrax down. My favorite line is from The Thing -- "Now nuthin' baldy. If it's one thing I can't stand, it's a super goon a-making speeches!"
  8. Superman versus Mongul (For The Man Who Has Everything) -- Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons combine for this Superman annual produced right before Crisis on Infinite Earths. The fight is amazing, since it has Mongul eliminate Batman at the start, manhandle Wonder Woman, and then get into a destructive Fortress of Solitude-smashing fight with Superman. I won't even try and list all of the great lines Mongul has, but trust me, they're chilling.
  9. Thor versus the Midgard Serpent (a.k.a. Jormungand) (The Mighty Thor #380) -- Thor, clad in full armor, finally fights Jormungand. Walt Simonson introduced the serpent via a splash page, then showed the fight as individual full-page panels. It's as epic as it sounds.
  10. Jacke Chan versus Jet Li (The Forbidden Kingdom) -- Two greats meet for the first (and probably only) time on the big screen. And battle to a draw.
  11. The Three Masters versus The Axe Gang (Kung Fu Hustle) -- While Kung Fu Hustle has many great fight scenes (the Landlady and the Landlord versus the Beast for starters), this scene is all the more amazing for the sheer number of fighters. In addition, we get to see three distinct fighting styles in action and the use of several different weapons.
  12. Jet Li versus Chen Zhi Hui (Fearless) -- Although Fearless has a number of excellent fight scenes, this one, in which Huo Yuanjia throws down against Master Chin and destroys a restaurant in the process, stands out as possible the best of them all.
  13. The Bride versus the Crazy 88s (Kill Bill Volume 1) -- One woman versus 88 masked fighters. Total carnage. Better yet, much like The Matrix example I’ve listed above, this is a Hollywood production, showing that with the right director (and fight choreographer) you can get Hong Kong-quality action scenes.
  14. Airman 3rd Class Axel "The Unstoppable" Higgs versus Zola (Girl Genius) --  Zola is doped up on Moveit 11, which makes her faster, stronger, and tougher than just about any normal human. Higgs, on the other hand, will not die. (Personally, I think he’s a Jäger.)
  15. Grégoire de Fronsac in the hunting lodge (Brotherhood of the Wolf) -- After his blood-brother Mani is killed, Fronsac decides to get even. He finds a hunting lodge being used by the killers and just goes berserk. For you HERO System fans, this is a perfect example of Code of Vengeance.
  16. Ziyi Zhang versus Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) -- In one of the best swordfights ever filmed, Jen (Ziyi Zhang), armed with the blade Green Destiny, hacks through everything Yu Shu-Lien (Michelle Yeoh) uses against her. While Ziyi Zhang is good, Michelle Yeoh is phenomenal, and demonstrates skill with a wide variety of weapons. Also, pay attention, especially to the early parts of the fight, if it wasn’t for Green Destiny, Yu Shu-Lien would have wiped the floor with Jen.
  17. The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers -- These two films, filmed together and then released in 1973 and 1974, contain some of the best period fencing duels I’ve ever seen. While no one fight stands out, taken as a whole they deserve to be on any list of “best” fight scenes, especially since many of the main actors were trained fencers.
  18. 13 assassins versus 200+ soldiers (13 Assassins) -- For over forty minutes we get to see 13 well-armed and well-trained swordsmen take on an army. And win. Bloodbath doesn’t begin to cover it.
  19. Jackie Chan versus Benny "The Jet" Urquidez (Wheels on Meals) -- This epic final fight has been called the best fight scene in film. Equaled only by the same pair fighting in Dragons Forever (in which the final climatic fight features not only Jackie Chan, but Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao as well!).
  20. The Man in Black versus Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride) -- While not the fastest, most intense, bloodiest, or violent swordfight you’ll ever see, it is the most fun. Besides, it’s also the fight scene that gave us such lines as “You don’t happen to have six fingers on your right hand?”, “Hello. My name is Inigo Monyota. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”, and “I am not left-handed.”
  21. [Honorable Mention] The Avengers versus the Chitari (The Avengers) -- Okay, so it features flying sleds, lasers, powered armor, archery, and guns, but for the most of it, we’re talking good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat. Besides, it also has the greatest single tactical decision in the history of film: “And Hulk? Smash.”


  1. Those are some good ones, Michael. I'd also recommend (for pure choreography and style) Dead Fantasy 1 and 2 by Monty Oum. You can find those videos at Gametrailers.com.

  2. Nice list. I've seen some of those, but I need to go out and see/read/etc the rest.

    Also: Hulk Smash