The Best Fight Scenes

by Karen Walch | Mar 25, 2022

Representing kung-fu, gun-fu, hyper-realism, sword 'n' board, and animation, these are (some of) the best fight scenes the library has to offer.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
by Ang Lee

Though this movie didn’t pioneer the use of wires combined with kung fu fighting, this movie (and The Matrix a year previously) did massive work in bringing what is known as “Wire-Fu” to the common societal vocabulary. The gravity-defying choreography is much more than a gimmick; it is a beautiful and flowing fight style that can enhance existing techniques and give birth to new ones. The fight scenes are well served by the often monochromatic cinematography to emphasize the striking Chinese nature and architecture that is the setting. Watch this movie for a dive into 1800’s China with intrigue, fighting, and a dash of romance.

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Fight Club
by David Fincher

In movie-fan circles, an oft repeated adage is that if the movie Fight Club makes you want to start a fight club, you completely missed the point. That doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t enjoy watching the beautifully shot and choreographed bare-knuckle, no-holds-barred, slobber-knocker scuffles brought to the screen by David Fincher. While the fighting is only a small portion of the film, they are certainly a memorable one. The rest is an exploration of a reaction to consumerism, anger at society, and what may be described as deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and father issues. However now I fear I’ve already broken a couple rules by saying this much…

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Bonus: watch the 2 disc DVD!

Ip Man
by Wilson Yip

This film launched Donnie Yen into my awareness, where he has stayed since; I’m always keeping an eye out on what he’s working on next to see his considerable athleticism on display. Playing Ip Man, famed teacher of the young Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen delivers some of the tightest and most impressive displays of kung fu to make it to the big screen. His choreographed Wing Chun is truly something for other movies and fight directors to aspire to.

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The Mummy
by Stephen Sommers

This is what I would consider to be Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz at their absolute best. Infinitely quotable and rewatchable, (trust me, this is from personal experience), The Mummy has a lot more to deliver than just it’s raucous fight scenes (of which there are plenty that I love). On top of tommy guns, ancient swords, and dynamite as a tool against the undead, we’re also treated to endless banter, a perfect amount of slapstick, and the brilliant imaginative backdrop of ancient Egyptian ruins.

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Bonus: watch the Ultimate Edition DVD!

by Wolfgang Petersen

Inspired by Homer’s Iliad, Troy showcases a tale of war, revenge, and romance. Since the historicity of the battle of Troy is already hotly debated, you can leave all disbelief suspended at the door and simply enjoy this movie for what it is: an epic. The costumes, the set pieces, and, most importantly, the duels and battles. Without giving away anything too important, suffice to say that it’s an absolute delight to watch Brad Pitt’s Achilles hurl spears fast enough to break the sound barrier, dodge the same, and perform absolute unmatched sword work. While the movie is about a much larger story, it remains memorable for the epic scale of the battles alongside the intimate and intricate duels.

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Bonus: watch the single disc DVD!

No Country for Old Men
by Joel and Ethan Coen

In addition to being an outstanding novel by Cormac McCarthy, the Coen brothers have really done the source material justice in bringing it to film. Whereas the other movies on this list often feel like a celebration of combat, of man being pitted against man, this film is a condemnation of it. The violence in this film is almost completely devoid of glitz, glamor, or romanticism. I say “almost” only because the Coen brothers are such expert craftsmen that of course everything in the film is going to be wonderfully shot, colored, and edited. That said, like the world-weary sheriff narrator, we are made to feel exhausted and hopeless seeing the lengths that man will go to to perpetuate violence in the name of avarice.

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by Katsuhiro Otomo

Based in an alternate timeline 2019 where Tokyo is recovering from being destroyed in WWIII 31 years ago, we follow a teenage biker gang, anti-government radicals, and a secret cell of government researchers that become intimately entwined in a race to save friends, political careers, and the world. I cannot overstate how beautifully drawn and colored this movie is. The artists working on it were constantly inventing hitherto unseen colors in the animation world specifically for its neon-glow city cast in the dark of night. The fights in this movie range from relatively small-stakes bike gang scuffles to superhuman out-of-control psychic brawls. This movie has earned every bit of praise it has received and more.

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The Bourne Identity
by Doug Liman

Some may have qualms with the “shaky cam” footage of the fight scenes, but there’s no denying that for a hotly debated camera effect, this show does it well. The fights are top-notch, choreographed by professionals in the respective fighting styles, and really convey the feeling of Jason Bourne being the expert fighter in the room at all times and he’ll prove it whether by brute force, outlasting an opponent, or being more resourceful than the hordes that the CIA sends after him.

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Bonus: find other copies of the DVD Here, Here, and Here!

John Wick
by Chad Stahelski

It would be possible to make a list of only Keanu Reeves’ films and the fight scenes that helped to define genres or at the very least popularize them for western audiences. John Wick takes Gun Fu, turns the style up to 11 and cuts away all the fat. The creativity, not to mention technical realism, in the different fights, opponents, and scenarios is gripping from beginning to end. Lessons to be learned: Don’t mess with a guy’s car or dog, especially if that guy is the boogeyman (or the guy you send to kill the boogeyman).

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