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The 30 Best Fight Scenes in Movie History

December 2, 2009  |  7:00am
The 30 Best Fight Scenes in Movie History

I haven’t been in a fight since 10th grade (unless you count an attempted mugging in Kenya where I fended off some unarmed teenagers with a bag of water bottles), and I’d very much like to keep that streak alive. But at the heart of every good story is a struggle, and some times that struggle gets physical. We devoted a whole issue to exploring violence in the arts last year with philosophical nuance, but this list just celebrates a good fight. Sometimes it’s good vs. evil, sometimes it’s more complicated. We celebrate the underdog, the outnumbered and outsized finding a way to prevail against the odds—or at least giving it a good go. They range from the comical to the deadly, from one against dozens to a man fighting himself. These are fights—not battles (so no Braveheart), shoot-outs (no Resevoir Dogs) or every-man-for-himself brawls (no McClintock). They cover more than 50 years of movie history, and there are many more that I’m sure we’ve missed. These are the ones that have stuck with us through the years. You may disagree. But I’m not gonna fight you.

30. Die Hard 2 (1990)
John McClane (Bruce Willis) vs. Maj. Grant (John Amos) and Col. Stuart (William Sadler)

If there’s a fight on the wing of an airplane in a big-budget Hollywood fight scene, two things had better happen… 1) somebody better get hacked to bits by the jet engine or propeller, and 2) Somebody better use a trail of gasoline to blow that sucker up as it’s about to take off. This clip delivers on both while simultaneously capturing one of the most endearing aspects of the Die Hard films, the near-constant, unmerciful beatings endured by star Bruce Willis, who by the end of every Die Hard looks like he’s been to hell and back.—Steve LaBate

29. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) vs. Arab Swordsman (Terry Richards)

This one was much shorter than we all anticipated, and that’s what made it memorable. But you don’t bring a bring a sword to a gunfight.

28. Grosse Point Blank (1997)
Martin Q. Blank (John Cusack) vs. assassin

John Cusack as action hero? I guess Lloyd Dobler’s kickboxing skills amounted to something after all.

27. Equilibrium (2002)
John Preston (Christian Bale) vs. Dupont (Angus Macfadyen)

Hand-to-hand combat rarely involves guns, but Bale and Macfadyen spend a full minute trying to get a close-range shot in.

26. Happy Gilmore (1996)
Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) vs. Bob Barker (Bob Barker)

“The price is wrong, bitch,” Adam Sandler sneers at grandfatherly talk-show host Bob Barker, in the midst of an epic brawl that includes head-butting, choking and Sandler getting pummeled into a water hazard. Barker winds up as the only one standing, after delivering a swift kick to Sandler’s face.—Nick Marino

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