If you get a good shoot-out in a movie, it can easily centre an entire story around it.
Some movies have gone on to be almost defined by them, and it's no surprise that directors will often dedicate most of their creative energies to ensuring they work both with actors and with editing, pacing, and camera movement.
Here's ten of the best.
10. The Victory Motel shootout in 'LA Confidential'
'LA Confidential' is often cited as one of the best examples of labyrinthine storytelling, how it unfolds slowly and deliberately over its running length and culminating in a vicious shootout in a derelict motel that housed a cabal of crooked cops. What sells this scene, aside from the incredible acting of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, is the sound design. It's loud, explosive, piercing and you can feel the tension in the room as the bullets fly off. It's easily one of the most violent shootouts on this list, but it never once feels like it's over the top.
9. The alley-way scene in 'Collateral'
As shootouts go, this is pretty quick. It's over in about five seconds, but it's all about Tom Cruise's movements. Michael Mann, the director, is known for having his actors extensively trained and this scene just shows how well it works. Cruise spent weeks in a gun range, perfecting the movements needed to pull off something as convincingly as this - literally, a five-second scene where he blows away two people who try to rob his suitcase. Cruise used a shooting technique called the Mozambique Drill, which essentially involves two shots to the torso and a headshot, that was developed by Rhodesian mercenaries in the '70s.
8. The final job in 'Point Break'
'Point Break' is one of those films that can be enjoyed again and again for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is this scene. Considering that Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow started off with this trashy action film, you can see where she learned how to pace a scene and build tension. It's all jump cuts, sharp dialogue and tense music that work together to create a bank robbery scene that narrowly rivals 'Heat'.
7. The Union Station scene in 'The Untouchables'
The scene was cribbed in part from Eisenstein's 'The Battleship Potemkin' and the infamous Steps Of Odessa sequence, but really, it's DePalma's use of slow-motion, sound design and music that makes this so iconic. It's not subtle, and the whole film is so earnest that it almost verges on comedy at some points, but this scene drills down to some primal fear and gets that unbearable sense of tension and dread.
6. Clint Eastwood Vs. Gene Hackman in 'Unforgiven'
Taking shootouts of context such as this listicle is doing is a bit weird. You have to consider them as they're placed in the story. None more important than in 'Unforgiven'. Clint Eastwood's character is an ageing gunslinger who's given up his violent life. However, he's drawn back into that world and it has dire consequences for him and his friends. So when he returns to the town where his closest friend - played by Morgan Freeman, no less - was shot dead by the local sheriff, you know shit's about to go down. This is just a masterclass in building tension. You. Fat man. Speak up.
5. The home invasion in 'John Wick'
It shouldn't come as any surprise that 'John Wick' is in the top five of this list. You can't really have a discussion about movie shootouts in the modern age without mentioning it. Chad Stahelski's commitment to sharply directed, in-focus action flew in the face of a decade of shaky-cam, documentary-style visuals beginning with the likes of 'The Bourne Supremacy' and Paul Greengrass. Keanu Reeves was born to play this role.
5. The lobby scene in 'The Matrix'
Yes, we know. It's robbed from 'Hard Boiled'. Don't worry, that's on the list. But those of us who aren't familiar with Asian action cinema, 'The Matrix' was an ample introduction. It took concepts that John Woo had refined in his early films and funneled it into the Hollywood mainstream and put two convincing and familiar leads in the scene. It's parodied and copied, but it's still as good as ever.
4. The pub scene in 'Inglorious Basterds'
Quentin Tarantino's knowledge of movie history is enormous and he's put it to use many times. Here, he's using Spaghetti Western, World War II iconography and John Woo physics and putting it through his own filter of black comedy. Tarantino's had gunplay in his movies before - 'Reservoir Dogs' began and ended in a shootout, most notably - but here it's at its most focused and sharp, and Tarantino knows how to pace and block the scene to make it truly effective. What a line to finish out the scene with. "Say Auf Weidersehn to your Nazi balls."
2. The hospital scene in 'Hard Boiled'
Let's consider for a moment that this scene is in one single take for two and a half minutes. Now, you're thinking, that's two and a half minutes. That's not a lot as shootouts go. Watch what happens in those two and a half minutes. Imagine messing up and having to do that all over again. The squibs, the smoke, the stunt performers, all of it. One take. Yeah, exactly.
1. The final shootout in 'Heat'
It says something about a movie's authenticity and attention to detail that US Marines use the reloading movements from it as an example. No, really. Val Kilmer's movements are shown to Marines being trained in the US as the perfect execution for what they call 'speed reloading'. Everything about this scene is perfection. It's the editing, the sound design, the acting - yes, acting, the use of camera lenses and the choice of location. You hear this with a proper soundsystem, or better yet, in a cinema and it'll blow you away.