Fight scenes in a movie often act as the turning point in a story.
In some cases, it's the finale and, in other cases, it's the middle point. Done right, a fight scene can have just as much emotional impact as a regular dramatic scene. There are so many moving parts to it, not the least of which is the actors themselves making it convincing when we know right well it's all fake.
Here's ten of the best examples of fisticuffs in film history.
10. BRUCE WILLIS Vs. ANDREAS WISNIEWSKI in 'Die Hard'
We couldn't have a list on fight scenes without mentioning 'Die Hard'. What makes this particular fight scene stick out is that it showed, almost immediately, just how resourceful and dirty John McClane as a character was. It wasn't going to be one of those movies, like 'Commando' for example, where the action hero would just open fire and blast everything in sight. No, the script was much clever than that. How could a regular cop, a detective in the wrong place at the wrong time, manage to overpower a group of highly trained and organised terrorists? He's alone, he's tired, he hasn't got any his shoes. He has to play dirty. Drop it, dickhead. It's the police.
9. UMA THURMAN Vs. DARYL HANNAH in 'Kill Bill: Vol.2'
There are so many fight scenes to choose from in both volumes of 'Kill Bill'. The battle between The Bride and the Crazy 88. Any of Pei Mei's scenes. This, however, had it all. Sword fighting, super-flying kicks, a TV antenna and – spoiler alert – an eye-removal, followed by a squish. Our favourite part? Absolutely has got to be when Daryl Hannah jumps up, grabs the ledge and kicks Uma Thurman square in the chest. That'd break a rib for sure.
8. CHRISTIAN BALE Vs. TOM HARDY in 'The Dark Knight Rises'
Comic-book fans would have known going into 'The Dark Knight Rises' that when Bane and Batman fought, it wasn't going to end well. Hardy and Bale spent months training and choreographing the fight sequences, not to mention Nolan setting it up as the halfway point. It gets gruesome without being bloody, but every frame of it feels visceral and hard-hitting, and all of it down to the impressive sound design. It also has a huge amount of character play going on. Batman is throwing everything at him and it's not working. Meanwhile, Bane is just taking a walk in the park almost.
7. PUPPET Vs. PUPPET in 'Team America: World Police'
Alright, let's make this interesting.
6. SIGOURNEY WEAVER Vs. THE ALIEN QUEEN in 'Aliens'
The finale of 'Aliens' is incredible for a number of reasons. For one, you have the sheer shock of finally seeing the Alien Queen up close and, as well as this, you see Ripley at her full strength and pissed off. The iconic line was scripted, despite claims to the contrary. The suit, as well, was fully built with a stuntman seated directly behind Weaver. Through various counterweights, some hanging wires and her stunt person's help, Weaver worked the powersuit with ease. James Cameron had initially planned for the power-loader in question to be quadripedal, however when he saw 'The Empire Strikes Back' and the AT-AT from the Battle of Hoth, he opted for the biped design instead.
5. SYLVESTER STALLONE Vs. DOLPH LUNDGREN in 'Rocky IV'
It was East versus West. The Soviets versus the Americans. Capitalism versus Communism. The Cold War. Balboa's going in with a score to settle, Drago killed Apollo Creed in his last match. Drago's not a man, he's a machine. He hasn't a prayer. And, like all the best fights, he pulls it back. Lundgren and Stallone were sparring for real throughout filming. In fact, Lundgren hit Stallone so hard during one take that he ended up in intensive care for eight days. That wasn't the only time Lundgren had problems on the set. The story goes that Lundgren clashed with Carl Weathers, with Weathers threatening to walk off the set unless Lundgren toned things down.
4. LIAM NEESON Vs. TIM ROTH in 'Rob Roy'
The movie itself is something of a letdown, but the climax – this sword-fight – is just fantastic and is arguably one of the best sword fights in recent cinematic history. Tim Roth's character is wafer-thin and moves like a snake whereas with Neeson's, it's all brawn and strength. The first time you see this, you really can't judge what way it's going to go. The balance of the fight teeters between them so delicately. From the camerawork to the sound design, it's masterfully done.
3. TOM CRUISE AND HENRY CAVILL Vs. LIANG YANG in 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'
So often is the case with action movies that cuts are used to hide certain elements. For example, it could be hiding a stunt person's face in a throw or fall. It could be hiding the fact that the actor doesn't have the requisite skills to make the fight look convincing. The result is often something that's jumbled, hard to follow, and very often, quickly papered over for something in the next scene. Not so in 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'. There is a real sense of considered timing and editing, and what's more, you can follow the fight clearly and lucidly. There are cuts and changes of shots, but each and every one of them makes sense in their context. The result is the most satisfying fight sequence of the past ten years.
2. RODDY PIPER Vs. KEITH DAVID in 'They Live'
Roddy Piper was, as we know, a professional wrestler. Prior to that, Piper made his living as an unlicensed boxer. Keith David meanwhile had none of this experience, but the two gave there all and it got messy. Really messy. According to the commentary, the fight was unscripted and, most of all, real. So when Piper suplexes David onto the ground, he's doing that for real. Yeah. Also, when we interviewed John Carpenter a few years ago, we asked him about the 'South Park' parody of this scene and YES, he's seen it.
1. CLINT EASTWOOD Vs. LEE VAN CLEEF Vs. ELI WALLACH in 'The Good, The Bad, The Ugly'
The importance and impact of this scene cannot be understated, but yes, if you want to argue, it's not really a fight scene and that it's a standoff. Either way, it's iconic. It has everything. The music, the pacing, the editing, the eyes. It's over in a flash, but you'll never forget it. Two can dig quicker than one. Dig.