Our Favorite Movie Fight Scenes

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Our Favorite Movie Fight Scenes

I read a sterling piece the other day about the guy who choreographed the classic fight scenes from Netflix’s Daredevil, which so delighted America and killed maybe three or ten stunt doubles, depending on how your head reckons arithmetic. Check out this hot slice of take from io9 discussing how a vicious simulated beating was turned into wholesome, family-friendly art:

Philip Silvera, the show’s stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director, walks us through the thought and intention behind how his street fight-y style of choreography works in Daredevil’s favor. Everything from avoiding flashy, Crouching Tiger-style moves to showing vulnerability and fatigue works to make Charlie Cox’s lawyer/part-time superhero feel like a real person. Silvera also wanted his powers to be evident in the way he fights—namely that his reactions to incoming punches and kicks aren’t telegraphed by his need to look in the direction of his assailant.

In MTV, the Music Television that is also a blog, writer Eric Ducker told the story of Silvera, who is a jazz artist of punching the hell out of people. Ducker quotes Silvera as saying “If it doesn’t tell the story, it’s just punches and kick.” This quotable quote took me out of my narrow hidey-hole of pacifism. I had burrowed there, for fear of damaging my princess-tier dental work in slugfests. Well, to the giddy hell with that. I’m back in brawl mode now, 24/7.

Since I’m reconnecting with kicking and punching as a lifestyle, I decided to ransack the ol’ memory binder of movies for the fights that mattered the most to me, America’s decentest watcher of emotional pictures. Unfortunately, my childlike wonder of fighting and fighting on film is limited to the slender spectrum of kino I have watched and remember. That being said, I claim, with no end of humility, that I have compiled a timeless list of fights that will please all people, and more importantly, shut the critics up good and own every hater. Not just my haters, but all haters, in all times, in all nations, across the vast expanse of human endeavor.

1. SHE’S ALL THAT: Prinze Fights Hackysack

In this gripping scene, Freddie Prinze Jr. deals with a hackysack the Prinze way—desperate pleading. He starts with a spoken-word jazz session, but before long he descends into pure violence. In a desperate attempt to impress bohemian minx Laney, Zack goes to a coffeehouse or someplace full of art and shady lighting. He is dragooned into public speaking.

The scene begins with playful banter about Zack’s own repressed murder-impulses and soon falls into clumsy, drunken, ‘70s-buddy-movie brawling between man and hackysack.

Friends, I can’t believe they allowed this donnybrook to be captured on the timeless track of Tinseltown! But this made me drown all my Three Stooges mousepads—in joy-tears. In the real world this kind of confrontational acid-spitting would never fly. Watch for the moment Zack realizes his own mortality and despite wanting the hackysack to never drop, “never let it drop.” Sooner or later, it has to drop … dead, of course. Whoa! Now that’s pugilism!


2. MEET JOE BLACK: Brad Pitt Fights Cars

I haven’t seen such an impressive display of brawn since Steven Seagal moved his bulk from one sitting position to another. Watch how the two fighters begin from equal positions of strength, full of respect for their opponents’ skill, but with the knowledge that in the end, one man my triumph. But with that acceptance comes the silent, adult recognition that even a defeated man may rise in honor.

Check out the moment where the dummy’s bones snap like milkglass.


3. PHENOMENON: Travolta Fights Brain Tumor

Trends come and go, but Travolta fighting against cognitive restraints will never go out of style. In Phenomenon, Travolta is at the top of his sizable, non-dancing game when he prepares to die from the genius tumor that gives him magical powers to name animals in alphabetical order. See how Travolta reenacts My Fair Lady in his transition from real-life John Travolta to John Travolta trying to act. Is it possible for one man to do this, and to do this? Well, I’ve got news, true believers—bite down on your miracle sandwich, because Oldboy’s brawl scene lives again as Smart Travolta punches his way out of life in this ripped-from-a-desperate-screenwriter’s-wish-list action-packed film.


4. PULP FICTION: Travolta Fights Sternum

Not content to be the son that never came home after the sexy ‘70s, Travolta woke us up in the ‘90s with his arrival on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s homage to good filmmakers, Pulp Fiction. Several years later, Travolta would fight his own body, but this was the movie that brought him from Hollywood Hell to Hollywood Purgatory! Here, Travolta, a mostly useful mass of human tissue, confronts another mostly useful mass of human tissue, the drug-user’s sternum. After Pulp Fiction, yuppies across America started indulging in chest-piercing adrenalin parties. Your parents probably shared in the fun. Here’s the scene that started the entire craze. If I can call back to my review from an earlier age—Meet Joe Black, if memory serves—
“Watch how the two fighters begin from equal positions of strength, full of respect for their opponents’ skill, but with the knowledge that in the end, one man my triumph.” Heart stops. Travolta takes a moment to figure out what hearts do. Other people scream at him. Travolta reacts, as only a star can:

Get the shot!

“Get. The. Shot.” My God, what can Travolta do? The only thing a being with his training can do—drive a needle through the bony carapace of Uma Thurman’s chest. Losers will scoff and note that Uma Thurman’s sternum, in the parlance of the times, “Did not put up a fight.” To which I reply: if that’s the case, why didn’t he do it earlier in the film?”


5. MODERN TIMES: Chaplin Crushed by Giant Wheel

This is one of the last century’s most famous images. The McGriddle wishes it had this level of recognition. This film was made during the Depression, when people thought watching hobos die on the train tracks was high comedy. Only pictures of musical cats can compare in influence and reach. Two seconds after this image was taken by news-gentlemen, the god-sized gears crushed the helpless Tramp under its teeth, away from hospitals and clergy. Yowza! Hey, we never said that these were fair fights! We spent the next century avoiding people with Hitler mustaches, so maybe there’s a lesson there.


6. BRING IT ON: Guy Fights Guitar

Do I need to say anything? This is the scene that made me get married—to the Montana lifestyle! This man thrashes, as only a man who is fighting for his continued limbs can fight. Were you surprised when he reached the end of this bareknuckle melee and retained his hands, feet and all of his face? I was. Look, familia, I need to tell you something: I’ve turned my back on negativity. Not only can this man really, seriously, no-shit play the real human guitar, but I can feel again. In this scene, you all are literally Kirsten Dunst and I am all literally Eliza Dushku.

Did I prove my point? I did better than prove—I lived these classic moments again. Listen up, Hollywood! Here’s one fan who’ll always be raging—for another shot to stare at that ol’ Silver Screen! Keep your gunplay in the real world; I’ve got plenty of horsing around to watch at the multiplex! Movies? Sure, they moved me—to applaud at the box office. Say, now that’s one way to put your hands up!