Tablet Life & Arts

15 best movie fight scenes

Narrowing down the universe of action scenes to a few favorites is like asking a bear which is its favorite salmon in the sea.

There are just too many of them.

But here are some of my favorites — divvied up by vehicle chase, shootout and hand-to-hand combat. Tell us what we missed and what some of your favorite action scenes are in the comments below.

(Also, check out the impetus for all this action-packed list-making: Why I think The Raid 2 is among the best action movies of all time.)

Top 15 movie fight scenes

1. Enter the Dragon (1973)

The king of martial-arts films features a dazzling turn by the charismatic Bruce Lee. There are a lot of scenes to choose from but the one where he takes on wave after wave of guys in a prison/cave is a favorite. (And Dragon features Jackie Chan while Chuck Norris has a classic face-off with Chan in the Bruce Lee film Way of the Dragon, aka Return of the Dragon).

2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader go at it with light sabers and Vader plays mind games by dropping a little bomb about Luke’s parentage.

3. Aliens (1986)

Not only did Sigourney Weaver use the “b-word” in her epic battle with the she-creature, she ushered in one of the great man-vs.-monster face-offs of all time.

4. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

So many Jackie Chan films could be on this list, but the final fight here between Chan and Ken Lo may be one of the best things he has done.

5. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Paul Greengrass’ frenzy of fights and chases has a lot of action, but the standoff between Matt Damon and an assassin in a cluttered apartment is an explosion of flying fists.

6. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Fight scenes may stereotypically be thought of as a man’s game, but the showdown between Uma Thurman and Chiaki Kuriyama doesn’t need testosterone to amp up the excitement.

7. The Raid: Redemption (2011)

The final, nearly eight-minute, two-on-one, martial-arts battle sums up why this film built such a ferocious following.

8. Inception (2010)

While the rest of the film evoked both passion and puzzlement, everyone agreed that Joseph Gordon Levitt’s gravity-free hallway fight is made of nothing but win.

9. Oldboy (2003)

The South Korean original features one of the most memorable fight scenes with an especially vicious hallway brawl.

10. Hero (2002)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may be the best-known film in China’s wuxia tradition — stories set in an ancient world where heroes and villains can fly among other acrobatic feats — but the face-off between Hong Kong stars Jet Li and Donnie Yen in the courtyard scene makes Hero tops in this genre.

11. The Transporter (2002)

Jason Statham sealed his reputation as a new face in action with this French co-production. Scenes like the one with Statham, a bus, a vat of oil and a bunch of bad guys helped make this a hit.

12. Ong Bak (2003)

When Muay Thai boxing champ Tony Jaa takes on all comers in a Thailand fight club, it’s 10 minutes of merciless beatdown.

13. Mission Impossible II (2000)

Movie fights often defy the laws of physics and biology but this one — which starts with Tom Cruise and his opponent jumping off their speeding motorcycles and slamming into each other — just may be the most fanciful yet.

14. Die Hard (1988)

When Bruce Willis goes up against Alexander Godunov in a fight that ends with the latter swinging from a chain, it set the bar for a franchise that would go on for several more films.

15. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

It’s not really much of a fight but when Harrison Ford shoots a certain threatening swordsman, it’s one of the most memorable confrontations in movie history.