The best movie fight scenes are the ones that are a visceral gut punch. The ones that make you stand up from your seat, blood pumping, and karate chop the air, feeling invincible. They are an elaborate dance, choreographed to perfection. When you think about the best action movies, these are the scenes that come to mind.
We've gone back through the cinematic archives to pick 50 of the best movie fight scenes that have ever screened. Plus, when it comes to our very favorite – the last on this list – we even spoke to one of the people involved. And, just for clarity, when it comes to franchises, we've picked our favorite scene rather than having multiple from the same series – otherwise this list would be all John Wick and The Raid. So, sit back but don't relax as we go through some of the best setpieces ever witnessed.
The fight: Setting up the plot (and tone), this opening scene sees a bath-robed Comedian get attacked in his apartment by a shadowy assailant. It's a thumping tussle with absolutely no regard given to the Comedian's furniture.
Killer move: The finishing touch – the battered Comedian is hurled through his window to the tune of slow-motion shattered glass and falls to his death, smiley face badge an' all.
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
The fight: The blind Mei is ambushed in the middle of the bamboo forest and, while she valiantly defends herself against her attacker, she clearly needs help. Luckily, lone warrior Wind is at hand to save her.
Killer move: With one wooden spear thrown towards Mei from afar, Wind sees it just in time and throws his sword toward her too. With a split-second reaction played out in slow-mo, we see Mei step back just as the sword split the spear in two, with both ends flying safely away.
The Warriors (1979)
The fight: So many to choose from in this film, but were opting for the showdown between the Warriors and the Baseball Furies. When the sports-themed thugs chase down our anti-heroes, they are come to blows in Riverside Park, with the Warriors Ajax and Swan more than making up for the shortfall in numbers.
Killer move: Having managed to win themselves a couple of their opponents bats, the two gangs engage in down and dirty thumps around the head and gut punches.
The fight: Less a fight and more a small-scale war, this is one of the early battles between King Leonidas' 300 warriors and Xerxes' soldiers. Shown mostly in slow motion you really appreciate every move, blow, and shot the fighters make.
Killer move: The moment when the 300 steel themselves with their shields and push the remaining Persians off the edge of the cliff.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The fight: An incredible display of acrobatic ballet-fighting, as the heroic Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) clashes with Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), all while Lien continues to trade up her weapons, using a huge variety of blades at her disposal, to battle against Yu's Green Destiny sword.
Killer move: The two martial artists pause to talk a little smack before Yu offers Lien a chance to choose any weapon from the display around her. It only takes a second, but Lien returns with a huge broadsword and the two launch into another bout of whirling blades and swinging limbs.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
The fight: Having vanquished all of Ramona's previous exes, theres only evil kingpin Gideon Graves left for Scott to defeat. Cue an epic sword fight filled with awesome special effects and nifty lens flare.
Killer move: To start the fight, Scott declare his love for Ramona, earning himself a love power-up and allowing him to pull a flaming sword from his chest to fight with. How is it possible that this film got even cooler?
Superman 3 (1983)
The fight: After being exposed to red kryptonite, Superman develops hateful symptoms of lust, anger, and self-loathing, until eventually he splits into two personas - a dark Superman and a moral, just Clark Kent – and they fight. Its like the filmmakers decided to play out a fanboy question that no one was asking.
Killer move: Escaping the junk compactor, Clark emerges with a new fighting spirit and chokes Superman until he vanishes, allowing Clark to reveal the shiny S under his shirt. Yay good has prevailed!
Enter the Dragon (1973)
The fight: Bruce Lee faces his last great opponent, Han, in a showdown finale featuring trick mirrors and deadly traps. Because, when Bruce was at the top of his game, the best way his opponent could hope to defeat him was through cunning.
Killer move: After much skulking around mirrored corridors, Lee finally catches Han out and delivers a final blow, high kicking him into his own spear.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
The fight: Charlize Theron's spy has already been through a lot when she's faced down by two attackers in a stairwell in Berlin during the Cold War, but that doesn't stop her from kicking ass. This fight scene is so impressive due mainly to the fact that it goes on for a long time (the baddies seem to fight through many a mortal wound before finally going down) and the realistic brutality of the moves.
Killer move: Towards the end of the fight, one of the men pulls his own dagger out of his chest only for Theron to slammed it back into his throat multiple times and throw him down the stairs.
The fight: Our protagonist looks helpless. He's holding a knife to someone's throat, a hostage, and has only one exit – blocked by 20 men. What comes is one of the most visceral fights in cinematic history.
The move: Oldboy's famous one-shot is full of brilliant moments, but perhaps nothing beats the moment just after, when Choi Min-sik's character steps out of an elevator and a bunch of defeated dudes all fall down. Talk about badass.
The fight: Estranged brothers Tommy and Brendan end up fighting against each other in the final of a MMA fighting tournament. It's a brutally tense bout that stirs up swallowed emotions with every punch.
Killer move: Brendan manages to trap Tommy's left arm under his knee and, as he struggles to break free, he overextends to the sound of a sickening CRACK.
The fight: Having already gained the audiences approval, Maximus is pitted against Tigris of Gaul in the arena, all while surrounded by chained tigers held back by handlers who have been given specific instructions by evil Commodus to target our Max.
Killer move: The real killer move is, of course, Maximus defying the emperor to spare Tigris life and earning respect from the crowd and his fellow fighters. But well still opt for the moment when a tiger leaps onto Maximus back for sheer heart-stopping terror.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The fight: Maggie finally gets the big fight she always wanted: a $1million match against WBA women's welterweight champion, Billie The Blue Bear, an ex-prostitute and renowned dirty fighter.
Killer move: In the single moment that changes this sporting underdog tale into a harrowing tragedy, The Blue Bear sucker punches Maggie after the round ends and she lands on her corner stool, breaking her neck and leaving her paralysed.
The fight: After competing in a Kumite tournament and getting through to the final round, the Mussels From Brussels faces the '80s sports film equivalent of an end-of-level boss: vicious defending champion Chong Li.
Killer move: After being blinded with an illegal handful of quicklime, it looks like Van Dammes Frank Dux doesn't stand a chance, but then he taps into his Ninjutsu training and uses his other senses and lots of slow-motion jumps and kicks to win the bout.
The fight: THE sporting underdog story: the little-known Italian Stallion's climactic bout with arrogant heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.
Killer move: Rocky's sheer stamina. Having already taken a severe beating, Creed knocks him to the floor and throws his hands up in celebration. But his incredulous look is priceless as Rocky struggles back up to his feet...
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
The fight: What else? After killing the chain-hammer-twirling Gogo Yubari, the Bride is then confronted by a roar of motorbikes as the Crazy 88 gang pour in to the room to fight her. Cue lots of limb-chopping.
Killer move: Having finished off the entire gang single-handedly, only one Crazy 88 member is left standing. The Bride sends him away with a spanking.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The fight: Having waited three years to see a headstrong Luke square off against Darth Vader and avenge Obi-Wan's death, original Star Wars audiences got a lot more than they bargained for. With ominous lighting and powerful lightsaber-wielding, this was a showdown that marked Empire Strikes Back as a distinctly darker and deeper instalment of the saga.
Killer move: Take your pick between the moment when Vader finally gets the better of the younger, inexperienced Jedi, liberating his hand from his wrist, or following it up with that revelation.
The fight: Joseph Gordon-Levitt faces off against a projection of Cillian Murphy's subconscious in a hotel corridor, which is thrown into a state of zero gravity thanks to them occupying a van one dream level up that goes into free fall. We're assuming you've seen it, otherwise that sentence makes no sense.
Killer move: Gordon-Levitt's Arthur makes an early move to surprise his opponent by charging at him, starting off on the wall and then scrambling to the floor, just to get the first punch in.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The fight: News has spread that SHIELD has been infiltrated by HYDRA. Captain America, the symbol of all that's good, now knows that he's been working for the bad guys this whole time. In an elevator on the way out of the SHIELD base, the guards are ready to turn on Cap. "Does anyone want to get out?" he asks. Cue fight.
The move: Frank Grillo's Crossbones is the last man standing. "I just want you to know, this isn't personal," he says before lunging in with a taser stick. Cap throws him against the ceiling, delivers his quip ("It kinda feels personal") then a shot from above as everyone lays defeated on the ground. It's the moment many of us fell in love with the Avenger.
Dodge City (1939)
The fight: Errol Flynn takes on all-comers in this seminal Western brawl, a sequence so famous it became used as stock footage for many other Westerns. Let the bottle-throwing commence!
Killer move: The old chair across the back would become a staple of many bar fights to come...
The fight: Ripley takes on the Xenomorph Queen in this unconventional catfight, with a souped-up forklift truck finally triumphing over the snapping jaws and razor-sharp tail.
Killer move: Ripley manages to lure the Xenomorph into a cargo lock, allowing her to blast the beastie back into space where she belongs.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
The fight: Never mind the deadites, the biggest fight Ash faces in Evil Dead 2 is one with his own hand. The treacherous little brute has got a fair few moves in its locker
Killer move: Ash realises what must be done, grabbing a chainsaw and severing his hand at the wrist. Who's laughing now, eh?
From Russia With Love (1963)
The fight: Sean Connery's 007 tangles with SPECTRE agent Red Grant in a cramped train carriage in one of the more bone-jarring fight scenes in the James Bond series. Two men, one compartment no rules.
Killer move: Bond turns the tide by retrieving a tiny knife from a concealed compartment in his briefcase. Cheers, Q!
Batman Begins (2006)
The fight: Throughout Batman Begins, Bruce repeatedly fails to remember Ras advice to mind your surroundings. Until the final battle on the train that is
Killer move: The evasive manoeuvres that allow Bruce to escape and condemn Ras to his death. At least we think hes dead
The fight: Hit-Girl’s first opportunity to show off her skills requires breaking into a room full of bad guys, and leaving them wailing in a bloody mess.
Killer move: The leg-severing swish of her sword that leaves one henchman floor-bound.
Die Hard 2 (1990)
The fight: John McClane takes on two villains on the wing of a moving plane, sending one hurtling into the engine before making a death-defying leap back to terra firma.
Killer move: Having previously breached the planes fuel tank, McClane reaches for his lighter and sends the whole thing up in flames. Yippie-kay-ay motherfucker.
Freddy vs Jason (2003)
The fight: The two horror icons do battle in this overblown crossover movie, with Freddie in particular showing off some hitherto unsuspected acrobatics as Jason lunges around through the flaming scenery.
Killer move: Jason scoops Freddy into his arms like a child, before ramming his head through a window and dragging it through a load of broken glass.
Eastern Promises (2007)
The fight: A naked fight in a steamy bathhouse might sound a touch homoerotic, but trust us, theres nothing remotely sensual about this one. The desperation etched on Viggo Mortensen's face is matched only by the ferocity of his survival instinct
Killer move: Face, meet tiles. Tiles, face.
The fight: Bennett makes the mistake of waving a knife at Arnold Schwarzenegger, who reacts in customary fashion, before delivering one of his greatest ever payoff lines
Killer move: Arnie impales Bennett with a pipe, before quipping, Let off some steam, Bennett. Woohoo!
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The fight: Aragorn avenges his sort-of buddy Boromir in a breathless, minute-long slobberknocker, which swings back and forth aggressively before building to a furious, limb-hacking finale. These guys really look like they’re trying to kill each other.
Killer move: The cleanest decapitation you’ll ever see. In an act of terminal defiance, Lurtz pulls Aragorn’s blade deep into his chest - and Aragorn responds by lopping off his head. Lovely.
The fight: Its the Youtube sensation that is the handicap match between the team of Cynthia Rothrock and John Miller and Don Niams one man band. Let the shirt-ripping silliness commence!
Killer move: The knife-licking opening sets the tone for whats about to follow perfectly!
The Karate Kid (1984)
The fight: The climactic battle for the All Valley Karate crown between Daniel and the villainous Johnny. The latter fights dirty, the former follows his heart. Who do you think comes out on top?
Killer move: The Crane Kick that finally brings the contest to a close. Wax on, wax off, bitch.
Sin City (2005)
The fight: Having been comprehensively outmanoeuvred by the psychotic Kevin, Marv returns for the pint-sized sadist with a few tricks of his own. Proof that brute strength isnt always enough
Killer move: Having overpowered Kevin and hacked off his limbs, Marv leaves his fallen enemy to be finished off by his dog. Nice
John Wick (2014)
The fight: After declaring war on the Russian mob (who are indirectly responsible for killing his dog), Wick seeks out Alfie Allen's Iosef Tarasov in the fancy sauna room of a nightclub. He cuts through Tarasov's security with ease, practically punching them with bullets from his gun.
Killer move: This actually happens at the start of the scene, when Wick finds and kills Tarasov's buddy, Victor in the changing room of the club.
The Matrix (1999)
The fight: Forget the overblown brawls of the later sequels, the original Neo v Smith is a vastly superior contest. Martial arts mayhem meets bullet-time flashiness in this show-stopping beatdown.
Killer move: Smiths eventual realisation that body-blows wont cut it leads to the two of them rolling around on a train track. Happily for Neo, he reacts the quicker, jumping to safety as the train rolls in.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
The fight: Not so much a fight, but a brutal massacre in a Baptist Church, set to the tune of Freebird. What's most impressive about the scrap - other than the shockingly stark violence - is the fact that it's Colin 'Love Actually' Firth dishing out the pain.
Killer move: Take your pick. The bit where he burns off a face with a lighter? The bit where he snaps someone's neck against the lectern? The axe to the neck? The final 'pole through chin' kill on the pastor? They're all good.
The fight: One Punch Mickey takes on Horace Goodnight Anderson in a fight hes supposed to throw for Brick Top. Does he go through with the deal? Does he hell
Killer blow: From nowhere, Mickey delivers an uppercut that puts poor Horace on Dream Street. As Turkish helpfully points out, a pikey reaction is quite a fucking thing.
The fight: A quartet of rival new teams descend upon each other for a hellacious showdown, bringing all manner of weird and wonderful weapons to the party. Watch out for that trident!
Killer move: Champ Kind throws an onrushing aggressor through a car windshield. Smackdown!
Road House (1989)
The fight: Patrick Swayze rules the roost in his most badass role, as Dalton, the doorman with an unhealthy appetite for violence. The climactic fight with Jimmy is the icing on the cake
Killer move: Dalton brings out his finishing move, ripping out Jimmys throat, Mortal Kombat style. FINISH HIM!
Way of the Dragon (1972)
The fight: Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris put each other through their paces in this legendary battle from Way of the Dragon. Watch out for Chucks shoulder hair its worryingly prominent.
Killer move: The series of kicks that puts Norris on his backside. For a minute there, he almost looks worried
Wheels on Meals (1984)
The fight: Jackie Chans first ever fight with Benny The Jet Urquidez is a chop-socky treat, with both men wriggling and slithering out of seemingly impossible situations. Trying to keep one of them down is like nailing jelly to a wall
Killer move: Urquidez snuffs out a candle with a spinning kick. Not painful, but really bloody cool.
The Wrestler (2008)
The fight: The Ram pushes his body to breaking point in a brutal hardcore match with real-life masochist Necro Butcher. Thumb tacks, barbed wire, blunt instruments you name it, its in there. As good old JR would say, for the love of God, somebody needs to stop this thing!
Killer move: The Ram breaks a glass window over his opponents head. Game-changer
The Northman (2022)
The fight: Atop a raging volcano, Amleth seeks to finally end his internal torment and kill the man who murdered his father, stole his mother, and took over his kingdom: his uncle, Fjölnir.
The move: The two battle as only the meatiest vikings could, these two huge men clashing with their axes and shields, the lava raging around them. The gates of hell are open, and Valhalla will soon great them. Then, smash, the two slice each other at the same time. It's a visceral beheading – and one of the best scenes in cinema.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
The fight: A dust-up between fully paid-up loons Gary Busey and Mel Gibson was always going to be tasty and the garden based rumble between Riggs and Mr. Joshua doesn't disappoint. Were not sure this is police protocol, but its damned entertaining!
Killer move: Mr. Joshua gets choked out by the sheer power of Riggs legs. A lesson, if one were needed, to never get your head between Mel Gibson's thighs.
True Romance (1993)
The fight: While the scrap between Alabama and Virgil in the hotel room is the most brutal, nothing matches the wonderful build-up and execution of the three-way scrap at the end. Police, hired security, and mafia all collide in a plush hotel room, wiping out a swathe of characters in a chaotic and savage gun battle. It's the little touches, like the guys bleeding out covered in feathers, and the dream-like quality of the deaths that make this truly memorable.
Killer move: Tough to call, but the bullet to Clarence's eye feels most significant.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The fight: Indy enters an all-out slugfest with a moustachioed mountain of a man. He might be giving away more than a few pounds in weight, but Indy's talents lie in his awareness of his surroundings
Killer move: Indy keeps his man just where he wants him, allowing the propeller of a nearby aeroplane to do the rest.
Fight Club (1999)
The fight: Ed Nortons nameless narrator takes on Jared Letos Angel Face, remarking that, I felt like destroying something beautiful. Needless to say, he doesnt disappoint
Killer move: Nothing fancy here, just meaty punch after meaty punch. Norton takes it a bit far, mind. The fight should've been stopped well before the end.
Blade Runner (1982)
The fight: Deckard and Batty go at it hammer and tongs in this rain-drenched rooftop brawl. Don't worry though folks, they're not human!
Killer move: Batty steals the scene with his show-stopping death speech. Actions usually speak louder than words, but these words are badass
Raging Bull (1980)
The fight: Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson are the participants in this balletic and visceral punch-up. Robinson beats seven bells out of LaMotta, but crucially fails to knock him out.
Killer move: The storm of punches delivered by Robinson that leaves LaMotta's face a bloody mess. Still, ya never got me down Ray. Ya never got me down.
The Raid 2 (2014)
The fight: The final battle – in the kitchen is simply, the finest piece of fight choreography ever filmed, and a near-perfect fusion of sight, sound, and emotion. Rama has been exposed, so looks to hunt down his old friend Uco. But between Uco and Rama is The Assassin, and a near 10-minute fight that tears up a private kitchen, and leaves both combatants utterly exhausted and bloody. The fight is attritional, thrilling with every move, and has a perfect ebb and flow. The soundtrack builds as the fighters reach the end, and the final blow is... well, it's the killer move.
Killer move: Karambit, throat, death.
What Raid 2 star Iko Uwais told us about the fight: "I remember when we did the choreography on that scene it was sheer hard work, and trial and error. We spent six months creating the choreography for that kitchen scene and spent another six months making videoboard. So it was a pretty tough scene to nail. There was a long time spent making that scene because it's not just the choreo that was created, but also figuring out the best camera angle possible for every move".
For more, check out the best Netflix action movies currently streaming.