Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
The Fighters: Martin Q Blank (John Cusack) vs. Felix LaPubelle (Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez)
The Fight: Cheap and nasty - LaPubelle sneaks up on Blank at a high school reunion, while the latter is reminiscing over his old locker in a deserted corridor.
The resulting bout is notable for a kick-ass soundtrack (English Beat's skank-tastic Mirror In The Bathroom , featuring the beautifully timed lyric "all my crimes are self-defence"), a meaty throat-kick from Blank, and a wincingly grimy fatality.
Dirtiest Move: Got to be Blank's oddly literary coup de grâce , delivered via a ballpoint pen to the jugular. Mightier than the sword, indeed...
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: A lengthy chat over the fruit punch (excuse us), about how their respective schooldays were possibly responsible for their careers as rival hitmen, might've smoothed things over.
From Russia With Love (1963)
The Fighters: James Bond (Sean Connery) vs. Red Grant (Robert Shaw)
The Fight: In the tight confines of a train carriage, Bond gets the jump on Grant by tricking him into opening a tear gas-filled briefcase.
The ensuing ruckus is cramped and claustrophobic, but ends with Bond - with a little help from a just-reachable pocket knife - throttling Grant with his own concealed garrotte.
Dirtiest Move: As you'd expect from Bond, this one's reasonably clean throughout. Well, as long as you don't count the sneaky arm-stab. But the rule book for train brawling is mostly about having your ticket ready at all times.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: "No, Mr Grant - it's better if you put your whole head right inside the briefcase. And inhale deeply. Hm? Oh, er, no reason..."
Fight Club (1999)
The Fighters: The Narrator (Edward Norton) vs. Angel Face (Jared Leto)
The Fight: Just another regular bout at the weekly basement slap-fest. Or so it seems, until an increasingly unhinged Norton goes Hulk-smash crazy on wee Jared's porcelain bone structure.
We still can't get those hammy crunching sounds out of our heads - much less the choking, tooth-shattered blood bubble that Angel Face hacks up as the dust settles. Eesh.
Dirtiest Move: It's not the moves themselves, so much as the dizzying sense of horrifying overkill as the blows keep raining in. The guy's physically incapable of tapping out, for Christ's sake. Oh, the humanity...
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: If The Narrator had actually voiced his inner monologue before the fight - "I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every panda that wouldn't screw to save its species" - nobody would've blamed his opponent for giving this round a miss.
Ip Man (2008)
The Fighters: Ip Man (Donnie Yen) vs. ten black belts
The Fight: We should say right off the bat that martial arts entries in this list have been limited to a handful of either unusual or particularly iconic scenes - obviously, the genre (opens in new tab) can easily fill multiple features (opens in new tab) on its own.
Here, though, our titular hero delivers a mass biffdown in formal dojo surroundings - and, somewhat against form, the enemy aren't politely holding off to take this scrap one at a time.
Dirtiest Move: That downward-stomping hip separation is wrong. WRONG.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: By the time you've got ten dudes on your ass, it's arguably gone a little too far for words. And even if it hasn't, who's got time to reason with all of them? Screw that - it's smacky time.
Die Hard 2 (1990)
The Fighters: John McClane (Bruce Willis) vs. Major Grant (John Amos) and Colonel Stuart (William Sadler)
The Fight: This might not be the most face-wrecking of all McClane's franchise punch-ups, but dammit, we don't want to live in a world where you get no extra points for 'stepping outside' on to the wing of a moving plane .
Or for slapping your first enemy into a spinning jet engine. Or for jumping ship in apparent defeat, then sending your nemesis to hell in a blazing handcart via a Zippo and an artfully tampered-with fuel tank...
Dirtiest Move: Look how early he flips the cap on that fuel reservoir - he clearly had this sneaky resolution planned a good five minutes before he actually disembarked his, er, wing seat...
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Conversation won't get him far, but McClane could've hijacked the airport PA and, uh... directed all the bad guys to the wrong gate? Ok, not great.
Top Secret! (1984)
The Fighters: Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) vs. The Torch (Christopher Villiers)
The Fight: Who says all quality scraps have to be macho-serious? If there's even a 2% chance your script might allow for a bareknuckle slug-a-thon in an underwater western saloon, you're pretty much duty-bound to film one.
Dirtiest Move: How can you fight dirty when you're getting a bath at the same time? Haha! Ha. No? Ok, well we spotted a double nipple-twist in there, which definitely isn't cricket.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: It's tricky to make a profound appeal to someone's rational side using only variations on the word "bloop", which is why sub-aqua fights rarely get talked off.
The Fighters: Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt) vs. Horace 'Goodnight' Anderson (Scott Welch)
The Fight: Seemingly over a very uncomfortable barrel with his traveller community going up in (literal) flames, Mickey agrees to throw one last fight for venomous gangster Brick Top.
After taking the requisite thrashing for four rounds, all Mickey has to do is stay down... but he's got other ideas. Wham, etc.
Dirtiest Move: There's a bit of post-bell pummelling from Anderson early on, but Mickey's devastating roundhouse - delivered from a position of apparent unconsciousness down on the canvas - is one of the most brilliantly cheeky KO slaps in recent memory.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Nobody can understand a bloody word Mickey says, so good luck with that.
True Romance (1993)
The Fighters: Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) vs. Virgil (James Gandolfini)
The Fight: This one only just scraped the list, thanks largely to its starkly confrontational brutality - after all, 90% of it isn't so much a 'fight' as a sickening display of thuggish guy-on-girl torture-bullying.
That said, we do love the way the tables are finally turned in spectacular (and oh-so-gnarly) fashion, providing one of the most memorable moments in a modern trash classic.
Dirtiest Move: Everything Virgil does is straight from the cowardly gangster gutter, but Alabama eventually treating his foot like a bottle of Chardonnay? We'll drink to that.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: "Look under the bed, dingus!" might've earned her a brief reprieve.
The Fighters: John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) vs. Bennett (Vernon Wells)
The Fight: A sweat-soaked showdown in a shady boiler room begins with a pistol drawn, descending into macho blade-waving and then - for no apparent reason beyond classic brawlers' butterfingers - a hearty round of knuckle sarnies.
Dirtiest Move: Matrix slamming Bennett into a power grid isn't exactly Queensberry rules, but after stapling his foe to a steam vent, it's Arnie's classically cringey kiss-off line that truly feels the muckiest here.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: "Let off some steam, Bennett!" might've sounded much more reasonable had it been suggested, say, just before they started using each other's skulls for drum practice.
Warrior King (2005)
The Fighters: Kham (Tony Jaa) vs. pretty much everybody on the payroll of Madame Rose (Xing Jin)
The Fight: Taking a rather more hands-on approach to animal conservation than we're used to, Kham gets revenge for some high-level elephant poaching by snapping about 68 waggling henchman limbs.
Dirtiest Move: For anyone in possession of a skeleton, it's all pure filth. Kham straight-up has issues with the idea of people walking away with more than four bones intact. It sounds like a Kit-Kat convention in there.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can... actually, I don't really know where I'm going with this. Pass me your femur."
Lethal Weapon (1987)
The Fighters: Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) vs. Mr Joshua (Gary Busey)
The Fight: Some seriously off-piste police etiquette entitles captured villain Joshua to free himself from his shackles for a good old-fashioned rumble with Riggs. In a fellow officer's front garden. While half the department stand around watching and clapping.
Dirtiest Move: Given that the entire thing goes down in a lashing rainstorm on a small square of hilariously boggy lawn, it's probably too easy to say "all of it" - let's go for that iconic triangular choke-hold Joshua suffers betwixt Rigg's equally squelchy thighs.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: All this needed was for Danny Glover's LAPD officer to insist on doing things by the book, and hey presto: dullest ending ever!
The Quiet Man (1952)
The Fighters: Sean Thornton (John Wayne) vs. 'Red' Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen)
The Fight: Hardly the most exciting setup - lady troubles relating to an unpaid dowry - but a glorious, rambling melee that meanders through an entire village and includes a quick pit-stop for a cheeky pint midway through.
Dirtiest Move: Popping out of a haystack to administer a savage shin-nibble is outrageously low.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Since the whole thing is essentially built on a gigantic cultural misunderstanding, a quick crash-course on Irish wedding customs would've shortened this epic bust-up by a good eight minutes.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
The Fighters: The Bride (Uma Thurman) vs. Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah)
The Fight: Death-or-glory catfighting in an extremely confined space (Elle's trailer) means that anything within grabbing distance - TV aerials, canned goods, acoustic guitars - becomes fair game for taking down your opponent.
Dirtiest Move: Gouging out your foe's one good eye and then leaving her stumbling blindly around a caravan with a deadly snake? Wasn't this martial arts stuff supposed to be all about honour?
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Given the potential dangers of entering into an argument with a savvy and furious woman, a guitar around the face might well be the safer option.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Fighters: Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) vs. Jarda (Marton Csokas)
The Fight: In a cramped Munich apartment, Bourne is suddenly attacked by his one surviving fellow ex-Treadstone operative. The ensuing set-to uses director Paul Greengrass' zoomed-in, documentary-style trademark realism to make us feel like we're in danger of catching a wayward blow.
Dirtiest Move: Not so much dirty as implausibly effective - the balance of power is tipped by Bourne rolling up a magazine and swatting at Jarda like he's an overgrown fruit fly.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: That's precisely what Bourne was trying to achieve when he was started on, so we can safely disregard a cosy chat as an alternative option.
Way Of The Dragon (1972)
The Fighters: Tang Long (Bruce Lee) vs. Colt (Chuck Norris)
The Fight: Another martial arts melee, but c'mon... just look at those names. How could we not include this one? It's got everything: evil kittens, super slow-mo, disgusting shoulder-fuzz, and some of the highest-kicking smack-action the genre's 1970s heyday produced.
Dirtiest Move: Death before dishonour, people. Literally, in this case - but it's all strictly above the belt.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: The language barrier plays a role for Tang throughout this film, which is partly why he enjoys the special relationship of mutual respect with Colt. They solve it in the only language they both understand.
Welcome To The Jungle (2003)
The Fighters: Beck (Dwayne Johnson) vs. Manito (Ernie Reyes Jr), various
The Fight: The hulking bounty hunter Beck takes on a gaggle of rope-swinging henchmen in a jungle clearing, ultimately getting his arse handed to him by what Seann William Scott refers to doltishly as "spinning Tarzan ju-jitsu".
We call it shamelessly physics-ignorant 'wire fu', but we're not arguing semantics when it's this much fun to watch.
Dirtiest Move: Being catapulted 30 feet into a tree and landing crotch-first on a knotted branch isn't going to do anyone any favours in the combat arena.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Pleading for something a little fairer - say, one opponent at a time, kung fu style - might at least have given ol' Dwayne a fighting chance.
Any Which Way You Can (1980)
The Fighters: Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) vs. Jack Wilson (William Smith)
The Fight: If you didn't go to the bathroom before this one kicked off, you're in trouble - wrapping up this preposterous man-monkey buddy sequel is a fight so comically lengthy that, in addition to pausing for several reflective conversations, it even develops its own bet-fixing sub-plot.
Dirtiest Move: Wilson's arm-breaker is about as dirty as this one gets, but since he tries to take Beddoe to the hospital immediately afterwards, we're not holding anything against him.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Quite easily, one imagines - both combatants could've read The Doors Of Perception , mastered the sitar and started up an Indian hippie commune in the time it takes them to slug this one out.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Fighters: Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) vs. McMurdo (David Garrick)
The Fight: Holmes takes down a lumbering brute in the boxing ring using an eye-wateringly deliberate series of moves designed to incapacitate an opponent one leaky organ at a time.
There's not a tremendous amount of butterfly/bee choreography to really make this one sing, but it's Holmes' precision methodology (and the fact that we get to see it put into rib-splintering practice) that makes this bout a winner.
Dirtiest Move: Using a handkerchief to distract the enemy is hardly gallant, but then he did just get spat on - poetic justice, anyone?
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: The chillingly calculated way in which Holmes describes precisely what impact each move will have on the body would've been enough to end the fight in itself, we suspect.
Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)
The Fighters: John J Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) vs. Coley Trimble (Ernest Borgnine)
The Fight: While Macreedy is minding his own business (well, sort of) over lunch in the local tavern, suspicious bruiser Trimble goes all-out to pick a fight with our one-armed hero.
It turns out to be about as wise a move as challenging Rick Allen to a drumming contest - in other words, not very. Trimble is quickly schooled with a few well-aimed karate chops, and Macreedy makes his unutterably dignified exit.
Dirtiest Move: Clearly the pre-fight sequence in which Trimble dumps a load of unwanted sauce into Macreedy's modest lunch bowl. Now that's how to wind a hungry man up.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Ever the diplomat, Macreedy does his darndest to avoid fisticuffs - alas, this one was only ever going to end one way.
The Fighters: Kristi Jones (Cynthia Rothrock) and Nick DiMarco (John Miller) vs. Stingray (Don Niam)
The Fight: Ok, fine - here it is. One of the most internet-famous scrimmages on the market, and for good reason: it's nearly as ridiculous as the film's inexcusable title.
Shirt-ripping, knife-licking, woman-pounding, constant grunting, and a finishing move that wouldn't look out of place in a Cronenberg horror - this is truly one of the most ludicrous bust-ups around.
Dirtiest Move: It's all fun and games until somebody (Stingray) loses an eye. Or even both eyes. In separate incidents. Still, neither injury is as grotty as Rothrock's woefully clunky kiss-off line - or, indeed, DiMarco's even lamer follow-up.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Given the lead characters' apparent skill level with a witty turn of phrase, allowing them to try talking their differences over would've probably resulted in World War III. No dice.
The Punisher (2004)
The Fighters: Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) vs. The Russian (Kevin Nash)
The Fight: A bizarrely kittenish knock at the door is immediately followed up by The Russian opening a catering-sized can of whoop-ass on Castle, flinging Punisher around his balsa wood apartment like an enraged grizzly with a Barbie doll.
Dirtiest Move: Not sure we could call it dirty, but batting a grenade back from whence it came takes some sly moves. The gun-crush is pretty fly, too... in fact, Castle's pan of hot oil is easily the least honourable moment here.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: The traditional post-knock "Who's there?" would've saved a veritable world of pain on this occasion.
Road House (1989)
The Fighters: Dalton (Patrick Swayze) vs. Jimmy (Marshall Teague)
The Fight: Ohh, now we're talking. Having rescued his buddy from a blazing house, excitable bouncer Dalton dives to knock a thug from a speeding motorbike, kicks 17 shades of bejesus out of him, then delivers the most cartoonish finisher this side of Mortal Kombat .
Dirtiest Move: This rumble is rife with snake-like tactics - not least crunching someone's limb around a convenient tree trunk - but nothing, nothing beats manfully removing an opponent's windpipe then punting them unceremoniously into a bayou.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Swayze always struck us as a largely reasonable dude, so we daresay he might've been up for a constructive discourse. Best to engage him before he tears your larynx out though, obviously.
The Fighters: Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) vs. Fischer's projections
The Fight: Henchmen - projected by the subconscious machinations of corporate bad egg Fischer - attack Arthur in a dream-world hotel corridor that, due to chaotic events on other snooze levels, is experiencing constant gravity shifts.
Result? One of the most memorable tussles of recent times, even if it isn't the longest or most molar-loosening.
Dirtiest Move: It's pretty hard to focus on keeping it clean when basic directions stop making sense. That said, there's little virtue in Arthur's eventual handgun takedown, even if he does catch his enemy rather neatly on the volley.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: A giant megaphone and screaming "WAKE THE HELL UP," presumably... although there was a lot more to be gained from his little nap than a refreshing 40 winks.
The Fighters: Frank Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) vs. Chong Li (Bolo Yeung)
The Fight: On the third and final day of the notorious underground Kumite championship, Dux faces off against Li for the title - and has to call on all of his powers of perception when his opponent chucks quicklime in his eyes.
Cue some of the most unspeakably naff 'pain face' acting known to man. But, ultimately, a lot more satisfying A-grade ass-slappery.
Dirtiest Move: As if the handful of blinding powder isn't rotten enough, Li then shoves the referee towards Dux in a shameful attempt to send our hero barking (well, punching) up the wrong pyjama-clad tree. Shady.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Not much chance of a violence-free settlement between our active pugilists, admittedly... but since the whole contest is highly illegal anyway, a quick call to the fuzz would've saved Dux a costly post-brawl trip to the optician.
The Matrix (1999)
The Fighters: Neo (Keanu Reeves) vs. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving)
The Fight: As Neo starts to believe in the infinitely malleable pseudo-reality of the Matrix, the opportunity for a subway showdown with shady Agent Smith presents itself. Be a shame to pass this one up, wouldn't it?
While there are bigger, more brazenly wire-happy sequences to be found throughout the franchise, this was one of the first times audiences really grasped the physical possibilities of the environment. It blew our minds a bit over a decade ago, and frankly it still looks pretty awesome today.
Dirtiest Move: Not much to report here, but we've got to hand the wooden spoon to Smith for coming up with the train takedown first. Shame really, as prior to this he fights with a fittingly mindless reliance on good old-fashioned body blows. Grudging respect, you irritating old virus...
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: A well-thumbed copy of Windows For Dummies , maybe? Hm, perhaps not.
Wheels On Meals (1984)
The Fighters: Thomas (Jackie Chan) vs. Mondale's goon (Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez)
The Fight: A stone-cold classic, one of the greatest martial arts set-pieces in existence, and to miss it from this list would be like missing a jab at a parked bus. Urquidez's candle-extinguishing spin-kick alone pretty much guarantees inclusion.
Dirtiest Move: Plenty - both fighters seemingly quit, only to suddenly lash out again; Chan escapes from a choke-hold by tickling his foe; and Urquidez even manages to land a kick while seemingly in the act of removing his jacket. Slippery sods, the pair of 'em.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: With these guys right at the top of their respective games, we're not really sure why they even bother fighting - they'd be better off having a nice long chinwag about how to join forces and kick every single ass in the known universe .
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The Fighters: The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) vs. T-1000 (Robert Patrick)
The Fight: In the climactic scene of the then-two movie franchise, mecha-Arnie and the garment-rendingly fearsome T-1000 face off cyborg-a-cyborg.
Includes graphically awesome scenes of futuristic robots pounding each other's chrome-domes into countless tonnes of heavy machinery: in other words, a total shoo-in.
Dirtiest Move: Arnie's grenade-launching finisher is cheeky - if that can ever be the right word - but since it's technically disqualified from this fist list, we'll stick with the T-1000 clamping our hero's arm in a giant industrial flywheel.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: Long shot, but a well-timed lecture from the original Terminator on the ever-accelerating obsolescence of so-called 'new' technologies might've depressed T-1000 into abandoning the chase.
Fight Club (1999)
The Fighters: The Narrator (Edward Norton) vs. The Narrator (Edward Norton)
The Fight: A sneaky second entry for David Fincher's spine-crunching classic, and for us, it's the best ruck of the movie: in a cacklingly demented attempt to extort his boss, Norton's character gives himself the battering of a lifetime.
Interestingly, we've noticed that a lot of our favourite scenes from this list include a healthy dash of slapstick humour, and this scene's no exception - Norton's dazed "That hurt..." diffuses the otherwise nightmarish vibe perfectly.
Dirtiest Move: Flinging himself by the tie-knot into a huge stack of glass shelving is clearly the attention-grabber, but we love the extra couple of cheeky jabs he gives himself right afterwards.
Still, the real filth here is his killer line right as the witnesses turn up - and, of course, the manipulative wobble in his voice as he delivers it.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: We all saw how far words got him. This was a do-or-die scenario from the moment Richard Chesler called security...
Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky (1991)
The Fighters: Ricky Ho Lik Wong (Fan Siu-wong) vs. Oscar (Frankie Chin)
The Fight: Fistfight carnage is taken to a whole new level - a level chiefly notable for its sheer ridiculousness - when inmate Ricky is forced to battle tattooed cell-leader Oscar.
During the course of the kerfuffle, Riki gnaws through his own exposed tendons, slaps one of Oscar's eyes out into a flock of hungry birds, and is nearly throttled by a beaten Oscar using his own intestines as a noose.
Dirtiest Move: There has never, ever been a tactic so heroically shady as trying to choke your rival to death with an organ that should ideally still be inside your body.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: How about "This is the most awesomely stupid fight script in history, and I'm not entirely sure that my serious kung fu career will ever fully recover. Can we at least consider dropping the eye part?"
They Live (1988)
The Fighters: Nada (Roddy Piper) vs. Frank Armitage (Keith David)
The Fight: Nada wants Frank to put on a pair of sunglasses. Frank doesn't want to. And so they proceed to throw down the most gratuitously hyper-extended back alley brawl since mankind first evolved draggable knuckles.
We lost count of how many times we thought it was over, but it never quite is. In fact, rumour has it they're still going even now, swatting limply at each other's spongy torsos with whatever remains of their long-shattered wrist-stumps...
Dirtiest Move: We lost count of these, too. Crotch-thumping, false tap-outs, hand-biting, eye-gouging, tripping... this thing is basically the Olympic Games of shitty sportsmanship.
How It Could've Been Solved With Words: "What's that, Nada - put the sunglasses on? Uh... why ?"