By Matt Neglia A good fight scene in a movie can feature many elements coming together for what is undeniably a very cinematic moment for the audiences. Some can help propel a film to live on in infamy. Others function as one of many such scenes in a single movie. Sometimes it’s the culmination of all of the storytelling that came before it leading to the inevitable confrontation of the protagonist and antagonist. Other times it is simply a badass clash of two opposing forces in a life or death situation. This is not what I would consider “the best” one on one fight scenes within a movie, rather these are personal favorites of mine in a very subjective list which I’m sure will differ for most. For the purposes of this list, I chose to keep it to one fight per film series and tried to make the list as varied as possible so you won’t see multiple lightsaber fights/sword fights/boxing fights/etc.
Click below to see for yourself what are my favorite one on fight scenes.
10. “The Bourne Ultimatum” – Jason Bourne vs. Desh
I was torn between including this or a fight from one of the James Bond films. However, this wins due to its raw down and dirty nature. The chase which takes place before hand with Bourne (Matt Damon) jumping through a window is exhilarating but when he starts trading blows with the asset known as Desh (Joey Ansah) the results are thrilling. This fight does get knocked down a peg as Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) does get involved for a brief moment but once she gets knocked out by Desh the fight gets brutal pretty quickly. Backed by Academy Award winning Sound Editing, Mixing and Film Editing its easy to see how based on this fight alone, the film won all three of those awards.
9. “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” – Yu Shu Lien vs. Jen Yu
Ang Lee delivered a martial arts masterpiece in 2000 with “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.” The film went on to win 4 Academy Awards for its costumes, cinematography, score and the award for Best Foreign Language Film. The choreography of the fights in this film became legendary. The emotion of the story helped to propel it beyond standard martial arts fare and the breakout performances by Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang only helped. Their fight here involving the Green Destiny sword, as Jen Yu wields it to destroy every weapon atYu Shu Lien’s disposal, only heightens the mythical nature of the story giving the fight a lasting impact.
8. “The Dark Knight Rises” – Bane vs. Batman
Not so much a fight as it is a complete physical beatdown by the imposing Gotham City villain Bane (A beefed up Tom Hardy) on Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), this fight lands on the list due to how much it reduced our perception of the Caped Crusader who to this point in the Dark Knight Trilogy had been unmatched in terms of physicality. To see him get outmatched in every way by Bane made audiences uncomfortable and the entire situation for our hero seem so hopeless. The question was which would break first, Batman’s spirit or his body? And that is exactly what Bane seeks to do in his first fight with Batman, with bone shattering results.
7. “Spider-Man 2” – Doc Ock vs. Spiderman
There have been many fights within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but nothing so far (Remember, “Captain America: Civil War” was a 2 on 1 fight at the end between Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and Bucky) has come close to matching the epic confrontation between Spiderman and (Who I believe to be) his greatest foe in Doctor Octopus (Or Doc. Ock for short) on a moving Manhattan train. While the visual effects may now be considered dated, the story of Spiderman 2 remains one of the strongest efforts that marvel has ever produced with a natural progression of stakes for our hero Peter Parker and fully developed character arc for Doc. Ock that places this gravity defying fight on my list.
6. “Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge Of The Sith” – Anakin vs. Obi Wan
Yes, the prequels are pretty terrible films all around and the lightsaber battles went from being filled with emotion to highly choreographed CGI’d snoozefests. This climatic battle at the end of George Lucas’s prequel trilogy managed to bring the emotion back into the lightsaber fight and throw in every over the top aspect of a lightsaber battle you could imagine. From the environmental effects, to the bewildering choreography, to John Williams’s incredible score (Which goes a long way in helping the scene achieve epic status) and the over the top performance by Hayden Christiansen matched by the superior performance by Ewan McGregor, there is a lot to love and criticize about this scene, but I still love it regardless.
5. “Kill Bill Vol. 2” – The Bride vs. Elle Driver
It was tough to decide between this or the Vivica A. Fox fight from Vol. 1, but the reason this one takes the cake is due to two things: 1. The build up to the inevitable brawl these two ladies go through with one another and 2. How it subverts our expectations at the end. The fight is brutal with Tarantino using a flurry of various sound effects and pitting these two within close quarters so that everything within the trailer is at the two women’s disposal, all in the name of trying to defeat the other. The ending is brilliant in only a way that a filmmaker like Tarantino can deliver as he builds towards a grand conclusion, only to have it result in an eye popping moment of shock and humor.
4. “Troy” – Achilles vs. Hector
All throughout “Troy,” Achilles (A grunting and overly blonde Brad Pitt) is shown to be this unmatched fighter who no one can seemingly kill anyone who crosses his path regardless of their skill or size. Hector (Eric Bana) has been portrayed as Troy’s greatest fighter and leader. He is a man of nobility and honor. So when the two finally meet before the gates of Troy in a one on fight to the death over the accidental killing of Achilles’s cousin, the reputation of both men has been built up well enough that the audience can’t wait to see these two go head to head. The fight proves to be the toughest that Achilles has ever had and is worthy of his respect and our own.
3. “The Matrix Revolutions” – Neo vs. Smith
While I recognize the faults of “The Matrix Revolutions” and could have easily put the first fight between Smith and Neo from the original film on this list, what separates this fight is the epic score by Don Davis, the breathtaking visuals (And heavy rain beyond realities standards) by the Wachowski’s and the pre-fight stare-down with an ominous premonition by Agent Smith introducing doubt into the audience’s mind that Neo cannot possibly win this fight. The fight is everything a Dragon Ball Z fan could have possibly dreamed of with the fast paced hand to hand choreography and aerial maneuvers lending an epic feel to the fight that simply cannot be matched in terms of scope. The ending of the fight and thus the ending to the science fiction trilogy, may have left audiences feeling unfulfilled but this pre-fight and ultimate showdown between the hero and villain delivers in all areas that the visual medium of cinema could possibly offer.
2. “The Raid 2” – Rama vs. The Assassin
1. “Warrior” – Tommy vs. Brendan
Over two hours of build up. An emotional story backed by two very strong performances from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. A third supporting performance from Nick Nolte as the alcoholic father who ties the two fighters together by their history (And ironically, tore them apart). The final climatic battle at the end of “Warrior” never fails to make me cry as every action and moment has meaning behind it. All five rounds of this emotionally devastating fight are played out as their own short film within the film with a clear beginning, middle and end. There are plot twists (The broken arm), character development moments (“I love you Tommy”) and an emotional catharsis for both characters (And even Nick Nolte) as the two men go to war and come out stronger (And closer together) than ever on the other side. Just perfect and every way. And that does it for my top 10 list of the best one on one fight scenes in film. Do you agree or disagree with my list? What are some of your favorite fight scenes? Personally, some honorable mentions or me include Voldemort vs. Harry Potter (“Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2”), Rocky vs. Apollo Creed (“Rocky”) and Maximus vs. Commodus (“Gladiator”). Comment below and share your thoughts.
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