• Sarah E. Mason

This List Goes to 11: The Greatest Movie Fight Scenes of All Time



This piece was born out of my response to a posed question, "What is the greatest movie fight scene of all time?" Opinions will vary and that is part of the magic of movies. They touch us so personally and birth many varying and opposing interpretations. In truth, how could any of list be definitive?


Fresh out of graduate school, in my twenties, I arrived in Los Angeles eager to work in Hollywood. My first real, professional job (I had nine temporary ones in my first six months) was at the American Film Institute (AFI). During my tenure at AFI, our team released, AFI's 100 Years, 100 Movies List, the first of a series of top 100 lists. These lists, concocted by the marketing department, became so popular they elevated AFIs brand to a global level and spawned a series of TV specials highlighting them. This campaign was, effectively, the grandmother of digital Top 10 lists. So in actuality, I am partly to blame.


At their best, Top 10/50/10 lists spark conversation. If I learned anything from working on AFIs 100 Years, 100 Movies campaign, it is that human beings have a never-ending thirst for movie lore. More than any other art form movies give fodder to more discussions, debates, emoting and yes, lists.


So in the spirit of starting conversations, and because I hate conformity, here are 11 not 10, offerings for Greatest Movie Fight Scenes, not by rank, by reason. Please discuss.



Kill Bill Vol 1. - The Bride vs The Crazy 88s vs O Ren

Tarantino recruited legendary martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping and sword fight choreographer Tetsuro Shimaguchi for his 2003 film, Kill Bill Vol. 1. This scene embodies everything I love about Tarantino. He uses fight scenes to push character development while simultaneously, with no apologies, pays homage to his favorite 70s martial arts films with all their gore and cheese. The music direction, as always in his films, aids in crafting the atmosphere. Some may argue that the following scene, in which Beatrice Kiddo finally fights O Ren is perhaps more masterful in terms sword choreography. In truth I had a hard time picking between them. I love the cinematography in the O Ren fight scene. The serenity of the snow setting in juxtaposition with the brutality of sword fighting is stunning. It is also in stark contrast to the frantic scene prior, with the frantic music and chaotic group fight scene to suddenly silence. In a break from fighting O Ren the two woman are at a standstill catching their breath and all you hear is the sound of the water fountain. It is such a powerful manipulation. Each scene, the crazy 88s and the final O Ren fight, delivers now-legendary moments.



Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy - Newsroom Brawl

“Uh oh, here comes trouble". How could I not out put this on the list? It makes me laugh every time I see it and has taken its place as one of the most mimicked and iconic movie scenes, similarly to the Matrix, Mission Impossible 1 (Cruise suspended in Langley scene), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon treeptop scenes. You get the picture. It took 110 set ups to pull off this scene, written by Adam McCay and Will Ferrell, egged on by Judd Apatow who convinced them to take their Warriors-esque scene moment and turn it into an entire brawl with all the different news stations. It was shot in a parking lot in downtown LA. The rest is history.



Shaun of the Dead - Fight at the Winchester

What adds the extra punch to this scene from the movie that launched Writer/Director Edgar Wright and Writer/Actor Simon Pegg's successful run of mad cap British comedies (Hot Fuzz, The World's End), is the strategic insertion of the Queen song, "Don't Stop Me" Now. That's literally why I love it. It's also really hilarious and always entertaining to see a zombie fight, particularly a tongue in cheek one (see what I did there, sorry). Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004, years before the pilot of Walking Dead. Zombies were having a bit of a resurgence with Zack Snyder's awesome reboot of Dawn of the Dead, but this British-humour spin on the genre was incredibly refreshing and stands the test of time as one of the post-Romero (hey day) greatest zombie films.



Kick-Ass - Enter Hit-Girl

If you hadn't read the comic, seeing Hit-Girl fight was a pleasant surprise, albeit at the time, 2010, the film caught some controversy for its violence and Chloe Grace Moretz (hit girl) was only 13 at the time and the character Hit-Girl is 11. So part of this scenes greatness is the sheer, holy f*ck of it all and the awesome fight choreography. The film itself has so many scenes where you just cant believe they go there, but they do. Personally, I love this fight because I love Hit-Girl. Who doesn't want to see a girl save the day? And also, as evident by my last pick, I am a huge fan of great music direction and film scores and I love, love, love the choice of the theme song for The Banana Splits in this fight sequence.



Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - Michelle Yeoh vs Zhang Ziyi

Never has the term choreography, for a fight scenes, rung more true in this exquisite scene in a beautiful movie. I can't watch this enough. The film won 4 Oscars including Best Foreign Language (the change to that title came in 2020), Best Score, Art Direction and Cinematography. It was nominated for Best Picture, Gladiator beat it. Yuen Woo-ping, legendary Hong Kong martial arts master did the fight choreography. He is one of the most successful and influential fight choreographers of all time. He also did The Matrix, which is not on this list, kinda like how the some of the greatest actors never win Oscars because everyone takes for granted how they are so great (Alan Rickman). Yuen, whose father Simon was also a martial arts master as are his brothers (together