Sworn enemies, armies, heroes, and villains are destined to clash in films made over the decades. These climactic battles have created some of the most memorable moments in all of cinema history, featuring mind-blowing stunts, special effects, and character moments that can never be forgotten once seen.
While Part 1 featured some of the most memorable fights of the last several decades, the fights featured in the Top 20 are the greatest action pieces that have been made. From hard-hitting martial arts combat to dashing duels to massive battles, these fights encompass decades of movie magic.
Read #40 to #21 in Part 1 of Cinema’s 40 Greatest Fight Scenes!
20. Mirror Fight – Enter the Dragon
Chasing after Han, the evil creator of a fighting tournament, Lee (Bruce Lee) confronts his foe in a museum filled with weaponry. While Han has replaced his missing hand with a deadly claw, Lee proves his better with his martial arts skills, sending his signature strikes through him again and again. Shrugging off deep gashes, Lee chases Han into a room filled with mirrors. While the dizzying display allows Han to sneak in several vicious cuts, Lee fights back by shattering every mirror with his fists and feet. At last, a kick to the jaw sends Han fatally flying onto a spear.
Best Moment: Spinning around, Lee delivers a furious punch to the side of Han’s head, smashing him around like a punching bag in a display of Lee’s real life martial arts capabilities.
19. The Battle of New York – The Avengers
With Loki breaking up the already troubled Avengers, the Asgardian villain opens a portal in the middle of Manhattan, sending a legion of aliens pouring out into the city and ready to conquer the Earth. Recouperating from their earlier setbacks, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, and The Hulk arrive in New York to fight back the army. With five films leading to this moment, our already loved heroes leap into their greatest battle yet. The reveal of Hulk’s secret, Thor’s might lightning strikes, Cap’s battle strategies, Iron Man’s sacrifice, and the sheer joy of seeing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes gathered together make this a comic book dream come true.
Best Moment: Geared up, ready for battle, and surrounded by an alien army, The Avengers finally assemble in a 360 degree shot. This is the moment that this film was made for!
18. “I Am Not Left-Handed” – The Princess Bride
In a bid to save his fellow criminals, Inigo Montoya stays behind to confront the mysterious Man in Black who has been giving chase since the group kidnapped Princess Buttercup. As two master swordsmen, both combatants treat one another with utter respect while putting their considerable skills to use. The swordsmen trade complements and show off, both looking to make this duel into something epic. Classic lines, fantastic choreography, and a clear love for classic duels on film make this into a stylish and duel.
Best Moment: On the losing end of the duel, Inigo reveals that he has been fighting with his weaker hand and is not actually left handed. Being pushed back by a renewed onslaught, The Man in Black reveals his secret, he is not left-handed either.
17. Elevator Fight – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
With Nick Fury dead and no one left to trust, Steve Rogers finds himself betrayed by S.H.I.E.L.D., the only place he had left. Getting into an elevator at the spy agency, Cap is gradually surrounded by shifty agents. With more than a dozen dangerous agents attacking him at the same time in a tiny elevator, Cap is pushed to his limits. Hit by stun batons and handcuffed to the wall, Cap still manages to devastate everyone around him. A stunningly brutal fight from start to finish, this is ugly, intense, and extremely satisfying. It all ends with the floor littered with opponents and Cap smashing his way out for a lengthy drop to the ground below. No one can be trusted now.
Best Moment: Surrounded by a dozen highly trained men and sensing an impending brawl, Cap gives his imminent opponents an ultimatum. “Before we begin, would anyone like to get out?” They should have gotten out.
16. Aragorn Against the Uruk Hai – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring is ambushed in the woods of Pareth Galen by a huge squad of Uruk Hai – a new and far more deadly breed of orc hellbent on killing The Fellowship and taking The One Ring of Power. While The Fellowship manages to kill dozens of orcs, they suffer a horrible loss when hobbits Merry and Pippin and kidnapped and Boromir is hit with three giant arrows. But Aragorn leaps into action, fighting the nasty Uruk Hai leader known as Lurtz. These two hack at each other, using swords, daggers, and fists until the orc leader is run through by Aragorn. Even then, the disgusting Lurtz refuses to die, pulling himself further down the blade until he’s decapitated.
Best Moment: The Uruk Hai captain throws a dagger directly at Aragorn’s face, but the Ranger of Gondor cuts it out of the air with his sword. Best of all, this was done on the spot and was unscripted!
15. Train Brawl – From Russia with Love
After an extensive game of cat and mouse, James Bond is finally forced to confront Red Grant, the SPECTRE agent who has been training to assassinate Agent 007 since the start of the film. What starts as a cat and mouse game onboard a tiny train compartment quickly erupts into a rough and tumble fight, with both Bond and Grant beating the stuffing out of one another. Unlike many of the slickly choreographed fights on this list, the power of this fight comes from its realistic feel and nasty moves. This is just two mean brutes putting everything on the line.
Best Moment: Getting choked out by Grant, Bond manages to pull a hidden dagger from his suitcase at the last moment, stabbing the SPECTRE assassin in the arm, then finishing him off with his own garrote. Bond straightens his tie afterward, naturally.
14. The Bride vs The Crazy 88 – Kill Bill Vol 1
In her bid to kill O-Ren Ishii, The Bride is surrounded by The Crazy 88, an elite group of Yakuza, in a Tokyo restaurant. First faced with the spiked ball-swinging Gogo Yubari, and then dozens of yakuza assassins, The Bride takes on all comers armed with her deady Hattori Hanzo-crafted katana. Of course, since this is an homage to insane kung fu flicks and mangas, it’s all done in a maniacally over-the-top style. Blood spouts like geysers, opponents flip dozens of feet through the air, and all manner of carnage is wreaked in a battle that lasts for more than 10 minutes.
Best Moment: Armed with two katana, The Bride runs up a staircase bannister, slicing foes and showing off perfect balance in one smooth camera pan.
13. Knife vs Magazine – The Bourne Supremacy
Bourne gets the drop on an assassin in his home, handcuffing him and intending to take him for interrogation, but the man has plans of his own. Bourne’s opponent pulls out a massive knife. In return, Bourne … rolls up a magazine? Like all of Bourne’s fights throughout the trilogy, the amnesiac assassin uses an everyday item to fight against a weapon that seems far more deadly. In this case, the magazine deflects vicious stabs and slices as the two fighters wreck an office space and kitchen. It’s Bourne’s extreme skills and inventiveness juxtaposed against a sense of realism that makes this fight truly memorable, eventually ending in a power cord strangulation that leaves you wincing.
Best Moment: Bourne skillfully deflects every slash thrown by his opponent, hitting him in every weak spot with the hardened magazine in a sequence that defines what makes Bourne so awesome.
12. Two on One – The Raid
After a madcap film filled to the brim with brutal fights and bloody shootouts, police officer Rama and his criminal brother Andi team up and reconcile in order to take on the vicious Mad Dog in a grimy cement room. At this point, Mad Dog has already proven to be horrifically talented, killing numerous cops and possibly being too tough for even the deadly Rama. Even with both brothers fighting in perfect tandem, Mad Dog absorbs countless blows and keeps on coming. This battle is filled with grappling, throws, and kicks that look like they could take down an elephant. The desperation shown by all three men makes this into a totally gripping fighting, with the attacks becoming more and more violent.
Best Moment: With a broken flourecent light bulb sticking out of his neck, Mad Dog still can’t be stopped. It takes a devastating flurry of attacks and a disgusting finishing move to finally bring him down.
11. The Battle of Helm’s Deep – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Holing up inside their country’s most heavily fortified spot, the people of Rohan face the onslaught of an Uruk Hai army. However, the forces of man are not ready for the challenge they face. Orcs as far as the eye can see lay siege to the walls of Helm’s Deep across a rain-soaked night. And while elven archers and mighty warriors hold off dozens of siege towers, Saruman’s explosive invention blasts open the wall, letting his forces pour in. Through it all, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas display deadly skills in the face of overwhelming odds. Between eye-popping sets, Gimli and Legolas’ contest, the desperation of Rohan’s forces, and Gandalf’s last second save, this is the most epic ancient battle to ever come to life on screen.
Best Moment: Standing still in the rain before Helm’s Deep’s walls, the Uruk Hai army begins to stomp the earth and pound their chests, making the ground shake as the rain begins to pour. It’s a truly epic and terrifying beginning to one of the biggest battles ever mounted on film.
10. Castle Duel – The Adventures of Robin Hood
Backed by his Merry Men and the forces of the returning King Richard, Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) storms the castle of Prince John to save Maid Marian. While soldiers face off throughout the castle, Robin duels his sworn enemy, Sir Guy of Gisborne. Gleaming steel flashes through the air as both men force each other up and down stony stairs, even going off screen at one point, with the giant shadows fighting along the wall. Of course, Robin Hood eventually wins in the end, killing Guy and rushing to Marian’s rescue in the most dashing of manners. This is an absolutely classic duel and the epitome of old Hollywood’s fantastic action scenes.
Best Moment: Backed against a wall, Robin is nearly impaled by Sir Guy’s hidden dagger. Dodging the blow and turning the tables, Robin runs him through, sending his opponent over an edge for a nasty and fatal fall.
9. Feet of Fury – Wheels on Meals
Fast food-delivering cousins Thomas (Jackie Chan) and David (Yuen Biao) team up with private investigator Moby (Sammo Hung) to rescue an heiress from a villainous castle. It’s a quirky premise, but it results in some fantastic fight scenes. While his friends fight goons below, Thomas gets involved in a one-on-one battle with a thug played by real life kickboxer Benny “The Jet” Urquidez. This is an absolutely insane fight, with both combatants trading lightning-gast kicks that send one another flying across a dining room. While still featuring Chan’s signature comedic style, this is a furious fight that stack up with the best in martial arts films. The hits feel real, the energy is palpable, and the choreography is mind blowing!
Best Moment: Urquidez throws a roundhouse kick that is so fast it literally snuffs out every flame on a nearby candelabra. This was not a trick, he really did that!
8. Train Battle – Spider-Man 2
After losing his will to fight and his powers temporarily, Spider-Man returns to the streets of New York to save the kidnapped Mary Jane Watson from the crazed Doctor Octopus. Starting off at the top of a clock tower and quickly plummeting to a passing train below, Spidey and Doc Ock trade powerful elastic blows with hands, feet, and tentacles. With four deadly metal tentacles and the willingness to use innocent civilians on board as complications, Ock makes the fight as tough as possible for Spider-Man. Fighting on top, one the side, below, and inside the elevated train, these two tenacious enemies are intent on ending one another. When Ock forces the train to lose control, Spider-Man uses all of his strength to force it to a halt and save the people inside. With nothing left, Ock easily knocks out his foe and wins!
Best Moment: Sticking to the side of the train, Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus wage war, throwing haymakers and dodging passing train cars at the last possible moment in one of the most thrilling segments in any superhero film ever made.
7. Fire and Alcohol – Drunken Master II
In this film’s finale, Jackie Chan’s Fei Hung, a master of drunken boxing and faces off with the British Consulate’s two most formidable henchmen in the bowels of a factory for the sake of China’s abused workers. Throughout the fight, Chan shows off some incredible skills, blending slick and speedy moves with his comic sensibility. Plus, he shows off his love of putting himself through bodily harm as he gets kicked into a pit of burning coals and scrambles for his life, really enduring the pain for the love of film. At first putting his drunken boxing into sober practice, he eventually gains the upper hand when he starts drinking bottles of industrial alcohol, spitting flames and then getting silly with his moves. Eventually, his twirling and tumbling offense is simply too much for the enemy, overcoming brutal kicks with every body part becoming a weapon.
Best Moment: Pulling out countless madcap moves under the influence of industrial alcohol, Fei Hung goes crazy with a spinning midair headbutt that sends his fast-legged opponent reeling.
6. Flying Wing Madness – Raiders of the Lost Ark
In his first attempt to steal the Ark of the Covenant from Nazi forces, a worn-down Indiana Jones is challenged to a fistfight by a gigantic Nazi soldier by a flying wing. While Indy has been shown to be a deadly, but human, fighter by this point, this is an opponent who is simply too big for him. Combined with incoming Nazi forces, Marian trapped inside the flying wing’s cockpit, and the imminent threat of a fire that will blow the entire place up, this is Indy’s highest stakes moment yet. Pulling out every dirty trick in the book, including faking tiredness and throwing sand in the Nazi’s eyes, Indy still gets the stuffing beaten out of him.
Best Moment: Beaten up to the point of no return, Indy distracts his enemy long enough for him to catch the business end of a deadly propeller. Disgusting, but satisfying.
5. Son vs (Unknown) Father – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Abruptly rushing from his Jedi training with Master Yoda, Luke Skywalker races to Cloud City in a bid to save his friends, only to be drawn into a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader. All taking place in the shadowy depths of the city, Vader aims to bring Luke to the dark side and freeze him in carbonite to take him to The Emperor. While Luke has been training to be a Jedi, it slowly becomes clear that he is no match for Vader, as the Sith’s lightsaber skills and deadly use of the Force steadily overpower Luke until he is thoroughly beaten. Steam, glowing vents, and flashing lightsabers make this one of the most visually stunning scenes in the Star Wars series while the emotional interplay makes this one of the most iconic story developments in cinema
Best Moment: Battered and overcome on a jetty that extends over a giant pit, Luke gets his hand cut off by Vader! The hero losing his hand is possibly just as shocking as the patrilineal reveal that comes moments later.
4. Power Loader Duel – Aliens
Just when everything seemed safe, Ripley, the surviving crewmembers of the Colonial Marines, and young Newt are pounced on by the vicious and terrifying Xenomorph Queen on board their spaceship. Jumping into the cockpit of a powerloader exoskeleton, Ripley is given the ability to fight hand to hand with the enormous queen. Dodging deadly jaws, vicious claws, and a spear-like tail, Ripley smacks, crushes, and burns the gigantic alien. Opening up the outer space dock, Ripley tries to suck the queen out, clutching onto a ladder for dear life until the monster is pulled into the vast cold depths of space. After an entire film of terrifying attacks and everything going wrong, the final slaying of the queen is immensely satisfying.
Best Moment: Coming into the hangar at the controls of the impressive powerloader, Ripley spouts her iconic threat in a scene that still rouses audiences to this very day.
3. Cap vs. Bucky – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Having just captured newly discovered Hydra agent Jasper Sitwell, Captain America, Black Widow, and The Falcon are ambushed by The Winter Soldier and a Hydra squad on a Washington, D.C. freeway. Their car crash sparks a furious battle that sees Cap blasted through two buses with a grenade launcher and Black Widow shot by The Winter Soldier. While Cap and company eventually dispatch the machine gun-wielding goons, it’s the mysterious Hydra soldier who is the real threat. But when Cap saves Black Widow, he’s in for a far more dangerous fight than he expected. Not only is The Winter Soldier as strong and athletic as Cap, he has a robotic arm that our hero can only defend against with his mighty shield. These two go two-to-two in a furious fight that features devastating punches and kicks delivered at lightning speed. By the end, audiences are once again shown the awesomeness of Captain America and are shown the true identity of The Winter Soldier, which flips Steve Roger’s world upside down.
Best Moment: Cap and The Winter Solider engage in a furious hand to hand match, with a flipping dagger coming perilously close to slicing the hero apart.
2. Maximus vs Tigris – Gladiator
Emperor Commodus is hellbent on seeing Maximus killed, but must appease the crowd by having it done in a fair fight. Paying undefeated gladiator Tigris of Gaul to return to the ring to fight Maximus, our hero finds himself in his greatest challenge yet. Not only is Maximus faced with a hulking and deadly opponent, but the combatants are surrounded by tigers on lengthy chains. No quarter is given by either man as these two gladiators slam axes, swords, and shields into one another. Blood is sprayed across the sandy arena and Maximus eventually best Tigris. But when egged on by both Commodus and the crowd, Maximus shows his opponent mercy. It still wins him the hearts of onlookers while sticking it to the emperor.
Best Moment: The worst thing possible happens when Maximus gets pounced on by a tiger. Temporarily overwhelmed by the giant cat, Maximus still slays the beast and fights off his opponent while pinned by the big cat’s body.
1. Indy vs The Tank – Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
With both his father Henry and friend Marcus kidnapped, Indiana Jones takes on a legion of Nazi forces, including a tank! This fight has incredible moments stacked on top of one another as Indy wages war on the Nazi battalion, while Henry, Marcus, and Salah fight back in and around the tank. Chasing after the tank on horseback and even playing chicken with its turrets, Indy leaps onboard in a fantastic piece of stuntwork, taking on the soldiers that pour out of the metal beast’s belly. Indy throws punches that lay waste to Nazis while the tank treads on either side constantly pose a deadly threat, pulling multiple men to their doom beneath the tank. When the tank driver is killed, the tank loses control sending the crew toward a cliff. Even though Indy saves his father from the treads, the hero and the Nazi colonel he beats to a bloody pulp are sent over the cliff to their doom. Director Steven Spielberg throws everything he has into this fight, using tons of practical stunts, brilliant character moments, and the emotional ties of everyone involved to make this the perfect fight.
Best Moment: Henry, Marcus, and Sallah lament Indy as they stand over the cliff, with Henry despairing over the way he treated his son. Their vigil is interrupted by a battered and exhausted Indiana Jones, who marvels over the crashed tank, as well.
Honorable Mentions: T2, Blade Runner, The Warriors, 300, Dark Knight Rises, Equilibrium, Happy Gilmore, Bloodsport, Batman Begins, Road House, Bourne Supremacy, Kill Bill Vol 2, Episode III, Casino Royale, The Rundown, Holy Grail, The Incredibles, Count of Monte Cristo, Army of Darkness