Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, Government, Media — Rick Moran @ 11:56 am

The world can be too real at times, what with a possibly stolen election in Iran, an economy teetering on the edge of an abyss, and Joe Biden in charge of…anything.

That’s why a digression into fantasy is just what the doctor ordered today. Of course, there’s nothing in the world that defines fantasy better than Hollywood movies.

In the past, my forays into top ten lists for films have featured original music scores, villains, one liners, and Star Trek rankings. Today, I’d like to pay homage to the bread and butter of all Hollywood action films, the fight scene and my 10 favorites of all time.

You will probably disagree with many of my choices. I am not into martial arts films nor have I seen a a lot of films in the last 5 years or so. No matter. My attempt here was to engage in some pleasant reveries, going over as many movies in my mind that I could, and pulling out fight scenes that thrilled me, or surprised me, or have become so much a part of the experience in viewing the film - especially those I’ve seen several times - that I have become intimately familiar with the way the action unfolds and “bits” that the actors, directors, and fight choreographers put into the action to enhance the realism of the battle.

What make a good fight scene? In my opinion, believability is a good start but not a pre-requisite. One of the better “fight scenes” that I can recall is the pie fight in The Great Race. Timing the thrown pies was absolutely crucial in that scene as was expert editing. But believable? Not hardly.

The use of furniture and other objects can also enhance a fight scene but again, is not necessary. Another great fight sequence is from Red River where it’s just John Wayne and Montgomery Clift going at it hammer and tongs.

Those two are in my “Honorable Mentions” for my list but don’t rise to the level of excellence of those I have selected. That’s because beyond anything else, a good fight scene must give you a visceral reaction to to the war taking place on screen. You must feel the blows. Or, be so transported into the moment that you feel yourself in the fight itself. Then, there are a couple of scenes on my list that are just so wonderfully choreographed that the delight is in observing the craft itself. The scene almost becomes a dance with characters executing marvelously difficult feats while getting their brains beat in.

I have placed the scenes in a rough order regarding how much I enjoyed them. You are invited to make your own lists or tell me what a dope I am in the comments.

10. Philo Beddo vs. Jack Wilson - Any Which Way You Can

Using the entire town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the bare-knuckled brawl between Clint Eastwood and muscleman William Smith is one for the ages. The movie is incredibly silly but the fight is a real bone cruncher, smash mouth, ass-whuppin’ crowd pleaser. The “I owe you one” theme that runs through it was pretty original too.

9. Li Mùbá vs Yù Jilolóng - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Not the best swordsmanship or the best moves. But no one can dispute the dream-like beauty of watching Zhang Ziyi and Chow Yun Fat fly effortlessly through the air, fight on the thinnest of tree branches, with the moon in the background giving the entire scene a marvelous blue wash that enhances the surreal nature of the battle.

8. Corporal Melish vs. the Bald Nazi - Saving Private Ryan

The best, most realistic knife fight ever filmed. Melish appears to have the upperhand until slowly, painfully, and terrifyingly, the bad guy turns it toward the GI’s chest. “No, no. wait,” pleads Melish as the blade hovers an inch from his heart. Bad guy shushes him soothingly, like trying to stop a baby from crying as the blade sinks in.

Not ranked higher because sometimes, I just can’t watch due to its intensity.

7. John Wayne et. al - McClintock!

Has there ever been a funnier fight scene? Tough to decide between this one and the pie fight in Race but Mclintock! wins for sheer inventiveness. The slide into the claypit was hysterical as was the reaction from the Indians whose unison turns of the head watching people slide down the chute was priceless. Kudo’s to Maureen O’Hara for doing the stunts herself - including getting a dunking on what she described later as a very cold day.

6. Rudolph Rassendyll vs. Count Rupert of Hentzau - Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

Ronald Coleman was forgettable as a swordsman. But the final duel between he and Douglas Fairbanks was classic Hollywood with banter back and forth and Fairbanks, slashing and dashing, shucking and jiving his way off screen, finishing with a spectacular swan dive into the moat to make his escape.

We are not sorry he wasn’t captured.

5. Bruce Lee vs. Bolo - Enter the Dragon

As I mentioned at the outset, I am not enamored of martial arts films. But the speed, athleticism, power, and grace of Bruce Lee had to be recognized somehow. Bolo, a master martial arts fighter in his own right, supposedly “played down” to Lee’s inferior level. It doesn’t matter. This was showmanship at its finest and Lee’s work influenced several generations of fight choreographers.

4. Captain Love vs. Alejandro Murrieta (AKA “Zorro”) - The Mask of Zorro

The scene played out marvelously over the trappings of the gold mine with both Antonio Banderas and Matt Letscher whacking away at one another, cutting and thrusting, the clang of steel on steel very realistic. They looked like they really wanted to kill each other. Some good stunts too as the adversaries leapt from one level to another, precarious footing forcing them to fight with a desperate abandon. It was perhaps the most realistic sword fight (as was the one between Anthony Hopkins and Stuart Wilson playing Don Rafael) I can recall, although the sword fighting in the Michael York version of The Three Musketeers was probably closer to reality. In that film, it was no holds barred as the duelists used every underhanded technique to gain an advantage.

Still, for pulse pounding action, I’ll take Zorro.

3. Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed - Rocky

Up until the time Rocky was made, there were only a handful of fight movies that were realistic (John Garfield was a great actor but a boxer he was not). But the Creed-Balboa fight was epic, believable, and the ending that saw Rocky losing the fight but finally finding the manhood to say “I love you” to Adrian is among the best moments in any sports movie ever made.

The bout was so well done from first punch to last - the sound of glove on flesh was very good, with different sounds for different parts of the body that were struck. Excellent cutting contributed to the realism as did the react from fighters when the blows landed. “Cut me, Mick” is one of the great lines in movie history.

2. Sean Thornton vs. Will Dannaher - The Quiet Man

If Every Which Way But Loose featured a fight that played out throughout the entire town of Jackson Hole, it had nothing on the donnybrook between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen which went over the hills, through the woods, across the river, into the town of Innisfree and concluded with perhaps the best straight right in film history. That punch sent Dannaher through the door of the pub all the way out into the street. “Homeric” as Michaleen Flynn would have said.

Some might find the Irish stereotypes in the film off putting. Speaking as someone with 100% Irish in my background, I loved it.

1. Robin Hood vs. Guy of Gisbourne - The Adventures of Robin Hood.

There have been better sword fights - perhaps even the other classic Errol Flynn - Basil Rathbone duel on the beach in Captain Blood was more precisely choreographed. Other fights have been more intense, more realistic. But none, in my opinion, has been more entertaining or thrilling to watch.

Rathbone, a very serious actor, took fencing lessons for months prior to the shoot. Flynn was not so serious but his tremendous athleticism made him seem even better than Rathbone. Of course, what makes the scene one of the true classics were the asides spoken back and forth to each other as they were locked in mortal combat:

Sir Guy of Gisbourne: You’ve come to Nottingham once too often!
Robin Hood: When this is over, my friend, there’ll be no need for me to come again.

Sir Guy of Gisbourne: Do you know any prayers, my friend?
Robin Hood: I’ll say one for you!

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Couple that with the sharp editing, the dramatic lighting, and the stirring score by Eric Korngold and you have a masterpiece of film making and a perfect climax to a great film.


  1. Good God, man. Any Top Ten movie fight scene list has to include the longest brawl on film between Rowdy Rodney Piper and Keith David in “They Live.” Maybe even in the first slot.

    Good God! What an awful film! I mean, not even a “B” movie. Besides, does the headline say “The Best Fight Scenes” or “My Favorite Fight Scenes.” Your favorites are going to be different than mine.


    Comment by obamathered — 6/15/2009 @ 12:06 pm

  2. Of all of these fights, not one is the classic Barroom Brawl. And for that honor I would nominate the Barroom Fight Scene in “The Devils Brigade”.

    Comment by SShiell — 6/15/2009 @ 12:11 pm

  3. “They Live” sucks to high hell. I just admire that scene, but I do see the “my” the second time through.

    Comment by obamathered — 6/15/2009 @ 12:20 pm

  4. Good choices (I’ve seen most but not all of your selections).

    Here’s a couple more that thrilled me:

    1. the Paris apartment fight in the “Bourne Identity” between Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and the CIA’s assasin;
    2. the climatic sword duel between Rob Roy (Liam Neeson) and Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth) in the “Rob Roy”.

    Both good ones. For my money, the fight between Bourne and the Algerian asset in Bourne 3 was the best. Very confined space they were fighting in.


    Comment by lionheart — 6/15/2009 @ 2:12 pm

  5. The fight scene where Stacey Keach takes out an entire biker gang in ‘The Ninth Configuration’ is brutal but well done.

    Comment by tps — 6/15/2009 @ 2:42 pm

  6. Alex’s gang in Clockwork Orange.

    Bourne as mentioned above.

    Dread Pirate Roberts vs. The Spaniard in Princess Bride. “I’m not left-handed either.”

    Me vs. my wife on the vital topic of, “why is the back seat of the car so messy?”

    Comment by michael reynolds — 6/15/2009 @ 3:11 pm

  7. Great list

    I would add Lancaster vs Matthau in the Kentuckian - whip vs barehands

    Tyrone Power vs Rathbone in the Mark of Zorro and

    ALL of the fight scenes in Ferrer’s Cyrano de Bergerac.

    Comment by Jim — 6/15/2009 @ 3:29 pm

  8. Glad you mentioned “Captain Blood” in your Robin Hood reference, but for my money Tyrone Power & Basil Rathbone outdid them all in “The Mark of Zorro”. As you say, In the eye of the beholder…

    Comment by Mike (fynx) Bell — 6/15/2009 @ 3:35 pm

  9. ahem — maybe you weren’t in a comedic mood. but, the greatest fight scene not on your list is the ending fight scene from Blazing Saddles.

    “that’s hedley!”

    (harrumph! - watch your ass.)

    Comment by Kahoona — 6/15/2009 @ 4:24 pm

  10. It may be a bit too nerd-tasitc, but the final fitfight between Neo and Agent Smith in the first Matrix movie was top notch.

    Also, Uma Thurman and Darryl Hannah beating the brutal crap out of each other in Kill Bill 2.

    Last, Bruce Cambell vs. his own hand in Evil Dead 2.

    p.s. — respectfully Mr. Moran, you can jump off a cliff for disrespecting They Live. Truly, one of the best horrible movies ever made, and one of the most laughably nasty extented fistfight scenes. Philistine.

    Comment by busboy33 — 6/15/2009 @ 5:08 pm

  11. What? Not even an honorable mention of Inigo Montoya and the Six Fingered Man in The Princess Bride. Inconceivable!

    Comment by Cordeiro — 6/15/2009 @ 6:05 pm

  12. Hate to have to correct you, but Bolo and Bruce did not meet in “Enter the Dragon”. John Saxon fought Bolo, while Bruce fought Robert Wall (O’Hara).

    For my money, I have to go with Lee vs. Chuck Norris from “Way of the Dragon”.

    Comment by steveegg — 6/15/2009 @ 6:07 pm

  13. No, no! See slugfest between Greg Peck and Chuck Heston in “Big Sky”[1958]; at least IMAO.

    Comment by Harve3 — 6/15/2009 @ 7:39 pm

  14. Nice choices - that’s why I come here.

    Although I REALLY like it when you take a poster to task…like you might for my choice.

    The big final fight scene in “Big Trouble In Little China”.

    LMAO, it poked fun at so many fight scenes, but still came off pretty well.

    Hadn’t thought of it in years until I read this. Going to rent it and laugh all over again.

    Thanks, Rick

    Comment by jon dough — 6/15/2009 @ 8:07 pm

  15. I believe the name of the movie was “The Big Country” rather than the big sky. Yes it was a good fight scene between Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston

    Comment by G W Brown — 6/15/2009 @ 10:31 pm

  16. Good list .. Scaramouche with Stewart Grainger should get an honerable mention

    Comment by Eric Louchis — 6/15/2009 @ 11:40 pm

  17. As I scrolled slowly down the list, agreeing or disagreeing choice by choice (kudos for the remark about the awful intensity of the knife fight in “Private Ryan,” which I too at times cannot watch to its conclusion), I was hoping against hope that…and wishes do come true…that #1 would indeed by Flynn vs. Rathbone in “Robin Hood.” What gives it the edge for me over the wonderful Rathbone/Power duel in “Zorro” is a) “Robin Hood” is a much better movie, the absolute finest swashbuckler Hollywood ever produced (and I’m including Fairbanks’ marvelous turn in the same role in the silent version); b) Flynn was one of the best-looking human beings in history (admitted even by Bette Davis, who hated his lack of preparation and professionalism); and c) the magnificent shadows of the lighting plan Curtiz used, alluded to by you in the piece - but it’s those fantastic shadows that lifts the lighting from the merely excellent to the sublime. Fine essay, BTW.

    Comment by Your Brother Jim — 6/16/2009 @ 12:21 am

  18. What James Bond in “From Russia With Love” with the fight with Red Grant on board the Orient Express?

    Comment by Commie Stooge — 6/16/2009 @ 5:13 am

  19. I agree with Commie Stooge the fight in “From Russia with Love” was one of the most realistic movie fights. It wasn’t over done, it was how a real fight would be.

    Comment by Freebird7 — 6/16/2009 @ 8:24 am

  20. The beat movie fight scene ever is right here…

    WARNING! Not safe for work…


    Comment by CZ — 6/16/2009 @ 8:33 am

  21. okay - if you want the best, most realistic fight scene EVER!

    i give you indiana jones:


    Comment by Kahoona — 6/16/2009 @ 12:19 pm

  22. No, the Indiana Jones fight with the nazi by the airplane is better


    Comment by rjl — 6/16/2009 @ 7:45 pm

  23. Mr Moran great thread and discussion. I would offer the series of fights leading to the last battle in “Hard Times” should be in consideration. Not to mention Mr Charles Bronson in this depression era film needs to be set straight.

    Comment by gryphon — 6/17/2009 @ 12:59 am

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