Yesterday I saw an amazing movie fight scene that jumped its way onto my list of favorite fight scenes of all time. I thought I’d share five of them with you now.
A few caveats: All of these are from sci-fi/fantasy movies, the genres I tend to blog about. I’m also limiting myself to one fight scene per franchise, and excluding enormous battle sequences like Pelennor Fields from Lord of the Rings.
Grab your plastic lightsaber and novelty renaissance faire sword, and let’s begin!
5. Spiderman vs. Doctor Octopus
From Spiderman 2
The setting atop a moving train provides hazards for the characters to dodge or creatively use to their advantage, and the fight makes full use of it. When writing a fight scene in an unusual setting, let your characters utilize every aspect of it, both offensively (like Doc Ock shoving Spiderman toward the tracks) and defensively (like Spiderman using the interior handrails to break Doc Ock’s grip).
4. Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi
From Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
This fight includes 2 on 1 choreography, which is very hard to do well. The writer must ensure that nobody is left standing around awkwardly, and also that the solo fighter is reasonably able to take on two people at once. In this case, Darth Maul’s double-edged lightsaber provides him with the ability to attack and defend against multiple attackers, making this unevenly matched fight feel balanced.
The fight also uses mixed choreography. Lightsabers are awesome, but we also see elbows, kicks, force pushing, etc. The characters remember to use the other attacks in their arsenals.
This fight beats out the one in Episode 3 because it builds intensity better, starting with a few blows at a time and then increasing to rapid strings of attacks and blocks toward the end. The best fights take you on a journey, steadily increasing the stakes, energy, and level of violence until the final blow falls.
3. River Tam vs. Everybody
This open-handed fight makes excellent use of flashy moves that, while not practical in real life, are amazing in choreography. When writing a flashy fight scene, spin kicks and elaborate joint locks should be sprinkled into a steady string of normal punches and kicks, which this scene does very well. I also love how the fight resembles a dance–the fluid movements are beautiful, and that stands out from other equally well-choreographed fights. This scene exemplifies how a fight can be a piece of art as much as a plot point.
2. Jack Sparrow vs. Will Turner
From Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
This fight scene is a shining example of how to make good use of scenery in choreography. Fighting with pokers, throwing smithing hammers, pulling swords from racks, balancing on the see-saw cart, leaping onto the rafters, throwing dirt – it’s all great. If you set a fight in a unique location, this is the standard by which you should try to utilize that setting.
1. Team Captain America vs. Team Iron Man
From Captain America: Civil War
If a 2 on 1 fight is hard to choreograph, a 6 on 6 fight is thrice as hard. Yes, goodfellows, thrice. This fight scene was one of the coolest things I have ever seen on a screen. Two characters will fight, one will gain the upper hand, and then a third will swoop in and tip the scales back into the outmatched character’s favor. There’s a beautiful mix of martial arts, technology, weapons, and sci-fi magic, all with a great build. We see empty hand vs. weapons, weapons vs. magic, magic vs. magic, and on and on. You keep thinking, “This could not get more intense!” and then it does, resulting in one glorious thrill ride. If you want to write a fight that goes, “Screw it, we’re including ALL THE IDEAS,” study this scene. It’s a monument of creative violence.