The Matrix (1999) (Breaking Out Morpheus) It is really, really hard to chose ONE action sequence from the Matrix when all of them were so fucking badass. Neo stopping the bullets with his hand, Trinity singlehandedly beating the shit out of the police force, the swarm of Agent Smiths...yet, the sequence in which they bust Morpheus out of Agent Smith's clutches is one of my favorites. We have them flipping through the corridor, smashing helicopters into glass buildings, and then one of my favorite lines in the entire movie: "Dodge this." And, of course, everyone's favorite image--Neo bending over backwards to avoiding the oncoming bullets. Let's hear it for the Wachowski Brothers.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) (Bride Vs. Crazy 88s) What would a list of action scenes be without this gem? The Bride is one of my all time favorite badass women, and this fight is a classic. The cinematography is fantastic, the way the lighting changes keeps us on our toes, and the Bride kicks some major ass. It's a bloodbath of epic proportions.
|Arthur from Inception.|
Snatch (2000) (The Pikey's Revenge) Another one of my all time favorite action scenes happens at the climax of Snatch. The boys have finally dragged the stubborn Pikey (Brad Pitt in one of his best and most unintelligible roles) into the boxing ring and everything is hanging on the fact that Mickey must go down. Sure, the fixed boxing match is a tried and true plot device, but here it works like a charm. It's vicious, aesthetic, brutal, and yet you can taste the tension in every character involved. Not to mention, Guy Ritchie runs the Oasis song Fucking In The Bushes along with the fight. I don't know if it's because of the boxing match or if it's the song itself, but if you haven't heard it before, give it a listen--nothing gets me more hyped.
Reservoir Dogs (1992) (Can You Hear Me Now?) I dare you to listen to Stuck In The Middle With You by Steelers Wheel and not picture Michael Madsen slicing a cop's ear off. Michael Madsen shines in all his glory as he wiggles his way over the line of endearing and charming and fucking sadistic as hell. Watch this scene with someone who's never seen it before and you get the best holy-fuck-this-is-gruesome-why-am-I-laughing? laughs.
Fight Club (1999) (I Am Jack's Badass Fight Scene) Never again has a man's fight against his own subconscious been quite so epic and literal. It was really a tie between the final fight in the garage or the Narrator beating the shit out of himself in his boss' office. Either way, it amounts to the same thing. How the Narrator dragged himself across the ground, I will never quite figure out. Nonetheless, pure brilliance.
Death Proof (2007) (Zoe Bell) Without a doubt, the most terrifying car chase I've ever seen in my life. Just when you thought your standard one car flying down the road in high pursuit of the other was enough, Tarantino does us one better and straps a woman precariously to the hood of the car. Not to mention, the actual "death proof" car itself is pretty fucking awesome. But the best part about it? She does her own stunts. You go, Zoe Bell.
|Zoe Bell kicking ass.|
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) (Fight And Flight) Yeah, you all know what I'm talking about. That iconic scene between Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) in which they're jumping from tree to tree, taking flight as they clash swords. While I'd say the clash between the two women Yu Shu Lien and Jen Yu is more exciting with their matched sword skills and their glaring intensity, there really isn't anything better than watching poorly dubbed fighters balance on bamboo branches.
Runner up: Knight And Day (2010) (The Plane Fight) The thing is, overall, I wasn't that crazy about this movie. I mean, it was fun and I encouraged people to see it. But it wasn't the best thing since Hattori Hanzo swords. Nonetheless, hands down, my favorite part of the movie was the fight scene in the plane. Really, you try to choreograph a thrilling scene of one man versus many trying to punch them out down the thin strip of a plane aisle. My point exactly.
I'm aware my list comes in a pretty narrow scope of badass action scenes--most of them are from the past 20 years and three of them were born under Tarantino's fingertips. I'm a sucker for a good action bit, which ones am I missing out on?
Last but not least, I'll leave you with one of my all time favorite action (or lack of action) scenes from Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of the Lost Ark (1981). I think it speaks for itself.