21 Favorite One-on-One Fight Scenes

Playing around online, I found a list of the 100 best fight scenes in movies. I didn’t know half of the scenes mentioned, though and disagreed with the other half, so naturally I had to come up with my own Top 20. Or Top 21, as the case may be.

gorn fight

Don’t worry. This isn’t one of them.

DISCLAIMER: Per usual, this is done in my typical, shaky countdown style because I’m a fickle person, really, and I’m liable to change the order of these scenes by the day. Also, I’m ignoring some of the movies that everyone picks — like Raging Bull, blech — and focusing on some of the silly ones that I like for whatever silly reason I like them. And you should know there could be SPOILERS. I mean, if that wasn’t blatantly obvious.

Oh, and I guess Number 18 could be considered NSFW, if your boss is particularly offended by animated ass cheeks. Yeah, that’s the kind of list I’m making. If you’re seeking Scorsese, go somewhere else.

21. Happy Gilmore – Adam Sandler vs Bob Barker

I don’t watch a ton of Adam Sandler movies, but Happy Gilmore actually isn’t a terrible one, all in all, and this scene is probably the best thing in it. Cause, really? You know game show hosts must have all this suppressed rage after dealing with so many stupid people year after year. I like to think it was incredibly cathartic for Bob Barker to repeatedly punch Adam Sandler in the face. Or maybe it was just cathartic to watch.

20. Batman Returns – “I’m a Woman!”

Okay, this isn’t the longest or most complex fight in the world, but Michelle Pfeiffer feigning shock and outrage gets me every single time I watch this scene. Also, Catwoman’s, like, the sexiest fictional woman alive, and that’s without her boobs all hanging out. (You hear me, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe? Catwoman can still be sexy if she zips up her fucking top. For Christ’s sake.)

19. Mortal Kombat – Liu Kang vs Reptile

Random introduction of Reptile? Check. Awesome fight/workout music? Check. Needless and repetitive yelling from our hero? Check. Gravity-defying bicycle kick? Check.

I mean, honestly. What’s not to love?

18. The Animatrix – Final Flight of the Osiris

As I remember, I found most of The Animatrix painfully dull, but I always liked this particular scene and still do, even if the CG animation is fairly dated now. I mean, it’s kind of hot. Admittedly, it’s certainly not the only fight scene where the combatants rapidly lose pieces of their clothes, but unlike, say, The Mask of Zorro, there’s a little more equal opportunity nudity here. (Okay, we see more girl butt than boy butt. Still. It’s relatively fair.) Also, it doesn’t end with the girl swooning or waiting for another steamy kiss, which makes for a pleasant change.

17. The Losers – “We are a fever — we ain’t born typical.”

As is probably becoming readily apparent, actual sex scenes may bore me to death, but I like sexy fight scenes just fine. About this one: I like watching Clay and Aisha stretching on opposite sides of the wall, clearly getting ready for a fight. I like the chemistry between the two actors. And I love this song by The Kills. Is setting the hotel room on fire particularly subtle? No. Do I like it anyway? Of course.

Fine, Henry, fine. If you read this: I am a pyromaniac. I hope you’re happy.

16. Lethal Weapon – Riggs vs Mr. Joshua

One: it’s iconic. Two: it’s hilarious, albeit unintentionally. The fact that all these cops are just standing around, watching these two attack each other on the front lawn of a residential neighborhood . . . ha. I mean, I know this is in the era before cell phones with cameras but honestly. Murtaugh tells Riggs to break Mr. Joshua’s neck, and everyone’s like, “Well, you know. He’s in charge. What are you going to do?” Also, the how-low-can-you-go note that Riggs hits with his, “NO,” always cracks my shit up.

Sadly, this scene also ends with that whole “I could kill you, but it’s not worth it. Oh, thank God; you picked up a gun. Now I can still kill you and be the good guy, yay!” trope. This is unfortunate.

15. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Prognosis: Increasingly Negative

This is a fairly flawed movie, and I certainly like the first one a lot more, but that being said, I kind of love this “predict-the-fight” fight scene. I laughed out loud the first time I watched this, when Moriarty’s all like, “Hey, two can play that game, sucker.” (Only, you know. More British-like.) And it might have gone higher on the list, too, if the scene had ended on Jude Law’s face and not that bullshit nightmare shot that followed. Ugh.

14. Skyfall – Shadow Fight!

Why doesn’t Roger Deakins have an Oscar yet? WHY? I do not understand this.

13. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Michelle Yeoh vs Ziyi Zhang

There should probably be more martial arts films on this list, but I haven’t actually seen all that many. (And the ones I have feature one-on-thousands or two-on-one fights, which doesn’t quite work here.) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was probably the first martial arts movie I ever saw, actually, and though it’s been a while since I watched the movie in its entirety, I kind of love this scene. The choreography is great, and these are some badass women. I really need to start taking some kind of fight class.

12. The Karate Kid – The Crane Kick

Oh, be quiet. You know you love it too.

11. Pirates of the Caribbean – Will Turner vs. Captain Jack Sparrow

I don’t have any use for the second, third, or fourth Pirates movies (honestly, I haven’t even seen the fourth one yet), but I still love the original film, back in the days when Johnny Depp made me happy instead of making me sad. And this scene is just fun. There are worse things in the world than watching two insanely hot guys attack each other with swords. Er, not a euphemism.

10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail – The Black Knight

Think about it: would your life really be the same if you didn’t know that a chopped off arm was just a flesh wound? Shut up; no, it wouldn’t. This is another classic and dear to my strange little heart.

9. Hero – Moon vs Flying Snow

I like Jet Li a lot, and I figured I’d have at least one of his scenes from this film on the list, but whenever I think of this movie, the fight that comes to mind is the one here between Moon and Flying Snow. This is just a gorgeous scene. The colors alone . . . I mean, damn. It’s just beautiful to watch.

8. Snatch – “For Fuck’s Sake, Do Not Knock Him Out”

Weird. When I set out to make this list, I didn’t expect to have scenes from two different Guy Ritchie films on it. Well, whatever. As is probably evident by now, boxing movies are absolutely not my thing, which is why you’re getting moments from films like Mortal Kombat and Batman Returns instead of, oh, Rocky and Million Dollar Baby and, oh yes, Raging Bull.

However, a Guy Ritchie boxing scene is not like other boxing scenes. I absolutely adore the shot of Brad Pitt going underwater and looking up at his own body on the ground. If more inspirational sports movies were filmed like this, maybe I’d watch them.

7. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 – The Bride vs O-Ren

My favorite fight in both of the Kill Bill films is probably the Showdown at the House of the Blue Leaves, but I wanted to focus on one-on-one fights for this list, so I picked this final battle between The Bride and O-Ren instead. Honestly, it would probably be higher on the list except that — somewhat ridiculously — it’s a little hard for me to watch. I really like O-Ren a lot, and I always feel somewhat sorry for her when she dies. Also, I kind of have a thing about scalping. I don’t like it.

Still, the scene itself is great. It looks beautiful, and I love both the music and the absence of music in it. I have a lot of friends who don’t like Quentin Tarantino for various reasons, but when I watch scenes like this, I’m pretty sure I’m always going to be hardcore Tarantino nut. Sorry, guys.

6. The Princess Bride – Westley vs Inigo

Every kid who’s ever taken a fencing class probably watched this scene about 87 billion times. Or maybe they watched old school Robin Hood movies; I don’t know. Personally, I don’t see how Errol Flynn could possibly hold a candle to Cary Elwes or Mandy Patinkin, but whatever floats your boat, I guess. Point being, I love this scene. It makes me smile every time I watch it. There was no witty repartee in my fencing class, dammit.

Really good workout for the legs, though. Maybe I should go back to that and pick up kickboxing.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Scott Pilgrim vs. Matthew Patel

This isn’t my favorite fight scene in the whole movie, but it’s one of the few that’s actually a one-on-one fight, and it also kind of sets the tone for what the rest of the battles are going to be like. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I watched this for the first time and realized Scott Pilgrim already knew how to fight — I didn’t have to watch some bullshit training session that I had no interest in seeing. Also, how many fight scenes can you think of that have singing and dancing and demon hipster chicks? And where the losers turn into a handful of coins?

Not enough, clearly.

4. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 – The Bride vs Elle

Okay, people on youtube? Thank you for letting me embed your stuff, but for the love of all that is holy, don’t try to improve the music in a fucking Quentin Tarantino movie. It can’t be done. The only full version of this scene I could find was one set to utterly stereotypical “fight” music, and I simply could not post that, which is why you’re getting this awesome, awesome scene in two clips that clearly don’t connect very well.

When fully intact, however, I really like this scene. I like that it’s a dirty fight. I like that these women use everything in the shitty little trailer around them to attack one another, including the spit cup and the (thankfully clean) toilet. It’s violent and funny and ends just about perfectly.

Elle Driver is one of my favorite villains of all time. Eyes or no.

3. Inception – The Hallway Scene

Oh, this scene. This scene. I remember watching this for the first time with almost a sense of awe — it was such an awesome moment in theaters. I think the moment I first fell truly madly deeply in love with Joseph Gordon Levitt was in this scene, when he jumped, cat-like, to the ceiling in his perfect, slim, little waistcoat.

Oh, JGL. Marry me.

2. Grosse Point Blank – An Assassin at the Reunion

I did not go to my high school reunion this year, partially because it was a hard weekend for me, and partially because I knew I’d just be disappointed by it. I bet there were no assassins at Middletown High’s Class of 2003 party. Dammit.

This is absolutely one of my favorite fight scenes of all time. The music is so great and so offbeat, and death by pen is pretty hard to top. It’s also followed by one of the very best body disposal scenes known to man. I can only hope that “99 Luftballoons” is playing when I someday have to throw a body into the incinerator. (The German version, obviously. The English version is clearly inferior)

1. The Matrix – Neo vs Morpheus

While The Matrix usually pops up in lists like this, most people want to praise the big battle between Neo vs  Agent Smith. Which is understandable; I mean, I get it, and it’s a good scene and all, but my personal favorite fight of the whole movie — and possibly of all movies — is this one where Morpheus is a badass and Neo knows kung fu and everyone on board the Nebuchadnezzar scrambles down to watch. Maybe it’s because I was twelve, the first time I watched The Matrix, and the whole movie kind of blew my mind. I watched this scene and was like, Shit. I’ve GOTTA learn kung fu.

Or, at the very least, come up with a cool hacker name.

Feel free to list your own favorite fight scenes in the comments section. Fair warning, though: if it has Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damme, I probably haven’t seen it.

12 thoughts on “21 Favorite One-on-One Fight Scenes

  1. I don’t know what I would put on my list. I won’t comment on all your excellent choices, but I did really like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – which I didn’t see at the movies but it was the first DVD I bought (and ridiculously expensive compared to what DVDs would later sell for; as was my DVD player). And, I didn’t know what I was doing so the first time I saw it I had it set on dubbed rather than subtitled.

    • In one of my film classes, we watched a couple scenes from that movie with dubbing and subtitles on. I was surprised that the dubbing seemed less distracting than normal, but watching the differences in translation was definitely interesting to see.

  2. I know that Losers fight is supposed to be ridiculous and fun, and it is, but really a woman could never go toe-to-toe with a man like that.

  3. I hope you’re saying that the Star Trek lizard fight was one of the hundred in the list you disagreed with, because that would be hilarious.

    • That would be pretty funny but sadly no. It was just the first terrible fight scene that sprang to mind. Mostly, I disagreed with the order of things, although they did like that scene in The Matrix 2 with Neo versus a bazillion Agent Smiths, and I thought they were crazy because even AT THE TIME, those computer effects were bad.

      • I don’t remember them being that bad, but maybe it was just the spectacular badness of the whole movie that blinded me to the badness of the special effects.

  4. I liked the Kirk vs Gorn fight – not because it was well done (even those who saw it when it first aired are unlikely to have said that) but because you went with a few others based on comedic value.

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