I could have been a Contender: Classic onscreen punch-ups


No action movie worth it’s salt is complete without at least one bout of fisticuffs and in general we can’t get enough of them. Hence this roundup of some of the best knock-out, drag-out film fights of all time.

What did it take to make it on our list? We chose onscreen punch-ups that were larger than life, jaws that could take poundings like an anvil and of course fists of fury. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rummmmbbbbbblllllle!


Shane (1953)
The Bar Brawl
This scene is, like, twenty minutes long, and more chairs are broken over backs than at a professional wrestling event. Shane and farmer Joe Starrett take on the posse of Emile Meyer, the land baron not man enough to fight his own battles. At brawl’s end, Shane and Joe are battered but still standing. They don’t make men like they used to.


Enter the Dragon (1973)
Bruce Lee vs. Han
This had to make the list! Bruce Lee fights a baddie with detachable hand accoutrements, like the bear claw. And sneaky Han does give Lee a run for his money, slicing and dicing with his triple-bladed appendage. Inevitably, Lee pulverizes the body parts and drug-making operation of the villain.


Rocky (1976)
Sylvester Stallone vs. Carl Weathers
Stallone’s Rocky is all guts while Weathers’s Apollo Creed is all footwork, and where the twain meet is in the ring. The culmination of blue-collar Rocky’s training, dreaming and courting of the shy Adrian, the fight itself is a roller coaster epic that leaves viewers as exhausted as the boxers. And of course, mangled-faced Rocky yells, “Adrian!”


The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Mark Hamill vs. Darth “I’m your father” Vader
Talk about Oedipal complex, and there isn’t even a mom to battle over. The animus between Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and Vader burns elemental, as they represent the Yin and the Yang of the Force. And when Luke finds out Vader’s his father, the battle surpasses fever pitch. In the end, the upstart Luke finds he’s no match for Pops.


Raging Bull (1980)
Robert De Niro in the ring
De Niro channels the spirit of violent, tormented real-life 1940s pugilist Jake La Motta. The fight scenes break new cinematic ground for their slow motion, bold tracking and b/w beauty, and the scenes’ brutality make you forget that De Niro is in the ring for just ten minutes of the entire movie.


The Outsiders (1983)
The Rumble
It’s bitter class warfare as greasers Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio face off against the preppies. As the parties duke it out, fight newbie C. Thomas Howell eats fist sandwich after fist sandwich before his friends come to the rescue.


The Matrix (1999)
Laurence Fishburne vs. Agent Smith
Sacrificing himself to save Neo and others, Morpheus (Fishburne) busts through a wall to fight Agent Smith in a dingy Matrix bathroom. The kung fu special effects coupled with the phone booth-like close quarters make this a rock’em sock’em thrill ride, as Agent Smith gives Morpheus a beating for the ages.


Fight Club (1999)
Meatloaf vs. Edward Norton
Forget weight classes, timed rounds and the three-knockdown rule. Facing off in the fight club is more cleansing ritual than sport, and so lumbering Meatloaf takes on the bantam-weight Ed Norton. Norton’s series of jabs and punches shows he’s got speed, but Meatloaf’s superior size and submission hold prevail.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Michelle Yeoh vs. Zhang Ziyi
From their epic dojo showdown to their gravity-defying chase scenes across the moonlit rooftops, these two women go for broke at every confrontation, and their gritty yet superbly-choreographed battles earn them a spot in film fight history.


Die Another Day (2002)
Halle Berry vs. Rosamund Pike
This is a duel like no other, as halter-topped Rosamund Pike takes on Halle Berry in a breathtaking display of martial arts prowess, weapons mastery and eye candy-all on a pitching, rolling, about-to-crash plane.