Whatever floats your boat...
Inspired by BlanchNoE's comment regarding the painfully underrated movie 'Hanna', I decided to type up this list which I have kept and refreshed for myself since the 90s. Some of these titles have been on the list for a long time. With this fast cut/shaky camera fetish that directors have these days, it's hard to find a scene that's well done. Anyway, here's who and why:
Adams' Top Ten Most Impressive Action Scenes Of All Time
Spoilers and strong language ahead.
10. Roland Emmerich, Godzilla, 1998. This movie is one of my guilty pleasures. I know the movie sucks, but, DAMNIT, it’s entertaining. Sean Reno and Mathew Broderick get chased down the streets of Manhatten by a 200 meter tall lizard with a personal grudge against them. Unlike Emmerich’s previous feature ‘Independence Day’, the fx still look amazing to this day and one will not see a more exciting “car” chase on film. It also says something about the quality of those taxis, they really can take a beating. Hats off.
09. Joe Wright, Hanna, 2011. Eric Bana fights 5 CIA agents (or some such) simultaniously. The premise isn’t amazing, the execution is. The shot begins with him entering a subway station (or some such) getting surrounded by 5 guys, kicking their ass while the camera moves through and/or around the action until he leaves the scene. Not cuts or edits. Damn.
08 Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. 1, 2003. Uma Thurman singlehandedly fights the “Crazy 88”, a gang of Samurai swordsmen. Of course they’re not really 88. They just named themselves that cuz they thought it was kinda cool. Anyway pretty damn impressive. I know from personal experience how hard it is to do this not only against so many foes but also in a way that is not repetetive and keeps your interest. Tarantino said that directing action is where you prove that you belong in the chair. I accept your proof.
07 Christopher Nolan, Inception, 2010. You know you’re dealing with a brilliant movie maker when even the action, which is supposed to be mindless fun, makes you use your brain. “Oh cool! A fist fight! Wait, why are they fighting on the ceiling all of a sudden? OH!” Show me another movie with a fight in a reality with a shifting center of gravity that is as well done as this one. I dare you.
06 Steven Spielberg, War Of The Worlds, 2005. A giant alien tripod emerges from the ground and starts vaporizing people. Through all the chaos, Tom Cruise runs for his life. Now it’s always entertaining to watch Cruise run for his life. But watch closely what the camera does in that scene. Not that spielbergesque brilliance in shot planning isn’t noticable throughout the movie (just watch the scene on the highway closely) but how this plays out is breathtaking. Now I'm sure, there has to be a cut in there somewhere. Haven't found it yet. Ol’ Steven must be a good multitasker, having 50 things going on at once in a single shot… fucked up.
05 Kurt Wimmer, Equilibruim, 2002. Specifically for the showdown between Christian Bale and Angus Macfadyen a fighting style named “Gun-Fu” was invented. Yes. Gun-Fu. I rest my case.
04 Zach Snyder, 300, 2006. Stelios (Micheal Fassbender) and Astinos (some dude whose name I don’t remember) do synchronized hack and slash on the battlefield. Almost like violent poetry. This scene is what I call a cigarette waster. Cuz if you happen to have lit one prior to it, when it’s over you realize that it has burned down without you inhaling once. You could not tear yourself away from the screen. Happened to me, true story.
03 Joss Whedon, Serenity, 2004. The Alliance fleet vs. the Reaper fleet and the little old Firefly in the middle of it all. Most amazing vfx fest I have ever seen when it comes to space ship battles. Actually the vfx team deserves more credit than the director on this one cuz Whedon himself said “The script just said ‘ship gets hit by EMP’ and THIS IS WHAT YOU MADE OF IT?! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!” He didn’t say the jesus fucking christ bit. That was me. Anyway, suck on this, George Lucas.
02 Zach Snyder (again), Sucker Punch, 2011. Three girls armed to the teeth vs. 24 gun slinging robots. You don’t even get to light a cigarette with this one. Hand guns, shotguns, automatic weapons, sword play, fist fighting and beating the shit out of the enemy with blunt objects, this scene’s got it all. Snyder does know his action and how to use slow motion in the most effective, experience enhancing way possible. Also HOTDAMN thanks to this scene I got a crush on Sweet Pea cuz who doesn’t like a woman who can handle a shottie.
01 The Wachovski Brothers, The Matrix Reloaded, 2003. I imagine some moaning in the vfx department when the brothers said “What if we had Neo fight 300 Agents Smith at once? Wouldn’t that be cool?” Just when you think the fight is over one Agent Smith goes “More!” Also I found it to be very inspirational that Neo wouldn’t quit the fight even when the odds weren’t exactly in his favour. “A hundret more of you guys? ‘k, I’ll just grab this ‘no littering’ sign and whoop your identical asses that way.” Unbefuckingleavable.
Personal opinions only of course. None of this represents the opinions of the studios or George Lucas.