Most epic movie fights of the 21st century

The 21st century has been a pretty amazing era for action cinema, which means moviegoers have been treated some pretty fantastic fight scenes. We've seen sword duels, gun-fu battles, and larger-than-life superhero showdowns. We've even witnessed a boxing match take place in somebody's subconscious. And with so many crazy melees to choose from, it's time to pick your weapon and stand your ground as we look at the most epic movie fights of the 21st century.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) - The Bride vs. the Crazy 88

The last act of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is basically one long fight scene. When the Bride (Uma Thurman) shows up at the House of Blue Leaves, armed with her specially-made Hattori Hanzo sword, she goes toe-to-toe with some of the craziest killers on the planet, including a mace-wielding Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama) and Yakuza boss O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu). And while those blood-soaked showdowns are pretty great, they can't hold a katana to the battle between Beatrix Kiddo and the Crazy 88.

Surrounded by a legion of mask-wearing ninjas, the Bride goes into Fist of Fury mode, swinging, slicing, and defeating every fool who steps out of line. Then there's the incredible "lights out" sequence, followed by a one-on-one battle with Johnny Mo (Gordon Liu). Throats are sliced, limbs are lopped off, and as a result, the scene required 100 gallons of fake blood. In fact, things were getting so grisly that Quentin Tarantino had to go black-and-white to keep his R-rating, resulting in one of the most stylish sword fights in cinema history.

Oldboy (2003) - The hammer fight

When it comes to hallway fights, Matt Murdock's got nothing on Oh Dae-su. The "hero" (and we're using that term pretty loosely) of Oldboy, Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is a drunken, chubby businessman who finds himself imprisoned in an apartment-like cell. He spends the next 15 years in isolation, never knowing who locked him up or why, so when he's released one day—thinner, tougher, and way angrier—he decides to get a little revenge.

Oh Dae-su's quest for vengeance soon leads him to a violent showdown with his old captors, the guards who kept him locked up for nearly two decades. Yeah, he's massively outnumbered, but Oh Dae-su is a man on a mission. Plus, the guy has a hammer. Filmed like a side-scrolling video game, the camera follows Oh Dae-su as he brutally beats his way down a hallway, pummeling every goon who steps in his path. There's no slick Yuen Woo-ping choreography here. It's messy, ugly, and feels like a real fight. People slip, miss punches, and use each other as shields. But you can't get that kind of chaos without a whole lot of craftsmanship.

Director Park Chan-wook shot the scene 17 times over three days, and the only CGI in the entire sequence is the knife in Oh Dae-su's back. The whole fight plays out in one long shot, and while Daredevil clearly took a page from the South Korean playbook, we've got to give it to Oldboy for the best hallway fight of all-time.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) - The Bride vs. Elle Driver

Look, the Kill Bill movies are full of so many awesome fights that we've got to put another one on the list. Only this time, we're scaling things down a bit and looking at the trailer brawl from Vol. 2. Quentin Tarantino knew he couldn't match the sheer size of the House of Blue Leaves fight, so he decided to "match it in terms of emotion." The Bride (Thurman) and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) have been heading for showdown pretty much since scene one, so when they finally duke it out in Bud's mobile home, things get real crazy real fast.

These ladies put Jason Bourne to shame, using every item in sight as a weapon. We've got a lamp, a guitar, and a TV antenna. The Bride even tries to drown her opponent in a toilet. Of course, when she's not swinging her sword like a madwoman, Driver is throwing haymakers that would put John Wayne to shame. As Daryl Hannah described it, "This is just a barroom brawl gone wrong," and Tarantino drew inspiration for his "white trash" throwdown from the movie Jackass. Talking to IGN, the director explained the fight was always supposed to be rough-and-tumble, but after watching the Johnny Knoxville movie, he was inspired to make the trailer fight as "gross" as possible, complete with blood, grime, and tobacco juice.

Plus, you'll spot a nice little Blade Runner reference if you can keep your one good eye open.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) - Bourne vs. Desh

You can't talk about epic movie fights and not mention Jason Bourne. He stabbed someone with a pen in Identity, whacked a guy with a magazine in Supremacy, and in the fifth film, he dropped a dude cold with just one punch. However, if we're talking pure martial arts prowess, it's hard to beat Bourne vs. Desh from The Bourne Ultimatum.

Played by Joey Ansah, Desh Bouksani is a Blackbriar assassin who's set his sights on Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), but before he can pull the trigger, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) literally crashes the party. The two then go mano y mano in the best fight of the franchise, using—according to fight coordinator Jeff Imada—"Filipino kali, with a little bit of Bruce Lee stuff tied in." In addition to the lightning fast hand fighting, we get to see razor versus rag, book versus candlestick, and a lot of the damage that Desh takes is real.

As Ansah explained to DIY, he told Matt Damon to actually hit him in the throat with that book, and as a result, he lost his voice for a week. Ansah even "took a full-on punch to the head," and that realism really shows up on-screen, resulting in a knockdown, drag-out death match for the ages.

Eastern Promises (2007) - The bathhouse throwdown

You should probably know right now that the bathhouse fight from Eastern Promises is NSFW…like very NSFW. This David Cronenberg gangster flick takes body horror to the next level, with a nude Viggo Mortensen fighting off knife-wielding assassins. He's completely exposed, so there's nothing stopping those blades from slicing straight into his skin. But au naturel Aragorn isn't going down so easy, leading to a grisly life-or-death battle filled with bone-breaking, eye-gouging, and quite a few crotch shots.

Mortensen spent weeks perfecting the scene (presumably clothed), but the actual filming only took three days. Still, as you might expect, shooting wasn't much fun for poor Viggo. Talking with The Telegraph, he described the process as "slippery, painful, embarrassing." Cronenberg backed this up in an interview with Film Comment, saying, "Viggo got really bruised. He didn't tell me, but the makeup people did. They had to keep covering his bruises."

Inception (2010) - The hallway dream fight

When it comes to slugfests, they don't get any trippier than the dream fight in Inception. This Christopher Nolan film features Joseph Gordon-Levitt duking it out with Cillian Murphy's subconscious while trying to navigate a hallway that won't stop spinning. As the ground becomes the wall, and the wall becomes the ground, JGL is jumping over sconces, dodging doorways, and throwing quite a few fists. It's one of the most impressive scenes in Christopher Nolan's blockbusting filmography, and it was achieved thanks to a 100-foot-long set hooked to eight giant rings. The rings, in turn, were hooked to motors, allowing the hallway to rotate 360 degrees, and a camera was mounted to the set in order to properly capture the action.

Naturally, maneuvering down the hallway was pretty tricky, and Gordon-Levitt spent two weeks of prep time to get the moves right. According to CineFix, the actor would imagine Bach music in order to time his steps and hit his marks. But there was also the issue of motion sickness, and as Gordon-Levitt explained to E! Online, he had a unique way of fighting against nausea. "I couldn't think of the floor being the floor and the ceiling being the ceiling," Gordon-Levitt explained. "I had to think of it like, 'This is the ground. OK, now this is the ground. And now this is the ground.' It was just that the 'ground' was always moving under me. That was the mind game I had to play to make it work."

The Raid: Redemption (2011) - The brothers vs. Mad Dog

Directed by Gareth Evans, The Raid: Redemption is basically one long fight scene full of shoot-outs, machete duels, and some of the craziest choreography of the 21st century. The movie follows a SWAT team that's determined to take out a notorious Jakarta crime lord (Ray Sahetapy). The only problem is this guy is holed up in a fortified apartment full of psycho killers ready to ambush the cops. The titular raid does not go according to plan and soon the SWAT officers are fighting for their lives. This film is packed with incredible fight scenes, but if we could only choose one to make our list, we'd have to pick the epic three-way throwdown between Mad Dog and the brothers.

The film's hero Rama (Iko Uwais) has an ulterior motive for raiding the tower. His brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah) works for the drug lord and Rama plans to bring him back home. When the crime lord's right-hand man, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian), discovers the nature of their relationship, he begins torturing Andi…until Rama shows up, ready for a fistfight that runs over five minutes long.

At first, the brothers are no match for Mad Dog. This guy is clearly the superior fighter, spending the early minutes of the fight flipping his foes, throwing nasty elbows and vicious knees, and making these guys look like amateurs. But after Andi plunges a shard of glass into Mad Dog's neck, the brothers get the upper hand, kicking and punching their way to victory before slitting the mobster's throat.

Thanks to the brilliant stunt work and cinematography, the punches here look like they're actually landing, and the scene gets so brutal that it almost feels like we're getting kneed in the gut or slammed against a wall ourselves. That's probably because Uwais and Ruhian are martial arts experts, both trained in the Indonesian style of pencak silat. The two also served as fight choreographers, and as a result, the Mad Dog-brothers beat down is possibly the best action scene to ever come out of Indonesia.

The Avengers (2012) - The Battle of New York

Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers was a game changer for modern-day blockbusters. It kickstarted the concept of "cinematic universes," and it proved that superhero movies were here to stay. Plus, it was the culmination of four years' worth of build-up, finally uniting the world's mightiest heroes in a battle against alien invaders.

With Loki (Tom Hiddleston) at the lead, the Chitauri show up in Manhattan ready to take a Leviathan-sized bite out of the Big Apple. But while Loki has an army, the Avengers have a Hulk. They've also got a demigod, a super soldier, a couple of master assassins, and a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist. Soon, arrows are flying everywhere, Captain America (Chris Evans) is bashing bad guys with his shield, puny gods are getting turned into rag dolls, and in between all the action, we're treated to a hero shot for the ages.

Of course, the real heroes here are the CGI artists. Since it's hard to set off explosions in New York or fly down the street for a helicopter shot, almost the entire Battle of New York was created on computers. While the actors mostly performed in front of a New Mexico green screen, the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic shot approximately seven miles of New York and captured shots from 35 roof tops. They then used these images to create 20 blocks of battlefield. Pretty much everything you see—the buildings, the cars, the fire hydrants—is all digital.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Batman vs. Bane

Generally speaking, epic movie fights usually end with the good guys winning…but that's not the case for The Dark Knight Rises. Returning from an eight-year retirement, Batman (Christian Bale) finds himself going up against Bane (Tom Hardy), a mask-wearing zealot who's got the cunning of the Joker, the conviction of Ra's al Ghul, and the core strength of Brock Lesnar.

In other words, out-of-shape Batman is a little overmatched, and when the two first meet in the sewers of Gotham, Bane is impervious to Bruce Wayne's blows. After shrugging off his shots, Bane goes to work on Batman, absolutely clobbering him with fists straight from hell. The Caped Crusader takes a royal beating, giving Bane plenty of time to monologue before he breaks the Bat's back. Fortunately for Gotham, Bruce Wayne rises up for a rematch and takes Bane to town at the end of the film, giving us yet another epic showdown.

These scenes were orchestrated by fight coordinator Buster Reeves, who decided to change up Batman's fighting style a bit, mixing in "a bit of Jeet Kune Do, some Silat [an Indonesian martial art], a bit of Thai boxing." As he explained to The Guardian, both he and Christopher Nolan made the changes because, "Bane's a big brute, and it takes about 15 shots to deliver what he can do in one blow so Batman had to be less aggressive, more clever." Or to put it in boxing terms, Reeves wanted it to be like "Mike Tyson versus Floyd Mayweather," brute force versus evasive skill, only amped up to superhero proportions.

John Wick (2014) - Nightclub gun-fu

John Wick is one amazing action spectacle after another. There's the scene where Wick (Keanu Reeves) slaughters a gang of home invaders. There's the moment when he goes toe-to-toe with the deadly Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki). And most impressive, there's the sequence where Wick takes out an army of bodyguards in a bloody nightclub shootout.

Hunting a Russian mobster who foolishly killed his dog, Wick shows up at The Red Circle, hoping for a little revenge. As he pursues his prey through the club, our taciturn assassin is assaulted on all sides by gangsters, but they're no match for John Wick's gun-fu. There's not a movement wasted as "Baba Yaga" flips bad guys and fires bullets in a ballet of violence that would make John Woo envious.

The scene comes off flawlessly thanks to Reeves' dedication to his craft. The actor spent four months training—five days a week, eight hours a day—in judo and jiu-jitsu. And when he wasn't working on his combat skills, he was practicing with firearms. That hard work totally paid off, allowing directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch to film in long, uninterrupted takes because their star was a martial arts pro.

Snowpiercer (2014) - The ax battle

In Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer, Captain America trades his star-studded shield for a blood-soaked ax, and instead of bashing robots or battling aliens, he's violently hacking dudes to pieces as he battle his way through a train car. The role of Curtis was a pretty startling departure for Chris Evans, but it gave him the opportunity to add another fantastic movie fight to his rough-and-tumble resume.

Set during a wintry apocalypse, the film takes place aboard a train that's perpetually chugging around the Earth. The cars are divided by class, with the bourgeoisie partying in the front and the proletariat struggling in the back. The poor are treated like slaves, and naturally, this doesn't sit well with Curtis, who leads his comrades in revolution. But as the impoverished army makes its way toward the engine, it runs into a gang of masked men carrying some scary looking hatchets. There's no way around, so Curtis and his crew are forced to fight at close quarters as Tilda Swinton's psychotic politician watches on with glee.

Often playing in slow motion—which is incredibly effective here—we watch as the fight breaks down into a series of gory sequences. There's the bizarre opening where the hatchet men perform a ritual involving a dead fish. There's a scene where everybody stops the slaughter long enough to wish each other a happy New Year. Then there's the terrifying moment where the cabin goes dark, and the villains pull out their night vision goggles, followed by a breathtaking sequence where Curtis and company fight against the modern-day tech with the most ancient weapon of all: fire. As Bong Joon-ho describes it, this incredible ax battle is "earthy," "real," and "primitive," and really, it's just one masterful set piece in a film filled with incredible life-or-death showdowns.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) - The church massacre

Without a doubt, the church massacre from Kingsman: The Secret Service is the craziest movie fight of the 21st century. That's not even up for debate. The whole thing goes down when Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a British secret service agent, winds up in a Kentucky hate-church. Things get even more insane when psycho tech-genius Richmond Valentine (a lisping Samuel L. Jackson) activates a device that causes everyone inside the building to devolve into homicidal maniacs.

Including Harry.

What follows is over three minutes of glorious chaos, with Mr. Darcy-King of England-Love Actually Colin Firth murdering every hatemonger who gets in his way. He bashes somebody with a hymnal, chops a woman in the neck with an ax, and then stabs a dude in the throat with a gun. It's absolute madness, madness that took a week to shoot and involved around 130 stunt people and extras. Crazier still, according to Mark Millar (who wrote the comic that inspired the movie), the scene was originally seven minutes long before it was edited down. Tragically, we can only dream about the bloody mayhem we missed out on.

Spectre (2015) - Bond vs. Mr. Hinx

For a long time, From Russia with Love held the number one spot when it came to James Bond fistfights…and then Spectre showed up. Sure, the movie wasn't as good as Skyfall and Casino Royale, but the brawl between Craig-Bond and Mr. Hinx just might steal the top spot from Connery-Bond and Red Grant.

The fight takes place on a train traveling through Morocco, and all Bond wants to do is spend an evening with his latest ladylove (Léa Seydoux). Unfortunately, the fine dining is interrupted when all 289 pounds of Dave Bautista shows up, ready to rumble. What follows is nearly three minutes of absolute savagery, a fight so intense that both stars suffered nasty injuries.

Craig was the first to go down after suffering a knee injury. The Brit had to take two weeks off from filming in order to get surgery, but just a few days after the accident, he was back and ready for business. And when Craig returned, he got a little revenge on Bautista. As the wrestler-turned-actor told Entertainment Weekly, "There's one part where Daniel lands a punch, and you just heard it. My nose just spattered blood."

Captain America: Civil War (2016) - The airport battle

When it comes to fight scenes, the Captain America movies have some of the best in the MCU. There's the elevator fight from The Winter Soldier, and there's the emotionally devastating duel between Iron Man and Cap in Civil War. But if we had to pick just one Captain America fight, we'd go with the epic airport battle featuring pretty much every hero in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Seriously, this is the mother of all superhero fights. Want to see Captain America have a martial arts duel with Black Panther? Want to watch the Scarlet Witch toss a car on top of Tony Stark? Can't wait to see Spider-Man swing circles around a giant-sized Ant-Man? This fight has all that and more, making it feel like it's been ripped straight from the pages of a comic book.

However, the scene wasn't as much fun for the actors and stunt people involved. It took 30 days to film this baby, three at the actual airport in Germany and 27 in Atlanta, where the costumed actors and their doubles had to deal with 100 degree weather. According to Yahoo!, this was particularly tough on the guys playing Black Panther and Ant-Man, so we have to doff our hats to these guys who put up with the Southern sun to make Marvel movie history.

Logan (2017) - The forest fight

Unlike almost every other Marvel film, Logan is a movie with actual gore. Sure, we've seen Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) stab people plenty of times, but we've never seen the geysers of blood before. It brings a whole new level of realism to superhero fight scenes, and it gets even grislier thanks to Laura (Dafne Keen), an adorable little monster skilled at beheading bad guys.

The duo proves especially effective when they finally face off against the Reavers, evil goons trying to murder mutant children, and their final showdown in the woods pits modern-day weapons against animal instinct. The two heroes go into full-on berserker mode, and after handily dispatching their human foes, they turn their attention to X-24, the younger, stronger version of Logan.

Of course, fight scenes are old hat for Jackman, but Keen needed a bit of coaching. To prepare, she held actual claws and would shred up sheets of paper to get a feel for the weight of her new weapons. Plus, remember Laura's foot claw? Well, that was a real blade inserted into her shoe, and having a real-life foot claw means that Dafne Keen is the coolest kid to ever play in a superhero movie.