My Top 10 Favorite Superhero Movie Fights (SPOILERS)
Some of the most anticipated scenes in any superhero movie are the hand to hand combat scenes. The best ones continue to drive the plot forward as well as highlight each character’s particular abilities and fighting skills. Below are 10 of my favorite fight scenes from my favorite superhero films in no particular order.
X-2: X-Men United (2003) Nightcrawler versus The Secret Service
Synopsis: Nightcrawler has been brainwashed by a chemical administered by William Stryker who is out to annihilate the mutant population. He has Nightcrawler attack the president in this opening scene, and the audience sees him in action for the first time as he takes down the Secret Service and nearly succeeds in his mission.
Why it’s Great: This scene opens the movie with a stylish, well choreographed fight with a really cool mutant to look at and watch in action. From his flapping trench coat to the blue mist he leaves behind to the intercut slow motion mixed with blink-of-the-eye speed hits really sets off the story and introduces a fan favorite X-Men. Mozart’s Requiem adds class and urgency to the scene. Even though you like what you are seeing, you ultimately don’t want him to win the fight as killing the president will only distance the prospect of any progress for mutant rights. After all, this is a very important issue in the X-Men universe, and the best fights are those that help to aid in the story and further the character development. Nightcrawler spends the rest of the movie trying to make up for this unwilling crime, and it gives the opportunity to show his fighting skills without sacrificing his own moral values and characterization.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012): Batman vs. Bane on the City Steps
Synopsis: After freeing the city’s police from their underground prison, the crowd of vengeful cops take on Bane’s henchmen while Batman goes after Bane himself. The two engage for a second time in a fight with Bane overwhelming Batman until he discovers Bane’s weakness in his facemask and is able to take down the super villain for the first time in the film.
Why it’s Great: After watching Bane get the upper hand throughout the course of the movie, you’re ready at this point to see Batman take him down. With no time to lose, Batman and Bane engage in a massive fight between the city’s recently liberated police and The League of Shadows members. Watching the city’s police charge at the army of armed villains is admirable in and of itself with Batman as their leader, inspiring the city to help itself in the way that he always hoped. Batman himself punches his way to the crowd where Bane seems to be waiting. They fight their way up the steps. Bane is cocky and overpowering as usual, and Batman takes some hard hits. His retaliating punches seem to do nothing at first, and Bane’s fist sound like sledgehammers hitting his costume. When he misses a shot and punches a pillar, the cement crumbles like dirt. It’s apparent that Batman is no match for him, no matter how strong his will to save his city. That’s when he discovers Bane’s weakness: his mask. After punching through the face mask, Ban is weakened enough to allow Batman to take him down, kicking him through a door and punching him repeatedly, ordering him to disclose the location of the trigger to the bomb that has minutes before it detonates. Unfortunately, a knife is waiting to prevent Batman from finishing Bane off.
Spider-Man 2 (2004): Clock Tower and Train Fight
Synopsis: Spider-Man and Doc Ock meet at a clock tower where they fight against the side of the building before falling onto a moving train to continue their battle.
Why it’s Great: This sequence is probably the most popular in the movie, starting with Spidey swinging toward Ock who is waiting on the clock tower. After a brief exchange of words, the two go at it, wrestling and throwing punches against the clock face. At one point, Ock rips off the clock’s hands with his tentacles and throws them down at Spider-Man who is climbing back up towards him after being thrown off the building. Spidey uses his webbing to pull Ock off the side of the building, and they fall onto a moving passenger train where they continue to fight on and in the cars. The fight is fast-paced, utilizes very convincing CGI, and is full of fun, flowing shots. The constant movement, breaking glass, and innocent people in peril is a great formula for a full fledged superhero fight. Spidey’s powers are given great opportunities to shine from sticking to the side of the train to avoid being hit by another to web-swinging through passing cars as he is thrown from the train by Ock. The greatest moment is the point when Spidey jumps up onto a building and then dives off to crash into Ock as he re-boards the roof of the train to continue the fight.
X-2: X-Men United (2003): Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike
Synopsis: Logan finds Strkyer in the lab where his adamantium bone grafting experiment took place. Stryker flees, leaving his henchwoman, Lady Deathstrike, to take him on. Evenly matched, the two engage in a fight to the death between two nearly immortal beings.
Why it’s Great: Wolverine needs a worthy opponent to fight in each film, and nothing is better than having him fight his physical equal, another healer with adamantium bones. This allows these two near immortals to slice and stab each other again and again. Deathstrike is not a talker so there is no cheesy exchange of words, only the shrieks of pain that they inflict on each other. The wounds never get too graphic, but just the sound of the slicing claws is enough to make you recoil and realize the gravity of the situation. Deathystrike is limber and strong and impresses even Logan with her fingernail blades. She nearly destroys him too, but he’s able to retaliate and eventually kills her by filling her with the metal from which they are both made. The overdose cools, and she sinks into a nearby tank like a damaged ship.
Superman 2 (1980): Superman vs. General Zod, Ursa, and Non
Synopsis: Superman finally comes up against this vengeful Kryptonian gang on the streets of Metropolis. They throw large objects at each other, exchange blows with their heat vision and super breath, and search for weaknesses in each other.
Why it’s Great: It’s hard to find a worthy opponent for Superman, and this movie gives him three. It’s a slow fight that relies on era-limiting practical effects, but these aliens fight in a dance-off style, showing who can use their powers the best. Vehicles are thrown at each other, manhole cover is used as a Frisbee, and a baby is nearly crushed by falling debris. Annoying bystanders get in the way and give Superman the added challenge of trying to protect them while taking on the trio. I especially love the shot where Superman tosses Zod straight into the Coca-Cola sign, complete with showering sparks. It doesn’t stop him for long, but it’s still a great on screen image.
The Dark Knight (2008): Batman vs. The Doctors vs. The SWAT team
Synopsis: The Joker has kidnapped a school bus full of evacuees from the hospital explosion and has dressed them up like his henchmen while the henchmen have dressed as doctors to throw off the SWAT team who are descending to take them out. With the help of Lucius Fox, Batman discovers this and must make his way to the building, protecting the hostages, taking out the clowns, and stopping the SWAT team from shooting the wrong people while The Joker watches from above and waits for his turn with the bat.
Why it’s Great: The mixture of The Joker’s signature trickery and Batman’s quick thinking make this an exciting sequence. He has to stop one group, help another, and keep the third from doing the wrong thing while The Joker looks on from above. Batman discovers early on that the masked clowns are really the hostages, and the doctors are the hostage takers. He gets to work, stopping the SWAT team from shooting each group of hostages, eventually stringing up all of the SWAT team members and kicking them off the building where they dangle from their harnesses. The back up team discovers the trick and begins to work with Batman to take out the doctors and free the hostages while Batman goes after the Joker. They two exchange blows, and the Joker does remarkably well, eventually gaining the upper hand and pinning Batman down so that he can proceed with the second part of his plan: blowing up two ships, one full of Gothamites and one full of prisoners. When his plan fails, Batman is able to break free of the Joker’s grasp and sends him hurling off the building only to catch him in mid-air with his grappling gun in typical Batman fashion. It’s an appropriate final showdown between the two characters with the Joker perfectly summarizing it as saying, “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”
Spider-Man 3 (2007): Spider-Man and Harry vs. Venom and The Sandman
Synopsis: Venom and The Sandman team up to kidnap Mary Jane and lure Spider-Man to a construction site where they can take him down together. Just as Peter is about to succumb to the villains, Harry arrives in an act of redemption and forgiveness, and the two team up to take on the two super villains.
Why it’s Great: The best thing about this scene is Harry’s change of heart as he teams up with his best friend to take down the two villains and save the girl who he has previously tormented throughout the film. There’s a videogame feel to this fight with the over the shoulder action and twists and turns on Harry’s glider. Peter uses his intellect to take out Venom, and Harry incapacitates the Sandman before he sacrifices himself for Peter. It’s an action packed ending after a lackluster second act that ties everything up in a sad but satisfying way.
Batman (1989) – The Bell Tower Fight
Synopsis: An injured Batman follows the Joker and Vicki Vale up a cathedral to the bell tower where a handful of the Joker’s goons are waiting. They engage in hand to hand combat as The Joker and Vicki dance on the rooftop while waiting for their ride from the helicopter en route to take them away.
Why it’s Great: This film contains slow, choreographed fight scenes the suit its style as well as the non-superpower element of this superhero. Batman really looks like he’s in his element with his swishing cape and pointy ears in the dusty, rotting tower. His enemies pop out of corners and attack one at a time. Many of the goons are easy to take down while one or two pose a challenge. Batman is unapologetically murderous in this scene, throwing some of his victims down the tower to their deaths, but it’s easily overlooked. The fights play like a dance which matches the waltz that The Joker and Vicki dance around them. There’s a dark, gothic look to the scene with its dilapidated setting, the cloudy, black sky, helping the Joker to delay Batman until the helicopter can come to take him away. This Joker is no match for Batman physically so to ensure that the audience get a proper showdown, these guys just happened to be hiding up there, ready to fight.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): The X-Men vs. The Sentinels
Synopsis: In the futuristic section of the final battle, the surviving members of the X-Men must buy time for Logan by holding down the fortress they have created and taking on the incoming Sentinels that are there to destroy them. They are no match for the robots but give it their all before they are overtaken one by one.
Why it’s Great: This hard to watch showdown between the future X-Men team and their undefeated opponents depicts the death of some favorite characters as they buy Wolverine as much time as possible in hopes of changing the course of this dystopian future. Intercut between past and future, it’s intense, stylish, and causes some of the most emotional scenes in the franchise. Magneto is mortally wounded trying to take out as many of the approaching Sentinels as they can before they arrive at their fortress while sealing it up with as much metal as he can find. Storm is attacked from behind and taken out in the first round. Professor X and Magneto say a poignant goodbye in their final moments, Bobby Drake is melted by a heat blast, and Blink being stabbed from all ends by a gang of Sentinels. This scene shows what it’s like when the bad guys win.
The Avengers (2012): The Avengers vs. Loki and The Aliens
Synopsis: In the film’s climax, The Avengers team up in the middle of New York City to take on Loki’s army of aliens who enter from a portal above them and proceed to destroy portions of the city. They each use their own special skills and take on their own separate missions to work together to hold off the army and protect the innocent bystanders until they can find a way to stop Loki all together.
Why it’s Great: Starting with the famous 360 degree shot of the team about to do battle, this fight destroys a chunk of New York City’s streets and puts thousands of citizens in danger. It’s an overwhelming task, and the team is outnumbered. They split up and each goes off to cover an area until they can find a way to stop Loki from carrying out his evil plot. There’s that crazy tracking shot following each team member in full battle. Each has a job to do, whether it’s closing the portal, protecting their teammates from incoming attackers, flying bombs out of the city, or catching each other when they fall. The team finally comes together in this final battle, working together to stop the bad guys and become heroes to the world who watches it all unfold before their eyes and on their TV screens. This is the battle that Marvel fans had been waiting for since the after credits scene of the first Iron Man movie.
What are your favorite Superhero movie fights? Leave your answers in the comments below!