Action scenes come in all types of shapes and sizes. From historical weapons such as a Samurai sword to giant tanks blowing up buildings, carnage can be fun or dramatic in a multitude of ways. Yet, it’s hard to top a great shootout. I hate guns in real life, but in the movies they can be exhilarating. These are my Top 10 Movie Shootouts. I have excluded any sci-fi based gun battles. Only real world stuff.
10. An Entire Town of Corruption vs. Two Badass Cops (“Hot Fuzz”):
Best line in a cop shoot-em-up movie ever: “YOU NEVER SAW BAD BOYS II”?! Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and the rest of their hilarious crew of British funny men and women were fresh off the surprise hit Zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead” when they decided to up the anti with the big budget action comedy “Hot Fuzz”. Against his typical type of fun loving roles he’s known for, Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, the most badass cop in London. He’s so good that he’s making all of the other cops look bad. In response they assign him to the quiet town of Sanford. His new partner PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) is a buffoon obsessed with cop action movies. The days filled with handing out tickets for minor violations are boring the super cop. Fortunately the ace discovers a giant cover-up that goes from town politicians all the way to priests and restaurant owners. With the most powerful people in this bubble of a town looking to kill them, the partners suit up and have to face off against an eclectic group of killers. Even grannies on bicycles are armed and dangerous. It is both epic and hilarious.
9. Trying to Hide-Out With Gangster Money (“No Country, For Old Men”):
The Coen Brothers finally took home their first Best Picture Oscar, but it wasn’t for their standard dark comedy pictures they are most associated with. It was instead a nerve-tingling thriller involving drug money and a relentless killer who always has a coin in his pocket with “No Country, For Old Men”. Llewelny Moss (Josh Brolin) is a broke welder living in rural Texas. While out hunting, the man stumbles upon a giant briefcase filled with a small fortune in cartel money. With nobody in sight, Moss takes it. Turns money isn’t everything, as cold blooded killers are out to get him. The major conflict comes when Moss is on the run staying in a cheap hotel. The man chasing him, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) tracks him down in the middle of the night and an intense shootout between a trained hitman and a desperate small town guy is afoot. From the hotel room down to the streets below, Moss is willing to put his life on the line to protect his new found fortune. Maybe not such a good idea…
8. A Film Noir Style Shootout at the Victory Motel (“L.A. Confidential”):
ONE SPOILER ALERT HERE IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS: Corruption seems to always follow those with power. In 1997 director Curtis Hanson brought us the critically acclaimed and award winning modern noir classic “L.A. Confidential”. Based on the novel about a sleazy police department in 1950’s Los Angeles, three different policemen with their unique way of doing things are investigating a series of connected murders that have cover-up written all over the reports. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), is a media whore playing out his law enforcement ways through the papers. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a hard-ass bullying detective that is unafraid to cross the line for justice. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a weasel doing everything to get ahead in the force. One thing they all have in common, they are not corrupt at heart. The snot-nosed suck up, rage-filled strongman, and movie star aspiring sleaze-ball join forces to try and figure out the crimes. Vincennes doesn’t make it, so in the end Exley and White board themselves up in an abandoned house knowing all of the corrupt cops are coming. The resulting scene is an intense cat and mouse game to try and stay alive.
7. Refusing to Back Down Against the Bad Guys (“High Noon”):
When it comes to what is referred to as the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’, no question one of its most prolific stars was Gary Cooper. His turn in the amazing “High Noon” is perhaps his best. This is a classic western with a simple plot but done so well it holds up 70 years later. Cooper plays Marshall Will Kane, a highly respected lawman who has just married and plans to ride off into the sunset. Then word is received that the leader of a gang of outlaws he sent to jail years ago is coming and that gang is ready to showdown at “High Noon”. His wife, played by the great Grace Kelly, begs for him to walk away. But he can’t. He spends the hour he has left before they arrive trying to find backup in the town. The Marshall may have spent years protecting the town, but when he needs help nobody is game. Doesn’t matter. Live or die, the brave lawman will always stand for justice even if he is outnumbered.
6. A Total Bloodbath in a Hospital (“Hard Boiled”):
John Woo is one of the most well known action movie directors ever. Before blowing stuff up with doves flying around in slow motion with stars like Tom Cruise or Nicolas Cage, Woo was unleashing carnage in his home country of China. Admittedly his movies are clunky, but also his audience is different than Hollywood so no beef. One scene that is impossible not to respect no matter where you’re from is the relentless shootout in “Hard Boiled”. A young Chow-Yun Fat plays Inspector Tequila Yuen, a tough cop investigating a large gang trafficking illegal fire arms in and out of Hong Kong. Rival gangs are battling for power over the gun market with multiple bloody results. But it is this scene that takes it home. The new gang in charge has hidden the plethora of guns inside a hospital. Once Tequila and his partner discover them they find themselves in a situation where they are going to have to shoot they’re way out with dozens of thugs armed to the teeth coming. Plus, they don’t have to save just themselves but also several newborns in the maternity ward. This shootout takes place on multiple floors of the building and the preparation it must have taken to accomplish this chaos on screen is absolutely top notch.
5. Showdown at the O.K. Corrall (“Tombstone”):
No doubt the most famous showdown in old west history, Wyatt Earp and his crew of badass fellow deputies throwing down Mano-e-Mano against a group of red bandana wearing outlaws that call themselves The Cowboys is history book stuff. Kurt Russell takes on the iconic role in 1993’s “Tombstone”. Hoping to retire from the Sheriff game peacefully, he and his two brothers Virgil and Morgan move to what they believed to be a peaceful easy going Arizona town. Earp also reconnects with his old gunslinger friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) who is on his last legs from alcohol abuse but still the fastest gun in the west. When The Cowboys continue to terrorize innocent townsfolk the lawman gene kicks back in. The Earp’s and Holiday march right down main street to arrest several members of the gang knowing full well they ain’t going in a cooperative manner. Never wavering, the good guys look the enemy square in the eyes and take ’em down. Classic cowboy stuff.
4. Shoot the Glass (“Die Hard”):
John McClane sure did get himself into one of the worst Christmas Eve nights ever. Bruce Willis became a megastar with the all-time action classic “Die Hard”. His hopes of saving his marriage are interrupted when a group of evil German terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) take over Mrs. McClane’s high-rise building and place of work. Hey, it happens to all of us. Being the only hero inside and last hope to stop the bad guys, McClane starts picking of the enemy one thug at a time. The best shootout is when Gruber and his crew finally pin down John. He narrowly escapes, but not unscathed. The shoeless hero is running when Gruber utters the famous line “SHOOT THE GLASS!”, thus shredding McClane’s feet apart. Would’ve stopped most men. Not John McClane.
3. You Killed My Dog A-Hole (“John Wick”):
You may be the rich son of a huge Russian mob boss who thinks he can do anything, but some people you just don’t mess with. When that sniveling turd and his band of flunkies decide to break into a house it becomes clear they did not know who’s place it was. Its just the retired master assassin “John Wick”. When the thieves kill his dog, Keanu Reeves is out for absolute vengeance. The biggest shootout comes when Wick goes after the heavily guarded punk’s crew in a nightclub. While sneaking in with the bouncer knowing to just let John go through, shit hits the fan real fast and this killer is definitely out of retirement by eliminating everyone. Plus, unlike most shootouts, “John Wick” actually has to reload.
2. Say Hello to My Little Friend (“Scarface”):
I’m not a huge fan of “Scarface”. It’s the number one movie poster in every rich rapper’s house. Plus Al Pacino is way over the top with his performance and his right hand man Manny played by Steven Bauer is just flat out bad. But I will give director Brian de Palma creds for this insane ending battle. Having risen to the top of the drug world, Tony Montana feels invincible. He also has made a lot of enemies. While sitting in front of a mountain of cocaine on his desk a mini-army of machine-gun packing soldiers invade Tony’s mansion. With the men closing in Montana takes one big sniff of white and grabs his grenade launcher, screaming out his famous line before blowing up his massive door along with several men before going out with authority. Tony Montana may not come out alive, but he sure does start out winning like a badass.
1. Being Chased Down by the Police the Second You Rob a Bank (“Heat”):
One of the most epic cops & robbers movies ever, director Michael Mann went with a gritty action angle centered around two Hollywood legends. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro go toe to toe as an eccentric detective trying to catch a calculated master thief. The sit down diner scene between the two is also classic, but when most people think of “Heat” they think of this unbelievable shootout through the streets of L.A. With DeNiro and his crew walking out of a bank with bags of cash the police are making their way down the sidewalks locked and loaded. Val Kilmer is the one last to the getaway car and he spots a few cops across the street and does not hesitate to instantly let his machine gun rip. With the driver quickly shot down, the remaining three have to literally try to shoot their way out as they move from block to block. The key to this scene is the smooth light beat that builds up the tension then drops any sounds other than the gun battle to blast you in the face. The tension of who will make it out, the good guys or the bad guys, is rarely utilized as well as it is here.