I was looking through some movies a couple of weeks ago, searching for some clips to use in one of my classes, and in the middle of that search I started wondering: what would I pick as the best movie fights I’ve seen?
After some contemplation, I’ve managed to whittle it down to a top five, with a bunch of honourable mentions. And in compiling this list, I’ve discovered the elements that make an on-screen fight “good” to me: outstanding (or at least interesting) fight choreography, good pacing, injections of humour or some sort of emotional gravity to the scene… and preferably, no one dies or is mortally injured.
So here’s what I think are the best five fights on film (in order of appearance):
Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999)
The original Star Wars trilogy is better than the prequel trilogy in terms of storytelling and innovation but the fights simply cannot compare. For their time, the lightsaber battles in Episodes IV to VI were good, but the choreography of the prequel fights is rather different and much better – or better, at least, for the contemporary viewer’s eyes. It’s more fluid and more complex, as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan demonstrate here when they take on Darth Maul and his double-bladed lightsaber. (I appreciate how the person who uploaded the video has edited out all the other scenes – because in the movie, the fight was crosscut with Anakin’s scenes and Padme’s, which made it harder to appreciate the fight setup.) There’s no humourous angle to this fight, but there is the shock of Qui-Gon’s death, which adds weight to the fight and makes Obi-Wan’s win at the end bittersweet. I daresay Obi-Wan wouldn’t have beat Darth Maul on his own if he wasn’t propelled by the agony of seeing his master go down like that…