Fight scenes: Most comic book movies have them, and most of them are at least decent. But what about the ends of the spectrum, the truly great ones and the mind-blisteringly terrible ones? Let's take some time and look at those. Someone else here did their list some time ago, but here’s a personal one.
10. BEST: Nightcrawler vs. The White House
(X2: X-Men United)
Rad as hell.
I personally don't feel that any of the X-Men movies before First Class hold up that well as a whole, but this X2: X-Men United sequence is an exception. This sequence friggin' slays.
In it, Nightcrawler infiltrates the White House with the plan of killing the President, using his powers and physicality to beat every Secret Service agent in his way. This scene shows how dangerous mutants can actually be. Nightcrawler is an animalistic force of nature, all roundhouse kicks and sharp teeth and murderous eyes. And him just unpredictably warping around the room makes for one hell of an inventive action sequence.
It's an all-timer, and one that stands out in your mind despite how short it is. Fan-freaking-tastic. In addition, it's just satisfying to watch Nightcrawler in action. His demonic appearance makes him as frightening as he is engaging. Throughout the scene, you aren't sure whether to root for him or not. It's a great balance.
9. WORST: Daredevil vs. Elektra
The playground fight. You knew this was coming, and if you didn't, you should have.
Daredevil is a deeply bad movie in almost every way. This scene, in fact, made my list of the worst comic book movie scenes ever. So of course it had to land a spot here. Because it is bad. Very bad.
Elektra and Matt Murdock meet on a playground at what appears to be an elementary school. Then they fight in front of a bunch of children while flirting. They both stand on a see-saw at some point. Hey, guys, for the record, if any of you ever get a prominent job in the film industry, I have some advice for you to take: See-saws are not cool. They are not badass, they are see-saws. I have not been on a see-saw since at least the fourth grade. No one wants to watch Daredevil and Elektra fight on one. I don't care if you're blind, Matt, even you should be able to see how dumb you look.
Also, Ben Affleck can go to hell. Unrelated, but important.
8. BEST: Batman vs. The Phantasm vs. The Joker
(Batman: Mask of The Phantasm)
Mask of The Phantasm is my favorite Batman movie ever.
I love this thing, and was thrilled to hear that they were going to release a remaster this year. By the end of the film, the vicious vigilante known as The Phantasm has set (MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM PLEASE SKIP TO THE NEXT ENTRY IS YOU DON'T WANT IT RUINED FOR YOU) her sights on The Joker.
And Batman needs to stop her from carrying out this plan. So they all fight in The Joker's new hideout, an old decrepit World's fair pavilion depicting the world of tomorrow. The retro-future aesthetic is right in step with Batman's art design, and it's awesome to see the animators get to play a bit.
In addition, this is the scariest Joker got in the original Batman The Animated Series run. So seeing a matchup between the new villain, the old villain, and the hero makes for a stunning climax.
7. WORST: Almost Every Fight Scene in Watchmen
HOLD ON, HEAR ME OUT ON THIS ONE. Let me actually explain.
So the fight scenes in Watchmen are slick and pretty and cool looking"¦and that's the problem.
The Watchmen comic is a story that has multiple overlying themes, but one of them is that if superheroes existed in the real world, they wouldn't be cool. They'd be frightening and unhinged, or dorky and awkward. And an across-the-board problem that the Watchmen film has is completely missing that point.
Hell, just look at Nite Owl for that. The tubby loser became a Hollywood hot "awkward" guy. As such, most of the film's fight scenes are flashy and pretty and all full of slow motion. And by making them "better" than the books, they ruined the point. It's a rare case where a solution that would work in a different film (make the fight scenes "cool") was completely mis-applied to a film that didn't need it.
As a result, the film comes off as an overly glossy work that loses the grit and realism – and moreover, the point - of the original.
6. BEST: Scott vs. Todd
(Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an excellent movie. Edgar Wright's sensibilities mesh elegantly with Bryan Lee O'Malley's near-perfect work. And nothing exemplifies this better than the Bass Battle from the film.
Todd Ingram is…well, he's a lot of things. He's Ramona's ex-boyfriend, he's Envy Adams' current boyfriend, he's a telekinetic vegan, and he's the bass player for The Clash at Demonhead. Scott's fight with Todd starts with physical fighting and transitions to a music fight as both combatants aggressively play bass at each other.
Brandon Routh and Michael Cera play off each other hilariously, and the way the battle ends is one of the film's most iconic moments. Todd break the moon; that's important to know. And he punches Scott a lot. With the same power level. In a movie full of fun and hilarious fight scenes, this one is the best on both counts.
Just watch out for the vegan police.
5. WORST: The Suicide Squad vs. the Enchantress
As a movie, Suicide Squad ranks somewhere below being punched in the throat.
Its final fight exemplifies this very well. By the time the Squad goes up against Enchantress, the characters have been developed"¦not at all. In fact, when we're shown what Enchantress is tempting them with, we don't even get to see half the team, because they aren't realized-enough characters for the writers to come up with anything.
In addition, and as with the rest of the film, the editing is the kind of trainwreck you'd only get if one train hit another train, and then a third train fell from space and landed on them both. The continuity of the fight is awful, items disappear and reappear at random, and character placement is all over the map. A bigger issue for me is the almost complete lack of personal stakes in the fight. There are plot stakes (the world will end), but aside from Flag, none of the characters have any personal connection to Enchantress. They've never met, they weren't close, there's nothing going on.
It makes for a fight that isn't just messy from a technical standpoint, it's boring from an emotional one.
4. BEST: Quicksilver vs. The Prison
(X-Men: Days of Future Past)
This is a little harder to count as a fight scene, since really only one party is actively fighting, but it's close enough, and damned awesome.
In the scene, Quicksilver, Professor Xavier, Magneto, and Wolverine emerge into the kitchen of the facility where Magneto is being held for supposedly murdering JFK. As they walk out, a team of guards armed with plastic guns opens fire, and Quicksilver pops in his earbuds, escalates to super speed, and gets to work.
Set to Jim Croce's 1972 song Time in a Bottle, the scene is the best visual depiction of super speed that I've ever seen. It's cool and funny, and gives you a perfect look at Quicksilver as a character. It’s also by far the standout sequence of Days of Future Past. It shows that Singer still has something to say about the X-Men. Or had, at least.
As a whole, the movie is slightly lesser than First Class for me, but this sequence is maybe my favorite scene across the trilogy of 2010s X-Men films. Or at least, second favorite, after that scene in First Class where Magneto butchers Nazis.
3. WORST: The Fantastic Four vs. Doctor Doom
Oh, God, THIS one.
Fant4stic is a truly awful movie on almost every possible level. I say "almost", because Michael B. Jordan was at least good casting, even if he's trapped in this awful dreck.
At the film's end, the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom face off in a featureless void of rocks and nothingness. You couldn't find a more boring landscape for a fight if you set it on a wall of drying paint. In addition, all of the big moments feel desperately small. "It's clobberin' time" is thuddingly obvious, the cast have no team chemistry, and Dr. Doom is such a bad villain that I'm shocked that Jack Kirby didn't rise from his grave to beat the living hell out of the filmmakers. It doesn't feel like a climax; it feels like a first action sequence. And it also feels like garbage filmmaking, but that’s beside the point.
The stakes are low, the characters aren't developed, and the visuals are hideous. Bad CG and a drab color palate do not mix.
2. BEST: The Avengers vs. The Avengers
(Captain America: Civil War)
There was nothing else I could have possibly put here.
This is the first fight scene I ever saw in a comic book movie that felt like it stepped straight out of a comic book. It's flawless. In the film, Captain America's pro-Bucky, anti-Sokovia Accords superteam faces off with Iron Man's ideologically opposed super squad at an airport in Germany, where a huge battle kicks off. Spider-Man debuts, Ant-Man goes big, Falcon and Winter Soldier team up…it's all here.
It's a huge, sprawling battle that hits all of the little moments and makes every character feel present. Hawkeye vs. Black Widow, Cap and Spidey sharing birthplaces, Black Panther's full-throated pursuit of Winter Soldier…These aren't just cool moments, they're character bests. Although seeing Ant-Man and Hawkeye pull the arrow trick was pretty awesome. It's fun, funny, and entertaining as hell.
It’s the best comic book movie fight scene of all time.
1. Worst: Catwoman vs. Laurel
I've talked before about how brain-screamingly bad Catwoman is, and most specifically about the editing. Go to any film school in the land, and they'll tell you that a quality action scene depends very strongly on editing.
Have you ever watched a movie, gotten to a fight scene, and immediately wondered what in the hell was going on? Well, A: You were probably watching Catwoman. And B: It was most likely because of garbage editing. And Catwoman as a movie is almost entirely garbage editing. Stuff is cut together in a collage of jump cuts and repeated actions. The sequence also breaks the 180-degree rule, a cardinal sin of film continuity.
You have to try to be this bad. Almost everything else on this list is bad for textual reasons. Either the motivations are bad, the style is mismatched to the scene, or the scene is just poorly written and directed. This is the only one that's across-the-board technically bad.
And there you go. Some more great fight scenes and some more awful ones to check out on YouTube, where all of these are uploaded, because copyright takedown bots really do not work.