This got me thinking about action scenes in movies. While huge VFX driven sequences can be great for spectacle, sometimes they’re not offering us much else. Some of the best action scenes can reflect character and give us a deeper insight into how they act under pressure. Others present a moment of suspense where, for a moment, we really believe that our protagonist might not make it.
With that in mind, here are my TOP FIVE FAVOURITE ACTION SCENES…
5. Bourne v Desh – The Bourne Ultimatum
This fight is intense, chaotic and brutal. Something that director Paul Greengrass chose to do is amplify the diegetic sound in the space; we really feel the ferocity because of the whips, crunches and thuds.
By not having any music underneath, it adds to creating a more realistic and gritty feel. But it doesn’t rely on this, the choreography is sharp and easy to follow, even with the polarising use of a shaky-cam. Basically it’s an awesome fight.
4. Plane heist – The Dark Knight Rises
The prologue of The Dark Knight was brilliant. It was a great set up and introduction to the Joker. We have a similar heist sequence at the start of the last film in the trilogy, except it happens ON A FRIGGING PLANE!
Director Christopher Nolan, is a huge advocate of shooting in IMAX and seeing this sequence on the biggest of big screens was incredible. I felt like I was gonna fall in. Another thing that Nolan prioritises is doing stuff for real. And they really did hang a plane from another plane for real! You just have to admire that dedication to the craft.
3. Hit Girl's rampage – Kick-Ass
Before Deadpool, before Guardians of the Galaxy, there was Kick-Ass. A movie that, in my opinion, was a little ahead of its time. Matthew Vaughn's movie was postmodern, self aware, violent and a little vulgar – like Deadpool. Not to mention the use of classic songs during action sequences – like Guardians.
In Kick-Ass, whenever we see Hit-Girl; the eleven year old assassin, tearing people apart, Vaughn cuts it to cheerful and fun pop music. The juxtaposition is hilarious. My favourite example is towards the end of the movie where Hit-Girl expertly takes out everyone in her path to the sound of Bad Reputation by Joan Jett.
It’s as great as it sounds. But the reason this works so well is because the pop songs are a representation of how much fun the character of Hit-Girl is having during those moments. It wouldn’t work as well if you just added pop songs on the top of random scenes…
2. Train fight – Spider-Man 2
I like Spider-Man a lot. Have I talked about this before? Seriously though, I genuinely think that even people who aren’t big fans of Raimi’s original trilogy will still enjoy this particular sequence. It’s obviously brilliantly constructed and exciting to watch but it also takes the time to show Spider-Man saving people’s lives.
This is something I’ve noticed a lot of recent superhero movies shy away from or just completely ignore. But this whole scene is centred around Peter’s responsibility to the people of New York. Also I just get super giddy whenever Spidey is swinging around and dodging stuff.
1. Foot chase – Casino Royale
James Bond is another character that I have loved since I was a kid. Picking a favourite action scene was difficult but it had to be the parkour chase from Casino Royale. Free-running was a relatively new thing at the time so we’d never seen anything like it in the cinema.
Fun fact: Sébastien Foucan founded the sport and he actually plays the man Bond is trying to catch in the movie. This sequence escalates perfectly, it’s not just running for ten minutes. It moves from the ground, up a crane, down again, keeping us guessing what will happen next.
Furthermore, Casino Royale functioned as a reboot for James Bond and this scene does an excellent job of reestablishing his character. He’s resourceful, reckless, determined, quick thinking, aggressive, impulsive, ruthless. And I deciphered all that about him from just this one action sequence. That is smart filmmaking.
Jack Howard is a writer, director and actor. He regularly makes content for YouTube, is developing a movie and his sitcom series - 'Jack and Dean Of All Trades' is currently available on the Fullscreen platform.