/Answers: The Best Movie Gunfights of All Time

best movie gunfights

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. This week’s edition asks “What is your favorite movie gunfight of all time?” As always, we have submissions from the /Film writing crew and podcast team.

If you’d like to share your favorite movie gunfight, please send your thoughts to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com for a chance to be featured on the site. Find our choices below!

David Chen: Equilibrium

Okay, so Equilibrium is a movie that is super cheesy, low budget, and has aged poorly. But I already wrote about my love of Hard Boiled elsewhere, so let me just say this: I love the creativity of Equilibrium. While the idea of gun-kata may seem silly to some, I appreciate that Kurt Wimmer’s insane mind came up with the idea of dancing/posing while shooting people, and that he followed that basic idea through to its logical conclusion.

The final scene in the movie is an intense duel between Christian Bale and Angus McFadyen, but what I appreciate about it is it doesn’t actually have that much shooting. It’s just two guys, each trying really hard to prevent the other guy from shooting him in the face. The novelty of such a scene is already impressive, but even though the premise of the shootout is fundamentally silly, I still find it to be hypnotic and well executed sequence.

Peter Sciretta: Hard Boiled

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a fan of the long take. In fact, I’ve already written about two other long-takes in previous /Answers (Favorite Long Takes and Favorite Action scenes). This time, I am choosing the hospital shootout scene from John Woo’s seminal 1992 film Hard Boiled. Yes, David Chen featured this as his favorite action scene of all time and now I’m featuring it as my favorite movie gunfight. Like David, I remember the first time I ever saw this scene play on my DVD player, with my mouth hanging open in disbelief at the choreography and pure spectacle on display.

One reason long-takes are now trendy is because they are much easier to accomplish in the age of digital cameras. Back in the day, film was expensive and shooting a reel was burning money. Lighting a scene for film exposure was also far more difficult, and film cameras were a lot heavier than today’s digital counterparts. This makes the insanity of this scene all the more impressive.

The hospital shootout in Hard Boiled lasts nearly three minutes and features a ton of effects, including heavy gunfire, explosions, bullets blowing holes in the set, fire, and blood splatters, all of which was accomplished practically during shooting. Imagine being the on-set explosives guy who has to ready all the squids for this sequence! The scene is so masterfully choreographed and features Woo’s signature slow motion style. So many films have tried to top this sequence and no one has managed it.

Christopher Stipp: Heat

There’s something ominous in the atmosphere before the guns even come out and the Battle of North Hollywood begins.

Director Michael Mann, in choreographing the most tense 13 minutes you could ever watch, was able to balance the weight of making one of the most thrilling shootouts ever put to celluloid with making the action on the screen feel like there are real world stakes involved. Sure, you have stakes in other movies where guns determine the dramatic arc of whether good guys win or bad guys lose, but here, in this moment, everyone loses. There are no winners here and that’s part of this scene’s never ending allure. To see the deflation of the crew looking to take down a bank and the lives that are taken on both sides just illustrates why Heat continues to be a reference quality representation of how we both worship wanton violence in other movies and, in cases like this, stand in stark black and white about what real cops and robbers can do to one another.

One thing that I truly find remarkable about this scene is just how quiet it is. Leading up to the first shot being taken, there is a minimal amount of score in the background. It’s muted, very light and very tense, almost like white noise. But once Val Kilmer takes aim and squeezes the trigger, that music stops and it’s all about the ambient sounds of a true gun battle. The sounds of machine gun and shotgun fire, punctuated by screeching tires and screaming, followed by fits of silence…it’s all so eerie. The soundscape comes alive and only elevates the scene’s resonance long after it’s done.

Ethan Anderton: Hot Fuzz

It’s not easy to craft an action sequence that is simultaneously exciting and hilarious, but Edgar Wright does it all the time. What’s most impressive about Hot Fuzz is that he creates an awesome gunfight that is chock full of plenty of bullets, but doesn’t actually have a body count. In fact, most of the Neighborhood Watch Alliance isn’t even taken out by gunfire in the extended final fight in Sanford that spans several settings, but by various other weapons and items, like flower pots and bear traps. Since the climax actually spans so much time and so many locations, I’ve narrowed this down to the initial gunfight with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and the rest of the townspeople, which is chock full of brilliant callbacks to other jokes that were so carefully set up throughout the rest of the movie.

Continue Reading The Best Movie Gunfights >>

Pages: 1 2Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web: