12 Most Badass Fight Scenes of the Millennium

Russell Crowe in 'Gladiator'
Russell Crowe in 'Gladiator'Archive Photos / Stringer / Getty Images

In real life, the closest most guys have gotten to a legitimate fight is the time they bloodied a bully’s nose in the third grade or, more likely, had their nose bloodied and went home crying (but keep telling your version of the story—we believe you). One of the great things about movies is that we get to watch people beat the everliving crap out of each other, complete with limbs flying off and heads exploding, but can rest assured that no one’s head really exploded. Nestled comfortably in that knowledge, we don’t have to feel so sadistic for enjoying watching it so much.

We’re only a decade and change into the new millennium, but filmmakers are only upping the stakes when it comes to gratuitous, life-like violence and over-the-top fight gore. So we’d like to tip our hats to the best of this millennium’s fight scenes. One-on-one or one-on…88, these cinematic knockouts almost get us pumped up enough to make a stand against that old elementary school bully. Almost.

Gladiator – Maximus vs. Tigris


Gladiator is basically a two-and-a-half-hour-long fight scene, so it’s tough to choose just one excerpt for a best-of list. Still, this one’s tough to beat, with Maximus (Russell Crowe) facing undefeated gladiator Tigris in the Coliseum. Which would be tough enough without the pissed-off, man-eating tigers that randomly spring out of the ground.
Highlight: At the end of the clip, Maximus refuses Emperor Commodus’ command to finish Tigris off, earning him the moniker “Maximus the Merciful” and further turning the Roman people against their foppish leader.
IMDB “Fact!” Lou Ferrigno was originally cast as Tigris, but was replaced during production by Sven-Ole Thorsen, another bodybuilder.
What makes it badass: This was essentially the heavyweight title fight to the death in the film that won Best Picture in 2000. What do you need, body slams? Okay…

Warrior – Tommy Knocks out Mad Dog



As mixed martial arts continues to grow in popularity, it’s fitting that Warrior was the best fighting film of 2011—possibly one of the best of all time. Main character and ex-Marine Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) is motivated to enter a winner-take-all MMA tournament called Sparta in hopes of giving the winnings to a widow and son of a fallen comrade. In this fight scene—one of many—we watch a seemingly inexperienced Tommy destroy his opponent, professional fighter Pete “Mad Dog” Grimes, which ultimately makes his decision to enter the tournament.
Highlight: Tommy’s final line—“You owe me 200 bucks.” Oh, and the knee to the face is pretty sweet too.
IMDB “Fact!” Tom Hardy suffered a broken toe, broken ribs, and a broken finger during fight scenes while in production.
What makes it badass: Warrior thrives on depicting realistic violence to intensify the drama, rather than distracting viewers’ focus on how fake the fighting looks. Unless your name is Jon Jones, you probably don’t want to mess with Tom Hardy after watching this movie.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Helm’s Deep Battle


The final two installments of the Lord of the Rings featured some of the most intense epic battle scenes ever displayed on the big screen. Although it’s tempting to go with a number of fight sequences in the constant battle for Middle Earth in Return of the King, my favorite will always be the seemingly hopeless Helm’s Deep battle that rages through a full night of pouring rain.
Highlights: Aragorn brawling and leading the fight like a boss; Gimli axing an Uruk Hai in the balls; also, later on in the battle, Legolas shieldboarding down the stairs while firing off several shots with his bow, then Gandalf leading the Riders of Rohan to victory at the crack of dawn.
IMDB “Fact!” The Helms Deep battle took four months to shoot, all of it at night.
What makes it badass: It’s a do-or-die fight for a country’s survival. The brutal battle takes up about half of a three-hour film and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats for the duration.

Inception – Spinning Gravity Fight Scene


If you only saw Inception once, it’s hard to tell what the hell is really going on here—as in who’s fighting whom and why and plot-related stuff like that. But none of that’s necessary to enjoy this clip. Here, a fight scene rages on in one “level” of dreaming while a van rolls on another “level.” The rolling van completely screws up gravity on the level with the hand-to-hand fight scene, forcing the characters to struggle with their surroundings as they brawl with one another.
Highlight: The one dude falling all the way down the hallway, clearly failing at this new spinning gravity thing.
IMDB “Fact!” Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed all his own stunts during the fight scene in the spinning hallway.
What makes it badass: Its originality—you wouldn’t see an action sequence like this in any other movie. (Except every action movie from now on.)

Kill Bill Vol. 1 – The Bride vs. the Crazy 88


Quentin Tarantino’s two-part homage to spaghetti westerns and Hong Kong martial arts flicks stars Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo (aka, the Bride), who wakes from a coma years after being shot in the head (don’t question it) by Bill, the man she was meant to marry. Ergo the title of the movie, and its vengeful premise, but Bill leads a squad of deadly assassins, making him a tough guy to reach—also making these movies ludicrously gory. Here, the Bride easily dispatches the elite Crazy 88 swordsmen, who seem to number greater than that, but probably just because of the gallons of blood.
Highlight: The Bride takes up a second sword as the remaining Crazy 88 surround her, proceeding to sever scores of limbs while spinning to “Nobody But Me” by Human Beinz—another example of Quentin Tarantino’s penchant for playing harmless old pop songs over ultra violent scenes.
IMDB “Fact!” Approximately $60,000 of the movie’s budget was used for producing swords and sword accessories.
What makes it badass: One vengeful woman takes on a huge quantity of well-dressed men by herself—either killing, badly wounding or sternly scolding every last one of them.

Sin City – Marv Destroys Some Crooked Cops



Marv (Mickey Rourke) might be the toughest, most brutal character ever portrayed on film. Even when he meets his demise, later on in an electric chair, he calls the cops administering the execution ‘pansies’ as blood spews out of his mouth. But here, he’s still in the flesh, escaping a serial killer’s dungeon and mowing down several crooked cops with a hatchet.
Highlight: The demonic walk Marv takes toward the last remaining helpless cop, hatchet in hand and covered in blood.
IMDB “Fact!” Counting only blows to the head or face, Marv is struck 21 times through the course of the movie.
What makes it badass: The level of ease with which Marv disposes of the cops, who really should have used their guns if they had them.

Casino Royale – Parkour Chase/Battle



This scene officially ushered in the Daniel Craig era. With Pierce Brosnan gone, Craig displays his new take on the character, participating in a long chase/fight scene here that would have been far too tiring and undignified for past Bond actors to pull off. The new ripped James Bond is barely able to track down French parkour star Sebastien Foucan in one of Casino Royale’s early scenes. Craig does a lot more reckless brawling than we’re used to in a Bond movie, but he still manages to finish off the scene with a classic shoot-the-explosives-behind-the-bad-guys-and-escape sequence. Very fun to watch.
Highlight: Mollaka’s impressive parkour skills are pretty amazing. Bond’s ludicrous ability to catch the unloaded gun Foucan hurls at him on top of the crane is a close second.
IMDB “Fact!” Sebastien Foucan, who plays Mollaka, is one of parkour’s main publicists and has appeared in countless other media events. In the earliest versions of this film’s script, the Mollaka character was known as Two Fingers.
What makes it badass: The juxtaposition of Mollaka’s freakish athleticism with Bond’s resourcefulness makes for an intense, unforgettable chase/fight scene.

300 – King Leonidas Pwning Persian n00bs


Gerard Butler showed off his guns and eight-pack abs as the intimidating King Leonidas in what might be the film’s most well-known fight scene (since kicking a messenger down a pit yelling “This is Sparta!” doesn’t constitute an actual fight). Unfortunately, this movie is only loosely based on the actual Battle of Thermopylae, in which the Spartans’ key to lasting so long was their refusal to break ranks, unlike what you see here. It’s also unlikely that they wore leather underwear and red capes as their uniforms. Still, it’s best to just shut your brain off and enjoy the action.
Highlight: Leonidas slices off one guy’s leg, kills another, then levels the next one with his shield.
IMDB “Fact!” The filmmakers used bluescreen 90% of the time, and greenscreen for 10%. They chose blue because it better matched the lighting paradigm (green would have been too bright) and because red garments (a la spartan capes) look better when shot over blue.
What makes it badass: 300 redefined the term “badass.”

The Dark Knight – Batman vs. The Joker


Admittedly, this scene is not a pure fight between Batman (Christian Bale) and the Joker (Heath Ledger). It’s better than that. Several others play a part in this scene but it comes down to a one-on-one battle. Watching the savvy tactics of each character makes this exceedingly fun to watch, as it becomes obvious that Batman and the Joker are equally good at what they do, they’re just at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum of good and evil.
Highlight: The truck flip, followed by the Joker’s pleas for Batman to run him down on his batcycle.
IMDB “Fact!” When the Joker commandeers the semi after his driver is killed, the bullet holes on the windshield form a smiley face.
What makes it badass: The violent, brilliant schemes of the Joker locking horns with the intellect and superior technology of Batman makes this one of the most compelling scenes in one of the best action movies of all time.

District 9 – Mech Suit vs. Thugs


Although Avatar was also released in 2009, the fighting in District 9 was a lot more engaging and creative. Here, we see the clear superiority of alien weaponry against the feeble bullets we shoot out of our equally feeble guns. Fights rage throughout the second half of District 9, making this film one of the best sci-fi entries in recent years.
Highlight: The alien weaponry’s ability to gather bullets into a ball and release them all in a devastating multi-kill shot.
IMDB “Fact!” Paralleling the events of the film, the shacks in District 9 were part of a real shanty town in Johannesburg which was to be evacuated, its residents moved to better government housing. The only shack that was created solely for filming was Christopher Johnson’s.
What makes it badass: The fight that breaks out at the end involves several different parties, making things extremely complicated for Wikus (Sharlto Copley) and his new alien buddies. That, and the mech suit is kind of like Transformers, except more entertaining and not as stupid.

Family Guy – Peter Griffin vs. the Giant Chicken


The purest, most drawn-out fight scenes on this list come from Peter Griffin’s unending battle with the giant chicken that once gave him an expired coupon. Peter has won all three bouts so far, although the chicken is clearly able to survive catastrophic injuries. Since the fights break out at completely random moments, one can never be sure when the next fight will erupt—we just know that the writers will always up the ante.
Highlights: The abrupt, ridiculous beginning to each fight. Also, the pleasant dinner scene devolving into one last brutal battle is great.
Fact: In familiar Family Guy form, the giant chicken getting minced by the airplane propeller at the end of the second fight scene (a little over four minutes in) is a reference to a fight Indiana Jones has in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
What makes it badass: The two have fought atop an 18-wheeler, in a subway, on top of a train, inside an office building, a sewer and in various other bizarre locations. They may be the most intense fighters on this list, and their rivalry challenges that of Batman vs. the Joker.

Million Dollar Baby – Maggie Punches Out Better Opponent


Here’s another chick who could probably beat you up. Maggie (Hilary Swank) struggles at the start of this scene, but between rounds, Frankie, her trainer, pisses her off in classic Clint Eastwood-fashion. Knowing the sad ending, it’s hard to watch this film, but Swank definitely immersed herself in the role and became a force to be reckoned with.
Highlight: Maggie’s utter domination in the second round of the fight, knocking out her opponent within seconds.
IMDB “Fact!” Hilary Swank underwent a serious training schedule to prepare for this film. She gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle from the workouts.
What makes it badass: The fight is realistic and believable while still being vicious. It’s always great to watch a sports movie that features actors who know what they’re doing and look the part.

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