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The 19 Best Movie Fight Scenes Of 2014

It was a year of fighting robots, brawling neighbors, battling tanks, and so much more. SPOILERS BELOW.

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19. Optimus Prime vs. Grimlock, Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Paramount Home Entertainment

2014 was the year we fully surrendered to the blockbuster franchise, with its nine-figure budgets, shared universes, and promises of inevitable reboots, full of sound, fury, and spectacle. But given how much grand action there was on screen, there were surprisingly few standout fight sequences. Part of it's that the swooping digital battles that are everywhere now are... well, everywhere now, the new norm. Take Transformers: Age of Extinction, a movie overflowing with the expected Michael Bay eye-popping visuals, but also one that, at least for me, faded into a blur almost immediately. Except for this scene, which uses the most cutting edge cinematic technology to render, in exquisite detail, a robot that can turn into a truck fighting a robot that can turn into a dinosaur, and then riding it through the streets of Hong Kong. What really cements this moment is not the bewildering speech about freedom Optimus Prime gives the Dinobot he's beating up, but that the observing Autobots seem just as surprised at the T-rex transformation and the expanding rules of their franchise as anyone watching. "I was expecting a giant car!" gasps Drift.

18. Lucy vs. Taiwanese Gangsters, Lucy

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Universal Pictures

Lucy writes itself into a bit of a corner by having its main character accelerate toward post-human transcendence so quickly — no one can win against or even surprise Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) once she begins her journey. That said, the scene in which she first puts her new awareness to use, taking out the men holding her captive in the back of a Taipei restaurant, digging out the bullet in her shoulder, and passing for some quick caloric intake, is a minor joy in all of its brisk, cold-eyed efficiency.

17. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Warner Bros.

The Hobbit was obviously stretching its material for its final chapter, but who isn't thankful that left plenty of room for one last great Legolas fight? Orlando Bloom's elf prince has gotten to do something physics-defyingly awesome in just about every one of Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations, and his rematch with the Orc chieftain Bolg on a crumbling bridge was another cleverly orchestrated, impossibly athletic bit of Legolas action.

16. Godzilla vs. MUTO, Godzilla

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Warner Home Video

Gareth Edwards' Godzilla reboot was all about anticipation, teasing the first appearance of the MUTOs, the giant monsters that end up terrorizing various American cities, not to mention the famous kaiju himself. When the monsters finally do meet in San Francisco, the battle escalates as well, never more satisfyingly than in the moment in which Godzilla first shows off his nuclear capabilities. A MUTO is closing in on Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) when, just in time, Godzilla rises out of the darkness, spines glowing blue as he prepares a blast of atomic breath.

15. Mac vs. Teddy, Neighbors

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Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Teddy's (Zac Efron) big brawl is particularly funny for all the groundwork the film lays for it — the dildos they use as weapons are molded after the frat brothers' own members, with Scoonie's (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) impressive endowment making for a sex toy Mac is able to whip around like nunchucks. The "I am Batman!" is a callback to the drunken conversation Mac and Teddy had when they first hung out. Teddy catching the beer Mac hurls at him? Well, that's just another example of Teddy being the platonic (and practically superhuman) ideal of a frat boy.

14. X-Men vs. Sentinels, X-Men: Days of Future Past

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20th Century Fox

The scene toward the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which the X-Men of the future take their last stand against the improved Sentinels bent on exterminating them, is disturbing not just because we're watching beloved characters (temporarily) die. We've already seen how well they work together in their dystopian future, but the Sentinels are able to snuff them out so brutally, turning their own powers back on them like dark, impassive mirrors.

13. John vs. Russian Gangsters, John Wick

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Summit Entertainment

There's not one particularly stand-out fight scene in the Keanu Reeves assassin drama John Wick, but it's all so elegantly shot. Take this carefully choreographed gunfight sequence inside a nightclub, which holds on Reeves for longer takes rather than chopping the action up, letting it unfold within the frame so you can actually see where everyone is.

12. Wallace vs. Howard, Tusk

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A24

You have to give Kevin Smith's comedic horror movie this — it takes a wacky premise conceived in his podcast and runs with it to its darkest extremes. And so you eventually come to the admirably strange, totally disturbing conclusion, in which Wallace (Justin Long), having been operated on and sewn into a walrus suit, fights his captor and tormentor Howard Howe (Michael Parks). He manages to win by embracing his animal side, putting the final nail in the coffin of his humanity in the process.

11. Fury vs. the Tiger I, Fury

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Columbia Pictures

There's a lumbering quality to tanks that makes staging exciting battles between them challenging — tanks are heavily armored, trundling things that just fire away at each other. But the sequence in David Ayer's World War II movie in which the characters in the Sherman tank of its title face down a technologically superior German Tiger I tank is thrilling, because it's based around tactics and on-the-fly maneuvering. The Sherman tank and the Tiger circle each other in the field, trying to get access to each other's weak spots, with the Fury team knowing that they're in the more vulnerable vehicle and don't have the luxury of counting on being able to take a hit.

10. Riggan vs. Mike, Birdman

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Fox Searchlight

The fight that Hollywood star turned Broadway hopeful Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) has with his costar Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) is as entertainingly humiliating as any tiff over the spotlight between two egotistical actors is bound to be. Mike's in his underwear and Riggan is wielding a newspaper containing the contested profile on Mike, reading out the most problematic quotes. But best of all is the battle that takes place before anyone's thrown a punch — a battle of acting skills, as Riggan tells an invented sob story about his terrible childhood just to see if Mike believes him.

9. Schmidt vs. Mercedes, 22 Jump Street

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Columbia Pictures

Schmidt's (Jonah Hill) brawl with Mercedes (Jillian Bell) is rife with all kinds of confusion about how to fight a girl. She seems more than able to holding her own, taunting him about his reluctance to engage, but despite an utter lack of sexual tension, the two keep ending up in an almost romantic clinch, because they seem to think it's expected. Not every clash between a man and a woman is about sublimated sexual attraction, and the proof, in 22 Jump Street, is endearingly awkward.

8. Themistokles vs. Artemisia, 300: Rise of an Empire

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Warner Home Video

Of course, then you have the exact sort of scene 22 Jump Street was making fun of in 300: Rise of an Empire. The 300 sequel's only noteworthy sequence was the one in which our hero, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), goes to parlay with Persian naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green). There's plenty of tension to be had, and it turns out to be absolutely justified, with the two are soon throwing each other around the room in what can only be described as a sex fight that's more outrageous than any of the computer-generated gore filling the screen the rest of the the film's runtime.

7. Robert vs. Russian Gangsters, The Equalizer

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Columbia Pictures

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is another character who prefers to work with the weapons at hand, but what's most intriguing about him is showcased in this early fight scene, then allowed to fade away. His mild OCD, which leads him to time himself and line up his napkin with the side of the table, also seems to make him a better killer, as he slaughters a room full of Russian gangsters, then checks how long it took against his earlier estimation.

6. Dwight vs. Wade, Blue Ruin

RADiUS-TWC

So much of the suspense in Jeremy Saulnier's terrific little revenge thriller comes from the audience having no clue what will happen next, because Dwight (Macon Blair) has no idea what he's doing. The movie lays that out in the scene that triggers all the violence that will follow, as Dwight tracks down Wade Cleland Jr. (Sandy Barnett), who's just finished serving a sentence for the murder of Dwight's parents. Dwight tries to steal a gun and fails, and ends up following Wade into the bathroom of a club. Dwight's terrified and trembling, there in that restroom stall — he's never killed anyone before. And the scuffle and murder that follows is as messy and unpleasant as, well, murders probably are, setting the tone for everything that to come.

5. Cage vs. The Mimics, Edge of Tomorrow

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Warner Home Video

We see the battle scene in which Cage (Tom Cruise) lands on the beach with the rest of the doomed human army again and again — every time he dies, he ends up back there, getting better each time at making his way through the fighting and staying alive. But that first fight is dizzying in its shock value, particularly in seeing Cruise, the shiniest of movie star, flounder his way through the chaos. He doesn't know what he's doing and no one cares what happens to him, and from the second he spins crashing down onto the beach until the time he buys it, it's overwhelming and traumatic. Then we start all over again.

4. The Tail Section vs. The Axe Men, Snowpiercer

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RADiUS-TWC

The biggest hurdle for the members of the rebelling tail section is the car in which they encounter a group of men, armed with axes. What starts as a neatly staged battle gets better and more surreal as it goes along — first, there's the fish, then there's the moment they cross the Yekaterina Bridge, and everyone pauses to celebrate the New Year. And then, as planned, the train enters a long tunnel, and the Axe men don night vision gear to take advantage of the darkness and slaughter as many of the unprepared rebels as possible. Brilliant.

3. Dave, Aaron, and Sook vs. Kim Jong-un, The Interview

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Columbia Pictures

It's the sequence that potentially launched an international cyber war. How can it not be on here?

2. Captain America vs. S.T.R.I.K.E., Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Captain America: The Winter Soldier eventually builds up to scenes of a giant aircraft colliding with a building, but its best action scene is intentionally intimate — the one in which Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is ambushed in an elevator by Agent Rumlow (Frank Grillo) and members of S.T.R.I.K.E.. The build-up is almost as delicious as the actual combat, as more and more supposed allies crowd into the tight space. Steve's aware that he's surrounded, but everyone's pretending its business as normal right until he destroys the pretense by saying "Before we get started — does anyone want to get out?" The resulting fight pits Steve's superior strength and skills against seemingly insurmountable odds, and he spends most of the clash with one arm pinned to the wall. It's all terrifically staged, right through to his painful escape.

1. Rama vs. The Assassin, The Raid 2

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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The Raid 2's pleasures are decidedly old school — it's a martial arts movie starring real martial artists, including Iko Uwais as Rama, a cop who goes undercover in a gang to expose the criminals as well as the corrupt police who've been dealing with them. Freed from the need to cut around stars who are being replaced by stunt doubles, director Gareth Evans is freed up to show his carefully choreographed clashes as they should be shot, like very violent dance sequences. The movie's best fight scene is also one of its last, as Rama makes this way through one of the gang leader's top three enforcers. The last, listed only as "The Assassin" and played by Cecep Arif Rahman, meets him in the industrial kitchen of a restaurant, where the two engage in a vicious, gorgeously staged combat to the death. The performers' skill is part of what makes this the greatest fight scene of the year, but it's also noteworthy for how much damage Evans makes sure we know the two characters are sustaining. When Rama wins, there's no triumph in his eyes, only exhaustion and trauma — we may be exhilarated, but he only wants to go home.