Bullets, hand guns, shotguns, machine guns, snipers, shootouts, showdowns and more bullets: add these things in film and what you get are sometimes the best action scenes ever created. Whether the battle involves many people or just two, this is my list of my favorite gun fights in film. I found when making this list that, while a lot gun fights are extremely entertaining, there are many films that used violence and gun fights to emphasize or establish the morals of the story at hand. I like to think I found a good balance between the entertaining gun fights and the powerful ones when I made this list.
10. The Good, the Bad, the Weird
Of the gun fights on this list, this one is the least meaningful for me. I just couldn’t help putting it on this list because it’s so insanely fun. Even more fantastic than the showdown at the end that pays homage to Sergio Leone’s masterpiece is the ridiculous bullet fest through the desert that leads to the climax. The music and the added bonus of it being a chase scene makes it unforgettable.
9. Hot Fuzz
In a brilliant attempt to satirize buddy cop films and action movies in general, Hot Fuzz ends up having one of the greatest action scenes ever filmed in it’s finale. Throughout the film, laughs are had, blood is splattered and the idea that being a cop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the movies is established. Then that idea is turned on its head and Hot Fuzz becomes a balls-to-the-wall shootout.
8. The Matrix
I don’t think anything really needs to be said here. I can’t think of the idea of gun fights in cinema with out thinking of the lobby shootout in The Matrix. It was probably the first truly great movie gun fight I ever saw and I love it still. I’ve always had an attachment to The Matrix as movie. I will watch it any time I get the chance and enjoy it every time. The lobby shootout is just one of the many reasons the film is awesome.
7. Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver is a Martin Scorsese masterpiece that is brilliantly punctuated by a bullet-filled and blood-soaked gun fight. Taxi Driver is one of the greatest character studies ever created. Travis Bickle is an incredibly dark and layered character and the examination of this complex character and the hell that surrounds him eventually leads to his baring arms and one of the most disturbing and yet glorious gun fights ever filmed.
6. L.A. Confidential
L.A. Confidential is simply an incredible movie all around filled with rich characters and memorable moments. The most memorable of which is the end of the film and the shootout that takes place. The greatest moment in L.A. Confidential though is the end of the shootout where Dudley says “Hold up your badge, so they know you’re a policeman.” Then protagonist Edmund Exley does the most honorable thing he’s done in the entire film.
5. Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan is brutal, it’s honest, it’s epic, it’s inspiring and it’s one of the greatest war movies ever created. The D-Day scene in the beginning is nothing short of perfect, however my favorite sequence in the film and the one that makes my list is the finale. While exemplifying the idea that war is hell, Saving Private Ryan manages to tell an excellent story of honor and duty. This story reaches it’s peak when it’s realized what our protagonists will do to actually save Private Ryan.
4. Once Upon a Time in the West
Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the most phenomenally epic westerns ever created and one I would easily call the greatest western ever made had it not been for the creation of a couple other masterpieces. Some might say the best scene in the film is the tense opening scene, which is amazing, but for me the greatest scene of the film is the showdown between protagonist “Harmonica” and antagonist Frank. Truthfully, the scene speaks for itself.
3. Inglourious Basterds
It is simply common knowledge at this point that Quentin Tarantino loves cinema and always shows his love for his favorite movies in the movies that he makes. Inglourious Basterds drew many allusions from the films of Sergio Leone and like a great Sergio Leone movie Inglourious Basterds has one hell of a showdown. In the La Louisiane scene, Quentin Tarantino crafts an extraordinary gun fight by building tension not with the music, editing and cinematography that Sergio Leone would use, but with dialogue. Then he ends his showdown in an instant, not with a single bullet, but with a quick and bloody shootout.
2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
This is it. This is the showdown that epitomizes the idea of showdown and there was never a doubt in my mind that it would be right here as my second favorite gun fight in film. No film on this list is as beautifully epic as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s a dramatic, fun and enthralling adventure through the west and it all culminates into one of the greatest gun fights in film.
It’s almost indescribable how incredible this scene actually is. The film was already amazing, but it’s this showdown that makes it a masterpiece. We get to know these characters throughout this adventure and when the inevitable occurs, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. The dialogue is had, the music swells, the characters move and stare strategically, the shots change spastically and BAM!
Unforgiven is the western masterpiece. It’s Clint Eastwood’s best film, it’s the greatest western in existence and it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. Unforgiven tells a simple tale of a ruthless murderer who has long since retired but ends up taking one last job. Unforgiven shows the violent west for what it is and establishes profound ideas of violence and what makes us who we are. What you find in the finale of Unforgiven isn’t just the greatest gun fight, but also one of the greatest scenes in film.
Little Bill Dagget makes for a deliciously ruthless antagonist where as William Munny is simply one of the greatest characters in film. When Little Bill Dagget and the well-known and feared William Munny finally meet what results is with out a doubt one of the most flawless pieces of filmmaking ever. “I’ll see you in hell William Munny,” Little Bill says with as much dignity as he has left and what Munny replies with a cock of his gun and a simple, powerful, and shameful “yeah”. Unforgiven offers a lot of things one which is the greatest gun fight cinematic history.