Let’s face it — every other week there’s a new movie that comes out with some type of fight scene. Thousands, tens of thousands, of brawls filmed around the world over the last 100 or so years.
If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave out awards for realism, skills and guts, or if a handful of MMA experts infiltrated the Board of Governors there, these 5 would have taken home more statues in their years:
5. Bloodsport (1988): A prelude to the UFC and MMA — Bloodsport was different, it was new, it was one-of-a-kind. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as American Frank Dux, the film centers around Dux, who goes to Hong Kong to fight in the Kumite, an illegal, underground fight tournament, with fighters across the world trained in different martial arts. Best Acting prospects? No, but it was interesting to see what mixed martial arts looked like on screen and wonder if the beast Chong Li (Dux’s nemesis) could be beaten after killing one of his opponents.
4. Gladiator (2000): One of the best films of all time and winner of five Academy Awards, Gladiator had the whole package — acting, writing, directing, etc. A breakout role for Russell Crowe (Maximus), the acting with fight scenes made this film that much more memorable. The final fight scene between Maximus and Joaquin Phoenix’s Commudus came with mixed emotions for many. Yes, the good guy had defeated the bad guy, but it came at the cost of his own life. Of course it got plenty of recognition when it was out and it’s so great it was a tough call to only place this fourth.
3. Way of the Dragon (1972): A Bruce Lee film should be in everyone’s top five, no questions asked. The only question that should be asked is, which one? I thought about putting Enter the Dragon here (which was probably the first of its kind) putting Lee up against other martial artists in different fields, but I settled on Way of the Dragon because of the fight scene between Lee and Chuck Norris. This epic battle by the two martial artists did its talking through the battle on the screen. When Norris’ character Colt makes Tang Lung (Lee) bleed, Lung looks at the blood and wipes it away and starts to fight with more fervor and… we know the rest. Lee was one of the best with his Jeet Kun Do style, which rightly led to him being dubbed the “father of mixed martial arts.”
2. Cinderella Man (2005): I was torn between putting this first or second, but finally settled on second. One of the best films ever for its fighting, story line and acting, I think it’s crazy Russell Crowe wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award for this film. Yes, Philip Seymour Hoffman was great and deserving of an Oscar in Capote, but Crowe didn’t even make the nominees list? Anyhow, this film, based on the true story of American boxer James J. Braddock, is the definition of the American dream. The story of Braddock, who loses everything and has to go on welfare and work the docks, then defies all odds and resurrects his boxing career to become heavyweight champion of the world, is something that you can’t make up. Maybe because this film was in my era I think highly of it, but the fight scenes in the film and showdown between Braddock and Max Baer make this film one of the most inspirational.
1. Rocky IV (1985): This film came out at the height of the United States and U.S.S.R. impasse, and probably didn’t help with relations between the two superpowers at the time. But it is the best fight movie of all time because of what was at stake — not just bragging rights, but showing which country was better (in viewers’ eyes.) Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, the underdog, going against Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago — a huge, muscular soldier that looked like he could take on an army — was putting his life on the line, as Drago had killed Rocky’s friend Apollo Creed in an exhibition match. A film for the ages and undeniably one that will certainly stay a classic.
Million Dollar Baby — If I did this list over, I think I would find a way to put this in my top five. Forget that I was crying like a baby at the end of it.
Fight Club — Edward Norton and Brad Pitt made this film about underground fighting fun to watch with a unique twist at the end.
Raging Bull — Robert DeNiro, as legendary boxer Jake LaMotta, could have easily made the top five, but I think DeNiro and Martin Scorcese are what made this film better, so there’s an unfair advantage there…
David Kano is lead writer for MMA Show News and co-host of The Hollywood MMA Show. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDKano.
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