An answer track, in musical vernacular, is a response to a previously recorded and released song. The Ten Awesomest Movies About Fighting is a post by my great friend Zach Oat over at Television Without Pity (read his work daily!) to celebrate the release of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. (Read my review!) I thought it would be fun to add my own take on such a list, since my movie blog Slow-Motion Quick-Draw is all about this kind of flick.
I really can’t argue with the original list, since it either comes up with great movies I wouldn’t have considered, or it has a few that I would have surely added to my own list of 10 Awesomest Movies About Fighting. In particular, Enter The Dragon probably is the greatest “tournament” movie of all time, and unquestionably the finest cinematic showcase for the shitkicking talents of one Bruce Lee, without whom no list like this would be complete. Meanwhile, Fight Club is probably the funniest and the most perceptive movie ever made about why we male human beings are so innately driven to watch and participate in real-life fights.
So no arguments here. But here’s another batch of ten:
Master Of The Flying Guillotine
This movie is not very good, and it’s not always as fun to watch as its best moments. It’s not remotely as polished as Enter The Dragon, and the score is occasionally unbearable. We’re a long way from Lalo Schifrin here. Still, just try to resist the central idea, of a one-armed martial artist who is drafted into a lethal tournament where he must ultimately confront a blind wizard who wields the most beheading weapon of all time. Did you play Street Fighter 2 for hours and days in the 1990s? Do you know that this is where they lifted everything from? You’ve gotta see this movie to believe it – it’s worth it if only for the guy with the extending arms, among many other reasons.
Part Marty and part Raging Bull, this is the most mournful and profound movie that pro wrestling is ever likely to get. (Although I also highly recommend the documentary Beyond The Mat.) When I last wrote about The Wrestler, I disputed that it’s a redemption story, and I still don’t think it is, not for its lead character. But it probably was for its star, Mickey Rourke, who seemed to have been training for two decades for the role, and all that that implies. As he states late in the movie, Randy “The Ram” looks like a banged-up piece of meat, and yeah, he almost literally resembles one of those battered sides of beef that Rocky wales on in Rocky 1. This movie is all ups and downs, all about the human cost and the liberation of the ring. It’s like life. With a better soundtrack.
If we’re talking about movies about fighting, we’re talking about movies about badass two-fisted men of action and adventure, and one of the foremost cinematic chroniclers of that breed is director Walter Hill. Hard Times is a somewhat-forgotten Walter Hill movie which stars Charles Bronson and James Coburn. Do you really need more? Bronson plays a street fighter who punches more than he talks, and Coburn is his motor-mouthed promoter. This is a really convincing period piece, and one of the better and more overlooked action flicks of the 1970s.
Emperor Of The North
Also known as Emperor Of The North Pole, this is another period piece from the ‘70s about down-n’-out drifters. This one stars Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine, which arguably makes Bronson and Coburn look like Clooney and Pitt. If you don’t want to watch a movie where Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine take swipes at each other on the roof of a moving train using chains and axes and their own giant fists, I hope you can track down the lady who swiped your balls from you. This is not only an underrated entry in the filmography of the underrated Robert Aldrich, but it’s also a movie about hobos. Find it and watch promptly.
Every Which Way But Loose
Did you really think I was going to attempt a list like this without including Clint? I suppose that Clint’s great movie about fighting, and the toll it takes, is arguably Million Dollar Baby. But that movie is pretty sad, and the main criteria here is awesomeness, which precludes moping around. Every Which Way But Loose and its sequel are [surprisingly] the only movies on Clint’s resume where he plays a hard-partying, free-roaming bare-knuckle brawler, and they’re the only two in which he costars with a farting orangutan, so that’s why I selected this one.
Some movies qualify on the basis of just one scene, and if you’ve seen Eastern Promises, you know which scene I’m talking about. And if you haven’t seen Eastern Promises, go fix that.
Jason & The Argonauts
Again, some movies get in the door just for one killer scene. This movie without a single doubt has one of the greatest scenes in all of cinema. Skeleton-on-human violence. The pinnacle of cinematic awesome.
I don’t know that I could make a list of Awesome Movies About Fighting without including at least one movie about animal fights. King Kong is the original pioneer on that battlefield. You guys know all about this one: Giant gorilla fights tyrannosaurus rex; inspires one-hundred years of glorious filmed-and-faked animal fights. Later on he climbs up the Empire State Building and takes on the U.S. military. He doesn’t win, except he absolutely does.
You could round out this list with any number of martial arts flicks, but I ultimately gave this one the nod. Why? This soundtrack. Shogun Assassin is the rare example of a cinematic remix – it’s the most violent scenes from a series of Lone Wolf & Cub films strung together and scored to a proto-electronica soundtrack. It’s deeply, profoundly ridiculous. It’s never been an easy movie to find, but if you can manage it, you goddamn better.
Team America: World Police
One of my top ten movies of the previous decade, Team America is one of the few American movies that manages to make a persuasive case for how stupid fighting really is. Fun to watch on screen, but those who aggressively pursue violence in real life are worthless, unless you count their worth as objects of ridicule and scorn. Also in this movie: Puppets fight housecats. Everybody benefits.