You’d think that compiling a list of memorable action movie moments would be quite simple, since there are so many violent, exciting, funny and downright bizarre nuggets to choose from. As we quickly discovered, the sheer number of classic moments in the genre’s history makes whittling them down to 50 extremely tricky.
To this end, we’ve established a few arbitrary rules: one, that the movies in question have to be live-action – so the wonderful downhill chase sequence from last year’s Tintin, for example, is out of the running.
Second, only movies that are in the action genre first and foremost actually qualify. Action movies with sci-fi, fantasy or comedy elements are fine, but space operas with action elements (sorry, Star Wars franchise) and dramas with glimmers of pulse-racing violence (The Godfather, Michael Mann’s Heat) are out of the running, too. Third, no comic book movies – the quantity and quality of such films has been so exceptional in recent years, they’re probably better off with a list of their own.
So with those silly rules established, what on earth does that leave? The kind of movies whose fight scenes, explosions, car chases and amusing one-liners had audiences queuing around the block to see – or more often, paying to watch on video, or tuning in to see on late-night television.
We’ve tried to come up with a decent mix of the startling and the absurd, the eastern as well as the western, and the sublime and the ridiculous. There are appearances from famous names we’ve all heard of, but there are a few less familiar faces thrown in there, too.
We can’t please everyone, of course, and there are more than likely a few omissions in the list below that you’d have preferred to see. If so,you know the drill: add them in the comments. With all that out of the way, let’s unleash a rousing Schwarzenegger battle cry, and move onto the first entry…
Out on the beat
There are so many classic moments of satire, outrageous violence and quotable dialogue in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop that it’s almost impossible to know which to choose. Here’s a less obvious selection, though: the first sequence after cop Alex Murphy is brutally killed and resurrected as RoboCop, where he’s shown stomping back into his precinct, shocking everyone with his extraordinary shooting skills down on the practice range, before driving triumphantly off on his first patrol – all cut to Basil Poledouris’ rousing march. Wonderful.
Under Siege (1992)
It’s the post-Die Hard action movie that saw Steven Seagal at the height of his glowering potency, and Under Siege also treats us to some sublime, chortling, villainous performances from Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones. And if Under Siege teaches us absolutely nothing else, it’s that you should never, ever spit in Steven Seagal’s soup.
Hard Boiled (1992)
If you ever need proof that John Woo is one of the greatest action directors of all time, look no further than the remarkable hospital shoot-out sequence from 1992’s Hard Boiled. A three-minute-long orgy of gunplay with only one (almost seamless) edit, it’s yet to be topped for sheer ambition and pace.
The story of how it was shot is even more remarkable: although it looks as though our two heroes move between two floors in a lift, the scene took place on a single sound stage. When the pair enter the lift and the doors close, people are frantically clearing up the devastation ready for what’s meant to be the next floor.
Hard Boiled was Woo’s last Hong Kong movie before he set off Hollywood – and what a spectacular way to end that particular chapter in his career.
Arnie’s battle cry
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
Another classic film with too many great moments to count, the first Indiana Jones movie is surely one of the best action movies ever made. For the sheer brilliance of its stunt work, ideas, directing and editing, the moment where Indy tenaciously stays on the trail of the Nazi convoy and its precious relic is a true highlight.
Riding off on horseback, Indy engages in a remarkable six-minute pursuit, cling onto vehicles for dear life, and getting beaten and shot in the process. It’s a high point not only of the movie, but the entire Indiana Jones series.
Willis goes swinging
Die Hard (1988)
The greatest action movie of all time? If Die Hard’s not at the top, then it’s pretty damn close. Somehow, all the right elements are in place in this first and best entry in the series; the athletic yet relatable, funny hero, the engaging roster of villains, the claustrophobic location, great script, and, of course, brilliantly directed action. Our favourite bit? If we had to choose, hero John McClane’s slow-motion dive off the roof of the Nakatomi Plaza.
Using a hose as an improvised bungee cord, McClane swings away from a huge explosion, shoots out a window, crashes through it, only for the falling hose reel to start dragging him back off the ledge. It’s one of the coolest stunts of the 80s, and also features one of the finest explosions of the decade, too.
Row, row, row your boat
Dirty Harry (1971)
The film that provided Clint Eastwood with one of his signature roles, and would go on to define the modern cop movie for decades afterwards, Dirty Harry remains a grungy, violent action thriller. Its shoot-outs and stunts may seem a little low-key by modern, post-CG standards, but they merely add to the film’s veneer of realism. And besides, in this memorable moment, where the evil Scorpio has commandeered a school bus full of kids, it’s Eastwood himself who leaps from a bridge and onto the speeding vehicle’s roof. Now that’s what we call dedication.
Stairway to heaven
A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987)
It’s really no surprise that John Woo’s movies would eventually come to the attention of Hollywood – the real surprise is that it took so long. Although not Woo’s best Hong Kong film, the apartment shoot-out in A Better Tomorrow 2 is a remarkable feat of shooting and choreography. Chow Yun Fat takes on an army of bad guys in a claustrophobic building, dragging with him a temporarily insane brother who’s absolutely no help at all. An almost six-minute long orgy of shotgun violence is punctuated by a bit where Yun Fat slides backwards down a flight of stairs, offing a villain with his trademark two-handed pistol technique. A stunning highlight in an otherwise flawed film.
Boards don’t hit back
Enter The Dragon (1973)
The legendary Bruce Lee utters the line above shortly before his short, jaw-dropping fight with the hulking O’Hara (Robert Wall) the high-kicking right-hand man to the evil Han. There are many, many fight sequences in Enter The Dragon, Lee’s final and most successful film, but his fight with O’Hara exemplifies his prowess, I think, better than any other: his style is economical, direct, and powerful. The slow-motion segment where O’Hara, enraged at Lee’s superior speed and agility, attacks him with a pair of broken bottles, concludes the fight in spectacular, bone-crunching fashion.
Vanilla ice cream with a twist
Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)
John Carpenter’s predatory score and equally cunning use of editing makes Assault On Precinct 13 a masterpiece of action and suspense. We were initially reluctant to put this sequence on the list because it’s so horrifying, but there’s no getting away from it – the casual manner in which the leader of a gang shoots an innocent little girl at an ice cream van remains a jaw-dropping, unforgettable moment. Unpleasant though the sequence is, it serves two purposes: provides the catalyst for the tense siege of the second half, and most importantly, proves just how evil the bad guys really are.
Everybody was zombie fighting
Encounters Of The Spooky Kind (1981)
This is surely among the greatest kung-fu movies ever made, and certainly one of the most successful fusions of action, horror and comedy you’ll ever see. It’s hard to choose just one brilliant moment, because there are so many, but the sequence where our hero Bold Cheung (Sammo Hung) fights a hopping zombie fresh from his coffin is a magnificent one, shifting effortlessly from suspense, as Cheung tries to stop the creature from escaping (using hen’s eggs) to full-on action, as the two engage in an expertly choreographed fight.
The road warrior
Mad Max II (1981)
The 1981 sequel to Mad Max didn’t make as much money, but I’d argue it’s the far superior film, both in terms of its cinematography and action. And as 80s action sequences go, you can’t get much better than its opening chase – a high-speed chase that reintroduces Mel Gibson’s embittered petrol head, and his post-apocalyptic environment, all without a single word of dialogue. Unless you count the primal scream of a feral bad guy, that is.
Take the bus
48 Hrs (1982)
The movie that, for better or worse, made Eddie Murphy a huge star, and a great (if somewhat dated) bit of action directing from Walter Hill. If it’s a memorable moment you’re looking for, then how about the bit where the bad guys commandeer a bus, resulting in a high-speed chase and shoot-out through night time city streets? It’s short, exciting, and appears to have been borrowed by Hill himself for the remarkably similar Red Heat (1988).
John Woo’s Hollywood action epic was originally supposed to be a vehicle for Stallone and Schwarzenegger, but putting Nic Cage and John Travolta in their place was a masterstroke. The two have great fun impersonating one another’s tics and mannerisms when their faces are swapped at the end of the first act, and some of their exchanges are, remarkably, more memorable than the trademark Woo action sequences (he has the copyright on the word ‘balletic’, we understand). This leads us to a vintage batty performance from Cage, and my personal favourite moment: his grandiose, stoned way of saying, “I want to take his face... off.”
The response, from one of the character actors playing a henchman (“No more drugs for that man”) is so apt, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d simply blurted it out on the spot.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
In this James Cameron-penned sequel to First Blood, John Rambo’s pulled out of jail to take some pictures of prisoners of war in Vietnam, which is a bit like hiring David Hockney to decorate your living room. Unsurprisingly, Rambo soon loses his Nikon and starts shooting the bad guys with a gun instead – much to the relief of action-hungry audiences everywhere.
The most memorable moment in this amiably daft 80s relic? Aside from poor Julia Nickson’s appalling acting, surely this one. Bad day at the office, John...?
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Few sequences sum up screenwriter Shane Black’s ability to write an action scene as this one from 1991’s The Last Boy Scout. Bruce Willis’ world-weary detective is being repeatedly punched by a sneering bad guy with a particularly annoying laugh. “Touch me again and I’ll kill you,” Willis murmurs, provoking yet another punch in the face. Willis’ response? A sharp heel strike to the face, shattering the goon’s nose and killing him instantly. Eye-watering, but brilliant.
You wanna see crazy?
Lethal Weapon (1987)
An undercover cop in a drug bust – a familiar enough staple in any action thriller. But Shane Black’s classic Lethal Weapon completely upended the predictable formula by making his protagonist Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) a suicidal maniac. And nowhere is this better illustrated than in the quite brilliant three-minute sequence where he accosts a group of Christmas tree salesmen who sell bags of cocaine on the side.
In a perfectly judged mix of tension and comedy, Riggs first poses as a wet-behind-the-ears customer (“A hundred thousand? I can’t afford that. Not on my salary”), then slaps his badge on the table, does a Three Stooges impression, and triggers a big festive gun-fight. It’s possibly Mel Gibson’s career-best performance, and the original Lethal Weapon is undoubtedly the best.
Carter Wong explodes
Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
A crazy collision of comedy, mysticism, kung-fu and special effects, Big Trouble In Little China was undoubtedly one of the most eccentric and fun action movies of the 80s. Sadly, it took audiences a while to realise this, and the film wasn’t a big hit for John Carpenter when it came out. Thankfully, it’s picked up a loyal following since, and it’s aged surprisingly well, partially because it plays out like a pastiche of 80s action movies rather than a straight-up genre entry.
The most memorable moment in this 80s oddity? How about the bit where Hong Kong legend Carter Wong becomes so angry that he swells up like a balloon, before exploding in a shower of comedy gore? Spectacular.
Red Heat (1988)
When doves cry
The Killer (1989)
As a marriage of both drama and action, The Killer is perhaps the pinnacle of John Woo’s career, and Chow Yun Fat has never been better as an hitman who forms a relationship with a young woman he accidentally blinded during one of his bullet-strewn encounters. Determined to do the dreaded one last job to pay for an operation that might just save the girl’s sight, Fat’s concluding shoot-out in a eerily-lit church (complete with doves, long before they became a Woo cliche) is a spectacular one, and among the very best action sequences Woo ever staged.
Bond’s big jump
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Critics have never been particularly enamoured with this Bond outing, with many bemoaning its attempt to cash in on the martial arts movie craze then at its zenith, and decrying its toe-curling attempts at what some described as Carry On style humour.
Whatever you make of Roger Moore’s second 007 picture, you’ll surely agree that, tucked away in this lesser Bond entry, there sits one of the greatest car stunts ever committed to film. After uttering the line, “Ever heard of Evel Knievel?” Bond drives his AMC Hornet straight at a broken, twisted wooden bridge at top speed, executing an immaculate aerial twist and landing on all four wheels on the other side. Except, of course, it wasn’t Bond who performed the stunt, but the unspeakably brave "Bumps" Willard, who managed to pull off the feat in a single take.
What a travesty, then, that Albert Broccoli allowed composer John Barry to undercut the bravura display with the sound of a peeping penny whistle…
Let off some steam
You really can’t beat an action movie starring Arnold in his prime, and Commando hails from the Oak’s 80s heyday. Starring as Colonel John Matrix, he shoots, blows up and batters an army of bad guys who kidnapped his innocent, deer-feeding daughter Jenny (or ‘Chenny’ as he calls her). One of the most absurdly over-the-top action movies in a career full of them, Commando ends with a fight with head honcho Bennett (Vernon Wells). When the inevitable happens, and Matrix shoves the unfortunate fellow into a broken hot pipe, his send off is a charming, “Let off some steam, Bennett.” Action cinema needs more one-liners like this, it has to be said.
Cop shop killing spree
The Terminator (1984)
From the moment Arnold Schwarzenegger’s time travelling cyborg arrives in 80s Los Angeles, James Cameron keeps his tech-noir action thriller speeding along at an extraordinary pace. Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton spend much of the film just about one step ahead of their flesh-and-metal hunter, until this key sequence, where they’re tracked to a police station.
That the building’s full of heavily-armed cops means nothing to the Terminator, who proceeds to massacre everyone he sees within its walls without mercy. Like the ice cream shooting in Assault On Precinct 13 mentioned above, it’s a scene that perfectly illustrates the antagonist’s ability to kill without emotion or fear of authority.
Sylvester Stallone’s homage to rogue cop classic Dirty Harry isn’t, it has to be said, a great film, nor has it aged particularly well. Watched in the right frame of mind, though, Cobra has a certain amount of goofy, 80s charm to it, and Sly gives a classic mumbling, hangdog performance as Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti, a cop more interested in the discharging of firearms than the letter of the law.
In a scene long trimmed by the BBFC, Cobretti’s angry style of policing reaches its peak in the final act, as he sets a hapless goon on fire and snarls, “You have the right to remain silent” as only Sly can.
Effin’ Chuck Norris
Way Of The Dragon (1972)
The early 70s saw Chuck Norris at the height of his powers, and when he fought Bruce Lee in the martial arts flick Way Of The Dragon, he was an international Karate champion. Say what you will about the somewhat unconvincing Colosseum set, the rather dated usage of zooms, or Norris’ incredible body hair, the fight itself remains a great one – not least because it appears to have been shot from the perspective of a saucer-eyed kitten.
Just one shot
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
We all know the legend by now: Indy was supposed to fight the simitar-wielding warrior, but his alter-ego Harrison Ford, suffering from gut rot, said to Spielberg: "Let's just shoot the fucker." The rest is history.
Riding the escalator
Neveldine/Taylor’s work of utter madness is without doubt one of the craziest action movies ever made. The irrepressible Jason Statham stars as a hitman who has to keep his heart pumped full of adrenaline, otherwise a lethal drug called a Beijing Cocktail will kill him instantly – a bit like Speed, except with a bloke that can’t slow down instead of a bus.
The sheer chaos of Neveldine/Taylor’s filming and cutting makes Crank a memorable film in its entirety, but for sheer strangeness, the finest moment is the one where Statham drives into a shopping mall, tips the car on its side, leaving the vehicle to trundle up an escalator. The British government could use the scene as one of its ‘don’t use mobile phones while driving, kids’ cautionary TV ads.
Highway wrecking ball
Fast Five (2011)
The Fast franchise flipped from lingering modified car porn to full-on action flick for the fifth instalment, and the results were unexpectedly brilliant. Two hours of Rio violence, an oiled-up Dwayne Johnson shouting, swearing, glowering and punching Vin Diesel culminated in an audacious, ridiculous car chase where a gigantic safe full of cash is towed through city streets. It’s all physics-defying nonsense, of course, but that doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun, and one of 2011’s stand-out action scenes.
From safe cracking to helmet busting in Tony Jaa’s extraordinary debut, Ong Bak. If you haven’t seen it, words won’t do the unforgettable scene in question justice, so just watch this clip, and prepare to be amazed.
The Raid (2012)
Gareth Evens’ action epic may not even be out in the UK until May, but we suspect that it’ll soon go down as one of the great genre films of recent years. We won’t spoil the movie by giving too much away, but an early scene in which a group of elite cops, cornered by a high-rise building full of ruthless criminals, use their guns to shoot their way through the floor to the level below is exciting, imaginative, and brilliantly edited.
And just when you think the whole sequence couldn’t get more violent, one of the cops comes up with a great way of gaining the upper hand – by making an improvised bomb out of a gas can, a fridge and a hand grenade. If you love action films, you really must go and see The Raid.
Jean Claude Van Damme versus Bolo Yeung
“You break my record, now I break you. Like I broke your friend” says beefy bad guy Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) before the final fight in Bloodsport (or rather, a voice actor does – the line’s clearly dubbed). There follows a brilliant, extremely daft high-kicking fight between JCVD and Hong Kong legend Yeung, which concludes with the following unforgettable dramatic moment:
Moscow car chase
The Bourne Supremacy
Just when the James Bond series seemed to be running out of ideas, along came the Bourne films to remind us how a globe-trotting action film should really be made. The spectacular car chase in The Bourne Supremacy, in which our hero hurtles through the streets of Moscow in a stolen yellow Taxi, is a truly brilliant piece of action filmmaking – tense, immediate, and wisely opting for realism rather than the outlandish, improbable sort of CG-assisted seen in most modern action movies.
The Transporter (2002)
Forget special effects and Matrix-style wire-fu. For a truly great action scene, all you need is Jason Statham, a warehouse, a few stunt actors and a big bucket of oil. With these simple ingredients, 2002’s The Transporter created a funny, exciting and truly memorable action sequence.
Outnumbered by the bad guys, a topless Statham evens his chances of survival by smothering both the floor and himself in engine oil. Now unable to balance, the half-a-dozen or so goons get royally thrashed by our hero, who slips and skids about like a belligerent Fred Astaire.
The Crazy 88
Kill Bill (2003)
A deliriously violent homage to Japanese chanbara movies, the extraordinary 10-minute-long scene of bloodletting in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill is quite possibly the most unforgettable action sequence of the decade sometimes referred to as the noughties. Blood flows in geysers, limbs fly and heads roll as Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo cuts a swathe through the evil O-Ren Ishii’s personal army of masked Crazy 88s.
Conan The Barbarian (1982)
Madagascar free running
Casino Royale (2006)
It may have taken the Bourne movies to show Bond where to head next, but the resulting Casino Royale was a fine reboot, and surely the best 007 movie in years. At last, all those memories of invisible cars and silly speedboats jumping out of the MI6 building on the Thames can finally be put to rest.
With Casino Royale, and new Bond Daniel Craig, the franchise took a much more grounded, visceral approach to its action, and the early set-piece where 007 chases a bad guy through a Madagascar construction site, across rooftops and buildings was a convincing statement of intent. This new Bond was more athletic, ruthless and daring than ever, and the entire sequence is an unforgettable one.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
The Dubai tower climbing sequence was a major selling point in Ghost Protocol’s marketing, and rightly so – Tom Cruise’s gonzo antics on the side of Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, dominate not only the entire film, but represent the pinnacle of the whole franchise in terms of stunts.
In the context of the film, hero Ethan Hunt’s meant to be climbing up the glass structure with the aid of a pair of high-tech gloves. In reality, Cruise is securely fastened by climbing ropes, later removed with the power of computers. Even with this in mind, the vertigo-inducing cinematography, the exotic location and the great use of IMAX cameras makes it an unforgettable, thrilling sequence.
Hollywood filmmakers have often resorted to using 3D to achieve a sense of depth, but the added detail afforded by IMAX’s huge 70mm film stock provides the same sensation without the distraction of silly glasses.
As director Brad Bird himself put it late last year, “When we were first looking at the image of Tom climbing the Burj […] you actually saw the glass warp slightly because of the pressure of his hand. You would never see that in 35mm. The fact that the screen fills your vision and is super sharp seems more life-like.”
Liam Neeson’s deadly throat chop
Even the mightiest men in the universe are no match for a riled Liam Neeson and his deadly karate chops to the throat.
In his long and illustrious career, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wrestled a bear, punched a camel, punched a horse, and chewed the neck of a vulture. Then, in 1996, he did this.
Put the bunny back in the box
Con Air (1997)
Simon West’s knowingly over-the-top Con Air is a Den Of Geek favourite, and the sequence where hero convict Cameron Poe (who else but Nic Cage) fights a bad guy convict in the underbelly of a prison plane perfectly sums up the movie’s absurd machismo. Poe despatches his opponent with the aid of a conveniently located (and very sharp) metal pipe, and utters the immortal epitaph, “Why couldn’t you put the bunny back in the box?”
McQueen in a Mustang
We couldn’t very well put together a list of memorable action moments without mentioning the car chase sequence in Bullitt, one of the earliest and best of its kind. Totalling almost eleven minutes, Steve McQueen (in a V8 Ford Mustang, fact fans) is pursued by a pair of hitmen in a Dodge Charger, and the resulting sequence – cool, tense and thrilling – has been copied, referenced and lampooned ever since. For a recent example, compare this sequence to the opening of Drive, where Ryan Gosling coolly evades the cops in a benighted Los Angeles. Bullitt is a lasting inspiration to filmmakers everywhere.
Jackie Chan versus Hwang Jang Lee
Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow (1978)
Of all the performers in martial arts cinema, Hwang Jang Lee is surely the most menacing. Although not exactly a household name, Lee appeared in some true Hong Kong classics, usually as the villain. He was the bad guy in Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow, an early hit for the young Jackie Chan. From his performance here, it’s easy to see how Lee received the nickname Thunderfoot – his fighting style is absolutely ferocious. So ferocious, in fact, that according to legend, Lee managed to knock out one of Jackie Chan’s teeth during the filming of Snake’s last fight sequence. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a classic scene – no special effects, no weapons, just some great direction from Yuen Woo-ping, and two performers at the absolute pinnacle of their abilities.
El Mariachi (1992)
A stunning debut from the then 23-year-old Robert Rodriguez, there’s a certain grit and vigour to El Mariachi that he couldn’t quite recapture in his own, more expensive remake, Desperado. Mistaken for a ruthless criminal because he’s dressed in the same black attire, a mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) becomes the target of a drug lord and his hitmen. It’s the catalyst for a series of simple yet extremely exciting and well-shot action and chase sequences, including the one chosen for this entry, where the mariachi slides down an electrical cable and straight onto the bonnet of a moving bus. Quite how Rodriguez filmed this on a reported budget of just $7000 doesn’t bear thinking about.
Terror at 15,000 feet
I’m pretty sure that Family Guy’s scheming baby Stewie Griffin was modelled on John Lithgow’s scene-stealing, villainous performance in Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger. At any rate, Cliffhanger’s a great 90s action movie, and marked something of a return to form for Sly Stallone following a series of unfortunate career choices (see Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot. Or rather, don’t).
The film’s action centrepiece is its 15,000 feet aerial transfer scene, once the most expensive such scene ever produced, in which stuntman Simon Crane slid from the tail of a DC 9 down a rope to a smaller getaway plane. If the stunt looks dangerous on the big screen, it was – Crane was almost sucked into one of the plane’s engines at one point.
Demolition Man (1993)
Fighting by the book
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Matt Damon’s odyssey into improvised weapons concluded with a spectacular sequence in his final Bourne movie to date, the superb Ultimatum. After a startling free-run chase, Bourne engages in a desperate close-quarters punch-up where a book is applied forcefully and repeatedly to his opponent’s face and throat. We could make wry comments about actions speaking louder than words, ‘he really threw the book at him’ and things of that nature, but we won’t.
Get to the chopper
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
For sheer audacity, in terms of both stunts and what was possible with CGI at the time, the sequence in Terminator 2 where the T-1000 commandeers a helicopter takes some beating. Having already stolen a highway patrol officer’s bike, the relentless shape-shifting assassin smashes through the window of a multi-storey building, clings onto the front of a police helicopter, head butts the windscreen, and oozes into the passenger seat like a dribble of metallic toothpaste. Okay, so the CG side of the whole thing doesn’t look quite as seamless as it did 20 years ago, but it’s still an extremely cool idea. “Get out” indeed.
Umbrella bus ride
Police Story (1985)
Few action sequences showcased Jackie Chan’s extraordinary athletic prowess and apparent love of danger than the show-stopping opener in Police Story. In it, Chan’s fearless supercop engages in a highspeed chase through a hillside shanty town after a group of criminals.
When said criminals make their escape in a bus, Chan continues the chase on foot, first hanging off the side of it using an umbrella as a hook. When that doesn’t work, Chan takes a shortcut down another steep hill, and forces the bus to stop by standing in front of it with a gun pointed at the driver. The bus screeches to a halt, throwing two criminals standing on the top deck straight through both windows and crashing to the road below with bone-crunching force.
Hollywood later paid Chan the ultimate compliment by ripping this classic scene off in two movies – Bad Boys II, which borrowed the downhill car chase section, and Tango & Cash, which recreated the same technique of stopping a bus almost frame-for-frame. Neither, it has to be said, are as thrilling as Chan’s original.
You have ten seconds to comply
Yes, it’s probably cheating to stick two entries from one movie in the same list, but we don’t care – RoboCop more than deserves such special treatment. The second classic moment, then, has to be the spectacular introduction of ED-209, a new-fangled law enforcement droid that somehow manages to be both menacing and absurd – much like the film itself, in fact.
In this classic scene, executives at Omni Consumer Products are demonstrating the prowess of its newest invention, only for the hulking menace to malfunction and shoot a young executive for what feels like several minutes. Having reduced the poor chap to the consistency of a milkshake, someone shouts out the priceless, “Someone call a goddamn paramedic!” It’s a moment that perfectly summarises the film’s violent, pitch-black sense of humour.
Get away from her you bitch
Having already given us a film packed full of quotable lines, James Cameron tagged on a somewhat expected coda, and one final zinger for the audience to leave the theatre with. Just when Ripley, Newt and Bishop think they’ve escaped from the spindly-fingered inhabitants of LV-426, a decidedly angry alien queen emerges from the landing gear of their drop ship, and tears poor Bishop in half.
Shaken but with plenty of fight left in her, Ripley scuttles away and then re-emerges clad in a yellow power loader outfit. Her resulting “Get away from her you bitch” is the opening cry for a great one-on-one joust. More than a quarter of a century later, it remains a classic line, and an unforgettable final fight.
Add your own suggestions in the comments.