With so many superhero movies littering cinema screens nowadays, it’s becoming harder and harder for them to stand out from the crowd. One big way in which this is true is in the area of action and fight scenes. Most of the key set pieces in comic book films tend to be mindless CGI destruction or a boring old punch-up, and audiences are definitely getting tired of that.
The following 13 fight scenes, however, went above and beyond in delivering a memorable action sequence that has either already stood the test of time or will no doubt go on to do so. These examples might well use a sizeable helping of computer-generated imagery or citywide mayhem to help them excel, but they do so with a lot of imagination, invention and intelligence, resulting in truly exciting moments for the fans.
On that note, we’ve put together the following list of the 13 best superhero movie fight scenes of all-time. As there are so many out there, we could well have left out your personal favorite. If that’s the case, make sure to let us know in the comments section down below.
13) Spidey + New Goblin v Sandman + Venom – Spider-Man 3
It’s impossible to argue that Spider-Man 3 was not ridiculously over-stuffed. By pitting Spidey against Sandman, Venom and his former friend Harry Osborn AKA New Goblin – not to mention devoting a lot of time to the love triangle between Peter, MJ and Gwen—it was a bit of a bloated mess. However, the multitude of characters did at least make for a thrilling finale.
As always, Mary Jane is kidnapped by the villains and held at a construction site to get Spidey’s attention. Peter gives it his all but the combined forces of a giant form of Sandman and Eddie Brock’s Venom are too much for him. Thankfully, his old pal Harry has had a change of heart and comes to his aid. Things turn tragic, though, when Harry sacrifices himself to save his best friend.
For any superhero or comic book lover, it was great to see Spider-Man get a one-time sidekick and go at it against two formidable foes. With some solid action and an emotional denouement, it’s not enough to save the film (remember Emo Peter?), but at least it ended on a high note.
12) Wolverine Meets Lady Deathstrike – X2
X2 is still one of the best X-Men movies, ever, thanks to its fantastic treatment of each of its characters, offering up a compelling villain in Brian Cox’s General Stryker and several awesome action scenes. In particular, the thrilling opening, in which Nightcrawler besieges the White House, and the film’s big final fight sequence—where Wolverine meets his match in Stryker’s right-hand woman, Lady Deathstrike.
In the lab at Alkali Lake in which he became Wolverine, Logan faces the other Adamantium assassin. Both wielding deadly claws, it’s a tough battle, to be sure, but Wolvie defeats Deathstrike in a nasty way—by pumping her full of Adamantium. Ouch!
It’s tough to find someone who can take Logan on in a fight, and—outside of maybe Sabretooth—Deathstrike remains his best opponent. Apart from a tense sequence, there’s also a tragic element here. In another life, the pair might have been allies. But due to Stryker’s mental control of her, they had to fight to the death.
11) A Comedian Dies In New York – Watchmen
a lot all of Zack Snyder’s work, Watchmen splits comic book movie fans right down the middle. Its fans see it as a faithful, slick-looking adaptation of Alan More’s seminal graphic novel, while its detractors accuse it of being all style and no substance. Whatever your personal stance, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t have some stand-out sequences. One occurs right at the beginning of the movie, in fact, when the Comedian is killed.
Fitting for a rare R-rated comic book movie, this is one of the most brutal, wince-inducing fight scenes in the genre. The Comedian, even at his advanced age, is no pushover, but he’s made into mincemeat by his attacker (later revealed to be Adrian Veidt AKA Ozymandias). The use of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” only adds a melancholy atmosphere to the scene and Snyder’s stylish directorial style makes it feel like it’s pulled straight from the comic book page.
10) Hulk v Hulkbuster – Avengers: Age of Ultron
This scene was heavily teased in the trailers for the much-anticipated Age of Ultron, the follow-up to 2012’s The Avengers. Though the rest of the film was met with a mixed reception (even from director Joss Whedon himself), the battle between Hulk and a beefed-up Iron Man did not disappoint.
As the Green Goliath runs amok in Johannesburg (after Scarlet Witch messes with his mind), Tony Stark has to call on his emergency Hulkbuster armor (nicknamed Veronica) to take him down. In classic superhero movie style, he nearly takes out half the city with him.
It’s hard to find an equal opponent for the Incredible Hulk, but the awesome-looking Hulkbuster armor did the trick in this truly epic fight scene.
9) The Night The Green Goblin Died – Spider-Man
For classic “hero rescues the damsel in distress” climaxes, you can’t beat Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. It might not be great for feminism (and Kirsten Dunst’s vocal chords), but the films could always be relied on to have a thrilling finale where Spidey would swoop in to save MJ and battle the villain one last time.
The best occurs in 2002’s Spider-Man. With Danny Elfman’s score paused, the final fist-fight between Spidey and Gobby becomes a gritty, wince-inducing affair as our hero is pushed to his limit, and beaten to a near pulp by his best friend’s father. Which only makes his eventual outmaneuvering of the villain that much sweeter.
It also deserves some points for playing with viewers’ expectations—the whole scene is a riff on the classic comic The Night Gwen Stacy Died and, while it keeps Goblin’s death the same, Spidey is able to save the girl here.
8) Son Of Krypton Versus Bat Of Gotham – Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Yes, we know that the central conflict of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is far from perfect. One of the big criticisms of the film is that the big punch-up between the World’s Finest Heroes is such a small part of the movie—after two and a bit hours of waiting, it’s over in 10 minutes. And even then, it comes to an abrupt end with the laughable “Martha” moment.
Despite all that, however, the inherent excitement of seeing these two icons of pop culture go toe to toe in the, as Lex Luthor would put it, “greatest gladiator match in the history of the world,” was unimpeded. Director Zack Snyder is in his element when shooting a gloomy, gritty fight with lots of destruction and both Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill give it their all here.
Also, thanks to this scene, the long-standing fan argument is finally answered: Batman would beat Superman in a fight. Providing he has some kryptonite on hand and Supes doesn’t mention his mother’s name, of course.
7) Friends Come To Blows – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Among its many storytelling merits, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is by far one of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of the strength of its action scenes. It sported a a gritty, parkour-infused fighting style that was all its own, something that was put to good use in the thrilling highway chase sequence where Cap first faces the Winter Soldier.
The movie’s big climax onboard the crashing Helicarrier was also terrific, but the earlier scene still beats it. The Winter Soldier is portrayed as a terrifying Terminator-like presence who manages to pretty much beat the terrific trio of Cap, Black Widow and Falcon—though they put up a firm fight. Plus, it all ends in a shocking moment of pathos as Steve discovers his new nemesis is really his old pal Bucky.
6) Battle Of Metropolis – Man of Steel
Man of Steel‘s finale will go down in comic book movie history as perhaps the most controversial ending to a superhero film ever. As well as the egregious decimation of Metropolis, Superman’s murder of General Zod has been met with open hostility by many who deem it a betrayal of the character’s core moral stance.
And yet, it’s hard to deny that it’s one of the grandest and most spectacular superhero fight scenes out there. We’ve established by now that, regardless of your opinion of his storytelling abilities, Zack Snyder really knows how to direct an action sequence and we’re plumping for this one as his best ever.
As well as looking visually stunning, the battle of a Metropolis is a vicious, brutal brawl for the sake of the planet between two super-powered beings. Sure, they leave a lot of devastation in their wake, but they are god-like Men of Steel, after all.
5) The Incident – The Avengers
In contrast to Man of Steel, few scenes in the history of superhero cinema have an appeal that is as universal as the fist-pumping climax of The Avengers. Any comic book fan has to love the uniting of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for the first time as they save New York for an invasion of alien nasties.
With the scale bigger than ever, it’s thrilling to watch these six separate heroes take on the Chitauri in their own ways and showcase their unique skills in the process—Cap’s leadership skills, Tony’s ingenuity, Thor’s strength, etc.
Typically for writer/director Joss Whedon, there’s also drama and humor mixed in with the high-flying action. Namely, the laughs come from Hulk’s punch-first-think-later mentality and the drama comes from Iron Man nearly making the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the city from a bomb.
4) Bane Breaks The Bat – The Dark Knight Rises
Bane breaking the Batman’s back is one of the most infamously brutal moments in all of the Caped Crusader’s comic book history, and fans were excited to see the moment realized on screen in Christopher Nolan’s hugely anticipated The Dark Knight Rises. Thankfully, it lived up to the high expectations.
Batman and Bane’s battle in the villain’s sewer lair is an unflinchingly violent sequence which sees Bruce for once totally outflanked by his enemy. Like the Spider-Man/Goblin fight before, the film’s score is completely absent; meaning the soundtrack becomes the sound of the opponents’ grunts and punches, with distant running water in the background. This only makes it all the more shocking when Bane cracks Batman’s back over his knee—complete with a wince-inducing crunching sound effect.
This fight scene might not show the hero at his best, but it’s still one of the most powerful action sequences in comic book cinema.
3) Spider vs Octopus – Spider-Man 2
We’ve already championed the climaxes of Sam Raimi’s other two Spider-Man movies, but the director’s best Spidey action scene actually comes in the middle of Spider-Man 2, still the greatest Spider-Man film ever.
The likes of Goblin and Sandman might put up a good fight, but there hasn’t been a more formidable foe for Spider-Man in the movies than Doctor Octopus. The evenly-matched opponents have their toughest battle when their brawl takes them from the top of a clock tower and onto a speeding train running through Manhattan. The setting immediately adds a sense of energy and urgency to the scene and Raimi’s snappy direction enhances that to the nth degree.
Plus, it all culminates in Spidey using all his might to save the train full of passengers from certain death – one of the best signs of a superhero’s strength and self-sacrifice in any comic book movie.
2) The Airport Battle – Captain America: Civil War
For one of the best ever fight scenes in a comic book movie, it’s hard to beat a massive battle between a bunch of warring superheroes. 2016 was the year of hero-against-hero action but the undoubted winner has to be the airport sequence in Captain America: Civil War.
There’s just so much for fans to sink their teeth into in this sequence. The initial charge of Team Cap and Team Iron Man going at it, Hawkeye and Black Widow’s semi-friendly fight, Spidey’s arrival and take-down of both Winter Soldier and Falcon, Ant-Man’s upgrade into Giant Man… And it all ends in tears when War Machine is drastically wounded when caught in the line of fire (learn to aim better, Vision!).
There might be grittier, more personal movie fights than this one, but for sheer comic book thrills, the airport scene cannot be matched by any other than one.
1) The Battle of Earth – Avengers: Endgame
The final battle scene in Avengers: Endgame is by far the most ambitious thing that has been attempted in a superhero film. Boasting a huge roster of characters, nonstop action, and an integral plot that is the culmination of over a decade of Marvel cinema, this scene is the best.
The action sequences are flawless, with a perfect flow between one character’s action to another. And with the sad passing of some huge characters, the Battle of Earth has it all. It remains to be seen how Marvel can top this going forward in Phase Four. But after Loki’s incredible conclusion, anything is possible.
Ryan Galloway contributed to this article.