The 10 Best Movie Gunfights of All Time

Movie Gunfights - Boondock Saints

There are some moments in cinema that you never forget, and a lot of my favorite ones involve an unruly amount of firepower. These ten bullet-laden scenes have been selected for their status as iconic moments, but also there’s also a few that earn a place on pure style points alone. Here are my picks for the best movie gunfights ever.

10) Tombstone – The OK Corral

One of the most famous gunfights in real world history, the onscreen adaptation in Tombstone made the legend come to life. Val Kilmer is a dead-eye as Doc Holiday and poor Thomas Hayden Church never had a chance. Tension breaks 4 minutes in.

9) Terminator 2 – Do No Harm

The only shootout on the list where no one gets hurt, Arnold’s Terminator is under direct orders from John Connor not to hurt humans. But that doesn’t include their cars. Whipping out his trusty minigun (why do they call it that anyways?) he shreds the police cruisers until they all run away terrified. Human casualties: zero.

8 ) Shoot Em Up – Roll in the Hay

I really did hate Shoot Em Up, but I have to hand them the innovation prize to orchestrate a gunfight where the participant, Clive Owen, is literally inside Monica Bellucci for the whole thing. The video is a bit NSFW as you might imagine, but there’s no outright boobie action.

7) Heat – Run and Gun

This is possibly the most unnecessary and over the top gunfight in movie history. What started as a bank robbery turns into a city-wide firefight with automatic weapons. The bodies pile up and you start to think that they really probably could have gone about this whole thing another way.

6) Desperado – Bar Crawl

Before Robert Rodriguez was adapting graphic novels and banging Rose McGowan, he was making low budget action flicks like Desperado. If you don’t think this deserves a spot on the list, take a look.

5) Equilibrium – Puppy Guardian

There were a few clips from the often overlooked sci-fi thriller Equilibrium that could have gone here, but nothing tops Christian Bale and his gun-karate acrobatics in this scene. And there’s also a puppy! Aww. Shooting starts at the 3:30 mark.

4) Boondock Saints – Through the Ceiling

It’s probably the most clumsily executed gunfight ever, but also one of the most effective. The poor Russian mobsters never knew what hit them. Good thing they brought that rope eh?

3) Scarface – Go Down Swinging

Sure it’s not remotely based in reality, as any one man probably can’t take on an entire drug cartel for more than five seconds, but it’s still one of the most iconic gunfights in cinema 25 years later. And of course it’s paired with one of the most memorable movie lines to date, “Say ‘ello to my little friend!”

2) Wanted – Storm the Gates

I had mixed feelings about Wanted as a whole, but my jaw was on the floor during this minute and a half that can only be compared in terms of awesomeness to the final scene on our list. It’s more a ballet than it is a gunfight. Check it out at the 7 minute maker.

1) The Matrix – Lobby Scene

Often copied but never duplicated, the lobby scene opened our eyes to action sequences we never envisioned to be possible. I’m not sure how many times I watched this clip, but it never gets any less cool. And nothing will ever beat the metal detector intro.

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  1. Try the gunfight at the end of Open Range. It has the most badass start to a gunfight I’ve seen in years, and certainly tops the freakin’ Matrix for classic appeal.

  2. @Hari Seldon

    I wouldn’t call that a gunfight, more of a one sided massacre if anything. Thou you could consider some of the gunfights in “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Once upon a time in the west”, real one sided fights.

  3. I must reiterate, John Woo was the inspiration for at least half of these gun fights. Hard Boiled’s factory scene or one of the hospital scenes must be on this list. If you don’t want to open the flood gate of asian awesomeness, at least put faceoff there. The mirror is scene is pretty epic.

  4. The “mini” in minigun references the design. It’s based on previous models like the Vulcan or the Avenger; all of these were multiple-barreled cannons, firing 20mm or 40mm shells. The minigun fires a 7.62x51mm NATO round, just like out of an assault rifle.


  5. I liked this list. I think that if Equilibrium made it, then one of the scenes from UltraViolet should have made it as well. Same director, and same fight choreographer.

  6. Yea, seriously. No John Woo?

    Hard Boiled has some great scenes, not to mention the hospital long shot.
    A Better Tomorrow II has the brilliant mansion shootout near the end.
    Bullet in the Head has a bunch of good ones.

    Also, Wild Bunch?!?!@ Come on.

  7. What about main characters trying to survive gunfights they don’t want to be involved in? Children of Men, storming the refugee camp long shot, sublime. The Pianist, the jewish revolt. etc.

    Unforgiven perhaps?

    Also, I don’t remember these well, but what about Snatch, Lock Stock and two smoking barrels, etc, brit crime pics.. maybe they are more style than blow-em-up substance but..

    Sidenote: Would you count war movies? D-day in Saving Private Ryan could be considered a pretty nasty gunfight…

    Good list, keep em coming

  8. It’s hard to call some of these “fights” when the whole movie is one huge “fight”. I agree with Desperado, Matrix, and Scarface; however the other one’s are all just big action hard-ons people like Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay fantasize about. Now Children of Men, that is an awesome scene. I was blown away by the continous shot sequence and if you haven’t seen it…do. Also, its not really a gunfight, but the bridge scene from “Duck You Sucker” is really fun to watch. Oh and John Woo films.

  9. The Minigun is the smallest gun that can be mounted on an attack helicopter, and when compared to OTHER guns mounted on aircraft, is pretty small. However, even compared to a guy built like Arnold, it seems pretty huge.

  10. Director Sam Peckinpah’s Gun battle finale in “The Wild Bunch” and the final gun battle in “The Magnificent Seven” Along with a newer western movie’s gun battle in “3:10 To Yuma”

  11. I’m going to scold you for John Woo like everyone else … and add the finale of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Because sometimes tension is the best part of the fight.

    And actually, the gunfight in the International is pretty sick. It’s the best thing about the film.

  12. Of all the gunfights that you find unnecessary and unreal is from the one movie that went to extreme lengths be realistic?

    Take this chance to watch the behind-the-scene footage of “Heat;” not only because it shows how realistic that shootout really was, but because it will also open your eyes to events that have actually happened (IE: the LA shootout back at that Bank of America).

  13. Great list. But I can’t believe you left off the Hospital Fight from Hard-Boiled. How can you have a list of the best gunfights in movies and not have a single John Woo film mentioned. For shame, sir. For shame.

  14. I would add Gunfight scenes from Devil may cry 3 and mybe 4 too. yeah, its no movie but it IS cool and it is MoCap, so it is somehow real. never forget how dante and Vergil fight on that rainy tower roof.

  15. Yeah nice selection. I have another scene – it is out of the movie “Four Brothers”. One of the very few movies where some people actually run out of ammo and DON’T have another 100 ammunition clips stored away in the tight pockets of their jeans and have to use what is lying around as weapons. Only downer is a used knife which has the lotus effect – no blood on it after repeated use.

    Why are so many people into John Woo movies anyway? Okay we have all the right to our own taste but for me John Woo’s movies are unbelievably cheap. The cutting, the five million bullets one gun can have, the indestructible hero. In comparison to the hero of a John Woo movie Die Hard & John McClane are placed in reality.
    In my it is no action but a scifi movie like Matrix.

  16. I would nominate the Equilibrium end fight above the puppy fight. It’s more dynamic and fluid, and also more of a “fight”.

    In the same vein as the Heat shootout scene, you forgot a similar scene in terms of semi-realistic style, namely the showdown scene from Way of the Gun. Not only is it better shot and stylized, it is also a gazillion times more realistic. There are lots of awesome small details they got spot on. And you gotta love the little nod to style-over-substance-Woo-inspired movies when Philippe’s character takes a heroic dive into the fountain, which ends a little different than expected.

    Also of course, the usual Woo suspects: ABT2 mansion scene, The Killer church scene, Hard Boiled endless hospital showdown (including the unedited long shot where they clear 2 floors of the hospital)

    New school HKBO is pretty good as well. Johnny To does an amazing job at shootouts, sometimes even surpassing Woo. I love the Fulltime Killer apartment building shootout, but his best is in one of his latest movies, Exiled. Can’t really choose the best gunfight there! The restaurant scene is amazing, the doctor’s apartment building + escape is genious, and of course the end scene. And honorable mention goes to the scene with the money truck, where the protagonists decide to help the cop protecting his truck whilst smoking a cigarette.

    Another newschool HKBO: Time and Tide. Anyone who has seen this movie knows which scene i mean. The apartment building scene. Guys shooting eachother whilst rapelling from a building, and the cameramen jumping out of the same windows as the combatants. Epic.

  17. I’m with asdf withand skeej regard to “A Better Tomorrow II”:

    Fantastic shootout at the end: the white painted baddie’s mansion house is a blood spattered bomb site after the “Resevoir Dog” looking heroes storm in for the finale.

    (I am sure this is the film QT nicked the dark-suit-and-shades-look from…)

  18. no John Woo is an immediate fail
    and even though everyone already said it, I have to protest the exclusion of Open Range
    one of my favorite moments in a film, Western or otherwise:

    “You the man that shot our friend?”
    “That’s right. I shot the boy too, and I enjoyed it.”

    no tense musical build-up
    no one-liners
    just… bang

    also, am I the only person who didn’t hate Shoot ‘Em Up?

  19. @ DJ

    Not to be a dick, but have you been in a gunfight? I ask only because you claim how realistic the one at the end of Way of the Gun is. Or maybe you just watch a lot of COPS, I dunno.

  20. I agree with people on the epic fail of not including John Woo.

    I also can’t help but express my feeling of nausea after reading Michael Man’s epic and realistically inspired shootout referred to as not only “over the top” and “unecessary” but also somehow THE MOST of BOTH in movie HISTORY! Umm… No. Especially not after listing The Matrix in spot number one or Wanted in spot two. How exactly does this work anyway?

    Props for Desperado… Another example of a shootout that is WAAAAY more over the top.

    You know also, if you think the shootout in Heat is unecessary. The guards in the lobby shootout in Matrix were probably plugged in. Why don’t they just run around the world shooting everybody they come across if they’re afraid they’ll turn into agents? They usually do anyway.

  21. “are all just big action hard-ons people like Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay fantasize about”

    Okay “Dirty” I’m certain you’ve never seen Heat. And if you have you’ve got your facts mixed up – Matrix actually kind of fits the above description *throws up hands* I’m just sayin’!

    Yes Children of Men. Agreed, completely, but the main character never uses a gun, so it’s hardly any kind of fight from a subjective standpoint.

  22. Wow this has to be the worst list I’ve ever seen.

    The fact that Heat is not even in the top 2 and the fact that Equilibrium (one of the stupidest movies with the corniest fight scenes ever made) is even on this list, let alone AHEAD of Heat (are you serious?) says it all.

    The fact that Open Range (which should be at the top of this list with Heat) is not even on this list is just astonishing.

    Worst list ever.

  23. i’m going to chime in on Open Range. Maybe it got points deducted for the interminable, outright painful “ending” that followed… when the gunfight ended, I would have thought the movie a classic; thirty or so minutes later, I wanted one of the bad guys to just shoot Costner and get it over with… just kiss the girl and fade out, Kevin!!!

  24. How about Aliens (2)????????? When the marines first land and they take on the hordes? Definite gun battle, although one side had guns and the other acid and claws! 🙂

  25. Collateral; The alley shoot out and the club shootout are the standard for awesome.

    Blood Diamond; Fall of Freetown, Air assault on the diamond field

    The Kingdom; Ambush scene

  26. yeah, I can’t believe The Matrix is on this list. horrible, horrible stuff. you know, even Terminator 2 borrowed from John Woo’s ‘Hard Boiled’ and that made it on here… but at least Cameron has the decency to acknowledge what he’s borrowing from. The Wachowski’s are hacks.

    ‘Hard Boiled’ and ‘The Killer’ are *THE* definitive gunfights. and don’t even even bother adding ‘of all time’ unless you’ve done your homework and are really passionate about films. ‘The Good, The Bad and The Weird’ is another film which deserves to be on this list, even though it’s newer. I can think of at least 2 scenes in that movie that should be on here… albeit they’re truncated.

    9 out of 10 of these are from the 90’s and on… bah. as far as newer films go for out and out gun slaughter–i’d think Rambo and Punisher: War Zone would be considered.

  27. Ok, props for ‘Boondock Saints’ (those who don’t like it, ya didn’t understand it since it is about more than just mindless violence and tits), Equilibrium and ‘Heat’… but no ‘Open Range’? No ‘Unforgiven’? No ‘The Good, the Bad and The Ugly’? ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’? A couple from ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’, and the above mentioned ‘Way of the Gun’ (another badly misunderstood movie if all you want is mindless adrenalin fare).

    gunfights are more than just ammo being wasted on walls… there is intent… the degree of viciousness… the mercilessness… the despiration… One of the reasons I didn’t mind John Woo missing on the list, his stuff is gratituous fluff… TOO stylish and over the top to be in any way serious – be like listing ‘Mission Impossible II’ on ANY ‘Best of..’ list. ‘Die Hard’, while an extremely enjoyable and iconic movie that created the modern version of the genre had better gun fights that half the list… and I would hardly rate any of its in a ‘Best Gunfight List’.

    It’s not just ‘guns’ it is also ‘fights’. If you tend to forget that people f’in DIE in them because of all the action, the cinematography and style, it is not a good ‘gun fight’ movie.

  28. This is a total BS list. From top of my head I can think of better fight scenes.
    -way of the gun
    -opening fight from The Big Hit
    -open range
    -3000 miles to graceland
    -The good the bad and the ugly
    -and though not typical gun fight, sniping scenes of Enemy at the gates are great.
    -and how can you forget Assassins

  29. Gunfights better than this list (other than John Woo and war movies – battles don’t count)

    – Bad Boys 2, fighting the Haitians inside their hideout
    – Leon the Professional, defending his apartment
    – Public Enemies, fight at the motel and through the woods
    – Wild Bunch, ending fight
    – Miami Vice (new), ending fight

    Most westerns and cop movies end with pretty good gun battles, and it takes a combination of choreography and special effects for a truly amazing fight. There are more I missed. Add your own lists

  30. “This is possibly the most unnecessary and over the top gunfight in movie history. What started as a bank robbery turns into a city-wide firefight with automatic weapons. The bodies pile up and you start to think that they really probably could have gone about this whole thing another way.”–

    Whoa! hold on, one of the best things about this movie is the gun fight… so many gun fights are totally unrealistic with bullets flying everywhere and people being able to run faster than the trail of bullets. But this one! epic, patient, no slowmo (if i remember). kudos to michael mann on this

  31. I’d would have to join the chorus on the Woo films, especially after just watching the single-take insanity at the end of Hard-Boiled recently.

    I’d also throw in the pier shoot-out from the end of David Mamet’s Heist. It’s smaller scale but ends with a fantastic and highly quotable exchange.

    There’s also the unnerving silencer siege from the original Assault on Precinct 13.

    And as for Terminator, I realize I’m in the minority but I always preferred the police station attack from the first film to the minigun assault from T2. Arnold is incredibly bad-ass in that scene and there’s something really terrifying about the concept that you’re not even safe from this guy in a building filled with armed police.

  32. I’m pleased someone finally recalled Saving Private Ryan. Nothing like realism to mark a great gunfight. Ever see To Hell and Back, where the hero runs into a hail of gunfire and jumps up on a burning tank to shoot Germans? True effing story. And The Lost Battalion took some liberties with why the men were lost, but was pretty accurate with what happened to them in the Argonne forest.

    As for fictional movies, gotta agree with Open Range (way over Tombstone) and Hard-Boiled. Which, until today, I didn’t know what it was called, having only seen the hospital part of it and couldn’t remember who was in it.

  33. Joining the chorus, hard-boiled is gun-fighting at it’s best. Just looked up hard-boiled to remind myself about how badass almost every gunfight scene is in that movie.

  34. Ok I must admit I only skimmed over most peoples comments, but it seems everyone has failed to aknowledge smokin aces when all the assasins are trying to get to the penthouse of that hotel to whack that arie gold guy from entourage. Balls out over the top violence with nearly every gun and melee weapon available. Fair enough it was a fairly cheesy film, but come on!Also for those who’ve mentioned the good the bad and the ugly, i think there was even better scenes in for a few dollars more, especially when Lee Van Cleef unloads his saddle bag full of custom firearms

  35. OK, lemme sum up:

    (a) Any list that includes Equilibrium will be forgiven for whatever it left out. More people need to see Equilibrium, because it’s totally awesome. The studio was in the green on it by selling the overseas distribution rights and decided not to risk anything on publicity, so nobody saw it. That was a stupid, stupid thing they did because we could finally get something into the public consciousness that fits roughly into the category of the Matrix and yet blows it away.

    (b) If you want to get a list of great movie gunfights, pick ten recent ones, call them the best of all time, and open it up for comments :). I think this was probably the real motivation behind posting this, and you all fell for it and did his work for him–watch for a DVD coming out soon called “Best Cinematic Gun Fights of All Time” hosted by Paul Tassi”.

  36. Are you serious? Theres not one mention of a John Woo film. No Hard Boiled, The Killer, A Better Tommorrow, not even Face Off? I mean c’mon. Even Tarantino paid homage to Woo in True Romance at the theater scene. You guys dont know anything about Best Gun Fights. Without Woo, there would be no Tarantino or anything else after. Woo started it all!

  37. “And as for Terminator, I realize I’m in the minority but I always preferred the police station attack from the first film to the minigun assault from T2. Arnold is incredibly bad-ass in that scene and there’s something really terrifying about the concept that you’re not even safe from this guy in a building filled with armed police.”

    @Uncle Tim
    Glad someone has mentioned this. I grow tired of people talking about the scene in T2 as if it was something out of the ordinary.

    It was a wow moment like a lot of things in T2 but nothing quite matches seeing the attack on the police station for the first time in the 80’s. I’m pretty sure there weren’t many scenes like it at the time where else the T2 scene was just an extension of what had been seen in Predator a few years before.

    Oh and The Terminator is by far the better film (T2 is all about the effects which have really dated).

  38. Wanted was unrealistic in almost every way possible. But as long as we’re going that route then I’d suggest the opening fight scene from The One, better than any matrix scene hands down.

    1. Actually the final in the final scene a real Jet Li fights against air and the bodies are CGI. The wired version wasn’t satisfactory. It’s all explained in the behind the scenes.

  39. I’ll agree with some of the above posters and say that the final fight in Miami Vice should be included. As my friend said when he watched it, “Holy shit! They’re actually using cover!”

    I’ll also agree with The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Untouchables. As much as I don’t like John Woo’s use of slow motion to stretch an hour twenty movie into 3 and a half, the shootouts in Hard Boiled are very imitated (take a look at the video game Rise to Honor.)

    A couple of my suggestions would include a couple of the shootouts in Ronin starring Robert DeNiro and when Ghost Dog takes on the entire mafia family in Ghost Dog; The Way of the Samurai.

    And while not worthy of a spot in the top ten, but worthy of an honorable mention should be Bruce Willis’s character in Last Man Standing.

  40. The scene in the Wild Bunch was made by physically cutting the celluloid to fit the action unlike the much less expensive modern ways. Most of the modern films mentioned here are just cheap movie porn that contain little tension or “meaning.” If satisfaction is any measure of quality gunfights then those in High Noon or Liberty Valance or The Wild Bunch must be on this list.

  41. They definitely excluded many great gunfights from Westerns, most notoriously ‘Open Range’. Watch it in surround sound at or near reference level and the neighbors will get you evicted. Most recently, ‘The Town’ has a decent gunfight towards the end but it still doesn’t top ‘Heat’, ‘Equilibrium’, or ‘The Matrix’.

  42. Wow… Heat deserves to have the number one spot, but where are Copland(scene where Sly is deaf and you hear nothing in spots and Liotta gets his back), The Way of the Gun or The Wild Bunch? Even the Devil’s Rejects has an opening scene far more deserving than Wanted, the Matrix or Desperado. Gritty realism always beats CGI, lame clean shootouts which you seem to love. Another person who forgot Full Metal Jacket’s sniper scene… doesn’t get better than that.

  43. Seriously, Wanted and the Matrix? are you retarded? Heat should be better ranked, add Way of the Gun and obviously you need to watch some Clint Eastwood. wtf, retarded kid.

  44. The comment on Heat and the lack of The Way of The Gun and Children of Men (And I don’t even count older movies way better than anything else than Heat on this list) shows me all I need to know: you don’t know anything, you’re either young or have the attention span of a toddler and your list sucks.

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