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The Movies' Greatest Action Sequences

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#1 of 159 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted July 17 2006 - 05:32 AM

While discussing the Plane rescue scene from Superman Returns, it got me thinking about what are the greatest action sequences in film. What is needed to make a great action sequence? Real powerhouse adrenaline or a more subtle emotional action moment?

What action sequences work best for Timobi?... I usually find myself needing to care at least a little about what's happening on screen for me to buy the action but there are some exceptions that just really wowed me too.

I could list MANY great ones that really work for me and that are unforgettable...but won't. I want you to do that! Posted Image

As you make your list, explain why this works for you. Posted Image

For starters, my list would include:
1. Plane Rescue in Superman Returns...The way it was filmed, the wings breaking apart, plane spinning out of control...and Superman arrives!In addition, the moments inside the plane showing the passengers distress; especially Lois were quite effective. When she sees Supe flying by her window, I got goose bumps. When Superman lands the plane inside the stadium, crowd cheering, music etc...all make for one of my favorite cinema moments in recent years.

2. Train station in The Untouchables ....Brian De Palma's masterful direction here. Normally, slow motion stuff can get in the way but it works wonders here. The buggy that is slowly going down the stairs, Garcia tossing the gun etc...again the music...you get the idea! One of the coolest moments.

Give it some thought and share with us the action moments or sequences that really impacted you. Posted Image

#2 of 159 ONLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted July 17 2006 - 06:00 AM

Easy choice for me...

The truck chase sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This sequence has it all. It has enough realism to convey a sense of danger for our protagonist. The pacing and editing of the sequence are just about perfect. There are series of mini 'steps' in the sequence that can be individually appreciated that contribute to the whole scene and build upon one another; increasing the tension level. All in all, just a perfect extended action sequence that never fails to entertain me, no matter how many times I have viewed this film.

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#3 of 159 OFFLINE   mylan



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Posted July 17 2006 - 06:03 AM

For me, it would have to be the bank robbery scene in "Heat". My wife and I watched it on DVD and sat in stunned silence as neither of us had seen anything like it. You just kind of figure it will be over quickly but just keeps it up. The sheer number of rounds expended and the percussions felt as the sub worked overtime give me goosebumps to this day. Apollo 13- most every scene because you know it is real, picking two I would say the launch and the re-entry. Walter Cronkites' commentary during this made me cry like a baby. The Matrix- gunfight in the lobby, see above.
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#4 of 159 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted July 17 2006 - 06:04 AM

This is simple for me. The best action involves emotional buy-in from the audience. A non-cerebral investment (I love so-and-so's character) can give a scene a lot of power. The best directors can raise your adrenaline. I think the modern gold bar is set by Jim Cameron. I'd even go so far as to state that Aliens is a PhD course is action, suspense, and raising the bar. The film starts off foreboding, and Cameron keeps raising the stakes and ratcheting the tension for an HOUR. When it's finally released, the audience is left with small moments between the storm before the finale. They are invested in the characters and situations before the first action moment hits. I'll let other members detail some more, but Aliens is my favorite action film. Other Jim will follow, unless people beat me to it. The other side of action is spectacle. When you tie that into emotional investment is when you get the big moments, the ones people talk about years later. Most prefer the first film, but I prefer Reloaded. And instead of the fights, I'm going with the flying. As spectacle goes, Neo flying to save the Keymaker and Morpheus is too cool for school. The rapid POV through the city, the slow down (and shift of POV to third party), and then the slo-mo details were just eye-popping. I almost jumped out of my seat with joy when it happened. We could go on and on (so ya'll had better). Tim's inclusion of The Untouchables is awesome. Good call.
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#5 of 159 OFFLINE   Andy Sheets

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Posted July 17 2006 - 06:59 AM

I was just about the say the truck hijacking scene from Raiders Posted Image

The indian attack in Stagecoach is exceptionally well-done, IMO. The climax of The Road Warrior is rather similar but as great as it is, I actually think John Ford still has it beat.

Chariot race from Ben-Hur. I imagine many people would rate this best.

Chow Yun-Fat attacking the warehouse in Hard Boiled. This one almost melted my brain when I first saw this movie.

#6 of 159 OFFLINE   Brett_M



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Posted July 17 2006 - 07:00 AM

We have a great list so far. I just watched Aliens again the other day and I think it's easily one of my favorite 10 films. Such a masterwork of direction, performance and thrills. I also agree wholeheartedly with the Heat bank robbery, the ROTLA truck sequence, and the train station sequence in The Untouchables. I grinned like a fool during the plane rescue in SR. I love that movie. Good call on the chariot race in Ben Hur, too. Here's a few of my personal faves: 1. The motorcade assault in Clear and Present Danger. So real. 2. The shoot out in the bar at the beginning of Carlito's Way. Tell me you don't smile when he says "Here come the pain!" Pacino's performance is fantastic, too -- so layered. 3. The battles in Balin's Tomb and at the Bridge of Kazad Dum in FOTR. (I also love the Ride of the Rohirrim in ROTK and the seige at Helm's Deep in TTT). 4. Say what you will about Tom Cruise but the samurai vs. the ninjas sequence in The Last Samurai totally rocks. 5. The sequence in X2 when the soldiers invade Xavier's school. 6. Kiss of the Dragon: Li versus the twin albinos in the office. Wow. 7. I also love the Seagal vs. mob lackies in the bar scene from Out for Justice. Also Seagal vs. oil workers in the bar scene from On Deadly Ground and Seagal vs. the merceneries in the oil rig in the same. 8. The climactic shoot-out in the hotel at the end of the original The Getaway. 9. The gang fight in the alley in Big Trouble in Little China. 10. The climactic soccer game in Victory. 11. The final shoot-out in Open Range. 12. The opening battle and the Carthage "re-creation' in Gladiator.
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#7 of 159 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted July 17 2006 - 07:03 AM

The chariot race from Ben Hur. Gandalf leading the charge at Helm's Deep. The canal sequence from T2.
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#8 of 159 OFFLINE   TravisR


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Posted July 17 2006 - 07:17 AM

The scene in Aliens where the Marines are first attacked in the nest and (especially) the sequence when the aliens attack them in the med lab up until they get to the elevator.

There's a lot of great stuff in Terminator 2 but probably the best is the destruction of Cyberdyne/T-1000 motorcycle helicopter switch/highway chase.

I'm cheating by using entire sequences but they're that damn good. Posted Image

EDIT: When Brody destroys the shark in Jaws is a favorite too.

I don't know if they really should count since they're really special effects stuff but the Death Star battle in A New Hope, the AT-AT sequence in The Empire Strikes Back, the space battle in Return Of The Jedi, Yoda rescuing everyone in Attack Of The Clones, Darth Vader vs. Obi-Wan in Revenge Of The Sith, etc.

#9 of 159 OFFLINE   Holadem


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Posted July 17 2006 - 07:48 AM

I had no idea there was another living fan of this gem. -- H

#10 of 159 OFFLINE   Jacob McCraw

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Posted July 17 2006 - 08:21 AM

I will second the truck scene from "Raiders". The comment about the "steps" is right on. I love that works for Indy doesn't work for everyone. Another favorite is from the 1978 "Superman" when Superman first rescues Lois and catches the helicopter. In my opinion that sequence, beginning where Clark picks the hat up off the sidewalk, owns anything from "Superman Returns". "The Matrix" lobby shootout and the opening assasination in "The Killer" are two more personal favorites.

#11 of 159 OFFLINE   Raasean Asaad

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Posted July 17 2006 - 08:50 AM

Holadem, There are more...
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#12 of 159 OFFLINE   Greg Kettell

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Posted July 17 2006 - 08:57 AM

The subway train rescue from Spider-Man 2..

The aliens destroying the cities in Independence Day..

Luke's final Death Star trench run in Star Wars: A New Hope..

#13 of 159 OFFLINE   BrettGallman



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Posted July 17 2006 - 09:50 AM

Great calls so far. Some of my favorites: The space battle from ROTJ. I think ROTS could have bested this one, but Lucas instead chose to focus on Obi-Wan and Anakin, so it doesn't best the epic scope of the battle in ROTJ. And this isn't a knock against that decision at all, just an observation. The conclusion of Escape from New York is classic Carpenter. The highway chase sequence from the Matrix Reloaded is already classic. And another one from a recent film, Serenity:
when Mal dupes the Reavers into following him so he can avoid the Alliance.

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#14 of 159 OFFLINE   Bryan Beckman

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Posted July 17 2006 - 10:03 AM

Some that haven't been mentioned yet:

Nightcrawler's attempt to assassinate the President in X2. Stunning opening sequence that left me breathless.

Kong versus three V-Rexes in King Kong. An almost overwhelming experience to watch on the big cinema screen. I did an inner "yeah!" when Kong ripped off the jaw of the last V-Rex. His triumphant roar at the end was the perfect finale. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

On a more somber note, the entire D-Day sequence in Saving Private Ryan. Gritty, grueling, graphic - and absolutely brilliant directorial work by Spielberg.

#15 of 159 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted July 17 2006 - 10:32 AM

No thread about action sequences would be complete without a mention of the final 20 or so minutes of Die Hard.

Up to that point, never had I seen a film that was so taut, spectacular and exciting and the ending still remains thrilling to this very day, chaos, explosions, it's got it all.

Another that's become a classic, and could be considered an extended sequence as it takes up a majority of the films running time, is the entire situation on the bus from Speed. From the moment Jack gets the call from Payne to the final explosion at the airport, this was a movie that actually did seem to MOVE.

Dutch waging war on the Yautja in Predator, one of my favorites.

The entire fight, or should I say SLAUGHTER, sequence in the 'House of Blue Leaves' in Kill Bill Vol 1. I always joke that they needed to change the name of the place to 'House of Red Floor' after the Bride was through with it.

I know that the freeway scene in The Matrix Reloaded gets a lot of the attention, but IMO the Burley Brawl easily bests it, I can watch that fight over and over. Posted Image

Here's a different one for you, the extended car chase in the Dabney Coleman comedy Short Time, it's the comedic equal to the chase scene in Bullet that has to be seen to be believed lol.

The entie scene in Jaws when Brody, Quint and Hooper set out to hunt down the shark, three men against the primal forces of nature itself, great stuff!

The entire F-5 tornado sequence in Twister, sure the movie has it's flaws, but that whole sequence is a nail biter, especially on a good HT set-up. Posted Image

The Battle at Pellanor Fields in Lord of the Rings The Return of the King, just...WOW!

Now, say what you will about the movie itself, but the whole sequence in Speed 2 when the Seabourne Legend sideswipes that oil tanker is wickedly exciting to watch, mostly because it looks so damn real.

The capsizing sequence in the remake of Poseidon, i'm in the minority with that one, but I thought it was extremely well done and terrifying to boot.

Action scenes that are not fun to watch, but still exciting...

The entire final plunge of TITANIC in James Cameron's Titanic, the hardest i've ever lost it at the theater by far.

The opening and closing battles in Saving Private Ryan, until this movie came along, I didn't really have a idea of what war looked like, thanks to Spielberg, I have a general idea, although I can't really know unless i've been there of course.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in Pearl Harbor, yeah, the movie needs a little work, but the attack is heart wrenching.
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#16 of 159 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted July 17 2006 - 10:39 AM

Surprised it took until post 14 to mention Die Hard Posted Image That's one of the crown jewels of the action genre!

I'll be specific with another favorite...T2. The escape from Pescadero. Perfect drama, perfect action, perfect effects. I'll always remember how AWESOME it was watching the T-1000 pour into the now empty elevator, and then rise up human shaped. But that entire sequence is a marvel.
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#17 of 159 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted July 17 2006 - 10:45 AM

Posted Image Posted Image I see all my favorites have already been picked. Posted Image

Since Star Trek hasn't been mentioned I'll pick Star Trek II- Wrath of Khan - First Encounter with Khan & The Battle in the Mutara Nebula.

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#18 of 159 OFFLINE   Brett_M



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Posted July 17 2006 - 10:53 AM

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#19 of 159 OFFLINE   Brett_M



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Posted July 17 2006 - 10:57 AM

I was going to list all three of these in my previous post but I figured I'd stick to some others ones some folks would overlook. All are excellent examples.
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#20 of 159 ONLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted July 17 2006 - 11:00 AM

Another one that I thought I would mention is the helicopter attack sequence on the village from Apocalypse Now.

Also, the fights and final chase sequence in Last of the Mohicans are extremely well done, IMHO.

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