When it comes to action the planning, time, and dedication that it takes to pull-off a drop-kicking fight scene is amazing. Whether it is on the small screen, big screen, or a Netflix original, 2018 delivered some amazing action sequences and even more intricate fight scenes. We won’t be talking about overall action sequences — like the car chase through Seoul in Black Panther — but will instead be focussing on the scenes where the fight choreography is central. Kicks, flips, and body slams from all genres made the list below.
20. Revenge, Final Fight
Every minute of Revenge leads up to the final fight. Revenge is one my favorite horror movies of 2018 and it’s due in large part to the development of the main character Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) from flighty girlfriend who is coded to be the stereotype of the pretty girl to revenge taking badass. After being raped, Jen is left for dead, dies, and is reborn, hunting down her abusers. In this scene, she takes on the man who killed her. It’s not heavy on the choreography but the setting, visuals, and gun use makes it one of the most memorable fights of the year.
19. Timeless, Wyatt and Emma Fight
I had never seen Timeless before people responded to a Twitter thread where I asked for their favorite fight scenes. This one came in a lot from the dedicated fanbase and so, I started watching. I binged the series and this is truly a great fight scene to watch of the year.
18. The Good Place, Janet VS the Demons
The Good Place has received critical acclaim for its comedy and in this most recent season, its fight choreography. The show follows a group of people destined for the Bad Place but dedicated to making it to the Good Place and the hi-jinx and deep ethical and philosophical questions that develop around it. In this scene we see the omniscient Good Place android known as Janet (D’Arcy Carden) take down a bar a full of demons. What makes it better is that this is something I never would have expected from her.
17. The Night Comes for Us, Meat Locker Fight
Netflix exclusive The Night Comes for Us has two spots on this list. The Indonesian martial arts thriller follows Ito (Joe Taslim), a gangland enforcer, as he is caught in violent insurrection within his Triad crime family after returning from abroad. As the first entry from the film on the list, it’s a gorefest that has me happy as a horror lover and the choreography stands out as Taslim makes use of his entire environment.
16. Tomb Raider, Lara’s First Kill
If I am a super fan for anything, it would be the Tomb Raider series. I’ve written a lot about the reboot series let me down, so going into the new movie starring Alicia Vikander as a version of the rebooted character in this year’s Tomb Raider, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having trained for the role, Vikander brought everything she had into every action sequence and I loved her as Lara. But it’s her first kill that makes it on the list. The emotion and need to survive in the scene elevates the choreography.
15. Daredevil, Kingpin VS Matt VS Pointdexter
One of my biggest pet peeves with super-heroes or villains who are very strong is that there usually isn’t much thought put into the fight choreography beyond smashing things. But in season 3 of Daredevil,Vincent D’Onofrio held his own against two well trained fighters, and he acted through it. There isn’t a moment of the fight that you don’t see his rage or his need to protect his new wife. From Matt (Charlie Cox), you see the quick punching and acrobatic style we’ve gotten used to over the last three seasons. Factor in Pointdexter’s (Wilson Bethel) throwing skills and you have a scene that is not only memorable but easily defines all three characters.
14. Mile 22, Surgical Room Fight
I’m well aware that Mile 22 was a less than stellar movie. However, while the story is lacking, the fight choreography is spectacular. Case in point, Iko Uwais fighting off an attendant while chained to a table. If you haven’t heard of Uwais, I’m sure you’ll be seeing him everywhere after this year. Granted after staring in the cult classic and revered martial arts film The Raid, you should have already known him. As a practitioner of silat, an Indonesian martial art, he brings it into Mile 22 in a big way. He also star in The Night Comes for Us.
13. Deadpool 2, “He’s Inside”
“He’s Inside!” is my favorite choreographed fight from Deadpool 2. In the scene Cable is about to enter the transport truck to murder a future criminal who is also a kid that Deadpool has promised to protect. When he gets there, He has to deal with both Deadpool and his last remaining X-Force teammate, Domino. The close quarters combat, comedy, and use of the space makes it a great scene and a standout.
12. Aquaman, Submarine Fight
In one of the first scenes of Aquaman, we see our already established and titular character board a submarine which was being sieged by pirates. What results is a close quarters brawl made to seem all the more close by Jason Momoa‘s sheer size. As Arthur Curry, Momoa fights with brute force and awareness of his body. On top of that, he includes what sound like parts of the Haka when he fights. After taking down a ship filled with badies, he comes face to face with the man that will become Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), one of the character’s most rememberable comic villains.
11. Into the Badlands, Moon on the Battlefield
As the first entrance for Into the Badlands on my list, the entire action sequence against Baron Chao’s men and the Widow’s butterflies is phenomenal. But it’s Sherman Augustus as Nathaniel Moon that stands out. We got to talk to Augustus earlier in the year and he informed us that the scene took 8 days to shoot. The scene is scored with an operatic sound and Augustus’ sword work makes this one vs many fight rival Game of Thrones’ “Battle of the Bastards” which I never thought would happen.
10. Altered Carbon, Elevator Fight
As my favorite Sci-fi show of 2018, Altered Carbon had a number of fight scenes to choose from. Great choreography and imagery were there throughout the whole season. But it’s Kristin Ortega‘s (Martha Higareda) fight in the elevator that made the list. Close quarters fight scenes are hard to pull off well and when you have one of your main characters get maimed at the start of the scene, it would have been easy to lose the visuals and effect. Bleeding out, Ortega battles the Ghostwalker relentlessly, until she can’t physically stay up. It’s a scene that is only the start of the trauma the character will experience but it perfectly encapsulates her ability to keep going, survive, and fight.
9. The Night Comes for Us, Two Assassins
The second fight from The Night Comes for Us on the list is a testament to the talent of female martial artists and stunt actors can do when given the choreography. In this scene, Julie Estelle fights off two assassins. Showcasing the amount of hand to hand choreography mixed with weapon use makes it a solid choice for any top list this year, and the fact that each woman has their own fight style makes each of them unique. Not to mention, the brutal deaths and great blood effects.
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hotel Fight
Because the two best fight scenes in Ant-Man and the Wasp come back to back I’m considering them as the Hotel fight. But to break it down since I can’t a clip that long, it’s the sequences that starts with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) fighting in the kitchen and then becomes her fighting Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), one of the film’s villains. Masterfully moving from full-size to small, the Wasp’s fighting is practical and near perfect. She utilizes her wings against Ghost and her environment against the thugs in the kitchen. When it comes to fights in this movie, Evangeline Lilly and her stunt double, Ingrid Kleinig, have some of the best choreography. When you look at how large most MCU fight scenes are, the intimate nature of the small space makes it that much more impactful the first time we see the Wasp suit up.
7. Into the Badlands, Sunny & Baije VS the Cannibals
If you had told me that Nick Frost, the lazy and goofy best friend in Shawn of the Dead would be an action star performing most of his own fight choreography I’m not sure I would have believed you. But what the first part of season 3 of Into the Badlands showed is that Frost will get down with the best of them. And the beauty of this scene is the teamwork his character Baije has with Sunny (Daniel Wu). I’m also a big sucker for one vs many fight scenes. If you’re not watching Into the Badlands, you’re not a fan of the martial arts genre.
6. Avengers: Infinity War, Group Fight on Titan
The battle on Titan in Avengers: Infinity War was the moment that the Space Wizard became a favorite among the Avengers for a lot of people. I’m not so keen on CGI coordinated fights, but the scene included great hand to hand, power usage, and great big “oh shit” moments. Although everyone in the fight has great pieces in it, it’s truly the battle mano a mano between Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Thanos (Josh Brolin) that seals the scene. However, you’re lying if you didn’t cry when Tony took a spear to the chest.
5. Upgrade, STEM Takes Control
What happens when your body turns into a killing machine and you’re just really uncomfortable with it? Probably what happens in the first big fight scene in Blumhouse’s action-horror movie Upgrade. In the scene, protagonist Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) is about to be murdered after breaking into a house of a suspect in his wife’s murder. Instead of dying, Grey gives control of his body over to STEM and one of the best fight scenes of the year happens.
4. Black Panther, Casino Fight
By far the best fight scene of all comic films this year is from Marvel’s Black Panther. In it we see, T’Chala (Chadwick Boseman), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) take on an entire casino in Seoul, Korea. It’s perfectly scored and the small comedic notes add to the scene. It also showed that the actress behind Okoye is lethal with a sword (as Michone on The Walking Dead) and a spear, leaving me wanting more of Danai Gurira in action movies.
3. Into the Badlands, Three Against One
This is one of multiple fight scenes from Into the Badlands and it’s on here because this one vs three fight between Sunny and some goons utilizes a small space to deliver big action. The use of ladders and gravity-defying stunt work brings all the reasons why I love the wuxia genre of martial arts. As the third entry for the series on my list, I’m still upset that the cast, stunt crew, and design time were all snubbed at this year’s Golden Globes. Daniel Wu is a creative powerhouse who brought Hong Kong cinema to our screens and his stunt team is unmatched by most others. Into the Badlands deserves all the accolades we can grant them.
2. Mission: Impossible Fallout, Bathroom Fight
For me, practical effects and seamless fight choreography will win every day over heavy CGI. In Mission Impossible: Fallout we get one of the few blockbusters this year that relied on practical over CGI and it paid off. That being said, getting to see Henry Cavill unload (pun intended) and a 50+ year-old Tom Cruise hold his own in the scene made this extremely rememberable. Factor in the excellent use of props and slight comedic moments of pure strength, it’s a winner.
1. Daredevil, Prison Fight
Okay, let’s be honest, this is an 11-minute fight scene filmed with one continuous shot (you can watch the first part of it above). This was always going to be the winner. Choreographed by Chris Brewster, who is also Charlie Cox’s stunt double, this scene is unbelievable. While watching there is a moment in the middle where it dons on you that they haven’t stopped moving. This fight scene is a testament to the talent of both Brewster and Cox and the dedication that the latter put into the role in order to be able to match his double’s movements and seamlessly switch out. Looking back on it now, as much as the story of the Daredevil series will be missed, I am the saddest that with the cancelation we won’t see any more masterpieces like this in Hell’s Kitchen.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.