The Flix List: Top 5 Action Spectacle Endings

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spectacle_endings

I love big tent pole movies and Hollywood love to make them. Studios spent hundreds of millions of dollars on these movies and we the audience expect nothing but big spectacles when we go see them. I hate it when I go see big action films and the climax action scenes were quite lame (Mission: Impossible 3, The Saint, Pirates of the Carribean 4 and Spiderman 2 were some good examples.) Most directors understand that action films needs to close out with a bang; in an interview with Sam Mendes he said he first only wanted to have a basic shoot out for Skyfall’s climax, but then he realized this is a James Bond film and so he needed to included some sort of spectacle. He decided to have a big helicopter shooting up Bond’s old house and then clashing into it.

Iron Man 3 already kick-started the hot box office Summer season, followed by the upcoming big action flicks such as Star Trek: Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel, World War Z, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, The Wolverine, and Elysium. I expect most, if not all, will have some sort of big over-the-top action sequences for the film’s climax. With all these films coming out, it got me thinking of the best spectacle climax I’ve seen throughout the years. It’s hard to come up with just five but I think most people will agree with me on these scenes. I think all these action scenes were quite creative, well-staged and of course exciting to watch.

5. The boat chase in Face/Off

After directing two mediocre films to start his career in Hollywood, John Woo was able to convinced the studio to give him more than $80mil and made his best film since Hard Boil. Face/Off is probably one of the best action films of the 1990s and Woo’s top 3 best films ever! I loved this movie, I went to see it three times in opening weekend in the summer of 1997. The film’s full of spectacles, from the opening shootout in the airport hanger to the shootout in the apartment building of Castor Troy’s gang. But the best one is the big boat chase near the end of the film, it started with a shoot out at the church then the boat chase that ended with a clash that sends the film’s hero and villain flying through the air. I love it!

4. Shootout on top of snowy mountain in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I can’t make this kind of list without a James Bond movie. In this sequence, Bond, his future father in law Draco and his men were on their way to rescue Draco’s daughter and Bond’s soon to be bride, Tracy. She’s being held captive by film’s villain, Blofeld. Bond and the men were in two big helicopters and once they reached Blofeld’s lair, there were shootouts, explosions, hand to hand combats and then it ended with a bob sled chase that would rival any modern day action sequences. Since this is Christopher Nolan’s favorite Bond film, he decided to copy this sequence for his film Inception, fans of that movie will see some similarities.

3. The car chase through the streets of Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy

The film that kick started the crazy hand held shaky cam and quick editing craze that plagued most action films the last few years. I’m not a fan of this kind of style, as I already ranted about it a while back. BUT for this film the style fits perfectly and the car chase near the end was one of the best car chases ever put on film. Paul Greengrass and his crew staged the whole sequence so well that it was exciting to watch and I love how the sequence ended. Since I’m quite sure most people have seen the film, I won’t have to describe it.


2. The final shootout in The Wild Bunch

This Peckinpah’s masterpiece pretty much kick started the over the top shoot outs in films we’ve seen through the years. The film opened in the summer of 1969 and it’s now considered one of the best films ever made. Up until this film, most westerns and action films didn’t have this kind of action sequence and that’s why Peckinpah’s been known as a revisionist. I assume most film buffs have seen this movie so I won’t have to describe the scene. I just love how Peckinpah move his cameras and how well he staged the action. I think this scene should be shown to any directors who needs to learn how to shoot action scene properly.


1. The final battle in Terminator 2

This summer hit has so many climax sequences that I couldn’t just name one. First the shoot out at Cyberdyne building where Arnold blew up a few of the police vehicles, he then kneecapped about dozen of the cops. After that, there’s a chase involving a swat van and a helicopter; then a big chase between a truck and semi-truck. It finally ended in a factory where the two Terminators engaged in a hand to hand combat.

James Cameron is a master of spectacle and this film is a good example of that. It’s the first film that actually cost $100mil to produce and it shown on the screen. There were so many big action scenes in this film and all of them were quite impressive.


Honorable mentions:

  • The motorcycle chase in Mission: Impossible 2 – I would’ve included this sequence on my top 5 but I thought Woo just recycled the sequence from Face/Off.
  • The final chase in Fast Five – This over-the-top chase to close out the film is one of the craziest car chases I’ve ever seen and it was a lot of fun to watch. I just thought it went a bit too long and some sequences weren’t that creative.
  • The final battle in Avatar – I’m one of the few people who didn’t really care for this movie but again Cameron showed that he’s the master of spectacle and the big action scene near the end is top notch. It didn’t make my list because I didn’t like the film.
  • The battle sequences in Star Wars Ep.1: The Phantom Menace – I love the light sabers fight between Darth Maul, Obi Wan and Quai Gon Jin and the space battle with little Anakin. But I can’t stand the sequence with Jar Jar Binks and his clan battling the robots, it annoyed the heck out of me so I couldn’t include it on my top five list.

– Post by Ted S.


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Those are some of my favorite big action sequences for tent pole pictures, do share your favorites in the comments section. I’m sure I’ve left out some good ones.

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60 thoughts on “The Flix List: Top 5 Action Spectacle Endings

  1. The Wild Bunch – great mention! And for some reason Fast Five immediately came to mind. Great write-up. I love these types of scenes too (when they’re done well of course).

    By the way, you’re not alone on Avatar. An extremely overrated film. Visually incredible. Storywise – an utter failure.

    • Thanks Keith, yes I have to put The Wild Bunch way up there since it basically kick started the over the top shoot out scene in movies. Yeah Fast Five’s scene was fun to watch but it went a bit too long so it didn’t make the list.

      Yup, Avatar looked great, probably one of the few 3D films that I enjoyed watching in 3D. But I rolled my eyes so many times at the cliche storyline and dialog.

  2. Great list. We need more epic finales these days. A lot of the big movies have an action set piece 3/4th of the way through the film, and then wrap up everything nicely in 20 minutes or work way too hard to build up for a sequel. I love me some Face/Off…

    • Thanks Nick, yeah I don’t like it when action films wrap things up so fast and we audience just go, what that’s it?! That’s I how I felt when I first saw Mission: Impossible 3, the first two films had big action scene for the finally but Abrams decided to just have a small fight between Ethan and Owen? Then his wife shot the main villain, I just went WTF?!

  3. Great list!

    I am with you on Avatar, it was NOT as great as everyone made it out to be. To me? Similar to Pocahontas but with blue people!

  4. Nice list. I particularly agree with your honorable mention assessment on Phantom Menace… great light saber duel, but the rest is a serious detraction. (I wonder how hard a Jar-Jar-free cut of the movie would be to follow?)

  5. Interesting choices here Ted. Definitely enjoyed the Wild Bunch and Face/Off shoot outs. One that I’d include would be Saving Private Ryan. The opening to that was outstanding but the ending lasts for about 50mins.

    • Hey Mark, yeah I thought Saving Private Ryan battle scenes were great too. But I wanted to leave the more “realistic” action/battle scenes out of this list, I was going for the over the top silly action sequences that mostly shown in summer popcorn flicks. :)

  6. Great list! I can’t think of a better car chase than The Bourne Supremacy. That was just crazy.

    • Thanks Brittani, I tried to think of a better car chase scenes in the last few years and The Bourne Supremacy is still the best I’ve seen so far.

    • Ahah, I actually remember YOLT ending, but man is it ever cheesy!! I know my brothers love that movie because of Mie Hama ;)

    • Hey Fogs, I like You Only Live Twice climax scene but Bond didn’t really do much in that scene. He’s more of a spectator, I wanted to see him shoot bad guys with machine guns and if I remember correctly, he just chased after the main villain. Also, YOLT is one of my least favorite Bond films so there’s my bias. :)

  7. Nice work, Ted!

    ‘The Wild Bunch’ does possess possibly the best, most well edited ‘Shoot ‘em ups!” in cinema. With Walter Hill’s ‘Extreme Prejudice’ a very close second. Also kind of partial to the final five minutes of Don Siegel’s ‘Hell is for Heroes’.

    Excellent catch on ‘T2’!

    • Hey Jack, yeah I love how Peckinpah shot that big scene, after that film came out, many directors tried to copy his style. And yes I loved that big shootout in Extreme Prejudice.

  8. Great list here Ted, I LOVE that you included the Bourne Supremacy and Face/Off, still one of my fave action flicks (Travolta & Cage are awesome, and I don’t say that often, ahah). I’d perhaps add the finale of Die Hard 3 w/ the chopper scene, I think this scene is towards the end? http://youtu.be/xeSouvoINHY I love what McClane could do w/ just one bullet! :D

    • Yeah I like that Die Hard 3 ending sequence too but it felt rush to me, probably because it was shot the last minute, the studio folks didn’t like the original ending because it didn’t have action. Also, after some test screenings, some people complained they wanted to see more action at the end. So they order McTiernan and his crew to shoot this scene.

      You can see the original ending here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-GqY-M5fE4

      I thought that original was great but I had they included a big action scene right before it, I would love it even more.

  9. I know The Blues Brothers isn’t an action film by any means, but the totally outrageous, over-the-top car chase scene between the cops and Jake and Elwood at the end is by far my favorite “action” ending of all times ;-D

    • Yes, I really like that scene too! The first time I saw the movie, I didn’t expect to see a scene like that at all.

  10. All of these picks are pretty good. I’m glad there was some love thrown in the direction of Face/Off, which is also one of my favorite action films of the 90’s or any decade.
    Though I like all of your selections, I’d probably only include the last battle in Terminator 2 in my top 5. The other four, off the top of my head, would be: the last fight in The Raid: Redemption (pure adrenaline); Ripley against the Alien Queen in Aliens; the last stand of the group of heroes rescuing Ryan in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan; and the last sequence of Predator between a battered Arnold and one beautiful monster.

    • I haven’t seen The Raid yet so I can’t comment on that one. But yes the ones you mentioned were great too.

  11. Great list. Nice to see OHMSS in there. One of my favorite Bond movies as well. I don’t know why, but I like it when the countdown for the bombs reaches zero, and there’s a kind of a delayed reaction as Bond and Blofeld escape, then BOOOM! I just love that delayed reaction for some reason. :)

    • Thanks! Yeah that was weird that there was a slight delay before the bomb goes off. I wonder if it’s intended by the director and editor? In any case, I still thought the sequence really hold up well compare to today’s action flicks and that bob sled chase was just crazy good, I’m sure it wasn’t fun filming it.

      • Thinking about it some more, I definitely think the delay was intended. It creates a nice bit of extra tension for a split second. Because you know the countdown’s reached zero, your breath’s kind of held waiting for the bomb to blow.

        Agree that the action in OHMSS has held up really well. To be honest, it was ahead of its time. I can see why with passing years, it’s become more appreciated.

    • Oh Garrett, you gotta check out The Wild Bunch. You can buy it on Amazon for around $10, either on Bluray or DVD. One of the best westerns ever in my opinion.

  12. Great choices, Ted. So glad to see the car chase from The Bourne Supremacy on here. It’s probably one of the best ever filmed.

    • Thanks Josh, glad you agree that the car chase on The Bourne Supremacy is one of the best car chases ever filmed. It’s still the best car chase I’ve seen in the last 10 years or so on film.

  13. It’s utterly ridiculous but I love the end of Independence Day. The dogfight between the aliens and the raggedy bunch of humans led by the President, followed by the Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum’s chase out of the mothership. Daft as a brush, but still one of my favourite films.

    • LOL, yeah that ending action sequence in ID4 was way too ridiculous especially with the president leading the fight but I enjoyed it too!

  14. Love it that T2 is top of the list! Action doesn’t get any better than that! I’m just going to go with Saving Private Ryan as well (just to make sure you watch it soon!)

    • Yup, can’t beat T2 when it comes to great action sequences. I’ve seen Saving Private Ryan but I didn’t include it on this list is because I just wanted to list the more over the top silly action sequences in blockbuster films. I consider Saving Private Ryan more of a serious war movie and the action scenes were “realistic” than over the top, not doubt they were all well staged but I don’t consider them “action” sequences since Spielberg never glamorizes those scenes.

  15. I haven’t seen the Wild Bunch so I can’t comment on that. As for the rest, I mostly agree. I was getting worried for a second as I went down the list that I wasn’t going to find Terminator 2, but you delivered at the end…haha
    I would have probably given the final sequence of Inception a mention, given that it’s just so high-paced and well orchestrated. A fitting finale to a very unique and complex film.

    Nice overview!

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