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.
- 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.