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10 Best Movie Shootouts of All Time

July 27, 2018
8 min read

All it takes is a gun in your or your enemy’s hand to know the true nature of your spirit. Movies and guns are like fairytales and angels; both compliment their existence and empower each others’ roots. Time is the evidence, that ever since film-making evolved, violence has been the backbone of cinema. From petty larceny to world wars, movies and its usage of gunfights have been bringing chills down people’s spines.

Following is the list of top movie shootouts ever. Bear in mind that there are millions of action movies and hence, a large number of gunfights are portrayed on them. Most certainly, violence is imbibed deep down on the human mind and hence a scene, which may seem mediocre to others, might as well be brilliant to you. This list however includes those Hollywood ones, which have sparked a revolution in the film-making process of the newer movies or have brought an emotional upsurge on people, which is unparalleled to gunfights of other movies. Again, best movie gun fights of all time.

10. The Mexican Standoff, Reservoir Dogs (1992)

The standoff between Joe, Mr. White and Nice Guy Eddie is one of the most well executed gunfight scene of all time, as on the final screening, there remains an ambiguity regarding the shooter of Eddie. The norms dictate such gunfight action sequences to be unmistakable and clear to the audience but Tarantino utilizes a failure during the shoot, and puts it into the final picture; thereby, bringing confusion as one of the elements which makes viewers, their own judge to the sequence. Skirmish of profane conversations including loyalty, betrayal, trust and revenge leads to the gunfight scene, lasting only a second but making it one of the most iconic standoff in the history of contemporary cinema.

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9. The Last Scene, Unforgiven (1992)

Westerns have a name for murder without a sense. Sense would comprise grief, an illusion of sin or whatever it takes for a man to call himself ‘humane’. Clint Eastwood, in ‘Unforgiven’ has taken the opposite route than that of any typical western. Here, bullets are engrossed with pain and retribution. In the last scene of ‘Unforgiven’, Munny (Eastwood) enters the bar of Skinny Dubois to avenge the death of his close friend, Ned (Morgan Freeman). Heavy rounds of gunpowder merges with air as Munny overshadows each one of the wusses lined in the bar. Eastwood with his trademark grin, gives some unforgettable death stare to his friend’s murderers, which even the viewers can feel. This scene is not just about guns and killing, but about loss, pain and vengeance; hence, a masterpiece.

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8. The Opening Scene, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

A perfect example of fine Italian craft, Sergio Leone mastered the Western genre with his Spaghetti style of cinema. The opening scene of ‘Once Upon A Time In the West’ is an archetype of his awe-inspiring devotion to cinema. This scene introduces us to three rugged hombre, who takes control of a small railway platform and basks around for nothing. Tension builds up gradually as Leone makes us focus on cinematic totems like water drops dripping on one of the cowboy’s hat and the annoyance generated by a fly. Viewers are then introduced to the targeted murderee, who takes on the three cowboys, while Leone’s magic of his vision and  Ennio Morricone’s enchanting background score  takes us on an exciting Wild West ride. The gunfight scene lasts only seconds but the way this scene is built up makes it one of the most brilliant and distinguished scene of all time.

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7. Candy’s Men vs. Django, Django Unchained (2012)

It’s Quentin Tarantino and the name is enough. Tupac Shakur’s soundtrack, ‘Untouchable’ gives the perfect drop to Django’s sassy rebellion against Candy’s (Leonardo Dicaprio) watchdogs-cum-huntsmen. When Dr. Schultz (Chris Waltz) expresses, “I am sorry, I couldn’t control myself”, macabre of high intensity or as the professionals call it, Quentin takes place. Gunshots throwing bodies away, orgy of blood enshrining the entire set, women crying for help makes the scene a Quentin-esque masterpiece. But this scene is not just limited to bullets and bodies; Tarantino very smartly handles the power of guns to Django, while his mentor Dr. Schultz has passed away. It’s for the first time that he earns the ticket of revenge without the upper hand of any being, and thus this scene brings to light, character epiphany, at it its very best.

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6. The Beach Invasion, Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Tremble of fear crawling up their gut, they vomit on the sea of war. Hands shaking, their leader is a mirage of victory. Nemesis binding their stubborn ego, they struggle to make it on the beach. A full scale, twenty minute show of rounds of prancing gunfire and we lose ourselves to the horror of war. Hailed by the crowd as magnum opus, Steven Spielberg gives the viewers a diamond studded boot, which is royale in approach but pierces the very grip which makes us stand in the world. Excellence in continuity, camera sequences and frame-by-frame portrayal of winning strategy, this opening scene is by far one of the greatest gunfight and opening scenes of all time.

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5. The Graveyard Faceoff, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

The standoff of ‘The Good’ (Clint Eastwood), ‘The Bad’ (Lee Van Cleef) and ‘The Ugly’ (Elli Wallach) is one of the greatest moments of cinematic history. This scene entails the balanced use of major filming components like camera angles, expressions, direction, editing, close-ups, sound etc. The anticipation of the result of the standoff is dramatized and enhanced by the swell composition of Ennio Morricone. This scene might as well be Sergio Leone’s greatest directorial achievement as he shows the cunning of ‘The Good’ in emptying the bullet of ‘The Ugly’ so that the former is the only one who shoots ‘The Bad’. Not only that, but Leone shows us the firm morale of ‘The Good’ as he simply injures ‘The Bad’ and shoots him to death only after the latter attempts to shoots ‘The Good’.

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4. The Last Scene, Scarface (1983)

In one of the episodes of Breaking Bad, a teenager from an ordinary family watches and reiterates the iconic dialogue of ‘Scarface’, “Say hello to my little friend!, with his dad. Now, this scene doesn’t just justify the on-going meta-cinematic life of the show, but it brings to light, the insane popularity of the cult-classic, last gunfight scene of Bryan De Palma’s timeless ‘Scarface’. With a savage Tony Montana (Al Pacino) hurling expletives, bullets and grenade, singe-handedly against an army of rowdies; a fire burns inside each of the viewers, hailing his guts and style factor. This last scene perfectly describes the American Dream which goes downhill for every guy who fails to love this dream but gets obsessed with it.

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3. The Bar Brawl, Desperado (1995)

The bar scene of El Mariachi’s sequel, ‘Desperado’, is one of most brilliantly crafted gunfight scene of all time. Actor Antonio Bandera’s demeanor perfectly suits a badass gunslinger with a larger-than-life, future ambition. Director, Robert Rodriguez has given the entire scene a musical composition feel, with the crescendo hitting a definitive action packed, Quentin-esque note, clearly defining his exemplary talent as a director. By simply using a small space and a few men, this bar scene gives an adrenaline rush, unparalleled to those big budget driven superhero movies. Remember those childhood days when you wished to be that cool ‘hero’ who shoots the bad guys? Well, this scene might just  turn out to be one of those fantasies.

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2. Lobby Shootout, The Matrix (1999)

The lobby scene. This movie has undoubtedly inspired a large number of filmmakers for thinking beyond the possibilities of limited realism in motion pictures. Choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping with cinematography of Bill Pope, the lobby scene revolutionized the filming of action scenes as well as showered ‘The Matrix’ with worldwide fame and a cult-classic appeal. The Wachowski brothers have carefully used the power of tension and precision of narratives, to embody this scene as an integral part of the story where Keanu Reeves as Neo, has symbolized the ammo-loving, villain annihilating, hero of a simulated reality, quite perfectly.

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1. Robbers vs. Police Face-off, Heat (1995)

Of guns n’ heavy metal, till the smoke settles, Director Michael Mann makes you get the feel of the heat of perhaps, the greatest gunfight scene of all time. Troops led by Robert De Niro on one side and Al Pacino on the other, a cinephile’s conscious mind finds it hard to discern the role of antagonists and protagonists, given the fandom these two veterans lead and also because of the ambitious and highly meticulous direction of the entire violent montage. Location changes, the anxious mindset of the police and conmen, foot chase and eventual escape of a lucky few, in this scene, will surely restore your faith in classiness of cinema, if you have lost some.

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