2021 brought cinema back with a vengeance, as many much-anticipated titles got a chance to wow audiences with high-flying action and other thrills. There’s nothing better than a Hollywood-budgeted showdown, and fortunately, this year delivered a lot of big-screen fight scenes worth every penny spent making them happen.
Strangely enough, some of this year’s best fight scenes weren’t in movies one would strictly categorize under the genre of “action.” As one might guess, there are notable entries for the superhero genre, but, of course, also plenty of traditional action fight scenes here to appreciate as well. In no particular order, here are some of 2021’s best fight scenes in movies that you’ll want to watch again and again on repeat.
Spider-Man: No Way Home - Spider-Man vs. Doctor Strange
There are a lot of fights in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but few come close to seeing two Avengers go head-to-head. Spider-Man’s fight with Doctor Strange is certainly the most unconventional on the list, but that’s what makes it so cool. In a straight-up fight, Peter would annihilate Stephen Strange, though Peter wasn’t trying to hurt his fellow hero. He’s just tried to escape with the boxed spell, which proved to be easier said than done with Strange trapped the Web-Slinger in the Mirror Dimension. Spider-Man ended up outsmarting Strange on this turf with the power of geometry, which is a rare show of Peter Parker’s intellect helping him win battles. This is a great scene, even if no physical blows were actually thrown.
The Matrix Resurrections - Neo vs. Agent Smith
The Matrix Resurrections is certainly a polarizing movie, but there’s no denying the movie has moments that feel like the franchise at its absolute peak. Neo’s big battle with Agent Smith is an example of this, invoking some of the best fights of the original movies. God-mode Neo is fun and all, but it’s far more fun to see two excessively strong characters bust through concrete while trying to absolutely destroy each other. The technology is certainly there for Lana Wachowski to have scripted over-the-top special effects, but I feel that the new movie fights that urge the entire way through. The end result is grittier fights that are more entertaining to watch, such as this one.
No Time To Die - James Bond's Escape
Bond movies often have a reputation for fast starts, but few are as jarring as No Time To Die. James went from paying respects at a grave to fighting for his life from multiple assassins in a matter of seconds. The most thrilling thing about the sequence is that it isn’t the usual Bond sequence where 007 easily outsmarts multiple enemies. In fact, James barely escaped with his life, which is fitting given the general theme of the movie. My personal favorite moment is the assassin firing at the passenger-side glass while a stunned James asks his lover if she betrayed him to Spectre. There’s tiredness in the character’s eyes that almost suggests he’s ready to go, but like any good (former) agent, he bobs and weaves his way through certain death and lives to fight another day.
Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings - Shang vs. Xu Wenwu
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings had so many wonderful fight scenes to choose from, and truthfully, more than one scene could be on this list. I went for the hero’s showdown with his father though because of the emotional weight behind the fight. Shang and Wenwu finally laid it all out there, and through multiple exchanged blows and a near-apocalyptic event, finally reached some form of understanding. The Ten Rings do a big part in making this fight so epic, so I’m hoping to see a lot more of them in the MCU's future.
Mortal Kombat - Jax vs. Sub-Zero
Mortal Kombat had the challenge of delivering the same level of action as the video games, and it succeeded. It also established some important lore for the cinematic universe, as we saw when Sub Zero squared off against Jax. The hero did his best to hold his own against the ice skills of his opponent, but in the end, that can only do so much. Jax losing his arms was brutal, over-the-top and a bit gross to watch. In short, it’s exactly what we asked for from a Mortal Kombat movie, and I’m thankful for that.
Nobody- Bus Fight Scene
Bob Odenkirk is known for a lot of things, but being an action hero is not one of him. That’s what made his starring role in Nobody so surprising. The bus fight is certainly a standout moment in the movie, and that’s saying something in a year that gave us another iconic bus fight scene. I especially liked how exhausted everyone is throughout the fight, because not enough action movies show that kind of realism. Fighting is exhausting!
The Suicide Squad - Peacemaker And Bloodsport Compete For Kills
Like all superhero movies on this list, The Suicide Squad had a lot of candidates for best fight scene, though the movie was at its best when it mixed its action with comedy. The peak of that, in my humble opinion, is when Peacemaker and Bloodsport led the Squad through a jungle compound. The two competed for kills in the most elaborate of ways, only to arrive at the main tent to find Rick Flag unharmed. Flag convinced Sol Soria and her rebels to aid their mission, though unfortunately, Peacemaker, Bloodsport and the others effectively destroyed them. It’s a hilarious reveal, and only a movie like this could pull off.
Godzilla vs. Kong - Kong And Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla
Godzilla vs. Kong had to be one of the most anticipated fictional battles of the year, though the best fight of the movie involved the two teaming up against the insanely powerful Mechagodzilla. The mechanical behemoth was almost powerful enough to defeat the duo, but after King Kong lops off Mechagodzilla’s arms, the fight is basically a done deal. The fight works well because of the action, and of course, it creates an enemy for Godzilla and Kong to unify against and go their separate ways. C’mon, it’s not like anyone who saw the movie really expected one of the two to die, right?
F9 - Dom vs. Jakob
I’m assuming most readers expected F9 to make the list before even reading, and how could it not? Fast & Furious is one of the biggest-budget action franchises in movie history, so we may take for granted the consistently good action it delivers with each installment. Dom and Jakob’s showdown might as well be a superhero affair or even something out of The Matrix Resurrections as they traded blows through windows and onto vehicles after falling several stories. It’s unrealistic, but we all know what we signed up for by the ninth movie. Plus, it’s fun as hell to watch.
Sweet Girl - Train Fight Scene
Netflix is still waiting on a sequel to Extraction, but the streamer did give us a solid entry in action this year with Jason Momoa’s Sweet Girl. A man looking to expose the corrupt practices of a drug company is targeted by them in order to silence all wrongdoings it may have committed. Things really get rolling with a huge train fight scene at the beginning, which sets the stage for a thrilling second part that may not play out the way audiences expect. This is certainly a lesser-known entry on the list, but a movie I’d recommend to anyone who hasn’t watched yet a thousand times over.
2021 was a great year for fight scenes, though that’s not the sole defining mark of this year in cinema. Be sure to check out CinemaBlend’s other end-of-year lists, and continue to check in throughout 2022 for more news in entertainment.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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