The ten most utterly outrageous action scenes ever seen on film

Want to see a hamster wheel of robots turning into a giant snake? Read on!

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New film ‘The Raid 2’ is crammed with bone-crunching, skull-splitting violence – but does anyone dangle a toddler out of a car window? Does a dog take on a cat? And is there an army of self-replicating robots? Here, for your amusement and horror, we present the ten most extreme, outrageous, eyeball-frazzlingly bonkers action sequences in the history of cinema. Strap yourself in. No, seriously.

  • The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

    Who’s involved?
    Thirteen dwarves, two elves, one hobbit and a platoon of really bad-tempered orcs.

    What’s going on?
    It’s the Splash Mountain approach to prison breakouts. Escaping from the halls of the Elf King, our little heroes pile into barrels for a hectic white-water thrill ride while the orcs on the shore try to pick them off at every turn. Rubber dinghy rapids, bro!

    Why so crazy?
    Peter Jackson proves he’s the reigning king of the action directors by setting the most breakneck pace imaginable. Love or loathe his ‘Hobbit’ adaptations, you can’t argue with a sequence this frenetic, inventive and crammed with madcap asides like that bouncing, bowling Bombur.

    Should I try this at home?
    No. Unless you’re in possession of a serious water feature. But on your next trip to Victoria Falls…

    Read ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ review

    The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
  • Evil Dead II (1987)

    Who’s involved?
    Demon-fighting loner Bruce Campbell and… that’s it. A one-man action sequence. Sort of…

    What’s going on?
    Besieged in a remote cabin by an infernal presence that has already killed all his mates, our Bruce thinks things can’t get any worse – until those dirty bastards take his hand. What follows is perhaps the most jawdropping solo slapstick sequence ever shot, capped off by one of cinema’s great sight gags.

    Why so crazy?
    Why isn’t Bruce Campbell mentioned up there with Chaplin and Keaton? Is it because he chose to spend his life making Z-grade sludge (plus the occasional top-flight classic), rather than dedicating his life to the poetry of film? Whatever – this throat-grabbing sequence rivals anything from the silent era.

    Should I try this at home?
    Why not? But make sure you stick the video on YouTube and forward us the link.

    Read ‘Evil Dead II’ review

    Evil Dead II (1987)
  • 13 Assassins (2010)

    Who’s involved?
    A hissable aristocratic villain, his troop of footsoldiers and – as the title suggests – a baker’s dozen of heroic killers.

    What’s going on?
    How can 13 men possibly take on an army? By leading them into an ambush, that’s how. Now send in the burning bulls! Yep, this epic battle scene (it’s basically the entire second half of the movie) doesn’t just revel in endless punch-ups, swordfights, heroic deaths and sprays of arterial crimson, it also features livestock on fire. Oh, and characters you really care about, which makes a nice change.

    Why so crazy?
    The length, the intensity, the screaming of the bulls… Director Takashi Miike established himself as a master of horror, but with this remake of a beloved ’60s period epic he firmly established himself as an action man to be reckoned with.

    Should I try this at home?
    Not unless you want the RSPCA on your back.

    Read ‘13 Assassins’ review

    13 Assassins (2010)
  • The General (1926)

    Who’s involved?
    Buster Keaton, plus pretty much the entire northern army in the US Civil War. Those slavery-banning assholes!

    What’s going on?
    It’s hard to pick a single sequence from this silent masterpiece in which love-struck Buster sets off in pursuit of the girl he loves and the steam engine he loves even more, but the scene with the rotating cannon has to be near the top.

    Why so crazy?
    Every Buster Keaton movie features moments of breathtaking genius – the one-handed car grab from 1920’s ‘Cops’ may be the most astounding single stunt in movie history – but ‘The General’ wins out for sheer consistency. There’s barely a dull moment here, and it’s all done for real. Well, movie real.

    Should I try this at home?
    If you’re in possession of a steam locomotive and a cannon, be our guest.

    Read ‘The General’ review

    The General (1926)
  • Iron Angels (1987)

    Who’s involved?
    Three of the baddest-ass women on the planet: kung-fu legends Moon Lee, Elaine Lui and Cynthia Luster.

    What’s going on?
    It’s the traditional factory showdown with a difference – all three protagonists are female. We know, we know, it’s the twenty-first century and these things shouldn’t make a difference. But when it comes down to length-of-rubber-hose versus plank-with-nails-stuck-in-it, somehow it does.

    Why so crazy?
    Sadly, we only had room for one old-school martial arts punch-up on this list. And despite some intensive research (which largely involved watching Jackie Chan smashing assorted chumps into assorted blunt objects, and vice versa), we decided that this batshit testosterone-free smackdown just managed to sneak the trophy.

    Should I try this at home?
    Are you female? Do you know karate? Do you have two equally enthusiastic pals? Then the stage is yours…

    Iron Angels (1987)
  • The Killer (1989)

    Who’s involved?
    White-suited bromantics Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee against a whole army of hapless hitmen.

    What’s going on?
    Who honestly cares? There’s heroism, honour, philosophy, friendship, slo-mo and all the diving, rolling and grimacing two-pistol takedowns you could possibly want in life. Oh, and it all takes place in a church, complete with exploding Virgin Mary. Symbolism, innit?

    Why so crazy?
    We could have populated this entire list with clips from John Woo movies, but we forced ourselves to narrow it down to one. This is Woo in extremis: poetic, balletic and almost unbearably intense, the work of a master artist at the top of his game.

    Should I try this at home?
    Your local vicar might be a bit miffed if you and your mates started leaping through his stained-glass windows, but he’d forgive you. His God demands it.

    Read ‘The Killer’ review

    The Killer (1989)
  • Fatal Termination (1990)

    Who’s involved?
    A car-load of leering thugs, one concerned mother and a very surprised-looking three-year-old.

    What’s going on?
    The unstoppable Moon Lee (her again!) plays a woman caught up in a war between rival terrorist gangs. When a bearded nutjob dangles her daughter from the window of a speeding car (in reverse!), Moon hurtles off in pursuit.

    Why so crazy?
    When your kid’s life is hanging in the balance, is it really wise to punch through the windscreen and attempt to throttle the driver? Perhaps not, but it sure makes for a breathtaking bit of action craziness. Hollywood, watch and learn.

    Should I try this at home?
    No, no, and a thousand times no.

    Fatal Termination (1990)
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)

    Who’s involved?
    A hairy beast, a little slimy fella and a happy toddler.

    What’s going on?
    It’s pretty complicated, but it essentially involves a chase through a giant warehouse filled with millions of dimensional portals. Space, time and perspective all get a good going over, yet it all somehow manages to make a kind of warped sense.

    Why so crazy?
    Proof positive that animation can bend the brain in ways live action can’t even approach, this is fast, funny and – unlike most of the examples on this list – entirely family friendly. We can’t even imagine the kind of mental focus it must take to put a sequence like this together, but thank God the Pixar kids do.

    Should I try this at home?
    You can put on a bear suit and run around slamming doors to your heart’s content, but we doubt it’ll be quite the same.

    Read ‘Monsters, Inc.’ review

    Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • The Cat (1992)

    Who’s involved?
    An alien cat. A demon dog. The oldest cold war in earth’s history just hotted way up.

    What’s going on?
    It’s a dog and a cat going for each other in a junkyard – what more could you want? OK, occasionally the cat does some funky extraterrestrial business, but mainly its just two domesticated animals getting seriously un-domesticated on each other’s hairy asses.

    Why so crazy?
    See above. But we’re sure the producers of this extremely odd Hong Kong action fantasy ensured that no animals were harmed during shooting. We’re totally, totally sure.

    Should I try this at home?
    Not unless you’re seriously evil. Or own a pair of animal suits.

    The Cat (1992)
  • Endhiran (2010)

    Who’s involved?
    A humanoid robot made in the image of cybernetic wizard Dr Vaseegaran, plus thousands of clones. Oh, and the entire police force of Chennai.

    What’s going on?
    Good grief, where to begin? This being a Bollywood movie, it all kicks off at a wedding – but then there’s a guy with fifty machine guns, some cop-car stunts straight out of ‘The Blues Brothers’ and a hamster wheel of robots that turns into a giant snake. You still with us?

    Why so crazy?
    This, friends, is the bleeding edge of action-movie madness: sure, the effects may be a tad ropey, the acting may be dire and it may make no sense whatsoever, but hell, we’ve never seen anything like this, and never expect to again. Bless you, Bollywood – you’ve taken it to another level entirely.

    Should I try this at home?
    Um… we really don’t know how to answer that one.

    Endhiran (2010)

The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Who’s involved?
Thirteen dwarves, two elves, one hobbit and a platoon of really bad-tempered orcs.

What’s going on?
It’s the Splash Mountain approach to prison breakouts. Escaping from the halls of the Elf King, our little heroes pile into barrels for a hectic white-water thrill ride while the orcs on the shore try to pick them off at every turn. Rubber dinghy rapids, bro!

Why so crazy?
Peter Jackson proves he’s the reigning king of the action directors by setting the most breakneck pace imaginable. Love or loathe his ‘Hobbit’ adaptations, you can’t argue with a sequence this frenetic, inventive and crammed with madcap asides like that bouncing, bowling Bombur.

Should I try this at home?
No. Unless you’re in possession of a serious water feature. But on your next trip to Victoria Falls…

Read ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ review

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Users say

1 comments
Judd R
Judd R

Do you guys know anything about film?  If you're going to put The Killer on the list, you need to put Hard Boiled. Monsters Inc included in a 'best action sequences' list?  If you're crazy enough to put an animated film on this list, why would you pick Monsters Inc. over The Incredibles?  I'll give you some of the obscure foreign films with some cool action sequences but you seem to be forgetting, like, you know, EVERY major classic action sequence in your list.  You're missing the LA river chase in T2, you're missing pretty much any sequence from the last half hour of The Matrix, you're missing either harrier jet sequence from True Lies, you're missing the San Fran chase sequence in The Rock, you're missing the batmobile chase in Batman Begins, you're missing any number of action sequences from Die Hard and/or Die Hard with a Vengeance, you're missing about a dozen possible 'best action' sequence from various Bond films.  I could keep going.    

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