Gun scenes in movies have ranged from climatic masterpieces to essential plot advancement points. Few directors have mastered the art of the gun scene, however the consumers know that a quality gun scene can make a movie successful. Following are the Top Ten Best Gun Movie Scenes of All Time.
10. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966): The Mexican Standoff
- While the entire film is epic, Leone's big payoff scene is an exercise in minimalism; the Mexican standoff spans six minutes but nearly five minutes of it is devoted building the suspense and anxiety before the guns are finally drawn. Leone uses his trademark wide angle shots and facial close-ups, both of which are commonly used today, to frame the mounting tension.
9. Tombstone (1993): Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral have received a number of big-screen treatments over the years, but none is better than in "Tombstone." You know the story by now: Earp and his brothers Virgil and Morgan, along with Holliday, head to the O.K. Corral to disarm members of the Clanton Gang. By most accounts, what follows is a fairly faithful representation of the real thing. The scene is played quickly and lasts less than a minute (the real gunfight is estimated to have taken approximately 30 seconds). The gunfight, which takes place on a small, empty lot only about 18 feet wide, feels intimate and even claustrophobic at times. Most of the shots are fired at a range of 10 feet or less, and you feel every bullet.
8. Scarface (1983): Tony's Last Stand
It's rare for a film to feature a main character that is so villainous. The entire movie is filled to the brim with evil and despicable people, but Tony gets to where he is not by being the most heroic but by being the biggest villain of them all. Tony is defiant throughout the entire movie and when it comes to his death scene he goes out shooting and takes an impressive number of Sosa's men with him. Rather than hide in his office, he grabs the biggest gun he has and blasts his way onto the balcony like an immortal. He doesn't even take cover when he needs to reload. It's only when he's shot again that he finally drops and gets pinned down. Once he gets his attackers on the run he starts shouting insults rather than seeking a more strategic position.
7. The Untouchables (1987): The Train Station
Compared to "Scarface" the gunfight in "The Untouchables" is a ballet employing slow-motion and dramatic tension to amazing effect. The train station shootout between Eliot Ness and the gangsters escorting the book keeper isn't just another shootout in slow-motion, it's an excellent example of De Palma's signature tension-building filmmaking. There may not be all that much shooting, but it's one of the rare scenes where every gunshot has the possibility for consequence. They can (and do) hit good guys, bad guys, the baby carriage, civilians and the surrounding environment, so while it may be light on bullets, it is heavy on tension and drama.
6. Open Range (2003): Boss and Charley Vs. Baxter's Boys
The shootout, which is actually split into three parts, starts out with a serious bang through an extremely tense and unexpected moment, which is filmed expertly by Costner. Suddenly all hell breaks loose as the gunfight erupts at close range. There are several great moments in this shootout, which lasts more than 10 minutes. And even though it's long and separated into three distinct parts, it feels like a rush of bullets and gun smoke. Costner, showing the flairs of brilliance he had displayed with "Dances With Wolves," does a remarkable job framing each sequence with amazing camera angles and precise.
5. The Killer (1989): The Abandoned Church Standoff
The movie culminates in an abandoned church where Ah Jong has been trapped by the Triad. Woo constructs a sort of graceful shootout with plenty of imagery to go along with the muzzle flashes, such as the flock of doves (a Woo trademark), exploding religious iconography and shattering stained glass. Watch the church shootout closely and you'll see some familiar bits and pieces from later American movies. Better yet, watch "The Killer" and appreciate all that it has to offer: brilliantly choreographed action scenes with complex, acrobatic movements; impressive single shot camera work; hypnotic slow motion sequences and Chow-Yun Fat furiously firing dual pistols.
4. The Wild Bunch (1969): A Blaze of Glory
Peckinpah's climactic fight when the Bunch go to rescue Angel from Mapache employed rapid cutting techniques, slow-motion shots of men being shot, blood spray from bullet wounds and pioneered the "long walk," which is now commonly referred to as "the Wild Bunch shot." "The Wild Bunch," and specifically this scene, redefined violence in Western cinema and went on to inspire everyone from John Woo to Michael Bay. When watching the shootout now, the violence doesn't shock anyone like it did back then and the filmmaking feels almost clichÃ©d, but it's the context that is important. At the time, no one had ever seen anything shot like this, and even compared to modern films, the action is exciting and beautiful.
3. Hard Boiled (1992): The Hospital
To call the hospital shootout an absolute bloodbath would be a gross understatement; there are 146 on-screen deaths during the hospital finale. This was John Woo's last Hong Kong film before he came to Hollywood, and the director pulls out all the stops for this grand finale by using all his time-honored techniques - exquisite slow motion shots; frantic real-time action; and best of all, impeccably choreographed action with acrobatic gunplay. The final 30 minutes of the film are absolutely relentless and filled with the type of edge-of-your-seat thrills that are harder to come by these days. This movie cemented John Woo's legacy as perhaps the best action director every to hold a camera.
2. The Matrix (1999): The Lobby Shootout
"The Matrix" series may have ended with a pitiful whimper but in 1999 it came out of the corner swinging. Even though the lobby scene doesn't feature the now infamous bullet-time or time-slice technology, it still stands out. A gunfight with that much firepower indoors should make a significant impact on the environment, and the way the walls and columns just disintegrate throughout the fight goes a long way to making every bullet feel real. The action itself isn't all that spectacular, but the photography is what gives it that modern shine. The composition of the heroes in that claustrophobic space and the way that camera follows them as they effortlessly glide through it creates a unique scene that is often parodied but never duplicated.
1. Heat (1995): The Downtown Bank Robbery
Throughout most of the scene there is no music at all and it's shot with documentary-style camera angles. What it does have is amazing sound, impressive attention to real-world tactics and lots and lots of shooting. The police fire more carefully and are always on semi-automatic since their objective is to kill or wound De Niro's team, while Val Kilmer and De Niro recklessly spray the streets with suppressive fire to keep the police pinned down so they can move to safety. Director Michael Mann captured the reality and speed of a battle after a heist gone bad between practiced, motivated and well-armed criminals and a metro-sized police force. All the LAPD cops can do is to hide behind their cars and wait for the shooting to stop while Pacino and his team try to pin the robbers down.
The "Heat" shootout has a level of authenticity that many of the other shootouts lack. For pure excitement, firepower and realism, nothing else comes close.
- The Boondock Saints (1999): Two against One - Or Six
- The Terminator (1984): The Police Station
- Le Femme Nikita (1990): The Restaurant Test
- The Professional (1994): The S.W.A.T. Raid
- Unforgiven (1992): William Munny Confronts Little Bill
- L.A. Confidential (1997): The Victory Motel
- Dirty Harry (1971): The Showdown