If you haven’t already done so, please read my last article about my favorite scenes of the year, partially because I adore every scene I wrote about and want to share that love with you, but also because I’m so very excited to be working on this year-end series of articles in preparation for my reduced film coverage in 2019 due to my impending fatherhood.
But now that we got all the drama, comedy, and other assorted favorite scenes out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff: the best action sequences of 2018. They came in all shapes, sizes and forms, from small foreign martial arts films to the biggest of blockbusters. It’s been a really fun year, as basically every supposed “action” film, regardless of financial status, put together some exciting set pieces to fawn over. But a few definitely stand above the rest, so let’s just get on with it: My favorite action scenes of 2018.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout – “Bathroom Brawl”
The hardest part of making this list wasn’t deciding which films to choose to represent the list, but rather which scene from the latest Mission Impossible I should choose. Between Tom Cruise’s dedication to eventually dying on screen for our enjoyment and Christopher McQuarrie’s desire to make sure he looks cool doing it, Fallout is rife with death-defying spectacle that makes you say “how the hell did they do that?” The HALO jump and Cruise learning to fly a helicopter specifically so he can climb on top of one and pilot it—all without breaking character—are great examples of the dynamic duo’s craft at their peak.
But the bathroom fight scene with Cruise, Henry Cavill and Liang Yang is just too damn good. It’s probably the best hand-to-hand cinematic combat in an American blockbuster since The Matrix. The sound design gives every punch, kick, and grapple—as well as one beautifully timed laptop-to-face smashing—a mighty heft. Cruise and Cavill absolutely throw themselves into the fight, and Liang Yang, a career stuntman and stunt coordinator, is a fearsome opponent. The other action beats in the film might be more impressive on a technical scale, but there’s none of those are as viscerally enthralling as this one.
Black Panther – “Killmonger v T’Challa, Part One”
Black Panther is a revolutionary film, the highest grossing film by an African American filmmaker ever, one of the first primarily-black casts in a blockbuster, and almost certainly the most thematically rich superhero films since The Dark Knight. It’s also got some good, old fashioned ass-whoopin’s. Picking up where he left off with Creed, Ryan Coogler continues to be one of the best mano a mano combat directors in the game. When Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) challenges King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) for the crown of Wakanda, Coogler brings out his A-game. Having already dished out the long tracking shot for the casino fight earlier in the film, Coogler instead relies on the impeccable fight choreography and the actors performances while restraining his camerawork ever so slightly. He establishes each character through both action and word, contrasting the brash, cocksure Killmonger with the more distinguished yet conflicted T’Challa. Rarely do we get such great “character through action” work in modern day blockbusters, but the waterfall fight in Black Panther is one of the great modern day examples of this concept.
Creed II – “Drago v Creed II”
Speaking of Creed, the follow up to Coogler’s Rocky-adjacent series manages to continue in its predecessors footsteps in making boxing drop-dead gorgeous to watch on the silver screen. Steven Caple, Jr. doesn’t try for the same showy, acrobatic approach and instead goes for a more muted, but it is equally compelling to witness. The punches land just as hard as they did in Creed, but the camera is less invasive in the fight. Gone are the tracking shots and long takes and instead Caple, Jr. uses the frame to include both Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, again) and Viktor Drago (a surprisingly great Florian Munteanu), pitching their battle as two men against each other as opposed to the first film’s Adonis-centered inner conflict. I never expected to see a film make me give a rat’s behind about Ivan Drago or his family, but by the end of the final fight of Creed II I genuinely cared about those burly Russians.
The Night Comes For Us – “Final Fight”
Brutal beyond all measure, The Night Comes for Us is just a masterpiece of gonzo, gory violence. It’s a film where every single prop or set dressing within the frame can, at any moment, become a weapon. It’s a film that both establishes itself as its own, unique thing but at the same time relies on the audience’s love for Gareth Evans’ The Raid, pitting the final fight as the ultimate showdown of that film’s stars: Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais. And boy-howdy does it pull it off. Over ten minutes long, the showdown turns into absolute mayhem as Taslim and Uwais just pound and stab each other with a flurry of bloody violence. If you thought there was only one way to stab a man with a box cutter, The Night Comes for Us is here to teach you how wrong you were. Words honestly can’t do this scene justice. Just watch that clip above and bask in its glory.
Avengers: Infinity War – “Attack on Titan”
I didn’t much care for Avengers: Infinity War. I didn’t think it was “bad” per say, but it basically inspired nothing out of me except a mere “meh.” I certainly am not as high on it as basically everyone else at this site is. That said, there is one aspect of the film that I very much did enjoy: the fight on Titan. In a film where so much of the action devolved into overstuffed CGI action beats and massive groups of people punching random mooks, the actual ingenuity of the Titan fight was quite thrilling. It’s the one sequence that really uses the characters unique abilities in creative ways, creating fun combinations rather than just overblown faux-Lord of the Rings battles.
So that’s it for the best action beats of 2018. Go ahead and sound off in the comments about which ones were your favorites. Next up, I’ll shine a spotlight on the best films of 2018 that didn’t quite make my top 10 list.