7 Best Fighters in the Movies
When it comes to the Big Screen, there are few things we like better than some bad-ass hero – although an anti-hero works just as nicely – with an unlikely mastery of martial arts, used in the gratuitously-violent righting of wrongs. He – or she, increasingly – can use guns, knives or fists; but whatever the weapon – an absolute mastery of it is required. We don’t even care that much for the collateral damage done along the way – as long as no children are (visibly) harmed.
Take Achilles, for instance. In 2004s Troy, the most skilled fighter in Greek mythology took center stage as the hero that won our hearts, despite the fact that he was little more than a Blood Knight with only a passing concern for what was “right.”
Yet, when Achilles finally fell to Paris’ poisoned arrow (guided by the golden god Apollo in the written Greek myths),
I wept my wife wept.
It’s no secret that we, as humans, often place unbridled excellence above all other qualities.
Here, I rate the best fighters in the movies (recent movies, anyway) – not including any absurdly-enhanced combatants or deities. You don’t really want to see the Man of Steel fight Steven Seagal, or Ares take on Bruce Lee, do you?
[Although, as a Bruce Lee fan, I must submit that Lee Jun-fan has Ares beat in the hand-to-hand combat department; it’s the “god” thing that trips up the Great Dragon].
Me neither, so, in no particular order, here goes –
1. Jason Bourne
2. V for Vendetta
3. Jack Reacher
4. Leon the Professional
6. Maggie (Jane Fonda)
7. Daniel Craig James Bond 007
1. Jason Bourne – the Premier Blackbriar/Treadstone Operative
Jason Bourne’s skill level might have been deceptively higher than it seemed (which was pretty damn high to begin with!). He had a penchant for beating the guy’s ass while simultaneously disarming the assailant.
Trust me, it ain’t easy taking a trained operative’s gun away from him – after all, how many cops do you hear about each year having their service weapon lifted? Which isn’t to say that it can’t happen – especially if you’ve got these skills.
Another thing about Bourne: he was physically very efficient. Strong as a gym rat without the oxygen-hungry muscle of a bodybuilder. This made him fast and powerful; and most importantly, perhaps – tireless. Watch any street fight that lasts for more than about a minute and you’ll see two of the most tired enemies ever.
Out of everyone on the coming list, V might be the only one capable of beating UFC standouts Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez, Badr Hari and a prime Anderson Silva in a fight. It’s not clear that Bourne would definitely be able to – especially if they take the fight to the ground. V – definitely.
There are a few unanswered questions about Bourne’s skills that make it hard to say whether he could hang with top-tier fighters easily, or whether it would take some work. He hits hard and fast, and doesn’t quit. Even in a higher weight-class, that ability to keep driving forward can be devastating to his opponent.
Then, of course, there’s the psychological side. Bourne kills – MMA fighters don’t. How would that factor into a meeting between the two? Something tells me it would work decidedly in Jason Bourne’s favor.
Treadstone guys have tremendous endurance and ability to take pain mid-fight and keep on tickin’ – just reference Bourne’s first fight with the window-hopper-no-knocker rappelling J-Crew model clone.
Not impressed? Well then stick a pen in the space between two of your fingers and see if your next thought is “Hmn – interesting. Back into the fray…”
It also boils down to speed. If Treadstoners just look fast when fighting, then Bourne would likely have trouble in a fight with top tier MMA strikers. If Treadstoners really are faster than an unenhanced human is capable of, then Bourne would chew up any fighter and spit him out without bothering with the Chianti. Speed kills; I’d take superspeed over superstrength any day (of course, it depends on how much of the latter’s at stake here…:
If they meet in a ring, it’s a better fight and the top tier guy has an outside chance of beating Bourne – although the endurance and ‘pain-shrug’ factor really makes it an outside chance. If they’re stalking each other in an open environment, then the top-tier MMA guy’s dead before he even hits the ground.
It isn’t just a matter of peak human abilities; Jason Bourne represents the lowest rung of superhuman – perhaps right below V.
Plus, he has an extra power that none of the other assassins on this list displayed – the ability to listen to a random woman for an extended period of time.
That kind of patience could be useful in a fight to the death.
Bonus attributes: Bourne (and other Treadstone operatives, but Bourne in particular) was very good in a behavioural sense. He was able to discern how good a fighter someone might be simply from their physical appearance.
In Marie’s brother’s country residence, he was able to quickly find where someone would hide a shotgun (on top of the glass chest high up out of the reach of a child); in a fight, he stands an excellent chance of guessing whether the top-tier fighter was going to throw a kick, jab, or shoot for a takedown. His response would be devastating, probably, because it would be a quick succession of responses, giving the fighter little chance to recover. It’s yet another reason why Leon the Professional would have his hat handed to him – he’s not getting the drop on Jason Bourne.
2. V for Vendetta
Bourne’s technique is arguably just as fluid as V’s, but I just don’t see Jason being able to match V’s speed – given the former’s advanced kinesiological enhancements.
And then there’s the great difficulty in hurting V in the first place. Even without the body armor he wore consistently throughout the film, the guy’s just got a little something extra in terms of durability – beyond human level. He wouldn’t stand up to a punch from Spiderman, obviously, but V can take a professional human punch with seemingly little problem.
In the TV station, his virtuoso martial arts on multiple armed opponents was reminiscent of Bourne’s, with the added advantage of his markedly greater strength. However, V doesn’t belong in the markedly-superhuman strength class, because I don’t think he displayed strength greater than, say, the Iranian power-lifter Hossein Rezazadeh.
V’s strength, at best, was probably about equal to that Olympic champion. V definitely displayed just loads more dexterity and agility – perhaps like a sort of super-Bo Jackson. Upon watching his emergence from the flaming shambles of the Detention Centre, it seems clear that V had some level of superhuman in him – that kind of strength and speed haven’t been seen together in any other human in recent memory.
The latter is too strong, and doesn’t require excess bulk or give up any speed because of that strength. The durability advantage in this fight is key.
Name another human who can bench press 700 pounds and come in at least second-to-last on a field of 100-meter Olympic sprinters.
It seems Bourne was enhanced also, to peak human and perhaps a shade beyond, but V is on a higher rung of barely-superhuman. He’s just too fast and hits too hard for Bourne to sustain a prolonged battle with him.
I’ve seen a man disarm an opponent as fast as a human blinks, so what V does isn’t absurdly impossible, which is why he’s on this list. Again, it’s the combination of things that makes V – and Bourne, albeit less so – special.
3. Leon the Professional
A movie that was visually impressive precisely because of the run-down appearance of almost every scene, featuring a scintillating Gary Oldman as the antichrist and some French guy as the professional solution.
Although Leon (the French guy) was mesmerizing in his titular show, much of his skill came from a preternatural calm in the face of violence, gun skills and the resolve of a polar bear. Despite all that…sorry, Leon, we love you but you’re not taking out Bourne or Reacher – not even with Mathilde fully-trained, committed and with an element of surprise.
Maybe Leon the Assassin has an outside chance of taking down Jack Reacher – but Bourne or V? Forget it. Even with Reacher’s rangy and lethal appendages, Leon had better be strapped – and it would have to be close range, because Jack’s world-class at distance.
Nonetheless, there’s no short-changing Leon’s skills; which were laid bare by that rousing promise to Mathilde when the chips were down and the rogue police department had all that improbable ordinance with which to take him down:
“Go Mathilde! I’m going to clean them ALL.”
4. The Man From Nowhere
Now we’re cookin’. One of the signs you’re dealing with a real primero uno type of fighter is how he fares against enemies in the film. Not that he fares (otherwise, what would the plot be about?), but how.
The name is Cha Tae-Sik and This. Guy. Was. Ill. Untouchable, in a Clint Eastwood at the height of his powers kind of way.
It took 25 minutes into the two hour-long movie Man from Nowhere to glimpse just what we might be dealing with in Cha Tae-sik – played by South Korean actor Bin Won. Right away, it occurs that his speed should put him squarely in the fray with the enhanced human Jason Bourne.
Why in the world is a pawn-shop keeper so goddamn fast? Shouldn’t he be catching fastballs somewhere for a million dollars a month? Stay-tuned – all will be revealed about the ultra-quick Korean when the military lock on his file is removed:
– special forces agent in the South Korean Army Intelligence Command. Yep.
– conducted Classified missions for 8 years
– drill instructor for Special Forces. So, basically, he taught elite killers.
– awarded a Gold Star and Military Merit Order
– specialized in conducting enemy raids, munitions, secret foreign operations, assassinations and kidnappings
So, um, yeah. Cha Tae-sik probably has a wallet like Samuel L. Jackson’s in Pulp Fiction.
From the way he fights, simultaneously disarming enemies and taking their weapons from them, he’s frankly indistinguishable from Bourne. If anything, he may be even more skilled in hand-to-hand combat – but let’s not rush to unsupported judgement here. In the movie, Cha Tae-sik was never taxed – even at the end when he fought an extremely skilled and brutal Blood Knight named Ramrowan, and defeated him artfully.
The first meeting between them was a very short fight scene, in which they both quickly understood they were dealing with something special. Cha Tae-sik would wow us with a deadly ballet in the final scene, pirouetting through knife-armed bad guys like Achilles might have done the Trojans on the Aegean beach.
In the second and final meeting, Cha Tae-sik left no question he was the far superior fighter, and might have even been able to take on 2-3 opponents of similar caliber as Ramrowan. As such, I have to give Bourne and Cha Tae-sik the tie. That dude was cold.
5. Point of No Return
Ah yes; our first female. Right off the bat, Margaret has a huge advantage over the men – misdirection. The element of surprise is difficult to quantify; although we know it’s considerable.
Basically, Maggie’s going to hit you when you don’t know it’s coming, and she’s going to hit you hard. Her hand-to-hand consists more of dirty (and inherently-advantageous) fighting – she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty or fight unfairly – whatever the latter means.
A fight’s a fight, and Maggie gives no quarter unless you kill her. She can’t take on Bourne or V, but she might give Agent 007 a jog for his money unless she fails to incapacitate him right away. Failing that, however, she’s in trouble. Her Code-name was Nina.
6. James Bond Daniel Craig
Premier athleticism – but a hair short of the African bomb-maker in Casino Royale. Granted, his fighting skills are considerable – but Daniel Craig as James Bond is no Jason Bourne. His resolve and relentlessness is second to none in theory, but they don’t quite measure up in fact – he can’t sustain the damage that Bourne can.
Bond will no doubt fight to the death; problem is – it’s easier to kill him than some of our super hit-men.
In Casino Royale, Bond performed admirably against a skilled machete-wielding warlord – though he had only his hands. He eventually disarmed the warlord and was able to kill him with some help from his oddly-named cohort, Vesper Lynd.
It just seems Jason Bourne would have had a much easier time of it, judging by the scars and beating Bond took in the bout – though he was clearly the better fighter overall.
Bond gives up a lot of speed to the enhanced reflexes of Bourne; furthermore, the latter is definitely a more technically-skilled pugilist/martial artist.
Bond also has a high level of pain-tolerance, judging by the Casino Royale in which he fought multiple assailants in a collapsing building with a nail in his back, courtesy of a nail gun.
In Quantum of Solace, there were scenes of Bond’s fighting prowess, and also of just how outmatched he’d be against Bourne. His technique is usually just a bit above his adversary, and although he dispatches them impressively in the end, one can’t help but feel that Jason Bourne would have made it look frighteningly easy – by perhaps parrying sword strikes with a nail-clipper or something.
Nonetheless, Agent 007 is one extremely cool cucumber. Bond would no doubt fight Bourne to the death; unfortunately for him – that’s precisely how it would end.
7. Jack Reacher
Special Forces should be expected to be badass fighters, in general – right? I mean, legit killers, killers extraordinaires, etc, etc. So then how do you keep them in military prison when shit hits the fan and one of them goes bad? You call Jack Reacher – because, um, he’s even better. At killing.
British author Lee Child has crafted a hero for the ages with Reacher, the huge (6’5” is huge-ish everywhere except on a basketball court) and rangy ex-military man.
Jack is explosively-fast, noble and imperturbable. With a reach likely in the 84” and maybe even greater range, he’s a hard target to hit – but it’s very easy for him to hit you.
Now, how would Reacher fare against the other illustrious fighters on this list? Maggie’s in hot water; so is Leon the Professional. Because of all the silent, deadly men that taught Reacher an array of combat skills, the considerably smaller Agent 007 falls too after a good fight.
As for Cha Tae Sik – Reacher runs into a bit of a brick wall. Tae Sik would probably be one of the guys who taught Jack how to fight – and the student rarely beats the teacher.
Jack Reacher might fair admirably against Bourne, but he’d fall here, too. More from stamina than anything else, even if his fighting skills are close. Remember, Reacher’s reach in Lee Childs’ masterwork is always described as impressively long, which brings to mind Jon Jones of the UFC. Since Reacher’s an inch taller, one might guess a reach of perhaps 84” to 86”.
Basketball superstar Dwyane Wade has a similar reach, and he is known for his long arms in proportion to the rest of his frame. What chance does he stand against Bourne? Re-watch Bourne Ultimatum and the fight with Desh in Tangier. Again, I’d go with Bourne – they just seem a tiny notch above peak human, and the endurance puts them over the top.
Hey! Thanks for reading. This was never intended to be a comprehensive list – perhaps you can put some of your choices for best in-movie fighters in the comments below. Don’t forget to share on Facebook, Twitter or wherever else in the social sphere!