Hard to Watch Fight Scenes of All Time Revealed

Much like watching anyone gruesome, you’re intrigued but find it ick at the sametime. To be perfectly blunt, most movie fight scenes make violence look fun. Movies usually aim to be entertaining, and as such, they often shy away from the brutality that the on-screen violence would involve if it happened in reality. Many action movies are escapist entertainment, so there’s every chance most viewers won’t want to see something too brutal or realistic.

Other fight scenes take a different approach and choose to show the violence and carnage in all its grisly detail. Hardened action movie fans may still find some those scenes entertaining, but it’s hard to deny they’re not also wince-inducing and brutal.

Rama & Andi vs. Mad Dog in ‘The Raid’ (2011)

There are numerous fight scenes in the low-budget action-thriller, The Raid. Most are undeniably entertaining and spectacular but also remarkably brutal. After all, the film is nearly non-stop gritty action, with its premise involving a strike team needing to fight their way out of an apartment complex filled with criminals who want them dead.

It probably saves its most savage fight sequence for the end, though. The last big hand-to-hand fight in the movie is between the villainous Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and two brothers, Rama (the film’s protagonist, played by Iko Uwais) and Andi (Donny Alamsyah). It’s an extended fight that makes it look like the actors are genuinely getting hurt, and it goes on for a great deal of time before its brutal, cathartic ending. The whole scene represents action/martial arts cinema at its very best.

The Climactic Fight in ‘The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter’ (1984)

Like many great martial arts classics, the plot in The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter isn’t too important. A family of warriors is ambushed and nearly decimated by their enemies, with one of its youngest escaping and going on the run, denouncing his violent life before circumstances conspire to pull him back in by the movie’s end.

And what an ending it is. The final 10 or so minutes of The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter goes to places few other martial arts movies have gone, before or since. It’s some of the most impressive and brutal combat seen in any 20th-century martial arts movie. The sheer number of teeth that get knocked out must be seen to be believed.

The Alley Fight from ‘They Live’ (1988)

When it comes to hard-to-watch fight scenes, the infamous (but also awesome) one-on-one fight scene from They Live isn’t difficult to watch for its brutality. There’s not too much blood spilled during this six-minute scene involving one man telling another to put on a pair of sunglasses (it makes sense in context).

However, the fact it’s so long and repetitive may make it a hard watch for some. It stretches on for an eternity, making it so great and memorable for some but potentially tedious for others. It goes from entertaining to funny to tedious before looping back around and beginning the cycle again. It’s a classic fight scene for some but a patience-testing sequence for others.

Jake LaMotta vs. Sugar Ray Robinson in ‘Raging Bull’ (1980)

A rare case of a non-action movie having some truly brutal fight sequences, Raging Bull is a classic Martin Scorsese film about Jake LaMotta (played by Robert De Niro). He’s a hot-tempered and skilled boxer, but his inability to control his emotions outside the ring leads to some consequences, completing an immensely satisfying—and perhaps even tragic—rise and fall story.

While all the boxing scenes are brutally realistic and intense, the scene depicting LaMotta fighting Sugar Ray Robinson probably takes the cake. From the black-and-white visuals that add to the film’s authenticity, to the bone-crunching sound effects, to the graphic injuries LaMotta sustains, it’s a horrifying scene to watch. It may take place in a sporting context, but it’s just as violent as any murder depicted by Scorsese in any of his crime films.

Dan Dority vs. Captain Turner in ‘Deadwood’ (2004-2006)

Yes, Deadwood was ostensibly a TV series, but Deadwood isn’t TV; it’s HBO. It contains a brutal fight scene that deserves to be ranked among the most realistic and hard-to-watch movie scenes. It’s a show that presents a violent, near-lawless town in the Old West, making it one of the grittiest (and best) works in the western genre, not just of the 21st century but perhaps of all time.

The fight scene in question exceeds the brutality seen in the show’s other shocking acts of violence. It comes in the show’s third and final season and takes place between Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown) and Captain Turner (Allan Graf). The former triumphs in the end, even if he comes close to being beaten to death himself. The way Turner is dispatched is particularly graphic, making for one of the hardest-to-watch scenes in TV history.

The Bathhouse Fight in ‘Eastern Promises’ (2007)

Eastern Promises is perhaps the best David Cronenberg film that isn’t a horror film (though far from his only worthwhile non-horror movie). Instead, it shows Cronenberg’s take on the crime genre and follows a young woman (Naomi Watts) who gets mixed up with the Russian mob, who make for particularly tough gangsters.

This is best demonstrated in the film’s infamous bathhouse fight scene, which is just as difficult to watch as the goriest scenes in Cronenberg’s horror movies. Viggo Mortensen‘s character is ambushed while in a public bathhouse and has to fight off his knife-wielding attackers while completely naked. Bones are broken, skin is slashed, and an eye gets stabbed. It’s brutal, realistic, and among the hardest-to-watch fight scenes in film history.

The Bride vs. Elle Driver in ‘Kill Bill Vol. 2’ (2004)

Admittedly, a good deal of the violence in Quentin Tarantino’s excellent Kill Bill is supposed to be entertaining and not too serious because of how over-the-top it is. This is most evident in Vol. 1, which is the more action-heavy (and more over-the-top) half of The Bride’s (Uma Thurman) bloody quest for revenge against the titular Bill (David Carridine).

In Vol. 2, the action is less frequent, with the film’s main fight sequence probably being the most painful-looking out of both volumes. The Bride takes on Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah)—one of her targets of revenge—in a very confined location, leading to each of them needing to fight down and dirty to get the upper hand. It’s loud, claustrophobic, and wince-inducing… and that’s before getting to the fight’s ending. Let’s say some viewers will want to avert their eyes.

The Elevator Scene in ‘Drive’ (2011)

The most brutal scene in Drive isn’t much of a fight scene, given it ends very abruptly. The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is on the run from criminals who want him dead. Near the film’s end, he finds himself in an elevator with the young woman (Irene, played by Carey Mulligan) he loves and a man he instantly realizes is there to kill him.

After kissing Irene, The Driver confronts the hitman. He gets the upper hand quickly and subsequently knocks the man over before repeatedly stomping on his head, all in front of a horrified Irene. For the graphic violence, the fact it happens so soon after a romantic moment, and for taking place in a cramped setting, it’s a stomach-churning display of violence.

The Opening Fight Scene in ‘Logan’ (2017)

Logan aimed to send off Hugh Jackman‘s iteration of Wolverine in a definitive and bloody fashion. As such, this climactic and very gritty movie sports plenty of brutal action, but its opening fight sequence might be the most shocking because of how much more violent it is than any previous action scene with Wolverine.

There’s a good deal of blood spilled, limbs are dismembered, and the camera doesn’t shy away from Wolverine’s claws going through the thugs who didn’t know what they were getting in for when they antagonized Logan. It sets the tone for the rest of the film well and makes for a powerfully brutal opening scene.

The Prison Brawl from ‘The Raid 2’ (2014)

The Raid 2 uses its first big action scene to establish the bigger budget and wider scope this film had, compared to the first Raid from 2011. It’s a huge brawl in a prison yard, where all involved are covered with mud and blood in equal measure.

It’s a truly impactful way to commence one of the best action sequels in recent memory. Other fight scenes from The Raid 2 end up being on a similar level when it comes to brutality, but like Logan, it’s the fact the prison scene happens early that makes it the most shocking.

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
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