I wanted to do a traditional top ten list this year, but I was surprised to discover how few 2015 films I truly loved. Many of the films I saw were great, but only three (Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Bone Tomahawk) felt like solid top ten material for me, movies I adore just as much now as I will in ten years.
But we sure got a lot of great action cinema this year. So instead of a traditional list, I’m going to share my ten favorite action scenes from 2015. You are welcome to tell me all the ones I missed in the comments.
10. Bone Tomahawk: Troglodyte Fight
As both a horror film and a Western, Bone Tomahawk isn’t a place anyone should look for great action, but it’s in there anyway, if only for a moment. After almost a whole movie of (very entertaining) walking and talking, Kurt Russell and his crew finally arrive at their destination and shit immediately gets downright disastrous. This very brief bit of carnage is remarkable for how lightning fast it is. Before you even know what’s happened the assault is over, and the entire movie has changed. It’s not a flashy action sequence, but it’s a very strong one nevertheless.
9. Close Range: Opening Scene
After all the incredible fights in Ninja 2, it would be pretty disappointing if Scott Adkins and Isaac Florentine’s followup didn’t capture that same magic. The duo seemed to know that and chose to drop us into Close Range with a relentless cold open in which Adkins kills his way through a cartel stronghold. The movie to follow never comes close to hitting this high note again, but it’s a stellar 2015 action moment, nevertheless.
8. Skin Trade: Dolph vs. Jaa
Big-ass Dolph Lundgren taking on Tiny-ass Tony Jaa is something you just have to see. The two are totally different sizes and fight with totally different styles, which leads to a totally different fight, one that’s both brutal and kind of hilarious. The rest of Skin Trade is pretty good, but this is the definite centerpiece.
7. Spectre: The Train Fight
Whatever bad things you have to say about Spectre, and there’s a lot to cover, we can all agree that the train fight between Daniel Craig and Dave Bautista is one for the ages right? Maybe even up there with the From Russia With Love train fight between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw. It’s brutal and ugly and has a number of different stages to it. Best of all, it ends with an off-screen death for Bautista, which means a rematch could be in our future.
6. Kung Fu Killer (aka Kung Fu Jungle): Final Showdown
Kung Fu Killer is not a film that wants for kick-ass fight scenes, so narrowing it down to one is no easy task. But it’s hard to argue against the big finale, in which Donnie Yen and Wang Baoqiang have a nasty one-on-one on a busy street as semi trucks whiz by. It’s almost like a Street Fighter stage, one the film uses it in many fun and inventive ways.
5. Ant-Man: Ant-Man vs. The Falcon
When it comes to raw fun, it’s hard to beat this great superhero showdown. Not only does it give us our first look at Ant-Man’s fighting abilities, but it also casually cements the Falcon as an actual Avenger, something we got only a tease of at the end of Age of Ultron.
4. Furious 7: The Plane Drop Sequence
Between this and the opera sequence in Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, it was a good year for long, escalating action set pieces. I’m giving it to Furious 7 because it involves parachuting cars, and I just can’t help myself. Also, I like the idea of Tony Jaa showing up on this list twice. Either way, every bit of this is perfect. It just keeps going and going. And long as it is, you still feel a little bummed out when it ends.
3. Creed: The Second Boxing Match
Or maybe it’s the third boxing match, depending on how you count them. I’m referring to Creed’s first match with Rocky in his corner, around the middle of the film. While the big fight at the end could easily have this spot, there’s just something so magical about this single-shot masterpiece. It's what I think about every time I feel like watching the movie again.
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service: The Church Brawl
We didn’t get a hyper violent Raid movie this year, but we did get this lovely sequence of all out mayhem and bloodshed. Even knowing about it ahead of time did not prepare me for how crazy this gets, how committed director Matthew Vaughn was to delivering something that really pushed the envelope. What a wonderful shocker.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road: Returning to the Citadel
People are fond of saying that all of Fury Road is one big action sequence, but that’s not true. There are breaks between the large servings of madness. Of those large servings, the best is saved for the end, as Max, Furiosa, and company race back toward the Citadel. A whole film’s worth of incredible action cinema gets packed into this climactic race. It’s exciting, triumphant, and tragic all at the same time and delivers even the most exaggerated promise of what a new George Miller Mad Max film could deliver.