Not unlike any given trip to IKEA, action movies are chock-full of fights, the difference being that someone has to choreograph all those epic punches and spin-kicks. And since most of us don’t sit through a film’s credits without the promise of, say, Captain America staggering in front of a green screen to advertise a movie that won’t be out for three years, we’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of the cinematic artists who crafted some of our favorite movie fight scenes. Such as …
Thank Jonathan Eusebio For John Wick, Black Panther, The Avengers, And More
Loosely based on the story of everyone who watched Marley & Me and then angrily punched a hole in their drywall, John Wick (aka Scruffy Matrix) finds Keanu Reeves hitting and shooting his way to get to the baddies who offed his puppy dog. The fantastic action scenes were choreographed by Filipino American martial artist Jonathan Eusebio, who also worked on the sequel (titled John Wick: Chapter 2, perhaps in an effort to make literature seem more action-filled and exciting).
Summit EntertainmentThis time, he’s killing people for ruining all his shirts in the last movie.
Eusebio has done lots of great work, even in movies hardly anyone saw. Like Hitman: Agent 47, an adaptation of the successful video game series in which Mr. Clean has a midlife crisis, becomes a contract killer, and ransacks Donald Trump’s suit closet. Take this scene, wherein the titular Mr. 47 gets knocked onto a subway train, then rolls onto the tracks …
20th Century Fox“Aw, that was my tra-” “Don’t worry, I’ll help you catch it!”
… leading to a deadly bout of hand-to-hand combat that also involves navigating speeding trains and puddles of urine.
20th Century Fox
20th Century FoxAt least, we hope that’s only urine …
Eusebio has also worked extensively as either a stunt or fight coordinator in Marvel movies such as Deadpool 2, The Avengers, Doctor Strange, The Wolverine, and the cultural juggernaut that is Black Panther. The latter featured giant battles, an extended car chase, and the only casino brawl in history not caused by booze, money, or Celine Dion tickets.
Marvel StudiosPlus the deadliest use of a wig in a non-Steven-Seagal fight scene.
He also worked on the Expendables series, which is presumably the usual process, albeit with more Metamucil breaks. Perhaps most impressively, he was the uncredited fight coordinator in the obligatory “that escalated quickly” sequence in Anchorman 2. Give this dude his Lifetime Achievement Award already.
The Guy Who Did They Live Also Turned Matt Damon Into A Badass In The Bourne Series
They Live is John Carpenter’s classic 1988 film about a pair of shades that allow a drifter to see the secret skeleton-faced alien overlords controlling our planet, and until they make a biopic about Bono or David Caruso, no pair of sunglasses will be so damn important in a movie. Perhaps the most memorable part of They Live is an extended fight scene between star and professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David, in which they punch each other in a filthy alley for roughly the length of The Eagles’ “Hotel California.”
Universal PicturesThis is your periodic reminder that Piper thought all of this happened for real.
Carpenter delegated the choreography of the scene to his frequent collaborator Jeff Imada, with only the request that “three specific wrestling moves” be a part of it. He doesn’t say which ones, but they probably didn’t involve slamming your opponent into concrete littered with candy wrappers and used condoms.
Universal PicturesIf you go frame by frame, you can see a full pack of bubble gum falling out of his pocket.
But Imada didn’t dissolve into a puddle of water like the aliens at the end of that movie (we think, it’s been a while). His name is on a ton of classic films before and after They Live, including Lethal Weapon, Rambo, Blade Runner, and Charlie Sheen’s magnum opus Hot Shots! Part Deux. More recently, he was the fight choreographer on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum — two of the ones starring Matt Damon, not his understudy Jeremy Renner.
Universal PicturesAlthough it’s hard to tell who it is with that camerawork.
Imada even did stellar work on otherwise-forgettable movies, such as this epic fight in The Book Of Eli, in which a post-apocalyptic Denzel Washington battles a horde of chainsaw-wielding madmen …
Warner Bros. Pictures
… or the critically panned but occasionally kickass Green Hornet remake, featuring scenes seemingly meant to gaslight audiences into thinking their popcorn was laced with PCP.
Columbia PicturesOr something else, considering Seth Rogen is in this movie.
The Transporter‘s Corey Yuen Has Been Kicking Asses For Almost 50 Years
The Transporter sounds like a Star Trek spinoff about the exciting lives of those poor saps who spend eight hours a day standing in a windowless room waiting for someone to decide to beam somewhere. But no, it’s a 2002 action movie starring Jason Statham, Qi Shu, and Jason Statham’s bare chest.
20th Century FoxAnd bare head.
Statham stars as Frank Martin, a guy who transports packages somehow even too shady for UPS. Of course, this allows for a multitude of scenes wherein he kicks the crap out of bad guys, and by metaphorical extension, male pattern baldness as a whole.
20th Century FoxThe famous scene where he interrupts a breakdance competition.
The Transporter was co-directed and choreographed by Corey Yuen, who has a laundry list of martial arts movie credits. Or rather, the laundry list of a hotel hosting a bedwetter’s convention, because this guy’s been making movies since the late ’60s, working with luminaries such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung. Yuen’s American directorial debut was No Retreat, No Surrender, which was also the first movie starring Jean Claude Van Damme (unless you count his performance as “Gay Karate Man” a few years earlier).
Behind the scenes, Van Damme was apparently straight up knocking the other actors unconscious. When Yuen chastised him for breaking character to check whether his scene partner was, you know, still alive, they shot a second take … whereupon Van Damme proceeded to knock him out yet again.
Also in Yuen’s filmography are the ’70s kung-fu flick 7 Grandmasters, featuring glorious swordplay like this …
… and the friggin’ nuts Badges Of Fury from 2013. Sadly, it isn’t about anthropomorphic badges (or badgers) that are super angry.
Easternlight FilmsThough that wouldn’t be any less believable than the other scientific laws that govern this movie’s universe.
Yayan Ruhian And Iko Uwais From The Raid Also Popped Up In Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Like the frustrated daydreams of your apartment building’s super, the Indonesian action hit The Raid (subtitled “Redemption” in the U.S. so audiences wouldn’t think it was about bug spray) found a cop ass-kicking his way through a filthy high-rise — like Die Hard, if John McClane wasn’t a middle-aged former sitcom star. The movie concluded in a monumental fight scene only made better by grabbing a Nintendo controller and hurriedly mashing the buttons.
Written and directed by Gareth Evans, the fight choreography was done by stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian — who were so unknown at the time that Uwais was working as a “delivery guy for a phone company” when he met Evans. Of course, after the movie’s success, they soon followed it up with The Raid 2 (Re-Redemption?). It too was full of one insane action scene …
Sony Pictures Classics
… after another …
Sony Pictures ClassicsThose walls were originally white.
The pair’s post-Raid careers haven’t been as plentiful as you might think. While both of them appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they disappointingly merely showed up to verbally threaten Han Solo, presumably because Harrison Ford is far too old to get kicked in the face.
Lucasfilm“Hi, we’re here to deliver your space phone book.”
But it turns out that wasn’t the only highly-anticipated sci-fi sequel the Raid guys worked on. They also showed up in Beyond Skyline! You know, the sequel to that alien invasion movie so low-budget that it was filmed in the director’s apartment. But with Uwais and Ruhian on board as actors as well as choreographers, Beyond Skyline has some surprisingly badass scenes …
… including one where Ruhian gets his arm ripped off by a damn alien and keeps fighting.
Vertical Entertainment“What’s the sound of one hand hacking?”
Road House Was Authentically Nuts Thanks To Benny “The Jet” Urquidez
Road House is a bonkers ’80s action movie starring Patrick Swayze as a bouncer who works to clean up a corrupt town while also roundhouse-kicking anyone under 21. In one of the most memorable fight scenes in any movie, Swayze has a beachside brawl that ends with him ripping out the other guy’s throat with his bare hands. Warning: The following clip is NSFW, unless you work as a bouncer in Missouri, in which case we have to assume this is business as usual.
This cinematic gem was partly the work of fight coordinator Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, a champion kickboxer who somehow managed to forge a career as a tough guy even with an Elton-John-inspired nickname. Urquidez once claimed that he was challenged to a fight to the death in a Hong Kong warehouse. He also claims to have won the fight, but refused to kill, leading to an audience riot. Those deathmatch patrons can be real jerks.
Urquidez did the choreography for many more Hollywood movies, even managing to make Lou Diamond Phillips and Marky Mark seem like martial arts masters in The Big Hit, which concludes — in the most ’90s of fashions — in a fight inside a giant video store.
TriStar PicturesThe fight ends with Wahlberg using AOL disks as ninja stars.
Urquidez also performed in some movies. Here he is tussling with Jackie Chan:
Golden HarvestHow many of you can say you’ve had your nipples twisted by Jackie Chan? No more than 20.
And you might recognize him from Grosse Pointe Blank as rival hitman Felix La PuBelle, who tries to murder John Cusack at his high school reunion.
Touchstone PicturesWhich, if you’ve ever been to one of those things, would frankly come as a sweet release.