Top 10 Movie Gun Fights of All Time

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

JOHN WICK roars back into theaters this weekend with a second chapter of badass gunplay and action sequences. With that in mind, we have compiled our ranking of the ten greatest gun fights ever put to film. Keep in mind that a gun fight necessitates a gun so movies featuring hand to hand combat with a couple of bullets mixed in for good measure didn’t quite make the cut. These are literal shootouts and gunfights of the highest caliber (pun intended). Let us know in the talk backs below if you disagree with our picks or think we missed a worthy candidate.

#1 – THE MATRIX Lobby Scene

While it may not be the best film on this list, it certainly was the most revolutionary. Bullet time changed the way Hollywood made action movies and the stuntwork on display from The Wachowskis still appears in countless gunfights to this day. While the sequels may not have reached the same acclaim as the first movie, they equally stunned viewers visually with a combination of John Woo’s balletic action and cutting edge special effects.

#2 – HARD BOILED Hospital Scene

John Woo’s last film before coming to Hollywood was not nearly as big of a hit in China as his prior films. But, here in America, we know that HARD BOILED features some of the greatest action scenes ever put to film. There are multiple films on this ranking that owe a debt to Woo and this film in particular which is the ultimate homage to DIRTY HARRY. The hospital scene alone is pure and utter action perfection.

#3 – EQUILIBRIUM Gunkata Scene

Kurt Wimmer’s cult classic is THE MATRIX meets FAHRENHEIT 451. A dystopian action film about a society where emotion is outlawed and the police are masters of a martial art that uses firearms, there couldn’t possibly be a chance of anything going wrong, right? Well, from the looks of Christian Bale in the clip above, things go absolutely right for audiences who get to witness some serious cool shit in the form of the fictional art of Gunkata.

#4 – DESPERADO Bar Scene

Released the same year as HEAT, Robert Rodriguez’s DESPERADO brought the best elements of spaghetti westerns and contemporary indie films to the limelight with an action film that sits right next to the films of Quentin Tarantino as hallmarks of 1990s cinema. Antonio Banderas has never been better as the mariachi out for vengeance and this bar shootout that opens the film proves exactly why.

#5 – HEAT Heist Shootout Scene

Michael Mann’s crime film is regularly at the top of movie fan Best Of lists and for good reason. There are not a lot of action scenes in this movie but when the heist goes south, what follows is one of the most impressive extended sequences of action ever put to film. There may not be as many shells littering the sidewalk as in some other films on this list, but Mann knows how to use every single bullet to maximum effect.

#6 – FACE/OFF Church Scene

John Woo has delivered numerous action movies that redefined gun fights, but FACE/OFF is the epitome of his cliches and trademarks coming to their pinnacle. Doves, slow motion, leaping, you name it as they are all here. What makes FACE/OFF so much more worthy of this spot compared to HARD TARGET (which has equally great scenes) is the fact that it is John Travolta and Nicolas Cage behind the triggers…and they are playing each other’s characters!

#7 – SCARFACE Little Friend Scene

Brian De Palma’s epic crime sage is chock full of violence but is there any single line that is more memorable than “say hello to my little friend”? As his enemies descend on his compound, Tony Montana is caught in the crossfire and has to pull out the big gun to defend himself. The ending is tragic but the results are violent awesomeness.

#8 – JOHN WICK Red Circle Scene

Keanu Reeves burst back into the limelight thanks to this 2014 action flick. JOHN WICK could have easily been relegated to the dregs of Redboxes everywhere, but instead it turned out to be a well scripted vehicle that elevates to higher art thanks to the brilliant work of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. The Red Circle shootout is a prime example of how you can execute (literally) a great sequence that will deliver artistically and as pure entertainment.

#9 – SHOOT EM UP Opening Scene

God, I love this movie. Despite critical acclaim, SHOOT ‘EM UP was a box office failure. Still, the over the top action sequences are the stuff 1980s movie fans dreamed of. Clive Owen plays a nameless drifter who munches on carrots and kicks the asses of every scumbag who crosses his path. This is a fun and gory film that opens with one of the best choreographed gun fights in recent memory.

#10 – WANTED Wesley’s Rampage Scene

Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of the Mark Millar comic book owes a lot to FIGHT CLUB and THE MATRIX, the latter being the primary inspiration for the balletic gunplay and action sequences throughout this movie. James McAvoy played second fiddle to Angelina Jolie in the marketing thanks to her skin tight outfits and curving bullets, but by this rampage scene in the film, you know McAvoy’s character Wesley is the real badass.

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.