10 Best On-Screen Punches

The on-screen "fight scene" has been an important part of movies since they first began. For the actor, delivering a punch or getting punched means no bruised knuckles, no bloody nose, and no searching for lost teeth. He or she gets to look tough while the audience vicariously enjoys the completely staged donnybrook. Below is a far from comprehensive top-ten list of particularly creative, and occasionally very funny, on-screen punches.

  1. Convict 13: Buster Keaton's double backward somersault

    As this scene from the silent 1920 classic Convict 13 shows, Buster Keaton was one of the great physical comedians of our time. In this early scene, a single punch from a huge Bluto-like man dressed in convict stripes sends Keaton staggering and then somersaulting backwards twice the length of two rooms.

  2. Rocky III: Mr. T knocks out Sylvester Stallone

    Forget Rockys I, II, and IV, Rocky III (1982) is the one film even Stallone-haters can love. Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone of course), a boxer drunk on fame and losing his edge, is knocked out in round two of an ill-advised match with James "Clubber" Lang. Lang's slow motion punch and look of utter and complete sadism is a shot predestined for the rewind/replay button. And then there's the film's classic recurring song.

  3. It's a Wonderful Life: Jimmy Stewart prays for guidance and gets a sock in the jaw

    You've seen this movie before, right? George Bailey (played by the great Jimmy Stewart) is on a downward spiral to financial ruin. Sitting at what is apparently the only bar in Bedford Falls, George says a desperate prayer asking for guidance as his world is crumbling around him. A few minutes later, the husband of a schoolteacher George angrily reprimanded hears his name, connects the dots, and punches George to the ground. The guardian angel-assisted transformation to a time where George Bailey never existed is evoked initially through a few simple filmic devices, including the sudden healing of George's bloody fat lip. Sadly, they never filmed a scene where George punches out slumlord Henry F. Potter. However, when he was at Saturday Night Live, Dana Carvey did…

  4. Blazing Saddles: Mongo knocks out a horse

    Of course, it's incredibly uncool to hurt an animal, but this is Mel Brooks, and in a Mel Brooks film, there are no sacred cows … or horses. In this famous scene from Brooks' 1974 satirical Western Blazing Saddles, the somewhat slow, scarily strong Mongo either swings and fails to connect or just really doesn't like horses.

  5. 48 Hours: Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy beat the crap out of each other

    You might not even recognize boozy but handsome Nolte or a very young Murphy in director Walter Hill's 1982 anti-buddy crime and comedy film. Nolte plays cop Jack Cates who gives a weekend pass to Murphy's convict Reggie Hammond so that they can team up track down a pair of vicious killers from Reggie's past who have escaped from prison. Both Cates and Hammond lack a degree of interpersonal skills and decide to address their differences in the only way two macho bruisers would know how: by having an extended fistfight. Cates' final sucker punch to Hammond, delivered with a believable degree of exhaustion and after taking a hit out of a flask, is hilarious. But in the real world, these two would have each ended up with permanent brain damage.

  6. Kill Bill: Volume 2: Uma Thurman punches her way out of a coffin

    Under the cruel tutelage of Master Pai Mei, the assassin known as "The Bride" (Thurman) is instructed to repeatedly attempt, from just a foot away, to punch a hole in a piece of wood. Try after bloody try, she is still unable to deliver the killer blow. However, when she really, REALLY needs to punch a hole through solid wood — for instance, after being buried alive in a coffin in a shallow grave — she indeed finds her Chi and gets the job done.

  7. Barfly: Frank Stallone clobbers Mickey Rourke

    Loosely based on the life of writer and poet Charles Bukowski (who wrote the screenplay), the 1987 film Barfly opens with a thoroughly drunk Henry Chinaski (played by pre-plastic surgery Mickey Rourke) getting the snot beat out of him in an alley by his nemesis, a bartender named Eddie (played by Sylvester Stallone's younger brother Frank). Henry's reply to Eddie when asked if he's ready to give up is poetic as it is profane: "Giving in to you would be like swallowing piss for eternity!" Later on, they really go at it:

  8. Popeye vs Bluto

    And you thought cartoons today were violent? Check out the classic cartoon "Let's You and Him Fight." Everyone, even farm animals, gets punched in this slugfest. In the climatic boxing match, Popeye takes a serious beating until 4:44 when Olive Oil arrives with a much-needed can of spinach.

  9. Jackie Chan five-finger crotch-level death punch

    If you like comedy with your martial arts, then nobody does it better than Jackie Chan. Please, please, PLEASE don't try this at home…

  10. Batman punches the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin and saves Catwoman's cat

    Urrk! Swooosh! Ouch! Batman circa 1966 ain't nothing like The Dark Night. In this extended fight from the creatively titled Batman: The Movie, Adam West wipes the proverbial floor with most of the freaky villains of the franchise that refuses to die. In the end, however, the incredibly sexy Catwoman serves Batman his comeuppance. "Bon voyage, pussy," indeed!

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