The Action Sequences that Kicked Ass in 2018

We had some real punchy action films this year, least of all another notch in the ever-illustrious practical stuntwork belt that is the Mission: Impossible franchise. You’ll be happy to know I refused the great temptation of making every single item on this list be from Fallout. This took great restraint.

Top tier action sequences reveal a depth of character, illustrate stakes, and show the story rather than telling it. This year saw a slew of particularly memorable action sequences, including everything from fisticuffs, firefights, final showdowns, and even a Fabergé egg.

Kick names. Take ass.


Mission: Impossible – Fallout  | The Bathroom Brawl

Fight Coordinator: Wolfgang Stegemann

Context

Our good boy Ethan Hunt finds himself at a party in the Grand Palais with the treacherous tree trunk August Walker in tow. Hunt and Walker have tracked the extremist John Lark to a bathroom where they hope to subdue him and assume his identity. But, per Mission Impossible rules, this proves easier said than done.

Why it Slaps

Holy crap where to start. Thumping, distant nightclub beats? A stark-white setting where we can see every crunchy piece of choreography? Reloading of fists? Inescapable French sass? Creative use of setting? Someone get my smelling salts!


Annihilation | Mano a Mano

Stunt Coordinator: Jo McLaren

Context

Lena has finally made it to the lighthouse at the center of the shimmer’s radiation. Inside, she encounters a humanoid embodiment of The Shimmer that manifests when a drop of her blood is sucked into the crash-landed prism.

Why it Slaps

As we’ve seen leading up to the finale, the shimmer isn’t all that interested in doing harm. Rather, what it wants to do is integrate, absorb, and understand. By struggling with the figure, the figure, almost innocently, struggles back. Face to face, the fight feels less like a confrontation than a dance between two opposing wills: one seeking assimilation, the other (quite literal) self-destruction.


Black Panther | Casino Rumble

Fight Coordinator: Clayton J. Barber

Context

T’Challa, Okoye, and Nakia head to an underground Busan casino with the hopes of capturing the eeeeeevil Klaue, who is reportedly in attendance to sell a piece of vibranium. When it becomes apparent that CIA Agent Everett Ross is the buyer, Klaue sniffs out the setup and the throw down begins.

Why it Slaps

Danai Gurira steals the show with speedy spear-ogrpahy and a weaponized weave. In a red gown and practical footwear no less. T’Challa gets some good non-suited hits in and Klaue chews all proximate scenery. From the bruiser to the straight shooter, each character’s fighting style is an extension of their personality, and the perfect amuse bouche to the car chase to come.


Revenge | Final Struggle

Fight Coordinator: Hugo Bariller

Context

In this criminally under-seen French thriller (it’s on Shudder!, determined protagonist Jen makes a last-ditch attempt to take down Richard, ambushing at his home with his pants (literally) down. Those of you playing along at home may cross “inverted gaze in a rape-revenge film” off of your bracket.

Why it Slaps

This sequence is so tense you could bounce a penny off it. Winding up with an excruciatingly quiet long shot, things reach a fever pitch when Jen shoots Richard and everything explodes into a very (very) bloody frenetic nightmare. Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?


Deadpool 2 | Sky-die-ing

Stunt coordinator: Scott J. Ateah

Context

Having assembled a crackpot team to break Collins out of the prison-transfer convoy and defend him from Cable, Wade’s feeling good. The team launches themselves out of a hanger to take on the convoy by parachute. What’s the worst that could happen?

Why it Slaps

Everyone, myself included, was so sure that this big dumb superhero team was going to get some big dumb superhero airtime. The marketing said so. Unfortunately, the wind had other ideas. Each member of the team (save our mouthy-merc and the ever-lucky Domino) get wrecked – by powerlines, by helicopter blades, and even a wood chipper. It’s fucked up. It’s hilarious. And I did not see it coming.


Upgrade | Kitchen Auto-Pilot Fight

Stunt coordinator: Chris Anderson

Context

There are a lot of good punch-em-up moments in Upgrade, but one brutal, darkly hilarious scene stands out. While being overpowered by an old enemy, for the first time, Grey gives his AI chip full control of his body. To his horror, Grey becomes utterly lethal, begging his opponent to stay down lest things escalate further. Spoiler: they do.

Why it Slaps

Imagine if John Mulaney momentarily possessed the mind of John Wick and you’ve got an idea of what we’re working with. Grey’s alarm at his own body’s actions is at once terrifying and titillating, though the show-stopping crescendo (read: knife in the mouth) puts a firm end to the laughs.


Incredibles 2 | Saving the Train

Stunt coordinator: Brad Bird et al.

Context

Many a super has been tasked with saving a speeding train. Heck, there was one such instance in The Incredibles back in 2004. You know the drill: it’s full of passengers, it can’t be stopped—what will our hero do? Elastigirl’s got herself a runaway train: she was just at its ribbon-cutting ceremony and now its maiden voyage is barreling in the wrong direction.

Why it Slaps

The runaway train sequence features early on in Incredibles 2 and accomplishes a couple things: we get to see Elastigirl and the Elasticycle in action, it proves a need for Supers, and it elevates Helen as the main protagonist. She’s not perfect: her tires skid, her bike gets destroyed, she loses her balance. But we don’t need perfect heroes, we need human ones.


Ant-Man and the Wasp | Hope vs. Sonny

Stunt coordinator: George Cottle

Context

Hope meets black market tech dealer Sonny at a restaurant. When Sonny refuses to hand over the component she needs, she attacks and the fight rolls on into the kitchen.

Why it Slaps

The appeal of Ant-Man is very simple: we want to see big things get small, and small things get big. This scene’s ticks that box and then some, delivering an action scene that takes full creative advantage of its culinary setting. From a door-blocking salt shaker to Wasp running the razor’s edge of a french knife, it’s fun and campy in all the right comic book-y places.


Mandy | Neck Snap

Stunt coordinator: Marcos Maas and Thomas Ereminas

Context

After killing one of the LSD bikers with his crossbow, Red is captured and wakes up imprisoned. He breaks out (duh) and proceeds to pick the bikers off one by one,  ingesting what narcotics he can along the way.

Why it Slaps

I saw Mandy a couple times in theaters and this fight always ended with the audience cheering and full of that special mirth the likes of which only Nic Cage crazy can bestow. Red goes up against a particularly limber biker (the wet one). There are headbutts, taunts, and knife thrusts, and one glorious, wild-eyed finisher. Brava.


Manhunt | Stuck on You

Context

Yamura and Du Qiu have been handcuffed together for some time now. Pursued by baddies, they take shelter in Mayumi’s farm. Soon enough the pursuing female assassins besiege them, accompanied by armed motorcyclists. A firefight ensues. Did we mention our leads are still handcuffed?

Why it Slaps

Manhunt is a goofy good time rife with in-jokes and send-ups of stuff action dorks think is cool. Which means these handcuffs are less of an impediment than an opportunity. At one point a katana is kicked by one man to another and if that doesn’t set you off the right way I don’t know what will. It’s clean, coordinated, creative and knowingly silly: John Woo winking while firing on all cylinders.


Game Night | Egg Toss

Stunt coordinator: Steven Ritzi

Context

Ryan, of all goddamn people, finds the Fabergé egg sought after by the Bulgarian. He sneakily grabs it, and by sneakily I mean he nicks it in a crowded room that immediately notices and begin to chase him and his pals around the mansion.

Why it Slaps

A house-wide game of touch football with a ridiculously fragile egg is made all the more impressive via a playfully ever-moving long take. The gang toss the valuable back and forth, befuddling goons with communication skills honed by years of competitive gaming.

Meg Shields :Burgeoning wine mom and talented napper. Secretly just three toddlers in a trenchcoat.