Police takedowns, Western face-offs, mobster and vigilante murders: these movie shootouts have a little bit of everything. Here are our picks for the 10 best movie shootouts of all time.
There’s nothing quite like a good movie shootout to really put the exclamation point on a great action movie. Let’s face it, though: it’s really tough to make a shootout that’s unique, visually stunning, entertaining, and realistic all at the same time.
For that reason, some movie shootouts are better than others. We selected these particular shooting scenes based on how well they managed to do in combining those criteria.
Please note: this list specifically excludes pistol duels and scenes in war movies. So, sorry, no Mexican standoffs or epic battle scenes here (more on those later).
Warning: these video clips contain foul language and lots of violence, so be careful where you watch them.
Now, here are the best movie shootouts.
10. L.A. Confidential: Victory Motel Shootout
The shootout at the Victory Motel in 1950s era Los Angeles pits police officers played by Russel Crowe and Guy Pearce up against 20 crooked cops. However, a little ingenuity combined with some skilled use of their pistols and shotgun allows them to come out on top of this gritty gunfight. The fact that the good guys emerge alive, though not unharmed, further adds to the realism and authenticity of this excellent movie shootout.
9. Boondock Saints: There was a Firefight!
Though the movie initially flopped in theaters when it was released in 1999, The Boondock Saints has become a cult classic in the intervening years. With plenty of guns and lots of shooting scenes, there is a lot for firearms enthusiasts to love about this movie. However, the ambush the Saints perform on the hitman and his friends at the poker game and the suburban shootout that followed stands head and shoulders above the other gunfights in the movie. William Dafoe’s dramatic narration of the shootout as it occurred (Was it six men with guns? Or one man with six guns?) helps further cement this movie shootout as one of the best ever.
8. Desperado: Bar Shootout
Antonio Banderas plays El Mariachi, a vigilante musician with a guitar case full of guns whose search for the man who killed his lover takes him to a bar full of a drug kingpin’s goons (sounds like a great movie already, doesn’t it?). The well-choreographed gun battle that follows is nothing short of stunning.
7. The Matrix: Lobby Scene
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Matrix revolutionized action movies forever (how many other movies have tried to imitate the “bullet time” scenes?). Though it made extensive use of CGI, the lobby scene completely redefined how we look at shootouts in action movies. Yes, the scene wasn’t very realistic, but it was incredibly entertaining, extremely well done, had tons of guns, and forever left a mark on movie shootouts.
6. Open Range: Final Shootout
The gritty, brutal, and authentic shootout begins with Costner’s character shooting one of the villains right between the eyes with his Colt Single Action Army. The tense game of cat and mouse that follows captures the ugly side of gunfights seldom seen in movies. Watching this scene almost feels like you’re there on the street with the characters: the air quickly fills with smoke from the black powder cartridges being fired and dust, splinters, and glass erupt from missed shots.
With the exception of Kevin Costner’s 15 consecutive shots without reloading and the bad guy literally picked up and thrown by Robert Duvall’s shotgun blast, the final shootout in this movie may be the most realistic gun battle ever in a Western movie.
5. The Untouchables: Stairway Shootout
Kevin Costner again makes an appearance on this list of the best movie shootouts of all-time as renowned lawman Elliot Ness. With help from a fellow police officer played by Andy Garcia, Ness manages to kill all the gangsters, arrest Al Capone’s accountant, and save the baby carriage falling down the stairs of Chicago’s Union Station in this incredible, slow-motion shootout.
4. John Wick: Fight at the Red Circle Club
Keanu Reeves spent a great deal of time at the range training for his role as the assassin John Wick, and it really showed during this shootout. During his rampage through the Red Circle Club chasing the man who killed his dog and stole his car, he dispatched dozens of opponents with his H&K P30L and Glock 26 pistols, displaying incredible marksmanship in the process.
While his feat was a little far-fetched, the high level of situational awareness and battle focused mindset he demonstrated, combined with his hand-to-hand combat skills and his ability to reload quickly under combat conditions, adds a great deal of realism to the scene. It’s still on the fantastic side, but believable to a certain degree, which is what really helps make this an awesome movie shootout.
3. The Wild Bunch: Battle of Bloody Porch
Set in the early 1900s, Sam Peckinpah’s legendary movie takes place at a crossroads between the Old West and the Modern era. The guns used in the movie reflect this and the movie culminates in a savage fight to the death between the criminal gang and the Mexican Army that features Colt revolvers, Winchester rifles and shotguns, 1903 Springfield rifles, Colt 1911 pistols, Mauser rifles, hand grenades, and a 1917 Browning machine gun.
2. Scarface: Say Hello To my Little Friend
Al Pacino’s performance of drug lord Tony Montana might be his most famous character and he delivered perhaps the most memorable catchphrase and death scene as part of one of the most celebrated movie shootouts in cinema history. Though the scene is a little lacking in the realism department (just how many times did he get shot before dying?!?!?), it’s got all of the other aspects necessary to have an awesome shootout in spades.
1. Heat: Bank Robbery
The legendary bank robbery and the battle between the robbers and the police that follows in the movie Heat is widely considered to be one of the best movie shootouts in movie history. This shootout has it all: it’s pretty darn realistic, it has tons of guns (including some guns you don’t see to often like the FN-FNC 80 and IMI Galil), the characters handle their weapons and use cover realistically, and the gripping the storyline keeps you on the edge of your seat.
As an added bonus, there is no CGI in this movie shootout, so all those special effects were done the old fashioned way. The filmmakers also clearly paid a great deal of attention to detail, which you can see as bullet holes individually appear in cars and glass shatters around the characters as rounds whiz by all around them. These little details, coupled with the rousing bass staccato of the raging gun battle just makes it feel like you’re right there on the middle of the shootout.
What did you think about our choices for the best movie shootouts of all-time? Did we miss any?