Violence is a funny thing. Few of us actually enjoy participating in it, but most of us will at some point thoroughly enjoy watching it in a movie. Ah, the magical catharsis of cinema!

The movies are replete with scenes of battle. Fight scenes are the meat and potatoes of the action genre, and most thrillers will either end on one or throw a couple in somewhere. Picking only ten was always going to leave this list with a whole heap of contenders unfairly cast aside, but there’s no way I’m going to sit here and write fifty of these bastards.

So here are my favourite ten. For the sake of making the choice easier, I’ve left out battle scenes between entire armies. Perhaps another time. Please feel free to add your own top ten, if you have one, or simply chastise me for omitting your single favourite. Maybe we can settle it outside.

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10. John Smith v Jane Smith

Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)

After five (or six) years of a slowly stagnating marriage, John and Jane Smith discover that not only are they both secret super-assassins, apparently using the marriage as cover, but they are also each others’ next target. Possibly the most contrived set-up in this top ten, but who cares? The resulting gun-play, fist-fight and kitchen utensil carnage as the Smiths (the couple, not the popular 80s band) do bloody battle in their big, suburban house is great fun.

Probably Jennifer Aniston’s favourite movie scene ever, as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie convincingly beat the crap out of each other. I wonder if they’re like this in front of the kids.

And the winner is: There’s make-up sex. Everyone’s a winner with make-up sex!

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9. Channel 4 News Team v Evening News Team v Channel 2 News Team v Public News Team v Spanish Language News Team

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy ( 2004)

Legendary news anchor Ron Burgundy and his team are out on the town, on their way to cheer themselves up by shopping for suits, when they find themselves confronted by several rival teams, all looking to take each other down. In the world of syndicated news broadcasting it’s best to be armed. Clubs, chains, machetes, hand grenades and even tridents can be the divide between life and death. Just don’t touch the hair or the face.

Featuring more cameo appearances than an entire season of Saturday Night Live, the news team street fight proves that even clueless, musky-smelling morons can be heroes.

And the winner is: Burgundy and his Channel 4 News Team are gonna straight up murder your ass.

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8. King Arthur v The Black Knight

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

During his noble quest for the Holy Grail King Arthur encounters the dread Black Knight, guarding a bridge (or a small plank of wood over a pathetic stream). Refusing to allow the King past, a mighty battle ensues. Well, mighty-ish. Actually, it’s just silly.

Arthur severs the Knight’s arms, only to be told that it’s just a scratch as the undeterred Knight then resorts to kicking the King’s ankles. Even having both his legs lobbed off doesn’t dampen this warrior’s ire and Arthur eventually gives up and leaves the wriggling torso of his foe behind, crossing the plank to cries of, ‘Come back here you yellow bastard! I’ll bite your legs off!’

And the winner is: Arthur, of course, although the Black Knight is having none of it. ‘Let’s call it a draw’. Loony.

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7. Ripley v Alien Queen

Alien (1987)

A classic bitch-fight and one of those David and Goliath moments when you know you should put your money on the smallest. Having escaped and nuked the planet LV421, with all its nasty little xenomorphs, Ripley returns to her ship to find a very pissed Queen has hitched a ride and is looking for a rumble. Never one to shy away from an invitation, Ripley grabs a mechanical power loader and gets busy.

Limited by the effects of the time, much of the action is seen only at head height, but it’s still one if the coolest, and most original, brawls in cinema.

And the winner is: I’ll give you three guesses, and since there’s only two participants, if it takes you three guesses you’re a moron.

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6. Léon v Half the NYPD

Léon (1994)

Having seriously pissed off both the Mafia and a corrupt New York cop in his quest to avenge the murder of 12-year-old Mathilda’s entire family, hitman Léon and the girl find themselves besieged in a hotel room with half the city’s police force trying to find a way in. Luc Besson’s perfectly choreographed scene sees the wily Italian allow a group of officers into the room, only to shut the door behind them and take them all out, unseen.

When the door reopens, the next group of hapless cops find themselves face-to-face with the slippery assassin, as he hangs upside down in the doorway. Inspired!

And the winner is: In this particular round, Léon. But give the guy a break, there’s a lot of people out there.

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5. Neo and Trinity v A Small Army

The Matrix (1999)

Keanu Reeves may not be the greatest actor in the world, but at least he looks good running in slow motion with a machine gun. And Neo and Trinity may have stupid names, and rarely crack a smile, but when it comes to tearing up a building lobby full of security guards and a SWAT team, they don’t even have to take off their cumbersome long coats or remove their sunglasses indoors. Oh, to be so cool.

With lots of slow-motion gunfire, running up walls and picking up M16 rifles while performing cartwheels, this was one of the most refreshingly executed fight scenes for years.

And the winner is: Never underestimate people who dress only in black. Neo and Trinity don’t even get a scratch on their sunglasses.

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4. George Nada v Frank Armitage

They Live (1988)

John Carpenter’s last great movie contains a strong contender for the longest fist-fight (outside of a boxing ring) in any movie. Ever.

After discovering that the American elite are all aliens in disguise, controlling a docile population with consumerism and subliminal messages, Nada is understandably keen to share his revelation with someone. Unfortunately, the aliens can only be seen with special sunglasses and George’s co-worker Frank isn’t feeling particularly co-operative. Cue a hilarious, brutal, six-minute brawl in a back alley as George and Frank bludgeon each other to bloody pulps.

And the winner is: Let’s just say Frank ends up wearing the damn glasses.

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3. Indiana Jones v Big Nazi Guy

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

He’s already been through the mill and has a gruelling truck chase to come, but first our intrepid archaeologist has to deal with the imposing Nazi mechanic who stands between him and the Ark-carrying plane. Tired, dusty and visibly fed-up with throwing punches, Jones proceeds to get the shit kicked out of him.

Clearly not a student of Eastern combat philosophy, Jones is a brawler and has no qualms about using wrenches and a little arm-biting in an attempt to overcome the German behemoth. All to no avail. Not even a sudden flurry of professorial jaw-socking is going to slow down this Teutonic brute.

And the winner is: Indiana Jones, with no small help from a whirring propeller blade. Look out, behind yo…never mind.

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2. Yu Shu Lien v Jen Yu

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Ang Lee’s sumptuous epic features a whole bunch of fantastic fight scenes, but the greatest is the lengthy dust-up between Michelle Yeoh’s noble Yu Shu Lien and Zhang Ziyi’s angry young Jen Yu. Jen is armed with the indestructible sword, Green Destiny, and Shu Lien breaks an insane array of different weapons against the sword in an attempt to defeat the petulant child.

The breathtaking scene is so beautifully choreographed it’s more akin to a dance than a battle. And, let’s face it, there’s nothing sexier than watching two graceful women locked in passionate combat. Or is that just me? Whoops.

And the winner is: Jen does a runner eventually, so we’ll give it to Shu Lien by default. Yay!

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1. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn v Darth Maul

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)

This is what we turned up for. The single greatest lightsaber fight in the entire franchise. Having sat through two hours of trade disputes, Natalie Portman’s clown make-up, petulant little Anakin’s feeble attempts to endear himself to us, and Jar Jar Bloody Binks, die hard Star Wars fans were treated to this triple-header between Jedi and Sith.

Horny badass Darth Maul takes on two Jedi with the aid of his indescribably cool double-ended sabre. The glowy blades whirl around like the original trilogy’s fight scenes on fast forward. This was the moment when cool got a little bit cooler. Magic!

And the winner is: Having dispatched Jedi Master Qui-Gon, Darth Maul gets his ass handed to him by a mere apprentice. Fail!

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I’ve been participating in a wee game over at Anomalous Material called Hollywood Fantasy Draft. Simple rules; you pick your director, you pick your stars, and then you pitch your movie idea. It’s been fun! Here’s my rough pitch, written on the back of a napkin in some L.A. eatery. Sort of.

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Taking History

(Time Bandits 2)

Directed by Terry Gilliam

Written by Richard Lamb’s insane twin

Starring: John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Paul Giamatti, Angelina Jolie, Brian Cox, Audrey Tautou, Sir Ian McKellen

Logline: Who needs dwarves?

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Cast and Characters

John Cusack is Kevin, the boy who travelled with the dwarves in Time Bandits. Now a day away from turning 40, Kevin has moved on as best he can. He lives in New York and suffers only minor personality disorders as a result of his experiences. Mood swings, depression, the urge to check his closets every night, paranoia, nightmares involving the combustion of his parents, that sort of thing. No biggie.
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Jodie Foster is Sally, Kevin’s boss at the museum where he is curator. She is bookish, a little awkward, but clearly finds Kevin fascinating. They have had a connection for a while but never really pursued it. Sally is passionate about her museum but sometimes a little too reserved.
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Paul Giamatti is Leonardo da Vinci. Master painter, sculptor, inventor and all-round smart-ass. Da Vinci has forgotten more about everything than most people will ever know, but he still can’t get that damn smile right.
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Angelina Jolie is Cleopatra VII, last Pharaoh of Egypt. She is beautiful, smart and will kick your ass if you so much as look at her the wrong way. A little flattery will go a long way, though. Nice nose.
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Brian Cox is King Henry VIII. Big guy with a big appetite and a love for the ladies. Like the Tudor era’s Barry White, but without the singing voice and white suits. Just don’t flirt with his girl.
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Audrey Tautou is Joan of Arc. She’s angry for God, but she can get away with it because she’s angry in a cool accent. Not big into campfires, but give Joan an army and she’ll give you a crown.
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Sir Ian McKellen is Moses – God’s PR agent and go-to guy. Miracles not a problem. Oceanic crossings made easy. Just do as you’re told.
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The Plot

It’s been 29 years since Kevin’s adventures through time and space with a bunch of thieving little dwarves, which ultimately resulted in the explosion of both his parents after they touched the burnt Sunday roast which was, in fact, all that was left of the being known as ‘Evil’ ™.  Kevin never lost his fascination with history, and now works as a curator in a modest museum, a quiet and peaceful job where he has limited contact with the outside world, which is probably for the best.  His only real interaction is with the museum’s Director, Sally, a bookish woman who finds Kevin fascinating, if only in the way most people find tsunamis and earthquakes fascinating; that is, from a safe distance. Still, the two of them have an awkward connection and are both trying to find a way to pursue it.

Meanwhile, their museum is on the rocks and attendances are dropping. The artifacts are lame since all the best stuff ends up at the bigger museums. Kevin and Sally need to come up with a way to draw in the crowds. Preferably a plan that doesn’t involve spending money.

On the morning of his 40th birthday, Kevin wakes up to find a rolled up piece of paper next to him on the bed. Next to it is a badly scrawled note which reads ‘Happy Birthday brat, from Randall’. Kevin unrolls the paper and recognises it straight away; it’s the map of space and time that the dwarves used to pilfer their way through history. After running around his apartment to check all the cupboards and closets and finding nothing, Kevin determines that his old friend has left him a solution to his problem. Of course, Kevin uses the map. The problem is, no-one ever really told him how to use it properly. The apartment shakes as Kevin opens a hole into black space and leaps through, throwing the door to his apartment wide open.  The last thing we see is Sally, bottle of wine in hand, taking a tentative step into the apartment.

Florence, Italy, 1505

Kevin lands with a thump in the cluttered studio of Leonardo da Vinci. He hears voices and carefully peers from behind a table to see the master standing at a canvas. Before the canvas sits a familiar looking woman, hands crossed. Kevin notices some loose sketches on the table and grabs them, inspecting them more closely. They are preliminary sketches of the Mona Lisa, currently being painted in front of him. Something is very wrong, however. Her gappy, gormless smile is hideous. Kevin leans forward to get a better look at the subject of the painting. That’s her smile! She’s missing half her teeth! Da Vinci is cursing in Italian and Kevin can see that the mouth remains unpainted. What a find these sketches are! Kevin sticks them in his bag, rolls out the map, studies it for a second and opens a portal to his next destination, kicking over an easel as he goes. Da Vinci turns around to see the hole in the wall of his studio.

Egypt, 31 BC

Kevin finds himself appearing in Cleopatra’s bed chamber during the middle of the night. Unfortunately, the Queen wakes up to find Kevin helping himself to a few juicy artifacts and raises the alarm, expertly knocking him to the ground with a flying kick and then holding him in a headlock until the guards arrive. Kevin is arrested, the map and his bag confiscated, and he’s thrown in a cell. A few hours later, the cell begins shaking and Kevin is astonished to see Leonardo da Vinci land with a thump in his cell. Surprisingly unperturbed by his sudden journey through space and time (he claims it merely proves a theory he devised in the bath last Saturday), da Vinci immediately begins demanding Kevin return the stolen sketches. Kevin points out that a few stolen doodles of the ugliest smile in history are the least of their problems. A point confirmed when the guards arrive to bring them before the Pharaoh.

Cleopatra, who was expecting one prisoner rather than two, demands that da Vinci explain how he got into the cell. The grand master seems to be far more interested in Cleopatra’s face, framing it in his hands and exclaiming that he has finally found his answer. Da Vinci takes a pencil and scrap of paper from his pockets and begins sketching Cleopatra, offering her a stream of fawning adoration. Completely won over by the wily Italian, she smiles, enigmatically. Da Vinci claps his hands with joy, sketching away. Kevin, meanwhile, is using the distraction to retrieve the map and bag. And a few choice trinkets, too. Job done, he tells Cleopatra that he can show her how da Vinci got into the cell. They take her there, where the portal is still open, and make a dash for it, leaping through it.

Hampton Court, England, 1530

Arriving at the court of King Henry VIII, Kevin and Leonardo land in the middle of a huge banquet, being held to honour the Queen of Brooklynia. The fact that no-one has ever heard of Brooklynia doesn’t seem to be an issue for anyone, least of all the King, who is starry-eyed. Kevin learns to his dismay that the Queen of Brooklynia is actually Sally, who has been stuck here since going through the portal in Kevin’s apartment and doing the best she can to blend in. The King is enraged by Sally’s pleasure at seeing Kevin and flies into a jealous rage; a rage that even Leonardo’s sketching and flattery won’t temper. He challenges Kevin to a jousting match. Of course, Kevin cheats. He gets the girl, the trinkets, and the Italian Renaissance master.

Orléans, France, 1428

Not the best place for a holiday, but a great place if you want Joan of Arc’s sword. Kevin, Sally, and the Italian grand master (who simply refuses to go home), land in the middle of the siege of Orleans. After avoiding being trampled by horses, shot with arrows and drenched in burning oil, they finally manage to meet the Saint in the making.  After some desperate attempts to distract her and pinch the sword, Sally decides that negotiation is the best way forward. Joan, who has a bizarre passion for men’s clothes, agrees to swap her sword for Kevin’s Levi jeans. The priceless artifact is more than adequate compensation for having to continue his journey in his underpants.

Mount Sinai, 1440 BC (give or take)

That is, until he finds himself face-to-face with Moses in only his tighty whities. That’s Kevin, not Moses. Who is this guy, and what’s with the girl in a strange dress and the bearded guy drawing pictures? Not even God saw this one coming. Anyway, Moses has more important things on his mind than this weird guy hanging around the bottom of Mount Sinai, offering to help him with those heavy looking tablets.  He’s got laws to lay down to the naughty throng. Luckily, Kevin is there to help with the clean-up operation, after he’s tripped up Moses who then drops all the tablets. With his piece of stone commandment, the piece that says ‘…ou shalt not steal’, Kevin and his comrades make their escape before the shit really hits the fan.

New York, Present day

Having convinced Da Vinci to go home and finish his painting, Kevin and Sally return to present day New York. The Museum is saved and they finally admit their feelings for one another, albeit in a clumsy way, over a cabinet of roman coins. All they have to do is ignore the fact that the Mona Lisa, a poster of which is now hanging in their apartment, has an enigmatic smile. After all, it’s history.