clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

5 weird facts from famous Hollywood fight scenes

New, 27 comments

A look at some of cinema’s most historic fight films and fight scenes and some of the fascinating stories about how they came to be.

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - July 14, 2018 Photo by James Devaney/GC Images

Who doesn’t love a good fight movie? The laughs, the drama, the blood and adrenaline; these five films feature some of the greatest and most groundbreaking fight scenes of all time.

Who doesn’t love a fun fact? Here are some fun facts about these movies, with the exception of John Wick, which features a sad fact.


Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed face off in Rocky (1976)

1 Rocky (1976) – It’s the granddaddy of all fight movies, and the climactic battle was the product of a huge amount of labor. After the stunt coordinators Paul Stader and George P. Wilbur quit because of creative differences, Sylvester Stallone was left with a dilemma—how to make the scene feel real? After an attempt to block the scene left the fight feeling fake, Stallone went back to square one and wrote out 32 pages detailing every move of the bout. He and Apollo Creed actor Carl Weathers rehearsed this choreography for 35 hours before it was shot.


John Wick and Daisy shortly before tragedy strikes.

2 John Wick (2014) – By the time John Wick came along, the world desperately needed fists that landed and editors without ADD. The fight scenes delivered powerfully, as did the gut punch of the death of John Wick’s dog. As it turns out, the canine murder is based on a true story.

Former Navy SEAL turned writer Marcus Luttrell (Lone Survivor) bought a yellow lab puppy and named her DASY after his team. He awoke to a gunshot and found DASY dead in the front yard. Luttrell chased the men responsible for killing his dog through four counties before they were apprehended by police. When captured, they mocked Luttrell. That’s where he ceased to be an inspiration for John Wick, however, since he decided to spare them saying, “I’ve killed enough people already.” (He had brought two 9mm Berettas with him though, so you kind of have to wonder if his original plan was far more Wickian in nature.)


Nikolai, just trying to enjoy a nice quiet steam.

3 Eastern Promises (2007) – The infamous nude fight scene was choreographed with the actors instead of stuntmen and took two days to shoot. Viggo Mortenson prepared for the role by traveling to Russia alone, going to Moscow and St. Petersburg and spending 5 days in the Ural Mountains. He rented his own car and did not bring along a translator, establishing on multiple fronts that he is a dude with balls.


Riggs wondering why Murtaugh is screaming at him to break Mr. Joshua’s neck. Does he even know how a triangle works?

4 Lethal Weapon (1987) – The final fight scene between Mel Gibson and pre-motorcycle accident Gary Busey was the product of intense collaboration between director Richard Donner and several martial artists. Assistant director Willie Simmons – a devoted follower of martial arts that were considered unusual at the time – facilitated the inclusion of Cedric Adams, a practitioner of Capoeira, and Rorion Gracie, who specialized in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The conceit of the film is that Riggs and Mr. Joshua are Vietnam vets and learned their martial arts skills in the war, but in fact their climactic struggle was distinctly Brazilian. Lethal Weapon thus became the first major feature film to feature these martial arts. The scene took four nights to shoot, filming from dusk until dawn.


A vintage back take!

5 Blood on the Sun (1945) – Given the era, it isn’t surprising that James Cagney plays a good guy journalist up against nefarious Japanese authorities. But what is surprising is that, thirty years prior to Enter the Dragon, the pivotal fight scene features boxing, judo throws, an arm bar, an arm triangle, and a rear lapel choke. Even more surprisingly, Cagney insisted on doing his own stunts. He trained at the Seinan Dojo in Los Angeles with Kenneth Kaname Kuniyuki, 9th Dan Judo Shihan. Cagney would continue in martial arts for many years afterward. The villain, Captain Oshimi, was played by another Judoka by the name of John Halloran (because let’s not get crazy, this was still 1945). Halloran also served as a technical advisor on the film.