The 7 Best Movie Face-Offs

Monday, September 24 by
Watch the film and you'll see why he looks that way! 

It’s said that there are seven basic plots for storytelling: man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. the environment, man vs. machines/technology, man vs. the supernatural, man vs. self, man vs. god/religion. While they’re all pretty tantalizing, and each type of plot has certainly produced its share of masterpieces, something about man on man action really gets our motor running.

Wait. That doesn’t sound right.

Face-offs are often the culmination of this struggle, seen throughout time, and in the upcoming time-travel thriller Looper, which hits theaters this Friday, September 28th. It features not only man vs. man, but man vs. self, so you’re really getting two plot devices for the price of one, which means you can’t afford NOT to go see Looper.

Die Hard – (John McClane vs. Hans Gruber)

For most of Die Hard, John McClane exists as a rogue cop, his only connection to the criminals and the authorities being their disembodied voices over a walkie talkie.

As he slowly becomes a thorn in the side of uber-villain Hans Gruber, it’s clear that this isn’t the type of conflict that gets resolved talking about one’s feelings. McClane shows up to the dance with a pistol taped to his back, and ends up letting Hans fall to his death from the top of Nakitomi Plaza.

If I spoiled that for you, it’s on you. How the hell haven’t you seen Die Hard yet?

Heat – (Lt. Vincent Hanna vs. Neil McCauley)

The tagline for this film was “A Los Angeles Crime Saga,” and never has the word “saga” been more appropriate. We see both sides of the law, with each one existing in a world of gray. De Niro’s criminal and Pacino’s cop play a game of cat and mouse, and one could argue that the showdown comes a good 45 minutes before the end of the film. A ballsy daylight bank robbery sees the cops go head to head with the crooks, and the rest of the film essentially involves tying up loose ends, albeit pretty important ones.

No matter which scene you consider the showdown, Heat delivers.

Highlander (The Highlander vs. The Kurgan)

There can be only one, and whenever you match up a Scot with anyone else, from this world or another one, you must bet on the Scot. The Simpsons taught us that, and my (admittedly late) viewing of The Highlander reinforced it as power-hungry forces from nether worlds are brought down by good-intentioned Scots.

The showdown is worth watching simply to marvel at the size of the Claymore sword that the Highlander brandishes. Guys with swords that big generally don’t lose.

Scotland: F*ck Yeah.

Harry Potter (Harry Potter vs. Valdemort)

Potter. Valdemort. It’s go time. They spent so long setting up this conflict that by the time the showdown finally hits the fan in Deathly Hallows Part 2, we’re all beyond ready for the fireworks. Fortunately, they don’t disappoint. Valdemort just kicks his ass and evil prevails for the rest of eternity.

Ok, not really. One can also guess how this turns out, but it’s a testament to J.K. Rowling and the filmmakers that we can still lose ourselves in the world even though we’re pretty sure the good guys are going to win.

Terminator 2 – (T-1000 vs. T-800)

While Sarah and her son John Connor are caught in the middle of the warring factions, make no mistake: Terminator 2 is a film about the fight between two robotic soldiers from the future, the T-1000 and the antiquated T-800.

While they interact a few times during the film, it’s clear that the stage is being set for a showdown, which takes place at a foundry. It’s not surprise who is able to come out on top, but watching the showdown offers an immensely satisfying ending to the story laid out by both installments. (We’re going to pretend the later ones didn’t happen, ok?)

Se7en – (Detective David Mills vs. John Doe)

It may not be action packed, but what the final scene in Se7en lacks in violence, it more than makes up for in tension. It’s clear from the outset that nothing is going to plan as John Doe turns himself in, taking the detectives on one last outing before submitting to the mercy of the justice system.

David Fincher masterfully sets up the showdown, offering up far more questions than answers, and ratcheting up the tension, offering up a very somber car ride which John Doe banks on being his last.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – (Blondie vs. Angel Eyes)

If that clip doesn’t sell you on why this film makes the list, then nothing I can say or do will help my cause. The music, the insanely slow boil, the camera angles, Clint Eastwood before he held conversations with furniture…this film has it all.

And then they all shoot each other. This one gets the award of delivering what it promises in the title and throughout the film.

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