We're talking fight scenes?? Oh boy, two immediately come to mind. The time my sister and I had quite the hissy fit, and she slapped my face and I threw a chair at her (we were pre-teen/young teen, so I guess we can blame those raging hormones). The second involves the time I teased one of my young brothers--five years younger that me--past all endurance and he flew at me in a rage. He was way smaller and younger than I was, but so terrifying in his anger that I locked myself in the bathroom. Huh. Not much of a fight, on second thought, with me cowering by the toilet while he pounded and screamed at me from the other side of the door....
Oh, wait… are we talking fictional fight scenes?
I'm no expert on those sorts of fisticuffs... for firsthand advice from someone who knows, check out Michael A. Black's post from Monday. When the time comes for violence of that sort in my books, I do the best I can. In SILVER LIES, someone throws a punch at Inez and breaks her nose. That nose takes a long while to heal (and I checked with a physician as to the various stages of bruising, etc., before her face could return to "normal"). In IRON TIES, I created the bar-fight-to-end-all-bar-fights, but I can't make claims as to its accuracy... it was more a salute to all those "fightin' in the bar" scenes from the old-time westerns I watched as a kid.
But truly, nothing wounds so deeply nor hurts as much as words, especially when wielded by family. The parents who cut off their children (or vice versa). Siblings on the outs. Spouses hell-bent on retaliation and revenge. The people who know us best know where the weaknesses lie and which words have the power to shatter.
So, a truly chilling fight scene doesn't have to throw a single physical punch—the danger and the damage can all come from dialogue. (Anyone for a round from "Who Is Afraid of Virginia Woolf," for instance?)
I even found a list someone compiled (you can find anything on the internet!) of "Best Verbal Fight Scenes in Movies," taken from suggestions compiled some years ago on Reduser forum. You can view the thread here. I'll cut to the chase and copy the list below:
- A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE -- Peter Falk Vs. Gena Rowlands -- Lunch with co-workers scene
- PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE -- Adam Sandler Vs. Philip Seymour Hoffman -- "Shut! Shut! Shut! Shut the hell up!"
- BEFORE SUNSET -- The Car Scene
- CRIMSON TIDE -- Gene Hackman Vs. Denzel Washington -- "I've made a decision, I'm captain of this boat, NOW SHUT THE F*** UP!!!!!"
- GOODFELLAS -- Joe Pesci -- "What do you mean I'm funny?"
- A FEW GOOD MEN -- Jack Nicholson Vs. Tom Cruise -- "You can't handle the truth!"
- RESERVOIR DOGS -- Introduction of Mr. Blonde
- CLERKS II -- Randall vs. Lord of the Rings nerd
- 25TH HOUR -- Mirror Scene -- "**** You"
- ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD -- The verbal tennis match -- "Statement!"
- GOOD WILL HUNTING -- Robin Williams Vs. Matt Damon -- "It's not your fault"
- THE REF -- "Excuse me, excuse me, Excuse Me, EXCUSE ME!!!!!!......if you don't mind, the corpse still has the floor!"
- HIS GIRL FRIDAY -- Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell -- The Threesome / Four-way conversation
- 12 ANGRY MEN -- Lee J. Cobb -- "Rotten kids, you work your LIFE OUT!"
- AMERICAN BEAUTY -- Kevin Spacey Vs. Annette Bening -- "Pass the asparagus."
- A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE -- Marlon Brando Vs. Vivien Leigh -- Plate-Throwing Scene
This list is a few years old, and I'm sure there's more to add. Do any verbal fight scenes spring to mind that you'd like to see in a "best" list? If you have YouTube links, please add them as well!