So, while watching Bane break Batman in their epic fight in The Dark Knight Rises, my mind wandered away from Tom Hardy’s manliness to this thought….
What are my 5 favorite showdowns? Mano a mano battles for the fate of mankind. The Universe. Chicks. Whatever. There has to be a reason. The hero is out for justice or redemption. The villain is out for vengeance or to break the emotional will of the hero so that he (or she) may stand over their fallen foe triumphant, after monologuing first (even during the fight!) of course. As a man, there doesn’t really need to be a reason cause we like to watch good fights. We’re primal like that. However, when there is meaning and emotion behind the conflict, it makes my nerd parts tingle with brilliant joy and geekery. When something is on the fucking line, then the battle becomes epic.
I limited this to five and also to just what has been portrayed in movies. If I opened this up to TV shows, comics, and sports, I’d be here all night.
5. Rob Roy MacGregor vs. Archibald Cunningham. (Rob Roy)
This had all the elements of what I’m talking about. Rob Roy was fighting a superior opponent in terms of speed, form, and knowledge. He should, by all rights, have lost this battle, but he had something on his side that cannot be quantified. Will. He wanted vengeance against Archibald for his land being taken, his good name being destroyed, and most importantly, his wife being raped. Rob Roy wanted to kill this guy so bad he could taste the rage in his mouth. Archibald was basically an erect dick with legs he was such a tool. Rob Roy took advantage of the opening Archibald gave him by being a showboating douche-bag and opened his chest like a ripe watermelon. Besides being one of the best sword fights ever put to film, it was the classic culmination to the hero’s journey.
4. Achilles vs. Hector of Troy. (Troy)
So, legend has it that Achilles was a near invulnerable bad ass motherfucker who couldn’t be touched on the battlefield. He most certainly wasn’t invincible….just really fucking good. He was the Michael Jordan/Bruce Lee of Trojan warriors. Hector was no slouch and was a great fighter in his own right. Problem was……motherfucker wasn’t Achilles. Achilles came for vengeance against Hector killing Achilles’ cousin Patricles. Hector had no idea until he struck the fatal blow that he wasn’t fighting Achilles, but Achilles didn’t give a fuck. Didn’t. Give. A. Fuck. He wanted Hector’s life. No, he wanted his soul. He took his body, desecrated it, and dragged it behind his chariot back to the Trojan’s camp in one of the biggest “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on’s” in history. The fact that this fight was an actual historical event makes it even more awesome. Well, not for Hector.
3. Batman vs. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)
This one had it all. Brutality, ferocity, vengeance, power, and even monologuing. The fear that I saw in Batman’s eyes the moment he realized that Alfred was right was like getting that special gift at Christmas. He could not beat this beast of a man. This intelligent, ruthless wall of brutal efficiency was going to not just physically best Batman, HE WAS GOING TO BREAK HIM emotionally. Bane WAAAAANTED it more than Batman did. Every hero needs to take a beating such as this in order to become better, otherwise they don’t learn and just continue being total self-righteous dickbags. This was a test of just what was inside of Batman. His guts. How much want-to did he have? Could he rise from being humiliated in every way possible and come back? We of course all know the answer now. He’s the God Damned Batman! I love that there was no music. Just the sound of Bane and Batman BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER. The stark lighting. The location. It all screamed “WHUPPIN!” Bane was so calm and Batman was so harried and fighting with desperation. The differences between the two was beautiful. The comic version of this was certainly more cat and mouse with Bane toying with Batman and after months of setup, pouncing on him and ending Batman’s world as he knew it. And damn, look at Bane’s shoulders when he climbed down that chain!!!! I’m not gay, but…..
2. Optimus Prime vs. Megatron (Transformers: The Movie)
Optimus. Motherfucking. Prime. Megatron. Millions of years of hatred. One final fight. I really don’t need to say more, do I? All us geeks understand this one on a level deeper than our own consciousness. I was 11 when I saw this at the movies and I was blown away. I still am. This fight wasn’t just about Optimus vs Megatron. It was incorruptible lawful good versus unrepentant and irredeemable chaotic evil. This fight was for Cybertron. For Earth. For Transformer and humankind alike. Optimus went in to this fight without fear for his life. He knew what he had to do. No matter the cost.
And Hot Rod had to go and fuck it all up. Fuck that cunt. Turns out Optimus’ death was just a ploy to sell new Transformer toys, but Hasbro underestimated the level at which Optimus Prime and what he stood for resonated with my generation. They had to admit their mistake and bring him back for fear of destroying the Transformers brand altogether. He was our father. He was our friend. He was our leader. He lead with a soft heart, a stern attitude, and unwavering loyalty to his people and his beliefs. That’s why he’s still the shit today 26 years later. Thank you Peter Cullen for making such an indelible character.
1. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. (Empire Strikes Back)
There is nothing made or that can ever be made that will ever displace this conflict from my number one spot in my mind and most importantly, my heart. My level of connection to, affinity for, and attachment to the original Star Wars trilogy and this movie in particular cannot be diminished or broken, no matter how many shitty prequels or potentially shitty sequels they make. I first experienced this ultimate battle between good and evil when I was 4 1/2 years old, sitting between my mother and father in the movie theater, my mouth agape and my eyes falling out of my face when the scourge of the galaxy Darth Vader admitted to a battered and beaten Luke Skywalker that he was his father. What a dick move! Luke had rushed away from Yoda to face off against an opponent with 20 years of Jedi AND Sith training in Darth Vader. He realistically had no chance of winning, yet he went anyway for his friends. I admire that and I’d like to think I would do the same for my loved ones. Luke exhibited a total lack of emotional control just like his father (and just like me more than I like to admit), but there are two things he did exhibit that his father did not. That would be compassion and sacrifice. Anakin never showed the courage to let go and give for the greater good. It was always about how much power could he gather to protect what he wanted or thought was his. Luke was all about how much he could give of himself to protect what was EVERYONE’S, which was freedom and free will.
I imagine this fight matters so much to me because it was one of the last movies I remember seeing with my entire family. Just a short three years later, my father left my mother when she needed him the most and our family when his two young children desired to bathe in their father’s love. As a grown man now I understand what my dad was going through being a Vietnam veteran and most likely suffering from PTSD and trying to deal with a sick wife and two small kids, but as a child I thought it was my fault. I thought if I could have just been a better kid, he would have stayed. I struggled with it for years. Who’s to say that my parent’s relationship wouldn’t have still gone sour had he stayed? My dear mother died in 2003, mere months after we saw ‘Attack of the Clones’ where Yoda (her favorite) whupped that ass. My father and I reconciled in his final years as much as you can expect before he died in 2009. I see and feel a lot of parallels between Luke’s experience with who he thought his father was and who his father really was. Darth Vader wasn’t so much a villain as a man who made choices that had dire consequences and trapped him within a prison of his own making. One that he felt he could never escape from and that maybe he wasn’t worthy of escaping from for what he’d done. Every time I watch this fight I am reminded that we are both villain and hero. We choose which.
So, that’s my list. Hope you enjoyed and sorry for getting all deep there at the end. 🙂