The Best Shootouts In Movie History

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

Best Shootouts in Movie History

The movie shootout. It can happen in so many different ways within so many different genres. There are western shootouts, cops and robbers’ shootouts, and there are even shootouts that take place in space. Audiences have come to expect the wild ride that has become the action thriller with its beautifully choreographed gunfire.

The best shootouts aren’t a recent thing. No, there have been plenty of great shootouts in films going back to the ‘60s. We have found some of the best shootouts in movie history. If you haven’t seen some of these films, what are you waiting for?

9. Hard Boiled (1992)

Director John Woo is known for being a pioneer in the action thriller shoot-em-ups. He pretty much invented the “gun fu” genre while creating epic movie shootouts using stylized imagery and frequent use of slow motion. Woo doesn’t skimp on any of this in this wild shootout inside a hospital in Hard Boiled. Chow Yun-fat stars as Inspector Tequila who goes into bullet ballet mode when he takes on an army of mobsters that was filmed in one continuous take.

8. The Way of the Gun (2000)

The Way of the Gun comes from The Usual Suspects writer, Christopher McQuarrie and features plenty of shootouts. The film stars Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro (who worked with McQuarrie on The Usual Suspects) as two criminals looking to make a big score. This gritty crime film showcases those two involved in a tense Mexican stand-off inside a brothel.

7. John Wick (2014)

Keanu Reeves went from starring as one action hero, Neo, in The Matrix to another in John Wick in the action-packed franchise. In the first John Wick film, director Chad Stahelski brings our hero to the Red Circle nightclub where his deadly skills are put on display. The shootout that follows sees John Wick disposing of the thugs with no compassion, showing off just how gifted a marksman he is.

6. Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood’s epic western, Unforgiven, could be considered a slow boil. It does feature some decent shootouts early, but it’s not until the film’s climax that we get to see Eastwood’s notorious William Munny truly in action. Here, Munny enters a saloon with just a shotgun, ready to make those who killed his best friend pay. Wouldn’t you know, it’s a misfire from Munny’s own gun that starts one of the best shootouts we’ve seen in Western films.

5. Heat (1995)

Audiences were drawn to Michal Mann’s Heat because of the two legends (Robert De Niro and Al Pacino) starring in the film but ultimately would be somewhat disappointed when they saw the two only shared one scene together. What they weren’t disappointed in was the iconic shootout scene between De Niro’s crew and Pacino’s police. The tension and realism displayed in the scene have it often called the most realistic in movie history.

scarface remake

4. Scarface (1983)

Al Pacino was over-the-top in the climactic shootout in Scarface. Pacino plays Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who goes from nobody to a powerful drug lord. Brian DePalma’s bloody remake has Montana losing control of his empire and in the final battle, goes up against dozens of men with just his “little friend,” a M203 grenade launcher. The scene is epic, bloody, loud, and unforgettable.

3. Open Range (2003)

It’s not like audiences weren’t expecting a movie shootout in Kevin Costner’s Open Range, they just may not have been ready for such a gritty portrayal of a gunfight. The scene, which is almost broken into two parts, finds Costner’s Charley Waite and Robert Duvall’s Boss Spearman going up against the town’s corrupt marshal, his men, and the ruthless rancher and his men. The movie shootout is more realistic than most.

2. Tombstone (1993)

It’s short and right to the point. The classic Tombstone stars Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, and Michael Biehn in a retelling of the events that led up to the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral. In reality, the actual gunfight took about 30 seconds to complete, in the film, it went on for only about 2 minutes longer. Regardless, it is one of the best movie shootouts ever produced.

1. The Wild Bunch (1969)

It is said that no one does the Western movie shootout better than director Sam Peckinpah. The Wild Bunch tells the story of an aging gang of outlaws who are finding it hard to adapt to the changing world in 1913. Gone are the days of the wild west in which they were able to thrive. Peckinpah’s classic western features a bloody and graphic shootout between the aging outlaws and a Mexican army.