Action movies have a pretty simple formula when it comes to killing bad guys: you leave the toughest villain for last. It’s why at the end of Die Hard
, that dead Russian guy jumps out of a body bag, somehow still armed with an automatic weapon. The filmmakers knew that, despite defying the laws that govern the physical universe, if they had ended the movie killing anyone else, it just wouldn’t have felt right. Leaving the toughest bad guy for last creates a sense of suspense as to whether or not the hero is going to be able to take him. So if the last bad guy is a total pussy, well, the audience is probably going to notice. Below, we count down the five most mismatched climactic fights in action movie history.
Fight: Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone) vs. Eric Qualen (John Lithgow)
The bad news first: a gang of evil white-collar criminals are holding your sister hostage approximately 10,000 feet above sea level. To make matters worse, it tends to be cold on mountaintops, and for no discernible reason you’re only wearing a tank top.
Now for the good news: you’re a trained mountain climber who, as luck would have it, grew up climbing the mountain on which they’re holding her, so you’ve got a Coors Park-sized home field advantage. Oh, also, you’re Sylvester Stallone and the guy you’re fighting is the dad from 3rd Rock From the Sun
That’s right, when faced with the job of finding a villain fearsome enough to menace Stallone’s maverick climbing instructor, the makers of Cliffhanger
settled on John Lithgow, a man whose previous villains spent their time trying to convince kids to stay home from prom.
In an attempt to even the odds, Cliffhanger
emphasizes the fact that Stallone is haunted by the memory of watching a woman plunge to her death. He is not, however, haunted by cerebral palsy, the only thing that could make a fight between Lithgow and Stallone anything other than laughable.
When they finally meet in the climactic scuffle, Lithgow manages to get Stallone in a head lock, and improbably appears to have him on the ropes before the helicopter they’re dangling from (don’t ask) falls off the side of a cliff, taking Lithgow with it.