Great directors draw from the fight scene palette of roundhouse kicks, explosions and snappy one-liners to paint frame-worthy movie and television battles. These are not those directors.
7. Saved by the Bell
Slater versus Zach
Combatants: A. C. Slater (Mario López) versus Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar)
Why it sucks: This fight looks remarkably like a real scrap between high schoolers, which is exactly why it sucks. High school fights are terrible. There’s usually one thrown punch (which never lands) before the adolescent gladiators awkwardly lean into each other, tumble to the ground, and commence clumsy wrestling. Slater and Morris might nail that perfectly in this scene but there was no reason. We all watched enough of this stuff in our high school gym class.
Highlight: When Slater complains, “Hey you started it man, making me look like a jerk at the Max,” Zach replies “Well, that’s what you are.” Harsh.
6. The Godfather
Sonny versus Carlo
Combatants: Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo) versus Sonny Corleone (James Caan)
Why it sucks: Don’t get us wrong. The Godfather is a great movie, but this scene is just completely absurd. Coppola must have taken a break from directing and left the guy who directed The Three Stooges in charge of the set for this 90-second span. It starts when Sonny Corleone discovers his sister has been walloped and reacts, Curly-like, by bringing his fist to his mouth and taking a solid bite. You almost expect him to rub his hands over his head, run in place, and scream “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!” Sonny then proceeds to get revenge with a Vaudeville assault that includes throwing his shoe and gnawing on Carlo’s knuckles.
Highlight: Proof that James Caan needed glasses during filming when his massive haymaker misses a stationary Carlo by a few feet.
5. Strike of the Panther
Bad Actor versus Other Bad Actors
Combatants: One shirtless Australian guy versus a bunch of other Australian guys in suits that hopefully never made another movie in their life
Why it sucks: On paper, the components here suggest an entertaining tussle: a man in a chicken suit, a blow-up sex doll, and ‘80s floozy with a whip. But this one is so bad that not even those unique ingredients can save it. The protagonist shows off both his lack of acting and fighting chops as he woodenly delivers snide one-liners in between repeatedly knocking out the same four toughs. This clip is notable for single-handedly dispelling the stereotype of Australians as tough, hardy people.
Highlight: The bizarre cameo of a grown man dressed as an English schoolboy begging for mercy.
4. Walker, Texas Ranger
Walker versus Lazarus
Combatants: Walker (Chuck Norris) versus Lazarus (Roger Yuan)
Why it sucks: Chuck Norris is a karate champion that could certainly beat all of us in a fight. And with that seedy beard sloppily draped on his apish face, he looks like the type that enjoys beating the s**t out of people just for the heck of it. Paradoxically, he has done so much in his television and movie work for the lame fight scene genre. This scene serves as a perfect example why: they all look like they are filmed on a budget raised from loose change found in Norris’s couch. This brief clip includes terrible dialogue, unimaginative repeated kicking, and one of the cheapest sets ever. Note carefully at the end of the clip that when Norris throws Lazarus through the door, he actually breaks the plywood replica in half.
Highlight: Walker disarms the gun-toting Lazarus with a quick arm twist that somehow manages to toss him thirty feet across the room.
3. Star Trek Voyager
Tuvok versus Nameless Extras
Combatants: Tuvok (Tim Russ) versus a bunch of extras
Why it sucks: There is just no way a good fracas can start with the line “Tuvok’s taking me into custody.”We already talked about how lousy high school fights are and nerd fights are even worse. So when a show made by nerds for nerds has a fight scene, you might as well hand it a cane before viewing because it is guaranteed to be lame. Fortunately, the cinematographer seems almost as clueless as the fight choreographer for this episode of Voyager, so we are spared from the full wretchedness of this struggle because we are watching it in near-complete darkness.
Highlight: Tuvok’s over-the-shoulder judo throw. Michael Richards better not insult any black Vulcans because those guys can fight.
Amish Harrison Ford versus Street Toughs
Combatants: John Book (Harrison Ford) versus a bunch of Pennsylvania Dutch Country street toughs
Why it sucks: How can we put the man behind some of the greatest fightin’ characters in the history of the movies on a list of lamest fight scenes? Because Harrison Ford doesn’t seem to realize he’s no longer playing any of those characters. He’s not Indiana Jones or Hans Solo here, he is supposed to be a guy pretending he’s Amish. So when Ford exudes his Solo-esque bravado marching up to bad news hoodlums, it is hard not to laugh. After all, he’s wearing suspenders and marching from a small horse-drawn carriage, not the Millennium Falcon.
Highlight: What must be one of the greatest Amish put-downs in film: “Hey watch it Frank, he’s gonna hit you with his bible.”
Arm-Sling Woman versus Knife-Fetish Man
Combatants: Woman in arm-sling and man with worst haircut ever versus guy with knife fetish
Why it sucks: The lamest fight scene of all time also deserves credit for being one of the most homoerotic. The disturbingly sensual knife fellatio that kicks off the clip is a harbinger of three minutes of man-on-man action that seems more fitting for a Chelsea sex club than a movie combat scene. Constant grunts and groans are the soundtrack to a synchronized shirt rip-off that reveals highly greased bodies. Thankfully, a woman eventually arrives to break up the boy’s club. She has one arm in a sling and uses a towel as weapon, but the bad guy is such a p***y that is more than enough.
Highlight: After impaling the knife-fellatio man’s eye through a meat hook, arm-sling woman zings him with, “We’ll keep an eye out for you.”
Being at the top of your game can really drag you down.
Sometimes our big, dumb brains are just flat-out wrong.
Every critic is wrong from time to time.
Your favorite isn't necessarily your best -- sometimes it's your worst.