(Vertically Speaking) Top 5 Elevator Fight Scenes

Top 5 Elevator Fight Scenes
By Bret Dorman

(As always, possible Spoilers! for the movies that follow.)

Just in case you don't know what an elevator is... in which case why did you click this post?

Just in case you don’t know what an elevator is… in which case why did you click this post?

There are 2 fundamental truths about humankind.

The first results from the fact that we as a species like to socialize. In order to socialize with as many people we can we have gathered a lot of people into relatively compact areas called cities. And to keep everyone close, we have erected buildings up into the sky. And in order to not waste time and energy going up and down these structures we invented elevators. The first fundamental truth about humankind is we like to ride in elevators.

The second one is we like to fight. 2001: A Space Odyssey showed us mankind itself evolved from an early primitive brawl. The Mad Max movies showed us we will continue to fight until the very end.

Therfore, The Ultimate Fundamental Truth about humankind is we like to fight in elevators. Fact.

In order to create this list I had to set up one parameter. There must be a fight and it must take place in an elevator. Sounds easy right? But just for the record that means I excluded Oldboy because technically you don’t see that fight (although the visuals of the before/aftermath is badass nonetheless). That means I excluded The Cabin In The Woods, which does have a cool scene involving elevators, but not really a fight in them. That means I excluded Dark Star, John Carpenter’s first movie, which does have a tense elevator moment, but no real fight. That means I excluded Hardboiled, which features an AMAZING one shot take where the characters reload in an elevator. That means I excluded Mr. And Mrs. Smith, which features a couple, but most comedically the classic action scene -> elevator -> action scene moment. Lastly, I excluded Devil because I thought that movie was dumb.

But without further delay, my Top 5 Elevator Fight Scenes:

5) Die Hard(s) With A Vengeance

Vertical Vengeance!

Vertical Vengeance!

I know ‘Die Hard‘ is in right now what with the 5th one and all, but my case is also for the franchise in general:

Die Hard features elevators and elevator shafts prominently. Both in stealth and explosive fashion.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder switches it up with conveyor belts (the “horizontal elevator”, if you will) which McClane uses to his advantage a couple times.

Live Free or Die Hard has McClane fighting someone in an SUV which he just crashed into a person into an elevator shaft. Awesome.

A Good Day To Die Hard‘s most publicized screen shot was McClane and son in an elevator locked, stocked, and ready to rock. (Although in the movie, there is no immediate action before or after and the ‘muzak’ is very low. So if they were going for a Mr. and Mrs. Smith comedic moment they missed. If not then just ignore this part.)

But the creme de la creme of Die Hard elevator sweetness is without a doubt in Die Hard With A Vengeance. As McClane gets into an elevator, the baddies pour in after him, all taller and much more menacing in an Eastern European Henchman kind of way. McClane’s suspicion is high, but he is able to know for certain by calling them out with a clever call back. The close range impact of the bullets is brutal (note to R Rated Die Hards/Modern Actioners, that’s how it’s done!) and McClane is able to use the small space to his advantage. Without his quick action, McClane would exit that elevator dead. But instead he kicks ass and is covered in red (<- Also a movie starring Bruce Willis).

(I couldn't find the Vengeance scene, so here's a short clip summarizing John's true feelings about these vertical lifts!)

4) Total Recalls

Both of ’em. Now I know what you’re thinking, how can I pick the entire Die Hard franchise and both Total Recalls? Well it’s not everyday I get to talk about cool things in an elevator so I’m gonna fit in as many as I can as well as the “honorable mentions”/exclusions from the top. Plus anything else that happens in elevators that’s cool (The blood scene in The Shinning!).

Paul Veerhoven’s:

"Consider this a divorce."

“Consider this a divorce.”

The Action God Himself is no stranger to elevators. He fought a terminator in one (T2), rode a horse in one, (True Lies), rides one while chasing a bouncing ball (Jingle All The Way), and even caught a Predator in a rope-snare trap, which is like the jungle’s version of an elevator? (okay, that one is pushing it…)

What makes this one so unique is the fact that three walls are missing. The claustrophobic element is replaced with having too much space. Arnold and Michael Ironside trade sloppy muscular manly 80’s action movie punches and blocks while going up. Now you know someone is going to get thrown off, but the movie one ups the normal “screaming guy falling to a tame death” with the more satisfying “guy getting his arms cut off and Arnold one liner”:

Len Wiseman’s:

"I give good wife."

“I give good wife.”

Remakes suck! Now that we got that out of the way let’s talk about the elevatorness of the new Total Recall. Playing against the openness from the first, the new elevators are cubes, that go up, down, and sideways! Woah! But it’s not just the directional shift that makes this worthwhile, it’s the tonal shift as well. Veerhoven’s is slow and sloppy, two powerhouse actors slugging it out. Wiseman’s is fast and tight, four people (technically 3 people + 1 robot) trading well choreographed martial arts blows. And I love the way Beckinsale runs up, slides, missing the door, but seemlessly dropping in through the ceiling. Nice. All in all, ‘The Original’ is a better movie, but I’ll give credit where credit is due. This scene is good:

(Attention, I know I give a general Spoiler! warning at the top, but the rest of the movies do have some good stuff goin’ on and may reveal important bits of info or deaths! Yikes!)

3) Smokin’ Aces

Love character posters.

Love character posters.

This movie made my Top 5 Movies I Love That Everyone Hates list. This elevator scene is a good reason why.

In the scene, FBI Agent Carruthers slowly pieces together that the security guard he is with is really a hitman named Acosta, more dubiously dubbed as “El Estrago”, something we the audience already know and fear. The mirrors of the elevator reflect the different personas and motivations, heightening the tension. But its the muddled reflection of the elevator door that showcases El Estrago’s darker past. Once the radio confirms Carruthers’ suspicion the two are forced to duke it out right then and then and there.

Acosta gets some stabs in before switching to a gun and the two unleash slug after slug into each other at point blank range. The lights go out and the muzzle flashes sparkle against the falling glass. The fight takes them both out of commission for the rest of the flick. In essence, the elevator scene highlights everything great about Smokin’ Aces. Tense careful slow build up resulting in stylishly brutal violence. The aftermath of this shootout shatters through the rest of the movie like the glass shards which cover the riders along with their blood:

2) Merantau

Kind of a cheesy poster for a badass actioner.

Kind of a cheesy poster for a badass actioner.

This is definitely the best “fight” fight of the bunch. The longest, most intricate, and well rehearsed. I imagine if I was at a Midnight screening of this movie, the moment the number ‘5’ dinged on the screen there would be a collective “Ohhhhh-h-h-h-h-h-h yesssssssss” from the crowd, whether they’ve seen it or not. Because you know who is on the fifth floor. Badass Yuyan Ruhian himself, probably one of the best on screen martial artists of the genre (as showcased by his 2 on 1 fight with Iko Uwais and Danny Alamsyah in The Raid). Once they enter there is a meditative reflection on the philosphies of the characters via cliche dialogue and foreboding silence. Once they start going though, the movie does NOT let you catch a breath. There is absolutely no half-assing it here, this scene is everything it needs to be, no false promises. The music adds nice tension, actively building to a climax.

The best part is in the aftermath. Again, a cliche moment of “I won’t become what you’ve become” is followed by more awesomeness. Ruhian sacrifices himself as he is hit with a barrage of bullets. But like his character in The Raid, he does not go down easy. Implausible? Yes. Badass? Definitely:

1) Drive

Fan poster WAY better than the real ones.

Fan poster WAY better than the real ones.

It had to be Drive.

There are few movie scenes I would describe as transcendental. This is one of them. Continuing the trend of using an elevator at a crucial plot point, it’s not who The Driver kills that’s important; it’s why and how he kills him.

Mulligan knows Gosling as sort of an angelic protector, looking out for her and her family. But she doesn’t know the gritty details. And Gosling knows once he does this, she’ll never view him the same.

He swoops her to the side, lights change to enhance the moment, music slowly underlines the romance, and he kisses her for the first and last time of the film. Then BLAM. His violent past comes through in the form of his foot and the other man’s skull. And I mean THROUGH his skull. Drive isn’t a typical action flick, but its moments of ultra-violnce are used to maximum effect. That look on Gosling’s face as Mulligan steps out of the elvator is one of restrained explosion of testosterone, adrenaline, and anger held back with tears just enough to say “I’m sorry… for everything… but it had to be done.”

Everything. EVERYTHING, about this scene screams “Bret Dorman loves this film!”

So there ya have it. It seems elevators are great for building tension and no matter what, someone will die in them as a result. These are but 5 levels of awesome. What others would you like to add as a floor in the Top 5 Elevator Fight Scenes?

One response to “(Vertically Speaking) Top 5 Elevator Fight Scenes

  1. Pingback: (What About This is) New World Review | Cinema Punch!·

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