Let’s be honest, we love movie fights where the hero loses. Scratch that - not lose. We love watching action movie beatdowns that make the protagonist more relatable. Sometimes, audiences just need to feel like a hero's plot armor is on the verge of being stripped away - that hope is all but lost. Besides, it’d be laughable and relatively boring if every hero made it through a movie unscathed. What’s a good third act without otherworldly adversaries to overcome?
This list rounds up action movie fights where the main character takes a lot more punishment than they dish out. However, that's not to say they necessarily lose in the end. Rather, these are fights where the hero clearly would have lost if you were scoring based on the amount of punishment doled out rather than who was ultimately left standing. From fistfights where the punches feel real to one very iconic lightsaber duel, these memorable brawls live on as some of the most notable times action heroes got the crap beaten out of them.
- Photo: MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Rocky Balboa is a piece of iron and seemingly invincible in the ring (despite always taking a beating by leading with his head). Unfortunately, the laws of physics that apply to him don’t apply to Apollo Creed. At least not in Rocky IV. Enter Ivan Drago, an Olympic gold medalist and amateur boxing champion of the Soviet Union with a record of 100-0-0. At 6 feet 6 inches, Drago is an absolute monster - which is exacerbated by intramuscular injections/anabolic enhancements.
When Drago visits the US and challenges our champion, Rocky, former champion Apollo comes out of retirement to challenge the Russian in an exhibition match. At 43 years old, he’s no match for Drago, whose vicious punches bloody Apollo from the jump. He gets beaten so badly, Rocky prepares to throw in the towel, and then famously obeys his friend’s wishes to continue with the fight. In the next round, Apollo continues to take hits to the head until Drago ends him with a vicious final blow. Rocky ultimately goes on to beat Drago in his own backyard, but Apollo's demise forever changed the Rocky/Creed franchise.Massive beatdown?
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
The Dark Knight Rises introduced yet another comic book character into its grounded universe, depicting one of his iconic moments from the source material. Bane breaks the Bat. The fight between Batman and Bane itself doesn’t feature any loud music (like the typical Christopher Nolan affair) or wild CGI, it’s just two men exchanging fisticuffs in the sewer - which is what makes it so intense.
After being betrayed by Catwoman, the Dark Knight gets trapped and is forced to fight one-on-one with the physically superior Bane. Despite Batman’s gadgets and impressive combat skills, he’s no match for Bane’s monstrous strength - absorbing blow after blow before finally breaking Batman’s back, setting the stage for Bruce Wayne’s imprisonment, recovery, and “rise.”Massive beatdown?
- 3190 VOTESPhoto: Paramount Pictures
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones redefined the action hero archetype. He felt like a cooler version of the everyman, even when he was getting beaten to a bloody pulp. No scene better epitomizes this than the fight in Raiders of the Lost Ark. After chasing the extremists to an airstrip, Marion guns down soldiers in a plane while Indy takes on a very big, bad, and bald Third Reich supporter around the plane.
The pair simultaneously throws hands and dodges propellers - Indy’s punches barely do anything while his opponent does a whole lot of damage. Thankfully, a well-timed propeller cuts our hero a break.Massive beatdown?
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine is one very much concerned with legacy. On his road to redemption, the mutant finds himself tainted by his adamantium skeleton. Finally seeing his aging and healing abilities failing, Logan meets two updated versions of his mutant genetics/DNA: X-23 and X-24. Created in a lab, X-23 is essentially Logan’s offspring, while X-24 is introduced as a ruthless and primitive clone of Logan in his prime.
In the final fight between our hero and the dark forces of the biotechnology corporation, Alkali-Transigen, Logan takes on the cloned version of himself. Seemingly devoid of humanity, X-24 repeatedly slices into a weakened Logan. Without his fast healing, every slice is harsh until Logan is ultimately impaled on a tree. The only reason he doesn’t “lose” this fight is because his daughter takes out X-24 with the very adamantium bullet the Wolverine was saving for himself. In more ways than one, Logan was the instrument of his own demise.Massive beatdown?