If you frequent the cinema, you've seen a climactic fight or two in your life. Generally speaking, these brawls and scraps have world-changing consequences. Think of the Rebels taking on the Death Star in the original Star Wars or the Avengers going up against Loki and the Chitauri horde in The Avengers and you get the idea: the bigger the stakes, the bigger the payoff.
Or that's how the story usually goes. However, there is something to be said for smaller, personal stakes. Who doesn't love a final fight where everything rests on the emotional stakes of the fight? We don't always need a status-quo-changing threat to get invested in a good story. And the following films prove this with glorious aplomb.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Revenge of the Sith is imbued with many of the flaws of the other two prequel trilogy films: The writing is dull, the actors struggle to act against nothing but blue screen, and the plot isn't as engaging as it should be. But what The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones lack in emotion, Revenge of the Sith makes up for in spades. And there isn't a more emotional scene in all of the prequel trilogy than the final fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin on Mustafar.
The Sith have already won. The empire is beginning and most of the Jedi Order has died. There is nothing for Obi-Wan to truly gain here. And when Ewan McGregor shouts, "You were the chosen one" at Hayden Christensen, your heart just breaks. The flowing, bubbling lava surrounding these former friends as they come to blows is a manifestation of all the emotion pouring out of both of them. It's so good!4710Emotional fight?
- Photo: DreamWorks Pictures
Joaquin Phoenix may be best known as the Crown Prince of Crime from the Martin Scorsese-ripoff Joker nowadays, but the role that brought him newfound fame back in the early days of his Hollywood career was as the antagonist, Commodus, in Gladiator. And if there was ever an extremely punchable villain in a big-budget action/drama, it was Commodus. Phoenix spends the film's runtime hamming it up as the comically evil, spoiled rich boy, and when he finally gets his beatdown at the end of the film's two-and-a-half-hour runtime, we are very much there for it.
You see, Commodus had Maximus's wife and son slain in a fit of anger before Maximus wound up an enslaved gladiator. Both Commodus and Maximus end up dead as a result, but we know who will rest soundly in the afterlife. Maximus got revenge for the slaughter of his family and Commodus got what was coming to him.427Emotional fight?
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
What is the best way to show Luke Skywalker has a lot to learn in The Empire Strikes Back? Have him face off against one of the best film antagonists of all time and get his butt thoroughly whooped. How thoroughly whooped are we talking? Well, losing a hand is nothing to scoff at, last time we checked. The revelation that Vader is actually his father probably doesn't help much, either.
But, realistically, what did Luke think he would accomplish by taking on Vader? The Empire would still be the mightiest force in the galaxy with or without him, and Yoda told Luke he wasn't ready to take on the Force of his father in the first place. There are no world-ending stakes at play here... it's just Luke's emotions leading him into a duel he can't win. And it's great cinema.388Emotional fight?
By the time the climax of Captain America: Civil War rears its ugly head, our heroes have Baron Zemo right where they want him. It's Iron Man, Captain America, and the Winter Soldier all on the same team, ready to kick some tail. There is nowhere for Daniel Bruhl's character to run. The world-ending threat of the super-soldier sleeper agents was a red herring the whole time and Zemo's real objective - the fracturing of the Avengers - comes to light.
It turns out that Tony Stark's parents didn't die in a car accident, but in a hit job by the Winter Soldier himself. And Steve Rogers knew! And didn't tell Tony! Well, Tony Stark isn't the best at handling his emotions, and a brawl between the former buddies is on. Black Panther ends up being the one who apprehends Zemo while our bromantic triangle falls apart in front of our eyes. It's brutal. It's sad. It's decidedly low-stakes for the MCU - and that's actually a pretty good thing.4117Emotional fight?