The Best John Wick Fight Scenes Ranked
With John Wick: Chapter 4 now in theaters, we attempt to pin down the Baba Yaga and rank his very best fight scenes.
This article contains some John Wick: Chapter 4 spoilers.
This weekend marks John Wick’s long anticipated return to cinemas in the fourth installment of the hitman’s story. Keanu Reeves’ formerly retired assassin has earned a reputation for the merciless nature of his kills, and while the motivations of the “Baba Yaga” might have begun with the simplicity of revenge, his saga has now spiraled into a complex display of the politics of this violent, shadowy underworld. Lucky for us though, Wick’s spiral has also resulted in the creation of some of the most fantastic fight sequences ever put to film.
This action series is relentless in its incredible use of hand-to-hand combat, stunt coordination, and weapons expertise, which all come together to forge an array of tense, visually inventive set pieces that seem to grow bigger and more brutal with each passing release. The best fight sequences across the John Wick movies contain an innovative use of space, skills and props, while still effortlessly telling the story of Wick’s reluctance yet inevitability. Amazing action films find a way to make sure the narrative gives genuine purpose to every movement, and these moments prove why John Wick has become so iconic in the genre.
8. Ernest In The Library: Chapter 3
It’s uncommon to see John Wick against a singular opponent, with the films often preferring to have the character run through a group of henchmen in quick succession. It’s even more unusual to watch Wick attempt to take down a larger combatant, but former friend Ernest (Boban Marjanovic) towers over his target with a menacing stature. Although the size difference is one element that makes this moment unique, the setting, as per usual, is also integral to the story. Ernest and John are crossing paths in the New York Public Library, with the latter attempting to retrieve valuable items essential for his escape.
With Ernest charging at Wick, knife in hand, John grabs the most logical item to utilize in a reading environment: a book. The sequence plays out with both brutality and wit. When the franchise splices its hard-hitting action with moments of humor, it almost always lands, and that’s the case here. Never has a novel looked so dangerous as when it’s in the hands of our master assassin. Wick eventually claims victory after dislocating the jaw and breaking the neck of Ernest in an impactful final combo. It’s murder by book.
7. The Hall Of Mirrors: Chapter 2
Any confrontation that is designed for the third act of a film needs to be more innovative than anything the audience has seen throughout the opening and mid-section. A hall of mirrors is not a simple environment to use in this context. It’s almost impossible to avoid the camera being seen in the reflective setting without an extensive use of CGI—although John Wick director Chad Stahelski was clearly a fan of Orson Welles’ ability to do otherwise during the climax of The Lady from Shanghai (1947). Stahelski homages and advances this technological technique to perfection in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), allowing Wick’s elegant training to be displayed from every angle.
The coordination needed for this sequence was complex, with the museum in question known as the NYC Reflections of the Soul, providing a tense playground to do battle around. Line of sight is an important aspect of the assassin’s work, but knowing whether a shot is clean or obscured by mirrors makes the task far more challenging.
The pace is slowed for this fight in a manner not quite traditional for the franchise. There’s a cautiousness to each movement, with Wick understanding that around any corner could be an unseen threat; ironic considering the visibility the mirrors also provide. Fighting with both the benefit and detriment of the environment is entertaining and visceral. Facing off with the assassin known as Ares (Ruby Rose), a suitable “boss battle” is placed in the finale of this section, providing one final climatic beat for John to march one step closer to victory. From a storytelling perspective it’s faultless, and despite launching with the chaos of an all-out trading of bullets, the moment concludes with a gritty scrap to survive. Ares getting stabbed through the hand and then the chest is a harrowingly violent lasting image.
6. Combat In The Red Circle Club: Chapter 1
It’s always good to start at the beginning, and one of the most stunning fight sequences of the original John Wick (2014) saw John enter the Red Circle Club, owned by Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), the then chief target of Wick’s wrath. Although clubs prove to be a consistently used backdrop for the franchise’s action, the first film inventively sees Wick descend into the private Bath House, beginning the slaughter beneath the packed dance floor. With a calm soundtrack setting a mood, the genius of this skirmish is the way it’s set up. Tarasov’s men are aware that Wick could arrive at any minute, but there is a strange tranquility before the storm. Aided by the gorgeous cinematography, Wick embarks on stealth attacks in the dark, creating artwork out of his brutality that’s not apparent to his enemies.
The menace in which Wick dispatches his opponents is nothing short of terrifying here. He has the unfazed demeanor of a professional, indicating to the audience that he is in god mode. Eventually, the kills start to come thick and fast, but there are few other sequences that demonstrate the planning of a protagonist quite like this. With a larger focus on close-quarter combat, there’s a sense that anything can happen, but Wick’s prime mission, the death of Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), is the key beat tracked here.
When Tarasov gets away, all chaos breaks loose, and the fight explodes into the rest of the club where the music is now deafening and distracting. The spectacle is elevated, but the story is still being told, with the desperation of our hero beginning to show as he fights his way through hordes of henchmen, never quite getting to his prey. It’s an excellent example of what John Wick does best, using the environment to its advantage while ensuring his character arc is still at the heart of the piece despite the bullets.
5. Home Invasion: Chapter 1
It’s a common trope in cinema that the skills of the hero are lauded as exceptional, but sometimes you rarely see how. In other words, filmmakers intentionally make it difficult to see what’s going on. Maybe it’s because the physicality of the lead actor is not up to scratch with what’s expected of them, or maybe a director wants to add mystique, but it often feels like a cheat. John Wick immediately blows all of that out of the water. The film constantly reminds viewers that Wick is “the boogeyman” and to cross him is to face a devil. The home invasion sequence, the first full on fight of the film, surpasses expectations, delivering on all of the promises of the narrative. Wick really is that guy.
It’s a simple choreography set compared to some of the complicated sequences throughout the rest of the series. Set within John’s house, it’s the first step on a larger revenge mission. It’s interesting to see Wick on the defensive in some ways, using his home court advantage to take down the attackers. He rarely struggles, with every hit demonstrating just how talented he is. With Viggo Tarasov’s ominous speeches about what Wick is capable of setting the sequence up, it’s a powerful debut for the ex-assassin. It also combines multiple elements that would, in retrospect, act as a mission statement for what the John Wick series is all about. Hand-to-hand combat, genuine reloads, knife work, and shootouts are all accentuated by a moment of well-balanced humor to top it all off.
4. Showdown in the Osaka Continental: Chapter 4
The fourth John Wick movie was not the first to feature an action sequence desecrating the hallowed grounds of a Continental hotel (scroll down for another example). However, this is by far the most audacious and operatic version of the set piece. Set on Japanese turf, the extended first act climax of Chapter 4 is the only scene in which legends of martial arts cinema Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada face off in a pulse-pounding samurai duel, yet that is but one element that makes this sequence a standout.
Unlike many scenes on this list which exist to demonstrate John’s versatility with various weaponry, the Osaka Continental turns into a warzone playground where the entire ensemble to show off: Yen plays a blind assassin who uses the terrain created by a five-star kitchen to his advantage; Sanada offers a throwback to Toho classics by way of the blade; and newcomer Rina Sawayama makes a hell of an impression by clinging like an ornery badger to a High Table goon’s back as she stabs him upwards of 20 times. Reeves is on hand, too, to offer some reliable gunplay fun, but this sequence feels as if Stahelski and his choreographers are just indulging in maximalist mayhem in a last hurrah before things get a lot more serious going forward.
3. New York’s Motorcycle Chase: Chapter 3
It’s rare to see John Wick’s back up against the wall, but John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum sees our hero dealing with the consequences of being rendered excommunicado by Winston. This scene thus opens with Wick on the run, the viciousness of those hunting him fully displayed in the shocking way they remove their rivals. And the chase starts on foot, through one of New York’s busiest subway stops. There are eyes everywhere, and the short moment of conflict that kicks off proceedings shows that Wick cannot hold back, with his well-trained knife work on display. The scale of the segment only gets larger from there. In an impressive leap, Wick takes down one pursuer off of a moving motorcycle, using the momentum of a second bike to floor him. Never has a helmet been used in such an offensive way.
As the scene carries on, Wick’s desperation is made evident by his willingness to escape in an exposed vehicle. And things become only more surreal when blades are pulled out and an army of sword-wielding assassins, who take swings while following the high-speed collision course. The coordination needed to piece this sequence together is extraordinary.
Wick is still maintaining balance on the bike while making vicious moves against each attacker. It’s stylized but somehow vaguely believable, with the sickening crashes giving the audience hope that Wick is about to get away. Even a professional like John can’t make it on his own forever; his run abruptly comes to an end with a smash that could have put him out of commission. High-octane and masterfully executed, it’s a bold way to show that this leading man doesn’t have the advantages he once boasted in previous movies.
2. A Battle of Inches and Stairs: Chapter 4
The entire extended Paris sequence of John Wick: Chapter 4 is a tour de force of action spectacle that is so bombastic it leaves you breathless. But if we had to minimize John’s epic quest to reach the top of Montmartre before dawn to just one set piece, it’d have to be the final push up the steps beneath Sacré-Cœur. It’s a long, long 200+ steps that stands between John and his potentially final duel. But to get there he has to ascend them. Twice.
Along the way, John is forced to utilize every tool in his bag of tricks: gunplay, knives, and good ol’ fisticuffs as he climbs all the way up, only to be kicked brutally all the way back down ot the bottom in an extended fall sequence that lingers on his tumbles like a gag out of The Princess Bride. You feel his despair once he returns to the bottom, and his unspoken relief when enemy Caine (Yen) agrees to at least help his one-time friend all the way back up and through a sea of bodies. It really is the high point of an extended third act spectacle that includes everything from Arc de Triomphe roadkill to the giddy moment where John becomes the protagonist in an over-the-head video game, allowing Stahelski to shoot an extended oner of Wick using a glorified grenade launcher against waves of enemies.
1. Continental Shootout: Chapter 3
It’s not often that Wick gets to fight alongside allies, but there was something special and memorable about the setup for the most significant fight of the franchise thus far. Set in the Continental Hotel, a key building in Wick lore, John is finally joined by Charon (Lance Reddick) in battle, alongside Winston; albeit from a distance. This is an all out war, with the production team managing to combine the stealth and precision elements associated with the series, alongside a more brazen shootout. What’s more, the antagonists were given a rarely seen advantage, which played into the choreography of the contest.
With body armor capable of protecting against some of the traditional maneuvers Wick might have utilized, creative strikes were the only way to overpower the attacking invaders. It’s fast-paced and feels definitive in its structure, a scenario that very much seems like a final fight because of the struggle it takes all involved to take down their foes. It’s refreshing to see what Charon can bring to the table too, helping to elevate the sequence further while Winston’s laid back, far-off approach is totally unique. Having to locate the weak spots in the armor at all times ensured there was a constant challenge to overcome throughout the combat, adding an all-important additional barrier to Wick’s normal speed-run approach.
There are countless other fight sequences from the John Wick movies that could be mentioned. However, here are just a few that we think stand a cut above. What are your favorites?