Christian Bale is widely recognized as one of the best actors working today. He's also given audiences some of the best movie fights of all time, so we ranked five of his best brawls. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
Christian Bale is on a hot streak. Between Thor: Love and Thunder, Amsterdam, and The Pale Blue Eye, Bale is starring in three major movies this year, ending a brief hiatus that began in 2019.
Starring alongside Margot Robbie and John David Washington, Bale plays World War I veteran Burt Berendsen in Amsterdam. His character loses an eye while fighting in France, then proceeds to have his glass replacement knocked out repeatedly in scuffles with other characters.
Watching Bale brawl with his fellow thespians is nothing new, though. After all, this is the guy who fought dragons in Reign of Fire, killer robots in Terminator: Salvation, and the infamous gangster John Dillinger in Public Enemies. Recently, Bale even took on all the gods in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Gorr in Thor: Love and Thunder. So in honor of Bale’s penchant for on-screen combat — hand-to-hand or otherwise — we’ve ranked his five best movie fights.
Taking it back to the Wild West, one of Bale’s best movie fights comes from the 2007 Western remake, 3:10 to Yuma. Bale stars as Dan Evans, a one-legged Civil War veteran responsible for escorting notorious gunslinger Ben Wade, played by Russell Crowe, to a train bound for the gallows in Yuma, Arizona. Things take a turn for the worse when Wade’s followers try to spring Wade free, killing some of Evans' comrades in the process. Evans’ son thinks he’s a coward and his wife thinks he’s a failure, driving him to eventually take on Wade’s gang of cutthroats by himself. As the epic gunfight unfolds, Evans’ courage under fire and determination to do the right thing inspires Wade to switch sides and help Evans. The whole movie is exciting, but seeing Bale and Crowe wield six-shooters in a classic Western showdown is one for the books.
The 2013 gritty crime drama Out of the Furnace follows Pennsylvania steelworker Russell Baze, played by Bale, and his younger brother, Rodney, an Iraq War veteran played by Casey Affleck, into the dark depths of a violent criminal underworld. When Rodney disappears after a bare-knuckle fight with some notorious gangsters, and police are slow to investigate, Russell takes the search into his own hands. He eventually gets caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the gang's leader, played by Woody Harrelson. The final showdown is less action-packed than the rest of the fights on our list, but there’s something about Bale, Harrelson, and a good ol’ bolt-action rifle that makes this fight worth a few rewatches.
This list would be incomplete without mentioning at least one fight from the Dark Knight trilogy — in fact, those three movies probably warrant their own list of fights. Whether he’s sword-fighting Liam Neeson on a glacier in Batman Begins or roughing up Heath Ledger during The Dark Knight’s infamous interrogation scene, Bale as Batman provides a treasure trove of epic fight sequences. But despite the fact that he takes on an army of criminals and villains over the course of the trilogy, it’s his first fight with Bane that stands out as the best.
With the Joker’s big shoes to fill, Tom Hardy gained an immense amount of muscle to play Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. His trap muscles look about as big as two Smart cars, and he puts them to good use in the first showdown with The Bat. The fistfight is confined to a small, elevated walkway, and Bane hoists Batman over his head before snapping his back over his knee like a frustrated power hitter breaking a Louisville Slugger. It’s a crushing blow for Batman, but one that sets him up for an eventual comeback to complete the trilogy.
Maybe the 2019 biopic about the two men responsible for Shelby muscle cars doesn’t immediately elicit the image of fighting, but the comical scuffle between Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon, and Ken Miles, played by Bale, is without a doubt one of the latter’s most entertaining movie fights. The two legendary actors go head-to-head on a sidewalk while onlookers watch Wonder Bread, cowboy hats, and trash cans go flying in all directions. It’s one of the more accurate fight scenes that Bale has appeared in, as there are no sexily choreographed moves between the two untrained middle-aged men.
Another Western to top off our list: Scott Cooper’s 2017 film, Hostiles. In it, Bale plays an aging US cavalry officer charged with escorting a dying Cheyenne chief (played by Wes Studi) back to his reservation. It’s a dark, violent movie that wastes no time setting the tone with a shocking opening scene in which a pioneer family is slaughtered at the hands of a Comanche war party. The pace and brutality never relent, but the climactic gunfight between Bale’s cohorts and a family of angry ranchers elevates the realistic violence to an uncomfortable level.
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
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