5 of the Most Memorable Shootout Scenes in Movie History

April 16, 2021Mac Caltrider
great movie shootout scenes

Composite image by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Gunfights stand as some of the most exciting sequences in movies. It seems no genre (save maybe rom-coms) is without its fair share of quality shootout scenes. To narrow the pool, Westerns, war movies, and comedies have been saved for another day, but here are five great movie shootouts worth revisiting.

Inglourious Basterds

“Say ‘auf Wiedersehen’ to your Nazi balls!” You’d be hard-pressed to find a shootout that kicks off with a better line. Inglourious Basterds starts our list for its sheer absurdity. All the characters are crammed into a dimly lit basement bar, and the extreme tension comes to a head in one of the most cramped movie gunfights of all time. With gorgeous cinematography and gratuitous violence — Tarantino calling cards — the shootout is really just a card game gone very wrong, but it is the perfect combination of comedy and gore.

The Way of the Gun

Christopher McQuarrie’s directorial debut was a box-office flop, barely turning a profit, but the neo-Western from 2000 has one of the best climactic gunfights of any movie. Starring Benicio Del Toro, Ryan Phillippe, and James Caan, The Way of the Gun is a great blend of realistic action and style. The director’s brother, Doug McQuarrie — a former Navy SEAL — acted as the film’s weapons and technical adviser, undoubtedly contributing to the final shootout’s level of realism. Pump-action shotguns and 1911s abound as the two main characters blast their way to their fates in a dusty courtyard. Named Parker and Longbaugh after the real Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the film’s principals give us the doomed shootout we were denied with Newman and Redford. The film has attained cult-classic status, and for good reason.

The Town

Brimming with thick accents and iconic settings, The Town is as much a movie about New England as it is about robbing banks. The film is based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves and stars Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner. It is full of great heist scenes and one-liners (“Whose car are we gonna take?”), but the final shootout steals the show. It kicks off inside the loading docks of Fenway Park and spills into the streets of Boston. Deafening AK blasts, burps from a TEC-9, and loud reports from a Remington 870 give this gunfight a unique chorus of weapons. As the cops outgun the antiheroes, the main characters’ desperation is palpable — they fight and claw to survive. The tension is exhilarating. The Town proved Affleck’s ability to star in and direct a great action drama, and he wins big bonus points for filming an unforgettable shootout finale.

Hold the Dark

An epic movie gunfight snuck past a lot of people in 2018’s Hold the Dark. The action thriller takes place in rural Alaska, adding an oppressive atmosphere of isolation. The movie contains an intense shootout involving a group of under-equipped police officers and a madman with an M60 machine gun. As casualties mount and the M60 keeps blasting away, the lopsided firepower makes this one of the more intense gunfights on the list. While it’s a decent movie, Hold the Dark’s unique gunfight alone makes it worth a watch.


This list would be incomplete if we did not include the famous Hollywood Boulevard shootout from Heat. Often regarded as the greatest cinematic gunfight of all time, this scene in Michael Mann’s 1995 action-drama set the standard for realism. The impressive firefight includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Wes Studi, and Tom Sizemore, each of whom gets his share of screen time as they fire thousands of rounds at each other in downtown Los Angeles. Twenty-six years on, the gold-standard scene holds up.

Heat may have been the first movie to accurately depict bounding overwatch and people communicating and fighting together rather than as lone gunmen. The characters’ frantic efforts to break contact and keep their weapons loaded while their ammunition quickly depletes makes it feel authentic. The complete lack of slow motion or additional score adds to the oppressive percussion of the guns. Mann originally intended to use a sound design of heavily edited gun noises, but after shooting the scene with fully loaded blanks, he found the natural audio echoing between the buildings proved to be the better option. So while you’ve probably seen it more times than you can count, add another watch and pay special attention to the sound; it will be eight minutes of your time well spent.

Read Next: Stephen Crane Conveyed Wars Horror, Existential Angst Like No Other

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

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.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
navy seal training
Navy SEALS Training Plagued by Massive Problems, According To Investigation

Medical oversight and care were “poorly organized, poorly integrated and poorly led and put candidat...

memorial day arlington
Memorial Day Is a Day of Remembrance, Not Celebration

Memorial Day was created as a remembrance to honor the fallen by decorating graves — a holiday meant...

air force joint chiefs
Air Force Fighter Pilot Tapped As Next Joint Chiefs Chairman Has History of Firsts

The Air Force fighter pilot about to be nominated as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ...

sowf special operations warrior foundation
BRCC Donates $500K to Special Operations Warrior Foundation

In an effort to continue Black Rifle Coffee Company’s mission of supporting the veteran community, B...

Coca Cola 600
BRCC to Honor Fallen Marine During NASCAR’s Legendary Coca-Cola 600

Black Rifle Coffee Company will honor Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa during NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 this Memorial Day. Menusa was killed in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq.

uss gerald r. ford oslo
US Aircraft Carrier Arrives In NATO Member Norway, To Take Part In Drills

The nuclear-powered ship USS Gerald R. Ford entered the Oslo fjord escorted by a rapid dinghy-type boat with armed personnel on board.

adam driver indy 500
Marine Vet, Actor Adam Driver Named Honorary Starter for Indianapolis 500

Two-time Academy Award nominee Adam Driver, who will soon be starring as Enzo Ferrari in a biopic of...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved