Shootouts and gunfights are a rich cinematic tradition. Classic Westerns, crime movies, and war films have long hinged their climactic action beats on bloody gun battles between their heroes and the forces that oppose them. And they’ve only become more popular in the decades since. Over the years, shoot ’em up set-pieces have grown and evolved along with film technology and audience tastes, translating to new genres and popping up in just about every kind of movie you can think of, from superhero actioners to meta-comedies and awards contenders.
With Ben Wheatley‘s riotous Free Fire arriving in theaters this weekend, which is essentially a feature-length shootout that will undoubtedly end up a future iteration of this list, the Collider staff rounded up our favorite movie shootouts to get in the ballistic spirit. A couple house cleaning notes of interest. We kept our selection to one per director. Filmmakers like Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Mann, and John Woo have proven themselves masters of the shootout on so many occasions each could fill a list of their own. We love and admire their repeated excellence, but we also wanted to cast a wider net and highlight more films. Another important note is that this is a list of shootouts, not duels or Mexican standoffs. Though those motifs pop up, these selections are based on the thrill of action rather than the tension of inaction.
Without further ado, check out our picks for the best movie shootouts below and sound off in the comments with your favorites.