Tom Cruise joined Ken Wantanabe for the final charge in the epic climax of The Last Samurai, earning the 2003 film inclusion on the list of the Top 14 All-Time Movie Battles from the PopCrunch blog. The period drama uncovered the history of the samurai warrior in tragically poetic fashion, with this final confrontation marking the transition into the Meiji Restoration and the final stand of the traditional swordsmen.
As the folks at PopCrunch remark, the scene is both extra large and hauntingly beautiful despite the graphic nature of the battlefield. While the honorable samurai are obviously outmatched by the modern weapons of the new army, they retain their dignity as they head toward nearly certain doom.
The team at TomCruise.com always gets a little choked up at the end of The Last Samurai for that very reason. It also moved the editors choosing this list, who put it at 13th among the all-time movie battles.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the other movie combat that made the PopCrunch rankings:
14. Gladiator, Battle in Germania – General Maximus leads the Roman Centurions to victory in a frozen forest lit by flaming arrows. Tough for the German barbarians they didn’t understand the basics of a pincer movement.
12. The Patriot, The Battle of Camden - Has anyone ever figured out why 18th century battle happened in perfectly aligned columns, waiting for someone to stop shooting their muskets first?
11. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Final Battle – The dueling wits of the British and French captains aboard ships circling the globe a long time before GPS, the stakes were incredibly high if things went wrong.
10. Return of the Jedi, Battle for Endor - Out of the ocean and into the stars, the climactic sequence from the first Stars Wars trilogy had every science fiction and cinema fan on the edge of their chairs. Also, who couldn’t root for the Ewoks.
9. Curse of the Golden Flower, The Final Battle - A Chinese period epic that spurred the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this final sequence is gorgeously choreographed, using every trick in the tradition of Chinese cinema while inventing a few new ones along the way.
8. A Bridge Too Far, The Parachute Drop – In the days before CGI, thousands of people parachuting through the sky meant just that. Awesome in it’s scope and keeping the hundreds of battlefield extras moving in perfect cinematic synchronicity.
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & Return of the King, Helm’s Deep & Pelennor Fields – Essentially the flipside of the previous entry, with visual effects technology taking the battlefield experience in movies to new, unimagined heights. You can almost feel the horde of orcs trying to stampede into the theater during these scenes.
6. Apocalypse Now, The Helicopter Attack - Only Bugs Bunny has probably done more to popularize Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” with Robert Duvall leading the charge in this scene demonstrating the hubris of warfare.
5. Braveheart, The Battle of Stirling – William Wallace stirs the passions of the overmatched Scots and, through judicious cunning turning the tables on the arrogant British, takes victory from the field of battle. Not for the faint of heart, the graphic nature of this movie proved controversial on it’s premiere.
4. Spartacus, The Final Battle – A classic of cinema, this Roman-era behemoth was directed by Tom Cruise collaborator Stanley Kubrick. The movie master “defined the word epic” with the final scene of over thousand extras fighting hand-to-hand against the vaunted Centurions.
3. 300 – The bloggers at PopCrunch label this entire film as an extended battle scene, with the stylized Spartans as imagined by Frank Miller capturing the editors’ imagination. We have to admit, the retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae was cool; particularly with the attention to detail in revealing the long-forgotten Spartan warrior culture. Those guys could fight!
2. Zulu, Battle of Rorke’s Drift – An influential period film from the 1960s, the final battle is a case-study in how to ratchet up dramatic tension in cinematic conflict. Directors on this list such as Peter Jackson and Ridley Scott both point to Zulu as inspiration for their own battle sequences.
1. Saving Private Ryan, Omaha Beach – Frighteningly realistic, this battle sequence from Tom Cruise collaborator Steven Spielberg introduces audiences to the horrors of war up-close and personal for nearly 30 minutes. People coming out of theaters felt lucky to survive when they had just been watching a movie. Obviously one of the best, even if one of the most graphic, battle scene ever.
So that does it for today’s list, cinema fans! We’re curious if there’s any battles that didn’t make the PopCrunch list you’d like to see. Are there some you think are bigger or just plain better? Do you think The Last Samurai is the best battle scene Tom Cruise has ever done? Let us know in the comments section.
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