You can’t beat a good knife scene. Here are some of the sharpest moments in cinema, from the knife-fighting of “The Hunted” to the knife-throwing of “Gangs of New York” to the naked bathhouse brawling (involving knives) in “Eastern Promises.” Oh, and ‘Crocodile’ Dundee is around here somewhere, too.
“‘Crocodile’ Dundee” (1986)
The knife joke in “Crocodile Dundee” provides one of the movie’s biggest laughs, as Mick Dundee (Paul Hogan) and his American sweetie (Linda Kozlowski) are confronted on the mean streets of ’80s New York City by a perfectly costume-designed thug with a switchblade who demands our hero’s wallet. Kozlowski vies for an Oscar here with her super-intense “Mick. Give him your wallet. He’s GOT a KNIFE.” “That’s not a knife,” says the mighty hunter, and… well, you know the rest. Just kids havin’ fun.
The freaky little comic book movie that just wants to be loved succeeds every now and then in getting a big hug from the audience with a few choice moments, most of them involving the father-daughter crimefighting duo of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). Hit Girl gets the best birthday present ever from her proud papa: a Balisong, a weapon more commonly known as a “butterfly knife.” The young superheroine shows off her excellent technique with the blade as her father gives her a pop quiz — one of the questions is a wink-wink reference to Cage’s two-time director, John Woo, who knows a thing or two about knives himself.
“Under Siege” (1992)
“All your ridiculous, pitiful antics aren’t gonna change a thing.” That’s Shakespeare-level dialogue for Steven Seagal, and this poke to the villainous Tommy Lee Jones in what’s probably the best Seagal movie out there prompts a brief but impressive knife fight filled with nifty “whoosh-whoosh” sound design — Jones is allowed one nick to his opponent’s face before he gets a finger jammed through his eye socket and a blade through his skull. As bombastic and theatrical as Jones was in his performance, you’d think his character would’ve gotten a more epic send-off, but alas, it’s a quick one — that’s how it goes out at sea sometimes.
“Gangs of New York” (2002)
Daniel Day-Lewis is a squinting maniac as Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s flawed almost-masterpiece, throwing knives at hot girls like Cameron Diaz all to and fro. Bill’s none too happy with his “former assistant in manners of impalement” now that she’s banging Leonardo DiCaprio, and he takes it out on his once-apprentice and lover by having his blades land a little too close for comfort, much to the delight of the audience and the concern of Leo. Nothing signifies an official break-up quite like impaling a gal’s locket with a knife: “Whoopsie daisy, now it’s good and broke!”
“The Hunted” (2003)
Go Tommy Lee Jones! The old man proves he’s still got it as he engages (as the hero this time) in a one-on-one knife fight with Benicio Del Toro, who plays, like, the best knife fighter on the planet or something in William Friedkin’s military thriller. These two go at it for almost four solid minutes, stabbing each other multiple times as a waterfall gushes nearby (somewhat distracting scenery that the scene really doesn’t need). Any normal person would’ve been dead within the first few seconds of this battle, but these guys are only vaguely affected by things like “blood loss.” Speaking of which, the bit where Del Toro blinds Jones with his own blood is a nice gruesome touch.
“Eastern Promises” (2007)
Who are these idiot Russian thugs that think they can mess with Viggo Mortensen, especially when he’s just minding his own damn business whilst taking it easy in a bathhouse? Well, to be fair, these guys definitely get some good stabs in as they throw a naked Viggo around on the hard tiled floor, but this is Viggo we’re talking about, which means they’re eventually dead Russian meat. Director David Cronenberg makes you feel those aforementioned stabs — and you really feel the one that goes through the back of the second thug’s skull.
The climactic fight of this ’80s action classic is one for the books. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’d never been in better shape, takes on the paunchy and vaguely gay Vernon Wells, who makes a rather bizarre orgasm face when Arnold first presents the idea of turning their gunfight into a knife fight: “Put the knife in me!” Alyssa Milano looks on as these two go at it with blades until Wells realizes that he’s actually trying to take on Arnold Schwarzenegger with just his bare hands and grabs an Uzi. “I’m not gonna shoot you between the eyes, John — I’m gonna shoot you between the balls!” Sheesh.
Danny Trejo kicks (or rather stabs) ass in Robert Rodriguez’s follow-up to “El Mariachi” as Navajas, an ultra-tattooed, blade-throwing thug who makes short work of (spoiler!) Steve Buscemi before turning his attention to the Mariachi himself (Antonio Banderas). Navajas throws knives into the chests of a whole slew of cast members before he gets blown away by a gal with an Uzi, which, after “Commando,” seems to be the go-to weapon for calling it quits on knife fights. You can’t keep Trejo down for too long in Rodriguez-land, though — he’s returned for pretty much every one of the director’s films ever since.
“The Long Riders” (1980)
Western knife fight! You know things are gonna get rough and masculine when director Walter Hill is around, and the blade brawl in The Long Riders is one of the film’s highlights. James Remar (dressed almost exactly the way he was in Hill’s gangland fable, The Warriors) is Cherokee Sam Starr and David Carradine is Cole Younger, and their fight is over a dame named Belle (Pamela Reed) — the added bonus (and challenge) of their sharp-edged tussle is they each have to bite down on the opposite end of a sash, which keeps them from getting too far from each other. Whoa, pardner.
“I Saw the Devil” (2010)
No one can do sick and twisted revenge films quite like Korean filmmakers, and “I Saw the Devil” might be the sickest and most twisted to date (and that’s saying something — remember, “Oldboy” is also a raw Korean treat). “Oldboy”‘s Min-sik Choi plays a seemingly unstoppable serial killer, and a couple of guys are unlucky enough to pick him up on a deserted road in the middle of the night — they’re soon the victims of multiple (and we do mean multiple) stab wounds as our villain inflicts his macabre skills with a knife upon them, all while one of them is driving. Director Jee-woon Kim makes things all the more disorienting (and nauseating) as his camera spins around the action several times in a circle, making us feel like we’re being flushed down a toilet and into a stinking hell on Earth.
“V For Vendetta” (2006)
The masked child of the revolution known only as V can stick it to the totalitarian system in any number of ways, not the least of which is the way of the knife! Those who defy the gentleman in the Guy Fawkes mask soon taste the bitter pill of death… or, in the case of Natalie Portman, at least get their heads shaved. The brief but deadly knife scene in “V For Vendetta” is part of the whole “Which One is the Real V?” part of the film — confusion and deception only add to the sting of the piercing blade.
“Girl on the Bridge” (1999)
More knife-throwing, though the spectacle on display in “Girl on the Bridge” is decidely sexier and… well, more French than that of “Gangs of New York.” Vanessa Paradis is Adele, a melancholy lass saved from suicide by Gabor (Daniel Auteuil), a knife-thrower in need of a hot assistant. They make passionate French love not through sexual intercourse but via him throwing sharp objects at her, all set to Marianne Faithfull’s “Who Will Take My Dreams Away?,” a creepy tune previously featured in Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s “The City of Lost Children.” It’s art!
“Kill Zone” (2005)
It’s knife vs. police baton! The good guy wears black and the bad guy wears white (dear lord, are there no rules around here?) in this Hong Kong action flick that features the one and only Donnie Yen ridding the streets of crime with his mighty punches and deadly kicks. There’s plenty of martial arts mayhem on display throughout, though this alley battle is definitely one of the showstoppers — the police baton is eventually discarded, bringing it all down to just two guys and one knife, which is just the way it should be.
“Kung Fu Hustle” (2004)
Throwing knives can be dangerous, especially when you’re dealing with the kind that always seem to find their way back to you. Poor Stephen Chow in “Kung Fu Hustle” gets stabbed multiple times as the blades that are meant for the chainsmoking Landlady (Qiu Yuen) manage to end up back at their point of origin. Having three knives stuck in you is bad enough, but Chow soon has to deal with a basket of poisonous snakes being dumped on him as well (word to the wise — asps most certainly do not like whistling). “Kung Fu Hustle” also showed us that a knife stuck in your shoulder makes for a great rearview mirror.
“The Man from Nowhere” (2005)
Another hardcore Korean revenge tale, “The Man From Nowhere” stars Bin Won as a former special agent and recent widow who opens up a can of bloody filthy gooey vengeance when the young girl he befriends is kidnapped by a vicious drug gang. None of these poor idiots are safe as he infiltrates their ranks and picks them off one by one… or sometimes several at a time. Lots of priceless artwork is destroyed (or at least stained) in the museum scene — and what starts out as a shootout with multiple casualties soon becomes a bit messier when everyone starts pulling blades. This beautifully choreographed scene plays out like a ballet… if ballets frequently involved flesh getting stabbed, ripped, shredded and torn by a bunch of maniacs with knives.