The possibilities are endless when it comes to great action films. Outlandish stunts, harrowing heists, massive explosions... the sky is the limit. Yet there's one technique to guarantee a great time for viewers: putting an action sequence on a train.
Trains are the norm, right? In addition to being a wonderful form of mass transportation, they just look fantastic, inside and out (or on the top, if you are an action star).
What a better time than now to commemorate this fantastic cinematic tradition? With Jackie Chan's death-defying stunts and movies entirely set on trains like Train to Busan (and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, which we loved but unfortunately did not receive the funding due to a lack of readily available clips), here are some of our favorite train action sequences.
Michelle Yeoh leaps a motorcycle off a hill and lands it on a moving train. According to Yeoh, Jackie Chan was so enthralled by the stunt that he felt the need to one-up her by landing on the train via a parachute. The outcome: This scene is absolutely stunning.
Logan might get more attention as far as solo Wolverine projects go, but (hot take) I prefer The Wolverine. It's the rare modern superhero project with a contained conflict (rather than an apocalyptic one), and, most importantly to this list, the fight on the top of a bullet train.
The Raid 2
The Raid series changed the action world, focusing on brutal brutality that is easy to comprehend visually. The second film is considerably more spread out in narrative approach and location. In this standout scene (spliced together by a YouTuber), Julie Estelles Hammer Girl absolutely wrecks some dudes on a train with her signature hammers.
Tom Cruise hung on top of a train in a thrilling sequence with Jon Voight and Jean Reno in Rogue Nation. The stunt was a mix of practical and CG effects.
Toy Story 3
The opening scene from Toy Story 3 has all of the elements of a legendary train fight sequence: stakes, suspense, orphans, nunchucks, backflips, etc. Truly, there is nothing more powerful than a child's imagination. Toussaint Egan
Train to Busan
The majority of its running time could be considered on this film. However, we can't pass up the opportunity to highlight Ma Dong-seok defeating some zombies with taped-up forearms.
If there is one thing you know about Wanted, it's probably that bullets curve in it. One of the cooler examples happened in this train sequence, where James McAvoy curves a bullet around a civilian to hit another bullet that was sure to strike her. Angelina Jolie also crashed a car into a train, if youre into that sort of thing.
A train appears quite prominently at the end of the film, though it isn't quite as powerful as the bus. Hopper joins him up there, and we get an all-out brawl on the moving train, which culminates in a tragic death for a great 90s film villain.
In a film like Snowpiercer, where there is virtually no action inside a train, the blackout sequence (many of them fight scenes) stands out as one of the film's greatest, as the audience observes Curtis' (Chris Evans) rebellion being subdued by a group of masked machete-wielding soldiers wearing night vision glasses. The final scene, which depicts a small boy hoisting a flaming torch like an Olympic marathon runner, is
The Matrix Resurrections
The Matrix series is well-known for its dazzling ensemble action sequences, and the train fight in The Matrix Resurrections is no exception: at once serious and kinetic as it is irreverently funny and brimming with personality.
Tobey Maguire's mature portrayal of a superpowered web-slinger as he struggles with his duties as a vigilante, Alfred Molina's astonishing and terrifying performance as a noble scientist and mentor transformed by grief and a freak accident, or filmmaker Sam Raimi's skillful emotional storytelling and craftsmanship, all of which are noteworthy for the purpose of this list.
The incredible scene where Peter and Doc Ock trade blows while standing on the side of a train carriage as it barrels ahead, or Spider-Man maneuvering through traffic before hoisting himself across rooftops while saving civilians, all of which are worth seeing.
John Wick: Chapter 2
Wick faces off against Cassian, a Commons assassin in an intricately choreographed close-quarters knife fight from the John Wick franchise. PV
Hrithik Roshan plays Mr. A, Queen Elizabeth, and Mr. A as Queen Elizabeth in the excellent Bollywood heist franchise sequel, which is difficult to describe in mere words. He also parachutes onto a train and then sandboards behind it. A+, no notes.
The Legend of Drunken Master
What if you thought there would be only one Jackie Chan scene on this list? Think again.
This sprawling fight sequence starts on a train, then briefly climbs on top of it, before moving underneath the train and finally away from it.
As an aside, both this film and the original 1978 Drunken Master are stone-cold classics packed to the brim with charming sequences like this one. PV
Taking of Pelham 123
This is another example of the sort of tension that was created by Tony Scott in the late 1980s (and that was true for both the 1974 and 2009 versions).
This excellent blue-collar thriller based almost entirely on a train follows our journey down the late-period Tony Scott track (train reference) in one of the directors' finest films and one of the finest thrillers you can watch at home.
The Harder They Fall
Jeymes Samuels' train shootout in The Harder They Fall may be brief, but its execution is outstanding all the same. Along with some incredible knifeplay, Lakeith Stanfields steals the show before a single shot is fired.
Scott Lang faces Yellowjacket in the first Ant-Man film, although the final segment is a delightfully funny conclusion. PV
The Good, the Bad, the Weird
Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) directs this Korean western that features Song Kang-ho and Lee Byung-hun as he navigates the compartments. PV
This sequence is from one of the series' strongest entries, and culminates in Paul Walker jumping from a moving truck attached to a moving train driven by Vin Diesel, before they tumble off a cliff into the deep end. Cinema! PV
Furie is a household name. This is a revenge thriller starring Le-Van Kiet (The Princess) who previously worked with Veronica Ngo, who is renowned for her neon-soaked train fight above.
Daniel Craig's Bond films include not just one, but two banger train scenes. The first, the cold open to Skyfall, features your classic fight on the train stage followed by one of the most shocking finishes to any Bond cold open. The second sees Bond brawl it out against Dave Bautista, playing one of the most memorable Craig villains.
Tony Leung will play Ip Man in this version, along with Zhang Ziyi as Gong Ruo Mei (seen in the clip) and Yuen Woo-ping's action choreography (who directed the sequel to Master Z: Ip Man Legacy, with Grandmaster co-star Max Zhang).
The Fugitive is one of the most iconic thrillers of the 1990s, following Harrison Fords Dr. Richard Kimble on the run from false accusations of the murder of his wife. In this scene on the L train, Kimble is identified by another passenger (who informs a police officer) before the real culprit attempts to take him out.
If there isnt at least one John Woo clip included, you cant say that any list related to action is complete. In this scene, Christian Slater kicks former NFL star Howie Long straight off the train (and the bridge it is crossing over) before facing off with John Travolta in a classic Woo gun battle.
Resident Evil's final confrontation between Alice (Milla Jovovich) and the mutant Licker at the end of 2002 is a terrific action sequence that feels like both an ode to Ridley Scott's Alien and an enthusiastic homage to the train boss battle in Resident Evil 2.
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
This scene has everything you want from a Steven Seagal film.
A guy gets thrown off a train, only to be chased over by it. A litany of character actors (Eric Bogosian! Jonathan Banks! Kurtwood Smith!). Katherine Heigl! A massive gun battle both on top of and inside of the train. Seagal in all black. A difficult-to-believe stunt under a moving train.
The Equalizer 2
The second entry in the underrated Denzel action series opens with this tense moment on a train, moving from a calm conversation to brutal combat with a quickness.
Denzels skill is demonstrated in this fantastic display. Robert McCall is always in charge of his situation, but able to ramp up from zero to 60 on a moments notice. When his conversation with his target switches on a dime, finally letting the audience know what's going on... That's right there.
The Wrong Trousers
Nick Parks stop-motion classic from 1993, with oaf Wallace and his cucumber-cool dog Gromit, is an impeccable half-hour heist thriller as well as a masterpiece of animated slapstick. It culminates in an astonishingly clever and sharply edited chase around Wallace's suburban house on a model railway set that is no less epic, suspenseful, or hilarious a set-piece for being miniaturized.
Polygon's greatest features are discussed weekly in a weekly roundup.
Please check your email to see if there is a confirmation email, and follow the steps to confirm your humanity.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again.