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The 20 greatest smackdown movies – ranked! | Film

Main image:
Fight to the finish: the protagonists get down and dirty in the forthcoming Godzilla vs Kong.

Photograph: AP

20. Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (2002)

</figure> <p>Aside from its instantly offputting title, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever enjoys the rare distinction of having a <a href=”https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ballistic_ecks_vs_sever”>0% score</a> on Rotten Tomatoes. That makes it worse than<a href=”https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mac_and_me”> Mac and Me</a>. As bad as <a href=”https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/super_babies_baby_geniuses_2″>Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2</a>. What is Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever about? I watched it, and I’m still not entirely sure. One thing’s for sure, Ecks and Sever really don’t seem to get along</p> <h2><strong>19. Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-video” data-canonical-url=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/9SX6Qil0jQA” > <iframe src=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/9SX6Qil0jQA?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed” height=”360″ width=”640″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen /> </figure> <p>There are bad films, and then there’s Dracula vs Frankenstein. Where to start? The fact that Dracula was played by the producer’s stockbroker? The excruciating LSD wig-out sequence? The fact that the whole film (known as Blood of Frankenstein in the UK) is so badly lit that you can never really see what’s happening? The way that a main character (played by Lon Chaney Jr, no less) is named Groton? Yes. The answer to all these questions is yes.</p> <h2><strong>18. Sharktopus vs Whalewolf (2015)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-video” data-canonical-url=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/kGTJ4Cv5ktE” > <iframe src=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/kGTJ4Cv5ktE?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed” height=”360″ width=”640″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen /> </figure> <p>The world is full of shark-based smackdown movies. But perhaps Sharktopus vs Whalewolf represents the pinnacle. We are all aware of the concept of a sharktopus, a giant shark with eight tentacles. But what makes this film so incredible is the inclusion of a whalewolf. “What is a whalewolf?” you ask. “A cross between a wolf and a whale?” Almost. It’s a man who <em>turns into</em> a cross between a wolf and a whale, and then fights a sharktopus with its fists in a baseball stadium. Glad you asked.</p> <h2><strong>17. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/aug/30/cockneys-vs-zombies-review”>Cockneys vs Zombies</a> (2012)</strong></h2> <aside class=”element element-rich-link element–thumbnail”> <p> <span>Related: </span><a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/nov/08/richard-briers-cockneys-vs-zombies”>Richard Briers on Cockneys Vs Zombies: ‘I’ve popped up to play these terrible killers. It’s great'</a> </p> </aside> <p>The worst thing about Cockneys vs Zombies – apart from the script and the execution – is that it required an elderly cast. And so this has to go down as the final film of both Richard Briers and Honor Blackman. They both deserved better than this, a clod-footed Shaun of the Dead rip-off where everyone involved seems to be operating at quarter speed.</p> <h2><strong>16. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/apr/03/monsters-vs-aliens-film-review”>Monsters vs Aliens</a> (2009)</strong></h2> <p>A film called Monsters vs Aliens should at least have a sense of fun. But sadly this isn’t the case for this brutally generic DreamWorks animation, which takes some very promising character design and then does nothing with it. It isn’t scary enough, or funny enough, or self-aware enough. A mess.</p> <h2><strong>15. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/apr/18/my-guilty-pleasure-alien-vs-predator”>Alien vs Predator</a> (2004)</strong></h2> <p>The best thing about both Predator and Alien was that they understood the terror of the unexplained. To watch either film is to experience a sustained jolt of “Holy shit, where did <em>that</em> come from?”. Alien vs Predator, on the other hand, knew where they both came from and was determined to explain it to you at such punishing length that you stopped caring after about 10 minutes. Side note: can everyone stop wasting Ewan Bremner in things, please?</p> <h2><strong>14. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/may/06/war-horse-strippers-four-buck-dvd”>Strippers vs Werewolves</a> (2012)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-video” data-canonical-url=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/5um0BpHVuYw” > <iframe src=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/5um0BpHVuYw?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed” height=”360″ width=”640″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen /> </figure> <p>No universe exists in which a film called Strippers vs Werewolves is any good. And yet this is somehow worse than you even imagined. The horror isn’t scary. The comedy isn’t funny. The sexiness is aggressively unsexy. The only reason you should watch this is because it stars a pre-Line of Duty Martin Compston, and it’s interesting to wonder how much shame he feels about it.</p> <h2><strong>13. Gamera vs Guiron (1969)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-video” data-canonical-url=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/TASZB_WL3v0″ > <iframe src=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/TASZB_WL3v0?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed” height=”360″ width=”640″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen /> </figure> <p>Gamera is Gozilla’s cheaper, less famous, worse-made cousin; a giant jet-powered fire-breathing turtle whose nickname, embarrassingly, is “the friend of all children”. Nevertheless, I have an enormous soft spot for Gamera, not least because he has the best theme tune in all of cinema history. All Gamera films are great, but I have gone with 1969’s Gamera vs Guiron here because it’s the only one with cannibal aliens in it.</p> <h2><strong>12. The People vs Larry Flynt (1996)</strong></h2> <p>Fine, this is a loophole because it has “vs” in the title, but have you seen The People vs Larry Flynt lately? It’s great. Woody Harrelson’s best role, Courtney Love’s best role, one of Miloš Forman’s best films. I have ranked it lower than Freddy vs Jason here, purely because there aren’t as many underwater decapitation scenes. But, whatever, you should watch it again anyway.</p> <h2><strong>11. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/News_Story/Critic_Review/Guardian_review/0,,1018615,00.html”>Freddy vs Jason</a> (2003)</strong></h2> <p>If you have forgotten that Freddy vs Jason existed, well done. It is a crossover horror that pitted Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees against one another, after Krueger revived Voorhees in hell. A terrible film that did lasting damage to both franchises, Freddy vs Jason also has the indignity of being Robert Englund’s final outing as Freddy. It is worth pointing out that this film was made because fans asked for it. The moral of this story is that you should never listen to fans.</p> <h2><strong>10. Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-video” data-canonical-url=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/FduP45p-o6k” > <iframe src=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/FduP45p-o6k?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed” height=”360″ width=”640″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen /> </figure> <p>You can take your pick of films where Godzilla beats up other massive monsters but, for me, 1974’s Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla deserves mention purely for how nuts it is. A robot Godzilla controlled by shonky-looking space chimps attacks Japan and almost takes out actual Godzilla. The only way that Godzilla can stop it is by teaming up with King Caesar, a sort of massive bejewelled kung-fu dog. There are rumours that Mechagodzilla will reappear in this year’s Godzilla vs Kong. But not King Caesar. We don’t deserve King Caesar.</p> <h2><strong>9. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/jan/21/dvdreviews.comedy”>Eagle vs Shark</a> (2007)</strong></h2> <p>Sadly, not a film about an eagle fighting a shark. Instead, this is Taika Waititi’s first film, and by far his least successful. A romcom where Jemaine Clement edges closer to Loren Horsley, it almost drowns in its own uncontrollable thirst for whimsy. I would suggest watching Boy instead, but that doesn’t have a “vs” in its title.</p> <h2><strong>8. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/jan/22/batman-v-superman-zack-snyder-isnt-bad-movie”>Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice</a> (2016)</strong></h2> <p>Is it worth watching Batman v Superman again, now that Zack Snyder’s<a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/mar/15/zack-snyder-cut-justice-league-review”> Justice League</a> is out? No. The film hasn’t got any better since the last time you saw it. It still blows an incredibly good premise – Bruce Wayne being a first-hand witness of Superman’s unwitting destruction of Metropolis – on a barrage of overblown, self-serious scenes of abject brooding. It still mashes all the fight scenes into an incomprehensible CGI soup. The word “Martha” still does a preposterous amount of heavy lifting. It is still a very stupid film.</p> <h2><strong>7. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/aug/07/mega-shark-giant-octopus-film-review”>Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus</a> (2009)</strong></h2> <p>Many of the films on this list are influential, but only one can really say that it directly influenced Sharknado. There isn’t a lot you need to know here. There’s a mega shark, and a giant octopus, and they fight each other. In fairness, the majority of the film is made up of Debbie Gibson standing in a succession of submarines and laboratories talking about either mega sharks or giant octopuses. But this is all worth enduring for the fight scenes. Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus may well be the only film in history where a megalodon jumps a mile in the air to bite an aeroplane in half.</p> <h2><strong>6. Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-image element–supporting” data-media-id=”d7a87aeab1bfbbb45916765e63e75e107bbde4dc”> <img src=”https://media.guim.co.uk/d7a87aeab1bfbbb45916765e63e75e107bbde4dc/474_0_3764_2480/1000.jpg” alt=”John Carradine as the count in Billy the Kid Versus Dracula” width=”1000″ height=”659″ class=”gu-image” /> <figcaption> <span class=”element-image__caption”>John Carradine as the count in Billy the Kid Versus Dracula.</span> <span class=”element-image__credit”>Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy</span> </figcaption> </figure> <p>William Beaudine made a hell of a lot of films in his 51-year directing career, his record being the 11 he released in 1942 alone. Some of his work, such as Jean Harlow’s first headliner, <a href=”https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0023589/”>Three Wise Girls</a> (1932), are pretty good. And then there’s Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. Made alongside <a href=”https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060558/”>Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter </a>– both were shot in a total of eight days – Billy the Kid Versus Dracula needs to be seen to be believed. Dracula visits the wild west and tries to drink the blood of Billy the Kid’s fiancee, but (spoiler alert) Billy the Kid throws a gun at Dracula’s head and kills him. Fun fact: this is the only one of John Carradine’s films that he <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_the_Kid_Versus_Dracula#cite_note-Boggs181-5″>regretted</a>, and he once made a film called The Astro-Zombies.</p> <h2><strong>5. <a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/dec/11/kramer-vs-kramer-film-classic”>Kramer vs Kramer</a> (1979)</strong></h2> <p>A lot of smackdown movie brutality comes from men in rubber suits hurling each other around model villages. But there is another kind of smackdown movie, one so emotionally gruelling that watching it makes you feel as if you have been beaten up. This is Kramer vs Kramer, a film in which Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep tear chunks out of each other for custody of their son. It hasn’t aged terrifically well, not least thanks to <a href=”https://www.vulture.com/2018/01/meryl-streep-calls-out-dustin-hoffman-kramer-vs-kramer-slap.html”>stories</a> about Hoffman’s misbehaviour on set, but it still packs a punch. Honestly, if Marriage Story had “vs” in the title somewhere, I would have put that in here as well.</p> <h2><strong>4. Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-video” data-canonical-url=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/cmQDIne3CLo” > <iframe src=”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/cmQDIne3CLo?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed” height=”360″ width=”640″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen /> </figure> <p>Again, a film about a man with a chronic illness travelling to the South Pacific in order to fling himself into an active volcano does not necessarily sound like the stuff of smackdown. But hear me out. First, there is the “versus” in the title, always a sign of a good time. Second, John Patrick Shanley’s romantic comedy is so stubbornly weird, so content to explore its own battered logic, that it repelled mainstream audiences. Not only is this the best and most ambitious of the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romcom trilogy, but it is also a genuine cult film. A smackdown movie in spirit.</p> <h2><strong>3. <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Kong_vs._Godzilla”>King Kong vs Godzilla</a> (1962)</strong></h2> <p>As this is being written, nobody knows whether 2021’s Godzilla vs Kong is any good (although, come on, how can it not be?). Still, even if it flops hard, we always have the original to fall back on. I will admit that I first watched King Kong vs Godzilla with a sense of obnoxious irony, but that dissipated on subsequent viewing. Not only is it genuinely thrilling in places, but it also functions as a deeply prescient clickbait satire. After all, the two monsters only fight because the head of a pharmaceutical company wants better ratings for a TV show.</p> <h2><strong>2.<a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/aug/26/scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world-review”> Scott Pilgrim vs the World</a> (2010)</strong></h2> <p>I might have pushed the definition of “smackdown movie” a little too far here and there. But Scott Pilgrim vs the World absolutely belongs on this list. A young man has to battle the seven evil exes of his girlfriend in order to win her heart. If you kept this film completely intact, but dressed Chris Evans and Brandon Routh in rubber lizard suits, this would be the greatest Godzilla movie of all time. Better yet, Scott Pilgrim flopped so dramatically on release that there is still a giddy sense of discovery whenever anyone watches it for the first time, same as whenever anyone stumbles across an old kaiju movie. It belongs here.</p> <h2><strong>1. Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)</strong></h2> <figure class=”element element-image element–showcase” data-media-id=”9508fd396204fc1400a1d5437f9209faaab69abc”> <img src=”https://media.guim.co.uk/9508fd396204fc1400a1d5437f9209faaab69abc/13_52_2064_1239/1000.jpg” alt=”Mothra vs Godzilla” width=”1000″ height=”600″ class=”gu-image” /> <figcaption> <span class=”element-image__caption”>Epic battle … Mothra vs Godzilla (released as Godzilla vs the Thingi n the US).</span> <span class=”element-image__credit”>Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy</span> </figcaption> </figure> <p>As is hopefully becoming evident, this whole list could have contained nothing but Godzilla movies. But the best of this genre is the sequel to King Kong vs Godzilla. The story is simplistic enough – Godzilla fights a giant moth – but the appeal comes from the era in which it was made. Previously, Godzilla was solely an antagonist; an analogue for the still-fresh horrors of nuclear warfare. Afterwards, he softened and the films simply became fodder for teenagers chasing a quick thrill. This film was made right in the sweet spot. Godzilla is the baddie, but he also kills the baddies. There’s a ton of action sequences, and a weighty morality. And, unlike modern CGI sludgefests, it is beautiful to look at. The undisputed champion.</p> <p><span class=”bullet”>•</span> Godzilla vs Kong is released on 1 April in the UK.</p>

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