Columbia Pictures/New Line Cinema
The most famous kinds of fight scenes involve lots of punching. If there's no punching, there's probably some guns and a few stunts. There's another type of fight scene, though, one that doesn't involve any sort of physical violence. These fight scenes are arguments between two people who, for one reason or another have come to a disagreement. Instead of using their fists, they try to use their words to sort things out.
Although these types of scenes don't often get as much attention, there are plenty of great verbal fight scenes scattered throughout the history of movies. Whether it's a couple splitting apart at the seams, or two rivals finally coming face to face, these scenes can produce incredible drama. Stakes don't have to involve the threat of death. Sometimes, a simple conversation can steal your attention. These verbal fight scenes manage to do just that without anyone ever lifting a finger.
Inside Out is a movie about a young girl growing up, and arguments are just part of that package. Growing up means fighting with your parents, and Riley, the young girl at the center of Inside Out, does that plenty. During one scene over dinner, Riley becomes annoyed and obstinate about everything that her parents say and do. She's so upset about their move to San Francisco that she eventually runs away from home.
All of that conflict starts in this scene, when Riley reveals the turmoil going on inside her. Of course, because we are privy to her emotions, we know this is happening in large part because Joy and Sadness are AWOL. Still, it makes for some hard moments.
Although there's an abundance of physical comedy in Step Brothers, the film's funniest scene may be one in which the two brothers trash talk each other in bed. As they hurl insults back and forth, it's almost impossible not to burst out laughing at the sheer idiocy that both men seem to have in spades.
The genius of these adult sons insulting and threatening one another gets at the core of the movie's appeal. We learn everything we need to know about the man-children that live online today, and perfectly examines how stupid all of these boys who never grew up really are.
The first Toy Story is a battle between two toys, and that battle climaxes when Buzz Lightyear and Woody hash things out under a parked car. As he's done the entire film, Woody tries to convince Buzz that he is a toy, and Buzz believes Woody is doing everything out of jealousy.
Although the film doesn't resolve the conflict between them in this scene, it's the clearest indication of the conflict between them. By the end of the movie, they'll come to an agreement, but this argument lays everything out on the table. Without it, we might not fully understand where Woody and Buzz are coming from.
20th Century Fox
Han Solo and Princess Leia love each other, but they can't admit it. Instead, they fight. Perhaps their best fight comes in The Empire Strikes Back on Hoth, when Han is preparing to leave the rebel alliance and return to his life of smuggling. Although she won't say it, Leia doesn't want him to leave, and Han knows it.
As a result, the two bicker like the madly in love couple we know they are. Han may be a scruffy-looking nerf herder, but Leia loves him anyway. The two were made for each other, even if they couldn't admit it yet.
You may not have heard of Punch-Drunk Love, and that's okay. It's a very odd movie, filled with strange performances from everyone involved. Two of those actors share a truly delightful argument scene, though. Adam Sandler's character calls the phone-sex line that tried to extort him for money and tells them to stop harassing him.
During the scene, both Adam and Philip Seymour Hoffman get a chance to go really big. For Phil's part, his character screams "Shut up!" so many times it's almost impossible to count. This movie is weird, but this scene is pretty much perfect from the second the phone starts ringing.
Everything in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a joke, and this non-violent scene is no exception. When the knights of the round table approach a French castle, the conversation quickly turns toward insults. Before the scene has ended, things have fully devolved into fart noises and sentences like "your mother was a hamster."
King Arthur is pretty reasonable throughout the scene, but the French knight he's speaking to seems to have nothing for disdain for him. There's a real vitriol to the way the absurdly accented man hurls insults at him. It's a brutal comedic smackdown, even if it is a bit one-sided.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade isn't the best movie about the famous archaeologist, but it might be the most fun. That fun reaches its climax when Indy and his father get into an argument while they're strapped to two chairs that are back-to-back.
The argument covers fairly normal ground, even as the room they're in begins to burn. The comedy comes from the juxtaposition of those two elements, and because Indy hates that his father calls him 'Junior.' Like most father/son arguments, the scene is hugely entertaining, even if the two of them could probably be discussing something more important.
Being smart and being rich don't have anything to do with one another. In Good Will Hunting, Will and his friends go to a Harvard bar to get a drink, and Will ends up in an argument with a Harvard kid. In an attempt to make Will feel intellectually insignificant, the Harvard guy tries to use his knowledge as a weapon. Instead, Will shows him that going to Harvard doesn't get you as much as picking up some books might.
Will proves he's plenty smart himself, and his friend Chuckie tells the guy, "my boy's wicked smart." It's a legendary moment from the start of Matt Damon's career.
Goodfellas is a movie about gangsters, but it's also a movie about men with incredibly fragile egos. One of those men, played by Joe Pesci, doesn't like to be told that he's funny. The first time someone says he is in the film, it looks like things might get violent. The second time, things do.
It's that first encounter that's really special, though, in part because the mood of the scene changes so quickly. Everyone's laughing, then everything is quiet, and then the tension breaks again, and everyone's laughing like no one almost died. That's part of what makes Goodfellas such a great film.
New Line Cinema
Of all the arguments on this list, this is the only one that happens with a single character. In this scene, Gollum and Smeagol, two personalities that live inside a single person, fight about whether they can trust Frodo Baggins, their master. Although only one character is talking, the scene is filmed as if it's two different creatures having an argument.
The scene, which ends with the line "leave now, and never come back," has become one of the most iconic in the history of Lord of the Rings. With good reason, of course. It's a masterful scene, one that clearly communicates what's happening, and provides Andy Serkis a chance to show you his chops.
Technically, someone does pull a gun in this scene. Still, no violence is actually committed. This Big Lebowski scene takes place in a bowling alley when Walter, one of the Dude's best friends, believes a competitor put his foot over the line while bowling. The rest of his team wants to just let it go, but Walter insists that order is maintained. This isn't 'Nam, after all. There are rules.
The Big Lebowski is remembered as a movie about a laid back dude, and it is. At his side, though, is a friend who's as intense as he is uncaring. Walter's always picking fights, especially in this scene.
If you know one thing about Five Easy Pieces, it's likely this scene. The film follows a cultured man who opts to live a blue-collar life. When he hears that his father is sick, he travels home to see the man before he dies. On the road, the character stops at a diner and orders toast. Unfortunately, toast isn't on the menu, and the waitress tells him he can't order it.
After some back and forth, the man orders a toasted sandwich without everything except the toast. He works hard to circumvent the rules, even when he can't break them outright.
The Weinstein Company
Watching a relationship break apart is never easy, especially when the people involved are trying desperately to save it. During one scene, the central couple of My Blue Valentine takes a night away at a cheesy motel with themed rooms. They land in the outer space room and attempt to hash out their differences and get to a better place in their relationship.
The argument is personal and hurtful. It's emotionally devastating, and a reminder that sometimes even people with the best intentions can't make it work. They can try, and they can fight for it, but sometimes they'll fail, and the marriage will blow up anyway.
The courtroom is a great place to have the kind of fight where nobody gets physically assaulted. In A Few Good Men, a lawyer for the army attempts to get to the bottom of how a young recruit died. The courtroom scenes in the film are tremendous. The film's climax, which comes with the famous line "you can't handle the truth," is a reminder that sometimes the most iconic movie moments don't need to have any explosions.
Instead, they can just be Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson yelling at each other in a courtroom. It's movie magic, and it doesn't require anything except great actors.
Because it takes place largely in a single room, 12 Angry Men's central ideas are about the power of compelling arguments. The film tells the story of a jury trying to set aside its prejudices as it decides the verdict of a case. As the film progresses, the jurors gradually become convinced by the jury's lone dissenting voice.
As the argument develops, it becomes clear that logic is more than enough for many on the panel. For others, though, the issues of the case, which involve race and class, go much deeper. It's hard to argue through those kinds of stereotypes.
Like 12 Angry Men, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is basically one long fight. The film follows two married couples, one older and one younger, over the course of a single night. As the film progresses, we learn about the traumas and trials that have tormented the older couple, and get a rather bleak portrait of how marriages age.
The film's climactic argument is its most powerful, though, because it gets at the heart of the movie's ideas about love and loss. For some, the fun of marriage is in trying to outsmart one another. Thankfully, that isn't *always* the case.
La La Land is a love story, but it isn't a totally happy one. Although we get to watch two young people fall in love and participate in musical numbers, we also have to watch them fall apart as their dreams take them in totally different directions. The fight between them comes to a head during one key scene when the two begin to argue over dinner.
It's an argument that's fundamental to the movie as a whole. It's one about what people are willing to sacrifice for their dreams, and how easy it is to settle for something less, even when your dream is within reach.
No one writes dialogue like Aaron Sorkin, and The Social Network is probably his best script. In its very first scene, we see his skills at work as Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, has a conversation with his girlfriend at a Boston bar. (Many great real and fictional fight scenes happen in Boston.) As the two of them argue, it becomes clear that Mark is wildly smart, and also kind of a jerk.
Dating him is like dating a Stairmaster. It's exhausting, and this opening breakup sets the stage for who Mark is, and what Facebook will mean both for him and for the world. It's a place to connect, but one that has an isolating effect.