You've been sitting in the padded theater seat for over an hour now. Your popcorn bucket is empty except for a few unpopped kernels, and all that remains in your cup is slowly melting ice. The chiseled, lovable hero is gearing up, preparing for the final battle. He tracks down the villain and stands across from him in a darkly-lit field of battle. What happens next? Well, if one were to guess, one might say that the two were going to rush towards each other in a flurry of martial arts or gunfire. Maybe a superpower or two are thrown into the mix. And just when it seems like the villain is about to win, the hero makes one final effort and ends triumphant.
If those events were to happen, it would be a surprise to no one. Most superhero movies end with a colossal battle in the streets. Star Wars usually ends with an epic lightsaber duel. Action movies end with the scrappy hero blowing up as much as he can to foil the baddies plan. But what if all conflicts didn't end in a fistfight? Well lucky for us, there are a few gems hidden in the cinematic archives where the hero opts for brains rather than brawn.
Josh Kovaks Vs. Arthur Shaw — Tower Heist
Tower Heist compiles an all-star cast of comedians such as Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy as they attempt to steal from their corrupt and devious boss, played by Alan Alda. When Stiller and the gang learned that Alda's fortune is inside a golden car, they are faced with the task of trying to steal the entire vehicle. At the end when they finally leave the building, Stiller is arrested, and it looks like he lost. However, before he was apprehended, he tricked Alda, and shipped all of the individual golden parts to the underpaid workers that Alda ripped off. Checkmate.
Jerry Shaw Vs. ARIIA — Eagle Eye
In a thrilling Portal-like plot, Shia Labeouf and Michelle Monaghan play two strangers that are forced to work together by a menacing female AI that is planning an attack on the US government. To ARIIA (the AI), the government is no longer free and brave as it used to be, so it uses technology to force the two strangers to carry out her plan. When the plot is about to come to fruition in the form of an explosive hidden in a musical instrument, Shia realizes that he can't fight an AI, so he has to outsmart it. He sacrifices himself in a near-death experience that ruins the plan, and saves countless lives.
Daniel Kaffee Vs. Nathan R. Jessup — A Few Good Men
In a military courtroom, physical violence is never a viable option. That left Tom Cruise's character Daniel forced to use his own intellect to defend two marines that were charged with murder. After extensive investigations, Daniel suspects that Jack Nicholson's Nathan Jessup ordered the killing, but he can not come outright and claim it due to Jessup's superior rank. In order to prove Jessup was guilty, Daniel had to choose his words very carefully and rile Jessup up, thus forcing him to confess his guilt.
The Narrator Vs. Tyler Durden — Fight Club
It's a bit strange when a movie called Fight Club ends with a man outsmarting another man. It's even stranger when that man has to outsmart himself. When Tyler Durden is revealed to be the same character as the Narrator, the Narrator had a much bigger problem when it came to fighting him. At the very end of the film, Tyler Durden was beating up the Narrator, and the Narrator realized that he couldn't win a physical confrontation. In one last desperate act, he shot himself in the mouth, symbolically killing Durden. Sounds a bit confusing right? It may be, but it's still hailed as one of the greatest films of all time.
Capt. Jack Sparrow Vs. Barbossa — Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Tell me, how does one immortal skeleton pirate kill another immortal skeleton pirate? Answer: He doesn't. That is, not unless the other pirate was made mortal. In the finale of Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Jack starts out mortal, battling the immortal Barbossa. Then Jack grabs a cursed coin, and becomes immortal himself. As those two undead pirates swiped uselessly at each other, Orlando Bloom's Will Turner snuck up, got the coins, and ended the curse. Jack then used his only bullet to shoot down Barbossa. Not only did Jack outsmart Barbossa once, he did so again and again and again. I guess he earned the name Captain Jack Sparrow.
Robert Angier Vs. Alfred Borden — The Prestige
In Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, it's hard to figure out who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. The entire movie revolves around Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, who played rival magicians who outsmart each other throughout the entire film. However, at the end, Christian Bale's Alfred Borden played one final trick on Jackman's Robert Angier, which ended in Angier's death.
Westley Vs. Vizzini — The Princess Bride
When Westley is trying to be reunited with his beloved Buttercup, he ends up out-fencing a master-swordsman and out-wrestling a giant. Now his final task is to outsmart a genius. Their battle of wits contains two goblets of wine and one vial of poisonous iocane powder. Westley secretly pours the poison in on goblet, and Vizzini has to try and figure out which wine is poisoned. When he finally decides, they both drink, and Vizzini dies laughing. The biggest trick of all was that Westley poured the poison in both goblets, and he in fact was immune to iocane powder.
Doctor Strange Vs. Dormammu — Doctor Strange
Spoilers ahead! In the majority of comic book films, the third act contains a big-scale battle in which the hero has to rely on all of their training to defeat the villain in a one-on-one battle. In Doctor Strange, it looked like it was going to be another cliche battle, as Strange, Mordo, and Wong line up opposite Kaecilius and his zealots. Lucky for us, the movie takes a quick turn, and we are surprised to see Strange fly straight to the big-bad Dormammu to bargain. Strange uses his power over time to die over and over, each time starting a new loop where he is alive again. Eventually Dormammu gets frustrated and gives up, letting the good sorcerers walk off victorious.
Hopefully in the future, more films will look to these eight as examples, so every action movie doesn't end with a bunch of punching and gunfire. When all movies have a sky-beam and a faceless army for the hero to face, the endings of these films get less and less thrilling. These eight films all succeed in saying "Gotcha!" at the end, shocking their characters and the audience alike. That just makes movies more fun for everyone!