5 Phenomenal Non-Western Shootouts


In what I think was my second ever Phenomenal 5 I looked at phenomenal western shootouts. Now, over 50 lists later, I’m going to look at 5 phenomenal non-western shootouts. I separated the two mainly because nearly every western features or ends in a big shootout. But over the years movies have found more ways to incorporate great gunplay into their storylines. And let me just say I am a sucker for a good gunfight. To narrowed the list down I stayed away from military and war movies. Like westerns they deserve a list all their own. So no more delaying. Let’s get to it. Now as you can imagine there have been tons of shootouts throughout movie history so it would be dumb to call this the definitive list. But I have no problems calling these 5 non-western shootouts absolutely phenomenal.


In 1999 the (then) Wachowski brothers gave us “The Matrix”, a science fiction action picture that quickly gained a huge following. While I don’t love the movie like many others do, I still recognize it for some of its incredible action sequences. The best one involves a shootout that had to make this list. In an attempt to rescue Morpheus, Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) have a showdown in a lobby with a group of heavily armed agents. But the two come prepared. With trench coats filled with pistols and sub machine guns, they shoot it out in a stylistic slow motion barrage of bullets. It’s an incredibly slick sequence chock full of gunfire, flying debris, thousands of shell casings, flying bodies. I don’t know about you but that’s right up my alley!


One of the more underrated movies of the last few years is “The International”. This globetrotting thriller starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts has one of the most realistic and energetic shootouts I’ve ever seen. The two stars are hot on the trail of a corrupt international bank that’s filtering money to arms traders, terrorist groups, and an assortment of other baddies. Owen tracks down an important lead to the Guggenheim Museum. But as he moves to apprehend the lead he finds a heavily armed hit team is waiting. An intense 7 minute shootout follows that’s up there with anything else you’ll see. Lead flies, bullet holes riddle the white museum walls, and glass shatters as Owen tries to make it out alive. This shootout blows me away.

#3 – “THE KILLER” (1989)

Director John Woo could have a list all his own. Woo made a name for himself by filming some of the most dynamic shootouts ever. This king of the Hong Kong action movie genre gave me plenty of scenes to choose from but I went with the final showdown from his 1989 film “The Killer”. Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee find themselves at odds with a violent criminal organization known as the Triads (I won’t spoil why). While meeting in a church, the two find themselves surrounded by loads of heavily armed (isn’t that always the case) Triads thugs. An insane shootout follows as the thugs attack the church in full force. Muzzle flashes, screaming gunfire, and an insane assortment of falls are all mixed with Woo’s signature slow motion. Bravo!


I have a real soft spot for Robert Rodriguez’s 1995 action flick “Desperado”. It’s easily my favorite of his Mariachi films. “Desperado” has such a great mix of insane over the top action and hilarious humor. And of course Rodriguez’s style is undeniable. There are several great shootouts in the film but there’s one that stands out for me. El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) calls his two guitar case toting buddies and squares off against a drug lord’s gang. In old west style, the two sides square off on a dirt road but this is no old west gunfight. The bad guys pull up in their bulletproof limo armed with assault rifles. But our mariachis aren’t armed with plain old guitar cases. One is actually a rocket launcher and the others are fully automatic mini-guns. The result is a ridiculously wild shootout with a scorching Tito and Tarantula tune playing in the background. Perfection!

#1 – “HEAT”

If you ask me about shootouts in the movies one will always instantly come to mind – the downtown firefight in Michael Mann’s fantastic crime thriller “Heat”. First of all the movie is spectacular and features two of our greatest actors, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Pacino is a cop, De Niro is a criminal with a muddy moral compass. De Niro and his crew (which includes Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore) are finishing their final big bank heist when they run into Pacino and a brigade of cops. An intensely realistic shootout follows in the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Few shootouts can match what Mann gives us here. The loud sounds of accentuated gunfire bouncing off of the buildings and the brilliance of how it’s shot and edited pull you into the middle of the chaos. It’s truly phenomenal!

So how those five non-western shootouts? Agree or disagree with my choices? Let me know what shootouts would have made your list.

52 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Non-Western Shootouts

  1. Great idea for a list. I love Desperado, such an overlooked piece of cinema, especially as part of the Mariachi trilogy, insanely under appreciated. Obviously The Matrix shootout is a terrific choice. Awesome stuff!

  2. Awesome list man! That shootout in The International was awesome and I totally agree, very underrated. Would you consider the end of Reservoir Dogs a shootout? If so, that would be in mine.

  3. Hard to disagree with any of those choices. Although I haven’t seen The International. The end of the Pacino version of Scarface is one that springs to mind as a good non-western shootout.

    • Scarface is a nice pick. You need to check out The International. It didn’t get a big audience but I loved it. I think you can find the shootout itself on YouTube.

      • Just watched The International shootout on Youtube. Excellent location. The building interior is used to great effect. Wish I’d seen the full movie when it came out now.

        Extreme Prejudice with Nick Nolte has a pretty violent shootout, although it looks more like a western than most westerns despite being set in the eighties.

  4. When it comes to John Woo I must admit I lean more towards the Warehouse scene in “Hardboiled” or the Tea House in “A Better Tommorow”.

    Also – how could you neglect the Ice Cream Tommy Guns in Bugsy Malone.

    Seriously – cool list man – I love a good shootout.

    • I have to admit I haven’t seen Bugsy Malone. As for Hard Boiled, it’s a great choice and it contains a shootout that I like better than the one I listed from The Killer. It’s the hospital sequence! Love it! But I didn’t include it because it will be popping up in an upcoming Phenomenal 5 (hint, hint).

    • I mentioned it in one of the other comments. It’s my favorite John Woo shootout EVER! But it will be appearing on an upcoming Phenomenal 5 really soon! So I’m with ya – GREAT scene.

  5. All of these are great picks!
    I also have a fondness for the finale of Scarface, the big final one in Leon: The Professional, Taxi Driver’s, and does the one in Children of Men count? I mean the protagonist isn’t actually shooting anyone, but even so, it’s tremendously effective.

  6. Awesome list Keith!! I’ve seen all except for “The Killer” which I really should! Not surprised it’s a great shootout scene given it’s a John Woo movie w/ Chow Yun-fat! The shoot-out in Face/off w/ the Somewhere Over the Rainbow playing is quite memorable too! I love that Matrix one, that’s darn iconic! And the one in The International is intense, what a beautiful building too!

  7. I agree with Heat at #1. The first time I saw it we just got a new Sony TV. I was watching it with friends and the gunshots were so realistic sounding, we were all shell-shocked. We were staring at the screen with tater chips hanging out of our mouths and wide eyes!

    • Oh yes, there are some movies here you definitely need to see then. Heat is a modern classic in my opinion. The International is a very underrated thriller that I really enjoyed. It flew under a lot of people’s radar.

    • Thanks Sati! Both of the scenes you mentioned are just so well put together and even though they’re completely different, they’re both awesome adrenaline rushes for me!

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