The craft of stage fighting is a dark, mysterious art. With a combination of suggestion, camera tricks and acting, the best fight choreographers can produce knuckle-splitting action without actually damaging the cinema-filling looks of their lead.
As for the worst fight choreographers? We've selected some of the most glaring fight scene failures to grace our screens, forming a gag reel of comical tomfoolery. Settle back for some superb over-the-top action and acting straight out of the primary school annual production handbook.
The Force Kick
You either love the Sarlacc scene from Return of the Jedi or you're wrong. Boba Fett meets an uncharacteristically clumsy death, Jabba does that tongue wiggle and Luke Skywalker pulls off... well, no one is quite sure.
Standing on the prow of a skiff, Luke faces off against one Jabba's guards. Rather than employing his newly returned lightsaber, he aims a kick at the helmeted henchmen. Despite failing to connect, the guard reacts like he's just been suckerpunched. While some (us) would say that this is clearly a case of unfortunate extras and bad camera placement, it's a popular opinion among Star Wars fanboys that Luke is actually deploying a 'Force Kick'. For which they deserve a force kick to the face.
Black Widow's hair whip
Natasha Romanova: master of interrogation, espionage and hair combat. During her opening scene in Marvel Avengers Assemble, a vicious reverse headbutt never quite reaches its target yet still appears to breaks the poor chap's nose. Is it the result of some secret scalp weaponry? Does the guy simply hate the smell of her conditioner? Or were none of the crew watching what was going on behind her? Yeah, probably that.
The Godfather brawl
So great is the beating that Carlo receives from brother-in-law Sonny, you can hear the punches raining down on him from across the street. So we figured it must be some sort of speed-of-sound mishap that results in us hearing a blow that Sonny never lands. Carlo (played by Gianni Russo) clearly remembers he's going to get hit at this point, he just can't remember which way the punch is coming from.
That said, this scene was still brutal enough to give Russo two cracked rips and a split elbow. Chances are we'd forget which way to flinch after a beating like that.
Fear of Batman
Picture the scene - you've been sent out by your mildly psychotic boss to take down the armed-and-feisty Catwoman. Next thing you know, Batman shows up, reducing your mob to a heap of broken bones. Now, a brainless badguy would probably rush in and get his jaw broken - but not the thug in the upper-left-hand corner of the above gif. Here's a thug who knows that it's better to live to fight another day, quite simply throwing himself on the floor when the action gets too close. Smart fellow.
Fear of Bane
Rising's street brawl between Gotham's policemen and Bane's army is an epic affair. A vast number of extras crack skulls, throw fists and make merry. Quite how it was choreographed is beyond us - "Can everyone just look like they're hitting each other?" was probably Nolan's request. In the case of the duo battling behind Bane's left shoulder, they don't pretend quite hard enough. It would probably look quite impressive if they were a few metres further back. As it is, it appears that they don't want to miss out on overhearing Bane and the Bat trash talk each other.
JCVD, snake charmer
"Don't hunt what you can't kill" was the tagline for 1993's Hard Target. We're not sure what Jean-Claude Van Damme does to this snake, but he certainly doesn't punch it. Does he tame it? Does he make it faint from fear of the imminent beating? We think it's more likely that the guy in charge of animatronics told Damme that he really, really didn't want a broken snake.
Step Brothers' speed-bagging
While the playground bust up of Will Ferrell's Step Brothers is clear about which side of the comic fight line it sits on, the speed-bagging of this small boy's head is confusing. We can only assume that Ferrell was either a) trying to make it obvious that he wasn't hitting a child, or b) he forget which side the camera was on.
Arnie's power punch
We've spent the last 15 minutes trying to punch each other with the same force that Harry Tasker (Arnie) manages to achieve in the confined space of this scene. Not only does stop short of hitting the guy's forehead, the guy produces a terrifying amount of blood in a short space of time. May it stand as a lesson to any passenger looking to interfer with the driver while the vehicle is in motion.
Star Trek's Gorn battle
Back in 1967, action scenes were choreographed to be camp, overacted and slow enough for the gentrified masses to keep up with. So nothing like an actual fight. This scene from the Arena episode of Star Trek has matured with the grace of a dead cat: Kirk faces off against a formidable Gorn, throwing punches and swings that appear to move through treacle. Everything about it is ridiculous.