How do you think which fighting scene from all the movies or games has the best sound design?

Mandatory conditions: only bare hands, no cold weapon, no magic power or any super power etc.

I have one example. It's the scene from Bourne Ultimatum, when Bourne met agent Desh (watch from 1:08).


PS I guess this scene done mostly with foley. But who will say that foley it is not a sound deisgn? :)

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    Although it's nicely crafted foley wise, I don't feel the punches and I remember I didn't in the cinema, it's clearly made to resemble a much faster unrealistic style similar to hong kong kung fu films. I much prefer the punch and impact sounds used in The Fighter. – edmatthews82 Feb 20 '12 at 9:55
  • @edmatthews82 well, in real life you won't feel/hear punches either, unless your body receive them :) but I definitely can hear some hard impacts in this scene. I think the point here and in the whole movie that this is the realistic approach where you can't maintain a fight with many really hard punches. – Conant Feb 20 '12 at 10:12
  • @conant we're not trying to mimic real life and this film really isn't meant to be realistic. Swishes for every punch and no depth behind punches clearly highlights this. As an avid kung fu fan I can see where it takes its style from. It works for this film but doesn't stick out for me, like the sensation of feeling the punches in Fighter. – edmatthews82 Feb 20 '12 at 10:33
  • @edmatthews82 I understand you. Of course it's not the presentation of the real fight. I said that the whole approach was intended to be realistic. Like in the real live fight, how many direct heavy face punches from a professional training man you can endure? One? But I don't agree about the depth of the sound. There is no depth in the real punch with a bare fist. Only sharp slap and nothing more. Boxing gloves work different since they create additional sound pressure. – Conant Feb 20 '12 at 11:49
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    @conant but recreating accurate sounds doesn't mean it's better. For example the pistol sound of Indiana Jones is in fact a 30-30 winchester rifle. – edmatthews82 Feb 20 '12 at 14:12

Conant, you chose one of my favorites fighting scenes! With this type of intricacy, only a few come to mind. I like when they highlight the foley by removing or making music a secondary factor, this really brings the gruesome and raw nature of fighting. It allows us to create rhythm outside of bpm! Here's one of my favorites...


  • definitely one of the best. – edmatthews82 Feb 21 '12 at 9:56

The scene in The Matrix where Neo and Morpheus spar comes to mind

  • Had to re watch this, brilliant! – edmatthews82 Feb 20 '12 at 14:12

I really like the Saving Private Ryan scene where the German and American run out of ammo near the end of the movie and it's down to fists and eventually a knife. Very unnerving scene with foley.

I also like the new Bond fist fights.

But the one that I always loved was the fist fight between Indiana Jones and the super-huge bald German guy in front of the airplane getting ready to take off. The slap echoes Ben Burtt created for those punches were so unique that I pointed out to a friend that in the 4th installment (Crystal Skull) it sounded like they used the same exact punches, and they did!!

I'm surprised no-one mentioned the Mortal Kombat 2 punches! Those are the largest, most air-moving slams and hits I've ever heard (totally fake sounding of course, but they sound awesome)


Maybe I'm a sucker for the more realistic stuff, but I thought the first sequence in The Bourne Identity and the rather (in)famous naked knife fight from Eastern Promises really split the difference between semi-realistic choreography and an aural balance of realistic vs. cinematic. On the less realistic side, for me, very little beats Raging Bull and Fight Club, for different reasons per film.

  • It's so famous, it's IN-famous! – Utopia Feb 20 '12 at 18:08
  • I gotta respectfully disagree on the Bourne Identity -- I rewatched it in a theater a few months back for some inspiration and was actually kind of shocked by how much of the texture of those punches felt really familiar, and, for lack of a better word, "90s." I mean the classic PFFFSHT layer and every single punch being insanely full-scale vs. the incredibly quiet backgrounds in that scene (MAN does it get quiet before the fight starts. That part was awesome!) It sounded great overall, but Fight Club (watched right after) felt a lot fresher where the fight effects were concerned.. just IMO. – lucafusi Feb 21 '12 at 4:46

Any of the basement fights in Fight Club are pretty great! The sounds as Edward Norton's character is beating Jared Leto's face into the pavement.. I get squeamish just thinking about that scene.


My oh my, pretty tough f*cking audience. Having worked on all the "Bourne" movies I can tell you that the bulk of this fight was cut FX and not foley. Done by my friend the brilliant Dino DiMuro. The goal was no "Van Damme", no "John Wayne", no "John Woo"... it was realism. I'm going to defend those whooshes and swishes. They add speed, danger and a feeling that these guys are lethal trained fighters. When you're not rocking the sub Rocky-style it's a great flavor. I think he did a great job (was this one the Oscar winner? I can never keep them straight).

You get 10 editor/designers to cut a fight and they'll each do it differently, just as you all have different opinions about what you think is good. You have to please the director, the picture editor, the mixers and yourself and then take notes from studio executives. Lucky for us the execs on these were savvy smart people starting with Frank Marshall on down the line. Feature film sound is truly a collaborative art. The final result goes through many filters. Often your original vision is diluted, altered or neutered. I think in this case Dino hit it on the nose.

I was gonna show this to Dino but then I thought, nope ... it'll just piss him off (picture a smiley face made with punctuation marks here).

As ever, Chris

  • Hey, Cris. I don't know, maybe my English is not yet so good and I understood your message incorrectly, but I think that most people here will agree that this scene was done splendidly. – Conant Feb 22 '12 at 5:50
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    I personally was more concerned with the camera work in the Borne films more than anything. I got motion sickness in the theater watching one of them! – Utopia Feb 22 '12 at 6:08
  • P.s. ultimatum won it. This was the same year No Country for Old Men was up for both categories. Pretty tough competition that was, eh? – Utopia Feb 22 '12 at 6:20
  • In my opinion EVERY Coen Brothers, Skip Lievsay film deserves an award. Every damn one of them ... – Chris Assells Feb 22 '12 at 22:16

I'm going to echo other people in their love of Fight Club. To be honest though, my favorite fights are the early outdoor ones between "Jack" and "Tyler." They're perfectly understated in terms of sound design, and really give the impression that the two of them have no clue what they're doing.

On the other end of the spectrum, I love how over the top the fight scenes are in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. The first fight with Matthew Patel is awesome!

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