When Tarasov gets away, all chaos breaks loose, and the fight explodes into the rest of the club where the music is now deafening and distracting. The spectacle is elevated, but the story is still being told, with the desperation of our hero beginning to show as he fights his way through hordes of henchmen, never quite getting to his prey. It’s an excellent example of what John Wick does best, using the environment to its advantage while ensuring his character arc is still at the heart of the piece despite the bullets.

Home invasion in John Wick

5. Home Invasion: Chapter 1

It’s a common trope in cinema that the skills of the hero are lauded as exceptional, but sometimes you rarely see how. In other words, filmmakers intentionally make it difficult to see what’s going on. Maybe it’s because the physicality of the lead actor is not up to scratch with what’s expected of them, or maybe a director wants to add mystique, but it often feels like a cheat. John Wick immediately blows all of that out of the water. The film constantly reminds viewers that Wick is “the boogeyman” and to cross him is to face a devil. The home invasion sequence, the first full on fight of the film, surpasses expectations, delivering on all of the promises of the narrative. Wick really is that guy. 

It’s a simple choreography set compared to some of the complicated sequences throughout the rest of the series. Set within John’s house, it’s the first step on a larger revenge mission. It’s interesting to see Wick on the defensive in some ways, using his home court advantage to take down the attackers. He rarely struggles, with every hit demonstrating just how talented he is. With Viggo Tarasov’s ominous speeches about what Wick is capable of setting the sequence up, it’s a powerful debut for the ex-assassin. It also combines multiple elements that would, in retrospect, act as a mission statement for what the John Wick series is all about. Hand-to-hand combat, genuine reloads, knife work, and shootouts are all accentuated by a moment of well-balanced humor to top it all off.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4

4. Showdown in the Osaka Continental: Chapter 4

The fourth John Wick movie was not the first to feature an action sequence desecrating the hallowed grounds of a Continental hotel (scroll down for another example). However, this is by far the most audacious and operatic version of the set piece. Set on Japanese turf, the extended first act climax of Chapter 4 is the only scene in which legends of martial arts cinema Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada face off in a pulse-pounding samurai duel, yet that is but one element that makes this sequence a standout.

Unlike many scenes on this list which exist to demonstrate John’s versatility with various weaponry, the Osaka Continental turns into a warzone playground where the entire ensemble to show off: Yen plays a blind assassin who uses the terrain created by a five-star kitchen to his advantage; Sanada offers a throwback to Toho classics by way of the blade; and newcomer Rina Sawayama makes a hell of an impression by clinging like an ornery badger to a High Table goon’s back as she stabs him upwards of 20 times. Reeves is on hand, too, to offer some reliable gunplay fun, but this sequence feels as if Stahelski and his choreographers are just indulging in maximalist mayhem in a last hurrah before things get a lot more serious going forward.

John wick on a horse

3. New York’s Motorcycle Chase: Chapter 3

It’s rare to see John Wick’s back up against the wall, but John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum sees our hero dealing with the consequences of being rendered excommunicado by Winston. This scene thus opens with Wick on the run, the viciousness of those hunting him fully displayed in the shocking way they remove their rivals. And the chase starts on foot, through one of New York’s busiest subway stops. There are eyes everywhere, and the short moment of conflict that kicks off proceedings shows that Wick cannot hold back, with his well-trained knife work on display. The scale of the segment only gets larger from there. In an impressive leap, Wick takes down one pursuer off of a moving motorcycle, using the momentum of a second bike to floor him. Never has a helmet been used in such an offensive way. 


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