There are several kinds of scenes that we’ve come to expect from the movies. You have the Stuff Blowing Up scene, the Moving Moment scene, and the Boy Gets the Girl scene. But let’s not forget the most important kind of scene any movie can have: the Bear Fight. The Bear Fight is the ultimate showdown of man vs. nature, and it’s a rite of passage for any hero worth his salt. A man without a bear fight is no man at all.
When Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell) fights Dewie the Bear we get to see what happens when stupid comes into contact with claws. Moon doesn’t win, but he fulfills a responsibility so many characters in so many films neglect. He makes a good faith effort to fight a bear and we love him for it, even if he has his ass handed to him by said bear. He barely escapes with his life, but he teaches the bear a valuable lesson: Humans might be easy to eat, but they’re annoying to kill.
6. The Golden Compass
Bear-on-bear violence is the most tragic of all, but that’s exactly what it devolves to in The Golden Compass. While we’d like to cheer the painful demise of Ragnar Sturlusson, instead we’re left with feelings of loss and senseless tragedy. Sometimes bear-on-bear fights are unavoidable, but it doesn’t make them any less heart-wrenching.
5. On Deadly Ground
The bear fight in On Deadly Ground combines two of the best things in all of cinema: Steven Seagal and bear fights. Thus, the bear fight in this film is arguably the closest you will ever see a movie come to perfection.
Naysayers will point out that this bear fight technically occurs during a vision quest brought about by an Indian witch doctor. So -- if we were to get really nit-picky -- Seagal really doesn’t fight a bear at all. And, to be fair to the bear, Seagal also technically loses. In fact, the fight only lasts, like, 10 seconds before the bear shakes Seagal off like a ponytailed pansy.
None of which information takes away from the salient message of this scene: When it comes to fighting bears, Seagal is not afraid. In fact, it’s a good thing this bear fight ended as quickly as it did. ‘Cause if it that bear hadn’t won so fast, he would’ve lost way worse than Seagal.
4. Legends of the Fall
Tristan Ludlow (Brad Pitt) plays an old school tough guy in Legends of the Fall, and by the end of the movie we see just how tough he really is. The last words of the film are, “It was a good death.” That’s one of the larger understatements in all of cinema. Dude gets ambushed by a bear and fights it to the death armed with only a knife. It was an awesome death, is more like it.
Need more reasons to be a fan of Lou Ferrigno? The bear fight in Hercules is all you need – you’re welcome. I think it’s safe to say no bear has ever had its ass kicked quite as badly as the bear that fights Hercules in Hercules. The guy tackles the bear, escapes its deathly bear hug, and proceeds to beat the poor thing to death with his bare fists. Then, once he realizes the bear is responsible for killing his dad, he hurls the bear into space. Space, people! When was the last time anyone hurled a bear into space out of pure spite?
Cinephiles will likely complain about the fact that this bear fight actually consists of stock footage of a real bear intercut with Ferrigno fighting a man in a bear suit. To which I will reply: so the f*** what? He throws a BEAR INTO SPACE! When you throw a deadly mammal into space in a fit of rage, then we’ll talk animatronics.
End of discussion.
An important bit of trivia: Lou Ferrigno also throws the smackdown on another bear in "A Death in the Family," an episode of The Incredible Hulk. Apparently bears are slow learners when it comes to messing with Lou.
2. Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man about the bear documentarian and activist Timothy Treadwell doesn’t technically contain an actual bear fight. But at one point in the film Herzog listens to an audio tape of Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard getting killed and eaten by a bear (Treadwell’s camera was on during the attack). This tops just about any fictional bear fight in any movie.
Unfortunately, Herzog doesn’t allow us to hear the grisly deaths of Treadwell and Huguenard at the claws of the grizzly, but the expressions on his face tell the whole story. The tragedy of this film is that Treadwell spent much of his adult life trying to help the grizzlies, living for 13 summers in Katmai in the Alaskan Peninsula and recording hundreds of hours of footage.
Treadwell would likely agree that it was a good death. Probably not his girlfriend, though…
1. The Edge
This unsung masterpiece of the Surviving the Outdoors subgenre is worth watching if only for the bear fights – of which there are several. It’s pretty much the end-all be-all of bear fight movies, and puts to shame every other bear fight you’ve ever seen. We’re talking real bears here, and they are mean.
When Charles (Anthony Hopkins) and Robert (Alec Baldwin) finally go head-to-head with the bear that’s been tracking them -- and eaten their friend -- you get a sense of how truly terrifying it would be to have to fight it.
But fight it they do, and armed only with a few sharpened sticks and their wits. It’s difficult to hate a bear, but by the time Charles impales this behemoth on his spear, you’re cheering in triumph at the beast’s demise. Of course, the metaphor of the movie is that man is more monstrous and predatory and despicable to his fellow man than any bear could ever be, but this isn’t English class. Screw metaphors -- that bear had it comin’.
Best. Bear fight. Ever.