Get Fired Up! Some Great Movie Gun Scenes


Ever since Justus D. Barnes took direct aim at audiences in The Great Train Robbery, guns and gunplay have been just as integral a part of American cinema as they have been a mainstay of the culture at large. According to no less a legend than Jean-Luc Godard, a firearm on film accounts for a full 50% of all you need for a successful screen venture:

All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.

Hollywood hasn’t done much to disprove the French auteur’s formula for box-office gold. Since guns currently occupy a significant place in the national conversation, this seems like the perfect time to corral a few of the more memorable movie moments where the most ubiquitous weapon in cinema plays a major role. But let’s be clear about what we’re not, uh, aiming for here—this will be no collection of shoot-outs. When it was time to take the measure of bullets flying in blockbusters, we decided to Ask Movie Irv: What’s the Best Movie Shootout?—so there’s not much novelty in reloading that query here.  

No, here we’re going to showcase some high-caliber scenes that do not involve people pulling the trigger on each other. And there will be no Wayne, Eastwood, Bronson, or Tarantino, because boring, to use the popular blogger’s parlance.


I’d had John Boorman’s cult sci-fi film sitting on my shelf for quite some time before I’d finally pulled the trigger and watched it. Boy howdy, does it deserve its colorful reputation. Not as a bad movie, though. I get that the wardrobe and general production design date this picture a good bit, but the story is such a genuine mind-bender and so far afield of the usual “dystopian future” fare that its still-topical cynicism, humor (both intentional and otherwise), and kaleidoscopic strangeness make it must-viewing for fans of the genre and anyone looking to start some pretentious roundtable chat about the persistent societal tugs-of-war between men and women, knowledge and ignorance, and sex and violence.

Here’s just the first of many eye-popping moments, drawn from a modified trailer–where the titular floating stone head vomits artillery down to the non-thinking survivalists who are encouraged by their god to worship the force of arms:

The fuller quote from the film sheds more light on the general thrust of Boorman’s satire: The gun is good! The penis is bad! I’m pretty sure someone could make a quick fortune selling that bumper sticker in more than a few of these 50 states, where that sentiment would be embraced without a trace of irony.

The Deer Hunter

This was the film that Movie Irv said he’d never watch again, mainly because he wanted to preserve undiminished the dire impact watching it had on him in the theater. When you think of Russian Roulette in the movies, there is no other movie that leaps so instantly to mind, so definitive and disturbing is this scene between Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro.

Yes, this clip takes you all the way to the end, so depending on where you are when you click “play,” this could be the occasion for one of those “NSFW” advisories…although it seems to me we see more graphic material than this these days on primetime network shows:

As a general topic for the movies, suicide is a dicey one to handle with class and power. Now let’s go, to paraphrase Spalding Gray, from dark to light…

Take the Money and Run

Because no actor/writer/director is more identified with explosive screen violence than the man who said I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens:

Some people just aren’t meant to carry a gub.

Robin and the 7 Hoods

This entire post actually had its origins with Sammy Davis Jr., as I’d been bopping around the interwebs in search of a good recording of Mister Show Business performing the theme song from Beretta. (Sometimes these things just pop into your head and before you know it, you’ve wasted a lot of valuable time.) That led me to think of this scene from the movie musical that gave us “My Kind of Town.”

When you think about the recent spate of mass shootings, it becomes difficult to watch this scene and listen to the lyrics without getting a little queasy. Or that could be just me; your conscience is your own. One thing that cannot possibly be disputed, though, is Sammy’s spectacular gift for song and dance. Yes he can:

I think we can reliably predict that this highly enjoyable movie will be safe from the remake machine for some time. Tough, though, to make an argument that those were the “simpler” times. 


Sure, it’s a crowd-pleasing Harrison Ford blockbuster from the 1980s. But the director is Peter Weir, and the richly satisfying Earl W. Wallace/William Kelley script also gives us this quiet and very challenging exchange. I daresay a minority of those viewing this film ultimately sided with Eli, but an inability to take this scene into your heart at some level would indicate to me a state of mind more than worthy of marginalizing:

I’ve spent my rounds. You’re invited to add to this brief catalog any and all of the classic scenes not represented here (Not shoot-outs. Not shoot-outs. Not shoot-outs.). Palaver concerning your cold, dead hands and other tired bloviating should at least be accompanied by the semblance of integrating it into the appreciation of a great movie gun scene.

After all, I may simply not have the energy to follow up with a black helicopter article.