The art of the showdown is an integral part of both westerns and samurai films. With Tarantino‘s Kill Bill sharing equal parts of both genres, it makes sense that the showdown would be central to the tale of The Bride’s quest for revenge against those who wronged her at the outset of the story, and indeed it is. Kill Bill is home to 8 fantastic showdowns, and every single one of them has elements that make it stand out. Below, we’ve made a list of them, and crossed them off one by one with extreme satisfaction, all the way to the bloody top. It’s gonna be a rip-roaring ranking, so read on!
8) Elle Driver vs. Budd
Like most of the encounters in the second half of Kill Bill, the treacherous betrayal of Elle Driver is over almost before it begins. When Elle arrives to buy The Bride’s Hattori Hanzo sword from Budd, after the latter assures her that Beatrix Kiddo has breathed her last, the audience initially has no reason to suspect anything. However, as the scene continues on, and Budd laughs more and more egregiously, counting his money all the while, there’s just enough of a sinister to hint to the proceedings to offer the audience an inkling of trouble, right before the Black Mamba strikes.
Deciding that Budd didn’t deserve the right to kill The Bride, Elle takes a fearsome revenge on him, tricking Budd into being bitten by the devastating, poisonous fangs of the snake from which Beatrix Kiddo took her code name in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Though it’s sad that The Bride never gets her rematch with Bill’s brother, the scene does lead into an intense battle in Budd’s very own trailer…just not with Budd.
7) The Bride vs. Budd
Though there is a lot of suspenseful build-up to The Bride facing off with Budd, the showdown (as it were) ends with a sudden flash of gunfire before it even starts. Turns out that Budd has Beatrix’s number from the get-go, and when she springs her attack on him at last, he fires her full of rock salt from his 12-gauge shotgun. As Beatrix sputters and gasps from the shock, he taunts her gleefully before enacting the ultimate punishment for her attack: a live burial.
While The Bride is eventually able to escape this seemingly impossible situation, Budd remains the only member of her former squad to beat her single-handedly. Had he only gone for a more swift means of finishing the job, he might have even put her down for good.
6) The Bride vs. Gogo Ubari
Though Gogo initially seems like she can’t be much of a roadblock in The Bride’s path (as Beatrix has yet to take out a single name on her list when she encounters Gogo), the petite, deadly school girl takes a lot more out of her than anyone would expect. Wielding a modified flail-type weapon, Gogo’s spinning blade and long-range chain allow her to draw blood from The Bride, and more than once.
It eventually begins to seem that The Bride’s quest for revenge might be over before she’s picked off a single target, but her last-ditch strategy to dispatch Gogo with her own weapon pays off just before her life is snuffed out for good.
5) The Bride vs. Vernita Green
The first fight we see in Kill Bill is also one of its most effective. Setting the tone brilliantly for the rest of the showdowns, The Bride’s battle with Vernita Green contains the iconic musical cues, a shocking level of violence, and one-liners that we will come to associate with every hard-won scrap to come. As The Bride shows up unexpectedly at Green’s suburban home, a fierce knife fight ensues, shattering Vernita’s dream of an idyllic family life with one frenetic swing after another.
Though there is a brief interlude wherein Beatrix and Vernita exchange small talk and threats in equal measure, the encounter comes to an abrupt end when Vernita goes for a pistol hidden in a cereal box. The last twist to the scene comes, however, when Green’s daughter enters the frame as her mother breathes her last gasp, pierced in the chest by The Bride’s knife. This, of course, is the set-up for the long promised Kill Bill Vol. 3, should it ever see the light of day…and let’s hope it does, as Tarantino is promising only one more film in his illustrious career.
4) The Bride vs. Elle Driver
Beatrix Kiddo’s most enduring foe throughout the Kill Bill saga is undoubtedly her long-standing rival, Elle Driver. So when the moment finally comes to see the two Amazonian warriors face off at last, there is a metric ton of anticipation behind it. Luckily, the intense showdown in the close quarters of Budd’s trailer delivers just the fast, frenzied encounter we had anticipated.
As the two face off with twin katanas made by the blade master, Hattori Hanzo, their glares of hatred and abhorrence are on furious display. “Bitch, you don’t have a future!” promises Beatrix before their swords meet at last. However, the fight takes a surprise turn when The Bride opts to secure victory by snatching out Elle’s only remaining eye. As the screeching cries of Elle echo behind her, The Bride leaves her writhing blindly, trapped with her own Black Mamba snake. Surely, if Kill Bill Vol. 3 ever comes to fruition, Elle will return to fill out the cast in the classic blind swordsman role often seen in anime, manga, and samurai stories.
3) The Bride vs. O-Ren Ishii
The most traditional duel of the film comes when The Bride finally faces O-Ren Ishii, after surviving the never-ending gauntlet of her army of criminal associates. Set in a picturesque, snowy Japanese garden, The Bride and O-Ren face off with Hattori Hanzo katanas in a showdown which ebbs and flows from deliberately slow to fast and brutal with each clang of the blades.
As tensions escalate, and The Bride’s injuries begin to take their toll, and the suspense of the scene rises madly, despite the fact that we watched Beatrix cross O-Ren’s name off of her list at the outset of Kill Bill. It’s a testament to Tarantino’s knack for suspense that we still think The Bride could lose, even when we know she’s already won. And win she does, in gloriously gruesome fashion, scalping O-Ren with one fell strike. It’s a fantastic fight, and certainly could be argued as one of, if not the, best battles of the film.
2) The Bride vs. Bill
The titular showdown comes after a long, in-depth post-mortem on Bill and Beatrix’s failed relationship. However, for all of the dialog that goes into setting up the final encounter of the story, the fight between The Bride and her former lover is over in a flash. The last lines before the fight suggest that, like in the Vernita Green scene, there will be the epic encounter we are expecting. “We have unfinished business.” The Bride seethes. “Honey, you ain’t kidding.” replies Bill.
As the two sit at the kitchen table, Bill goes for a sudden cheap shot, and the battle is on. Slickly edited and frenetically tense, the duel between Bill and Beatrix is over in less than 10 seconds, but every second is more heart-poundingly stressful than the last. Finally, The Bride secures victory by unleashing the storied Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Bill. As the two exchange tearful goodbyes, Bill marches off to his destiny, dying a few feet away as his heart explodes. It’s a poignant, beautiful, and poetic ending for the relationship that serves as the lynchpin for this entire story, and it’s easily the best part of the entire film. However, it isn’t the best fight in the film, because that spectacle and pomp belongs to the final showdown on our list.
1) The Bride vs. The Crazy 88
One of the most daring, audacious, and frankly, ridiculous, fight scenes in the history of cinema comes as the thrilling climax of the first volume of Kill Bill. As 88 (I know, I know… there weren’t really 88 of them) katana-wielding warriors advance on The Bride, the audience begins to suspect they’re in for something truly spectacular…and they’re not wrong. An absurdly gory and wonderfully fun send-up of classic samurai battles comes to pass as Beatrix goes about cutting down each of her attackers, one after another.
As blood sprays in hilarious founts all around her, The Bride dispatches each of O-Ren’s henchmen in brutal fashion, leaving her soaked in crimson, standing amid a pile of corpses. The sheer scope and scale of the battle is insane, and it must have taken weeks to stage and choreograph the scene. However, the results speak for themselves, as the showdown with the Crazy 88 is easily the most iconic, memorable, and stylish scene of Kill Bill‘s 4+ hour runtime. Cutting between full color, black and white, and silhouetted blue light, while also cutting through dozens of bodies, the Crazy 88 battle is hands-down the best fight in Kill Bill.