The 5 Most Legendary Beatdowns in Cinema History

Sometimes justice requires a garbage can.

Sometimes in movies, the most succinct way for the righteous, the aggrieved, and the hypersensitive to express their displeasure is with boots, fists, garbage cans, and car doors. Herewith, five serious dressings-down that have left an indelible cinematic impression.

American Hustle (2013)

Infuriated at his FBI boss, Stoddard Thorsen (played by Louis CK), Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) introduces the schlubby agent to the business end of a hefty Bell-Atlantic. Perhaps Thorsen should have told the end of that ice fishing story.

Death Proof (2007)

In Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 grisly ode to American muscle cars, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, and Zoë Bell turn the tables on Kurt Russell’s psychopath Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who’s been stalking women and murdering them in staged car accidents. Turns out Stuntman Mike isn’t quite as deathproof as old Snake Plissken.

Raging Bull (1980)

Joey (Joe Pesci) thinks something’s out of order when he sees Salvy (Frank Vincent) squiring Jake LaMotta’s wife around the Copacabana. He shows his displeasure by shattering a glass in Salvy’s face—then waits outside the club to finish the job. The scene is so powerful that director Martin Scorsese, Pesci, and Vincent reprised it a decade later in Goodfellas, when Pesci goes full Pesci on Billy Batts’ head and sets the shoeshine industry back 25 years.

The Godfather (1972)

Hair-triggered Sonny Corleone (James Caan) takes his brother-in-law Carlo to task for ungentlemanly behavior toward his sister, Connie—with fists, knees, feet, teeth, a garbage can, and a garbage can lid. That Corleone temper eventually catches up with Sonny at a picturesque toll booth in Long Beach.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

In John Huston’s gritty look at greed and obsession, Humphrey Bogart as a down-on-his-luck drifter Fred Dobbs and his fellow laborer have a chin wag at the bar with their stingy, conniving boss, who’s trying to stiff them out of their wages. The old dandy puts up a whale of a fight when push comes to brawl, but in the end he ponies up, rather involuntarily.