One of my chief sources for inspiration in doing action and fight scenes is anime. Some of the fiercest, coolest and most eye-popping fights and duels to the finish I've ever seen are in animated form, in various action anime. Magnificently visualized in some ways that live-action can't quite match, these are some of the most thrilling moments of action I've seen onscreen (in no particular order of importance)...
Mikura versus The Black Scissors (Mezzo DSA episode 1)
Pastel-clad, pigtailed super-sprite Mikura, the heroine of this action-packed anime takes on the Black Scissors assassins, a squad of big, mean, nasty killers in facemasks and black spandex. This fight is the first and best in the whole Mezzo DSA series, with fantastic animation that shows off Mikura's agile martial arts skills and gunplay. It's all done in fantastic fashion, with walls and bricks crumbling from punches, bodies getting smashed through walls and an explosive ending that has bodies and debris raining everywhere.
Kenshin versus Saito (Rurouni Kenshin episode 30)
Mild-mannered rurouni Kenshin Himura faces off with a ghost from his past, former Shinsengumi Third Squad Leader Saito Hajime. This is, in my opinion, the best fight in the entire RK TV series, a title known for impressive action. Other fights are just too long, too drawn-out and fantastic- this confrontation between Kenshin and Saito lasts only for less than an episode but what a duel. There is true tension, deadly moves and a truly menacing air of danger throughout.
Nausicaa versus Torumekian ShocktroopersA (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)
This isn't really a fight; it's more of a slaughter. In the post-apocalyptic environmental epic, the peaceful Valley of the Wind is invaded by an army from the hostile nation of Torumekia. Lead heroine Princess Nausicaa rushes home to find her father dead, a squad of rifle-toting soldiers standing over him. What follows is a terrific assault as Nausicca literally explodes at the assassins, laying waste to hardened troops in a few deadly seconds. It was this moment that inspired me as to how my own heroine, Angel Ace, could be when she really gets pissed.
Jubei versus Utsutsu Mujuro (Ninja Scroll)
Ninja Scroll is for many, me included, the definitive action anime film. One of the best fights in the movie is also the single formal duel, between two matchless swordsmen; Kibagami Jubei, the former ninja turned wanderer, against the blind swordsman Utsutsu, of the Eight Devils of Kimon. Again, a masterpiece of animation and action with great atmosphere (bamboo forests are great for swordfighting!), well-defined attacks and a solid (and final) resolution. Like real samurai swordfights, intense, brief and to the point.
Chun Li versus Vega (Streetfighter II: The Animated Movie)
Besides the obvious pleasure of seeing hot videogame/anime babe Chun Li in her undies throughout this vicious battle with the acrobatic 'Spanish Ninja', this long and drag-out fight pulls no punches and is simply awesome and I haven't seen its equal to date. The definitive girl vs guy anime fight. For best atmosphere, watch the one with the more somber, Japanese music score instead of the US dubbed version with rock music.
Ryu and Ken versus M. Bison (Streetfighter II: The Animated Movie)
The final showdown between the Shotokan boys and the Master of Shadaloo is often forgotten thanks to the Chun-Li/Vega fight, but I have to say that the two-on-one handicap match at the end of the SF2 movie simply rocks. The fight choreography is perfect, with the karate skills of the heroes put to the ultimate test against a seemingly unstoppable enemy. When Ken finally lands that first punch on Bison, you just have to cheer. Like the other SF2 anime fight, I prefer the version set to the original Japanese score, not the rock music US version.
Yu Ominae versus Fat Man (Spriggan)
The Spriggan movie should be a lot cooler than it really is; it's based on a pretty awesome manga. However, the best part is the first half of the film, as 'Spriggan' agent Yu Ominae and his comrades in ARKHAM take on the U.S. Mechanized Brigade, led by cyborgs Fatman and Little Boy. The climactic battle between Yu and his former boss Fatman is the high point of this anime feature, which is sad since it happens only at the middle of the movie; the rest of the time is then spent on boring scientific gobbledy-goo and a telekinetic brat with a baseball cap. Oh well, it's still a kick-ass fight.
A-Ko vs B-Ko (Project A-Ko)
This rivalry between childhood rivals escalates throughout this classic anime movie, between super-strong schoolgirl A-Ko and spoiled genius richgirl B-Ko, with the prize being the 'love' of the ditzy C-Ko. The final stage has A-Ko squaring off against B-Ko in her seemingly indestructible (and sexy) super-suit, set against the backdrop of an alien invasion (!). A bit dated now in terms of animation, but still this is anime fighting at its best and craziest.
The Paper versus Otto Lilienthal (Read Or Die OAV episode 1)
The Read Or Die OAV rocks, but really, the best part is the first episode (the next two episodes drag a bit). The climax is a truly masterful aerial action sequence between paper-flinging bookworm Yomiko Readman and crafty 'glider king' Otto Lilienthal (a true historical figure, btw) over the New York skyline. Perfect.
Jubei versus Gemma (Ninja Scroll)
It's only proper that one of the best anime action films has a suitably satisfying final battle, and this fight between Jubei and the leader of the Eight Devils of Kimon certainly qualifies. Bloody, bone-breaking, relentless and brutal from beginning to end, this deadly battle between vengeful swordsman and unkillable iron-armed fiend set on a burning ship features a great 'panning camera from behind a window grill' shot that blows me away everytime I see it. And the ending is just pure gold. Heh.
Try to check out these scenes for yourself. Next time, I'll go for best fights in live-action films! Heh.