The Greatest Gun Battle In Movie History


Michael Mann’s 1995 crime epic Heat was notable for a number of things. The all-star cast featured names like Val Kilmer, John Voight, Natalie Portman and Ashly Judd (among many others) in supporting roles to Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro who squared off on screen together for the first time as the intense, dedicated cop Vincent (Pacino) and professional thief Neil (DeNiro).

Their now-iconic confrontation is simply referred to as “the diner scene” where DeNiro and Pacino flex their acting chops in an exchange that immediately became a cinema classic.

Equally well-known and often imitated is the opening heist where Neil and his crew rob an armoured truck in overalls and hockey masks.

The other scene that Heat is most known for is the bank robbery that culminates in what many consider the greatest gun fight ever put to film.


Neil and his crew enter the bank dressed in suits but quickly don ski masks and overpower the guards. The robbery is swift and controlled, clearly carried out by men who have done this before.

The music throughout the robbery is subtle but intense, somewhat reminiscent of a countdown timer. Neil and his crew are on the clock, after all.

It all started with such promise…
… but deteriorated quickly.

With bags loaded with cash Neil and his fellow robbers Chris (Val Kilmer) and Michael (Tom Sizemore) cooly head for the exit. Michael reaches the getaway car first, already beginning to celebrate.

Neil arrives next, climbing into the passenger seat.

Chris is almost at the car and smiles triumphantly, but spots police activity across the street. Vince and his men have arrived. The smile vanishes from Chris’ face, he raises his gun and the scene erupts with almost deafening gunfire.


What follows is a triumph of cinematic action. There is no music, only the sound of gunshots echoing off the buildings in downtown LA. Neil and his crew fight desperately to escape but their getaway driver (Dennis Haysbert) is killed and Michael is shot dead by Vincent.

Probably best to stay out of Val Kilmer’s way when he’s in this mood.

Chris is shot but manages to escape with Neil, ending a chaotic sequence that trades dramatic score for overbearing SFX realism with epic results. The screaming, panicking civilians in the background can be heard in between the volleys of bullets. Everything has that uneasy echo of sound bouncing off skyscrapers.

The crew placed microphones around the street to capture the actual sound of gunfire which is what gives this scene its engrossing sound that doesn’t sound like any other movie gunfight.

With scenes like this it is no wonder Heat has been so often imitated and is considered one of the greatest crime dramas ever made.