10 Parkour-Packed Movies You Have to See
While there are countless action movies that feature car chases, gun battles, and over-the-top explosions, some of the most exciting sequences found in many action movies today feature a discipline that doesn’t require any special effects. We are, of course, talking about the acrobatic running discipline known as parkour. Practitioners of parkour jump, flip, run, vault, and climb over obstacles in their environment in graceful and imaginative ways. And when this activity is committed to film, the result can elevate even a so-so action movie into a riveting visual spectacle.
So which action movies feature this exciting and relatively new discipline? In no particular order, here are 10 movies that feature incredible scenes of parkour-packed action.
1. Brick Mansions (2014)
One of the more recent additions to our list, Brick Mansions — the late Paul Walker’s second-to-last film — hit theaters in 2014. Like District B13 — the original French action movie that it is based on — Brick Mansions features amazing parkour stunts. District B13, or Banlieue 13, was widely credited with bringing this French discipline into the mainstream and much of the film’s appeal came from its dynamic action sequences that featured parkour founder David Belle and prominent parkour practitioners such as Cyril Raffaelli.
Belle reprises his role as a streetwise crime fighter in the remake, while Paul Walker plays the role of the undercover cop that was originally played by Raffaelli. Unfortunately, some critics’ reviews of Brick Mansions suggest that the remake fails to recapture the excitement that made the original French movie a cult hit. Some reviewers took issue with the film’s unbelievable plot twists, while others criticized Walker’s lack of actual parkour skills.
“The action, which in addition to traditional fistfights involves diving through windows and bouncing off walls — and sometimes people — suffers considerably from Walker’s obvious deficiencies as a physical performer,” noted Washington Post film critic Michael O’Sullivan. However, fans of Paul Walker may still want to check out the popular Fast and Furious film franchise star in one of his last roles, and any holes in the movie’s plot are more than made up for by some truly amazing parkour stunt work.
2. District B13 (2004)
Luc Besson, the writer and producer behind District B13, may have helped popularize the use of parkour in films more than any other filmmaker. District B13 is set in a near-future Paris where an entire crime-ridden section of the city has been sealed off and abandoned by the police. Part Escape from New York and part Ong-Bak, District B13 is considered by many parkour aficionados to be the gold standard for parkour action movies. David Belle — widely regarded as the founder of parkour — stars as Leito, the film’s primary protagonist, while fellow parkour artist Cyril Raffaelli plays undercover policeman Damien Tomaso.
3. District 13: Ultimatum (2009)
This 2009 follow-up to the cult classic District B13 may not be as beloved as the original, but is still well worth watching if you’re a fan of breathtaking parkour action. Parkour legends David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli reprise their roles as Leito and Damien, respectively.
4. Casino Royale (2006)
Coming only two years after the cult hit District B13, Casino Royale introduced even more movie fans to the visual spectacle of parkour with an amazing sequence featuring Sébastien Foucan, one of the early developers of the discipline. MI6 agent 007 has the limits of his athleticism tested when he is forced to chase an impossibly agile villain in this 2006 reboot of the James Bond film franchise starring Daniel Craig.
5. Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Bruce Willis reprises his role as John McClane, the cranky and reluctant hero who is perpetually battling terrorists in this fourth installment in the Die Hard film series. While the plot revolves around cybercriminals who use their computer-hacking abilities to terrorize the U.S., one of the most memorable scenes in the film is when McClane fights Rand, a nimble villain played by skilled parkour practitioner and stuntman Cyril Raffaelli. Raffaelli is well-known to fans of parkour movies for his role as undercover policeman Damien Tomaso in District B13 and District 13: Ultimatum. However, to McClane the elusive Raffaelli is merely a “damn hamster.”
6. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Sherlock Holmes battles a Cossack “renowned for his agility” in this Guy Ritchie-directed film starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the unflappable detective. The Cossack’s anachronistic parkour-style stunts were performed by renowned stuntman Jeremy Marinas, according to IMDb.
7. The Bourne Legacy (2012)
While the fourth film in the Bourne film series did not feature Matt Damon as title character Jason Bourne, it did include some amazing parkour-based chase scenes. As noted by IMDb, the parkour stunts were performed by talented American parkour practitioner Levi Meeuwenberg. Meeuwenberg’s impressive parkour abilities can be seen in The Bourne Legacy clip above.
8. Tracers (2015)
Parkour is a major plot point in this recently released action film. In the film, Cam (Taylor Lautner of Twilight Saga fame) joins a gang of parkour practitioners who use their skills to pull off daring heists. Although Tracers garnered mixed reviews from the critics (it currently has a 28% “rotten” ranking on RottenTomatoes), it features several impressive parkour action sequences, including a chase scene through a mall that can be seen in the clip above. Just don’t expect him to turn into a werewolf.
9. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is probably remembered by most people as one of Disney’s biggest flops — that is, if they remember it at all. However, despite its lackluster reviews and accusations of whitewashing when Jake Gyllenhaal was cast as a Persian character, the movie features some impressive parkour action. That’s because none other than David Belle — creator of parkour — choreographed the stunts in the film.
10. Freerunner (2011)
Parkour meets The Running Man in this movie that features a form of the running discipline known as freerunning. In the film, eight freerunners are kidnapped by sadistic mobsters and outfitted with explosive collars that will kill them if they don’t make it across town within one hour. Featuring renowned freerunner Ryan Doyle, this film makes up for its lack of a sensible plot with plenty of parkour/freerunning action.
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