Listen. We all know The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has the best on-screen battle of any fantasy media. Objectively, how can anything else compare to the moonlit glory of the Battle of Helm’s Deep? In fact, if we were really ranking the best fantasy battle scenes, it would just be a list of every LoTR fight scene.
But there are other amazing battle scenes in fantasy movies and TV, and that's what this list sets out to explore. So it begins—but prepare for spoilers below.
The Battle of Beruna
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
In this epic battle from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe adaptation, Gryphons soar above the battlefield, scouting out the White Witch’s army and dropping boulders to deter her forces. Edmund directs the archers, their arrows flying ahead of the Narnians’ ground cover.
Peter, astride his pure white unicorn, leads a Narnian fleet made up of centaurs, leopards, fauns, and more. They fight against dark troops of minotaurs, white tigers, harpies, and the White Witch herself.
Peter calls out a battle cry, “For Narnia! And for Aslan!”
If sharp swords and heavy clubs weren’t dangerous enough, the White Witch has magic on her side. With a stab of her wand, she can turn any opposing fighter into stone. Peter must dodge both her blades and her hexes if he wants to retake Narnia for the forces of good.
The White Witch toys with Peter for a while, but then a thundering roar rings over the field. Aslan appears on the horizon, with reinforcements: he's brought previously-petrified Narnians to rescue their kin.
The White Witch attempts to kill Peter quickly, disarming him and piercing his shoulder, pinning him to the ground. But before she can deliver the deadly blow, Aslan overtakes her and ends her life. Time itself slows down.
“It is finished,” Aslan declares. And everything is still.
The Siege of the North
Avatar: The Last Airbender
It seems like hope is lost. Admiral Zhao, leader of a Fire Nation fleet, has besieged the Northern Water Tribe. In a pique of ambition, he slayed the moon spirit, in the form of a helpless koi fish. The ocean spirit, another koi, swims in disarray without its companion to keep it in balance. The Water Tribe loses their bending powers and become overrun by the Fire Nation army.
Then Avatar Aang, the 12-year-old bridge between the earthly and spirit worlds, goes into the Avatar State, calling upon the powers of his hundreds of previous lives. He merges with the ocean spirit and they become a massive spiritual projection, a giant koi monster made of ocean water and spirit energy.
Enraged, Aang and the ocean spirit lay waste to the Fire Nation armada, crushing steel navy vessels and forming a massive tsunami to sweep the fleet away. They drag Zhao underwater to his death in retaliation for his hubris. It’s a spectacle worthy of any anime.
But none of this bloodshed can soothe the ocean spirit’s anger. Only the sacrifice of Princess Yue calms them down. She gives her life to revive the moon spirit, returning the original koi fish to life while she fades into mist.
The Battle of Isla de Muerta
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
It begins with a walk. At midnight, Commodore Norrington’s fleet searches the horizons for the pirate crew of The Black Pearl. The clouds part and a silver, full moon shines its light over the ocean. The camera plunges underwater to reveal a skeletal crew climbing up the anchors of Norrington’s helpless ships.
How do you destroy an enemy that can’t die? This is what Elizabeth, Will, and Captain Jack Sparrow must figure out, as they fight the usurper Captain Barbossa and his pirate crew over a chest of cursed gold.
Jack pawns a coin to claim the curse on himself, so when Barbossa stabs Jack the sword only slides through his ribs. Elizabeth and Will rally against the undead, Will with his master swordplay and Elizabeth with improvised explosives.
Jack shoots Barbossa just as Will returns the final coin to the chest, breaking the curse. Barbossa falls down dead, and Norrington’s navy fill the night with their victory cheers.
Battle of the Department of Mysteries
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
It’s the 11th hour. Harry’s brought his friends to the Ministry of Magic to save his godfather, Sirius Black, from the tortures of the evil Lord Voldemort.
Except once Harry and friends reach the Department of Mysteries, Harry realizes it was all a trick. Sirius was never there. Voldemort’s Death Eaters chase Harry through shelves of prophecies, sending fates crashing to the ground in wisps of ghostly smoke.
The Death Eaters need an elusive prophecy about Harry and Voldemort’s intertwining fates—one Harry holds in his hands. In fact, Harry's about to hand over the glowing glass orb to Lucius Malfoy as ransom for his friends’ lives.
Then, like a dream, the Order of the Phoenix appears. Sirius utters the iconic line, “Get away from my godson,” and absolutely decks Lucius, all magic tossed aside for the satisfaction of fist-on-Death-Eater-face. And then the battle begins.
Hexes are issued. Death Eaters and Phoenix members fly about the department in swirling pillars of darkness and light. Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s number one follower, nails Sirius with a killing curse. After a heart-wrenching peal of anguish, Harry races after her through the empty ministry halls.
And then Lord Voldemort appears himself. He swipes away Harry’s wand, but before he can go any further, Dumbledore sweeps in on a column of green fire, free from exile. The two master wizards engage in a sorcerous battle of wits and wands, Dumbledore fighting to protect Harry’s body and soul.
The meeting of two old foes, the wrenching grief of Sirius’ death, and the spectacle of two master sorcerers facing off against each other makes this the best battle of the Harry Potter series.
Battle of the Bastards
Game of Thrones
With the death of King Robb Stark at the Red Wedding, the House of Bolton has overtaken the Stark family’s stronghold of Winterfell, with Ramsay Bolton now in charge. A newly-legitimized bastard son, Ramsay takes pleasure in ruling Winterfell with a sadistic fist.
Sansa Stark escapes Ramsay’s clutches with the aid of her family’s former betrayer, Theon Greyjoy, and they take shelter with Sansa’s half-brother Jon Snow. Sansa urges Jon to gather forces to retake Winterfell. When Ramsay sends a letter to Jon, revealing he is holding the Stark’s youngest brother Rickon hostage, Jon and Sansa set out to reclaim their home.
They know they are outnumbered, but with winter always on its way, Jon is adamant to attack Winterfell as soon as possible. His forces start strong, but then Ramsay sets Rickon free, firing arrows after the boy as he runs across the battleground to his older brother. Jon races on horseback to Rickon and almost rescues him, just as Ramsay’s arrows finally meet their mark.
Enraged, Jon abandons his initial battle plans and draws his sword. And so the Battle of the Bastards begins.
Ramsay’s archers shoot at both the Stark forces and the Bolton guard, killing indiscriminately. Jon is almost crushed to death by his own forces. Bodies fall and become a wall of corpses, preventing the Stark forces from retreating. The Boltons tighten like a noose.
Suddenly, Sansa arrives with The Knights of the Vale, a fresh fighting force ready to break through the ranks. They sweep through the now undefended Bolton soldiers, freeing Jon to chase after Ramsay. With the aid of a giant, Jon forces his way into his former home and fights Ramsay one-on-one. In his fury, Jon almost kills Ramsay, but he leaves Ramsay’s life for Sansa to take, as retribution for Ramsay’s mistreatment of her.
It’s the climactic resolution of two twining storylines—Sansa’s final escape to safety and Jon becoming King of the North.
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The final battle of Princess Mononoke
In this anime classic, the forces of nature clash against technological advancements. Prince Ashitaka, the last prince of the Emishi village, first encounters this conflict when a boar god, corrupted into a demon of hate, attacks his home. Ashitaka defeats the demon only to take up his curse, a twisted arm that gives him super strength while also poisoning him.
Ashitaka sets off to find the Forest Spirit to heal him. As he travels, he comes across Lady Eboshi’s Iron Town. Lady Eboshi is dedicated to rescuing outcasts and lepers; she is also dedicated to clearcutting the gods’ forest, leading Iron Town into numerous conflicts with the gods.
This leads to this film’s major battle. Iron Town uses their advanced weaponry and explosives to kill off the boar clan and mortally wound Okkoto. Okkoto, swept into his pain and grief, transforms into a demon and swallows up San, the human daughter of a wolf god, Moro. Moro attempts to fight off Okkoto to rescue her daughter while Ashitaka races through the woods to stop Lady Eboshi from beheading the Forest God.
Everything is swept into silence. The Forest God appears with his power to create life and destroy it. The Forest God saps the life from Moro and Okkoto and turns from his daytime deer form into the behemoth, celestial Night Walker. While he’s distracted by his transformation, Lady Eboshi decapitates him. Chaos infects the land as the disfigured Forest Spirit ravages Iron Town in search of his head.
This battle scene is mystical, as grotesque as it is beautiful, befitting Studio Ghibli’s sublime style.