10 Best Battles in Fantasy Movies, Ranked

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The fantasy genre is one of the most well-known and well-loved for a good reason. Dating back to ancient mythology, these stories allow storytellers to go wild with their imagination and conjure forth all manner of fantastical elements, such as magic, brave heroes, and fire-breathing dragons. With the advancement of cinema, fantasy stories have been given a new medium to delight audiences, and they’ve never been more diverse.

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One of the best aspects of fantasy movies is the battle sequences. Whether they feature armies clashing or a few heroes standing against many foes, these sequences offer the filmmakers the chance to go all out, especially in clashes between good and evil.

10 Witch vs. Nazi

‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ (1971)

Image via Disney

As World War II rages, a witch named Miss Price (Angela Lansbury) hopes to use the Substitutiary Locomotion spell to turn the tide of the war. She’s given a chance to use the spell when Nazi commandos commandeer her house for a raid and lock her and a trio of children staying with her in a museum. Using her magic, Miss Price brings to life dozens of suits of medieval armor, and sends them to battle against the Germans.

While Bedknobs and Broomsticks was made to give Disney a Mary Poppins adjacent film, the climax helps give it an identity of its own. The initial scene of the armor marching toward the Germans is quite haunting, especially when they begin to chant the magic words that brought them to life. The actual battle is more slapstick than serious, but it’s still creatively executed, with a lot of laughs and some convincing effects to make the armour look animated.

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9 The Battle of Irontown

‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997)

San and her wolf brothers ride alongside the boars into battle
Image via Studio Ghibli

Despite the efforts of Prince Ashitaka (Yōji Matsuda/Billy Crudup), the frontier settlement of Irontown is besieged by two different factions. From the forests come the Boar Tribe of Okkoto (Hisaya Morishige/Keith David), who want to exterminate the humans, so Irontown’s leader, Lady Eboshi (Yūko Tanaka/Minnie Driver) and the monk Jigo (Kaoru Kobayashi/Billy Bob Thornton), depart with their army to meet them. Meanwhile, Samurai loyal to Warlord Asano attack the town, now defended by women and the sick, hoping to claim the iron for themselves.

While most of the battle happens offscreen, what is shown is brutal and unforgiving, which fits Princess Mononoke’s man vs nature themes. Boar corpses are piled high, blown apart by explosives, which demonstrates how technology allows man to conquer the natural world. It also leads to the film’s bigger climax involving the enigmatic Forest Spirit, showing how short-sighted conflicts cause more and more damage until everyone is left suffering.

Princess Mononoke
Release Date
July 12, 1997

Cast
Yôji Matsuda , Yuriko Ishida , Yûko Tanaka , Kaoru Kobayashi , Masahiko Nishimura , Tsunehiko Kamijô

Runtime
134 minutes

‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’ (2005)

Jadis the White Witch, dressed in a lion-mane outfit, battling the army of Peter.
Image via Disney

To save the life of Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes), when Jadis the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) comes to claim him, the great lion Aslan (Liam Neeson) offers himself instead. Following his execution, Jadis has his mane turned into an outfit for her to lead her army into battle and cement her position as Narnia’s tyrant. On the plane of Beruna, Jadis’ army of dark creatures faces the loyalists, led by Edmund’s older brother, Peter (William Moseley).

Though inspired by the action sequences in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the climax of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has a lot of great details that help it stand out. A lot of emphasis is placed on the different ways the fantasy creatures, such as centaurs, minotaurs, and griffins, use weapons and battle one another, which helps them feel like distinct entities. Jadis also feels like a monumental obstacle for the heroes to overcome thanks to her magic, martial skills, and Swinton’s wonderful performance.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Release Date
December 7, 2005

Runtime
135 minutes

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7 The Argonauts vs The Children of the Hydra’s Teeth

‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (1963)

The Argonauts' feud with undead warriors is one of the most iconic fights in film
Image via Columbia Pictures

After many trials and tribulations, Jason (Todd Armstrong) and his Argonauts finally claim the Golden Fleece and use its power to heal their ally, the priestess Medea (Nancy Kovack). Before they can return home, King Aeëtes (Jack Gwillim) sows hydra teeth into the ground, which sprout into skeleton warriors to stop them. As Medea and the elderly shipwright, Argus (Laurence Naismith), flee with the fleece, Jason and his companions, Phalerus (Patrick Troughton) and Castor (Andrew Faulds), do battle with the undead.

Considered by many to be the best film by stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen, it’s fitting that Jason and the Argonauts also possesses his best climactic showdown. Haryhasen’s signature style works perfectly for the undead warriors by giving them an unnatural stiffness. The choreography between them and the human actors is also amazing, synching up so well that it almost feels like they could have been present on set.

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6 The Battle of Hogwarts

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’ (2011)

Harry Potter fighting in the battle of Hogwarts in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2'
Image via Warner Bros. 

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) return to Hogwarts to track down the remaining Horcruxes of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), which contain pieces of his soul. To buy him some time, the Hogwarts staff, Dumbledore’s Army, and the Order of the Phoenix rally to defend the school. Unfortunately, Voldemort’s army is quite powerful, and to destroy him may require a great deal of sacrifice.

The Battle of Hogwarts is a two-part climactic showdown that caps off the Harry Potter franchise. It pulls no punches, unleashing magical creatures like giants and sentient statues, showing beloved side characters dying tragically, and building up to the climactic showdown between Harry and Voldemort. It also introduces strong themes of sacrifice and mortality, which ends the series on a sombre but fitting note.

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5 The Battle in the Maelstrom

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’ (2007)

Bill Nighy as Davy Jones in a sword fight with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Image via Buena Vista Pictures

When the goddess Calypso (Naomie Harris) refuses to help the pirates of the Brethren Court stand against the armada of Lord Cutler Becket (Tom Hollander), the newly elected king of the pirates, Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightly), rallies them for battle. She directs the Black Pearl to face off against The Flying Dutchman, crewed by undead pirates led by Davy Jones (Bill Nighty). As the two ships clash in the middle of a raging maelstrom, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), attempts to stab Jones’ heart to become the new captain of the Dutchman.

While Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End has some story problems, this climax is the perfect way to close out the original trilogy. Against the backdrop of two legendary ships sinking into the abyss, multiple small storylines play out, including Jack and Jones’ duel, Elizabeth and Will’s (Orlando Bloom) marriage, and plenty of jokes sprinkled among the high-paced action. It’s a climax that highlights the strengths of every character and keeps the adrenaline flowing as things get worse and worse before one final difficult decision.

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4 The Battle of the Mounds

‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1982)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian
Image via Universal Pictures

After saving the daughter of King Osric (Max von Sydow) from the snake cult of Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) cremates his lover, Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), who was killed during the escape. With his friend Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and a local wizard (Mako Iwamatsu), he prepares for the arrival of Doom’s soldiers. While hiding among the standing stones of a burial mound, Conan offers a prayer to his god, Crom, asking for revenge.

The Battle of the Mound is one of the grittiest battles in any fantasy film and helped to cement Conan the Barbarian as one of the best fantasy films of the 1980s. The unique terrain allows the heroes to utilize many traps and surprise attacks to level the playing field, showing the importance of strategy in overwhelming a larger force. It’s also backed up by some of the greatest music ever put to film, which makes the battle feel even more epic.

Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Release Date
May 14, 1982

Director
John Milius

Runtime
129 minutes

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3 The Battle of Amon Hen

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001)

Lurtz taking aim with his bow and arrow at Boromir in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Image via New Line Cinema

When the One Ring re-emerges in Middle Earth, a fellowship is assembled to carry it to Mount Doom, so it can be destroyed before it is reclaimed by the dark lord Sauron (Alan Howard). However, the ring’s corrupting power begins to influence the fellowship members, prompting the ringbearer, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), to set off on his own. As he departs, a band of Uruk Hai ambush the fellowship at Amon Hen, with orders to capture the hobbits and kill the others.

The Lord of the Rings is widely regarded as the greatest fantasy trilogy ever made, and the Battle of Amon Hen is a wonderful example of the physical and technical feats that went into creating the movies. The choreography showcases the strengths of each member of the fellowship as they fight the Uruk Hai and their comradery through some poignant character moments. These include Frodo’s friends, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) distracting the Uruk Hai, and Boromir (Sean Bean), fighting tooth and nail to keep the hobbits safe.

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2 The Battle of Pelennor Fields

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ (2003)

Witch-King of Angmar posing with sword in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Image via New Line Cinema

While the wizard, Gandalf the White (Sir Ian McKellen), defends the city of Minas Tirith from Sauron’s orc army, King Theoden (Bernard Hill) and his Riders of Rohan arrive to lift the siege. Their thunderous charge scatters the orcs outside the city. However, they soon face new horrors, including Haradrim riding atop massive elephant-like beasts called Mumukil, and Sauron’s greatest servant, the Witch King of Angmar (Lawrence Makoare and Andy Serkis).

The Battle of Pelennor Fields is nothing short of epic in its depiction of the human spirit. Theoden and his men know that there is a strong chance that none of them will survive this battle, but they charge forth anyway because to do anything else is to guarantee defeat. This leads to many individual moments of courage, such as Theoden’s speech before the charge, and his niece, Eowyn (Miranda Otto), standing defiantly against the Witch King to defend him.

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1 The Battle of Helm’s Deep

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’

Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and soldiers in Battle of Helm's Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Image via New Line Cinema

To protect his people, King Theoden falls back to the fortress of Helm’s Deep to await the armies of the fallen wizard, Saruman (Sir Christopher Lee). Aiding him are three of the greatest warriors alive: Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the rightful King of Gondor, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), prince of the wood elves, and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), an experienced dwarf warrior. If they can last until sunrise against a seemingly never-ending hoard, Gandalf will arrive with reinforcements.

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is the most epic fantasy battle for its sense of atmosphere alone, to say nothing of the actual battle. Every moment before the first arrow is loosed, there is a creeping wave of dread and despair: young and old men are forced to fight, Theoden confides in his guardsmen his despair, and rain falls upon the defenders as the Uruks arrive. Then, when the battle begins, it is a non-stop wave of well-choreographed desperation as the defenders fight tooth and nail to buy themselves time.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Release Date
December 18, 2002

Runtime
179 minutes

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NEXT: The 30 Best Fantasy Movies of All Time, Ranked

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