From spectacular choreographed sequences to outright reality-defying stunts, fantasy fight scenes have always stood out in literature and cinema. What other genre gives you battling robots, monsters, giants, and rats of unusual size? I figured it was time to put together my list of best fantasy fight scenes ever–according to me.
Firstly, let me just say these are not in any particular order. It’s hard enough to choose which fights make the list without having to rank them. Secondly, this list is based on my own preferences, so if I left out some iconic fight or your favorite, please feel free to disagree in the comments below. Considering this is a post about fighting, I feel like that would be appropriate. Thirdly, what constitutes a fight? Basically not a battle. It doesn’t have to be mano o mano or a one on one duel, but it can’t be a full-scale battle. Fights usually focus more on the inner conflict or personal investment of a couple of characters–not entire armies.
Gandalph vs Saruman: The Lord of the Rings
Who doesn’t like to watch wizards or old people fight? What could be better than both. This is a great fight because they wipe the floor with each other without touching. They are seemingly slapped, thrown, dragged, pushed, and hurled by magic–that I assume is coming form their staffs. What really makes this wizard war fun is the fact that the characters are played by Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Christopher Lee. I couldn’t imagine anyone else in these roles. The head-to-head (or staff-to-staff) fight between Gandalph and Saruman is certainly a highlight of the first film, especially after Lee’s death.
Hector vs Achilles: Troy
This movie has a lot of downfalls–fight scenes not being one of them. The best one is the death match between Hector and Achilles. To say I’m not a fan of Brad Pitt is a huge understatement. He ruined Troy in the same way he ruined Seven Years in Tibet with his bad acting and poor attempt of an accent. Even his face can’t act. It doesn’t help that this flopping fish was thrown in a sea of wonderfully talented actors: Eric Bana, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, Orlando Bloom (even at his worst can out-act Brad), Sean Bean (doesn’t die in this film believe it or not), and Diane Kruger. Back to the fight scene. This one stands out not only for it’s well-orchestrated choreography, but also because this is before the overuse of CGI. My younger followers might be asking what did they do before CGI? Train the actors to fight of course. They didn’t use stunts for the fight scenes either. If you thought their characters were obsessed with honor, Pitt and Bana had an honor system of their own where they paid each other for any accidental blows. Pitt paid out $750 to Bana. Bana paid out nothing, proving who is the better actor and fighter. Sorry had to make one more dig at Pitt because he’s the pits. Anywho, aside from the fact that there is almost more at stake with this one on one fight than any of the full-scale battles in the film, it’s just exciting to watch. It’s high powered, action-driven man-on man action.
Aragorn vs the Nazgul: The Lord of the Rings
Yup, another from the Lord of the Rings. I know there are a lot of fights in this trilogy, but this one stands out in my memory. Firstly, it’s the Hobbits’ first fight, which they epic fail. Again, as with Troy, all the actors were trained to fight. Sean Austin (Sam) was really disappointed because after learning elaborate fighting sequences, he was told by Jackson to pull back. In an interview he stated being worried no one would know he was good at this “sword stuff.” The best part of the fight in my opinion is where Aragorn fights with a sword and torch in a display of epic badassery.
The Man in Black vs Inigo Montoya: Princess Bride
If you were afraid this one wasn’t going to make the list, fear no more. How could I exclude this epic sword fight complete with witty repartee, hilarious commentary, ostentatious bravado, and swashbuckling badassery. Elwes and Patinkin were both trained by coaches to master the sword right and left handed. Did I mention their coaches also worked on Star Wars. That means not only could Westley fight with Bonetti’s defense and Capa Ferro, he could also easily master a lightsaber. What really stands out in this fight is the fact that these two have no beef with each other, which actually makes it really funny. No vows of revenge, threats of pain or torture, just compliments, heart-to-hearts, and playful banter.
Jen vs Yu Shu Lien: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Yes, some ladies finally made the list. Probably one of the most memorable fights, not just between women, but in cinegraphic history. When I refer to the fight between Jen and Lien, I’m actually referring to the rooftop chase as well as the final showdown; however, the clip is just the final showdown. This fight is just marvelous. Probably one of the most spectacular fight sequences ever. It’s as exciting as it is beautiful. They are impossibly graceful and agile, not to mention they can fly.
Neo vs Agent Smith: The Matrix
This is a classic. What television show hasn’t referenced this iconic battle. One of the reasons this fight stands out in my memory is because I just remember thinking, there’s no way Neo can win. The odds are stacked so heavily in Agent Smith’s favor. Another reason is the variety of fighting styles from gun fights to karate. It’s almost Dragon Ball Z-esque with all the rapid fire punches. Partly the time the movie came out helps. A fight scene like this would not stand out anymore in a world where we’ve seen it already. But for the time, this was cutting edge. I think most fans agree though. This fight still stands out even above the final showdown because of the tasteful use of CGI. The more they tried to top this fight in later films, the more this one just comes out on top.
The Black Knight vs Arthur: Monty Python
This is the funniest fight to make the list. It’s probably even more iconic than Princess Bride. It’s just clever and silly. Not to mention the black knight is played by my favorite Monty Python comedian, John Cleese. I really like the humor, from the moment Arthur tries to pass him, exclaiming that he “makes him sad” to the point where he literally has to disarm him. This fight as well as the entire movie is extremely quotable. I’m sad to think that there will be a generation that won’t understand references from this film.
The Mountain vs Prince Oberyn: Game of Thrones
Of all the fights in A Game of Thrones, you might be wondering why this one? Let me explain . . . No, there’s not enough time . . . Let me sum up. This fight had an Inigo Montoya feel. You could easily replace Oberyn’s lines them with, “Hello my name is Prince Oberyn. You killed my sister. Prepare to die.” I loved his emotion and energy tied in with his desire for revenge. I was really wanting him to win. It was a pranciful revenge–had only it ended in revenge. Don’t watch to the end if you are squeamish or don’t want spoilers. One of the things I liked the most about this fight was the variety and contrast. They pitted a nimble, handsome spear fighter with a large, ugly man with a long sword. What you get is a fight of skill vs strength. It’s just visually stunning.
T-Rex vs Raptors: Jurassic Park
Ok, credit goes to the first movie, not Jurassic World when it comes to memorable dino duels. Let me start by saying, I loved Jurassic World, so my preference isn’t based on a bias. I just really liked that short-but-sweet final battle between the T-Rex and the raptors. It looked more realistic than the final fight in JW, Also, in comparison, it wasn’t over the top. It had that great finisher. T-rex hurls the raptor into the bones and roars while the banner is falling. Great stuff, great stuff..
Per my sister’s request, here are some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make my cut.
- Flynn Rider vs Maximus: Tangled
- Moon vs Flying Snow: Hero
- Tristan vs undead Septimus: Stardust
- Elsa vs guardsmen: Frozen
There you have it. Please agree or disagree in the comments below.