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Mary Robinette Kowal – The Ten Most Epic Fantasy Battles

When you see a fantasy movie you’re immersing yourself in a world of wonder and magic. But let’s be honest, that’s not why you go. You’re really there for the epic battles, right? It’s the catharsis of watching opposing forces clash on the battlefield that draws us to the genre. And what distinguishes fantasy from other adventures is typically the sheer scale of the conflict. So let’s talk extras.


10. Lo Pan’s Wedding Brawl, Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
While this movie features a fight scene every ten minutes, things don’t really pick up until the final battle. Set in an underground warehouse, the fisticuffs span multiple floors and involve demons, demi-gods and one adventurous American trucker. It’s got great martial arts action and some fun wire works.
Extras Deployed: 100
Signature Strike: Jack Burton knocks himself unconscious firing his gun into the air.


9. Battle of the Arctic Waste, The Golden Compass (2007)
This one is non-traditional, but totally kicks ass. Set in the artic, you’ve got scores of burly men in parkas threatening small children and their daemons. Then, out of the sky swoops a swarm of witches, ruling the screen with grace and deadliness.
Extras Deployed: Hundreds
Signature Strike: Serafina Pekkala swoops in with broomstick — and blade.


8. Clockwork Battle of Doom!, Hellboy II The Golden Army (2008)
There are big fights all the way through this one against everything from tooth fairies to a giant squid. The final battle scene pits a small band of inhuman heroes against both a mechanical army (that can repair itself) and fairies. Yeah, that’s right: indestructible mech-warriors and evil fairies.
Extras Deployed: 4,900 ‘bots, dozens of fairies
Signature Strike: Hellboy gives up on the army and takes down Nuada, Mano-a-Albino.


7. Mini-Ragnorak, Beowulf (2007)
Viking sagas are where bloodshed and good storytelling go hand in severed hand. And this one doesn’t skimp on the gore: After loads of single combat, Beowulf leads his army against an enormous fire-breathing dragon, then finally takes him one-on-one.
Extras Deployed: Two hundred Vikings plus a dragon
Signature Strike: Beowulf severs his own arm, then pulls the dragon’s heart out with the other.


6. The Battle with the Wendol, The Thirteenth Warrior (1999)
Antonio Bandaras plays an Arabic ambassador to Vikings leading twelve other men to stop raids on an Danish settlement. There ensues massive battle scenes between Vikings and bearskin clad opponents. Given then number of warriors, I can only assume that this is how the bear went extinct in Denmark.
Extras Deployed: Hundreds
Signature Strike: Banderas takes his shirt off. Epic.


5. The Dragon-riders Revenge, Eragon (2006)
You don’t have to like this movie to admit the sheer epic nature of every battle in it. There’s an evil king, a sorcerer possessed by evil spirits, nighttime melees and of course, a fire-breathing dragon. Any movie where the dragons wear armor too is guaranteed to have some red-hot action sequences.
Extras Deployed: Thousands plus multiple dragons
Signature Strike: Saphira toasts the bad guys… repeatedly.


4. The Battle with Mennon’s Army, The Scorpion King (2002)
When you’re looking for a movie that’s one long battle sequence sprinkled with “plot” and “characters,” try this one. Set in Gomorrah, each battle is bigger than the last with sandstorms, flaming swords and burly assasins.
Extras Deployed: Thousands upon thousands
Signature Strike: Mathayus is shot by an arrow — and then uses the same arrow to kill Memnon.


3. Battle of Beruna, The Chronicles of Narnia:The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
At the center of the battle you have four humans facing off against the White Witch. But battling around them are a feast of centaurs, giants, trolls, goblins and giant eagles. The amount of carnage is staggering, as is the complete absence of blood.
Extras Deployed: The entire book of Mythic Creatures, plus a few hundred humans.
Signature Strike: A centuar’s arrow becomes a Phoenix, then flames the opposing army.


2. Battle at the Great Wall, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
You wouldn’t think to get much action from a Terra cotta warrior, but boy do these things bite. And if thousands of clay soldiers weren’t enough, they’re opposed by thousands of skeletons. It’s not often the zombies are the good guys, so enjoy every minute of this undead fracas.
Extras Deployed: Thousands of cubic feet of clay
Signature Strike: Rick stabs the Dragon Emperor in the chest while his son stabs him in the back.


1. Battle of Helm’s Deep, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Helm’s Deep practically defines the epic battle element of fantasy: The forces of good and evil clash with the fate of Middle Earth riding on the outcome. Add a bit of rain and 10,000 Orcs to the equation and you have the most sweeping battle ever.
Extras Deployed: New Zealand
Signature Strike: Legolas surfs a shield down a flight of stairs, taking out 3 orcs with arrows.

Mary Robinette Kowal is the winner of the 2008 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a professional puppeteer. Her first novel Shades of Milk and Honey is being published by Tor in 2010.

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