The Greatest Movie Battles Ever Made
Hollywood have given audiences some of the greatest battle sequences in history. From Gladiator to Saving Private Ryan, which is the best?
SEPTEMBER 16th, 2020
hey can become an integral and defining element of movies; they are awe-inspiring, thrilling, epic and occasionally brutal, but which are greatest movie battles ever made? From the dramatic battle for Helms Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, to the iconic “they can take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom” line from Braveheart, which takes the crown for the being best?
12. Running Man - 1917
The most recent entry into our list, 1917 was a masterpiece which depicted the Great War in a way audiences had never seen before. Using a single edit, the entire movie never once broke away from the characters, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman).
But it was towards the end of the movie which makes our list as Schofield enters the trenches on frontline of the war. Battling to find Colonel Mackenzie to deliver a message to halt the attack, believing it to be a trap, Schofield realises there is only one way to get to the Colonel – to run across the front line as his comrades charge towards the enemy.
In what has become the defining shot of 1917, and although Schofield technically doesn’t fight in the battle, the power of the scene is hard to ignore. As the Corporal sprints across the front line, bombs exploding behind him, and men running to almost certain death, you find yourself desperately willing Schofield to make it to the other side. It is the emotional investment which makes 1917 part of our list.
11. Battle of Stalingrad - Enemy at the Gates
Containing the iconic line: “When the one with the rifle gets killed, the one who is following picks up the rifle and shoots.” Enemy at the Gates has become renowned for its gritty, visceral and contemporary portrayal of battle. The Battle of Stalingrad is no different.
The earliest scene in which Vasily (Jude Law) enters the city and is thrust into hell on earth is shocking and spellbinding. With blood splattering against the lens, the audience are dragged into the violence, are placed alongside the characters as they play dead among a hellfire of bullets and bodies.
The scene has become an unforgettable depiction of Stalingrad and showcases the apocalyptic nightmare with primitive potency.
10. Beach Invasion - Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise is renowned for his stunt work, and yet for Edge of Tomorrow it would push the physicality of the actor to the limit. Visualising the battles of the future is a difficult accomplishment to achieve, and yet Edge of Tomorrow does so with a flourish of action, explosions and robotic suits.
The movie finds Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) battling against an alien race in control of continental Europe. When captured in a ‘loop; Cage revisits the same battle over and over again, learning more about the enemy’s weaknesses.
With so much happening, it’s impossible to take it all in with one viewing, but the sheer scale of the battle is impressive to watch.
9. Battle of Pandora - Avatar
Avatar is one of the biggest movies ever made and is regarded as a blockbuster masterpiece. Using state-of-the-art CGI effects, the final battle for Pandora was a visual feast for the eyes and pushed the boundaries on what the movie industry could achieve.
8. Isla de Muerta - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
No one expected Pirates of the Caribbean to be a success, least of all Disney, and yet upon its release, the movie became the biggest hit of 2003.
The final battle between the cursed pirates of the Black Pearl, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) has since become a pinnacle moment in the franchise’s history. Combing the renowned scene of the skeletal pirates walking across the seabed, to the sword battle inside the caves of Isla de Muerta, Pirates of the Caribbean’s final battle was the starting point of one of Disney’s biggest and best franchises.
7. Minas Tirith - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
After two movies, The Return of the King finally brought fans the moment they had been waiting for, the battle for Middle Earth. On the fields of Minas Tirith, the battle became one of the biggest in movie history.
The sheer scale of the scene needed a completely new CGI system to create the thousands of Orcs and soldiers featured and is one of the longest battle sequences ever.
6. The Final Battle - Avengers Endgame
A decade of movies and finally we reached the pivotal moment of the Marvel’s epic franchise. Combining some of the series greatest characters, the epic final battle between the Avengers and Thanos’ army ended up making Endgame the biggest box office blockbuster of all time.
In what became Iron Man’s final stand and featured a kick-ass all-female superhero sequence, Avengers Endgame is arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest movie battles.
5. Ride of the Valkyries - Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola’s war film sees the madness of both war and cinema overlap for a three-hour period. Coppola famously almost lost his mind making the iconic epic, but one scene in particular has come to define the magnificence of Apocalypse Now.
To Wargnier’s Ride of the Valkyries, the helicopter squadron slaloms their way up Nung River wreaking havoc with napalms. With a sense of irrelevance for the ensuing destruction below, the horror of war is highlighted with emotion or poignancy – it’s incredible, it’s brutal, it’s unmissable.
4. Battle of Sterling - Braveheart
It is the scene which resulted in one of Hollywood’s greatest battle cries: “They can take our lives, but they can never take our freedom!” Say what you will about Mel Gibson, Braveheart is a phenomenal film which perfectly captures the battle between the Scottish and the English.
Starring as William Wallace, the Scottish rebel who helped lead the First Scottish War of Independence, Gibson also directed the epic and the Battle of Sterling was a prime example of his skill and talent as a director.
Featuring a stellar cavalry charge and the brutal bloody deaths of soldiers left, right and centre, Braveheart pulled no punches. The iconic battle cry and Gibson painted blue face has become one the most recognisable images in Hollywood history.
3. Omaha Beach - Saving Private Ryan
Many veterans regard Saving Private Ryan’s opening sequence of storming Omaha Beach as the closest portrayal of the battle to ever be put on screen. Steven Spielberg proved that he could direct truly anything, and purposely refused to have any music accompany the battle scenes on film. His reason was he felt that they distracted from the authenticity of the sequences.
Consisting of 27 minutes of horror, the battle showcases the brutality and devastation of war. In places it feels never-ending, and leaves the audience gasping for breath. Omaha Beach is perhaps Spielberg’s greatest achievement.
2. Helms Deep - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
For many fans, it is the greatest defining moment of the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy – the Battle of Helms Deep. The gritty and absorbing battle has since inspired countless sequences since, specifically Game of Thrones.
Throughout the epic battle there is always something happening everywhere. Walls explode, cavalry charge, siege equipment collapse, and our favourite heroes swing sword and shield battling an army of Urkai-Ork.
The Rohirim’s charge down the hillside led by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is, for many, the standout moment from the battle, and has since become one of the franchise’s most recognisable scenes.
1. Battle In Germania - Gladiator
Gladiator is one of the greatest Hollywood movies of all time – FACT! The Ridley Scott epic has since defined the genre of blockbuster movies and its opening battle in Germania is utterly mesmerising. Thousands of extras were used, alongside flaming arrows and artillery with Russel Crowe’s protagonist Maximus leading the Roman army into battle.
Combing the visuals of Scott with Hans Zimmer’s iconic score emphatically emphasise the raw emotions of war. The sequence is one of the greatest ever put on screen, and in the over 40 years since Spartacus, the evolution of the Roman battle remains fascinating.
For us, Gladiator holds the greatest battle sequence of all time.
In 1997, no one saw the popularity of James Cameron’s epic masterpiece Titanic coming. Movie critics were writing the romantic juggernaut off, long before audiences had seen a single second of footage. Yet, Titanic stormed the box office, quickly becoming the most successful movie of all time – a title it held until 2008, with the release of Cameron’s other blockbuster, Avatar. Winning eleven Academy Awards, one was deservedly for James Horner’s iconic soundtrack.
Whilst the world knows Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, the rest of Horner’s score is just a beautiful. With the inclusion of hornpipes and a simple piano backing, Titanic’s music is a poignant and fitting accompaniment to James Cameron’s grand vision. James Horner’s score is, without doubt, one of Hollywood’s best.
TOP TRACK: Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave – by James Horner
Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 space thriller Gravity was described as one of Hollywood’s greatest sci-fi movies ever. British composer, Steven Price was assigned the enviable task of scoring the epic and decided to utilise unique sounds to simulate the feeling of space.
Winning an Oscar for his work, Price’s score has become a benchmark for music composers, especially when writing for sci-fi movies. Gravity’s soundtrack perfectly matches the thrilling and perilous journey the plot navigates, and effortlessly strikes the right tone in helping sell the story.
TOP TRACK: Shenzou – by Steven Price
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean is one of Disney’s biggest and most lucrative franchises, making billions at the box office. And whilst the world is consistently dazzled by the spectacular battles and swordfights, the music of Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer has just as easily caught moviegoer’s attentions.
Impeccably capturing the tone of the iconic theme park ride on which the film is based, the score merges the comical performance by Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, and the romantic love story between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s characters, Will and Elizabeth.
With five movies, each score creates their own texture. From the grandeur of the original trilogy, to the Spanish undertones of On Stranger Tides, Disney’s popular franchise has an unrivalled soundtrack.
TOP TRACK: He’s a Pirate – by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer
It is a rare occurrence when a soundtrack becomes as recognisable as the movie it accompanies. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a prime example of this. The iconic two-beat score, which slowly builds in pace as the Shark approaches its victim, is a perfect example of how a soundtrack can add, or even make, the atmosphere of a movie.
Composed by John Williams, Jaws’ theme tune has been copied since the 70s and has long been seen as one of the greatest scores of all time.
TOP TRACK: Jaws: Main Theme - by John Williams
The DaVinci Code
Dan Brown’s hugely popular and controversial book The DaVinci Code was the first of Brown’s novels to be transferred onto the big screen. Hans Zimmer was brought onto the project to score the movie and strived to create a feeling of being in a Cathedral.
In typical Zimmer form, the score slowly builds to a crescendo and by doing so adds a majestic and ethereal tone to the movie. It is arguably one of Hans’ best compositions and in some cases, more popular than the movie itself.
TOP TRACK: Chevaliers de Sangreal – by Hans Zimmer
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling’s fantastical story is adored throughout the world, and the movies based on the Harry Potter books are just as adored. Though one aspect that has helped solidify the franchises success is the iconic score by John Williams.
Throughout the years however, other composers have added their own personal and creative twists the original, and one such composer was Patrick Doyle, who took over the reigns from Williams to write Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Utilising a more orchestral and mature sound, Doyle injected new life into the iconic theme and also formed a stunning soundtrack which is just as recognisable than John Williams.
TOP TRACK: Foreign Visitors Arrive - Patrick Doyle
Mary, Queen of Scots
Scoring a movie based on the subject of royalty can be a tricky task, and for Max Richter he managed to successfully compose a stunning and regal soundtrack for Mary, Queen of Scots. Combining an anthem quality to the tone of the music allowed the grandeur of the plot and characters, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, to bring them alive on screen.
The score received universal praise from critics, with many stating that Richter was a master in writing for the genre.
TOP TRACK: Finale – by Max Richter
The Lord of the Rings
When Peter Jackson looked to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, fans wondered whether the director would be able to do the fantasy tale justice. In response, Jackson managed to create one of Hollywood’s most enduring and celebrated trilogies in movie history.
A part of the celebration was with the iconic score by Howard Shore. Winning an academy award for his exquisite work, fans and critics praised the Shore’s grasp of the source material for the story and his ability to stay true to J.R.R. Tolkien’s original vision.
TOP TRACK: The Ring Goes South – by Howard Shore
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