10 Most EPIC BATTLES in Fiction18
By Chris Littler
10 Most EPIC BATTLES in Fiction
They say that the root of drama lies within conflict. This conflict can come in a lot of different forms: from within oneself, between two people, against an external force. The list goes on and on. Those are all interesting, and make for great stories, but arguably the most fun conflict of all is when a thousand plus men suit up in their various costumes, stock up on razor sharp weaponry, and take the field of battle to kill one another for king and crown or liberty or justice or whatever it is they rally behind. In other words: you can have your stuffy bottle dramas. We’ll take our conflicts on a grand scale.
Using the power of the imagination, it’s not that difficult for an author of fiction to imagine a never-ending battle of the grand variety. We’ve seen it a million times before: suits of armor lined up to the horizon, flags and banners flapping in the wind, lances and light sabers stretched out in every direction, a million men marching towards death and uncertain glory. That’s good and all, but it takes a skilled storyteller to come up with a battle that has stakes that not only blow us away in their scale, but that affect us in our hearts. That’s where the word epic comes in. It has to be big. It has to affect the world. But it also has to move us, like the world of demoted Archangel Michael who’s caught in a celestial conspiracy in the series Passenger.
The list of battles in fiction stretches from the pits of hell to encampments on Alpha Centauri, but we were set on finding the biggest. We’ve probed the battle logs, consulted the keepers of the lore, and came up with ten battles we believe have achieved that rare level of epic-ness.
Passenger – Episode 1
1. Battle of the Pellenor Fields – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as its prequel and addendum, is fraught with giant battles. It seems like every time little Frodo takes a breather from his long slog to Mordor, some army of orcs pops up out of nowhere to give his blade a good glowing. Fortunately for the hairy-footed midget, the biggest battle of all takes place far from Frodo. On March 15, in the townlands and fields between Minas Tirith and the River Anduin, the armies of Sauron spill out of Minas Morgul and seige the city of Minas Tirith. With the breaching of the city’s gates, the men of the west, led by the newly resurrected wizard Gandalf, appear doomed to fall to the Witch King’s command. That is, until they’re aided by two unexpected allies: the Rohirrim, led by King Theoden, and the armies of Gondor, led by the ranger Aragorn. Sauron’s armies are strapped in a bottleneck, and by sundown of that day, not a living enemy remains on the blood-soaked battlefield.
2. Crisis of Infinite Earths – DC Comics
Thirteen billion years ago, a scientist attempting to witness the birth of the universe accidentally created an infinite number of universes occurring side-by-side. With that, all positive energy in the world created a being known as the Monitor, and all the negative energy went into creating his evil brother, the Anti-Monitor. These two beings did battle for billions of years, finding themselves battling for the fate of Earth as we know it today, and the four earths besides it, which are populated with all the variations on DC heroes and villains we know and love. In the Crisis of Infinite Earths, supermen and superwomen team up with their slightly different counterparts from other dimensions to defeat a being that wants nothing more than to destroy the worlds they had sworn to protect. In the end, a lot of superheroes die, and (even more surprising) entire universes blink out of existence. Sure, no one who wasn’t present at the beginning of time itself remembers the struggle, but that doesn’t mean that billions of people didn’t suddenly and irrevocably become nonexistent. That’s a lot of collateral damage.
3. Battle of Yavin – Star Wars: A New Hope
The Death Star is operational. It’s the most powerful weapon in the known universe, and once it’s cleared the moon over Yavin 4, it’ll have a clear shot at the stronghold of the rebel alliance. The last shot the rebellion has of surviving is in the hands of a scant 32 starfighters – namely Luke Skywalker, who is pretty darn new at this whole “saving the universe” thing. What follows is a battle full of nailbitingly-close near misses. Dark Lord Darth Vader enters the mix with his elite Black Squadron, picking off Luke’s allies one by one, until it’s only him left. Leave it to smuggler bad boy Han and his hairy copilot Chewie to join the battle late, blasting Vader into space, and giving Luke the necessary time to shoot a proton torpedo down the exhaust port. The death star explodes, marking the first major victory for the alliance in the Galactic Civil War and the beginning of the end for the Empire. (For now.)
4. Superman vs Doomsday – The Death of Superman
In an attempt to create the perfect being, an alien scientist named Bertron sends a humanoid infant into the dangerous wastes of pre-Kryptonian Krypton. The infant dies at the hands of some of the most dangerous beings in the universe. Bertron, being a total bastard, clones the remains over and over again until the infant is able to easily defeat any beast it meets and overcome any obstacle. Naturally, the being comes to hate all life, kills Bertron, and sets out to kill anything and everything in the universe it can… including Superman. The battle between the Man of Steel and the only being strong enough to defeat him rages for days. It ends only when Kal-El realizes that any further fighting will destroy Metropolis, and he sacrifices the last of his energy to kill the beast. Unfortunately, Superman dies too, but both are eventually resurrected for the best of intentions: to help comic book sales. Still, the battle is a perfect case of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Pure epicness.
5. The Siege of Troy – The Illiad
Troy was besieged for nine years before the events of the Illiad. Nine years. Though most of what happened in those nine years is not fully developed in the surviving sources, knowing that the events of the Illiad occur after a bitter decades-long struggle put the whole thing into better context. On one side, you have Agamemnon, the haughty leader of the Greeks, with his courageous and seemingly invincible warrior Achilles. On the other side of the six story wall, you have King Priam, Hector, and Paris. On top of all the killing and blood shed between the armies, you have inner conflict between the commanders, escalating to a battle between the two finest warriors: Achilles and Hector. Achilles defeats Hector and disgraces his body, leading King Priam to put his entire kingdom at risk to beg Achilles for his son’s defiled corpse back. Achilles relents, nearly moved to tears, though not enough to call off the seige. Though it isn’t the end of the battle, it’s a fitting and human climax to a surreal and epic tale.
6. The Battle of Thermopylae – 300
The “Hot Gates” is the thin strip of land that the Man-God Xerxes must pass his army through if he wants to conquer Sparta. King Leonidas of Sparta knows the importance of the pass, and rounds up 300 of his best warriors to fight back an army with vastly superior numbers. The Spartans ward off the Persians for three days, slaughtering all manner of horrible beast and creature, until they’re betrayed by a hunchbacked Spartan named Ephialtes. Surrounded on all sides, the Spartans fight to the very last man. Their allies dead, the Spartans doomed to die where they stand, Xerxes offers Leonidas one last chance to surrender. Surprisingly, Leonidas complies. He throws down his arms, but as a signal his allies to attack one last time. In one last turn of the screw to Xerxes before he dies, Leonidas throws his spear at him, making him bleed, and revealing the truth about the Man-God. It’s a small victory in the face of huge defeat, which only makes the whole tale that much more epic.
7. The Battle for the Capital – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Ultranationalist asshole Vladimir Makarov guns down hundreds of innocent people at a Russian airport terminal and pins the crime on America. Naturally, Russia is none too pleased with the situation and decides to retaliate like only the Ruskies know how. The Red Army bypasses America’s early-detection system and invades in the east coast. Private James Ramirez and his battalion defend the suburbs as best as they can, but are beat back at every possible corner. When they reach D.C., they find the place in shambles. The Capital Building and White House have been overtaken and more and more Russians pouring into the streets and lighting up our beloved monuments by the minute. The only saving grace is a marine-launched ballistic missile launched by Captain Price that detonates in Earth’s atmosphere, sending out an electromagnetic pulse that cripples electronics in the capital, giving the United States a very small advantage over the invaders. Thanks to Price’s and other American’s continued courage, the city is saved from an all-out carpet-bombing by the Air Force.
8. The Apocalypse – The Book of Revelation
Is there any battle more epic than the one that closes out the New Testament? The gates of Heaven and Hell open and the thousand-year long dispute is settled on the battlefield known as Planet Earth. Jesus Christ makes an appearance wearing two hats: one as the savior of the good and devoted and another as a badass smiter of the wicked. The devil shows up in his elusive Super-Sayan dragon form to keep checks on his seven headed beast and false prophet, who are doing their damndest to collect as many evil souls as they can. Four horsemen are let loose from their heavenly stables and scour the earth, spreading death, disease, war, and famine. The wicked are banished into a lake of fire, which sounds awful but can’t be much worse than hell. In the end, the world is destroyed and a new heaven is instated. God comes down to live among his people, and all is well, at least until the New New Testament hits the shelves.
9. The Battle for Aiur – Starcraft
The year is 2499. The place: a galaxy in the Milky Way known as the Koprulu sector. When a Terran colonization ship accidentally strays into uncharted space, it provokes attacks from two alien species: the evil insectoid Zerg and the Protoss, a race of divided humanoids with psionic powers. The Zerg Overmind targets the Terran for assimilation, and the Protoss intervention accidentally reveals the location of their homeworld Aiur to their ancient enemies. The Zerg seize control of the planet and turn Terran hero Sarah Kerrigan into a cruel mockery of her former self. The Terran army, led by Jim Raynor, and the dark Templar Tassadar are all that stand between hope for the future and certain oblivion. Tassadar destroys the Overmind in a kamikaze strike, but the victory is at best pyhhric – the Zerg have already killed billions of Protoss and decimated the planet. But that, ladies and germs, is why we have sequels.
10. The Last Stand of Zion – The Matrix Revolutions
The war between the machines and the humans is coming to an end. This has happened many times before, if you believe the Architect, but something is different this time. Savior of the humans, Neo, has travelled to the Machine City, losing the love of his life Trinity in the process, to bargain a deal with the machines. He offers them his services to destroy the virus Agent Smith, who has taken control of The Matrix, in return for cease of their assault on the last human stronghold in Zion. The machines accept his deal, but the battle between Smith and Neo takes long enough that it seems like the machines might overtake the humans before it’s over. Smith gains the upper hand on Neo and assimilates himself. Just in time, the machines send a surge of power through Neo, using him as a conduit to destroy the program once and for all. The Matrix is rebooted, and the few survivors of Zion watch as the last of the sentinels slip back through the breach. Neo may be gone for good, but there’s a sense that this uneasy truce between the humans and the machines will last.
Passenger – Episode 2
Passenger – Episode 3
Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.