My Favorite Fictional Battle Scenes

I‘m re-reading It by Stephen King and on Monday, read Chapter 13: The Apocalyptic Rock Fight. It’s not what one might think of as a traditional “battle scene” but I think it’s the best fictional battle scene I’ve ever read. It got me thinking about other battle scenes I’ve read and so I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite fictional battle scenes. They are:

1. “The Apocalyptic Rock Fight” in It by Stephen King. A dozen kids in the late 1958s having it out in a quarry. It’s not a dog fight or a space battle, but it is an epic battle none-the-less. The entire scene is supposed to unfold in about four minutes, and having participated in my share of rock fights as a kid1 it felt real to me. And it’s the scene where the Losers Club comes together. It’s a pivotal moment and it is execute flawlessly by Stephen King.

2. The battle of Eyebolt Canyon in Wizard and Glass by Stephen KingWizard and Glass was my favorite of all of the Dark Tower books, and the battle that takes place in Eyebolt Canyon, when Roland and his ka-tet trap their enemies there and watch them destroyed by fire and thinny was cathartic after all that they had been through. It was one of those few scenes that I could imagine as epic in scope on the big screen, and it was awesome.

3. The battle at King’s Landing in A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. That scene was just–wow! You sort of anticipate it through the whole novel and then when it comes, it is just epic. While pretty good for television, the scene on the silver screen just doesn’t do justice to that battle scene. And the addition of the Greek-fire-like substance makes it that much more epic.

4. The submarine battle in The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. Say what you will about Clancy’s writing style (which wasn’t great) that battle scene toward the end of the book is phenomenal. Much better in the book than what they did in the movie, although the movie wasn’t too bad either.

5. The battle at the Osaka Castle in Shogun by James Clavell. While the details have grown fuzzy–I read the book 9 years ago–that battle scene, which included attacking Ninja, stands out in my mind as a great one.

Honorable mention: The battle of Agincourt in Henry V by William Shakespeare. While I don’t remember the play going into a lot of detail about the battle itself (I seem to recall a before and after), I’d known about the battle before I ever read the play and I remember picturing it my mind as I read the play.

I find it interesting that, while some of the battle scenes I’ve listed are fantasy, none are science fiction. I think that’s because it is really tough to do a good science fiction battle scene and make it feel epic. But also, as we said at my Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop last summer, “Space is big, really big.” And is a place as big as space, even an epic battle can seem small.

Any favorite fictional (I’m talking written, not on the screen) battle scenes you have? Let me hear about them in the comments.

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  1. We called them “dirt bomb” fights.


  1. When my friends and I saw the Branagh version of Henry V, we joked that after the speech we felt like throwing our popcorn to the side, jumping up, and going after the French.

    Favorite fictional battles… Hunt for Red October is a good one. There are ones I like (300, Lord of the Rings) but favorites are tougher.

    1. Steven, I know it’s sacrilege, but I liked the Branagh version of Henry V so much better than the Olivier version. (I also remember seeing “Henry V” at Shakespeare in the Park in NYC, and all the words were the same, but the setting was World War I. That was also pretty good.)


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