Top 15 LOTR Best Battle Scenes That Were Amazing

Lord of the Rings, best battles Lord of the Rings, best fantasy battles
You don't get to be King of Gondor without kicking some Orc butt. Battles abound in Middle Earth!

What are the best of the best when it comes to Middle Earth's great battles?

If there’s one thing we expect from good fantasy movies, it’s some great battle scenes. And this is one area in which Middle Earth certainly excels. There is just something about those impressive battles that keep us glued to the screen. From high stakes to great action, here are 15 of the best battle scenes from both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. 

15. The Battle of Azanulbizar

In a flashback in the first Hobbit film, we learn that the dwarves of Erebor tried to take back the Kingdom of Moria. Unfortunately, the orcs had already settled Moria, and a terrible battle ensued.  

  • This is a battle that typically does not come to mind when we think of amazing battles from Middle Earth, but I have a lot of respect for what it does.
  • For me, this brief battle scene manages to fully capture the absolute horror of such large scale violence. The dwarves do win the battle. But their king is dead, and they don’t even succeed in taking back Moria. As Balin says “There was no feast, no song that night.” 
  • The field of dead bodies and Balin’s words hit hard. Thorin has displayed his courage and worthiness, but at what cost? Here, the Hobbit films show the aftermath of a grand fantasy battle, and it is not glorious. This is where fantasy filmmaking stops being naïve escapism and starts asking hard questions. This battle looks great, but more importantly, it doesn’t pull punches.
  • Also, Thorin defending himself with an oak branch against Azog the Defiler may be a tad overdramatic, but it is awesome. Great battles should have both badass and thought-provoking moments, and in this The Battle of Azanulbizar delivers.  

14. The Ents Attack Isengard

After finding out that Saruman has been cutting down trees, the Ents go to war. Isengard is under attack, and the Orcs are in trouble because killing trees is very tricky.

  • Hell hath no fury like pissed off Ents. The Ents are ripping apart Isengard, and all Saruman, the great wizard, can do is watch frantically. The magic of Saruman cannot stand against the natural power of the Ents. This scene questions our assumption that the supernatural holds more power than the natural world. Who would have thought than when wizards fight trees, the trees would win?
  • The breaking of the dam at the end caps off this particular battle perfectly. Water rushes in, and all of Saruman’s forces are nothing against it. Only the Ents, forces of nature themselves, can stand against the water. With all of the raging fantasy battles in this series, this battle shows that some natural forces exist in our world that are equally mighty. Isengard is nothing against the might of the unleashed river.

 

12. Dwarves Escape Goblintown 

After wandering into a cave to spend the night, the Company of Thorin is kidnapped by goblins. Faced with a horrible death, they have no choice but to make a desperate attempt to flee. 

  • This is proof that Gandalf had experience escaping from underground goblin lairs long before Moria, and that he has always been good at staring down big bad guys on bridges. 
  • This scene is an utter melee. It’s like a video game where you cut through waves and waves of enemies. The dwarves are in full form here, and we begin to see why Thorin has so much faith in his little band. 
  • A good fighter knows how to use his surroundings. From ladders to ropes and rocks the dwarves brilliantly use the stuff around them to gain an upper hand. It’s a bit ridiculous sure, but a lot of fun and an excellent example of how to gain the upper hand with a little ingenuity. 

11. Bard versus Smaug

Smaug is burning Laketown to the ground, and there seems to be no stopping him. Bard is the only one left to stand up to the mighty dragon. But how exactly does a single man slay a dragon?

  • While the Hobbit and LOTR are known for their full-scale battles, there are quite a few one on one fights that are amazing as well, starting with this one. 
  • The setting of this fight is incredible. It is exactly what you hope for from a dragon. Everything is burning as Smaug wrecks absolute havoc. A proper dragon fight has to have a little fire, and this one certainly delivers. 
  • As Smaug toys with his prey, you come to fully realize how powerful he is. He has utterly no fear. Nothing could possibly harm him. This arrogance makes his demise with a single arrow all the more satisfying. Smaug may be a force of fire and death, but he should have remembered that everyone has an Achilles heel. This is the fantasy equivalent of Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, and it should be appreciated for the same reasons.

10. Boromir’s Last Stand

After trying to take the ring from Frodo, Boromir comes to his senses and fights to protect Pippin and Merry from being taken by the Uruk-hai. 

  • It’s hard to think of another time that a hero manages to lose a battle so well. Boromir does fail to protect the hobbits here, yet we come away loving him all the more. Why? 
  • In fighting to protect Merry and Pippin, the arrogance Boromir has displayed in trying to take and use the ring is displaced by his desire to protect others from harm. Here we see that Boromir has a good heart. His earlier actions are because the ring managed to corrupt that desire to protect into something bad. 
  • I dare you not to be impressed when Boromir continues to fight despite the arrow sticking out of him. You cannot help but admire his strength. His actions in this battle show us what kind of man Boromir wished to be. It is a prime example of battle revealing who a person truly is, and it serves to help the audience forgive Boromir.  

9. The Battle of Five Armies

Opening: 

The Battle of Five Armies isn’t just the name of the third film in the Hobbit trilogy, it is also the only major battle to take place in The Hobbit. While the dwarves, men, and elves are fighting over the treasure in Erebor, two armies of Orcs led by Azog (Bolg in the book) launch a surprise attack.

  • This battle occupies the majority of an entire film. Thus, I chose the opening scene of the battle as the moment to highlight. 
  • The Battle of Five Armies is the only major engagement in a story that, unlike the LOTR, has focused on one group’s goal rather than a world-wide conflict. The opening shots show the grand scope of this battle. The numerous combatants appear like ants swarming about the field. A story that has thus far been extremely personal suddenly becomes about the grander struggle between good and evil. 
  • The immediate disappearance of the conflict over the treasure in the face of overarching evil serves as a strong reminder of what really matters. The Battle of Five Armies is a testament to how the greater good is often the best unifying force between different peoples. We will see this idea again when 9 disparate individuals unite in a fellowship to save the world.

8. Barrels on the River 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Barreling Down the River Scene (4/10) | Movieclips

With the help of their trusty burglar, Bilbo, the dwarves have managed a daring escape from the halls of Thranduil, the Elf King of the Woodland Realm. Now, floating down the river in barrels, they find themselves weaponless and beset by Orcs. 

  • Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of Tolkien’s book definitely added a little extra spice to this particular scene. While I dislike many of the changes the films made to Tolkien’s material, I have to say this scene is pure action-filled fun.
  • I love most of the battle scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy for their unapologetic realism, but I enjoy this scene for the exact opposite. It is unapologetically ridiculous, and exactly the kind of thing you could picture happening in a fantastical realm. 
  • This scene is fun and creative, taking full advantage of the fantasy setting for some wildly unique combat. From Legolas standing on dwarf heads to the dwarves chopping through a log bridge as they float by, this sequence is full of creative bits. Frankly, it is just thoroughly enjoying to watch, and if films ever forget to deliver that then they are doing something wrong. 

7. Battle of Osgiliath 

Sauron has been pushing back Gondor for years, and in his preparation to take Minas Tirith the city of Osgiliath must fall. 

  • In a film series full of epic fights with grand maneuvers and charges, this battle stands out for its gritty realism. Taking place in a city, instead of on a large field, the Battle of Osgiliath is full-blown chaos. Men are tripping over dead bodies, Faramir almost gets shot by his own troops, and the tight quarters divide the field into many overlapping conflicts. This battle is the closest LOTR comes to what modern warfare is like. 
  • The retreat from Osgiliath also points out that war is a lot less noble than we like to pretend. It doesn’t matter that the men of Gondor lost the battle. The Nazgul are still trying to wipe them out in their retreat. The “rules” of warfare do not apply here. 
  • Osgiliath is a great battle scene for its ability to exist in a fantasy setting and yet speak to what war is like in our own time. There is little order and no mercy. In its chaos and destruction, this battle highlights that total warfare has broken upon Gondor. 

6. Bilbo versus Gollum 

Part 1: 

5. Gandalf versus the Balrog

The fellowship is fleeing the mines of Moria, and there’s only one person who can stop the demon chasing them. Get ready for one of the most epic fantasy showdowns ever to grace the screen.

  • Gandalf going toe to toe with a fiery demon will forever be an epic moment. His ability to halt the Balrog in its tracks with that memorable line “You shall not pass!” is full proof of the wizard’s strength. The forces of evil may be powerful, but good has some pretty heavy hitters as well. 
  • The prologue to the Two Towers shows us what happened after Gandalf’s fall in the first movie, and it is one amazing battle. Tumbling through the air, Gandalf and the Balrog grapple back and forth. Sparks fly as Gandalf cuts into the Balrog’s fiery skin. This is fantasy battling at its finest, and I have little to add because the scene speaks for itself. 

4. The Final Stand

Hoping to distract Sauron long enough for Frodo to destroy the ring, Aragorn leads the men of Gondor and Rohan into a final battle in front of the Black Gates. 

  • This is the last battle, and it could not be better. Our heroes are not fighting to win, but only to give Frodo a small chance. The stakes are high, the likelihood of victory low, yet when Aragorn charges the enemy followed immediately by Merry and Pippin, you  feel a thrill knowing that everyone is going to give this last fight their absolute all. 
  • This battle is all about defiance to the bitter end. The image of Aragorn’s army surrounded by Sauron’s forces is enough to convey just how very screwed our heroes are. But who cannot help but feel a rush of pride at that final charge? 
  • I find this battle so inspiring because it shows that fighting is not always about winning. Some things are about the struggle as much as the victory. This battle says we may not be able to win our freedom, but we refuse to lose it. This is the same defiance that has freed nations in our own world, and it is movingly executed in this final battle. 

3. Sam versus Shelob

Frodo and the ring are both in the hands (claws?) of Shelob, the massive spider. Even though Frodo has told Sam to leave, the ever-loyal gardener is not about to let Mr. Frodo go on alone. Now the fate of the world, and Frodo, rests with Sam. 

  • There is no shortage of great one on one fights in the Lord of the Rings, but this one is my absolute favorite. 
  • Sam is visibly afraid, yet he charges this nightmare to save his friend. This is what bravery truly is. And what the LOTR is truly about. People, who are not heroes to start with, choose to overcome the terrible situation life has handed them. This fight captures what makes the Lord of the Rings so special. It is not legendary people doing legendary things, but ordinary people fighting to do what is right. 
  • Sam is not a warrior. The sheer messiness of this fight is proof of that. If anything though that makes this battle even better. Professional warriors have never been able to wound Shelob, but Sam drives her back. Here, the LOTR says that what ultimately gives someone strength is not skill but the will to protect someone else. Yes, it is perhaps a bit cheesy, but this sentiment is something that viewers can truly relate to. Most of us will never be an Aragorn or a Legolas with expert weapon skills, but we can all strive to be a bit more like Sam. 

2. Helm’s Deep

The Rohirrim are under attack by Saruman’s army of Uruk-hai. King Theoden and his men have chosen to make their stand at Helm’s Deep. Help arrives from the elves, but the Orcs also arrive and prepare to lay siege to the fortress. 

  • This is another battle that lasts for several scenes rather than just one. The opening scene itself captures much of what I like about this battle. 
  • The atmosphere of the battle, with the darkness and rain, mirrors the feeling of the siege. Withstanding a siege is not about gathering courage for a charge, but rather enduring the misery of uncertainty and relentless assault. The driving rain and night all speak to something to be endured rather than defeated in one fell swoop.
  • The chanting of the Uruk-hai is also a small but telling detail. Such chanting is supposed to make the besieged begin to fear. To invade a fortress the attacking army has to completely overrun the defenders, and sowing fear is a vital step to achieve that. 
  • Thus, the moment when the old man accidentally fires an arrow killing one of the Orcs vitally interrupts their intimidation tactic. It is a small, almost humorous thing, but it captures the entire spirit of the battle of Helm’s Deep.
  • Helm’s Deep is a dark and grimy battle, but there are little moments of humor, of lightness, which cut through the bleakness. Think of when Gimli asks Aragorn to throw him so that they may defend the bridge or when Legolas asks Gimli if he wants a box to stand on. 
  • Unlike some of the other battles, the siege at Helm’s Deep seems to focus less on defeating the enemy and rather on not allowing the enemy to destroy the spirit of the defenders. It’s about those small rays of light in the darkness. And it culminates when reinforcements come charging with dawn’s light and break the siege. Helm’s Deep perfectly captures the internal struggle against despair in a wonderfully executed and edited battle. 

1. Battle for Minas Tirith 

Sauron has decided to crush the world of men, and Gondor is all that stands in his way. With the men of Rohan rushing to their aid, the city of Minas Tirith must fight to survive Sauron’s greatest onslaught yet. 

  • This battle is the gold standard for fantasy battles. The scale is staggering, the effects jaw-dropping, and all without losing the characters we have come to care for in the enormity of the conflict. 
  • What the Battle for Minas Tirith does so brilliantly is balance the larger scale of the full battle with smaller scenes that produce emotion and keep the viewer grounded. One moment we are viewing the massive orc army, the next we observe Pippin running beside the taller men of Gondor to defend the city. From Eowyn taking down the Witch King to Rohan’s mighty charge, the battle expertly cuts between the overall battle and smaller fights within the whole. 
  • In a series that focuses on the ability of a small person to make a great difference in the fight against evil, this battle could not be done better. We see the huge conflict in all of its scope, but we also see the individual fights that make up that grand scale battle. The main battle is paralleled in all of the individual conflicts. The personal struggle is magnified instead of drowned in the epic fight around it.
Elizabeth hails from the farmlands of Georgia, but she has spent enough time wandering in the lands of Middle Earth, Hyrule, and Westeros to consider herself a native of many places.
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