In recent years, CGI has allowed directors to fully realise the extent of their imagination.

This has made for some insanely-detailed battle scenes, some of which span entire worlds. While some might argue that battle sequences are just to top out a blockbuster, they can also be intensely personal moments in a film. Other times, yes, it's a technical exercise - but still one worthy of taking note.

Here's ten of the best battle scenes in movie history.

 

10. TOP GUN - The final dogfight

It's cheesy as hell, it's aged terribly and there's the whole homo-erotic thing, but Top Gun had some of the best aerial photography you will ever seen on screen. Tony Scott was a master of editing and pacing and none more evident than here. Together with the pulsing music, deafening sound effects and Val Kilmer's hair, it's arguably the best aerial battle sequence since Howard Hughes' efforts in Hell's Angels. It's little wonder as well that the US Navy used it as a recruitment tool, posting enlistment booths in the cinema lobbies after the film was shown.

 
9. THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY - "So you want to enlist?"

When you think of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, this sequence doesn't immediately jump into your mind. Yet, it's completely central to the story and sets it up for the finale. Tuco and Blondie, the two hapless gunslingers, inadvertently walk into the middle of a battle for a bridge controlled by Confederate forces. Throughout the film, they've been skirting both sides of the American Civil War, but here, they're faced with the reality of it and the sheer stupidity of it all. It's a powerful scene, not the least of which is the sheer scale of it.

  

8. LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS - Battle of Helm's Deep

Whatever you may think of The Hobbit and Peter Jackson's take on it, you have to give him credit for creating one of the most immersive fantasy films of the past twenty years. The entire Helm's Deep sequence - which makes up the entire third act of the film - was shot over a period of months, utilising hundreds of extras, thousands of man-hours in CGI and, arguably, one of the best music scores in modern cinema. Again, like all great battle sequences, there's a deeply personal story going through it. Theoden King is facing certain death and can only hope to do his best for his people whilst Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn are finally united as one in the face of incredible adversity. The ending, however, is truly spectacular. 

  

7. ANCHORMAN - Newsteam Battle

You wanna dance? I wanna polka. Also, Tim Robbins' little run at the end is the funniest thing about Anchorman. Riffing on Martin Scorsese's overblown historical epic Gangs of New York and Planet of the Apes, Adam McKay skilfully cut together a surprisingly vibrant fight sequence that was equal parts hilarious and actually amazing. The use of Dutch angles, the horses, the Jerry Goldsmith-esque score - it all coalesces into a '70s-inspired sci-fi battle.

6. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 - "Give me a gun!"

You could argue that Assault On Precinct 13 is just one long battle and you'd be correct. The inhabitants of an understaffed police precinct are attacked by local gangs who've declared war on, well, everybody. You can see where The Raid, Dredd and a million other claustrophobic thrillers got their inspiration from by watching this. For John Carpenter however, his inspiration was in Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo. While the general bones of the film is there, Carpenter infuses the opening battle in Assault On Precinct 13 with horror aesthetics - all dark shadows and bare-bones music to let your own fears creep in.

 

5. STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE - Attacking the Death Star

For our money, we think A New Hope's space battle is the best of the entire series. What's even more interesting is that, all the way back in 1977, you can see how much Lucas has influenced filmmakers nowadays. He puts you right in the cockpit, showing every detail inside the fighter and all the tension that goes with it. While Return of the Jedi was arguably on a bigger scale and The Empire Strikes Back was more cleanly followed, A New Hope wins for the earnestness of it all. Plus, there's tons of sexual innuendo to be gleaned from it. "It didn't go in. It just impacted on the surface." -- "Look at the size of that thing!" And so on...

 

4. ZULU - "Men of Harlech, stop your dreaming..." 

You're probably reading this list and wondering why we haven't mentioned Ridley Scott's Gladiator in here anywhere, right? Very simple. Scott basically ripped off this entire sequence for Gladiator. In fact, Scott actually used the chants from this in Gladiator as an "homage" to Zulu. While the politics of the film is definitely problematic, it's a stunningly realised sequence that's edited brilliantly. The use of sound design is also incredible; between the sing-off and the drums of the Zulu warriors and the sheer cacophony of gunfire, the Battle of Rorke's Drift is an ageless classic.

 

3. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN - The Normandy landing

It was very much Spielberg's intention, when making Saving Private Ryan, to show World War II and the Normandy landing as realistic as possible. More than anything, Spielberg wanted to challenge the perception that there was Rambo-esque feats of bravery or that one man could singlehandedly win a war. Instead, the Normandy landing shows that it's one of slow attrition, huge casualties and thundering explosions. Lasting for well over twenty minutes, it's harrowing, thrilling and horrifying all at once.

 

 

2. BRAVEHEART - The Battle of Stirling

It's clear that Mel Gibson was drawing on influences going all the way back to Lawrence of Arabia and David Lean, but here he makes it look more visceral than anything we've seen in some time. The sheer scale of it, combined with James Horner's Oscar-winning score, turns it into a truly epic moment of high drama and tension. Filmed on the Curragh plains, Gibson hired members of the Reserve Defence Forces to act as extras - much like Spielberg did for the Normandy landing in Saving Private Ryan.

 

 

1. APOCALYPSE NOW - Ride of the Valkyries

Francis Ford Coppola's use of music and ability to conduct and orchestrate massive scenes were put to the test in Apocalypse Now. Half-mad Colonel Kilgore leads his fleet of helicopter gunships to a peaceful village that is suspected of doubling as a Vietcong base. Along the way, he blasts Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries to terrify the enemy. The music - which is now synonymous with this scene - was also a favourite of another maniacal military leader, Adolf Hitler. Coppola undoubtedly knew this and chose it for that reason. Despite being an anti-war film - the final sequence at Kurtz's palace is the most powerful anti-war message seen since Johnny Got His Gun - the film, and this scene, has been embraced as a motivational tool for armies. Sam Mendes' Jarhead brilliantly depicts this when Jake Gyllenhaal's unit is shown the film the night before they leave for Iraq.

 

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

- Black Hawk Down

- Gladiator

- Lawrence of Arabia

- Ran