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 movie. 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 in parts, but 'Top Gun' had some of the best aerial photography you will ever see 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 movie, they've been skirting both sides of the American Civil War, but here, they're faced with the reality of it and the sheer insanity 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 final act of the movie - 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. Théoden 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. On a brilliant white horse on the crest of a hill, bathed in the morning sun, Gandalf appears and leads a counter-charge.
7. 'ANCHORMAN' - Newsteam Battle
Riffing on Martin Scorsese's overblown historical epic 'Gangs of New York', and the high drama of 'Planet of the Apes', Adam McKay skillfully cut together a surprisingly vibrant fight sequence that was equal parts hilarious and actually amazing. The use of Dutch angles, the horses, the adherence to creating a sense of geography in the edit, the Jerry Goldsmith-esque score - it all coalesces into a '70s-inspired sci-fi battle that actually works incredibly well. You wanna dance? I wanna polka.
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 'Rio Bravo', the 1959 Western starring Dean Martin and John Wayne. While the general structure of that movie is evident in 'Assault On Precinct 13', Carpenter infuses the opening skirmish 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' and its final 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 directors nowadays, though he himself was influenced by the likes of Howard Hughes and the likes of 'Tora! Tora! Tora!'. He puts you right in the cockpit, showing every detail inside the X-Wing or the TIE Fighter and all the tension that goes with it. While 'Return of the Jedi' was arguably on a bigger scale, 'The Empire Strikes Back' was more cleanly followed, and the likes of 'Rogue One' and 'The Phantom Menace' had more scale and spectacle, 'A New Hope' wins out for us for the earnestness of it all.
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 movie and the glorification of colonisation are 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 in a manner that was as realistic as possible. More than anything, Spielberg wanted to challenge the perception that there were '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 teeth-chattering 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 and gritty than anything Lean's ever done. 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 movie - the final sequence at Kurtz's palace is the most powerful anti-war message seen since 'Johnny Got His Gun' - the movie, and this scene in particular, has been embraced as a motivational tool for armies. Sam Mendes featured the scene in 'Jarhead', when Jake Gyllenhaal's unit is shown the movie the night before they leave for Iraq.