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10 Best Magic Fights In Fantasy Movies & TV Shows


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Summary

  • Magical battles in fantasy movies need to strike a balance between unique visuals and avoiding overpowered magic users.
  • The fight scenes in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” showcase creative and visually stunning magic battles.
  • In “The Magicians,” the magical fight between Alice and The Beast demonstrates the realistic consequences of using magic and the sacrifices that can be made.

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One of the most interesting elements of the fantasy genre is how magic is used, and the concept has offered some incredible magic fights across both movies and TV shows. Magical abilities offer something that the average fight with punches and kicks simply can’t. No matter how inventive it is, a physical fight can’t break the laws of physics, time, and space the way magic can. It’s also thrilling to imagine wielding magic on a level that goes well beyond knowing how to throw a well-placed kick, as impressive as it is.

There’s a danger in relying on magic in fight scenes, however. With near-unlimited potential to do anything the imagination can conceive with magic, magical battles have to be grounded in some way. There’s a fine line to walk between the unique visuals and twists offered by magic fights and making the magic users so overpowered that the fight becomes boring. Some fantasy movies and TV shows have found a way to craft their magical duels and sorcerer battles in really memorable and interesting ways.

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10 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (2001)

Gandalf vs Saruman

Christopher Lee as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings

While the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the most memorable in the trilogy (and possibly the best battle in fantasy movies, period), for pure magic-on-magic fighting, the fight between Gandalf and Saruman in The Fellowship of the Rings takes the crown. What sets this magic battle apart is that there is no magic–not visible, anyway. No bolts shoot from their staffs or lightning from their hands. Instead, the intensity of actors Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen sells what otherwise should be a silly scene of two men shoving sticks at each other. Even with no visual magic displays, the seriousness of their fight lets the audience know that they’re playing for some dire stakes.

The Lord Of The Rings- The Fellowship Of The Ring Poster

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the first film in Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movie follows Frodo Baggins (Elijah Woods) as he is tasked with destroying the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom after he inherits the ring.

Release Date
December 19, 2001

Cast
Elijah Wood , Ian McKellen , Liv Tyler , Viggo Mortensen , Sean Astin , Cate Blanchett , John Rhys-Davies , Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan , Orlando Bloom , Christopher Lee , Hugo Weaving , Sean Bean , Ian Holm , Andy Serkis

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
178 Minutes

9 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Battle at the Ministry of Magic

Dumbledore and Voldemort duel in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The magical shoot-out in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix offers some of the more visually stunning moments in the franchise. The scene in the prophecies room of Harry and his friends running from Death Eaters while prophecy globes smash all around them in chiaroscuro violence would on its own be worth the whole Ministry of Magic set piece. It culminates in an incredible battle between Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore and Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort, however, that puts it over the top. The beams of light shooting from each wand are a bit cliché, but the molten, dripping metal style of the magic adds a unique visual flair. The strain on their faces as they punch and counter-punch shows just how much it’s taking out of each man as they control tremendous power.

Harry potter

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth film in Warner Bros. Wizarding World franchise. This time after the Ministry of Magic refuses to address Lord Voldemort’s return and begins to take over Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), Ron (Rupert Grint) form Dumbledore’s Army to defend themselves and seek out a prophecy centered on Harry and Voldemort’s connection.

Release Date
July 11, 2007

Director
David Yates

Cast
Daniel Radcliffe , Emma Watson , Alan Rickman , Ralph Fiennes , Rupert Grint , Helena Bonham Carter , Robbie Coltrane , Warwick Davis , Michael Gambon , Brendan Gleeson , Richard Griffiths , Maggie Smith

Rating
pg-13

Runtime
138 Minutes

8 Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Doctor Strange vs. Sinister Strange

Doctor Strange fights with musical notes in Multiverse of Madness

There have been so many movies with powerful magic users the MCU with such similar visual VFX that action scenes all tend to blend together. That’s what sets the fight between Doctor Strange and Strange Supreme in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness apart from others in Marvel movies. It’s a little weird and a lot of fun, echoing director Sam Raimi’s sensibilities as a filmmaker. The vision of them flinging musical notes back and forth at each other is unique and unexpected, and it’s all elevated by Danny Elfman’s bombastic, playful score that changes to fit the action. Doctor Strange is one of the trippier characters in the comics, and it’s great to see the Multiverse of Madness fight not constrain itself to boring, expected magical visuals.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Poster

Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness

In Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the MCU takes a deeper dive into the Multiverse and the unknown, introducing variants of Strange and other familiar friends and foes – including The Illuminati – and offers a new perspective on how it works and connects. The story follows Stephen Strange, now post-blip and no longer the Sorcerer Supreme. When a terrifying monster rampages through New York seeking to capture a young girl from another multiverse named America Chavez, Strange finds himself as her newfound protector. Unfortunately, his new foe is a former ally, Wanda Maximoff. To protect Chavez and stop Wanda’s rampage, Strange travels the Multiverse looking for answers – and encounters engrossing and terrifying realities that expand the Marvel Universe in a whole new way.

Release Date
May 6, 2022

Cast
Elizabeth Olsen , Michael Stuhlbarg , Benedict Wong , Chiwetel Ejiofor , Xochitl Gomez , Benedict Cumberbatch , Rachel McAdams , Bruce Campbell , John Krasinski , Patrick Stewart , Hayley Atwell , Lashana Lynch , Anson Mount

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
126 minutes

7 The Magicians (2015-2020)

Alice vs. The Beast/Martin Chatwin

Alice turns into a niffin in The Magicians

The Magicians is unique among dark magic shows, as it doesn’t treat magic as a whimsical cure-all, but rather as a source of trouble and pain. It’s what makes the magical fight between Alice and Martin Chatwin, a.k.a. The Beast, such a standout in the series, but also heartbreaking. Throughout the show, The Beast is an unstoppable force of malevolence. The fight between him and Alice shows a more realistic magical battle in that it comes at a cost: to fight an inhuman beast, Alice sacrifices her own humanity by allowing herself to be consumed by magic. It’s a danger rarely faced in fantasy by other magic-users and gives the fight unusual consequences.

The Magicians SyFy Poster

The Magicians

Based on the novel of the same name by Lev Grossman, The Magicians follows Quentin Coldwater, a brilliant young man who is given a place at a magical college named Brakebills. There, he learns magic alongside his friends Alice, Eliot, Margo, and Penny, and unlocks magical secrets far beyond his wildest imaginings that see him travel to various fantastical locations, including the world of Fillory.

Release Date
December 16, 2015

Cast
Olivia Taylor Dudley , Arjun Gupta , Jade Tailor , Stella Maeve , Summer Bishil , Jason Ralph , Hale Appleman

Seasons
5

6 Shadow and Bone (2021-2023)

The Darkling Unleashes His Powers For The First Time

Shadow and Bone Darkling The Cut

Though it was used against an enemy, it’s hard to call the moment Ben Barnes’ General Kirigan, a.k.a. The Darkling, first unleashes his powers in Shadow & Bone a fair fight. It’s rare that a magic user immediately establishes how terrifying their power is in just a few seconds and without breaking a sweat. Credit goes to the FX artists for taking an ephemeral concept like shadows and turning it into something visceral and potent.

The shadows coalescing as The Darkling calls them to him, the glint of light as he hardens pure shadow into a blade, and his lack of hesitation before he flings it at the enemy immediately establish that Kirigan is not a man to cross–ever. The resignation in the highwayman’s eyes as he recognizes who he faces confirms there is no escaping The Darkling or his shadows. The Shadow & Bone scene underscores that not all fights are fair, especially when magic is involved.

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Shadow and Bone Season 2 Poster

Shadow and Bone

Based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse novels, Netflix’s Shadow and Bone follows the story of Alina Starkov, an orphan and soldier who has released a power that could potentially set her country free. Instead, Alina joins an elite army of soldiers known as the Grisha as the Shadow Fold, an area of mysterious darkness that grows each year, threatening to envelop her world. Alina quickly learns that nothing is as it seems, and it will take more than the power of magic to make it through.

Release Date
April 23, 2021

Cast
Daisy Head , Kit Young , Julian Kostov , Ben Barnes , Jessie Mei Li , Simon Sears , Gabrielle Brooks , Amita Suman , Kevin Eldon , Danielle Galligan , Jasmine Blackborrow , Freddy Carter , zoe wanamaker , Sujaya Dasgupta , Luke Pasqualino , Archie Renaux , Calahan Skogman

Seasons
2

5 The Sword in the Stone (1963)

Mad Madame Mim vs. Merlin

Mad Madame Mim turns Arthur into a bird in The Sword in the Stone

Battles between magic users in movies and TV are so often treated seriously, with life-and-death stakes as the prize. That’s what makes the animated fight between Merlin and the batty Mad Madame Mim in The Sword in the Stone such a refreshing change of pace. There’s a joyful, demented bent to Mim’s trickery as she and Merlin shapeshift back and forth; not once do they resort to blasting lighting bolts or magic spells at each other. It goes to show that magic has the potential to be so much more interesting than the limitations too often put on it in visual entertainment.

The Sword in the Stone Movie Poster

The Sword in the Stone

Disney’s animated classic The Sword in the Stone spins a new take on the tale of King Arthur of Camelot’s origins as a humble squire named Wart who wishes to become the Once and Future King. Though many have tried and failed, Wart, with the help of the all-powerful (but bumbling) magician Merlin, will embark on a quest to pull the sword form the stone and lead his country to a prosperous future.

Release Date
December 25, 1963

Cast
Rickie Sorensen , Karl Swenson , Junius Matthews , Sebastian Cabot , Norman Alden , Martha Wentworth

Rating
G

Runtime
79 Minutes

4 Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

The Party vs. Sofina

honor-among-thieves-simon-magic

There’s a lot to love about Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. It finally got the beloved tabletop game right and did it by injecting the movie with a sense of humor instead of taking it super seriously. That said, the final battle between the party and Daisy Head’s evil Red Wizard, Sofina, is deadly serious–and great. It’s the second time Sofina uses the time stop spell in the movie, and the effect is really arresting (even if the party is faking it), but things really pick up when the real battle begins. As the pure magic-caster of the group, wizard Simon finally gets to flex what he can do. Especially fun is when he uses the Bigby’s Hand spell to create a giant fist out of rocks, illustrating the whimsical diversity in Dungeons & Dragons spells and abilities.

Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves Poster-3

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fantasy action-comedy film based on the popular tabletop game and set in the Forgotten Realms campaign by the original creators. Chris Pine stars as a song-slinging thief named Edgin Darvis, who is hired to find a lost relic but manages to anger the wrong people along the way. With his mismatched crew, each inspired by a race and class from D&D lore, Edgin will lead his team to complete their task – and many innocent lives depend on it.

Release Date
March 31, 2023

Director
Jonathan Goldstein , John Francis Daley

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
134 Minutes

3 The Raven (1963)

A Duel to the Death

Vincent Price as Dr. Erasmus Craven using magic in The Raven

The real joy of the final duel in the 1963 Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Raven is how creative it is; the frustrating part is that its imagination outstripped the visual effects technology of the time. The sheer inventiveness of the fight scene combines live-action, animation, practical effects, and a lot of cheeky humor that modern fantasy sadly seems to eschew in fight scenes. Seeing horror legends Vincent Price and Boris Karloff calmly go at it as two smug sorcerers flinging spells back and forth at each other is a treat. Their winking game of magical one-upsmanship more than makes up for the outdated effects in one of the coolest magic fights regardless of era.

2 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (2005)

The Battle of Beruna

The phoenix flies in The Chronicles of Narnia Battle of Beruna scene

At first glance, the Battle of Beruna scene in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion. The Witch, and the Wardrobe doesn’t offer anything that new. It’s a similar epic battle scene of medieval tactics that has been in so many other movies and TV shows. What sets it apart, however, is the sheer number of magical creatures that partake in the fight, from the phoenix to minotaurs, harpies and gryphons. It’s interesting to see how each magical creature fits into the battle with their skill sets and abilities, and where each lines up in the fight. Both Aslan’s Army and the White Witch’s Army have formidable creatures on their side, and it gives the grand battle a twist that simply can’t be recreated with all-human clashes.

1 The Legend of Vox Machina (2022-Current)

Vox Machina vs. The Briarwoods

Keyleth, a red haired druid holds a ball of lightning above her as her eyes glow using her powers in Legend of Vox Machina

The Legend of Vox Machina is another successful Dungeons & Dragons projects launched in recent years. The animated adaptation of the Critical Role campaign has incredible visuals with no boundaries thanks to it being in the animated medium. The fight between Vox Machina and the evil Briarwoods at the end of season 1 showcased exactly why D&D fights are so versatile. There are always a lot of moving pieces in combat, and the Briarwoods fight is no different. Each character gets their time to shine, showing off their unique skills. It’s Keyleth who ultimately steals the scene, channeling the power of pure sunlight and burning the immortal vampire Sylas to a crisp in one of the most satisfying kills in any fantasy movie or TV show.

The Legend of Vox Machina

Based on the characters and storylines from the first Dungeons and Dragons campaign in the web series Critical Role, The Legend of Vox Machina chronicles the adventures of a group of heroes for hire named Vox Machina as they attempt to protect the fictional continent of Tal’Dorei from various threats to the safety of its people. Set in a fantasy world of elves, gnomes, vampires, and even dragons, the series stars the cast of Critical Role playing their characters from the original campaign, with DM Matthew Mercer guest starring in various small roles throughout the series. 

Release Date
January 28, 2022

Seasons
2

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