Best 11 Fight Scenes, Ranked

Creator Genndy Tartakovsky elevated the art of the American action cartoon with his Cartoon Network original, Samurai Jack. Tired of seeing action series of the ’90s focus more on dialogue with action that was slow and stilted, Tartakovsky sought to create a show that put fast-paced and stylized action at the forefront. What resulted was an artfully driven series with battles that set a new standard in animated action.

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the final series, here are the top 11 battles fought by the “foolish samurai” and his most fearsome opponents.

11. Beetle Drones


Beetle Drones

Jack’s first encounter with Aku’s menacing machinery set a standard for the entire series going forward. In the explosive third act of the series’ “premiere movie,” Jack defends a community of canine archeologists from falling into Aku’s grip. Facing off against a horde of insectoid drones, this battle demonstrated Jack’s full range of warrior skills and the sheer might of what Aku’s forces are capable of. Through strategic planning and an arsenal of armor piercing crystals and digging equipment, Jack single-handedly bested the robotic swarm with everything from arrows and spears atop a faithful steed, to only his sword and stamina.

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10. Imakandi Hunters


Imakandi Hunters

Aku recruits a tribe of noble hunters from an alien savannah with the promise of their most elusive prey yet; Samurai Jack. The Imakandi, as they are called, spend the rest of the episode pursuing Jack on a chase for his life. While offering little in the way of one-on-one combat, the chase itself proves to be one of Jack’s greatest challenges as the hunters are able to match and counter every split-second decision and evasive action Jack throws their way.

9. Zombies


Zombies

While most episodes build Jack’s enemies and battles on a uniquely conceptual backstory, often the simplest premise can deliver the most satisfying results. In “Jack and the Zombies,” the samurai faces off against the living dead after being lured to a graveyard by Aku. Even though Jack is able to cut through them like butter, the greatest challenge the undead present Jack is that they simply cannot be killed or destroyed. While Jack has battled seemingly endless legions of enemies before, this fight turns into a battle of stamina as Jack grows more and more tired fighting zombies that continually rematerialize after he defeats them.

RELATED: ‘The Little Prince’: How the Japanese Animated Feature Directly Inspired Samurai Jack

8. Aku (Episode XLVIII – Jack vs. Aku)


Jack vs Aku

Tired of sending incompetent lackeys to kill the samurai, Aku decides to take matters into his own hands and challenge Jack to a man-to-man duel to decide their fate. By the sound of it, this would be a fight fit for the series finale, but what results is one of the series’ comedic episodes. After an awkward meeting to arrange this battle, the agreed-upon terms are that Aku may not use his powers and that Jack may not use his sword. While the fight itself is thrillingly grounded in hand-to-hand combat and acrobatics, what makes it fun are the mind games that truly decide the victor. Aku and Jack try to fool each other as both combatants planned on knowing that the other one knew that they would cheat.


7. The Minions of Set


The Minions of Set

Solving hieroglyphic puzzles is hard enough as it is without ancient warriors breathing down your neck. Jack’s travels lead him to ancient Egyptian ruins, where Aku has unleashed the minions of Set to hunt down and kill the samurai. Jack is immediately overwhelmed by their numbers and otherworldly strength, and searches the ruins for a way to stop them, collecting puzzle pieces and finding clues along the way. More than any other encounter, this battle positions Jack’s mind as his greatest ally. While he is scarcely able to fend off the demonic warriors in combat, Jack’s survival is hinges on his problem-solving and ability to decipher clues.

6. The Blind Archers


The Blind Archers

Jack seeks a magical well that he may wish upon to find a way back to the past. The only thing standing in his way are three blind archers with hearing that puts the monsters in A Quiet Place to shame. This battle is just as much built on the sound design as the visuals. In order to fight the archers on their level, Jack blindfolds himself as he advances towards the archers’ stronghold, judging his environment and oncoming attacks purely on sound alone. One of the series’ most iconic fights, Jack’s victory over the archers and their well proves that Jack’s senses and acute are borderline superhuman.


5. The Guardian


The Guardian

The Guardian is far and away one of Jack’s most formidable opponents. After journeying through a land of mystical beasts, Jack finds a portal that is guarded by a mysterious immortal warrior who shall only let one prophesied man gain passage through time. Having defeated countless warriors across eons who have tried and failed to pass him, the Guardian equals the samurai’s determination, skill and resolve. The Guardian is a hulking one-man tank with combat prowess and weaponry that ultimately get the better of the samurai. Jack only survives because the Guardian learns of Jack’s ultimate fate as the foretold future user of the portal.

4. Shinobi


Shinobi

In the series’ most stylistic battle, Jack faces off against a robotic ninja that uses the darkness of the shadow while Jack uses the light in a battle of stealth. Samurai Jack thematically has always been the conflict between dark and light, but this incredible sequence takes it to a visually literal place as the shifting interplay between fading sunlight and shadow determine the playing field. For as much light has succumbed to darkness over the course of the sunset, the more advantage the ninja has over Jack in this monochrome melee. While the combat itself is precise and well-executed, the direction is what elevates the sequence to a work of art.


3. The Daughters of Aku (Episode XCIV)


The Daughters of Aku

The long-awaited fifth and final season delivered a mostly satisfying conclusion to the series and an evolution of its battles. The jump from Cartoon Network to Adult Swim enabled the show to depict its already stellar action with violence that was more graphic, but still keeping in the spirit of the original run. After his first deadly encounter with the cultic Daughters of Aku, Jack is burdened by the weight of his first human kill after spending decades of only killing robots and monsters. Once he realizes that the line he has crossed was a necessary one for his own survival, Jack’s rematch with the assassins is intense, savage and bloody as Jack picks each of them off one-by-one with his bare hands.

2. The Princess and the Bounty Hunters


The Princess and the Bounty Hunters

This battle best demonstrates creator Tartakovsky’s directorial style of long build-ups and explosive pay-off. The episode follows a team of bounty hunters, led by a warrior princess, as they plot to ambush Jack to collect the bounty on his head. After spending an entire episode getting to know the mercenaries and how they each have planned to destroy Jack, the battle itself lasts under 35 seconds. Tartakovsky’s approach to building suspense through long sequences of ambient silence is masterfully accomplished here as the quiet tension of the episode is broken and settled in a matter of only a few seconds of brutally focused action.


1. The Ultra-Bots


The Ultra-Bots

This is the quintessential Samurai Jack fight. Drawn out by a squad of robotic assassins, Jack teams up with their creator to find a way to defeat his creations once and for all. Everything that has made the previous battles on this list is here and in full force: Jack facing nearly impossible odds, using the full gambit of his skills, dramatic direction in pacing, and the intense symphony of crunching metal and sword clashes. On top of using a supercharged power gauntlet to help cut through the bots’ near-impenetrable armor, what makes this battle especially enthralling is the moment of Jack’s final victory as he calls upon the aid of his ancestors to imbue his magic sword with divine strength . This battle more than any other proves how capable and willing Jack is to be a hero to the innocent, even when faced with overwhelming evil.


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