One of the best parts about watching a good action series is seeing a great fight. A struggle of wills between the protagonist and the antagonist can get viewers pumped, especially if the story leading up to the conflict is told properly. These fights can even be cathartic, allowing the hero to finally triumph over the villain.
Naturally, because there are so many great shonen anime series, many come with incredible fight scenes. Some of them stand above the others in terms of being iconic, remembered years after the anime has finished by everyone who watched.
Updated on June 29, 2023 by Sage Ashford: This list has been updated to include even more heart-pounding and iconic anime fights that gets audiences' blood boiling in just the right way.
15 Gilgamesh vs. Shirou Emiya
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
Fate: Unlimited Blade Works' Gilgamesh vs. Shirou is still one of the best and most gorgeous fights in the Fate franchise. After spending an entire series feeling like more of a hindrance thanks to his lack of mana and experience, Shirou has his best moment at the perfect time.
By this point, Gilgamesh had already established himself as the ultimate Servant thanks to his role as the King of Heroes. However, it’s that very status as King that leads to his downfall. Shirou’s Unlimited Blade Works is tested against Gilgamesh’s Gate of Babylon, and Gilgamesh’s inexperience with all of his weapons makes them roughly even. Shirou’s determination leads to his victory over Gilgamesh, and winning the Holy Grail War.
14 Ichigo vs. Ulquiorra
Every shonen hero needs a moment where to tap into their true power, they have to lose control. For Ichigo, that instance came against the fourth Espada, Ulquiorra. Ulquiorra’s overwhelming power nearly meant the end of Ichigo and his friends, but finally Ichigo’s other side, White, emerged.
Using White’s power, Ichigo boasted not only superior Reiatsu, but a brutal fighting style that pushed Ulquiorra to his limits. Boasting the ability to toss off Ceros with ease and enough strength to crush Ulquiorra’s mightiest attack with his bare hands, this battle stands as one of the best fight scenes in Bleach for Ichigo fans.
13 All Might vs. All For One
My Hero Academia
The ultimate hero versus the ultimate villain, All Might versus All For One is one of My Hero Academia’s most memorable fights. With All For One’s return to the world stage, All Might finds himself in a tough spot. Thanks to their last battle – plus All Might passing his powers on to Deku – his ability to maintain One For All is nowhere near as strong as it once was.
All Might refuses to let his limitations to stop him from living up to his role as the Symbol of Peace. With the last embers of One For All fading, All Might manages to put his lifetime nemesis down for good. While overcoming odds of this level might feel ridiculous in most series, it works as a way to say goodbye to Toshinori’s time as the #1 Hero.
12 Gohan vs. Cell
Dragon Ball Z
Though it took some ridiculous leaps to get there, Gohan vs. Cell is the culmination of three arcs' worth of build up in Dragon Ball Z. Gohan spent years training under both Piccolo and Goku, fighting against some of the deadliest warriors in the galaxy. Until the Cell Games, it was never all on his shoulders alone.
After taking a brutal beating from Cell, an inspired speech from Android 16 reminds Gohan of the need to fight for things worth protecting. Seeing Gohan become the first person to reach Super Saiyan 2 is immensely satisfying, right down to having him one-shot the Cell Jrs. And while getting overconfident did cost him Goku, it also lead to the Father-Son Kamehameha, which might be the most hype moment in anime history.
11 Bradley Vs. Scar
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has plenty of incredible fight scenes, but King Bradley vs. Scar had both the emotional weight and the hype behind it to make it a standout. In the episodes leading up to this battle, King Bradley established himself as one of the most dangerous fighters in the show, even destroying a tank to reclaim his base.
Confronting Scar was a new challenge for King Bradley, as he was the representation of the Military's sins returning for vengeance. Despite Bradley's might, his arrogance and a chance mistake cost him his life, providing probably the only chance anyone had of stopping him.
10 Luffy Vs. Rob Lucci
It's difficult to pin down any single fight in One Piece as the most iconic when most fans call the entire series peak fiction. That said, Luffy's battle against Rob Lucci during the Water 7 Saga is certainly near the top. With the Straw Hats needing to rescue their ally, Nico Robin, Luffy finds himself confronted with the incredibly powerful Rob Lucci in his were-cheetah form.
The battle saw Luffy introduce the power of Gear Second and go beyond his limits once again to show off the power of Gear 3. Despite Rob Lucci seeming invincible, the power of Luffy's Jet Gatling ability put him down for the count.
9 Naruto Vs. Sasuke
Like with One Piece, there are plenty of incredible fights to choose from with Naruto, but the battle between Naruto and Sasuke at the Valley of the End is remembered fondly even by some of Naruto's biggest critics. When Sasuke's eagerness to take revenge for his family caused him to abandon the village, several of Konoha's most talented new genin battled Orochimaru's soldiers to bring him back.
By the end, it was clear that Sasuke didn't want to return and Naruto's attempt to force him back led to their first serious fight. The tension that had been bubbling since the beginning of the series between the two exploded in a fierce battle, leading to the best fight in the original Naruto anime.
8 Netero Vs. Meruem
Hunter X Hunter
Though it has some of the best fight scenes in shonen anime, Hunter x Hunter battles rarely go the way anyone thinks they should. When the Chimera Ant King appeared, the only person even close to fighting on his level was the Hunter Association's Chairman, Isaac Netero. Despite his age, the wizened Chairman proved to be the only person possibly capable of challenging Meruem.
Still, the battle turned into a slow inevitability after a while, as Netero realized he wouldn't be able to down Meruem on his own power. His victory over Meruem proved the lengths of human creativity and desperation.
7 Ichigo Vs. Byakuya
When it comes to Bleach, there are two fight scenes that stick out the most for Ichigo. While his eventually defeating Aizen is a cathartic moment, it doesn't quite have the impact his battle against Byakuya did.
A well-respected Captain of the Gotei 13 and a master of his Zanpakuto, Byakuya felt like an impenetrable wall for Ichigo. Still, thanks to Urahara's dangerous yet profitable training, Ichigo was able to master his Bankai and fight on the same level as Byakuya. Still, the power of the Senbonzakura and Byakuya's centuries of experience made this Ichigo's toughest battle.
6 Spike Vs. Vicious
Not every anime fight has to be between people with superpowers. In Cowboy Bebop, Spike was forced to confront the very past he'd been running away from when Vicious revealed he'd kidnapped his ally, Faye Valentine. This battle isn't just good from a hype perspective; it's shot beautifully, too.
Everything from the muted color palette to Mai Yamane's gravelly voice singing "Rain" sets the mood for a dangerous battle that the protagonist isn't guaranteed to win. Indeed, after shooting his way through all of Vicious' mafia members, Spike found himself on the losing end of what would be his first fight in the series against Vicious. However, his narrow escape ensured there would be a rematch in the future.
5 Goku Vs. Vegeta
Dragon Ball Z
Some Dragon Ball Z fans will say the series actually peaked with the Saiyan Saga. While that's debatable, what isn't debatable is just how iconic the final battle was. After learning of his alien heritage, Goku was confronted with the knowledge that he was a low-born Saiyan and the battles ahead would see him facing the Saiyan Elite – Vegeta.
With his friends gone and the fate of the planet on the line, Goku proved that with enough training, it was possible to defeat even the Prince of All Saiyans. Thanks to the power of the new techniques he'd learned from King Kai, even Vegeta's Giant Ape form wasn't enough to defeat him. While the fight's story is amazing, it's the film-quality animation that elevates Goku and Vegeta's iconic showdown.
4 Yusuke Vs. Toguro
Yu Yu Hakusho
Toguro provided himself the ultimate test for Yusuke Urameshi. After several arcs where Yusuke was a fearless fighter, Toguro's might brought him to his knees. Over the course of the greatest tournament arc ever in the Dark Tournament, Yusuke faced gradually stronger opponents, all while the ultimate challenge waited for him at the end.
The fight is long by Yu Yu Hakusho standards — four episodes —but Yusuke finally proves he's willing to put his all into something for the sake of what he cares about. Despite the Dark Tournament having a ton of memorable fights, this last battle stands at the top.
3 Jotaro Vs. Dio
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
One of the most hyped fights in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure even before the television adaptation, the battle between Jotaro and Dio lived up to the original OVA version and then some. After spending an entire series antagonizing the Joestar family, it was finally time for one of anime's best villains, Dio Brando, to get his comeuppance at the end of the series.
However, beating DIO was no easy feat, as it turned out his stand, The World, has an ability no one was aware of: the power to stop time. Though Jotaro developing a similar ability might have felt contrived, it didn't detract from how awesome it was to see these two titans throwing everything at each other.
2 Rock Lee vs. Gaara
The Naruto fanbase is confident of two things: Sasuke’s plot armor, and their love of Rock Lee. People wondering where that comes from should look no further than Rock Lee’s battle against Gaara during the Chuunin Exams.
The battle of the hardworking underdog against the talented prodigy with the One-Tail, the outcome of this fight is obvious from the start. However, it’s impossible not to root for Rock Lee no matter how little a chance he has at victory. Still, this fight makes Rock Lee look like an absolute champ, with some of the most hype moments in original Naruto like Rock Lee dropping his weights... and his first time opening the Gates.
1 Goku Vs. Frieza
Dragon Ball Z
As much as Dragon Ball Z built up Vegeta, Frieza was made to look like a threat that no one could defeat. Goku used all his experience and every trick he had to match up against Frieza's might, but no trick was good enough.
Frieza always had some new level of power he was waiting to unveil that could top Goku's tricks, from Kaioken to the Spirit Bomb. However, every DBZ fan remembers when Frieza finally pushed Goku too far, causing him to go Super Saiyan for the very first time. This fight isn't just iconic but groundbreaking within battle shonen. Going forward, every protagonist had to have some kind of transformation or super mode, all to try and capture the feeling of Goku's Super Saiyan form.