Best Armies in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Movies, Ranked

Filed in Movie by on July 22, 2022 0 Comments

From Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, battles in fictional settings can be some of the most exciting things to watch in a movie. These battles, of course, wouldn’t happen without the armies that fight in them, and often these armies can be cool too, whether it be their lore or their aesthetic. Sometimes their weapons are iconic, sometimes it’s their armor. Sometimes they’re based on a really cool concept, while other times it’s the overall personality they bring to the screen. Whatever the case, there are some fictional armies in movies that stand out as especially effective or cool. Such is the case with the armies in the sci-fi and fantasy movies listed below.

4 Dune — The Sardaukar

We got to see a few scenes with the Sardaukar in 2021’s Dunesand it’s almost certain they’ll show up in Dune: Part Two, which just entered production. We’re introduced to this army when they are practicing one of their rituals, with throat singing and ritual markings on the soldiers. In the scene, their discipline is on display as they march in ordered ranks. This fighting force in service to the Emperor was notable for having a unique culture and language and for their participation in the attack on House Atreides. Their white armor stands out from the other soldiers, and when they descend on the Atreides troops, flanking them, they manage to kill them all when the Harkonnen troops had been struggling against them.

Fight in Dunes is already so distinct, with its use of bloody, close-quarters hand-to-hand combat. In a sci-fi setting, it’s all the more impressive that the Sardaukar stand out without breaking away too much that aesthetic. In the lore of the book, the Sardaukar are an elite fighting force comprised of the denizens of the harsh planet of Salusa Secundus, which was specifically run as a training grounds for generations of Sarduakar who were trained from a very young age to fight.

Related: Dune: How Far Into Frank Herbert’s Universe Will Villeneuve Go?


3 Terminator — Skynet’s Terminators

We don’t often get to see Skynet’s robotic army of murder machines in the original terminator movies. Considering the damage a single Terminator can do, the fact that there’s a whole army of them in the future sets up the stakes for John Connor’s survival in the first few movies. Humanity might very well be doomed without someone who can lead them effectively against such an overwhelming force, and it sets up the future as a truly terrifying place in the series.

In later terminator movies, we get a better sense of what this army might actually look like, especially in Terminator Salvation. In that movie, we see the skeletal T-terminators that are sent into the future, and in the flashbacks have some competition for scariest terminator. From gunships to bikes to large lumbering mechs, in the future, Skynet feels like a complete military, able to threaten the plucky human resistance with any number of specialized Terminators. This is what makes Skynet an effective horror villain: its ability to think and strategize, which also applies to its Terminators. There’s very little scarier than having an entire army of intelligent machines. What really cinches it for Skynet is that they are an army capable of sending virtually indestructible robot soldiers into the past to kill high-value targets as children or before they are even born. Any army facing that sort of power would be terrified. Despite changes in the terminator franchise, Skynet has always been a terrifying force to contemplate.

2 Star Wars—The Grand Army of the Republic

The Grand Army of the Republic, or the Clone Army as it’s otherwise known, has a lot of competition for “best army” when it comes to the Star Wars universe. You have: the iconic Stormtroopers of the Empire, with heavy weaponry and a legendary bad guy aesthetic; the Rebel Alliance, with their guerilla tactics, moral high ground, and underdog status; and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, the separatists, who have legions upon legions of B1 Battledroids complemented by vehicle and specialized infantry droids.

The Clones are similarly interesting in terms of concept, aesthetic, and story. They are soldiers made from the genetic material of the Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett. They are grown exceptionally quickly and trained in combat by the Kaminoans. They are led by the Jedi themselves in battle against the Droids of the CIS. The result is a fighting force of elite soldiers cloned from the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, and are then supplemented by space wizards with laser swords. The sheer coolness of that premise alone is something that can’t be overstated.

It’s fundamentally why they’re so compelling as a group of characters. None of them asked for this, and when the war is over, they end up thrown to the wayside by the new Empire. By the time the Republic is reinstated, most, if not all, of them will be dead because of their accelerated aging. The Clones are such an indelible part of the tragedy of the Clone Wars that would have gone unexplored without the Clone Wars TV-series.

Related: Star Wars: Why Audiences Love The Clones

1 Lord of the Rings—The Rohirim

In sports, there are athletes who come in at perfect moments to win games. The Rohirim of the Lord of the Rings franchise are the fantasy army equivalent. In the Lord of the Rings movies, the Rohirim are responsible for two of the most iconic calvary charges in the history of fantasy. At Helm’s Deep, they charge downwards into the Uruk-Hai at the last minute, saving the entrenched forces from being overrun completely. At the battle of the Pelenore Fields, Theoden leads a second charge into the orcs after giving a rousing speech.

The Rohirim are a great fantasy army because they provide such great moments. Their aesthetic and lore are intriguing, but on the screen their best advantage is how they are shot and the accompanying music. The two cavalry charges are major highlights, but the scene with the lighting of the beacons is also a masterclass in cinematography and music. In both charges, there’s also the fact they’re lighted with the sun to their backs, associating them with light beating back darkness. Then there’s the music, which contrasts heavily with the bad guy music of Nazgul that we get before they enter in Return of the King. They have a tendency to show up whenever things are most desperate, which associates them with some of the best and most uplifting moments in the movies.

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