The groundbreaking anime of the '90s, Neon Genesis Evangelion, is finally streaming on Netflix. Set in the not too distant future—for the time, of course—of 2015, the Earth is under repeated attacks from alien monsters, who appear in multiple forms, known as angels. Humanity's only hope for survival comes from the Evas; giant fighting robots piloted by specially chosen children, Shinji, Rei, and Asuka. Psychically linked to their machines, the Eva pilots are charged with safeguarding humanity from the threat of total annihilation, which, to put it lightly, puts a lot of psychological and emotional pressure on each of the kids.
Evangelion's fights are as much about inner conflict as they are about robots punching aliens. There is a lot going on in this show but this list will focus on the fights, each chosen for how they impact the plot and characters, as well as how cool they look, just to give you a flavor of what to expect from a show that is definitely worth your time.
14 3 Evas vs. Sahaquiel
Sahaquiel is the 10th Angel to arrive, appearing in space just on the edge of Earth's atmosphere. It floats above the earth with one huge staring eye, and each attempt to intercept it with a spacecraft has proved useless, as they get destroyed by its powerful A.T. Shield. It attacks by launching its entire body at Earth, trying to break through its surface. In a rare moment of successful cooperation, each of the three Evas works together to catch the Angel and destroy it up close with prog knives. It's over quickly but gives a good idea of just how strong each of the Evas can be.
13 Magma Fight
Thinking they have an upper hand, NERV, the Earth defense force, send Eva 0.2 to retrieve an Angel not yet fully formed, and it just so happens to be in the heart of a volcano. The tension in the scene is palpable as Eva 0.2 descends inch by inch through magma to bring back the angel, which comes to life as it's being retrieved. To make matters worse, Eva 0.2 drops her weapon, and her tow line is cut, which left stranded in an environment of certain death with no means to defend herself.
12 Eva 0.1 vs. Shamshel
This angel, armed with deadly "light whips" that destroy anything that comes near it. Following a tense gunfight in the streets of Tokyo, Eva 0.1 has its power cable severed and buildings fall down around it. Shinji, the pilot, ignoring orders to return and overcome with rage, charges the angel, with his power rapidly depleting, in a last-ditch attempt to destroy it before his machine shuts down completely.
11 The 12th Angel
Each Angel takes on a different shape, and this one has to be the weirdest. It's a floating ball with a huge black shadow that absorbs anything it touches. While attempting to attack it, Shinji's Eva is slowly sucked in by the spreading shadow, screaming for help while he's dragged down into nothing. It's terrifying simply because it leaves everyone at a total loss for what to do; this isn't something you can punch! Trapped in a dark dimension, Shinji has to get himself out of a situation he was never prepared for.
10 Evas vs. Arael
The 15th Angel, and certainly one of the most traumatic. Appearing as a giant bird of light in space, it attacks by probing the minds of its victims. Asuka in Eva 0.2 is on the verge of defeating it when she's suddenly attacked by a psychic blast, trapping her in a cycle of horrible memories. Rei eventually comes to her aid by launching a seriously powerful holy spear—yes, really—into the heart of the angel. Asuka's confidence is destroyed, though, and not just by the memories, but by having to be rescued.
9 Perfect Synchronization
Just as the Evas think they've destroyed the 7th angel, it splits in half and becomes a pair of angels that move and fight in perfect unison. Forced to retreat to re-plan the attack, Shinji and Asuka are given a week to practice a game that's basically Dance Dance Revolution! Getting their choreography perfect is not only fun to watch, but leads to a perfectly synchronized, balletic fist fight.
8 Black Out Fight
What begins as a perfectly ordinary day soon turns into a nightmare when the entire city suddenly has a blackout. To make matters worse, it was caused by a spider-like Angel that is currently ripping the city apart. The three pilots have to get inside the machines, which entirely run on electricity, without any power, and then fight the angel without any support. The tense build-up leads to a really satisfying conclusion with all three Evas fighting in an elevator shaft taking turns to protect the others and pass the one weapon they have between them.
7 One Big Angel vs. One Big Gun
A seemingly unstoppable Angel is on the verge of breaking through defenses and totally destroying HQ. The only way to stop it is a shot from a sniper rifle, but each bullet needs to be charged with all the power in Japan! A fight of timing and tension as Shinji needs to wait for the perfect shot, but also for his gun to be recharged. Just when he thinks all is lost, he's protected by Rei in an act of bravery that fundamentally changes their relationship for the rest of the show.
6 Shinji vs. Kaworu
Perhaps the most heartbreaking of fights in the whole series. For most of the show, Shinji is also battling with his own loneliness until he meets Kaworu, a 15-year-old boy who shows him real kindness. It's a shame then that Kaworu is actually the 17th Angel and comes the closest to destroying all of humanity. Shinji is forced to chase him and finally kill the closest thing he had to a friend for the sake of humankind, a decision he does not make easily.
5 Eva Gone Rogue
Later in the series, a fourth Eva is made a new pilot is chosen: Shinji's classmate Toji. On his first mission, Toji's Eva becomes infected with a parasitic Angel that forces him to attack his own kind. Shinji manages to subdue him but refuses to kill the Angel and, by extension, his friend. His cold and unforgiving father, commander of the operation, demands that Shinji's Eva attack automatically. It has to be one of the most brutal fights, not least because Toji is nearly ripped apart, but Shinji is forced to watch in horror what his machine is doing.
4 Underwater Fight
A battle that introduces new pilot Asuka, but also expands the world of the show. An angel attacks an Eva unit transferring from Germany, and it appears under water and destroys many battleships on its way. Asuka and her Eva have to fight the thing underwater, essentially hooking it like a fish and reeling it in for a kill. A long and tense fight where oxygen and visibility become seriously hindering factors, but one that also shows even more of what the Evas are capable of.
3 Shinji's First Fight
Shinji becomes an Eva pilot basically because people tell him to. They're panicked, and they need him to help them. He may be brave enough, but that doesn't mean he's prepared. Launched straight into battle with his first Angel, Shinji is almost immediately defeated. Yet, against all odds, Shinji comes back and destroys the angel with a force and strength no one has seen before. It's a pivotal battle in Shinji's destiny, but one that also shows the extreme toll it takes on him every time he uses the Eva.
2 3 Evas vs. Armisael
The penultimate angel has the power to fuse with Evas, taking over their pilots—which is exactly what it does to Rei. Meanwhile, Asuka and her Eva are completely out of action, her synch rate with the machine is so low she can't even get it to walk, and time is running out. The resulting battle between Shinji and the Rei/Angel hybrid has deep psychological effects, with Rei forced to face her own loneliness and Shinji once again risking everything to protect a friend. The battle is won with a prog knife, but almost no one escapes unscathed.
1 Eva 1 vs. Zeruel
Zeruel is an immensely powerful angel with razor-shape whip-like arms and a near impenetrable A.T. field. Eva 2 is taken out almost immediately and with a force we have not yet seen from an Angel as it rips off both its arms and head. The angel breaks into the humans base and is a second away from killing everyone before Shinji manages to force it back to the surface. He's just about to kill it when his power runs out, but then his Eva unexpectedly goes into berserk mode and destroys the angel brutally. We are left shocked at the total destruction and also confused as it appears that the Eva came to life. The fight ends with mystery over what these robots actually are.