It's tough to find a TV show chock full of so many thrilling and memorable battles like Vikings is. This work of historical fiction draws from a majestic pool of real Viking history and Norse lore, as it follows key events in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages and the rise of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). Vikings is unique in its gritty sense of authenticity coupled with a wondrous sense of mythology and cinematic bombast.
As the show focuses on the warlike peoples known as the Vikings or Northmen, naturally, much of the show thrives on its enthralling battle scenes. While most don't provide the grandiose scale or special effect glitz of Game of Thrones, this more grounded realism is part of what makes these scenes so powerful. Vikings' battle scenes often prove captivating on an emotional level too. We've grown to become invested in the fates of the array of interesting characters, and the pivotal events that unfold throughout the show's epic 5 season run.
So let's grab our swords and set sail as we take a look at the very best and most memorable of Vikings' fight scenes.
10 Vikings' First Battle Against England (Season 1, Episode 4)
There's a certain simplicity to this skirmish between Ragnar's band of Vikings and the soldiers of North Umbria - and that's part of what makes it captivating. While there is, of course, plenty of thrilling action and terrific choreography, the scene's stripped-down nature makes it feel more realistic.
The beach setting of England, which follows the Vikings exiting their boats after sailing from Kattegat, invokes a sense of wonder and adventure, with a tinge of uncertainty. This is one of the very first times Ragnar and his Viking warriors have discovered lands to the west, creating a feeling of exciting anticipation. It acts as a cool little introduction into the escalating chaos and action that will eventually ensue.
9 Ragnar Vs Earl Haraldson (Season 1, Episode 6)
This scene, in which a defiant Ragnar clashes with Earl Haroldson in one-on-one combat, mostly draws its depth and excitement from the significance of the fight rather than the fight itself. A victory for Ragnar means he resides as the new Earl, while his defeat will bring an early death. This face-off represents a clash between the older, more reserved guard of Kattegat, and the ambitious yearning of Ragnar, his brother Rollo, and friend Floki to explore new lands to the west.
Moreover, the close-up, grounded way in which this scene is shot, makes for a powerfully realistic display - along with its unique choreography, that relies on brute force and ax-wielding rather than a finessed sword duel.
8 Ambush In Wessex (Season 2, Episode 2)
Much of Vikings portrays the "Northmen," as they're referred to in mainland Europe, as powerful, near-indestructible brutes - which history shows was typically the case. Yet, a handful of fight scenes do portray the Vikings in a more vulnerable state, reminding us that these natural warriors were human after all. This ambush in a Wessex woodland is perhaps the most powerful example of this.
The scene helps establish the forces of Wessex and much of England as a whole as a growing power of its own; one which isn't so idly defeated. The chaotic and claustrophobic feel of the scene produces a feeling of panic and desperation, allowing for a more gripping showcase. It also acts as a pivotal moment which helps set the stage for the interweaving plotlines of Ragnar and his English counterpart, King Ecbert.
7 Ragnar & Floki Vs Rollo (Season 2, Episode 1)
One of the prominent themes of Vikings is that of civil strife born of sibling rivalries. While the sons of Ragnar end up clashing at various points of the later seasons, this early fight between Ragnar and his own brother, Rollo acts as a foreshadowing of these more complex conflicts. It's also a prelude to a far more grandiose face-off between the Rollo-led army of Francia and Ragnar's Vikings in season 4.
Still, this battle contains plenty of awesome action in its own right. The formations and shield walls that kick off the battle reminds one of the epic ancient-style battles, which swiftly break apart into the more chaotic, Medieval-style skirmish. The scene holds some added depth with the emotional implications of brother fighting brother and friend fighting friend.
6 Ragnar And Björn Vs Jarl Borg (Season 2, Episode 5)
Having turned Rollo against Ragnar and defying King Horik in land disputes, Ragnar's forces of Kattegat set their sights on the renegade Viking Yarg Born, who vows to take the lands for himself. This battle is awesome in that it sees many of our heroes taking part in the fight alongside one-another, including Floki, Rollo, and Lagertha. It also sees the debut of Ragnar's son Björn in combat.
The fight mixes in large-scale assaults with various one-on-one face-offs of trained Viking fighters, including a particularly impressive display by Ragnar and Rollo. This involvement of many of the show's major players, coupled with the high stakes of the future of Kattegat's rule on the line, make for a thrilling battle scene. This battle reminds the viewers of the many layers of conflict, with various factions allying and clashing with one another.
5 Vikings Vs King Aelle's Army (Season 4, Episode 18)
This battle is both epic in scale and in its significance, for it marks a palpable shift in power from the English kingdoms to the intimidating Ivar the Boneless and his army of Vikings. The scene is really one of the first to portray the Northmen as a practiced, assembled army of soldiers rather than an unorganized band of barbarians. King Aelle's utterance that he doesn't think God can help them, as he gazes upon the endless swarm of Northmen scrambling down the hill, pretty much says it all. His last bit of arrogance is fleeting as he realizes it's game over.
The scene is powerful; not just because of its Game of Thrones-esque scale and the endless action, but because of the satisfying implications of the sons of Ragnar getting revenge for the death of their father. It's one of the few moments in which each of his sons stands essentially united, making it all the more impactful.
4 Battle Of York: Ivar Vs Aethelwulf (Season 5, Episode 5)
Many battle scenes in Vikings are showcased for their intense struggles and thrilling action - though this clever ambush of Ivar endures mainly for the bone-chillingly stellar performance of actor Alex Hogh Andersen. The intensity of a blood-drenched Ivar maniacally screaming and grinning at the nervous Wessex frontline is seldom matched. Despite the show's tendency to coax viewers into siding with the Northmen, this is a scene in which we really get a grasp on just how bloodthirsty and malicious Viking warriors were capable of being.
The claustrophobia-inducing tunnels from which the ambush takes place and the grimy atmosphere of the rain, dust, and mud produces a feeling of uneasiness. This is more of a slaughter than a straight-up battle, but it's one that's compelling on both a visual and emotional level. Even the normally passive Hvitserk gets in on the action here.
3 Vikings Civil War (Season 5)
The later episodes of Season 5 see brother pitted against brother once again (well, really a "half brother" in the case of Björn), after negotiations between the two parties fail. The battle scenes serve as an emotional roller coaster with the factions of Björn, Lagertha, and Ubbe clashing with Ivar and Hvitserk with varying degrees of success. Björn initially comes out strong with a decisive victory, thanks in part to Lagertha at her battle-hardened best in combat. These scenes also see Bishop Heamund emerge as a more-than-capable fighter.
Eventually, Ivar gains the upper-hand, overwhelming Björn and company, which leads to him ruling Kattegat with an iron fist. The scenes are wrought with emotional moments, including a fulfilled request by Astrid to Lagertha to kill her and her unborn child of King Harald.
2 Siege Of Paris (Season 3, Episode 8, 9, & 10)
One of the highlights of an otherwise average season 3 of Vikings includes a grand siege and battle for the city of Paris, which Ragnar has made is his life's mission to sack. The fights, which encompass multiple episodes during the later portion of the third season, remind us that the Viking warriors are not infallible, as they fail to break through on multiple attempts.
Though this lack of progress in overcoming the fortified walls of Paris only makes for a more monumental climax when the gates are eventually breached. The scenes take on a Lord of the Rings Helms Deep vibe as waves of Viking forces crash upon the Frankish defenses. Given the show's relatively limited budget, the scale, nuances, and epic cinematography prove impressive. This battle has just about everything - from sword/axe brawls at close range to long-range volleys of arrows and fire, and plenty of action.
1 Björn Vs Army Of Ivar (Season 5, Episode 20)
After being soundly defeated by Ivar and company multiple times, Björn has regrouped with his other brothers, Lagertha, and King Harald, as they fight to retake Kattegat. The siege certainly isn't massive and drawn-out like, say, the attack on Paris. Yet, it proves impactful in terms of its significance and emotion. After an initial defeat, the scorned wife of Ivar, Freydis, betrays Ivar and they are able to retake the city.
This intense struggles eventually lead to Björn, who's rocking some killer battle paint, rising to prominence and becoming king of Kattegat. We see the satisfying downfall of the mad Ivar, who has elevated himself to god status, and the reclaiming of Björn and Lagertha's homeland. The battle acts as an emphatic exclamation point to the seemingly endless conflict between the sons of Ragnar, ending Vikings season 5 with a bang. It'll be tough for the anticipated final season to measure up to this epic showdown.