Almost every story has an ultimate showdown. The hero and the villain having their last hooray, two old friends finally settling their differences, or even a family squabble. The best confrontations have more than just fists swinging; they have emotional weight behind them. Characters involved often have everything riding on it; they’ve been through hell and put each other there. What follows is a list of some of fiction’s best Final Showdowns that are jam packed with feeling.
Naturally this list has its fair share of spoilers. If you see a title for an entry and don’t want it ruined, skip it!
After the death of Simba’s father Mufasa, the young king-to-be gets a serious case of survivor’s guilt and, following the advice of his uncle Scar, exiles himself to a jungle far from home. While Simba learns to live a life of peace with his good friends Timon (a meerkat) and Pumbaa (a warthog), Scar has taken to ruling the roost back at Pride Rock. Over several years Scar and his hyena cohorts slowly work the pride to near starvation, hunting more than they need and ultimately ruining the land for miles around.
Eventually Simba runs into an old friend and fellow lion, Nala. Nala pleads with Simba to come home and take his rightful place as king. Simba, having become a free-spirited bachelor of the jungle, denies his heritage, refusing to return and leaving Nala to head back to the pride solo. Fortunately another old friend, the baboon Rafiki, soon catches up with Simba and teaches him some import life lessons.
Upon Simba’s return to Pride Rock he finds a barren wasteland, the citizens miserable and his uncle Scar ruling with an iron paw. A confrontation ensues, Scar blaming Simba for the death of Mufasa, a fact he doesn’t deny, as he still feels guilty all these years on. With the pride watching on, Scar backs Simba to the high edge of Pride Rock causing the young lion to slip. Remembering his brother’s death by way of cliff face, Scar quietly confesses it was in fact he who killed Mufasa. Fueled with a newfound thirst for vengeance, Simba leaps up and pins Scar to the ground, forcing the older lion to confess his crime.
What follows is an almighty battle between Simba’s pride and Scar’s army of hyenas. While the battle and fiery storm rage around them, the two kings trade blows atop the peak of Pride Rock. Fueled by the truth of Scar’s various wrong-doings, the least of which not being the wrongful guilt he’s carried for years for his father’s demise, Simba finally defeats his uncle, kicking him clean off Pride Rock. In the end, Scar’s desire to rule couldn’t match Simba’s fury and noble cause.
While not a rivalry between two characters, this showdown is definitely one of the more emotional in fiction due more in no small part to what occurs around it, than directly in it. A member of Rome’s mighty Thirteenth Legion, Titus Pullo is their most brutish, insubordinate and violent legionnaire. He’s also tremendously skilled in the ways of battle and is a solider through and through, living life to its fullest – drinking, fighting and whoring his way to legend. Over the course of the series, Pullo slowly makes an uneasy friendship with his superior officer, Lucius Vorenus.
Despite their vastly different personalities, Vorenus and Pullo get in a series of grand adventures, becoming brothers through battles, triumphs and great personal loss. After falling in love with a slave girl who he’d once rescued and is now owned by Vorenus, Pullo frees her with the intent to make her his bride. Unfortunately, it turns out the slave girl is already engaged to a fellow slave. Less than pleased with the news Pullo kills the slave girl’s fiancée. An argument follows between Vorenus and Pullo and the once mighty warrior of the Thirteenth soon finds himself on the street.
Pullo takes work as a hitman but lacks the finesse needed for such an underworld occupation and quickly gets arrested. As punishment for his heinous crime Pullo is sentenced to death in the arena. Vorenus, still furious at his friend, is given strict instruction by Caesar himself to not intervene. Accepting his fate, Pullo refuses to fight, at the behest of the gladiators. The gladiators provoke Pullo, but it’s not until they begin to insult the Thirteenth Legion he finally takes a stand. What follows is one of the bloodiest and most brutal fights in TV history, Pullo butchering every man sent before him.
As Pullo fights screaming ‘Thirteenth’ to the crowd over and over again, his friend and brother-in-arms Vorenus watches heartbreakingly from the sidelines. Pullo is soon bested by a giant gladiator, disarmed and near death. Unable to watch his best friend killed, Vorenus leaps into the arena and fights the giant warrior, saving Pullo. Vorenus and Pullo stagger from the arena to the cheers of an excited crowd.
At the tender age of 11, young Inigo Montoya lived in Spain with his father Domingo, a great sword maker. One day, Domingo was approached by a nobleman, the six fingered Count Rugen. Rugen commissioned Domingo to make him a custom sword, a project Domingo took on with great pride and passion. When the sword was complete, Rugen reneged on the original price and as a matter of principal, Domingo refused to sell it. This moral stand angered the count, and he cut down Inigo’s father. The young boy attempted to fight the count, but was quickly defeated and given a scar for his trouble.
Swearing revenge, Inigo spent many years training under some of the world’s greatest swordsmen. After over a decade of training, Inigo begins to search for his father’s killer. The search is long and ultimately fruitless, leading the young swordsman to fall into a deep depression. Drinking away his troubles Inigo becomes entangled with a group of criminals, and they are hired to kidnap ‘the princess bride.’
While hunting the princess bride, Inigo faces off against a man named Wesley, who it is attempting to rescue the princess. Wesley, amazingly, defeats Inigo at swordplay but allows him to live. Depressed at the defeat Inigo resorts to drink, only being set right again by his good friend and fellow criminal, the giant Fezzik. Fezzik and Inigo go on to rescue Wesley, saving his life and the three decide to go after the evil Prince Humperdinck directly. As luck would have it, Count Rugen happens to work for the evil Prince and Inigo finally gets his shot at revenge.
Uttering the now famous words ‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ The young swordsman chases Rugen through Humperdinck’s castle, his vengeance seemingly assured until Rugen stabs Inigo. Defeated for what appears to be the final time, at the hands of his father’s killer no less, Inigo watches as the six fingered count readies his killing attack. Instead of immediately killing Inigo however, Rugen takes a moment to poke fun at the young man’s life long quest for revenge thus giving Inigo the fuel he needs to block Rugen’s assault. The two enter into one of cinema’s most powerful duels.
Inigo repeats his words, dueling with the count, matching his every blow. Again and again Inigo repeats the same phrase causing Count Rugen to angrily respond ‘Stop saying that!’ only to receive two skillful stab wounds from the younger swordsman. Inigo then toys with the count, telling him to offer him money, offer him anything he asks for. The count complies ‘Anything you want!’ he says, desperate to live, Inigo then stabs Count Rugen directly in the belly and say ‘I want my father back, you son of bitch.’ Then drives home the final, vengeful blow.
Star Wars: Episode III
Revenge of The Sith
Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi were Jedi a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Recruited at a young age into the Jedi order by Obi Wan’s master, Qui Gon Jin, Anakin is thought to ‘bring balance to The Force,’ the universal power that gives life to all things in the galaxy. Shortly after leaving his mother, a slave on their home planet of Tatooine, Qui Gon Jin is killed while battling a Sith thus leaving Obi Wan to train Anakin in the ways of the Jedi.
Throughout the next decade or so, Obi Wan and Anakin travel together, training and having many grand adventures. In The Battle of Geonosis, Anakin would fight alongside Padme Amidala, his long time friend and senator of the planet Naboo. The battle would be one of the key events to kick-start what would later be called The Clone Wars. During this period, Anakin would also be reunited with his mother who was dying when he found her. Using his skills as a Jedi, Anakin lay waste to the tribe responsible, including the women and even children. Although forbid by the Jedi, Anakin and Padme marry in secret.
During The Clone Wars Anakin excelled, becoming an undisputed war hero and mighty leader. Despite his valiance, Anakin always struggled with his darker side, often influenced by his friend, the manipulative senator and secret Sith, Palpatine. Palpatine’s influence of Anakin would come to a head when he talked the young Jedi into decapitating an unarmed enemy. Shortly after this, Anakin learned Padme had become pregnant, and he was soon plagued by visions of her death during child birth. Palpatine’s influence grew stronger over Anakin, eventually causing the young Jedi to turn to the way of the Sith in hopes of saving Padme from the fate of his visions.
While on a mission for Palpatine, Obi Wan confronted Anakin on the volcanic planet of Mustafa. Having fought side by side countless times, Obi Wan pleads with Anakin to stop his mad mission, however the man who now calls himself Darth Vader would not be convinced. Extending their lightsabers, the two brothers duel furiously, Obi Wan eventually leaving Anakin horribly wounded and burned in the fires of Mustafa.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Barely a year old, poor baby Harry watches his parents die before his eyes. While he doesn’t remember the event, he is left with a lightning shaped scar across his forehead. Without parents, the young boy is raised by his aunt and uncle, along with his snot-nosed cousin, none of whom are very nice to him. Throughout his childhood, Harry becomes something of an outsider, made worse by the occasional and seemingly unexplainable events that tend to occur in his presence. Around the age of 11, Harry discovers that he is in fact a wizard and begins going to school at the magical Hogwarts School of Wizardry.
Throughout his time at Hogwarts, Harry and his classmates get into numerous adventures, all the while hearing of the dangerous ‘He Who Must Not Be Named.’? It later transpires that the unnamed man is in fact a fellow called Tom Riddle, better known by the name Voldemort. Voldemort, it turns out, is the man who killed Harry’s parents and gave him the lightening shaped scar under the belief that Harry would one day kill him. The scar is not only a reminder, but a magical connection to Voldemort himself, the two able to feel one another’s emotions and even see what the other sees.
Roughly a month before his 15th birthday, Voldemort restores his body and kidnaps Harry and Harry’s friend Cedric. Cedric is killed by one of Voldemort’s minions and an angry Harry duels the dark wizard, barely escaping with his life. Over the next year, Voldemort would begin causing all kinds of trouble, breaking many of his old allies out of prison and killing anyone who might threaten his cause including several people close to Harry. At one point, Voldemort even attempts to possess Harry, failing only due to the fact that Harry can comprehend what Voldemort cannot, love.
Their rivalry finally comes to its climax when Harry willingly walks into Voldemort’s camp in a place ominously called The Forbidden Forest. Voldemort strikes Harry down and has the boy’s lifeless body taken to Hogwarts to be put on display. Fortunately the young wizard isn’t actually dead and the two bitter enemies duel for the final time, Harry ultimately victorious and putting a stop to the dark wizard once and for all.
Beatrix Kiddo, otherwise known as the deadly assassin ‘Black Mamba,’ was a member of The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a snake themed group of world-class killers run by a fellow named Bill. At some stage in her career, Beatrix and Bill became romantically entwined. After finding out she was pregnant with Bill’s baby, Beatrix decided she didn’t want her child growing up in the world of violence, which it no doubt would with two assassins for parents, and disappeared.
Sometime within 9 months of Beatrix disappearing, she began living under the alias Arlene and was engaged to marry a young, unassuming young man and record store owner named Tommy. On the day of their wedding rehearsal, the pregnant bride-to-be enjoyed the day with her relatively new friends until the arrival of Bill, who had finally tracked her down. While friendly towards one another, Bill’s intentions remain unclear at first – he even goes so far as to meet Tommy. However Bill was not alone, he had bought the rest of The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad along with him and then the crew of assassins set about killing everyone within the small church. Beatrix manages to utter out the words ‘Bill, it’s your baby,’ right before Bill shoots her in the head.
Miraculously, Beatrix survived the gunshot to the head and later wakes up in hospital after several years in a coma. Beatrix wakes to discover that the baby she had carried is long since gone, and swears bloody revenge on her former squad members with Bill the final name on her list. After nursing herself back to health, Beatrix travels to Japan where she has a custom sword made and then begins to work her way down the list. Through several violent encounters, Beatrix kills each and every assassin who killed her fiancé and friends, bar Bill’s brother Budd who is killed by Bill’s current lover, Elle Driver. Elle and Beatrix also fight, however Beatrix does not kill Elle, only leaves her blinded.
Beatrix’s long hunt finally comes to an end when she finds Bill and also her daughter B.B, who is very much alive. After spending time with B.B, Beatrix puts her daughter to bed and goes to confront Bill. The two reiterate how they’ve both wronged one another terribly and eventually come to blows, a brief fight which Beatrix wins. The two assassins forgive each other before Bill staggers five steps and then collapses, dead.
The Count of Monte Cristo
In 1815, a young sailor named Edmond Dantes returns home to Paris to marry his fiancée. With him, he brings a letter to a mystery recipient. On the night before their wedding his fiancé’s cousin, Fernand and a fellow sailor called Danglars send a nameless note to the deputy crown prosecutor accusing Dantes of being a traitor. The deputy is at first unwilling to follow through with the baseless accusations, however he soon reads a letter meant for his father that reveals his father is in fact a traitor, the same letter Dantes had intended to deliver. In order to keep his father’s traitorous nature quiet, the Deputy destroys the letter and sends Dantes to life in prison at the Chateau d’If, a fortress turned island prison.
Dantes would spend the next 14 years in prison, living a miserable life of starvation and torment, the only saving grace being his good friend and fellow inmate, Abbé Faria. Over time Abbé lets Dantes in on his escape plan and often speaks of a great treasure. Dantes and Abbé spend years digging a secret tunnel, all the while Abbé continues talking about the grand treasure and teaches Dantes a great many things. Growing old and near death, Abbé finally tells Dantes the location of the treasure and after the old man passes, Dantes escapes.
Several months passed before Dantes found the treasure and got himself to the island of Monte Cristo. After learning his father died in poverty, Dantes buys the island and the title of Count, all the while plotting his revenge. Over the course of many months, Dantes begins to live the life of disguise as The Count of Monte Cristo, fooling everyone, including the three men who put him in prison.
What follows are a series of elaborate schemes, including destroying Danglars considerable fortune, revealing the crown prosecutors darkest secret and driving Fernand to suicide. After ruining his reputation and fortune in the stock market, Danglars is driven to near madness, finally confessing his crimes for which Dantes ultimate forgives him. The final showdown is not a fight, but a confrontation between the crown prosecutor and The Count, where Dantes at last reveals his true identity. The prosecutor is ultimately driven insane.
Star Wars: Episode VI
Return of the Jedi
At the age of eighteen, restless farm boy Luke Skywalker dreamed of leaving his home world and leading a life of adventure. After a chance meeting with a mysterious local known only to Luke as ‘Old Ben,’ the teenager would soon learn that Old Ben not only knew Luke’s father, but fought alongside him in the Clone Wars. Luke’s father, it seemed, was slain by the infamous Sith lord, Darth Vader. Shortly after their meeting Luke and Old Ben discovered Luke’s aunt and uncle, the people who raised him, had been killed by Imperial Storm Troopers working for none other than the same man who killed Luke’s father.
Joining Old Ben, whose real name was Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke began to receive training in the ways of the Jedi. Embarking on an adventure to rescue the princess of a destroyed planet, Luke and Obi Wan teamed up with a pair of smugglers to rescue the princess from a gigantic space station called The Death Star. On board the Death Star, Obi Wan separated himself from the group, dueling with Darth Vader and ultimately sacrificing his life. With Obi Wan dead, Luke and his new friends set off to join the rebellion against Darth Vader, the Emperor Palpatine and their evil empire.
Over the next couple of years, Luke would rise in power as a Jedi and also become a hero of The Rebellion. When his friends were in trouble on Cloud City, captured by Imperial forces, Luke rushed head first into a trap where Darth Vader waited for him. The two dueled, matching blow for blow until Vader finally sliced one of Luke’s hands clean off. Vader attempted to sway Luke over to The Dark Side, to join him and overthrow the Emperor, even go so far as to reveal that he was in fact Luke’s father. Now sorely tempted to join him, Luke ultimately leapt from the bridge, which they were on, down to almost certain death.
Luke and Vader would meet again one final time when Luke willingly gave himself up in the hopes of bringing his father back to the Light Side. Vader and Palpatine would once again try to sway the young Jedi to their side, suggesting that he could save his friends and fellow rebels if he would only kill Palpatine. Buckling to the threats, Luke lashed out toward the Emperor only to be stopped by Vader. Vader and Luke dueled, ending with the removal of one of Vader’s hands. Palpatine then urged Luke to end his father’s life, but Luke refused. Palpatine attacked Luke, defeating him easily and would have killed him except Vader finally found the Light Side once again and saved his son, sending Palpatine falling to his death.
While definitely the shortest conflict on the list, the climax of Se7en is easily one of the most powerful. Soon to be retired Detective Somerset and over-confident new transfer Detective Mills are put together for the first time on a case that would make the career of any cop. A mysterious serial killer is preying on people he deems sinful, always killing in a manner that he believes suits their individual sins. Following the Seven Deadly Sins, the man known only as John Doe plays out each and every kill with brutal efficiency, always managing to stay one step ahead of the police.
As Mills and Somerset follow the killings over the course of a week, the two detectives grow to be fast, albeit unlikely friends. Mills’ loving wife Tracy even invites Somerset to their apartment for dinner and in the evening that follows, the two detectives prove that in spite of their differences they both ultimately want the same thing, a good life and justice for the innocent.
The two detectives eventually manage to track down the killer’s apartment, however in a brief chase and exchange of gunfire the killer manages to get the upper hand over Mills. Sparing Mills life, John Doe escapes leaving Mills bloody and beaten in a rainy alleyway. Shortly afterward Doe arrives at the police station, turning himself in and confessing his crimes. Doe threatens that there are two final victims and unless he is allowed to lead the detectives to their location, he will plead insanity. The two detectives begrudgingly agree to Doe’s demands, and drive him out into the desert.
Once in the location decided by Doe, Somerset and Mills have an uneasy wait, their backup too far away to do anything should something dangerous happen. A delivery van arrives and Somerset approaches, receiving a box and sending the courier driver on his way. Now with some considerable distance between them, Doe is able to begin telling Mills the final part of his terrible plan. Somerset meanwhile opens the box to find the head of Mills’ wife, Tracy. Doe tells Mills how he entered his home and killed his wife and unborn child, which Mills did not know about. Somerset attempts to calm Mills down but the distraught detective ultimately concedes to Doe’s wishes and shoots the serial killer through the head.
His soul bonded with that of Genesis, the all-powerful spawn of a demon and angel, the reverend Jesse Custer sets off on a quest to find God. God, Jesse learns, abandoned heaven and all his people the moment Genesis escaped its angel-built prison and with the help of his gun-toting girlfriend Tulip and new friend Cassidy, intends to make the Almighty answer for his sudden departure. Though Cassidy is a vampire, he and Jesse become good friends sharing the same sense of humor and sense of what’s right and wrong.
Together in their hunt for God, Jesse, Cassidy and Tulip share in a series of violent, dangerous and, more often than not, bizarre adventures. Saving each other’s lives again and again the trio grow closer and closer until one day Cassidy admits his love for Tulip. Keeping Jesse in the dark for fear of ruining their good thing, Tulip carries on as normal until a giant battle in the desert results in a nuclear bomb exploding. Escaping in a small airplane, Jesse falls from the door but is caught by Cassidy who begins to burn in the midday sun. Jesse tells Cassidy to drop him, but his friend refuses. Knowing they’ll both be killed, Jesse uses his God-like powers to make Cassidy drop him from the plane.
With Jesse thought dead by all, Cassidy manipulates Tulip into becoming his. For the next six months, Tulip is kept drugged and out of her mind with grief while Cassidy drags them across America under the ruse that their enemies are still after them. Meanwhile, unbeknown to anyone, Jesse has survived by divine intervention and later discovers his best friend and his girlfriend are now together, although misreads the situation completely and leaves them alone. Jesse does eventually reunite with Tulip, only to discover the terrible state Cassidy has kept her in. Curious about his friend, Jesse begins to investigate and discovers Cassidy is much worse than even Tulip knows.
Armed with the knowledge of Cassidy’s true nature, Jesse and Cassidy meet in Texas and together participate in one last bar fight for old times sake. After their brief team up, Jesse orders Cassidy to fight him. Cassidy warns Jesse that due to his superhuman vampire strength, Jesse wouldn’t stand a chance but Jesse ignores this, uses his unusual powers and orders Cassidy to ‘fight like hell.’ When the time comes, the two best friends fight before dawn outside the Alamo, arguing as they exchange blows. With Cassidy beaten, his strength no match for Jesse’s skill, the hard drinking vampire extends a hand and asks forgiveness. Reluctant at first, Jesse takes Cassidy’s hand and forgives his friend only to get knocked down. Cassidy then stands wide armed and waits for the sunrise, with Jesse too injured to stop him from burning in the rising daylight.