[Top 10] Avatar: The Last Airbender Best Fights

Avatar: The Last Airbender Best Fights
As per usual, Zuko is ready to square up.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the best cartoons we’ve ever seen, thanks in large part to its incredible combat scenes. With elemental bending styles inspired by various cultures and martial arts forms, it’s tailor-made for stunning action sequences. These are the best of the best.

 

10. Sokka vs. Master Piandao

Video (skip to 19:40)

The list kicks off with a demonstration of what makes A:TLA such a great show: its multifaceted characters. This time, Sokka, the jester of Team Avatar, once again shows that he’s more than a walking punchline by holding his own against a master swordsman.

What’s great about this fight:

  • “Sokka’s Master” deals with Sokka’s inferiority complex, and while he doesn’t stack up to his planet-eating peers, this is a friendly reminder that he’s no slouch on the battlefield. 
  • As opposed to maturing into a better, more capable warrior, Sokka works with the tools he already has—namely his smarts and craftiness. Sokka was never reduced to a clumsy, sarcastic meathead, nor did he ever have to stop being that to be a genuinely helpful ally.
  • In case you might not pick up on it yourself, Piandao helpfully points out Sokka’s improvements throughout the fight. No need to read between the lines here!

 

9. Azula vs. Zuko and Iroh

Azula first joins the chase for the Avatar in the premiere of season two, and she wastes no time making an impression. Her first attempt at apprehending her brother and uncle is as strong a character introduction as any out there.

What’s great about this fight:

  • The physical fight itself, though solid, is nothing overly special; it’s the way Azula so effortlessly handles Zuko that sticks. She spends virtually the entire fight on the defensive, antagonizing Zuko into attacking with some mean, mean family talk, and he still can’t even touch her. It’s terrifying.
  • Azula introduces some cool new tricks to the bending compendium, including her trademark blue fire and our first look at lightningbending. Introducing lightningbending, in particular, blew the roof off the bending boundaries the series had stayed within to that point and opened new possibilities.

 

8. Toph vs. A Whole Bunch of Earthbenders

Speaking of strong character introductions, the first time we see Toph in action, she annihilates (physically and verbally) an angry, hulking man and wins a whole bunch of money. The second time we see her in action, she does the same thing, except this time it’s a whole group of angry, hulking men, and she does it for free. Talk about establishing yourself!

What’s great about this fight:

  • It’s a pro-wrestling tournament, only if wrestlers could cause earthquakes. 
  • IT’S A PRO-WRESTLING TOURNAMENT, ONLY IF WRESTLERS COULD CAUSE EARTHQUAKES.
  • A:TLA’s visual representation of the earth’s vibrations remains one of the best visuals in the series, and it’s a great reminder of how in-touch Toph is with her bending, regardless of how brutish she can be.

 

7. Azula vs. ...err, Everyone

Video (skip to 21:12)

One of the most frenetic episodes in the series, “The Chase,” caps off as a confluence of circumstances brings the whole crew together and pits them against Azula in an old, abandoned town.

What’s great about this fight:

  • Everyone, all in one place, together, at once! It’s the first time the Gaang and Zuko are on the (semi)same side in a fight. The result isn’t ideal, but it’s a big landmark!
  • Immediately following “Zuko Alone,” the show dips right back to the western well with another showdown at dusk, only this time on a larger scale—and, for the second time in two episodes, A:TLA strikes it rich.
  • Another day, another instance of Azula showing everyone how scary she is. This time, Azula effortlessly chops the top off buildings, fights off five people at once, and nearly burns a hole through her uncle. Yeesh.

 

6. Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee vs. Aang, Katara and Sokka

Video (skip to 17:18)

As if Azula wasn’t enough on her own, adding Mai and Ty Lee to the mix gives Team Avatar a trio of full-on marauders to deal with. Their first clash in “Return to Omashu” shows right away the threat they pose.

What’s great about this fight:

  • Azula’s new team members bring some exciting new fighting techniques with them, including Ty Lee’s devastating chi-blocking ability. The tension is multiplied by the dizzying atmosphere atop a rickety construction site.
  • Even locked in a cage high above the ground, King Bumi turbocharges a large-scale fight into a manic, city-wide bonanza. The Azula–Aang chase on Omashu’s mail slide is adrenaline-pumping stuff, but typical for any episode featuring Bumi.

 

5. Aang and the Blue Spirit Escape Prison 

Not exactly a fight per se, but prison breaks feel adjacent enough to fights, so we’re counting this one. In any case, Zuko’s masked rescue-mission is as exciting as any straight-up fight you’ll see.

What’s great about this fight:

  • It may be the first time Aang and Zuko are on the same side of a fight, but by watching them take out dozens of guards, you’d never know it. Their chemistry is immediately on point, and combined with the episode’s ending, it’s a heavy foreshadow of their relationship to come.
  • In case you needed more proof that Zuko is legit legit, here it is. Down firebending and armed only with his twin broadswords, he’s still more than capable of fending off dozens of trained soldiers by himself.

 

4. Katara vs. Zuko

Spoiler alert: the top of this list is extremely (read: entirely) finale-heavy, starting with Katara and Zuko’s struggle over Aang in the season one finale, “The Siege of the North.” 

What’s great about this fight:

  • It puts the newly introduced buffs and nerfs to bending water and fire into action. If not for the sun rising and empowering fire, Katara may well have been able to fend Zuko off by herself.
  • Katara shows out in her first waterbending exhibition after starting lessons with by Master Pakku. She goes blow-for-blow with Zuko, a lifelong firebender, and shows off some nasty new moves.
  • Opposites and balance are running themes of the episode, and we see that in action with fire and water. Katara encases Zuko in ice, Zuko burns through it; Zuko launches fire, Katara douses it. Not only are they great thematic connections, but they’re great aesthetics, too!

 

3. Aang and Katara vs. Zuko and Azula

What’s great about this fight:

  • Aang dies! Like, dies dies! ‘Great’ might not be the right descriptor, but Azula thunderblasting Aang to kingdom come is probably the darkest, most shocking (sorry) moment in the series. For the first time, Team Avatar loses big—the fight, the Avatar state, and, if not for Katara’s spirit water, the Avatar himself.
  • Once again, Katara takes a season finale as an opportunity to show what a waterbending menace she’s become. If not for Zuko’s intervention, Azula’s body might be two pieces instead of just one.
  • It’s the last and most brutal time Zuko spurns goodness in favor of restoring his honor. The buildup toward his moment ramped up considerably in the episodes leading up to this, and the emptiness he felt in the ones that followed sharpened the sting even more.

 

1a. Aang vs. Firelord Ozai

Cheating? Maybe. But placing this any lower than first is almost certainly a felony in some states. And really, choosing between this and the other top-ranked fight comes down to personal preference: do you want a grandiose spectacle, or a more intimate and grounded battle? If you’re looking for the former, Aang’s continent-spanning showdown with Ozai is the way to go.

 

What’s great about this fight:

  • It’s the conflict the entire series has been building toward, and boy, does it live up to the anticipation. All the work Aang put in learning to bend earth, water, and fire pays off, as we finally see him unleash it at full-throttle—and it dazzles.
  • The fire. Whew, the fire! With how heavily the series emphasized the obscene power Sozin’s comet would give firebenders, there was a (small) chance the final fight could fizzle. But any doubt over how fantastic it would be immediately goes in a mushroom cloud.
  • The Avatar state is back! Just when it was starting to look like Aang wouldn’t have his ace-in-the-hole, Ozai cracks Aang’s back against a rock and reawakens the spirit slumbering within Aang. It’s key in allowing Aang to seal Ozai’s bending forever, proving once and for all that being the Avatar and being himself don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

 

1. Zuko & Katara vs. Azula

If your ideal final battle features more personal stakes, Zuko and Azula’s comet-enhanced Agni Kai is the fight for you. If we absolutely, positively have to choose between the top two fights, this would be the pick on account of Azula being a more familiar (and, in the end, tragic) foe than Ozai.

What’s great about this fight:

  • It’s a perfect snapshot of Zuko’s development: he’s outfitted himself with a cool-and-collected temperament, and expanded his bending repertoire with techniques derived from all the different elements. Oh, and also, the rage that used to haunt him has set up shop in Azula’s head now. 
  • It features the best sights and sounds of any fight in the series: The orange and blue fire, the somber music, the advanced new bending choreography, the roars of flames stronger than we’ve ever seen—it’s a masterpiece.
  • Zuko may be the star of the fight, but Katara finishing the job—not to mention getting Azula back after their fight in “The Crossroads of Destiny”—and saving Zuko is a great culmination of their shift from enemies to full-on friends who truly value each other. Also, trapping Azula with sewer water was a sick, sick move.

Also be sure to read:

[Top 5] Avatar: The Last Airbender Best Avatars

[Top 10] Avatar: The Last Airbender Best Episodes Worth Watching Again

[Top 10] Avatar: The Last Airbender Best Moments Worth Watching Again

[Top 10] Avatar: The Last Airbender Best Fights

[Top 10] Avatar: The Last Airbender Best Characters

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Nick dumped all his skill points into writing, and that's mostly how he spends his time in the simulation. He's mastered the ability to double-jump in real life, but doesn't feel the need to prove it.
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