The Best Naruto Battles in the Anime’s History

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This article contains spoilers for Naruto and Naruto Shippuden.

This first edition covers Masashi Kishimoto’s global phenomenon Naruto and its direct sequel Naruto Shippuden. With 750 episodes of high-octane ninja action to sort through, these 10 fights are chock full of intense ninjutsu, flying kunai, and of course, extremely emotional moments that always hit just right.

In general, Netflix has the best user experience, with skippable intros and the ability to switch between dubs and subs on the fly. But they’re not currently streaming Shippuden, so you’ll have to switch over to Hulu or Crunchyroll to keep the action going. Hulu has dubs up to a certain point, but you have to pick a different episode to change languages. And if you don’t have a subscription to any of those, Pluto TV has you covered with the first series on-demand with ads. But there are lots and lots of ads.

Here are just the hits of Naruto in chronological order.

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Spoilers ahead!

Naruto and Sasuke vs. Haku

Series: Naruto
Runtime: About 2 hours
Best Place to Stream: Netflix
Netflix’s Season and Episode: Season 1, Episodes 13-18
Hulu’s Season and Episode: Season 1, Episodes 13-18
Crunchyroll’s Season and Episode: Season 1, Episodes 13-18
Pluto TV: Season 1, Episodes 13-18

The first iconic battle on this list belongs to Naruto and Sasuke’s life-or-death fight against Haku, a rival ninja about their own age who is outclassing them in every way possible. Naruto has always been about toeing the line between silly antics and monumentally important clashes, but you can point directly to this fight as the moment when shit started to get real. 

Early in the fight, Haku’s unique Ice Release ninjutsu serves as the introduction to Kekkei Genkai, or hereditary techniques passed down from generation to generation. We also learn that at the root of this tremendous power is a horrible burden. Haku’s childhood was violently destroyed by those afraid of his inborn power. It’s not an unfamiliar concept to Naruto or Sasuke, both defined by their own set of tragic circumstances, which makes this match up even harder to watch.

But what good would this fight be without some classic turnarounds? In the heat of battle we get not one, but two great awakenings, with Sasuke activating his Sharingan, his own inborn technique, and Naruto’s first taste of the demonic power sealed inside his own body. But ultimately, this fight is most memorable for its tragic ending where Naruto learns that being strong isn’t always enough to win. 

Rock Lee vs. Gaara

Series: Naruto
Runtime: About 45 minutes
Best Place to Stream: Netflix
On Netflix: Season 2, Episodes 22-24
On Hulu: Season 1, Episodes 48-50
On Crunchyroll: Season 2, Episodes 48-50
On Pluto TV: Season 1, Episodes 48-50

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The epic fight between Lee and Gaara is the first entry you’ll have trouble finding on your own, and we’re only at fight number two. Between the four services, there are three different season and episode numbers to make sense of. Netflix is the hardest to navigate because it restarts the episode count every season, but it is still the best pick because their handy “skip intro” option often skips past tedious recaps that play after the intro. 

Anyhow, this fight from the middle of the Chunin Exam arc is notable for how simple and hard-hitting it is. There’s not much on the line for anyone except for pride and the want to succeed. We get a nicely animated look at Rock Lee’s taijutsu, or straight physical attacks, as he pounds away at Gaara’s freakishly strong defense. Gaara commands a gourd full of sand, sending it flying through the air and packing it tightly over his own body.

There is a big dip in the action after the initial bout with a lengthy flashback to Lee’s start as an untalented ninja-in-training. It’s not a very exciting sequence, but it does establish yet another character determined to succeed no matter their circumstances. Those are always fun to root for! Lee’s crushing defeat is all the more tragic and sets up Gaara as a major force to be reckoned with.

The Third Hokage vs. Orochimaru

Series: Naruto
Runtime: About 3 hours
Best Place to Stream: Netflix
On Netflix: Season 3, Episodes 19-28
On Hulu: Season 2, Episodes 71-80 
On Crunchyroll: Season 3, Episode 71 – Season 4, Episode 80
On Pluto TV: Season 2, Episodes 71 – 80

The season and episode order isn’t the only thing getting more confusing at this point. With the Orichimaru launching a terrorist attack durin the Chunin Exams and mounting a large-scale invasion of Naruto’s hometown, the series itself starts to become more complex. Multiple fights take place simultaneously, with the episodes cutting back and forth. As a result, you can actually skip two of the episodes (“Astonishing Truth! Gaara’s Identity Emerges” and “Sasuke’s Decision: Pushed to the Edge”) to reach this fight’s thrilling conclusion.

It’s one of the first high-level duels we see in the series, with the Third Hokage, an old-but-not-out leader of the Hidden Leaf village, facing off against Orochimaru, a nasty ninja who deserted the Hidden Leaf in search of forbidden power. We are treated to a slew of impressive ninjutsu, like Orochimaru’s bringing people back from the dead and also a giant monkey king that the Third summons.

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As viscerally thrilling as the fight is, its end is a tragic blow to the village and cements Orochimaru as a big-bad villain for a long time to come. Naruto and company’s opposition to him ultimately sets up one of the greatest and worst betrayals in anime history.

Naruto vs. Sasuke

Series: Naruto
Runtime: A little under 3 hours
Best Place to Stream: Netflix
On Netflix: Season 5, Episodes 22 – 29
On Hulu: Season 3, Episodes 128 – 135
On Crunchyroll: Season 5, Episode 128 – Season 6, Episode 135
On Pluto TV: Season 3, Episodes 128-135

It can be hard to truly enjoy Naruto’s fight with Sasuke at the Valley of the End toward the end of the first series because of how high the stakes are and how hard the ending hits.

Sasuke has just defected, essentially leaving his entire life behind, to acquire more forbidden power from Orochimaru, who we hate. After a long and bloody journey, Naruto catches up to Sasuke and is dead set on bringing him home. Their spectacular fight is on full display starting at “The End of Tears”, but you can start earlier with “A Cry on Deaf Ears” to get the full picture, albeit with some flat animation.

The conclusion of this fight sets up yet another long-lasting obstacle for Naruto to overcome, which is tragically Sasuke himself. Their dueling ideologies will form the backbone of everything to come in Part 2.

Chiyo and Sakura vs. Sasori

Series: Naruto Shippuden
Runtime: About 2 hours 30 minutes
Best Place to Stream: Hulu
On Hulu: Season 1, Episodes 21-27
On Crunchyroll: Season 1, Episodes 21-27

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You’ll notice that from here on out, we’ll be talking about Naruto Shippuden, the freshly titled continuation of Naruto’s journey to become Hokage. You can think of it as Part 2. You might also notice that you can’t stream it on Netflix (at the moment at least), so you’ll have to jump over to Hulu or Crunchyroll. Shippuden picks up two years after Naruto loses to Sasuke, with a larger focus on the inner workings of the ninja world and the overarching efforts to shape its destiny. 

Up to this point, the dreaded Akatsuki’s mission to forcibly gather the tailed beasts is mostly incidental to each arc’s main story. That each member is an overwhelmingly powerful foe has been cause for concern, but never the driving force for Naruto to take action. That is until they target Gaara. Even though Naruto’s newfound strength is on full display, the highlight of this arc actually goes to Sakura as she heroically takes down a member of Akatsuki.

Sakura, it turns out, trained intensely during the timeskip and gained immense strength, allowing her to finally bring something to the table. Even though she is outmatched against Sasori, she never gets rescued by Naruto. Instead, Sakura teams up with Chiyo, an experienced elder no longer proficient in combat, to strategically take down someone well above her level.

Jiraiya vs. Pain

Series: Naruto Shippuden
Runtime: A little over 1 hour
Best Place to Stream: Hulu
On Hulu: Season 3, Episodes 130-33
On Crunchyroll: Season 6, Episodes 130-133

For the longest time, Jiraiya was seen as a cringey old man first and a heroic ninja second. His prowess as a ninja was often overshadowed by his creepy perversions, but it is against Pain, his former pupil, that his legacy is cemented as a true warrior.

Jiraiya’s best ninjutsu comes up short against the legendary Rinnegan, an ocular technique so powerful that its existence was questionable. And it’s not just one person with the special eyes he’s up against, there are six Rinnegan users working in perfect harmony and countering his every move. As the fight gets more desperate, it’s clear that things aren’t going Jiraiya’s way, and while characters certainly have died in the series, his defeat and death are one of the series’ most shocking moments.

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But his death was not in vain, as it inspires Naruto to make good on his hope for peace and reach even greater heights. In confronting Pain, we hope that Naruto will both avenge and surpass his master all the while saving the world from evil. But their fight comes to a screeching halt when Naruto engages diplomatically and wins out with the much meme’d “Talk No Jutsu.” Without Jiraiya’s death, Naruto may not have reached this point on his journey to become Hokage.

Sasuke vs. Itachi

Series: Naruto Shippuden
Runtime: A little over 1 hour
Best Place to Stream: Hulu
On Hulu: Season 3, Episodes 135 – 138
On Crunchyroll: Season 6, Episodes 135 – 138

Sasuke has been talking about trying to kill his brother all the way back to the day we met him. Behind every one of Sasuke’s actions is the hidden motivation to grow stronger and take his revenge. His tragic betrayals have all been in service of this singular goal. Through bits and pieces dropped over the series, we come to learn that Sasuke is not only avenging the loss of his mother and father. He is also mourning the loss of his childhood. He believes that the Itachi he knew before the massacre is who Itachi really is. He also believes that the Itachi who killed everyone he ever loved must be stopped.

The fight that ensues is cathartic and thrilling, but also deeply sad. After a decisive blow from Sasuke, a dying Itachi presents one further wrinkle to his story. It makes Sasuke and everyone at home question if what just happened was right. Or if the fact that it happened even matters at all. More on this question from Kabuto during the Fourth Shinobi World War.

Madara Uchiha vs. The Allied Shinobi Forces, Naruto and B vs. Obito and the Tailed Beasts, Sasuke and Itachi vs. Kabuto

Series: Naruto Shippuden
Runtime: Over 12 hours…
Best Place to Stream: Hulu
On Hulu: Season 6, Episodes 322-342; Season 7, Episode 362 – 375
On Crunchyroll: Season 16, Episode 322 – Season 17, 342; Season 17, Episode 362 – Season 18, 375 

You’re in for a real ride with the Fourth Shinobi World War. Not only are big questions getting answered, there are legendary ninja clashing left and right in a seemingly endless series of climactic battles that push the limits of what a shinobi can accomplish. The main fights intersect with each other, which means there’s no good way to jump straight to any one of them. If you’ve got a good weekend lined up with nothing to do, you might just be able to make it through three of the best fights yet.

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Madara’s fight against the remaining Kages is a masterfully animated sequence, with his flurry of attacks suggesting that what we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. But then the action shifts to Naruto, who is taking on every reincarnated tailed beast in a kaiju smackdown with only B to back him up. The big Biju in the room is finally addressed when we get a clear look and feel for each of the legendary creatures that felt forgotten by the series itself.

Meanwhile, Kabuto, having just resurrected and enslaved history’s most powerful ninja, faces off against Sasuke and a freshly reincarnated Itachi. Kabuto is one the many big bads attempting to outmaneuver every other big bad and is on the verge of achieving godhood. It’s crazy stuff! Ultimately, the Uchiha come out on top, all the while adding even deeper layers to how Sasuke sees and understands his brother.

And finally, everyone who’s left standing is fighting Obito and/or Madara. And just when you think the war is won, there is always another sudden twist and sharp turn to raise the stakes. And it is iconic all the way. 

Naruto vs. Sasuke

Series: Naruto Shippuden
Runtime: A little over 1 hour
Best Place to Stream: Hulu
On Hulu: Season 9, Episodes 476 – 479
On Crunchyroll: Season 17, Episodes 476-479

After an unbelievable number of ever-escalating fights, and with the dust settling from Cell 7’s scrappy triumph over Kaguya, all that’s left is for Naruto and Sasuke to clash one last time. 10 fights be damned, the conclusion to their legendary rivalry makes 11.

While Sasuke is focused on fixing and reshaping the world, Naruto resolves to bring Sasuke home once and for all. After world-endingly destructive techniques, brutal bare knuckle taijutsu, and a slew of last-ditch attacks, they reach an impasse. The physical fight is over without a clear winner, but for Naruto this never was a fight to be won with might. His words finally reach Sasuke and succeeds in his series-long mission to bring Sasuke home. 

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Naruto’s indomitable will and determination to make the world a better and more peaceful place wins out once and for all.

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