One of the famed “Big Three” of Shonen Jump is Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, the tale of a cursed boy who aspires to become the next Hokage and become a hero everyone can admire and respect. He gets into plenty of fights along the way in his ninja career and proves himself every time.
While Naruto Shippuden has some of the biggest fights and features many new characters, the first major story arc (with younger Naruto) is not to be overlooked. Some of the most creative and personally intense battles take place during Naruto’s younger days, and now, it’s time to review the 10 coolest fight scenes in this part of the story (in no particular order).
10 Naruto, Tsunade, & Jiraiya Vs Orochimaru & Kabuto
This is one of the more chaotic battles to take place in pre-Shippuden storylines, and it involves the three famed Sannin, or the legendary three ninjas Orochimaru, Jiraiya, and Tsunade. It’s an earth-shaking battle with no holds barred.
Orochimaru approached Tsunade to have his arms healed, but negotiations broke down, and a 3-vs-2 battle soon erupts. The Rasengan, healing jutsu, summoning jutsu, chakra scalpels, and more are all showcased in this fight, and Orochimaru does well against the odds before finally retreating.
9 Rock Lee Vs Gaara
This is one of ten duels to take place during the tower phase of the Chunin exams, and it reflects one of the recurring themes of Naruto: putting raw, inborn talent vs hard work and diligence. Some ninjas are born gifted, and others have to earn it.
Gaara wields the awesome power of the one-tailed Shukaku, while Rock Lee trained like crazy to become a taijutsu master. In this fight, Rock Lee suffers defeat, but not before showcasing some truly incredible combat moves and pushing Gaara pretty far. Might Guy was moved to tears.
8 Shikamaru Nara Vs Temari
This was a truly extraordinary (and bizarre) fight scene during the final stages of the Chunin exams. Although Shikamaru Nara has a support-type combat style (using shadows to control people), he made it to the final tournament and was pitted against the fan-using Temari.
Temari was largely on the defensive, trying to avoid Shikamaru’s shadow jutsu while trying to come up with a counter-attack plan. Being the boy genius he is, Shikamaru outmaneuvered her and seemed to have won… only to surrender, due to exhaustion. He’s brilliant, but he still has room to grow.
7 Squad 7 Vs Zabuza Momochi
This is one of the first serious fights to ever take place in the series. Early on, Naruto was thrilled to accept a C-ranked mission, and Squad 7 was asked to escort a bridge-builder back to his homeland, the Land of Waves.
But water ninja attacked them, first two Chunin, then the rogue Jonin Zabuza. Despite the odds, Naruto and Sasuke worked as a seamless team to outmaneuver their foe, and Kakashi took over with his Sharingan eye and some quick water jutsu.
6 Naruto Vs Neji Hyuga
Here is another battle that took place in the final stages of the Chunin exam, and unlike Shikamaru and Temari’s duel, it was an intense slugfest. Neji’s Byakugan eyes and devastating Eight Trigrams jutsu were powerful weapons against Naruto.
But this time, guts and training finally triumphed over talent, and Naruto’s stubborn will and creative use of the battlefield allowed him to land some surprising blows on his opponent and claim a stunning victory. This was one of many instances where Naruto’s optimism and grit inspired a former enemy.
5 Naruto Vs Gaara
Naruto vs Gaara is perhaps one of the most emotional and intense battles in part one, tying with Naruto’s duel with Sasuke (more on that soon). In fact, Naruto fought Gaara on the same day as when he fought Neji.
It was one jinchuriki vs another, and both boys had long since suffered the pain of housing horrible monsters that made them pariahs. By the end, both of them were exhausted, and Naruto opened up his heart and shared his experiences with tearful words. From that moment on, Gaara was a villain no more!
4 3rd Hokage Vs Orochimaru
Orochimaru was hell-bent on crushing the Leaf Village once and for all, and only the aging 3rd Hokage stood a chance against their might. While the Sound, Sand, and Leaf ninjas fought across the town, this boss battle was taking place on a rooftop.
Incredible (and forbidden) jutsu were used on both sides, from resurrection to death seals, and the 3rd Hokage gave his very life to seal Orochimaru’s arms and render them powerless. He may have died, but Orochimaru was forced to retreat, and the “will of Fire” lived on.
3 Kakashi, Asuma, & Kurenai Vs Itachi & Kisame
This battle wasn’t terribly conclusive, but it was a fine first impression of what Kisame and Itachi are capable of. Both Akatsuki members arrived in the Leaf Village to capture Naruto, but these three Jonin intercepted them.
Kisame’s brute strength and water jutsu proved pretty scary, but Itachi’s brilliant tactics and vicious Mangekyo Sharingan were even more fearsome. Kakashi endured mind-shattering torture at Itachi’s hands before Might Guy arrived and the Akatsuki finally retreated.
2 Naruto, Rock Lee, & Gaara Vs Kimimaro
Kimimaro is a teenager who can use a bone-based kekei genkai, and he’s too powerful for any single hero to take on. Naruto challenged him first, but not even a battalion of shadow clones could put a stop to Kimimaro’s rampage.
So, Rock Lee arrived next and demonstrated some literal drunk-fu, but Kimimaro wasn’t yet defeated. Finally, Gaara arrived and challenged this bony monster, demonstrating some new powers along the way. But even Gaara was on the ropes by the time Kimimaro’s deadly illness caught up with him, and he died.
1 Naruto Vs Sasuke
And now, it is time for the defining battle of the pre-Shippuden arc of this anime. Sasuke fled the Leaf Village to pursue power, and his curse mark was making him stronger than ever. Out of loyalty, Naruto pursued him, despite the danger.
Both rivals faced off at the waterfall, and they dueled right there under the towering statues of Madara Uchiha and the 1st Hokage. Sasuke’s curse and Chidori faced off against Naruto’s demon fox cloak and Rasengan, and the results are climactic to say the least. Not to mention the intense emotional stakes. Would ambition or friendship triumph in Sasuke’s mind?
The original Naruto anime had a ton of amazing fight scenes between Kakashi, Gaara & more. Here's the 10 best ones before Shippuden.