The Epic

An epic is a long story centered on a heroic character that describes a series of exceptional events, similar to and suggestive of epic poetry. There are numerous epics in fiction and storytelling. Epics are majestic depictions and capture impressive struggles, such as stories of war, adventures, and other efforts of great scope and size over long periods of time.

Form is mostly limited to literature and theater, and includes.
  • Epic Poem (also known as classic epic)
  • Epic Narrative (also known as modern epic)
  • Epic Movie (more broadly defined, includes film adaptations of the literary epic as defined here)
    • Battle Epic (sub-trope, when a movie is focused on war or a battle)

Some basic guidelines:
  • A longer-than-average story that...
  • ... Is wide in scope (not just one battle or skirmish, but a country-wide/planet-wide/galaxy-wide war or catastrophe) and...
  • ... Follows one hero, group of heroes or bloodline, who...
  • ... Strive to achieve a particular goal or complete a quest, in the course of which they...
  • ... Commit extraordinary deeds and...
  • ... Have multiple (three or more) separate adventures in the course of their quest or journey.

The classic epics had their own guidelines:
  • Starting In Medias Res, usually later having The Hero explain via Flashback How We Got Here
  • "Invocation of the Muse" (formally asking one of the Muses to help the author live up to the task of doing the story justice, or achieve whatever goal they have in mind for it)
  • A trip to the Underworld

Can be divided into a few different subgenres. The divisions also come in two flavors, Form and Subject (may be subtropes/genres). Both forms can be divided by subject:
  • Heroic (one person, may include companions, but focused on the person)
  • Familial (follows a particular lineage)
  • and National (follows the history of an entire nation, not common)

Not to be confused with the modern bastardization of the term just to mean "awesome."

This is a distinguishing characteristic of Space Opera and High Fantasy, in that both are the Epic versions of Science Fiction and Fantasy respectively.

Please do not add an example without ensuring that it first meets the criteria.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

  • Avatar: a human soldier is granted control of an alien body to in order to learn their culture, but decides to take up the aliens' cause against human colonialist ambitions.
  • The Birth of a Nation
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy
  • Gladiator: A general betrayed by a depraved emperor fights as a gladiator to save Rome from his tyranny.
  • The Godfather
  • Hero
  • Indiana Jones: An adventurous archaeologist opposes corrupt 20th century dictatorships seeking to use powerful artifacts for nefarious purposes.
  • Interstellar fits this to a T. There's even a journey to the underworld through a black hole.
  • Inception is also an epic in the classical sense. It even deals with a hero on The Homeward Journey. The in-media-res opening, the three adventures, a symbolic journey to the underworld in the last act: it's all there. Chris Nolan seems to know The Epic like the back of his hand.
  • Kill Bill
  • Lawrence of Arabia: An eccentric Englishman leads the Arabs against the Ottomans during World War I in pursuit of fame, and glory, and a state the Arabs can call their own.
  • The Lion King: A young lion seeks to avenge his father's death and reclaim his birthright as king.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Adapted from Literature.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • The Matrix
  • Once Upon a Time in China
  • Patton: A brilliant and egotistical general leads U.S. forces in World War II, helped by his great talent and hindered by his flaws.
  • Starship Troopers
  • Star Wars: The destiny of the galaxy is determined by the conflict between one mystic order representing good and another representing evil. Taken individually, the Prequel and Original trilogies are the epics of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, respectively. Taken as a whole, the series is a Familial epic of the Skywalker family.
  • The Ten Commandments

    Light Novels 


    Live-Action TV 


  • Food For The Gods by Fireaxe spans three discs, and is just a few minutes under 4 hours long. It follows the history of religion throughout the centuries.
  • Moira, which was deliberately written to resemble classical Greek epics.
  • Coheed and Cambria's entire discography.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS has a number of potential epics for The Gamemaster to work with in its various Sourcebooks some of which are quite well done. Several are suggested in the sample campaigns. In Vikings one can replay any saga or make up one's own. There is even a mythic campaign theme in which Loki escape's and threatens to bring about Ragnorak before its time. In Traveller Sword Worlds there is 100 Parsecs which is about the journey of a group of Sword Worlders to set up a new civilization in which the Sword Worlder way of life may be preserved far in the reaches of the universe. One can also do the original founding of the Sword Worlds which is an intensely powerful theme. Intersteller Wars is in a way a "national epic" of the Terran Confederation. In fact some Gurps ideas are so good that it is a tragedy that they were never taken in hand by a writer worthy of them. Hopefully one is waiting.
  • Exalted is epic in a modern, bastardized meaning— but it can also be played as a classical Epic. It can be personal, following a Solar and his close friends. It can be national, following a Threshold nation guided by various Lunars who are in a master-apprentice chain. It can be generational, following a lineage of the Dragon-Blooded as they fight various enemies of Creation.
  • Warhammer 40,000
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse : A twist on the classic werewolf myth, wherein the titular monsters are actually Holy Warriors of Mother Earth fighting to make the world a kinder and gentler place.



    Video Games 


    Web Original 

    Western Animation