What's better than tanks slugging it out? How about a pair of warships duking it out. A tank can weigh up to about 70 tons at the most, but most warships can easily weigh thousands or tens of thousands of tons, and require many dozens of people to operate normally, let alone actually fight.
This trope comes into effect whenever a pair of warships start fighting one another, and it doesn't matter if the ships are wooden, steel, or made of some alien material, once General Quarters sounds, this trope comes into play.
Since the introduction of the aircraft carrier, this trope has become less and less common in Real Life. See Old-School Dogfighting for the air to air equivalent, Epic Tank-on-Tank Action for the ground equivalent, and Hot Sub-on-Sub Action for the submarine version of this trope. Any tale about Wooden Ships and Iron Men will feature this almost by definition. Video game examples often take the form of Waterfront Boss Battles.
Not to be confused with the other kind of Shipping, which is about characters... erm... getting some action. Also has nothing to do with Ship-to-Ship Combat, where fans get into arguments over which characters should be getting some action with which. This is about multi-thousand-ton warships slugging it out. Also note, that this is just for battles taking place at sea, on a planet. Not in Space. A Standard Starship Scuffle, on the other hand...
- Doraemon: Nobita's Great Adventure in the South Seas has a massive ship battle between Captain William Kidd's crew (yes, that William Kidd) and a group of hostile pirates. Doraemon, Nobita and the rest of their gang, having accidentally crossed a time portal, ends up in the middle of the chaos.
- Master and Commander: Has two such fights on screen. The first time, HMS Surprise is forced to retreat, while in the second fight she is able to live up to her name and defeat the French Frigate Acheron.
- Battleship runs on this as the aliens are able to disable the high-tech radars and sensors that allow the USN/JMSDF ships to avoid this tropenote . Ultimately, the heroes are able to acquire the USS Missouri to destroy the last ship.
- In Harm's Way ends in a massive battle between American and Japanese naval forces.
- The Enemy Below is a case of epic ship on submarine action: a single US Navy destroyer-escort is pitted against a German U-boat, with no other ships or aircraft around to interfere.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: There's a shootout between the Black Pearl and the Interceptor as the pirates try to get the gold coin Elizabeth took back.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ends with the Black Pearl and Flying Dutchman both making a run on the Endeavour, the two of them turning her to splinters (and this is after a lengthy one-on-one duel between them over a maelstrom).
- Sink the Bismarck!, where the titular German battleship notably engages and sinks the HMS Hood, and later goes down after an epic Last Stand against the British battleships Rodney and King George V.
- The third Swordsman movie, The East Is Red, concludes with a major naval battle between the Portuguese, Japanese, and Ming navy, with the Villain Protagonist caught in-between.
- The climax of Captain Blood involves Peter Blood and his pirate ship, having agreed to fight on behalf of the British against the French, attacking the French warship and winning.
- 1959's Ben-Hur shows a fleet of Roman galleys going into battle against Macedonian ships. Since this was before guns were put on ships, the means of attack is to hurl flaming projectiles onto the enemy ship's deck, destroy their oars, and, of course, ramming.
- 300: Rise of an Empire has a humongous fleet of Persian ships commanded by Artemisia attempting to invade Greece. The only obstacle standing in their way is the small Athenian fleet of triremes commanded by the cunning Themistocles, which manages to destroy many Persian ships via clever maneuvering and ramming. Oh, and, there's also what looks like an oil tanker trying to set the Athenian ships on fire.
- H.M.S. Defiant has several such battles.
- History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II is chock full of these. Notable examples include the Battles of Guadalcanal and Leyte Gulf, which included the only two battleship-on-battleship engagements of the Pacific War.
- Destroyermen is packed with these, especially closer to the end of the series with larger warships duking it out. Although carriers and torpedoes do make a huge impact as well.
- Horatio Hornblower includes many battles, a few of which are genuinely epic:
- In Hornblower and the Hotspur, Hornblower takes his sloop HMS Hotspur into a single-ship duel with a large French frigate. In terms of combat capability this should be a Curb-Stomp Battle with Hornblower on the losing end, but a combination of circumstances make it a pretty even fight whose outcome is very much in doubt.
- In Beat to Quarters, Hornblower must take his frigate HMS Lydia into battle against El Supremo's flagship Natividad. Again, Natividad has the upper hand in terms of raw firepower, but circumstances even the odds a bit, leading to a battle that lasts two days.
- At the climax of Ship of the Line, Hornblower is ordered to confront four French ships of the line with his single ship HMS Sutherland. At four to one odds, the outcome really is pretty much guaranteed this time.
- Seas of Blood have the Anti-Hero protagonist, the Captain of a Pirate Ship called The Banshee, leading a legion of Barbarous Barbary Bandits, constantly leading his crew on sea battles, either against rival pirates, raiding merchant vessels, or battling imperial warships tasked with capturing The Banshee.
- Dogfights has two episodes focusing on the Bismarck and Yamato engaging against surface ships of the RN and USN, respectively. Both do not end well for them to differing degrees. In addition, the perspectives of their US and British opponents are also shown, ranging from crewmen of the HMS Hood and King George V to the destroyer crews of Taffy 3.
- Sabaton's standalone single "Bismarck" chronicles the single deep-water voyage of the legendary German World War II battleship. The video, coproduced by World of Warships developer Wargaming, depicts both the Battle of the Denmark Strait (between Bismarck and Prinz Eugen and HMS Hood and Prince of Wales), and the Bismarck's Last Stand in the mid-Atlantic (against the battleships HMS Rodney and King George V and the heavy cruiser Dorsetshire), as well as the carrier attack from HMS Ark Royal that made the latter battle possible.
- Radio Tapok's "Tsushima" was co-produced with World of Warships and depicts the Last Stand of the Russian Baltic Fleet under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky against Admiral Heihachiro Togo of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the 1904 Russo-Japanese War.