Everyone knows about dog fighting, two fighters desperately trying to bring the other down and fly home in victory. This isn't about that, this about where dozens to hundreds of fighters mix it up in an epic battle, filling the skies with planes in a "furball". Occasionally pops up in other mediums besides air such as under water or in space!
In real life, these started in World War I, where a lot of planes fought each other for the first time. World War II had more of this, but became less common since then with the lack of big wars, sides farther apart in forces and smaller numbers of planes involved.
See also Old School Dogfight and Standard Starship Scuffle, which generally involve these; Space Fighter, with which the space version of this would be done; The Battlestar, which starts and fights in these; Airborne Aircraft Carrier, which deploys these; and Simulation Game, for the game super-genre that includes the combat flight simulator genre, in which this trope may be the centerpiece of some aerial battles.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Robotech. Both had loads of this, given that they provided the name for Macross Missile Massacre and a number of other tropes.
- Gall Force. A smaller one occurs with The Battlestar, 2 fighters, 3 Humongous Mecha and suit of Power Armor vs maybe two or three dozen "battle drones" (actually Starfish Aliens in Power Armor).
- Area 88: A series built around numerous aerial battles.
- Independence Day: There were two dogfighting scenes — the first where the alien ships were invulnerable due to their shields, and the second at the end where they weren't.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The final battle between the Rebel fighters and Imperial TIE fighters over the Death Star was one of the contributing factors to the film's success.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. There's a scene where a bunch of submarine fighters get into a fur ball, but under water!
- Top Gun. One of the major draws of the movie, the other being Ho Yay.
- Battle of Britain. The 1969 film contains a number of dogfights, including a climatic one near the end.
- Red Tails. The film features a lot of WW 2 era dogfighting as George Lucas happens to love such things.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Multiple furballs, including air and submarine battles.
- Serenity. Near the end of the movie all of the Alliance ships in the quadrant are called in by the Operative and end up in a huge fight with the Reavers.
- Occurs in the World War II reenactment film Tora! Tora! Tora!, where ace pilots Kenneth Taylor and George Welch launched from Haleiwa Airfield to engage one Japanese attack squadron. Though they were outnumbered, the freshly fueled and nimble Curtiss Tomahawk fighters scored multiple kills on the low-on-fuel and slower torpedo bombers.
- The movie Flyboys is set in WWI and features plenty aerial scuffles. With Rule of Cool prevailing much more than historical accuracy, in fact. For example, by having all the German fighters being triplanes (which were rare in reality) painted red (while only the Red Baron's was) for easy identification by the viewers during the dogfights.
- Star Wars Legends. Any time fighters show up, furballs ensue. The X-Wing Series is a frequent example, as a series of novels focusing around the piloting and espionage exploits of Rogue Squadron who are usually outnumbered by their opposite numbers.
- In the Biggles series, especially those set in the First World War, this trope happens a lot. This mimicked real life: the small, limited-range, biplane and triplane fighters would go up in squadron strength or larger, and this could bring together no less than about twenty planes in a relatively small part of the sky. W.E. Johns fictionalises an incident where there were over a hundred fighters mixing it over France sometime in Summer 1918.
- Johns also uses this trope in Biggles stories set in WW2: Biggles Flies East culminates in a decisive scene where a formation of over a hundred unescorted Japanese bombers heading for India are jumped by thirty or forty R.A.F. planes.
- Another author using this trope is Derek Robinson. In his Battle of Britain novel A Piece of Cake, he ends the novel on a cliffhanger where Squadron Leader Barton's handful of Hurricane fighters are sent into a sky-filling formation of several hundred German bombers and escorting fighters. The book ends with the British pilots resigning themselves to taking a few Jerries with them when they die...
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined). The reimagining changed a great deal from the original, adding massive numbers of fighters duking it out around the titular battlestar.
- Babylon 5. Happens fairly frequently, with actual Newtonian physics no less! Though the heavier ships often steal the show.
- Stargate SG-1 had one of these occur over Antarctica, oddly enough.
- Piece Of Cake, a 1988 mini-series about a squadron of RAF Spitfire pilots in the early years of WWII.
- Star Fleet Battles supplement Captain's Module J: Fighters! had incredibly complex rules for dogfighting. Fighters could use drones (missiles) against each other, including special "dogfight drones".
- GURPS Lensman had rules for fighter combat. A sidebar titled "The Furball" had special rules for groups of fighters in close combat.
- Ace Combat. Several missions in the franchise involve large-scale air battles, but the following three are the most outstanding examples so far in the series.
- Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War gives us Operation Battle-Axe, which involves you saving the hides of the beleaguered Allied Forces air units that were losing a major battle to control the heavily-contested Area B 7 R (AKA "The Round Table"), and you spend most of the mission hectically alternating between hunting down enemies and shaking others off your own back.
- The level "Shattered Skies" from Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies is similar in setup, with the difference being that you are trying to fight off attacking Eursean fighters and bombers as a recon satellite is being prepped for launch. One of the friendly NPC pilots uses the word "furball" to describe the situation ("We can't confirm kills in this furball.").
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation's "Weapons of Mass Destruction", where the last part of the mission, following the successful destruction of an enemy convoy carrying chemical WMD catalysts, has you being cut off from your escape route by a grand total of 50 enemy fighters in front and behind you, and you have to survive several minutes of non-stop evasion and close-calls (with little to no chance of meaningfully firing back) before The Cavalry finally arrives, whereupon the battle becomes what has been described as the biggest, most intense furball since the Shattered Skies mission.... with probably twice as much enemies and you are being supported by very competent allies (your wingman describes them as "an all-star cast").
- Star Wars Legends games built around this:
- Air Force Delta games have these, including some that occur In SPACE.
- Advance Wars: Dual Strike has some battles that take place entirely in the sky, fighter planes being the main form of offense.
- While the original Descent series is a traditional corridor-confined FPS, its In Name Only "sequel" FreeSpace is a Wing Commander-inspired Space Sim infamous for its furballs, where dozens of Space Fighters dish it out with cannons and missiles, and which actually had to design in a complicated, almost RTS-like command system to control your AI wingmen, and to bring a semblance of order into a feeding frenzy around you. Without mastering this system it's almost impossible to complete some of the more complex missions in both games.
- Elite. In all three games of the series you are a pilot of a small starship. All combat in Elite 1 and most combat in Elite 2: Frontier and Elite 3: Frontier First Encounters is either a dogfight (if you are attacked by a single enemy ship) or a furball (if there are several attackers). The game's title is a rank you achieve if you win a certain number of dogfights and furballs.
- Combat in the X-Universe series revolves around this trope. A character in the later parts of the game who flies into a Xenon sector to duke it out can bring in a few battleships and carriers, as well as combat drones, resulting in hundreds of ships battling, and dozens of dogfights going on at once. (This is partly because the AI is pretty dumb: the closest thing it has to actual tactics is charging straight at the enemy guns blazing, then turning away to avoid a collision and repeating.)
- Janes Advanced Strike Fighters has this on quite a few missions. The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is a particular example, with you and a half-dozen or so wingmen versus lots and lots of Respawning Enemies.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: A constant massive dogfight in progress can be viewed on the planet Balmorra, above the big battlefield outside the Balmorran Arms factory. At any given moment there's at least 2-3 pairs of imperial and republican fighters going at it, with AA guns from the ground joining in the fun.
- Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. Missions involving a large number of Allied and German fighters will normally turn into one of these.