Follow TV Tropes


The Epic

Go To

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.

Originally limited to literature and theater, epics have expanded into the visual realm with the advent of film. Variants include:

  • Epic Poem (the predominant form of classical epics)
  • Epic Narrative (modern literary epics, as well as some traditional narratives)
  • 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 criteria:
The Epic is

  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • In Greek epics, "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.
  • Often, a journey 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)

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

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


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

Classical Epics

Modern epics:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • AKIRA, both the manga and the film.
  • Attack on Titan: A company of brave soldiers fight the people-eating giants who terrorize humanity and pursue the answers behind the horrifying mysteries of their world. It is basically a Heroic epic focused on Eren, but places major emphasis on his companions in the survey Corp., especially Mikasa and Armin.
  • Berserk: In a world where fate is controlled by demonic forces, a warrior seeks the cure for his lover's insanity and revenge against the friend who betrayed them in exchange for godlike power. It fits the Heroic epic mold, being a long story about the multiple adventures and great deeds of Guts and his companions. As an added bonus, the manga and anime both begin In Medias Res and all versions include at least one trip to the underworld—or rather that universe's equivalent.
  • Black Clover: A magic-less boy in a world where everyone else is a mage gains the power of anti-magic swords, and joins a Magic Knight squad who protect the kingdom from threats on his journey to become the greatest Magic Knight of them all.
  • Bleach: A teenager is given the power of a shinigami and uses it to aid an organization dedicated to cleansing souls of evil and helping them pass on to the afterlife.
  • B: The Beginning
  • Bubblegum Crisis
  • Claymore: In a world where monsters called Yoma prey on human and only a new special breed of female warriors can fight them, one of these warriors, Clare, seeks revenge against the creature that robbed her of a person she cared deeply about. The story starts off In Medias Res, following Clare in her missions and development as a person, it then grows to follow the adventures of group of survivors as they slowly understand that in their world things are not as they appear, and their actions will ultimately determine the fate of all of their own comrades and the land they live on.
  • Code Geass: Upon being granted a supernatural power to control people, a young genius takes control of the resistance movement to liberate Japan from The Empire.
  • The Dagger of Kamui: One of the earliest ninja epic of the genre.
  • Death Note: Granted a supernatural notebook that will cause the death of whoever's name is written in it, a young genius plots to rid the world of criminals while the world's greatest detective attempts to end his reign of terror. A Heroic epic about a Villain Protagonist with elements of Tragedy.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: A young boy comes home from running errands in a nearby village to find his family slaughtered and his sister transformed into a demon. He sets out to find a way to turn her back into a human, joining an order of swordsmen who use special powers to slay demons, leading him into conflict with increasingly powerful demons to find a cure.
  • Dragon Ball: The life and times of the greatest warrior the world has ever seen.
  • Fairy Tail: A teenage wizard joins the titular guild and helps them out with their quests. It starts with missions for money, some stages develops into always greater scope, that has an entire world at risk.
  • Fate Series:
    • Fate/stay night: The adopted son of a mage is forced into a seven-way battle for the Holy Grail between mages controlling resurrected heroes of myth and legend. A Heroic epic focused on Shirou and his companions.
    • Fate/Zero: The story behind the tragic events of the Fourth Holy Grail War, which set the stage for those of Fate/stay night. This prequel decisively broadens the story into a Familial epic as a major theme is how the descendants of the Fourth War's participants inherited their parents' powers, conflicts, curses, and ideals.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Original: Two disfigured brothers search for a way to undo their mistakes of the past, only to be engulfed in a massive political conspiracy.
    • 2003 anime: Has the same basic premise but goes in a different direction halfway through. Compared to the manga, it's mainly centered on the trials and tribulations of the Elric brothers, and has a more personal conflict, but it's still quite large in scope, since it involves a government conspiracy similar to the one from the manga, as well as an Alternate Universe. The original source material is more of a National epic, while the 2003 anime is more of a Heroic epic.
  • Girls und Panzer: In a World... where Non-Lethal Warfare fought by schoolgirls with Tanks is a Martial Art that moves and shakes the fate of nations, a disgraced young warrior reluctantly returns to the path of "Panzercraft" to protect her School and newfound home from imminent closure
    • Girls und Panzer der Film: Continuing from previous plot, a corrupt authority goes back on his words and betrays the protagonists. Previous rivals joins forces against their differences to help the heroes proving their mettle to the world as said disgraced young warrior faces her fated ancestral rival.
  • Hellsing: With the most powerful vampire of all at their side, an elite government organization protects England from supernatural threats and goes to war with vampiric Nazis trying to take over the world.
  • Hunter × Hunter: A young boy sets out to become a Hunter to find his father, encountering many criminals, monsters, and other difficult challenges along the way.
  • Inuyasha: A high school girl falls into a well that transports her to Feudal-Era Japan, where she meets the titular Inuyasha and travels with him and a group of other allies to find the scattered shards of the Shikon Jewel before the demon Naraku can obtain them.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: A mighty hero studies a secret art in order to kill an undead vampire, setting in motion a multi-generational epic. This is definitely a Familial epic, as it follows a bloodline of heroes through history with each story focused on a different member.
  • Kill la Kill: A rebellious young woman equipped with a sentient power-enhancing uniform challenges a tyrannical student council president, seeking answers about the murder of her father.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes: Two heroes and a supporting cast of hundreds find themselves on opposite sides of a war that will determine whether mankind will be ruled by democracy or autocracy — and the choice isn't as clear-cut as it may seem on the surface.
  • The Legend of Mother Sarah: A strong and determined woman travels a post-apocalyptic wasteland, searching for her lost children in the midst of a catastrophic war. Despite the theme of family it is basically a Heroic epic focused on Sarah.
  • Magi: Labyrinth of Magic
  • Monster: A Japanese brain surgeon in Germany seeks to kill a young man whose life he once saved, who has grown up to be a deceiver and killer as terrible as the Antichrist.
  • My Hero Academia: A powerless boy suddenly inherits the strength of The World's Greatest Superhero, and enrolls with a new generation of young heroes in an Academy of Adventure to carry on the Flame of Justice and Hope once borne by the now dying Champion of Peace.
  • My-HiME: A deconstruction that analyzes what happens when the once-perfect Magical Girl is burdened with the tragic-flaws of mythic heroes.
  • Naruto: A young ninja strives for greatness, and in the process is embroiled in a conflict that will decide the fate of the world.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: After the apocalypse, a group of children are involuntarily charged with defending the remnants of the human race from alien beings seeking their destruction, or so they think...

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

  • Alien: The struggle of everyman heroes in the distant future to stop the eradication of humanity at the claws of parasitic Freudian bioweapons created by an uncaring race of godlike "Engineers."
  • 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.
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915): The Ur-Example for film and the first modern blockbuster.
  • The Covered Wagon
  • DC Extended Universe
  • The Dark Crystal
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy
  • Dollars Trilogy: A Spaghetti Western saga chronicling the adventures of the mysterious Man With No Name, a cynical murderer for hire wandering across the amoral and blood-soaked wastes, who nevertheless brings justice to this savage desert through his cunning, cruel sense of honor and his lightning-fast revolver. A brutal Deconstructor Fleet that thoroughly shatters the black-and-white romanticism of The Wild West of Hollywood.
  • The Fast and the Furious series: Starting out as a humble low-budget street racing series, the series rapidly escalates from Fast Five onward into a Heist-Movie Family Saga of a band of Badass Driver ex-cons turned secret-agents that take on world-threatening terrorists, all the while performing progressively astounding feats of driving that would put James Bond to shame.
  • Finding Nemo: On the surface a Road Trip Buddy Picture starring talking fish, this Pixar hit fits surprisingly well into the structure of the Homeric Journey, as Marlin encounter allies, misleads, thresholds and guardians and even trips to the literal-underworld of his ocean world on his grand journey to find his son, and discover himself.
  • Forrest Gump: A ludicrously lucky Idiot Hero blunders through 30 years of American history, experiencing, participating in and even helping to shape key-historical-moments in the changing world of the Cold War with his Simplicity, Kindness and Optimism.
  • Frozen, even more so in its sequel.
  • Gladiator: A general betrayed by a depraved emperor fights as a gladiator to save Rome from his tyranny.
  • Ghostbusters: With the power of science, Three Financially Struggling Scientists and an Ex-Marine hunt the restless-dead and Save The World from the apocalyptic machinations of A Malevolent Babylonian God.
  • The Godfather
  • Hero
  • Highlander
  • How to Train Your Dragon: A timid yet smart young Viking befriends a legendary dragon, forming a bond that turns his clans' mortal enemies into their greatest allies.
  • Indiana Jones: An adventurous archaeologist opposes corrupt 20th century dictatorships (and one time, a bloodthirsty cult) 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. Christopher Nolan seems to know The Epic like the back of his hand.
  • Kill Bill: An homage to Samurai films and Westerns, in which a Dark Action Girl wakes up from a four-year coma, and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the people responsible. Long enough to be released in two parts.
  • Kung Fu Panda: The adventures of an unlikely hero destined to join a team of legendary kung-fu warriors and face some of the greatest threats in China.
  • 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 (1994)
  • The Lord of the Rings: Adapted from Literature.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe: A story of the world's greatest superheroes saving the day from evil in one 23-film long Myth Arc known as the Infinity Saga.
  • The Matrix: A computer programmer discovers that the world he lives in is a machine-generated simulation and that they are actually using humans as a power source, leading him to join a small group of rebels and take the fight to the machines.
  • Moana: The future ruler of an island nation with a strange mystical connection to the ocean sets off across the sea, fighting off various mythical beings, befriending others, and journeying to the Realm of Monsters, in order to avert an apocalypse by restoring a goddess' heart.
  • Napoléon
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?, following the example of The Odyssey.
  • 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.
  • Pinocchio, due to its structure and adventure narrative, is often called the "first animated epic".
  • Pirates of the Caribbean The misadventures of an eccentric drunken pirate captain on quest after quest for immortality while tackling eldritch and mystical forces during The Golden Age of Piracy.
  • The Spider-Man Trilogy.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, for a film starring SpongeBob features the title sponge confronting King Neptune, encountering a cyclops, and deciding the fate of his home. The tone and homages make this a "mock epic" of sorts.
  • 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 various installments of the Expanded Universe shine a spotlight on the lives of numerous individuals throughout galactic history.
  • The Ten Commandments (1923)
  • The Ten Commandments
  • Terminator: Chronicling the decisive battles for supremacy of the future between man and machine fought in the present day.
  • Titanic (1997)
  • TRON and its sequel, TRON: Legacy.
  • The original Planet of the Apes, as well as the reboot trilogy Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
  • The X-Men Film Series.

    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.
  • Owl City gives off vibes of... all sorts of things, but "To the Sky" in particular hints at an epic, massive adventure.
    On the heels of war and wonder
    There's a stormy world up there
    You can't whisper above the thunder
    But you can fly anywhere.

    Purple burst of paper birds
    This picture paints a thousand words
    So take a breath of myth and mystery
    And don't look back.
  • 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 Game Master to work within 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 escapes 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
  • 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 Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: