Call me a mindless consumer, but part of the reason I love the Star Wars franchise so much is the guarantee of seeing a Jedi vs Sith showdown at some point in the runtime.
The lightsaber duels have created some of cinema’s greatest action scenes … and some of its worst. How would I rank them all?
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17 – Obi-Wan Kenobi VS Darth Vader (A New Hope)
I feel quite bad putting the original lightsaber duel in last place, but it’s not an exaggeration to say we’ve come leaps and bounds since 1977.
They hardly move their limbs at all, and there’s no sense of urgency in the fighting. I know Alec Guinness was an old man, but they could have done more with the choreography.
16 – Obi-Wan Kenobi & Anakin Skywalker VS Count Dooku (Attack Of The Clones)
While the old man scrap in “A New Hope” can be partly excused in hindsight, the final battle in “Attack Of The Clones” is just straight up bad for all the wrong reasons.
The cinematography and choreography are atrocious, and the CGI they use to insert Christopher Lee’s face onto his stunt double is woeful. The close-up shot of Anakin and Dooku fighting while lightsabers illuminate their faces never fails to make me laugh.
15 – Qui-Gon Jinn VS Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
This hardly counts as a lightsaber duel at all, as Qui-Gon and Maul only lock blades about five times before Qui-Gon runs away.
I’m sure audiences were hyped at the time to see the first lightsaber duel in twenty years, but this is just a tease of what’s to come.
14 – Yoda VS Count Dooku (Attack Of The Clones)
Yoda’s entrance is pretty cool, and he slightly saves the terrible fight that preceeds this, but the real climax to “Attack Of The Clones” isn’t much better than the first battle.
It’s just so boring watching a CGI bogey zip around while an old man swings his arms aimlessly, and it ends within seconds.
13 – Rey VS Kylo Ren on Kijimi (The Rise Of Skywalker)
Another duel that’s over before it really begins, the first of the two Rey vs Kylo fights in “The Rise Of Skywalker” is clearly just a setup for their later scuffle.
The teleporting between places was cool I guess, and the shot of them destroying Vader’s mask earned it a bonus point.
12 – Mace Windu & 3 Useless Jedi VS Palpatine (Revenge Of The Sith)
A fight in two parts, the initial scuffle where Palpatine takes down three “top” Jedis in three swings is laughably bad.
The second part of the fight, where Mace Windu and Palpatine actually have a proper duel, is much better, and the ending with Anakin cutting Windu down is a great way to cement his downfall to the dark side.
11 – Luke Skywalker VS Kylo Ren (The Last Jedi)
You might think a lightsaber duel without any lightsaber fighting would be pretty boring, but actually the final fight in “The Last Jedi” was one of the better subversions in the film.
Luke avoiding Kylo’s blows was incredibly fun to watch, and once it’s revealed it was all a ploy to help the rebels escape I respected the time-wasting tactic even more.
10 – Obi-Wan Kenobi & Anakin Skywalker VS Count Dooku (Revenge Of The Sith)
Obi-Wan’s and Anakin’s rematch with Count Dooku is miles better than the first, as this time you can actually get a good sense of the choreography and blocking.
It’s a little disappointing when Obi-Wan gets taken out of action almost instantly, but Anakin makes up for it with his masterful ability. It’s surprisingly brutal when he cuts both of Dooku’s hands off, and the decapitation is a great way to end it.
9 – Rey & Finn VS Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens)
I, like many others in the cinema at the time, expected Finn to be this trilogy’s jedi, so when Rey grabbed the lightsaber the whole theatre gasped.
The following fight is decent, albeit a little restrained – Rey is untrained and Kylo is injured, after all. We’d have to wait until “The Rise Of Skywalker” to get the proper showdown between the two of them, but it was a good start.
8 – Obi-Wan Kenobi VS General Grievous (Revenge Of The Sith)
George Lucas must have thought to himself “Hmmm … Darth Maul was really popular with his two lightsabers … let’s have four this time!” and I’m certainly not complaining.
The duel between Obi-Wan and Grievous is one of the most quotable exchanges in the franchise, and the lightsaber action is exceptional. They ditch the lightsaber stuff halfway through the fight, but the initial action was great.
7 – Yoda VS Palpatine (Revenge Of The Sith)
There are two absolutely insane fights that happen near the end of “Revenge Of The Sith”, and my least favourite of the two is the Yoda vs Palpatine one – it has the same sort of CGI problems as the Yoda vs Dooku fight in “Attack Of The Clones”, but you can tell they’ve perfected it this time around.
I love that they use the entire senate building in the fight, and I also really like how there wasn’t really a winner by the end of it. At times it feels like it distracts from the other show-stopping fight, but on its own it’s a really good battle.
6 – Rey & Kylo Ren VS The Praetorian Guard (The Last Jedi)
I’ve seen a few people say this fight is bad because when you slow it down you can see gaps in the fight choreography … who the hell is watching this film in slow motion? Just watch it at normal speed like everyone else!
Ignoring the fact it comes after one of the worst subversions in the film, this is an absolutely fantastic fight with some stunning cinematography.
5 – Rey VS Kylo Ren on The Destroyed Death Star (The Rise Of Skywalker)
I had a hard time picking my favourite lightsaber duel of the sequel trilogy, as none of them really quite live up to the heights of the franchise’s best – but the final Rey vs Kylo duel is packed with the most emotion.
The setting of the fallen Death Star is amazing, and the crashing waves make for an intense backdrop to an already dramatic fight. Some of the choreography is a bit off, and this style of lightsaber fighting (where they slam into each other) doesn’t float my boat, but it was certainly entertaining.
4 – Luke Skywalker VS Darth Vader (Return Of The Jedi)
In terms of pure emotion, lightsaber duels don’t get much more intense than this.
The Luke vs Vader rematch feels like a clash of the titans, with the strongest Jedi and the most fearsome Sith in the galaxy facing off against one another – all while the themes of family and redemption are at an all-time high. There’s not a moment in particular that stands out, but on the whole it was an amazing way to end the original trilogy.
3 – Obi-Wan Kenobi & Qui-Gon Jinn VS Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
Accompanied by “Duel Of The Fates”, a Star Wars duel has never been as epic as the Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon double-team in “The Phantom Menace”.
Darth Maul is a formidable foe, and his double lightsaber is so awesome. The stunt performances are excellent throughout, and John Williams’s score makes it ten times better.
Why is it not even higher? Well, there are a few times where they cheat a little bit to make sure the 2v1 is fair – Obi-Wan gets side-lined really early on, and some of his wayward attacks have always annoyed me.
2 – Luke Skywalker VS Darth Vader (The Empire Strikes Back)
The gold standard of lightsaber duels, it’s incredible just how much they managed to improve the final battle from “A New Hope” to “The Empire Strikes Back”.
It feels like a genuine fight, except one where Luke is clearly outmatched – and that gives you a horrible feeling throughout the duel. This even contains my favourite shot of any lightsaber fight – Luke and Vader fighting on the platform near the end with sparks flying everywhere.
This fight is perfection, so why is it only number 2? Well, it doesn’t quite have the level of drama and evenly-matched fighting of the next entry …
1 – Obi-Wan Kenobi VS Anakin Skywalker (Revenge Of The Sith)
The Obi-Wan and Anakin fight in “Revenge Of The Sith” has everything I could want – fast-paced action, emotions running high, and it’s the longest battle by far whilst still being engaging.
Never has a lightsaber duel felt more like a culmination of years of practise and mastery, and both fighters pull off some of the best fighting moves I’ve ever seen. It all ends with the climactic high ground scene, a perfect and solemn way to end such an jaw-dropping battle.
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