With Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens hitting theaters worldwide today, I want to take the time to reflect on my favorite part of the Star Wars universe: lightsaber duels. Lightsabers, the Force, Jedi, and Sith are all unique to Star Wars and are the main reasons why I love this universe so much. C’mon, don’t you get a little giddy every time you hear the humming vroom of a lightsaber?
Last — Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menance)
No, not the lightsaber duel at the end. My goal is the rank all lightsaber duels in the Star Wars films and because Qui-Gon and Darth Maul clash their lightsabers as Qui-Gon is taking Anakin off Tatooine, I’m counting this as a lightsaber duel. This duel is shot terribly, with the cameras rarely being wide enough for audiences to fully see what is happening (a common problem, as you’ll see). It also lasts for barely a minute, so this duel is definitely a wasted opportunity.
11. Ben Kenobi vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
I’ll lay off criticizing this duel too much seeing as how it is the first in the series. However, that doesn’t stop it from being a borefest of two old guys basically poking glowing sticks at each other. The duel isn’t shot that well either and the camera sticks too closely to the action. It only comes in ahead of the Qui-Gon/Maul duel because the ending is great with Kenobi submitting to the Force and the line “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine” is one of my favorite lines from Star Wars.
10. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker vs. Count Dooku (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones)
This is just a terrible duel on all accounts. Neither Jedi can last more than a minute against Dooku and Obi-Wan gets taken down like a disappointing bitch. The duel could have been interesting if Anakin fought with two lightsabers the entire time, but he quickly loses one. This duel is honestly just a bunch of spinning around that leads to dark close-ups of Anakin and Dooku. The ending is lackluster as well as Anakin basically just allows Dooku to cut off his hand.
9. Jedi Masters vs. Darth Sidious (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
Speaking of going down like a bitch, click the video above the watch three Jedi Masters get killed in a matter of seconds like a bunch of dim-witted basic bitches. The Mace Windu vs. Palpatine part of the duel isn’t half bad, but the entirety of the scene is dragged down by those first few seconds of disgraceful lightsaber combat — if you even want to call it that.
8. Obi-Wan vs. General Grievous (Episode III)
The concept of Obi-Wan facing off against a four-lightsaber wielding enemy is fine, but the execution is subpar. Master Kenobi makes quick work of two of Grievous’s hands and then after just over a minute the duel ends as the two go on a ridiculous chase and the battle is ultimately ended sans lightsabers. So much squandered potential here.
7. Obi-Wan and Anakin vs. Count Dooku (Episode III)
I like how the duel opens with Obi-Wan and Anakin fighting together. However, the unnecessary super battle droids and Obi-Wan going down like a bitch again (this guy just doesn’t stand a chance against Dooku, apparently) hold this duel back. It is shot nicely as audiences get to see all the action and the choreography is well done, but this duel just isn’t as iconic as the remaining duels on this list.
6. Yoda vs. Count Dooku (Episode II)
I really love Yoda and seeing him fight Count Dooku was a pleasant surprise. The force-using dick-measuring contest in the beginning is a bit slow, but Yoda absorbing Dooku’s Force Lightning — and sending it right back — it simply awesome. Also, Yoda using the Force to pull his lightsaber out of his pocket makes me swoon. Yoda flipping around with his little green lightsaber makes for an entertaining, if not very short, lightsaber duel.
5. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi)
What makes the rematch between Luke and Darth Vader so good is the sequence at the end where Luke seemingly gives into the Dark Side a little and bashes Vader to the ground, slicing off his right hand (because just about every Star Wars movie requires someone to lose a limb, right?). This climatic battle is what all of the Star Wars original trilogy was leading up to and it certainly delivers.
4. Yoda vs. Darth Sidious (Episode III)
My Yoda bias is obviously showing here, but I don’t care. I love this duel; it is one of the best in all of the films. Yoda dueling Darth Sidious by hopping around the Emperor’s platform as it rises up with the senate chambers as a background is simply wonderful. The duel is very entertaining and while it loses steam when Sidious just starts throwing some of the senate platforms at Yoda, the way they get locked into a Force Lightning/Kamehameha battle is very entertaining.
3. Luke vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
The first duel between father and son has to be one of, if not the most iconic scene in the entire Star Wars saga. It is well shot, the pacing is just right, the actual lightsaber combat is miles above the duel in Episode IV — Luke vs. Vader in Cloud City is one of the all-time great Star Wars scenes. My only negative really is the silly part when Luke turns into a whimp and can’t handle Vader using the force to throw some shit at Luke, but the clash on the catwalk — not to mention the the big reveal — make up for any shortcomings.
2. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul (Episode I)
These last few minutes of The Phantom Menace make the entire movie worth watching (or you can just skip to the end, I guess). This duel does so many things right — it involves everybody’s favorite Sith apprentice, a double-bladed lightsaber (ermahgawd!!), Liam Neeson using his very particular set of skills, interesting sets/locations, wonderful fast-paced choreography, great camerawork. Of course, with just about all lightsaber duels, I can’t help but be annoyed by the film constantly cutting away from the duel to something I care much less about. No one wants to see you pilot a ship, Annie. I wish Qui-Gon didn’t have to get killed — more Liam Neeson would have benefited the prequels — but at least he actually gets bested in a fight and doesn’t go down like a little pansy. The way Darth Maul dies is a little silly (why couldn’t he slice Obi-Wan while he was in the air?) and I think it could have benefited from Obi-Wan fighting Maul a little more with Qui-Gon’s lightsaber, but nonetheless, this is one helluva lightsaber duel.
1. Obi-Wan vs. Anakin (Episode III)
The finale to Revenge of the Sith is the lightsaber duel that all future lightsaber duels will be measured against. Master vs. learner, friend vs. friend, Obi-Wan vs. Anakin. Like the climactic duel in Episode I, the Obi-Wan/Anakin duel does plenty well from a cinematic point of view — choreography, cinematography, location — but the best part of the duel is its combatants. Seeing these two go against each other after being allies and friends adds emotional weight to the fight and completes Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side. I absolutely love this duel and it’s my favorite part of the entire saga.
What is your favorite Star Wars lightsaber duel? Search your feelings and let us know in the comment section below!
Austin is in his final year at the University of Florida studying English. He enjoys binge watching on Shark Tank, winning the Mortal Kombat, and occasionally stepping in for Batman when necessary.