“Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster, but an elegant weapon for a more civilised age”.
Who doesn’t love a good sword fight? Sword fights on film have always served a clear storytelling purpose. Spectacle aside, they bring protagonist and antagonist into decisive confrontation and usually allow for them to spar verbally at the same time as crossing their blades. The sword fights in The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Princess Bride and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are just three standout examples from across the decades, and the Star Wars Saga can stand with the best of them.
In this edition of The Film Magazine’s Ranked series, we’re ordering every lightsaber fight in a Star Wars movie from worst to best (not counting dreams or projections, otherwise we’d be here all day). Considerations for the ranking include style and choreography (the look), character and emotion (the context) and location and fight progression (the storytelling).
14. Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi & Yoda vs Count Dooku (Attack of the Clones)
“It is obvious that this contest cannot be decided by our knowledge of the Force… but by our skill with a lightsaber.”
After being rescued from execution by Yoda and the newly created clone Grand Army of the Republic, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi chase down the fleeing Count Dooku and confront him for a fateful battle.
The problem with this fight isn’t the concept; it’s the execution.
The whole thing takes place in a dark, visually unappealing hanger, the editing to strobing lightsabers in the early stages (seemingly to hide Christopher Lee’s lack of mobility) disorients, and the final stage when Yoda enters the fray (much of a thrill as it was in 2002) is rubbery CG at its early-2000s worst. It’s just another delay in an already overlong film, only serving to explain how Anakin lost his arm.
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13. Anakin Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Count Dooku (Revenge of the Sith)
“Your swords please – we don’t want to make a mess of things in front of the Chancellor!”
Anakin and Obi-Wan infiltrate a droid capital ship to rescue Chancellor Palpatine, who is being held hostage on its highest point. There, they come face-to-face once more with Count Dooku.
The considerably advanced choreography used throughout Episode III stands out straight away, and even swapping out Lee for his more nimble stunt double is more convincing this time around. Dooku’s drawling mockery of his Jedi opponents adds colour but it’s all over too quickly to make much of an impact, despite efforts to echo the climactic throne room battle in Return of the Jedi, complete with Palpatine egging the fighters on from his chair and the hero winning the fight by unleashing his anger.