12. Mace Windu vs Darth Sidious (Revenge of the Sith)
“It’s treason, then!”
After finally revealing himself to Anakin as a Dark Side practitioner, Chancellor Palpatine is confronted in his office by Mace Windu and a Jedi escort in an effort to subdue and arrest him.
Palpatine’s first lightsaber fight was an enticing proposition for long-time fans and it’s put together pretty well, opening with the Sith Lord spiral-jumping into battle and effortlessly dispatching Windu’s allies. Unfortunately, Ian McDiarmid isn’t very convincing going up against Samuel L Jackson, and director George Lucas seems to have avoided using a stand-in to allow for McDiarmid’s theatrical performance to punctuate the fight. Because of his lack of aptitude for the stunts, we end up with a slowed down and simplified saber fight except when Palpatine is swapped out for a CG double to flip against walls. It’s still an important moment for the saga though, the battle marking Palpatine’s shift from subtle to explicit manipulator of Anakin, the Chosen One entering the room at just the right moment to decide the victor, changing his destiny in the process.
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11. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs General Grievous (Revenge of the Sith)
“You fool! I have been trained in your Jedi arts by Count Dooku!”
Obi-Wan Kenobi tracks droid General Grievous to Utapau, where he confronts his slippery android adversary for a final time.
This fight had a lot of build-up, and if we’re being brutally honest it’s a disappointment. Grievous has a memorable character design and Ewan McGregor sells the fact that he is fighting this tricky multi-limbed menace rather than the guy in a green body stocking who was the actor’s opposition on set.
Grievous discards his cloak with a flourish, his arms split into four and each draws a lightsaber which he starts spinning like deadly propellers. There’s also great moment when they’re saber-locked and you get an extreme close-up of Obi-Wan’s blue eyes and Grievous’ yellow snake eyes peeking out of his metal shell. But the fight comes to an abrupt end when clone troopers grapple in and it is ultimately decided a few scenes later by Obi-Wan resorting to using a blaster (“So uncivilised!”).
10. Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
“He’s well trained in the ways of the Dark Side.”
With young Anakin Skywalker rescued from a life in slavery and Queen Amidala’s starship repaired, her Jedi escorts prepare to leave the desert planet Tatooine, but not before Qui-Gon Jinn and Anakin are ambushed by Darth Maul.
Our first taste of Prequel-era lightsaber combat makes it clear that many things have changed over two decades of filmmaking – the speed of the choreography and the acrobatics involved are nothing like the steady fights of the Original Trilogy. A featurette on the DVD describes this era as “the prime of the Jedi” and it certainly helps that Maul is played by Ray Park, an accomplished martial artist (reportedly better than the lead stunt coordinator Nick Gillard), and that the towering Liam Neeson convinces as a formidable warrior. This particular fight might be short and sweet, but it serves up a taste of what is to come at the film’s finale.
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9. Yoda vs Darth Sidious (Revenge of the Sith)
“I have waited a long time for this moment, my little green friend!”
The Jedi Temple has fallen, Anakin has turned to the Dark Side and Palpatine has crowned himself Emperor. As Obi-Wan rushes to confront his former apprentice, Yoda faces Darth Sidious.
It’s difficult to judge this fight in isolation because of where it appears in the structure of Revenge of the Sith, juxtaposed with the simultaneously occurring fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan.
This is very much the B fight to their A. It’s got one of the best locations for a lightsaber battle in the saga – the impossibly large Republic Senate auditorium matching the scale of this battle between two of the most powerful Force users in the galaxy. After some early dueling and impressive flexing of Force powers (most prominently throwing the floating senator platforms at each other) the fight ends in a stalemate, with Yoda losing his lightsaber and going into exile, and Palpatine seemingly never to use his blade again (at least outside the animated TV shows).