4. Rey & Kylo Ren vs Snoke’s Praetorian Guards (The Last Jedi)
“I see him turning the lightsaber to strike true. And now, foolish child, he ignites it, and kills his true enemy!”
After Kylo Ren unexpectedly kills his master Snoke, he fights side by side with Rey against the Supreme Leader’s vengeful bodyguards.
The most unexpected and yet satisfying of lightsaber battles has hero and villain standing back-to-back and engaging a common foe – a throne room full of very angry guards armed with a variety of angrier energy weapons. From the slow-mo-into-speed-ramp that opens the battle, to the creativity in Ren and Rey’s swordplay and teamwork, and the sudden bursts of brutal (for Star Wars) violence, every single thing in this lightsaber fight screams “cool”. Is it an over-indulgent and not strictly necessary action sequence? Yes. Is it incredibly awesome? Also, yes.
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3. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader (Empire Strikes Back)
“The force is with you young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi Yet.”
After cutting his Jedi training short to save his friends, Luke Skywalker faces Darth Vader for the first time in the industrial bowels of Bespin’s Cloud City.
This is an elaborate battle built to house a shocking story revelation. As Luke’s first confrontation with Darth Vader progresses from striking location to striking location – atmospheric carbon freezing chamber to shadowy maintenance tunnels and out on to a gantry over an impossibly high shaft – pace builds and tension rises and falls. Vader toys with Luke throughout their battle like a cyborg cat and his mouse. After the somewhat laboured duel in the previous film, director Irvin Kershner and sword master Bob Anderson freed up the choreography and made it more dynamic, matching the heightened emotions of this chapter in the saga and keeping the impressively mounted action rhythmically moving.
2. Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
“We’ll handle this.”
To give Queen Amedala time to capture the Viceroy of the Trade Federation and re-take the Naboo capital city, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi fight Darth Maul in the city’s power network.
Two Jedi vs one Sith wielding a deadly new kind of lightsaber – no wonder this is often cited as the best in the saga.
The Prequel choreography was a breath of fresh air – fast, exciting and highly embellished. Ray Park outclasses many screen martial artists and stunt coordinators, and effortlessly convinces you Maul has the upper hand throughout the fight despite it being 2 on 1. Anyone who isn’t at least a little bit amped up by John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” as the fight moves from the hanger to those glowing power generators probably wasn’t that into this series to start with, and the final stage of the battle brings with it shocks and perfect pacing. Every screen sword fight for a decade owed something to how this fantastic three-way-duel was put together.
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1. Anakin Skywalker vs Obi-Wan Kenobi (Revenge of the Sith)
“You were my brother Anankin, I loved you!”
Brothers become nemeses as former master and apprentice lock sabers in the refineries of volcanic planet Mustafar.
What else could it be? For the longest time we knew something like this had occurred, but we never dared hope to see it on screen. We learned Vader had once been Obi-Wan’s pupil until he turned to the Dark Side. We’d seen what was under his distinctive black armour and why he needed to wear a life-support system permanently.
This spectacular sequence gives so much payoff, is so melodramatically powerful that it transcends some laboured delivery of clunky dialogue. Incredibly, Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor really were moving that fast, their fight routine becoming reflex over months of training for two very talented physical performers. Anakin and Obi-Wan appear to be battling in a literal hellscape, the bursts of lava and showers of sparks force the combatants to break their conflict a few times, but even an unstable and deadly environment can’t halt these former friends from achieving absolute resolution through fire, brimstone and lightsaber.
What’s your favourite lightsaber fight in the Star Wars Saga? May the Fourth be with us all…