The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

So many Star Wars movies. So many lightsaber and “lightsaber-adjacent” fight scenes over 42 years. Which saber duels are the best, the most visually stunning, or emotionally moving?

I don’t know much about sword technique (<—- we wrote about that here) beyond endlessly watching Lord of the Rings or Xena: Warrior Princess, but I know when a scene satisfies. Of course, this ranking is subjective. DUH. 😉 

Warning: spoilers ahead for the saga through Star Wars – Rise of Skywalker.

Counting down my top lightsaber fight scenes, with the videos to illustrate them…here we go!

6. Old Ben vs Darth Vader — (A New Hope)

It was slow;  it was sluggish, but it was our first lightsaber fight, and the emotional stakes were sky(walker) high. Looking back, it’s a wonderful galaxy-building scene, and when Luke sees Obi-Wan die, it packs a punch every time. Even after dozens of viewings.

(Even though the old Jedi Master doesn’t seem to become more powerful. I blame this on Sir Alec Guinness, who famously hated the role. That’s probably why we got Yoda in the first place.)

But this real life knight didn’t let us down — his expression when he sees Luke at the end of his Vader duel is subtle and fantastic. He gives a small smile to Vader before he puts up his sword. Iconic. Look for it. Well done, by a true acting legend.

RunPee Dan has a video explaining why this is actually one of the most realistic sword fighting styles shown in Star Wars, and here is the scene in question:

5. Young Obi-Wan vs Anakin Skywalker — (Revenge of the Sith)

I’m not a big fan of the prequels, but some scenes stand out. In Revenge of the Sith, I kept waiting for it to feel like Star Wars, instead of a documentary. I got that in the last half hour of Revenge of the Sith. And in my recent saga rewatch, I felt terrible for new quadruple amputee Anakin. Then he caught on fire and cried to his former ‘brother’ Obi-Wan. Ob-Wan is clearly full of torment, but almost casually picks up Anakin’s lightsaber and walks off. A real pal would have killed Anakin, instead of wandering away to let him burn to death. But then we would never have had Darth Vader, so….go with it.

The deciding fight on Mustafar is nicely done, if we can ignore the problems with the estranged Jedi duo fighting a foot away from LAVA. LAVA. I feel like I need to say this a third time: LAVA. Does being a Jedi give you heat resistance?

Oh well; the fight was still good. I think it gave us the emotional catharsis that we, the fans, needed, to buy fully into Akakin’s final fall from grace. As in killing Jedi Younglings and genociding the Sandwalker race isn’t enough!

For an up to date reference: Rey healed a serpent monster. Respect! And that worked into the rest of the narrative (including The Mandalorian, on Disney Plus). That made me happy and gave us important exposition without shoving our noses in it. Rey FTW.

Raise your hands if you think it’s any Dark Side coincidence that Darth Vader made his Mustafar Burad-Dur fortress on the planet he lost everything on. The Dark Side needs a constant source of pain and hatred fueled to keep fully aligned with the Sith need for anger/fear/resentment. Good way to keep hatred burning in your heart! I do get that: it gives unlimited Dark Side vested interest.

Yet…every time we see Vader in the Bacta Tank, or meditating in his oxygen cocoon, we can’t help but think he longs for his body/soul purity back. At this point I think he wants to escape the Emperor, but realizes he’s trapped by a mostly mechanical body and a well of bad deeds — he’s burned bridges from everyone who might have helped him purge the anger. It’s hard to redeem yourself after genocidal acts, even if” bringing order” to the galaxy seemed seductive at the time. No one thinks they are the Bad Guy in their story. I think Anakin did think he was helping the known worlds, and that the Jedi were the ones in the wrong with their non-attachment credo.

This video section is in 2 parts on You Tube:

4. Darth Vader vs the Data Tape — (Rogue One)

This bit gives me chills every time. It’s only a few minutes, and only at the very end, but we get to see Vader in his Sith-y prime, effortlessly wiping the walls with rebel troops. It’s a desperate scene, tracking the Death Star data tape, but fits into the beginning of A New Hope with crackling style. Even though  I knew the rebels got the plans, I was on the edge of my seat, urging, “Hurry, hurry, OMG HURRY.” So wonderfully done. When the Tantive 5 speeds away I couldn’t help but cheer. If you watch this scene directly before A New Hope you’ll notice some continuity problems, but that doesn’t diminish the power of this…raw slaughter. This is why we love to fear Vader:

3.  Luke vs Kylo Ren — (The Last Jedi)

By the Maker, this was an excellent duel: even better on repeat when you know Luke is just a Force projection. In my theater viewing, I noticed Luke’s feet didn’t stir up the salt or red iron soil beneath, unlike every other person or vehicle on Planet Crait. I chalked it up to bad continuity at the time, but then cheered like a fool when I realized this was no mistake. Mark Hamill sells the deception for all it’s worth, and when he dusts an imaginary speck off his shoulder I had to give him props for the ultimate in cool. Way. To. Go.

And the top 2 lightsaber fights…

2. Rey and Kylo vs Snoke and the Imperial Guard — (The Last Jedi)

For one thing, it was neat to see different laser weapons than sabers (the Guards’ weapons), and two…the rewatchability level of this battle royale is outstanding. The choreography was unprecedented — seeing two Force users playing off each other’s skills to fight together, like Hercules and Iolaus in The Legendary Journeys. It also lit a lot of shipper’s torches for the star-crossed couple of Rey and Kylo Ren. This was simply an outstanding scene. Great chemistry and a few really creative moves.

It lacked a distinctive theme soundtrack, and that brings it down a little.  It just isn’t the number one lightsaber fight, and that might contribute. Listen to this as it plays: it’s an “action wallpaper” of sound. But…it’s still emotionally satisfying, and impressively choreographed to show two people totally in sync.

1. The Duel of the Fates — (The Phantom Menace)

Say what you will about The Phantom Menace, but this prequel has the single best lightsaber battle in the live action Star Wars stories. John William’s soaring, ominous, chant-filled score is among the best tracks in any Star Wars movie, and Darth Maul is legit skilled and scary. When we see Qui-Gon quietly meditating on the floor, while Maul paces like a caged tiger who can’t wait to kill, it’s a perfect wordless exposition on the Dark and Light sides of the Force. And when the red laser walls kept Obi-Wan out of the fight while he watches Maul kills Qui-Gon…MAN. This was a stunning 5-minute scene that never drags.

I was surprised Obi-Wan bested Maul, despite knowing he lives through A New Hope. And losing Qui-Gon Jinn really hurt. He’s my favorite Jedi, and I was thrilled to hear his voice in Rise of Skywalker. (I held out hope til the end that Qui-Gon got together with Shmi Skywalker, so Rey could be a grandchild of the Skywalkers. Or a Kenobi: my favorite theory. But wishing does not make it so. At least we found out the truth in the end, and it didn’t fully suck.)

Just watch this again without Jar-Jar-Colored blinders and you’ll see this is inevitably the best Lightsaber duel on any level: 

Honorable Mention: Kylo Ren vs Finn

Finn’s desperate “traitor” stand against Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens was an emotional and successful moment — but missed out on the BEST OF scenes because it wasn’t that great a fight, overall. Finn was wildly overmatched, and that he stood as long as he did was a tribute to the character’s determination and concern for Rey. He also might have a touch of Force Sensitivity (See Rise of Skywalker). But a great lightsaber scene? Not as such.

Just Missing the Cut – Luke vs Darth Vader (Twice)

I didn’t include either of Luke’s lightsaber fights with Darth Vader for a few reasons that took a lot of time to consider. For one thing, Vader in Empire and RotJ was clearly toying with Luke. Vader basically Force-tossed the scenery at his son, instead of actually dueling. He wanted to make a point and then turn him to the Dark Side, not kill him. Mostly. “All too easy.” Until the whole ‘Sister’ thing came up in RotJ, when Luke started wailing on his father in rage.

The people Luke loves are his sore spot, and probably why he went into exile eventually. When Luke got angry enough in RotJ, his fighting style changed to swing, hack, swing, hack…and it’s clear he was using the Dark Side when he battered his father and cut his arm back off. (With the Emperor cackling like a damn fool from the sidelines.)  It’s a very emotional moment, but the lightsaber action isn’t that exciting. If this article was about meaningful fight scenes, this would be ranked highly. But as for a lightsaber showdown, it doesn’t perform.

 

Which top duel and/or lightsaber fight scenes did I miss? Yoda vs Count Dooku? Anakin and Dooku? Obi-Wan and General Grievous? Yoda and Palpatine? The big Order 66 showdown? Does anything from Rise of Skywalker make the grade? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Video Essay – How to Film a Good Sword Fight

All Star Wars Movies, ranked by personal watchablility. Now including Rise of Skywalker

 

Infographic of every Star Wars movie ranked by fans on IMDb and RottenTomatoes

Star Wars Revealed: Obi-Wan Kenobi is a lying liar who lies

Virgin Movie Binge Reviews – Rocky Balboa and Creed 1

Continuing our Binge watch of Rocky and Creed Movies with a viewing virgin! Enjoy!

Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa occurs several years after Rocky V. Rocky’s son has grown up and moved out of the house. Adrian died of cancer and Rocky visits her grave every day with Paulie. Paulie is the only person who is still around, but he’s getting tired of the usual routine of visiting Adrian’s grave. Rocky also owns a restaurant called Adrian’s. I think this is his only remnant of the past. Inside the restaurant he has photos of his previous fights and of his family.

This was a sad movie to watch because it seems as though Rocky is pretty lonely without boxing, Adrian, and his son. His son doesn’t come around often. I think there are some lingering feelings from Rocky V that affected their relationship.  Rocky’s son would rather not hang around Rocky due to several reasons. 1) Rocky reminds Rocky Jr. about Adrian, who is dead. 2) Rocky Jr. is resentful of Rocky because of how it affected him growing up, and continues to affect him now. Being the son of Rocky means that there are very large shoes to fill and I don’t think Rocky Jr. ever lived up to those external expectations. In large part, I think that had to do with their relationship following Tommy Gunn. Rocky focused all of his time trying to relive his old life through Tommy, and never took the time to teach his own son how to box. I think the son and society feels that he isn’t really a Balboa if he can’t fight.

Rocky earns back his license to begin boxing on a local level again. He feels that he isn’t really living and boxing will allow him to feel alive again. As usual, something occurs that pulls Rocky back into the heavyweight champion boxing world. However, the premise in this case was poor. Rocky accepts a challenge to fight Mason Dixon, the current Heavyweight Champion. This came about when a computer simulation between Rocky and Mason deemed Rocky as the winner. Despite everyone being against the idea, Rocky proceeds with the fight and loses. In his heart, he really won because he proved to himself that he is still a worthy opponent.

Overall, I didn’t like this movie because Rocky didn’t go into the fight with a solid resolve. I did like that this fight brought Rocky and Rocky Jr. closer to having the bond that they both wish they always had. Though this was sweet — I don’t think it was enough to carry the movie.

Quiz  question: What can you count on to happen in a Rocky film?

Answer:

  1. Rocky runs up the stairs or a tall structure
  2. Rocky throws his fist in the air

  3. “Eye of The Tiger” or “Gonna Fly Now” plays

  4. Rocky gets beat up initially in his fights and then makes a come back

  5. All of the Above

  6. None of the Above

(Answer is E!)

Movie Grade: C

Creed

I initially watched Creed back when it first came out in 2015. As I mentioned at the beginning of my Rocky binge journey, I didn’t know much about Rocky. After watching all of the Rocky films, and then rewatching Creed, I have a greater understanding and appreciation for this movie. When I first watched Creed, I didn’t  comprehend the significance of the title–Creed. I think I would have been so much more excited to see this movie if I was a long time Rocky fan, because this movie comes 30 years after Apollo Creed dies. So I would have thought to myself, what could this movie be about??

Now that I’ve seen Rocky, I have all of this information that I can apply to this movie. Specific scenes are more meaningful to me and jokes are funnier. Specifically when Rocky gives Adonis Creed the American flag shorts for his fight. I understand that those were the style of shorts that Apollo Creed fought most of his fights in.

This movie reminded me of the original Rocky because it offered a lot of character development to understand the character of Adonis Creed. Adonis Creed has characteristics of both Rocky and Apollo. Specifically, he grew up poor and an orphan, until he was adopted, where he began living a much more lavish lifestyle. This lavish upbringing wasn’t enough for him, because he still believed his calling was to be a boxer. I think like a true boxer, he was willing to give up everything in order to pursue his passion. I also think Adonis Creed is what Rocky Jr. could have been, if he wanted to make a name for himself outside of being Rocky’s son. Adonis grew up knowing who his father was, and I think that was his reasoning for becoming a boxer; however he wanted to make a name for himself that was not associated with Apollo.

I really like this movie, because I think this is who Rocky was meant to train. To me, this movie feels like a redo of Rocky V.  Rocky gets the opportunity to train the son Creed never knew he had, and in some ways it’s as though he has his friend back. I also like that this movie didn’t focus too heavily on Rocky, but kept true to its name and allowed Adonis Creed to be the star.  Though this is a continuation of the Rocky series, I feel like it’s also its own movie because it didn’t follow the patterns of Rocky exactly, and in fact broke many of the things that we’re used to seeing in Rocky. For instance, many of the answers from the Rocky quiz would not apply to this movie.  Nonetheless, this was a great movie and I am very very very excited to see Creed II, especially knowing what I know from Rocky IV.

Movie Grade:  B+

Thanks for sticking around for my first-time viewing of the entire Rocky franchise! I look forward to seeing Creed II tonite! My final review will be posted soon, after I add the Peetimes (of course).

Virgin Movie Binge Reviews — Rocky 1 and 2

Virgin Movie Binge Reviews – Rocky 3 and 4

Here’s our original review when Creed first came out: 

Movie Review – Creed