May the Fourth is upon us again and we thought to celebrate we’d celebrate by ranking every single live action lightsaber duel across all seven star wars movies. Without further ado we’ll get this party started…
15- Qui Gon Ginn vs. Darth Maul (Episode I)
Technically the first live action lightsaber duel in live action cannon, this battle also clocks in as the worst. Much like the film itself it’s setup is drawn out and boring, the action is muted and Liam Neeson is completely underused. I remember watching this movie in the theater as a bright-eyed 10-year-old wondering to myself why the hell Darth Maul (Ray Park) inexplicably refuses to utilize his (much hyped) dual lightsaber. Was he trying to give Ginn a fair fight? Did he forget that it was there? Was he late for his shift at the Mos Eisley Mall’s Hot Topic? Alas, only George Lucas knows for sure (but he probably doesn’t).
14- Kylo Ren vs. Finn (Episode VII)
Set in the climax of the underwhelming (yeah I said it) The Force Awakens this battle lasts for all of about 30 seconds as Finn the bumbling child former soldier is quickly dispatched by the singer of My Chemical Romance, otherwise known as Kylo Ren. The only reason this battle gets points is because the (admittedly badass) shot of Finn posing with Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber is the origin of the hilarious fake news story about the guy killing himself over the idea of a black Jedi.
13- Count Dooku vs. Obi Wan Kenobi (Episode II)
Count Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku among the many underused characters in the prequel trilogy. Dude was the living embodiment of badassery for decades and unfortunately for fans he and his hilariously curved lightsaber (Get it? Cause he’s old?) were relegated to the status of fill-in villain (fillian?) because George Lucas decided to kill off Darth Maul in the previous film. This fight is just as pointless as the previous entries due to its length and misuse of the character’s fighting skills. Kenobi is probably the greatest warriors in the history of the Jedi and he is easily (and hilariously) dispatched by Dooku after a short fight. This one does get points for Hayden Christiansen being electrocuted with force lightning.
12- Count Dooku vs. Anakin Skywalker (Episode II)
The immediate follower of our previous entry sees Anakin Skywalker engage in his first on-screen lightsaber duel. It gets points for a well-choreographed duel-wield sequence that is quickly followed by an inexplicably weird series of face shots while the combatants (presumably) lightly touch the tips of their lightsabers. One thing I actually like about this duel has to be the look on Dooku’s face after he slices off Anakin’s arm. This is the look many of us have had more times than we can count in our careers that reads “Oh Shit” as you realize you’ve done exactly what your boss told you not to do. It’s a nice unifying moment that reminds fans that Pobody’s Nerfect whether you’re a Sith Lord or the fry-cook at a greasy fast food joint.
11- Obi Wan Kenobi vs. General Grievous (Episode III)
General Grievous was yet another over-hyped character that was more a victim of the lazy storytelling of the prequel trilogy than anything else. This fight is, if nothing else, fun to watch with Obi Wan asserting himself as a great Jedi Warrior and Grievous hinting that Count Dooku secretly had a second set of arms that he used in combat to randomly helicopter two lighsabers as he readied his attack.
10- Anakin & Obi Wan vs. Count Dooku (Episode III)
This fight outpaces its predecessor due mostly in part to the fact that Anakin shows flashes of the Sith Lord he will eventually become. Christopher Lee is finally allowed to stretch his legs as a villain, taunting the young Jedi’s pride and successfully encouraging him to allow his anger to take control. This of course results in Dooku’s hands/head being sliced up like cantaloupe at brunch. But a moral victory is just as good as not being decapitated, right?
9- Mace Windu vs. Count Darth Sideous (Episode III)
Ah Mace Windu. The extended universe’s most badass warrior’s singular live action lightsaber duel can’t even crack the top 5 on our list, mostly due to the fact that it was completely underwhelming in its execution. I think the most frustrating thing about this fight has to be the fact that (1) Kit Fisto is killed off like a common red shirt (2) Mace Windu, a Jedi who’s fighting style constantly teeters toward the dark side, waits until a witness shows up to decide that he should kill Sideous and (3) Anakin suddenly fucking deciding that he should be a gatekeeper for “the Jedi way” when literally an hour or so earlier he chopped Count Dooku’s head clean off just for sport.
8- Master Yoda vs. Darth Sideous (Episode III)
In the final battle of Yoda’s career he does his absolute best to defeat his one time ally Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine but comes up short (heh, short) This one gets points for featuring the two Mac Daddies of the light/dark sides of the force but ultimately loses due to the anti-climactic finish and the weird part where the belligerents throw the senate pods at one another.
7- Darth Vader vs. Obi Wan (Episode IV)
The first lightsaber fight in Start Wars history is arguably one of it’s best. With Kenobi and Vader trading one-liners as they spar with the precision of two expert swordsmen. Re-watching this fight really gives the impression that Kenobi could have easily defeated Vader but realized that the best tactical decision was to allow Luke and the gang escape so that the Empire would eventually be brought down.
6- Rey vs. Kylo Ren (Episode VII)
The last Jedi faces off against her probable cousin in the epic climax of 2015’s The Force Awakens. After Finn is dispatched with relative ease, Kylo Ren attempts to Force-Grab his uncle/grandfather’s heirloom lightsaber, presumably to use while cutting himself and listening to Brand New (I’d go so far as to say Mixtape but I’m a sucker for the early stuff). Kylo’s big Friday night is interrupted by Rey’s inherent Force-superiority and they engage in an entertaining but not over the top battle that harkens back to the original trilogy’s lightsaber duels. Rey ultimately defeats Ren using the force and probably just a little bit of dark side style rage.
5- Master Yoda vs. Count Dooku (Episode II)
In 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back Obi Wan appears in a vision to a nearly frozen Luke and advises him to seek out Yoda, a great warrior. For the next two decades fans wondered how the hell a 3-foot tall Muppet could pass for a great warrior, much less a decent human shield. In Episode II: Attack of the Clones our prayers were finally answered in the form of an all out melee that once and for all told fans the thing many men everywhere have been saying for millennia: Size Matters Not.
4- Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader (Episode VI)
The final duel of the original trilogy follows what had become boilerplate for the franchise at the time. Luke and Darth confront each other, somebody gets their hand cut off, yadda, yadda, yradda and the movie is over. This fight makes it to the very top of this list because of how it incorporates story with action. At this point in the story Luke is completely aware of the fact that he’s harboring a pretty strong pull toward the Dark Side and realizes that, as prophesized, he must confront his father. Luke very nearly gives in to his hatred when Vader threatens to turn Leia into his next apprentice but ultimately rejects the dark side and sets up Darth Vader to become the sleeper hero of the franchise.
3- Obi Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader (Episode III)
Master vs. apprentice, this is one of the most hyped battles in all of Star Wars cannon and it completely lived up to that title. A far-reaching and acrobatic battle, fans were treated to a visually stunning fight across some kind of lava dam facility. Preposterous setting notwithstanding, this is one of our all time favorite fights with a satisfying conclusion in which Obi Wan delivers a surprisingly moving speech, acknowledging his absolute failure as both a mentor and as a guardian of the republic. He leaves Anakin for dead on the shores of the lava river (again why?) hoping that the tide will finish off this old padawan. I wonder if, on his drive home, Obi Wan thought to himself, “yanno maybe I should just go back and finish him off? Nah screw it, it’s not like someone will find him and turn him into a deep-voiced robot-samurai or anything.” The sheer embarrassment of his half-assed job is the real reason he hid in the desert all those years.
2- Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker (Episode V)
This is original trilogy’s best lightsaber duel and it comes at the climax of the best Star Wars film to date. A cocky Luke travels to the cloud city of Bespin to confront Vader and save his friends (too late Luke). The rivals battle in a visually stunning sequence across the cryo-chamber that had been used to freeze Han Solo prior to the hero’s arrival. The fight stretches across the underbelly of the city until Luke loses a hand and gains a father in one of the single most iconic scenes in the history of film.
1-Obi Wan Kenobi & Qui Gon Ginn vs. Darth Maul (Episode I)
For all its faults (and there are many, many, so many faults) the Phantom Menace actually delivers an exciting and engaging exclamation point in its third act. Ray Park’s acrobatic skills are on full display as Maul leads the Jedi through a fast paced fight across three different locations. With one masterful swipe of his fallen master’s weapon, Obi Wan asserts himself as not only a master Jedi but as one of the galaxy’s greatest warriors. Add in a fantastic score and subtract all the annoying Gungan war/ Lil Anakin dogfighter scenes and this is an absolute blast to watch (aside from Qui Gon Ginn getting killed, that was pretty lame).
For good measure we’d like to throw in some honorable mentions that, while memorable didn’t quite make the cut:
Finn vs. Storm Trooper
Not so much a lightsaber fight as it is a pointless toy commercial but still pretty funny.
Han Solo vs. Tauntaun
And he thought they smelled bad on the outside!
Darth Vader vs. Younglings
Completely one-sided affair, Anakin 23, Younglings 0.
There you have it, our completely subjective ranking of every live action Lightsaber Fight. Thoughts? Comments? Have at it.