Sunday, January 1, 2017

Star Wars: All Lightsaber Duels Ranked (Least Great to Best) (Updated)

With the new Star Wars movie opening next month, I felt like posting another Star Wars related list just for the event. Today’s topic ... Lightsaber duels! It’s a more suitable weapon for a more civilized age, and probably the greatest fictional weapon in the history of Sci-Fi. Even when a lightsaber duel has problems going against it, they can always be exciting, riveting and make for great spectacles. As of now, there have been a total of 17 different lightsaber duels featured in the theatrical Star Wars movies, which dose include the animated Clone Wars movie. So, before we see what kind of epic clashes await us in the upcoming film, here are all 17 duels ranked least great to best in my personal opinion.

#17 Resisting Arrest (Revenge of the Sith)
(Mace Windu vs. The Emperor)

When the Emperor is revealed to be a dreaded Sith Lord, Jedi Master Mace Windu attempts to take him into custody, but with no such luck. While there’s never been a lightsaber duel that didn’t thrill me on some level, I will occasionally have some small issues, and this is the fight that just seems to have the most problems going against it. The whole scene just comes off as hammy, silly and plagued with some really stupid fighting choreography that’s way too over the top for its own good. It’s not without some cool moments (the two characters shattering a class window with their swords was sweet), and naturally it’s hard not to get a little excited seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a lightsaber duel.   

#16 Desert Ambush (The Phantom Menace)
(Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jin)

While Jedi master Qui-Gon Jin is leaving the desert planet Tatooine with the young Anakin Skywalker, both are suddenly attacked by the mysterious hooded Sith assassin Darth Maul. Not much to say about this one, the action music was kind of cool, but for Darth Mauls very first battle you’d except something a little more impressive, and the fight itself was really too short to leave much of an impression. 

#15 Three Against the Count (Attack of the Clones)
(Count Dukoo vs. Obi-Wan KenobiAnakin Skywalker and Yoda)

After a massive battle, the evil Count Dukoo attempts to escape, only to be confronted by the two Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Despite being out numbered, the count fights them off with ease, until Jedi master Yoda comes to put him in his place. For a climactic final battle, this duel always came off as a little too subdued, and mostly unimpressive. Most of it takes place in this really boring hanger, the lighting gets too dark at times, and there are several annoying close ups of the characters swinging their lightsabers around in slow-motion. But no lightsaber duel is without its highlights, and this time it comes from the novelty of seeing Yoda sword fighting, but even that comes off as unintentionally hilarious at times.  

#14 Cleaning up the Mess (The Clone Wars: Movie)
(Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Asajj Ventress)

After Anakin Skywalker rescues the son of Jabba the Hutt, his master Obi-Wan Kenobi is left behind to deal with the kidnaper ... a dark Jedi called Asajj Ventress. Some fans could argue that the fights from the Clone Wars movie shouldn’t count because there animated, and very different by comparison. However, this was still a theatrical movie, so I’m going to include the duels from this film, plus the animation allows for more variety that would be hard to get away with in live action. Unfortunately, this duel between Obi-Wan and Ventress is nothing particularly special, especially when compared to other fights in “The Clone Wars” TV series. The fighting choreography is sloppy, stiff and the fight itself is noticeably lacking any real tension. Never the less, Asajj Ventress is still a worthy foe, and it’s always a thrill when she’s on screen, even if it’s a small thrill like in this case. 

#13 “We Meet Again ... At Last” (A New Hope)
(Darth Vader vs. Ben Kenobi)

During a mission to rescue the kidnapped Princess Lea, an aged Ben Kenobi finds himself facing his old apprentice turned evil ... Darth Vader. This was the very first lightsaber duel in Star Wars history, but that’s really its only novelty. The fight itself really isn’t that exciting, and it’s stuck in one boring location with sub-par fighting choreography. However, the back and forth between aged master and apprentice is good, it draws you into the story rather than a flashy spectacle, and it will always have marks for being the very first of its kind. 

#12 Girls Night Out ... Fighting! (The Clone Wars: Movie)
(Ahsoka vs. Ventress)

Anakin Skywalker and his young apprentice Ahsoka are trying to reunite a kidnapped alien infant with its father, unfortunately the Dark Jedi Ventress is on their tail. She get’s the jump on the young Ahsoka while she and her master try to escape on a platform. This might just be the shortest duel in the whole series, but it’s the novelty of seeing two females with lightsabers in combat that rank it higher than the previous fights. Seriously, before this we’ve never seen a female character in a lightsaber duel before, let alone two. Plus, it's Ahsoka's only dual in the film series, that alone has some novelty. 

#11 Rematch with Dukoo (Revenge of the Sith)
(Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Count Dukoo)

While rescuing the kidnapped Chancellor, the Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker find themselves once again confronted by their old foe Count Dukoo. This is more of what I wanted from the climax of “Attack of the Clones”, no slow motion close up’s, both hero’s fight at once and the pace is consistently quick with just enough back and forth banter between the hero’s and villain. The setting is also a lot cooler as we can see a space battle raging outside the windows, and the room provides a lot of objects for the characters to move around on. 

#10 Man Against Machine (Revenge of the Sith)
(General Grievous vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi)

Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi is on the hunt for General Grievous and aims to challenge him to single combat in an effort to end a galactic war. I’m not overly fond of seeing an actor fight a CGI monster that isn’t really there on the set, and the sword duel itself has way to many close up’s that make it hard to tell what your even looking at ... with all that said, this is still an awesome fight scene. It’s cool to see a villain with four laser swords, and I love the way this duel changes its location and fighting style. At first it’s a lightsaber duel in a hanger bay, which transitions into a car chase through a cave, which then leads to a fist fight on a landing platform, so I definitely give this duel points for creativity.   

#9 Vision in the Cave (The Empire Strikes Back)
(Luke Skywalker vs. Ghostly Darth Vader)

Jedi training for Luke Skywalker takes a sudden dark turn when his master instructs him to inter a cave of darkness and evil. While there he fights what he assumes to be Darth Vader, only to realize that he was actually fighting his future self if he ever turned evil. Now this is a very different kind of fight scene, it’s not a spectacle or even that long, but it’s always been a memorable scene that’s stuck with me. I love the atmosphere, the build up and especially that haunting image of Luke’s face under Darth Vader’s helmet. This scene probably doesn’t even belong on my list, but it’s always been a favorite, and it deserves to be among the best duels of the series, just for completely different reasons. 

#8 “You Were My Brother!” (Revenge of the Sith)    
(Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Skywalker)

When Anakin Skywalker betrays his allies, commits mass genocide and takes the name Darth Vader, it forces his old master and friend Obi-Wan Kenobi to challenge him to a climactic final showdown. Let’s first get the negatives out of the way, the dialogue is terrible, the lava planet can get really distracting, the fighting choreography is so over the top that the characters look like there dancing, and it always bugged me that they both have the same color lightsaber. With all that said, this is still a pretty darn cool scene. It’s faced paced, I love how the characters move through the different locations, and the musical score is nothing short of epic. It’s a flawed but deeply thrilling final battle to conclude the prequel trilogy.   

#7 Rumble in the Desert (The Clone Wars: Movie)
(Anakin Skywalker vs. Count Dukoo)

On his way to Jabba’s palace to return his kidnapped son, Anakin Skywalker is attacked by his greatest enemy Count Dooku, and here in the barren desert of Tatooine they engage in one more duel. Of the three theatrical confrontations between Anakin Skywalker and Count Dooku, this is my favorite by far. This time the duel is a lot more inventive then your usual clash of lightsabers because both fight with different force capabilities. Dukoo unleashes lightning energy, Anakin uses wind energy, their powers collide creating a sand storm, so it’s like a battle of the elements, and the whole scene is just shot very well. I love the build up to this fight, the back and forth exchanges between hero and villain are good, and the music is riveting. This may not be a classic duel like some of the other’s I’ve listed, but it’s become a personal favorite of mine.   

#6 The Truth is out (The Empire Strikes Back)
(Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker)

When Luke ventures to Cloud City in an effort to rescue his captured friends, he lands right into a trap set by Darth Vader, the two clash, Vader reveals his true identity to his son, and movie history is made. Oh ... this is the classic duel that every fan just goes nuts over, and yes it’s an iconic scene that disserves to be immortalized among some of the greatest sword fights in film history. So, why is it only at #6 ... because this is my own personal list, and there just happen to be five other duels that I like a pinch more. With that said, this is still an awesome scene. I’ll always remember that silhouette of Darth Vader in the dark steamy chamber room, it’s the perfect way to build up your show down between the hero and villain. I also love how subtly the locations change in this fight, and with each new room the fighting stile also changes a little. However, I feel that the real novelty of this confrontation comes from the surprise twist at the end, which has become such common knowledge that it just doesn’t leave as big an impact on me as I wish it could.

#5 Clash of the Elder Masters (Revenge of the Sith)
(Yoda vs. The Emperor)

When the Emperor’s evil plans come to fruition, Jedi master Yoda makes one desperate last stand to slay his enemy once and for all. Okay, so this is yet another over the top fight scene ... but ask me if I care because I think this is one of the most epic battles from the saga. Yoda and the Emperor were always the two elder masters that never fought, yet they were the most powerful, and here they are, dueling in this awesome laser sword spectacle. The shot of them fighting on the lift as it raised up into the massive chamber room is something I’ll never forget. The music was great, the setting was awesome, and like I said, it was just a thrill to finally see these two titans clash.  

#4 Stinging in the Rain (Attack of the Clones)
(Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Jango Fett)

While Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi is on the trail of a murder mystery plot, his search leads him into a confrontation with the armored Bounty Hunter Jango Fett, who’s packing more than enough fire power to take on a Jedi. This is a unique duel in my countdown because it’s the only one where the villain doesn’t wield a lightsaber, but that’s not going to keep me from including this on my list. Personally, I think this is one of the greatest duels in the whole series, like top 3 best easy. It’s such a treat to see a non-Jedi put up a fight against a Jedi master with nothing but combat skills and lots of explosive toys. The rainy Kamino platform was also an excellent location for these two to fly around, jump all over the place, and it’s just really cool to see a fight take place outside in a rain storm. 

#3 Sword Fight in the Snow (The Force Awakens)
(Kylo Ren vs Finn and Rey)

In the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, a band of heros launch an attack on the First Order's secret dooms day weapon which was built within a snowy planet. Two of our hero's Ray and Finn try to escape but are confronted by Kylo Ren ... the grand son of Darth Vader. This is one of the more tense duels, with less over blown choreography, and more relentless, gritty fighting. The location is also very original as it's the first dual in the snow, and also a planet that's slowly falling apart around them. It was a thrilling battle, and a fitting first dual for the new trilogy.

#2 Tag Team against Maul (The Phantom Menace)
(Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul)

During the climactic final battle to reclaim the planet Naboo, our two Jedi hero’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn are forced into one final confrontation with the sinister Darth Maul. While “The Phantom Menace” is often regarded as the worst of the live action Star Wars films, it wasn’t without one really cool highlight, which is this spectacular final lightsaber dual. You got John Williams epic Duel of the Fates musical score, a villain with a double bladed lightsaber, Ray Parks awesome fighting choreography, a really cool interior design to set the fight in, and it’s the very first dual to feature more than two Jedi in a battle. Even if you’re not interested in the story or the characters, it’s hard to avoid getting sucked into the sheer spectacle of this climax, which still holds up as one of the greatest action scenes in all of Star Wars.  

#1 Battling their Fate (Return of the Jedi)
(Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader)

During the final battle of Endor, Luke Skywalker confronts the evil emperor, and makes a final stand against his father Darth Vader, in an effort to free his soul from the shackles of the dark side. This will always stand out to me as the great classic Star Wars lightsaber duel that just can’t be beat. I know most people prefer their duel from “The Empire Strikes Back”, but this is my personal favorite and just seems to hit all the high notes. While other duels have obviously been thrilling, this one just feels more powerful. It’s not your standard good vs. evil ... it’s also a hero vs. his fate, and a father vs. his son. We see a hero loosing himself to darkness in an effort to bring peace, and an evil villain giving up his life in a noble sacrifice, which just makes this battle so much more compelling and epic than any other duel. I love that this fight features a lot of quiet moments where the characters talk back and forth, rather than another rushed duel with over the top fighting choreography. The music is beautifully haunting, and the visuals are fantastic, not just on a technical level but for symbolism, most notably that shot of Luke’s face that’s half way in shadow and light. It’s my favorite scene from the whole Star Wars series, and by far the best lightsaber dual of them all.        


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