Quite possibly the most iconic aspect of Star Wars are the lightsabers and the action sequences we have seen involving them. So many kids grew up with those iconic retractable lightsabers that you could extend with the flick of the wrist. I had countless pretend battles with my friends inspired by all the cool lightsaber duels we saw in the prequel and original trilogies.
With the imminent release of Obi-Wan Kenobi this Friday, I thought now would be the perfect time to take a dive into what I believe are the top-5 lightsaber duels of any live-action Star Wars film. See if you agree, and read on!
5. Yoda vs. The Emperor – Episode III
This one makes the list for a few reasons. It is one of the only times in a live-action Star Wars film where we see both Yoda and The Emperor wield a lightsaber. Seeing two phenomenal force-wielding masterminds dueling it out with lightsabers was incredible. It’s a moment I could easily watch again and again.
Having it coincide with the Obi-Wan/Anakin duel on Mustafar keeps the duel at a nice pace as well. I also believe it made fans happy to see a duel between two characters we wanted to see more of from the original trilogy. This fight is an iconic Star Wars moment and deserves more recognition honestly.
4. Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul – Episode I
This fight transcended lightsaber battles to a higher level of action and choreography. The original trilogy saw lightsaber-wielders use the lightsaber almost as a heavy sword with limited mobility. The Phantom Menace showcased for the first time a new art form for lightsaber-wielding.
It also gave us the first-ever double-sided lightsaber wielded by Darth Maul. We quickly saw Darth Maul could flip and spin with his lightsaber providing a nice surprise to fans.
The shocking death of Qui-Gon Jinn ties together the significance of the fight throughout the Star Wars saga. This fight opened the door to a new age of lightsaber duels while also giving us an iconic and well-choreographed fight to be remembered.
3. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader & The Emperor – Episode VI
Another iconic duel that brought the original trilogy to a close is the moment we see the true power of Luke Skywalker. Seeing Luke Skywalker defeating Darth Vader in combat was a strange sight to see.
As a kid, I always saw Darth Vader as this immortal figure that couldn’t be beaten. Luke almost succumbs to the Dark Side as we see him batter his father with his lightsaber, all while a beautiful score plays in the background, felt like a very poetic scene. This is perhaps the strongest sequence in the film.
To top the fight off we see Darth Vader, returning as Anakin Skywalker, sacrificing himself to save Luke and destroy the Emperor. The choreography and score during the fight were both top-notch. This one very easily makes my top-3 lightsaber duels for countless reasons, although two remain that still top this fight.
2. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader – Episode V
The moment Star Wars truly entered the stratosphere of hype, the original lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vader. This is where Vader reveals himself to be none other than Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father. This over five-minute long sequence is full of all-out lightsaber action mixed with emotion from both Luke and Vader.
The scene also delivers the best action of the original trilogy along with an astonishing set where the battle takes place. The pace of the battle is also surprisingly even, giving enough time to both action and dialogue. This sequence truly hits all the right notes and is one of the top-10 greatest final battles in movie history.
1. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Anakin Skywalker – Episode III
The epitome of what a final battle in a film should be, the final duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin is a cinematic masterpiece amongst the likes of a few other sci-fi action films. The film managed to sell the emotion of the battle, even though we all likely knew the outcome.
Neither Anakin nor Obi-Wan were going to die, so there would be no stakes then, right? Wrong, the movie delivered a seat-gripping final battle with some of the greatest choreography in a movie that I have ever witnessed.
The way the environment was weaved into the final battle was done brilliantly. Having two actors stand in front of a green screen and fight gets redundant, the way this film used 2005-level technology to the maximum is truly impressive.
Considering some of the lackluster finales we see in modern-day movies, this film managed to break every possible scale in terms of efficiency and execution.
Overall, we’ve seen some incredible action from all nine Star Wars films. Each film puts its own twist and pizazz on what we know to be a lightsaber duel.
Happily, Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen are both returning as these iconic characters, and Obi-Wan Kenobi premiering this Friday on Disney+. I expect to jump into a nostalgic adventure that can recapture some of the lightsaber magic of the original and prequel trilogies. Here’s hoping Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine returns as well at some capacity.
In the meantime, please check out Emily’s guide to Obi-Wan and Anakin or Anthony’s guide to Darth Vader, to help you prepare for the series.
What are your top lightsaber duels of all time? Feel free to leave a comment down below and let us know in the comments or on social media @mycosmiccircus!