5 Phenomenal Star Wars Lightsaber Duels

PHENOM 5

With the buzz for Star Wars growing as the new film approaches, I thought it would be cool to sprinkle in a few Star Wars related Phenomenal 5 lists leading into “The Force Awakens”. To start it off I wanted to look at one of the more unique things about the franchise – lightsaber duels. Whether it is the Jedi or Sith, lightsabers and the cool folks who use them have become a staple and a key component to the mythology. So today I’m spotlighting five of the very best lightsaber duels. Now with so many Star Wars opinions out there I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there is no denying that these five duels are nothing short of phenomenal. (Some spoilers included)

#5 – Yoda vs Count Dooku (Episode 2: Attack of the Clones)

YODA

This is certainly a lightsaber duel that lacks the weight of the others on this list, but Yoda’s encounter with Count Dooku deserves its place here. Obviously the duel wins points just for the fact that we finally get to see Yoda do more than lift an X-Wing out of a swamp. Actually we see the Jedi Master do ALOT more. Yoda sets aside his cane, pulls out his Yoda-sized lightsaber, and unleashes an offensive barrage of strikes, slashes, and flips. Afterwards he grabs his cane falling back into his humble, low-key image. I still remember the wild reaction this duel received from the theater crowd.

#4 – Obi-Wan vs Darth Vader (Episode 4: A New Hope)

OBI WADER

When comparing the lightsaber duels on this list this is the one that is the least impressive in terms of visual flare and physicality. But it is impossible to dismiss the gravity of this duel and how it effects the events that would follow. With young Luke Skywalker watching from a distance, Obi-Wan buys his comrades time to escape the Death Star by sacrificing himself to his old friend and former apprentice Darth Vader. The duel sent the Star Wars story in several new directions and the prequel trilogy added to it a new level of importance. It is truly a pivotal moment in the franchise.

#3 – Luke vs Darth Vader (Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi)

LUKE JEDI

Now we get to a point on the list where any of the final choices could be #1. Here I’ve chosen the unforgettable final face-off between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as the Emperor looks on, his evil plan working out to perfection. Luke and Vader duke it out on the newly rebuilt and fully operational Death Star and we know at the onset that the duel will be the final one. The three-way conversations, the manipulation, the betrayal, the redemption, the reconciliation. It is all interwoven throughout an intense and incredibly satisfying lightsaber duel between two of cinemas most iconic characters.

#2 – Darth Maul vs Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon (Episode 1: The Phantom Menace)

DARTH

This is without a doubt and without hesitation my very favorite lightsaber duel when it comes to physicality and fight choreography. It is the most exciting and most intense duel of them all, highlighting the Jedi and the Sith in their prime. It also doesn’t hurt that it includes one of the franchise’s coolest villains, Darth Maul, who is played by the immensely talented martial artist Ray Park. The duel is so fierce and fluid and the end result proves to be a key turning point in the lives of Obi-Wan, a young Anakin Skywalker, and the entire Jedi Order. This is one of my favorite sequences in the entire series and when the hanger doors open, Darth Maul lights his duel-ended lightsaber, and “Duel of Fates” from composer John Williams kicks in, I literally get chills.

#1 – Luke vs Darth Vader (Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back)

LUKE VADER1

How do you beat this epic lightsaber duel? Simple – you don’t. The iconic first clash between Luke and Vader had been building and building. It finally takes place on Cloud City after Vader lures the young Jedi into his web. The duel itself is fascinating and it spans several different locations within the guts of the city. But what is even more fascinating is the conversation between Sith and Jedi, hero and villain, father and son. Yes, it is during this monumental Star Wars sequence that Vader reveals himself to be Luke’s father. I will never forget the shock I felt as a young kid sitting in the theater. Watching an overmatched Luke fight for his life and then be blindsided by a shocking revelation. It is a pinnacle moment in Star Wars and in this incredible duel.

So there are my choices. What do you think? Agree or disagree? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments section. Also be on the look out for a few more Star Wars related Phenomenal 5’s leading up to this winter’s big movie event.

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18 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Star Wars Lightsaber Duels

    • Thanks my friend. As a diehard Star Wars fan this was quite the task. Selecting the five wasn’t too bad, but putting them in order was a little tougher. Look for a few more Star Wars related lists leading up to Episode seven.

    • It’s hard to argue with you. The revelation literally left me with my mouth open. I was a kid at the theater and it was one of the first times a movie really left a major impression on me. But aside from that, the lightsaber duel was amazing. It was something that was building up and you felt Luke was overmatched from the start. Unforgettable.

  1. Great list! I will always laugh at Yoda walking with a cane, then doing some ninja moves in that battle. I guess the force really gives you a lot of adrenaline. lol

    • LOL. I think its meant to show the humility needed to truly control such great power. Yoda immediately puts himself back into a humble position but by that scene we know he’s actually a pretty fierce buttkicker!

  2. I wouldn’t change the order at all! The Empire Strikes Back one is my favourite but I’m hoping for at least one good one in The Force Awakens.

    • Great minds and all… πŸ˜‰

      The order was tough except for number one. That duel and overall scene just left too much of an impression on me as a kid – an impression that has lasted.

  3. Nice list! I can’t really disagree with anything you have on here.
    It’s amazing to note how much better (read: more physically impressive) the lightsaber battle got over the course of the original trilogy. Beside the one between Obi Wan and Darth Vader, which is great for emotional impact, A New Hope doesn’t even have a big one! Then we each subsequent one that happens, the players become more and more skilled (mainly Luke I guess).
    That is one of the only advantages the prequels have, in that they got a lot more complex in their fight choreography. I haven’t revisited them in forever so I’m not sure how it would hold up, but the one between Obi Wan and Anakin/Darth Vader at the end of Revenge of the Sith always got to me. It’s just so tragic! The dialogue (“You were my brother Anakin!”) is overwrought for sure but I kind of love that about it. It’s also just so tragic that there are two blue lightsabers here; it’s like he’s not even fully evil yet because he doesn’t have his red one yet. I’m not saying it should be on the list ahead of any of the ones you picked, I just felt like bringing it up ha ha.
    Great list though, it definitely has me wanting to watch all of them again before VII comes out.

    • You bring up some great points. I mention the choreography when talking about the Episode 1 Darth Maul throwdown. It truly was a time where the Jedi and the Sith were in their prime. And of course the resources and the technology available to the prequels gave those duels even more pop.

      And I’m really glad you mentioned the Anakin and Obi-Wan duel. It was important and definitely tragic. I think the only that took away from it was some shaky CGI especially when hopping around on lava robots. Still that final face off when Obi-Wan has the higher ground. The end results are absolutely devastating.

  4. It has been a while, and I never repeated the prequels with the same frequency as the original three films, but I seem to member some great stuff in the coliseum fight in Attack of the clones. Dozens of light sabers at once were pretty awe inspiring. Also, the Obi-Wan fight with General Grevious was impressive as well. I can’t say any of them would displace the ones you listed. The top three seem especially right. John Williams made that light saber duel with Darth Maul memorable. Duel of the Fates is the best piece of music in the three prequels.

    • I considered both of the ones you mentioned. The Grevious duel was incredibly unique. I love the Geonosian Coliseum battle too but there are so many things going on at once. It’s pretty epic though.

  5. Excellent list! Your top 4 are perfect. I actually hate the Yoda fight because it looks ridiculous and it ruined the mystery of the character for me. But that’s just me. And I’m not sure what I’d put in its place. Great work!

    • Thanks Wendell. I do love the Yoda fight as it shows true master who also has a grasp of humility and control. And I thought the flipping was pretty great and showed how such a small build could match with taller opponents. That’s just my take on it.

  6. What a list Keith! I can tell you LOVE this franchise πŸ˜‰ For me, because I didn’t really grow up w/ the original, the most epic one is #2 Darth Maul vs Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, I remember using the music of that scene for a video class. I ended up doing a trailer for Face/Off with that score from John Williams! πŸ˜›

    • That’s cool Ruth!!! As far as a pure action scene and an insanely satisfying lightsaber duel, that one would top the list. But the nostalgia kicked in. I still remember being a kiddo and the impact Luke and Vader had on me! πŸ™‚

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