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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.