Welcome to my first blog where I rank my all-time favorite lightsaber battles in Episodes I-VII of Star Wars! For the purposes of these rankings, a lightsaber battle is defined as at least two individuals fighting against each other with lightsabers. All individuals involved must be wielding lightsabers in their fight. So fighting or killing with lightsabers against individuals who don’t have lightsabers doesn’t count. By this definition, there are 13 lightsaber battles in Episodes I-VII of Star Wars. I have ranked them from favorite to least favorite, explaining why each battle is where it stands on this list. Of course this list is highly subjective and I’d love to hear any opinions whether they be similar, different, or anywhere in between. Enjoy!
6. Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious vs. Yoda (Revenge of the Sith)
- THE Jedi Master against THE Sith Lord. It’s the ultimate good vs. evil matchup we’ve all been waiting for. What we see in this battle doesn’t disappoint. Yoda and Palpatine are unparalleled in their powers. Their lightsaber combat is impressive. They both have their own unique style of fighting. Yoda relies on his speed and agile nature while the Emperor relies on a domineering ferocity to overpower his opponents. The depth of their powers is particularly exemplified in their use of the Force. The ability to create Force lightning and allow it to consume opponents, the ability to repel and push back Force lightning, the ability to direct and fling seats of the Senate at each other: these are among some of the most formidable abilities seen in Star Wars. The setting of the Senate helps to showcase these abilities. Yoda and Palpatine fighting in the Senate is a perfect metaphor for the tenuous state of the galaxy following the execution of Order 66, the dismantling of the Republic, and the formation of the Galactic Empire. The galaxy has essentially already fallen into a dark chasm. Now it is on the brink of either sinking to unrepairable depths or being given a glimmer of light or hope from which climbing out of the chasm may be possible. The setting of the Senate and the physical dismantling of the space symbolizes the galaxy being torn apart, and the multitudes that will either suffer or be saved depending on the outcome of the duel between Yoda and Palpatine. The image of Yoda and Palpatine dueling on the ascending Chancellor’s seat, surrounded by the vast expanse of empty Senate seats is one of the most powerful cinematic moments in all of Star Wars.
- All these factors place this lightsaber battle among the best. What puts it behind five others is that its ending comes too soon. There’s so many enthralling pieces to this fight and it’s disappointing that it doesn’t last longer, and that the latter half contains little lightsaber action and focuses more so on dueling through the Force. Using the Force to fight is thrilling to watch, but when ranking lightsaber battles, you do need a little more lightsaber action. I know part of this is that Revenge of the Sith chooses to focus more on the lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Vader/Anakin. The evolution of their relationship and further depicting how they become the characters we meet in A New Hope through their duel on Mustafar is of vital importance. I recognize this and I wouldn’t want what goes down between Obi-Wan and Vader/Anakin to get shortchanged. But I wish it hadn’t been at the cost of ending the fight between Yoda and Palpatine when it definitely could’ve gone on longer.
5. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker (Revenge of the Sith)
- Clarification: I consider Anakin to mostly be Darth Vader by this point because he has fully embraced the Dark Side and pledged himself to Emperor Palpatine (“Henceforth you shall be known as Darth Vader). Furthermore, at this point Anakin has forsaken his Jedi identity, been at the forefront of destroying the Jedi Order, and even turned against the love of his life: Padme. He does not have the iconic breathing and Vader suit and the voice of James Earl Jones, all of which largely define the classic character. But this fight is what causes him to need the suit, and for the aforementioned reasons, I think it’s fair to think of him as both Vader and Anakin here.
- Keeping his identity in mind, it’s tragic to see the depths to which Anakin has fallen. We remember the boy who once dreamed of becoming a Jedi Knight that would free his mother and all the slaves on Tatooine. We saw the courage and love he’s displayed in order to save or protect his mother, Obi-Wan and Padme. Seeing him at this point, having choked Padme to the point of unconsciousness and called her a liar, now dueling Obi-Wan and ready to kill him . . . this is devastating and adds such deep emotional gravity to this lightsaber battle. Anakin is fighting the man who has been more of a father, brother, friend and mentor to him than anyone else. As torturous as it is for Obi-Wan, he fights against his old apprentice. All the while he is unable to forgive himself for the role he feels he played in letting the Dark Side consume Anakin, but feels he has no choice but to fight Anakin and stop him from spreading more evil across the galaxy. One of the deepest, genuinely positive and longstanding relationships in the Star Wars saga has evolved into an agonizing fight that transcends the literal lightsaber battle. In terms of emotional gravity and complex character relationships, this battle has it all. In terms of the level of skills and power at work, this battle is also at a high level. It’s scary how powerful and evenly matched these two individuals are when thinking back to The Phantom Menace where Anakin was just a boy beginning to understand his abilities, and Obi-Wan not yet a Jedi Master, still learning from his Master Qui-Gon Jinn. That makes the fighting all the more impressive and complex. These two know each other so well, having taught and learned from each other, knowing on an intimate level their strengths and weaknesses and tendencies. The fact that Anakin is still using his Jedi lightsaber and not a Sith lightsaber acts to further emphasize this, how closely linked he and Obi-Wan still are, how their relationship has changed so much so quickly. It also helps to emphasize how so much of what Anakin has become comes from his time training and working with Obi-Wan and the Jedi Order. While no one is to blame as much as Emperor Palpatine and Anakin himself, Obi-Wan and the Jedi also played a role in Anakin choosing the path of the Dark Side. With influences from the Jedi and the Sith, Anakin accomplishes feats in this battle that other Force-users can only dream of, but never achieve. Obi-Wan does as well, but through the ways of the Jedi and his more extensive experience and wisdom.
- All these elements make the battle remarkable. However, at certain points Mustafar and its many lava blasts becomes too much of the focus instead of Obi-Wan and Anakin. There’s too much of their fighting dismantling Mustafar’s infrastructure. The setting should enhance and not detract from the conflict. Mustafar enhances the conflict by serving as a metaphor for the overwhelming emotional charge at play and to raise the stakes of the battle. The battle is already intense and dangerous enough, but becomes even more so among the lava and crumbling infrastructure. At the same time, the setting becomes a bit too much of a distraction. What also detracts from this incredible fight is some of Anakin’s stilted dialogue. Powerful dialogue definitely adds a lot to many of these battles. Much of Obi-Wan’s dialogue here, particularly what he says after he defeats Anakin, is extremely powerful and heartbreaking and flows very naturally. Anakin’s stilted dialogue takes away from the believability of the scene, particularly the line “From my point of view the Jedi are evil.” With so many other strong elements, though, this lightsaber battle ends up at a pretty good spot in these rankings.
Image taken from http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/star-wars-the-force-awakens-jj-abrams-promises-lightsaber-duels-will-be-primitive-and-rougher-and-a6754296.html