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!
- Darth Vader vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi (A New Hope)
- This lightsaber duel is old school. It’s not high energy and adrenaline-fueled. It’s not chaotic. What makes this fight so great is that it’s character-driven. The setting—a hallway in the Death Star—is stark and simple. It allows us to hone in on the characters and their relationship and their engaging lightsaber battle. Every movement is precise and direct. It’s well-staged and well-focused, not caught up in showcasing the setting. The dialogue in the battle is also really powerful, all of it carrying a tremendous amount of weight concerning who Obi-Wan and Darth Vader are, how their relationship evolved, and about the Force and the Dark Side. The end of the fight is one of the most powerful and chilling moments in the entire Star Wars saga. It may be the least flashy lightsaber battle, but it’s classic in its nature. From the lightsaber action and visual and sound effects, John Williams’ score, the character-driven nature of the conflict, the powerful dialogue and culmination of the fight, it features so many of the elements that would continue to create and define amazing lightsaber battles in all Star Wars films.
- Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
- While The Phantom Menace is my least favorite of the seven Star Wars movies, it does feature one of the best lightsaber battles. Much of what the Jedi and Sith are capable of is hidden or withheld during this movie. But during this fight there are no holds barred. It’s breathtaking and inspiring to watch Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan work together so seamlessly. Most lightsaber battles are one-on-one or even if they feature two individuals fighting together those individuals don’t work well together (I’m looking at you Anakin when you fought Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, obviously Obi-Wan is not the problem). It’s cool to see this here not only visually but more so because it demonstrates the trust and cohesion and skill built between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon over their years together, exemplifying a powerful bond between master and apprentice. And it’s even more powerful to see this against a truly formidable foe like Darth Maul wielding his double-sided lightsaber. “Duel of the Fates” by John Williams helps further convey the epic quality of the duel: the overwhelming skill and power of the Sith Lord and two Jedi, the dangerous setting, the chaos exploding, and the anarchy that will follow if Darth Maul succeeds. The choreography in this scene is arguably the best of any lightsaber battle in the entire Star Wars saga. The pacing of the duel is also perfect and complemented so well by the music. Qui-Gon’s tragic death adds further intensity as it comes down to Obi-Wan and Darth Maul. It all culminates in Obi-Wan proving to be creative and resourceful, qualities which have kept him alive time and time again. Let’s also not forget Qui-Gon’s dying wish for Obi-Wan to train Anakin, a key decision that has major ramifications for all of Star Wars.
- Purely as a lightsaber battle, this may be the greatest of all time. What sets it behind Luke vs. Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (which one will end up being number 1?) is that the relationship between the individuals are definitely not as rich, and the battle does not lead to a major revelation. The Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan relationship is special, but it’s not as complex and multi-layered like Luke and Vader’s relationship. The lightsaber battle also doesn’t change the dynamics or feelings in the relationship as happens between Luke and Vader during both their duels. Furthermore, Obi-Wan agreeing to train Anakin is a huge plot development, and not for the audience but for the characters it’s a twist for Obi-Wan to end up training him instead of Qui-Gon. However this moment is not a revelation. But the duel is still incredibly awesome, easily the best part of The Phantom Menace, and my favorite lightsaber battle in the prequel films.
***Start the second video at 0:51 to see the last words spoken between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon.
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