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!
- Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader (The Empire Strikes Back)
- It is the first in-person showdown between the main protagonist and antagonist of Star Wars up to this point in the original film trilogy: Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. And yet, the two opponents are not well-matched, unequal in their abilities. Vader is far superior to Luke in his powers and spends most of the fight toying with him, testing Luke to understand the extent of his son’s abilities and current power. What then places this lightsaber battle among the best? It’s arguably the most suspenseful lightsaber battle and one of the most thrilling. The moments where Luke and Vader get separated and Luke searches for him are crucial to creating that suspense, and each time Vader seems more fearsome when he appears. He may be toying with Luke and testing his abilities and trying to capture him for the Emperor, but Vader still exemplifies in every moment he’s onscreen why he’s one of the most powerful and formidable figures in all Star Wars through a combination of his extensive power, his ferocity and manipulation. His attempts to manipulate Luke are masterfully executed, complimenting him and even complimenting Obi-Wan and his training while also telling Luke that by joining him he can become even more powerful. And he uses his dark powers against Luke to make him understand this. Luke gets his ass kicked in this fight but his determination to continue fighting despite how outmatched he is serves as another key element of this battle. It’s impressive to see how far Luke has come since we first met him in A New Hope and since he started his training with Obi-Wan, but we also see here that he still has so much to learn. The reality is harsh, but it’s central to shaping Luke and Vader, their relationship, and the galaxy-altering decisions they make going forward. Moreover, the battle acts as a perfect setup for arguably the most important revelation and important scene in any Star Wars film.
- Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader (Return of the Jedi)
- This is the most epic lightsaber battle of all time. Luke and Vader’s stories parallel each other so closely, and not just because they are father and son. These are two of the most fascinating characters with one of the most complex relationships in the Star Wars They engage in this lightsaber battle teeming with such a rich range of emotions, all the while demonstrating their incredible powers and abilities. It’s clear in this battle perhaps more than any other moment why Luke is considered the “only hope” to bring balance to the Force and save the galaxy. He’s become a master Jedi in his abilities with the Force and a lightsaber. But he also has unquenchable hope and compassion for the man he’s fighting against, his father, the one who cut off his hand and killed Obi-Wan and has caused so much suffering. It takes a true Jedi Knight to maintain and communicate those feelings in light of everything.
- This fight between two genuine masters of the Force is brutal, but it’s also filled with hope, love, regret, desperation, frustration and anger, all of which are furthermore expressed through the brilliantly written dialogue and the music of John Williams. The Emperor manipulates this battle to occur to actualize his evil scheme of turning Luke to the Dark Side. Luke Skywalker is one of the greatest heroes in Star Wars, but in this fight we see him briefly unable to resist the pull of the Dark Side. It’s both thrilling and terrifying to see Luke’s anger and fear unchecked. But for Luke to defy the Emperor and the Dark Side, he needs to experience and briefly embrace the darkness to understand its cost. Let’s also remember that Darth Vader wants to help his son. He wants to help him turn to the Dark Side because he thinks it’s the only way his son can survive, and the only way they can be together. So he’s also filled with hope, trying to keep his desperation and frustration at bay, feeling like he’s doing all he can to save his son. When he says “You underestimate the power of the Dark Side. If you will not fight, then you will meet your destiny” and throws his lightsaber at Luke, it doesn’t seem just like he’s trying to manipulate and tempt his son. It seems like a desperate plea, like he’s saying “You can’t run from this. It will destroy everyone you love and everything you care about. You can either embrace it or let it kill you. Those are your only options. Believe me, I know.” That idea is further solidified as Vader is so unemotional about realizing that Leia is his daughter and Luke’s sister. It’s a surprise to him, but in that moment only serves as manipulating Luke to embrace the Dark Side, while also making it known that Luke is expendable, and if he refuses to give in, he will die. Luke and Vader are engaging in this epic duel but there’s so much more at play and at stake than the literal lightsabers clashing.
- Yet another fascinating element of this duel is that it teaches Luke the power of not fighting, of putting down the lightsaber in order to defy the Dark Side through compassion and love. What I ultimately believe to be one of the most impressive combined displays of both the Force and fighting with a lightsaber, wrought with so many emotions leading into and during the fight, plays an integral role in shaping what I believe to be the most powerful and important scenes in all of Star Wars with Luke, Darth Vader and the Emperor . . .
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