7 best ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber duels

Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

After knights of the olden days wielded swords to fend off their foes, George Lucas took the idea and ran with it for his Star Wars films.

The lightsaber is synonymous not only with Star Wars, but with greater pop culture as a concept. Since the first on-screen lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, there’s been a plethora of astonishing duels between the light and the dark.

Here’s our pick of the finest battles between the glowing swords to date.

Obi-Wan vs Darth Vader (Episode IV)

The first lightsaber-on-lightsaber duel seen in cinemas, the fight between Obi-Wan and his former pupil Anakin (now Darth Vader) is a brilliant fight scene not necessarily because of amazing choreography, but rather the meaning behind it all. A battle which Obi-Wan loses on purpose, to sow the seeds of regret in the mind of Vader.

Alec McGuinness delivered the line “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” with such potency that it’s now an integral part of Anakin’s redemption.

Duel of the Fates (Episode I)

The Phantom Menace and prequel trilogy don’t get too much dead-on, but one thing they did master is the combination of score with fight scenes. The climax of the film sees the two bloated egos of Jedi try and take down a single Sith apprentice. The booming John Williams score lifts this to its status in the franchise’s history, as Maul is mostly able to hold his own against the Jedi.

An interesting part of the Maul fight is it’s very much meant to show how poorly trained the Jedi really are for lightsaber combat with Sith. They’re so bogged down in their own piety they don’t think to train for Sith.

Kylo Ren vs. Rey and Finn (Episode VII)

Finn barely keeping up with Ren throughout the fight, before being bodied out of it, helps build up Kylo as this force of nature, even though he’s profusely bleeding. Following it up is Rey wielding the saber, being absolutely pushed around, but then becoming one with the force, allowing her to skim past Ren and rescue Finn.

It keeps the realism that a swordfight needs; there’s no cartwheels or flipping about. It’s two people fighting grittily. Rey’s just about competent with the saber before her force awakening, but, as Ren points out, is desperately in need of a teacher.

Luke vs. Darth Vader (Episode V)

The first battle between two characters we would soon find out are father and son. With so much riding on the occasion, and Luke fresh out of his minimal Jedi training, he’s barely capable of keeping up with Vader. Vader’s toying with him for the most part, trying to get him to reveal the anger within.

Culminating in an all-time cinema history twist, Vader’s battle on Bespin is Star Wars at its very finest and most effective. The dim and smoky conditions allow the lightsabers themselves to stand out so effectively, making it so visually interesting.

The Throne Room (Episode VI)

There’s still something so special about the ending of Return of the Jedi, despite the film not being the strongest of the Original Trilogy. The depth in the scene, again, is not from some outstanding, over-the-top choreography. It’s from the characters.

Luke gets extremely emotional, and ends up wailing on Vader — proving the Emperor’s point that hate and anger can be valuable, but losing his cool-mindedness in the process.

Mustafar (Episode III)

The twelve-minute long, non-stop fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the hellish lava planet of Mustafar sees another duel of fates. While Obi-Wan does get the high ground as memes love to remember, the ballet-like dancing around the platforms adds to the drama of the occasion. Well-shot and choreographed, it’s a fitting end to the prequel trilogy.

Kylo Ren vs Rey (Episode IX)

Before Kylo Ren gets a pep talk from his ghost dad and becomes Ben Solo again, he must endure a ballistic fight with Rey again. With the training of both Luke and Leia, Rey’s become a truly masterful user of a lightsaber and both matches and trounces Ren.

Rey regretfully kills Ren, before allowing him to become Solo again with force healing. The gnashing waves on the sunken Death Star are a fitting place for such a duel, and for another display of how anger and redemption are both possible. Like Vader redeeming himself on Death Star II, his grandson Ben does the same.