Rogue One is almost upon us, and as it is going to be very much sans lightsabers, what better time than now to look back on some of the best battles that the Star Wars movies have given us so far.
We’ve seen Jedis vs Siths and Padawans vs Masters in some incredible lightsaber battles, but which one will beat the rest to be the best? Here’s the official, and in no way wrong*, ranking of all the main lightsaber battles in the Star Wars movies so far.
*Just kidding, this is all opinion!
7. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker & Yoda vs Count Dooku (Attack of the Clones)
The prequels made many mistakes along the way, but one of the biggest mistakes it made was its treatment of Yoda, and more specifically the fact that they insisted on having the pint-sized Jedi master suddenly becoming an active combatant in an otherwise fairly intense battle. With more CGI flips than you could shake a lightsaber at, all hopes of drama and tension are lost in the sheer ridiculousness of seeing Yoda taking on someone quadruple his size.
Sure, Yoda has got some skills, but considering what we see of Yoda in later movies, seeing him fight just doesn’t quite sit right in this battle scene. He is supposed to be the wise oracle, with words more powerful than any neon coloured weapon, and there was no need for him to be part of this fight!
6. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Darth Vader (A New Hope)
The build up to this fight is inevitably better than the fight itself, and despite the fact it results in the unexpected and emotional death of Obi-Wan, the fight is actually a little bit of an anti-climax. Vader is at the height of his powers and Obi-Wan is no spring chicken, so this was always going to be a little unbalanced.
Whilst this lightsaber battle would rank very highly in terms of its emotional significance and the effect it has on the storyline – and specifically Luke’s character arc – going forward, the actual battle itself is…well, a little on the dull side!
5. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Anakin Skywalker (Revenge of the Sith)
It makes the classic prequel mistake of being a little heavy on the CGI side, and quite frankly there is a lot of stuff going on in this battle! Set on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, it is fiery and ferocious in more ways than one, but in amongst all the marginally over the top special effects is a really spectacular lightsaber battle.
Having followed Anakin from a feisty podracing youngster to a petulant teen, and gradually moving further and further away from the light side into the dark, it is Padawan vs Master and it is pretty damn awesome really! It’s brutal as well, and a really great finale to the otherwise patchy prequel series
4. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader (Return of the Jedi)
In the reversal of the famous battle in Empire Strikes Back, the emotional punch of this lightsaber battle is undoubtedly what makes it stand out from some of the others. Dressed in all black, Luke is very different to who he was in Empire, and this battle arguably represents the tipping point of the entire series. Luke has the potential to turn to the dark side, and goaded by the Emperor, this is an incredibly tense, well-choreographed and most importantly, emotional battle. Knowing the truth of his parentage means Luke is torn throughout; he needs to defeat Vader, but he also wants to save him, and all this whilst he is feeling the pull from both the light side and the dark side! Vader is far from weak, but whereas he had the upper-hand in their first meeting, Luke is confident, driven and more talented with a lightsaber than perhaps Vader anticipates.
Whilst Luke is undoubtedly stronger, it nevertheless feels like a battle which could still go either way due to Luke’s inner turmoil, and it’s really quite something!
3. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader (Empire Strikes Back)
Whilst this scene would absolutely be number one in terms of its quoteability and significance because of that moment (you know the one!), the battle itself is great but there’s better in the series. Luke is inexperienced, out of his depth, and going it alone after the death of Obi-Wan, so there isn’t much fighting so to speak, but the setting is absolutely spectacular, and of course you can’t talk about this scene without talking about that moment.
One of the biggest plot twists in movie history, Vader reveals himself as Luke’s father! The tension and emotion is palpable, which helps to elevate everything that precedes and indeed follows it. Nothing will be the same after this, and it was a battle, and a scene which would go down in history!
2. Rey vs Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens)
Just try not to get serious chills in the moment where Kylo Ren is reaching out for Luke’s lightsaber and then suddenly it flies past him and into Rey’s grasp. It’s an incredible, emotional, and significant moment, and it’s really just the start of this incredible lightsaber battle! Rey might never have handled this weapon before, but she’s strong in the force, and it is a completely even match-up in terms of the two combatants. More than most of the other battles, this one shows the lightsabers as really brutal weapons that burn, slice, maim and injure. We’ve seen limbs being chopped clean off before, but this battle shows that it isn’t always as easy as that!
Perhaps the most significant moment is in a time of stillness, where Kylo and Rey are locked lightsaber to lightsaber, and Rey steadies herself before coming back to the battle more badass than ever! The reflection of the lightsabers in their eyes represents the lightness and darkness in both, and perhaps hints at a closeness or a tie between the pair (although the rumours of them being siblings seem to be lessening slightly), which should make for a very interesting plot thread going forward.
1. Obi-Wan Kenobi & Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
In a plot twist to rival that of Vader being Luke’s father, we have a lightsaber battle from the prequels taking the coveted top spot on this absolutely official, and in no way wrong, ranking! There’s no denying just how incredible this lightsaber battle is, and Darth Maul is absolutely one of the best things about the prequels. Soundtracked by John Williams’ epic ‘Duel of the Fates’ score, this battle is epic to the highest degree. The choreography is completely flawless, the drama is real, the tension high, and did we mention the music is amazing?!
There’s tragedy in the death of Qui-Gon Jinn, but the real tragedy is the fact that Darth Maul was killed off! He could’ve and should’ve been a really key part of this prequel series, yet he was bumped off before he really had the chance to shine. Without getting hung up on the misgivings of the prequels however, Darth Maul was an incredible character, and is a key part of why this battle is awesome. The double-ended lightsaber anyone? Incredible!