Everyone has their own opinions regarding the best lightsaber battles in the Star Wars saga, so I felt it prudent to include my own. Hopefully you guys will have your own opinions as well and will offer your personal rankings in the comments below!
For the purpose of this list, I have only included the final lightsaber battles from the actual films, except in the case of the Disney+ Obi-Wan series since the final duel is too good to pass up!
No mid-battles, such as Obi-Wan vs General Grievous, and no animated series are included for the purposes of keeping things short and sweet. I have ranked them from worst to best.
Remember– this is only my opinion! I may diverge from common consensus, but we all get our opinions after all. Let me know how you think I did in the comments below!
And without further ado, to this list!
8. Obi-wan &Anakin/Yoda vs Dooku in Attack of the Clones
Oh boy, where do we begin? There’s a whole lot to unpack on this one.
Let’s start by saying I am not a huge fan of Attack of the Clones in general, so naturally I find the final lightsaber duel as underwhelming as the rest of the film.
After a hot pursuit, our two heroes, Obi and Ani, corner the old Count Dooku. Obi-Wan warns that Dooku is not to be underestimated, but even so the heroes have every advantage in the book. It’s two on one, after all. What could possibly go wrong?
Anakin shows his immaturity immediately by ignoring Obi-Wan’s warning and rushing in without a plan. Dooku counters with a swift Force lightning, taking Anakin out of the fight temporarily. This leaves Obi-Wan to contend against Dooku in a one-on-one, stripping the Jedi’s advantage.
You would think that this wouldn’t be a problem when you take into account how he dealt with the acrobatic Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. But no, Obi-Wan is bested by an old man and soon taken out of the fight as well with a scratch on the leg. Anakin springs into action just in time to save Obi-Wan.
Now it’s the Padawan’s turn to try to out-saber old Darth Tyranus. Anakin shows some fancy skills, even slicing the light cable to obscure Dooku’s vision (and his own).
At this point it is clear there an influence from The Empire Strikes Back, the colors of the lightsabers is there for all to see.
There’s even a section where Anakin uses Obi-Wan’s lightsaber, so the Jedi get yet another handicap to try to overpower Dooku. Before long, Dooku slices the lightsaber in half, rendering it useless, and follows it up by slicing off Anakin’s arm.
They had every conceivable advantage and simply couldn’t get it done. Just pitiful.
In hobbles the old Jedi Master, Yoda himself. After the two play a game of catch with nearby debris, Dooku decides it’s time to settle things with a duel. Up to now, we’ve only ever seen our little green friend hobble around, so we’re not sure what to expect. Without notice, Yoda reveals his saber and proceeds to jump around like a rabid goblin screaming wildly. Of course, he returns to hobbling immediately after, which is baffling, but for the purposes of the fight, Yoda is essentially a Jedi ninja.
Now I know this scene splits a lot of fans. Some were really pleased to finally see Yoda in action while others found it all a bit silly. I’m in the silly camp!
I would much rather they kept Yoda as a wise old Jedi who didn’t really get involved in the actual fighting. I am sure he kicked arse when he was 100, but 840ish I am not so sure.
Since we’re certain Yoda would’ve prevailed, Dooku resorts to playing dirty and spills some heavy debris on Obi-Wan and Anakin. To prevent his pupils from being crushed to death, Yoda stops dueling and saves them, allowing Dooku his escape.
The choreography and cinematography are decent, but the decision-making from all fighters is seriously perplexing. Attack of the Clones more than deserves the last place spot.
7. Obi-wan vs Anakin in Revenge of the Sith
This duel is pretty epic and has some decent cinematography, but for me it just goes on slightly too long.
Where it truly shines, however, is the emotion behind the confrontation, which drips from the divisive dialogue between Obi-Wan and Anakin. I personally enjoyed the exchange and felt it provided a great interaction between two former friends before the final showdown, but I digress.
In regards to the fight itself, the scenes are a tad repetitive due to the overall length of the duel. We can see the choreographer doubling down on the overhead alternating strike, which both combatants seem to employ as filler whenever traversing the various setpieces.
Some of the scenes were slightly over the top too, crossing the line from epic to extra. I’m thinking specifically of the scene where they are swinging about on the giant piece of metal that’s floating in molten lava. Don’t get me wrong– I know these are two of the best there ever were, so their Force intuition is certain to keep them safe regardless of environmental hazards and whatnot. However, it’s just a lot to take in.
There are some definite high points in the action though. In the early stages when they’re still sizing each other up, there’s a very well executed moment where the two seem to be showing off, swinging and waving their sabers wildly without clashing once. This is their attempt to completely outwit one another, only to meet sabers eventually and indicate how even a match they truly are.
There’s that moment where they Force push at the same time too, only to go flying away from one another after some struggle. Again, these two are very evenly matched. Where Obi-Wan once had the clear edge, Anakin had met and debatably surpassed his mentor and friend.
It stands to reason that without Anakin’s abundant arrogance and Obi-Wan’s high ground advantage, this fight would’ve culminated with the other as victor. Nonetheless, Ani is defeated and left a crippled, burning mess on the shores of a lava river.
An epic bout, no doubt, but it’s far from the best we’ve ever seen.
6. Rey/Finn vs Kylo Renn in The Force Awakens
I really enjoyed the final duel in the Force Awakens with my only complaint being that Rey seems overly skilled without any real training.
Looking past that, the fight scene itself is nicely shot with some great lighting in the snowy woods. The emotional stakes are high for all involved– Finn being called out as a traitor, Kylo is injured and has just killed his own father, and Rey has just lost her father figure and must accept the Force.
Finn does his darndest to overpower the superior Kylo Ren, and does a decent job thanks to Kylo’s overconfidence and sadistic tendencies. Instead of swiftly delivering a decisive blow, Kylo toys with Finn, hitting him with glancing blows and digging parts of his blade into Finn’s shoulder. Luckily, Rey interrupts just in the nick of time.
I remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up when Rey used the force to pull the lightsaber out of the snow, with the famous music ringing out when it landed in her hand. It was the first time I had felt like that since watching the original trilogy as a child. Rey then uses her new powers to overcome the injured Kylo Ren.
After a long hiatus where we all thought the series was a wrap, it’s a delightful return to the Star Wars galaxy and Jedi lightsaber duels. It’s a good one, for sure.
5. Obi-Wan vs Darth Vader in A New Hope
Newer fans are perplexed to see this kind of slow motion dueling, but what it lacks in energy it more than makes up for in emotion and mysticism.
We have an old master encountering his disgraced pupil. One has led the life of a hermit away from the intricate politics of the Galactic Empire, while the other is a feared presence dominating on behalf of the powers that be.
Their reunion, which would not be truly expanded on until the prequels, still carries immense weight. Obi-Wan has not had to duel in many decades, but he’s still ready to do what he must.
The action is slow and precise, which I didn’t mind at the time and it still doesn’t bother me now. To me it’s more a battle of the minds. Vader plays on the fact that he is more powerful and that Obi-Wan is now an old man, whilst Obi-Wan knows that if he dies he will be able to influence Luke more than he could if he was alive.
Obi-Wan sacrificing himself still gets me every time; you can really feel Luke’s loss. This conclusion is far better than any real winner-loser construct or cleverly contrived plot device that forces a draw.
As the original lightsaber duel, Obi-Wan vs Vader always impresses.
4. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Darth Vader in the Obi-Wan Series
This is a rematch on so many levels. For one, we have a chronological rematch, as Anakin and Obi-Wan last squared off ten years prior when Obi-Wan had thought he had left Anakin for dead. For us fans, this is now the second iteration, the “rematch” if you will, of Obi-Wan against Darth Vader, full costume and Force abilities and everything. And what a delight it is!
Obi-Wan and Vader set the tone with some dialogue from the get-go, with Obi-Wan repeating his catchphrase of “I will do what I must” as a callback to this exact moment in Episode III. Pure chills!
Without hesitation, the two begin battling as though not a minute had passed since their last encounter in combat. The choreography is excellent and cinematography top-notch.
What struck me as unusual was Obi-Wan’s use of the Force to spill debris on Ani. Traditionally, Jedi are more apt to fight fair while Sith lords rely on their environment to hurl projectiles. Surprisingly, this is an Obi-Wan trick now, but it doesn’t hamper Vader whatsoever and the two continue to clash.
The use of the environment is especially notable in this bout. After some grabbing, throwing, toppling, and destroying the numerous stone pillars on the battlefield, Vader eventually takes the upper hand and causes a legit earthquake that gives him a very clear high ground advantage over his former Master.
Then, he buries him. Vader chucks boulder after boulder into the crevasse to make sure Obi-Wan literally never again sees the light of day. Fortunately, Obi-Wan has created a Force pocket to safeguard himself and, after channeling his feelings, emerges unharmed.
Obi-Wan catches up to Vader, as Vader left when he thought the battle was won, and we get a shot of Obi-Wan with boulders floating behind him as he unleashes a barrage of boulders and rock debris to unsteady his former buddy.
Vader inexplicably just sort of takes the abuse before eventually striking back and the two clash for a few more beats before Obi-Wan strikes some decisive blows to Anakin’s appendages (again) and leaves him all but hobbled once more.
In the fray, Vader’s mask is sliced open and we see Anakin’s angry face within, peering with hatred at Obi-Wan. The emotion is too much, and Obi-Wan stops his assault to plead with his former friend.
Anakin dismisses the advance and tells Obi-Wan that he did not kill Anakin, but the person that he has now become did. Vader killed Anakin. With tears in his eyes, Obi-Wan mutters that his friend is then truly dead, and retreats to leave the battered and beaten Vader once again.
The emotion of this encounter is raw and redeems an otherwise average series. I simply cannot get enough of this duel!
3. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back
I know what you’re thinking. The stakes have never been higher. Vader has a total upper hand, both with Luke’s friends imprisoned, the Empire beating back the Rebels at every turn, and Luke’s training with Yoda still sorely incomplete.
With the stakes this high and the bombshell regarding Luke’s lineage, it’s a shoe-in for the top spot, right? In my eyes, it’s a strong contender, but not the best of the best. Let’s dive in here.
The start of the battle begins in the atmospherically lit freezing chamber where Luke narrowly escapes being frozen in carbonite. A gorgeous mix of reds and blues show off some stunning visual effects and excellent cinematography, setting the tone for the bout that’s about to occur.
The fight moves out to the corridor, which was reused in Rey’s ‘Forceback’ vision in The Force Awakens. At this point Luke is visibly weakened. Vader uses the Force to hurl large objects at him (see what I’m saying about Siths loving to throw things?!) resulting in Luke being sucked out of a large window. Completely outmatched, Luke begins crawling away to gather his strength for the next counterattack.
Unfortunately, all of Luke’s best efforts are to no avail and, with a little more lightsaber jostling, Luke loses a hand. We then of course have the big reveal (Spoiler alert) of Darth Vader being Luke’s father. Luke searches his feelings, knows it to be true, and this blow is more devastating to him than any mortal wound. Luke is decimated by this reveal.
I love The Empire Strikes Back and I love the final duel, but it was obvious that Luke was nowhere near ready to face Vader. Add in the fact that Vader did not intend to kill his son, but try to defect him instead, and we get an emotional climax amidst a game of cat and mouse.
An excellent moment of cinema gold, but not the top of my best lightsaber duels list.
2. Obi-Wan & Qui Gon vs Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace
Yes. I said it. The film which gave us Jar Jar Binks also has my number two lightsaber duel. Scoff if you must, say what you will, light up the comments with all your gibes, but you have to admit– Darth Maul is one of the coolest villains and best lightsaber fighters ever to feature in a Star Wars film!
This for me has everything I want in a lightsaber battle. Speed, athleticism, and passion are all there, not to mention the best bad guy since Darth Vader. The biggest mistake George Lucas made (Other than the Midichlorians and Jar Jar Binks) was Darth Maul not getting nearly enough screen time, and ultimately being killed off way too early.
It’s a double-edged sword (no pun intended) though. The little screen time Maul received was incredible, and his taciturn nature combined with no real backstory makes him incredibly intriguing as a character and as a pure force to be reckoned with.
The moment the double doors to the hanger open and the Duel of Fates music kicks in, you know you are in for a treat. The double lightsaber, the acrobatics, incredible set and the emotion at the end, it really does have it all.
It almost makes the top spot for me with the only let down being the death of such a great baddie!
1. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi
The rematch between Luke Skywalker, now a fully fledged Jedi Master, and his father is the climax of the original trilogy, and the true main event of the series as a whole. No doubt about it– this duel gets my pick for top spot!
Return of the Jedi was released when I had just turned six. It was the first Star Wars film that I saw on the big screen so I have a natural fondness for it. I was too young to be annoyed by teddy bears beating Stormtroopers with sticks and rocks; I was just in awe of the speeder bike chase, cool looking biker scouts, intense space battle above Endor, and a truly awesome lightsaber duel.
Luke’s desperate attempts to avoid fighting his father and turn him back to the good side end in failure. The hold the Emperor has on Vader is just too strong. As Vader emotionally informs Luke ‘It is too late for me, son’.
The battle itself is pretty fast paced for its time with Luke showing off his more advanced skills. Luke is ready to face Vader this time, but not without coming very close to the dark side of the force.
The Emperor knows he needs to make Luke angry to force him to fight and uses the plight of Luke’s friends as bait. Luke bites, albeit without much choice.
The final straw comes when Vader threatens Luke’s sister Leia sending Luke into a mini rage. He then uses this anger to defeat his father. The emotion in this part of the duel is what makes it for me with the music setting the tone perfectly. I am also a sucker for a green lightsaber.
Darth Vader now lying in a heap, missing a hand, looks a sorry state. Luke, looking at his own glove-covered mechanical hand, realizing just how close he came to the dark side. Vader then redeems himself by saving his son from the hands of the Emperor.
What a fantastic lightsaber duel and perfect end to an amazing trilogy!