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The Best 'Star Wars' Lightsaber Duels

Updated February 10, 2021 41.1k votes 5.5k voters 68.6k views20 items

List RulesVote up the best lightsaber duel in the live-action Star Wars movies.

It's hard to pinpoint which aspect of the Star Wars films fans love the most, but the lightsaber duels are a safe bet. These battles are a massive part of why people return to the Star Wars franchise with unbridled fervor every time a new film or version of a film is released. At their best, lightsaber battles (as behind-the-scenes stories about the duels explore) express the themes of an entire movie (or trilogy), acting as both action sequences and the culmination of a hero's whole journey. Even at their worst, they're still just cool to watch. Crank up the John Williams and dig this list of every Star Wars lightsaber duel, ranked from best to worst.

There was only one lightsaber battle per film in the original trilogy. Yes, Luke wielded a lightsaber against a practice droid, and against himself in a dream, but those don't count as actual duels. By the time the prequels rolled around, George Lucas doubled down on lightsaber battles, maybe because when an actor like Samuel L. Jackson signs on to play a Jedi, he wants to throw down in at least one lightsaber fight. Compared to the original trilogy, the lightsaber battles in the prequels are faster and flashier. But does that make them better?

That's up to you to decide. Vote up the best lightsaber duels from the live action Star Wars movies and downvote the fights that don't live up to the potential of a laser sword battle. Take to the comments to discuss why your favorite duel is the best duel and if Mace Windu really bit the big one in Revenge of the Sith.

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  • 1

    Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Anakin Skywalker - 'Revenge of the Sith'

    Video: YouTube

    This duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin plays out in three acts, and in many ways is more emotionally charged than the rest of the prequel trilogy. Throughout the duel, Obi-Wan is forced to reconcile his feelings about Anakin, the boy he rescued in The Phantom Menace and helped train in Attack of the Clones, with the man who has brought destruction to his way of life.

    Also, they duel over a lava river while riding flying robots and that's just plain cool. 

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  • 2

    Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul - 'The Phantom Menace'

    Video: YouTube

    Everything about this lightsaber duel is on point in ways that make you wish that this was the only surviving footage from The Phantom Menace: the music, Darth Maul's acrobatics, Qui-Gon Jinn's surprising and emotional death, the DOUBLE LIGHTSABER. The most interesting thing about this duel is the way that it mirrors the most resonant moments from the original trilogy.

    Obi-Wan watching Qui-Gon Jin's death, the loss of his lightsaber down an infinite shaft, and the retrieval of a new green lightsaber are all flourishes that make this duel a fan favorite. 

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  • 3

    Yoda vs. Emperor Palpatine - 'Revenge of the Sith'

    Video: YouTube

    Yoda kicks this battle off by using the force to knock out a couple of red guards (which is so Batman, by the way), and then takes the fight to another level when he and his Sith foe begin dueling on top of a moving centrifuge and Force-hurling chunks of the Galactic Senate at each other.

    If only the rest of the prequels were this cool. 

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  • 4

    Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader - 'The Empire Strikes Back'

    Video: YouTube

    Modern audiences might find the tempo of Luke and Vader's first duel a little plodding, but the importance of this battle can't be emphasized enough. It shows that Luke has no trouble putting himself in danger for his friends, and also clues everybody in to the fact that at this point in the series, Vader could slice Luke into little Jedi pepperonis. Whether he doesn't do so because of his feelings for his son or because of Luke's burgeoning abilities is up for debate. 

    The Cloud City duel not only sets the stage for ROTJ (Luke's robo-hand, the green lightsaber, the knowledge that he's related to one of the most reviled men in the universe), but it also informs The Force Awakens, since Luke's lost lightsaber appears in the sequel.

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