The Top 7 Manliest Swordfights in Film History

Scenes of swordplay have been entertaining filmgoers since long before the days of the nickelodeon. Old sword fighting movies were bloodless dance routines and could hardly be described as "fights." They were the martial equivalent of sitcom couples in separate beds. The best swordfighting movies only began to emerge in the past three decades as audiences craved more violence. 

As movie audiences grew more sophisticated, they craved more from their fight sequences. They needed to see the brutal reality of mortal combat not just inaccurate tropes, and movies with swords were just one way Hollywood satisfied this need. This sword fighting movies list promises to point you in the direction of such films - good sword fighting movies that depict skill, violence, and real action.. 

Real swordfights are bloody and vicious and, more often than not, fatal for one or more participants. Here are the roughest, toughest, bloodiest - in short, the manliest - swordfights ever committed to film. What are the best sword fight movies? Vote for your favorites and share with your friends. 

  • Highlander
    Video: YouTube

    Considering it spawned 4 sequels, 141 television episodes, and a cartoon, Highlander is probably responsible for more filmed swordfights than any other franchise in history. But when it comes to the original, there can be only one.

    Highlander introduces the concept of immortals. They live among us and are just like humans in every way, except that they cannot be killed by any means save one: decapitation. And instead of living wonderfully long, peaceful lives, these immortals are inexplicably drawn to duel each other with swords.

    Connor MacLeod runs an antique store in 1980s Manhattan, but before that he was born in the highlands of 16th century Scotland. It is here that he is stabbed by a monstrous barbarian known only as The Kurgan, only to miraculously recover later. Ramirez, a fellow immortal, finds and mentors the nascent warrior in the way of the sword. One night, when MacLeod is out, The Kurgan returns.





    The Kurgan

    The originality of the ensuing fight is remarkable in its simplicity: the two combatants can wound each other as grievously as one can imagine and, so as long as both heads remain attached, the fight can continue. The two men fight so hard, they bring down half of MacLeod's home with them.

    Round one goes to Ramirez as he cuts The Kurgan's throat and runs him through with the business end of Japanese steel. But the more powerful Kurgan knows the rules. He grabs hold of Ramirez's sword while it's still in his gut and beheads the Scottish Egyptian.


    Impalings: 2
    Buildings Destroyed: 1
    Death Blow: decapitation
  • 13 Assassins
    Video: YouTube

    Don't get me wrong: Kurosawa's canon of samurai films is a thing of beauty and badassdom. But I chose to include Takashi Miike's historical epic instead because it is a worthy and bloody successor. 13 Assassins tells the story of men much more honorable than the title suggests, who must do the unthinkable to protect the people.

    Lord Naritsugu, son of the former shogun and brother of the current shogun, treats all below his station as his personal playthings; he rapes, tortures, and kills for fun. Before he can add his sadistic voice to his brother's council, a desperate official hires elder samurai Shinzaemon murder the young lord before he can do any real damage to the country. Shinzaemon puts together a team of 13 men for the suicide mission against Naritsugu's soldiers led by Hanbei, an old friend of Shinzaemon.


    Shinzaemon vs. Hanbei

    When the two finally meet in a one-on-one samurai showdown, they first discuss honor. Hanbei is bound to his samurai code, to kill and die to protect his lord. Shinzaemon argues that they have a higher duty to the welfare of the people. But when words fail, swords are drawn. The two skilled swordsmen were evenly matched back in the dojo, but Shinzaemon is willing to do whatever it takes. He kicks mud in Hanbei's eyes, giving him the edge he needs to behead Hanbei in one stroke.


    Ethical Arguments: 1
    Men of Honor: 2
    Death Blow: decapitation
  • The Princess Bride
    Video: YouTube

    The Princess Bride tells the story of the true love shared by Westley and Buttercup. After Westley is lost at sea, Buttercup reluctantly becomes betrothed to haughty Prince Humperdink. But Humperdink, scheming to start a war, hires mastermind Vizzini, giant Fezzik, and swordfighter Inigo to kidnap his betrothed and frame neighboring Guilder.

    Wesley returns in the guise of the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts and rescues Buttercup from the trio of thugs. But when Humperdink steals back his bride and leaves Westley for dead, it is the affable Fezzik and Inigo, spared by Westley's mercy, who help him to save Buttercup for good.

    No discussion of movie swordfighting would be complete without mentioning the wonderful fight between Inigo and the Dread Pirate Roberts. Choreographed by film legend Bob Anderson, the fight includes multiple styles and disciplines, many of which are discussed by the characters during the fight.

    But ultimately the famous sequence, a throwback to the swashbuckling action of Douglas Fairbanks films, is innocuous. The characters never seem to be in any real danger. But the movie's final swordfight doesn't pull any lunges.


    Inigo Montoya



    Count Rugen, the Six-fingered Man

    Count Rugen, Humperdink's right hand man, is revealed to be the man who killed Inigo's father. Inigo's vengeance is almost thwarted when Rugen throws a dagger into his belly. But Inigo refuses to collapse, deflecting two killing thrusts into flesh wounds in his arm and shoulder.

    Inigo repeats the line, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die," over and over, like a mantra reinvigorating himself. He beats back Count Rugen and pays him back for every wound. When Rugen tries to bribe him, Inigo finally runs him through and delivers one of the best lines in all of cinema, "I want my father back, you son of a bitch!"


    Wounds: 7
    Fathers Avenged: 1
    Death Blow: impaling
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    Video: YouTube

    The Lord of the Rings, probably the single most influential work in all of fantasy fiction, finally got the big screen treatment in 2001 thanks to director and fan Peter Jackson.

    LOTR is the story of an ancient evil whose power resides in a lost ring. When the magic ring is found by hobbits, the unlikely heroes set out with an unprecedented alliance of man, elf, dwarf, and wizard on a journey to destroy the artifact.

    But evil forces, including the reaper-like Ringwraiths and the dark wizard Saruman, also seek the ring to bring back their lord Sauron. Saruman uses his magic to create a new race of powerful Orcs called Uruk-hai to hunt the heroic fellowship.
    The first film of the award-winning trilogy ends with the Uruk-hai and their leader Lurtz finally overtaking the heroes.






    Aragorn carries the reforged heirloom Anduril while Lurtz wields what is essentially a big, sharp piece of scrap metal. Lurtz, the larger, stronger opponent, knocks around Aragorn, but Aragorn uses his ranger training to slip away from fatal blows. Both fighters are visibly exhausted by all this, setting the battle apart from a lot of other fantasy swordplay.

    Aragorn is able to disarm Lurtz (by chopping off his arm) and impales him. The Uruk-hai actually pulls in the human leader by DRIVING THE SWORD FARTHER INTO HIS OWN BELLY! But before he can get his remaining hand on Aragorn, the once Strider and f*ture king beheads the abominable creature.


    Wounds: 3
    Severed Limbs: 1
    Death Blow: impaling, decapitation