For nearly five decades, Star Wars has captivated audiences thanks to its epic lightsaber battles.
Now, as a result of such Disney+ shows as Ahsoka and Kenobi, fans no longer need twiddle their thumbs waiting for the next movie to satisfy their craving for intense lightsaber action. This list celebrates some of the most legendary battles in Star Wars history.
Lightsaber showdowns have significantly evolved from clunky and robotic to slick, elegant, beautifully choreographed lightning, fast-paced clashes of light versus dark. Here, relive some of the most noteworthy, spectacular, and heartbreaking lightsaber duels that will live forever in the hearts and minds of Star Wars fans across the galaxy.
1. Obi-Wan Kenobi V. Anakin Skywalker (Revenge of the Sith)
The first of multiple epic duels between former master and apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker marks a pivotal moment, delivering an iconic conclusion to the prequel trilogy. Upon the realization that his friend and apprentice had been consumed by Darth Vader, Obi-Wan reluctantly draws his saber, saying, “I will do what I must,” fighting to preserve the Jedi Order and the Republic.
The battle brims with breathtaking choreography, complemented by an incredible musical score, culminating in a conclusion that bridges the gap between the prequel and original trilogy, interweaving the overarching narrative of the entire saga. Every strike, parry, and emotional beat reinforces the web that binds the characters and events across the saga with lasting consequences, leaving a permanent print on the hearts and minds of fans across the galaxy.
2. Luke Skywalker V. Darth Vader (Return of the Jedi)
Luke and Vader's final showdown in Return of the Jedi boasts several aspects that cement its iconic status and the number two ranking. Its far-reaching implications reverberate throughout the galaxy, effectively tipping the scales of power back toward the light side after years of imperial Sith dominance.
This climactic duel serves as a display of lightsaber prowess yet, more importantly, as a pivotal moment that showcases the characters' internal struggles, their choices, and the enduring themes of redemption and the triumph of good over evil. It stands as a defining scene in the Star Wars canon.
3. Anakin Skywalker V. Ahsoka Tano (Ahsoka)
The live-action Ahsoka series features the return of everyone's favorite galactic hero—turned genocidal youngling murderer Anakin Skywalker, marking his first return to live-action combat since Revenge of the Sith.
Anakin meets Ahsoka in the World Between Worlds to help her complete her training. This battle boasts beautiful choreography, allowing Ahsoka to unlock her full potential and forcing her to confront her fears and regrets as she “lives or dies' in a duel for the ages with her former master. As their lightsabers clash, the evil in Anakin's eyes glimmers with a sinister glow; he delivers every strike, every parry with relentless Force, testing the limits of Ahsoka's abilities.
This duel marks a game-changing moment for Ahsoka's character. Ahsoka needed this closure/pep duel to propel her forward and allow her to reach her full potential. On top of all these crucial storytelling aspects, the CGI and choreography in this duel are off-the-charts stunning – harkening back to the golden age of lightsaber duels – with subtle callbacks to Anakin's duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar—making it one of, if not the most visually remarkable duels in Star Wars history.
Disney, if you're reading – more of this, please!
4. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn v. Darth Maul (Phantom Menace)
The iconic dance of destiny, referred to by many as the Duel of the Fates, exudes pure cinematic excellence from start to finish. The climactic battle pitting Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn against Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace has viewers gasping as their hearts break.
Every Star Wars fan can agree that watching Maul twirl around with his double-bladed lightsaber, wielding it with expert precision, ducking, dodging, and attacking gracefully and elegantly, impacts the audience differently than the duels from the original trilogy. The spectacular new style of dueling, the compelling musical score, and the introduction of some of the galaxy's most iconic heroes and villains earn this duel a high ranking on this list.
5. Yoda V. Darth Sidious (Revenge of the Sith)
Yoda's duel with Darth Sidious deserves its place in the top five. Witnessing the 800-plus-year-old pint-sized Jedi Master face off against the Lord of the Sith fulfills a promise of seeing Yoda in action made some 25 years before.
With absolute fearlessness, Yoda strolls into Sidious' office, knocking him off his arrogant perch. Although the battle didn't end as Yoda had hoped, it testifies to Yoda's incredible strength with the Force. He doesn't just speak in riddles—he packs a massive punch despite his stature. Sidious underestimates Yoda, and it nearly costs him his empire. Observing the little green dynamo leap, spin, and twirl as he pushes Darth Sidious to his limits is nothing short of spectacular. Indeed, witnessing the spectacle of Yoda deflecting his Force lightning is worth the price of admission for this epic clash. The ramifications of this duel lead to one of the most significant power shifts in all of Star Wars.
6. Obi-Wan Kenobi V. Darth Vader – Barren Moon (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
In the climactic finale of the Kenobi series, the long-anticipated rematch between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his former apprentice, Darth Vader, delivers a breathtaking spectacle that masterfully weaves together storytelling and action. The attention to detail in the choreography shines through, creating a captivating hybrid of 1980s lightsaber action and the dynamic sequences fans have come to expect in 2023. The duel masterfully showcases the evolution of both characters, capturing Obi-Wan's controlled defensive style and Vader's aggressive, power-focused approach with intricacy and impact.
Their duel is imbued with symbolism seared into the thrilling face-off; the slash in Vader's mask, for example, combined with the merging of Hayden Christensen's Anakin voice with the Vader modulator, acts as a perfect representation of the duality of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader—a single body split between good and evil.
7. Luke Skywalker V. Darth Vader (Empire Strikes Back)
Although still clunky and lacking the gracefulness of the prequel trilogy duels, Luke's first duel with Vader in Empire Strikes Back provides one of the biggest “OMG” moments in cinematic history. This duel expertly captures the emotional weight of Luke's first face-to-face with Vader as Luke desperately endeavors to contend with the mighty Sith, culminating in a shocking reveal that leaves audiences reeling.
John Williams, as always, delivers a fantastic score to complement the action, and the foreboding atmosphere of Cloud City serves as the perfect backdrop for the fateful clash. More iconic than the duel itself is the scene during the duel, where Vader reveals Luke's true lineage. This fight represents a turning point for both characters, pushing the story in a thrilling, complex new direction.
8. Obi-Wan Kenobi V. General Grievous (Revenge of the Sith)
Securing the eighth spot on the list, the live-action combat debut of General Grievous epitomizes prequel trilogy lightsaber dueling prowess featuring two men, five lightsabers, and Obi-Wan's legendary beard. These two figures played pivotal roles in the Clone Wars, with Grievous meeting a brutal demise seemingly exploding from the inside out due to a flurry of shots from an ‘uncivilized' blaster. One is left to wonder why Kenobi obsesses with setting his opponents on fire.
The choreography dazzles as Obi-Wan Kenobi pirouettes and prances, matching wits with Grievous and his quartet of lightsabers. Grievous, hissing and coughing, whirls his sabers toward Kenobi at remarkable speeds. This duel marks a turning point in the Clone Wars and triggers a series of galaxy-altering events.
9. Ezra and Sabine V. Shin Hati (Ahsoka)
The second duel from the Ahsoka series on the list finds Ezra and Sabine facing off against Shin Hati and a group of bandits and stormtroopers. Watching Ezra perform Force karate is a genuine delight. The duel showcases Ezra's immense power as he deflects and dodges Shin Hati's lightsaber solely using the Force. Fans also witness Sabine coming into her own with her saber skills, able to hold her own against the same girl who impaled her with a lightsaber earlier in the season. Despite being vastly outnumbered, they defy the odds through teamwork.
This duel represents significant growth for Sabine's character, showing her gradual progression toward becoming a Jedi. The future holds much potential for her and Ezra. Fans eagerly anticipate what lies ahead for each of these fantastic additions to the live-action Star Wars Universe.
10. Yoda V. Count Dooku (Attack of the Clones)
Rounding out the top ten, everyone's favorite petite green dynamo appears again, this time locking sabers with his former apprentice-turned-Sith acolyte, Count Dooku. This encounter offers fans a historic first glimpse of CGI Yoda brandishing a lightsaber, with every step, flip, and jump meticulously choreographed, showcasing the evolution of lightsaber duels from the original trilogy to “golden era” prequel series lightsaber battles.
Upon recognizing his Force connection pales in comparison to Yoda's, Dooku challenges the Jedi Master to a saber duel to determine the superior warrior. Mimicking a miniature green whirlwind, Yoda leaps and spins, outmaneuvering and overpowering Dooku. Recognizing his defeat, Dooku executes a hasty retreat, heralding the onset of the Clone Wars.
11. Obi-Wan Kenobi V. Darth Vader (A New Hope)
Who could ever forget that moment in A New Hope when Obi-Wan Kenobi and Vader ignited their laser swords? This iconic Star Wars snapshot sets the stage for a rematch (or a rematch of the rematch?) and ignites the narrative for the rest of the original trilogy.
Looking back on this duel, it may display the elegance and grace of action figures being slammed together by a toddler, yet it presents fans with their first exposure to a saber duel, a feature that becomes a cornerstone of the franchise. This showdown spotlights some of the most groundbreaking strides in filmmaking history. It establishes a precedent for audiences to anticipate spectacular lightsaber showdowns, supplementing the rich storytelling.
12. Qui-Gon V. Darth Maul – Tatooine (The Phantom Menace)
Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul's fleeting clash on the sands of Tatooine represents a brief yet definitive duel, marking the first saber showdown of the prequel trilogy. This sun-drenched confrontation between Jedi Master and Sith apprentice stands as an underrated spectacle. It deserves recognition for offering a brief preview of the fresh lightsaber dueling style that fans would grow to anticipate in the golden age of lightsaber duels.
The skirmish alerts Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan of the looming Sith threat, offering a sneak peek at Darth Maul and his mesmerizing lightsaber prowess. This episode serves as another testament to The Phantom Menace's role in ushering Star Wars enthusiasts into the golden era of lightsaber dueling, introducing a host of new faces and featuring familiar names and electrifying combat.
13. Darth Sidious V. Mace Windu & Jedi Masters (Revenge of the Sith)
Mace Windu takes three Jedi Masters—Agen Kolar, Saesee Tiin, and Kit Fisto—with him to arrest Palpatine. However, Sidious instantly kills the first two and then the third within a few heartbeats. This leaves Windu and Sidious alone to engage in a tense duel, beautifully choreographed with a fast-paced flurry of crimson and purple.
Adding to the tension, Anakin, with the best of intentions, intends to intervene. We all know how that turns out, and in terms of consequences for the larger saga, this duel serves as the catalyst for the tragic events that follow: the rise of the Sith and the Empire, the fall of the Jedi and the Republic, the fall of Anakin Skywalker, and the rise of Darth Vader.
14. Finn V. Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens)
The Force Awakens introduces Stormtrooper FN-2187, also known as Finn, who, when he first appears, provides signals to the audience that there is more to him than meets the eye., Despite spending most of the movie attempting to escape the First Order, Finn heroically confronts the conflicted, rage-filled Kylo Ren. Ren outmatches Finn in this heavily charged duel, fighting for his life against the galaxy's most disloyal son. The choreography steps away from the slick, elegant style of the prequels in favor of a more visceral, hack-and-slash style, fitting the tone of the duel.
Finn heaves and blocks, using every ounce of strength to resist Kylo Ren's onslaught. This brief clash creates a palpable sense of raw desperation. How remarkable – a stormtrooper ends up wielding a lightsaber—a revelation that hints at Finn's Force sensitivity, later teased in The Rise of Skywalker.
15. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi V. Count Dooku (Revenge of the Sith)
Anakin takes revenge against Count Dooku in their eagerly anticipated rematch. “An arm for a head…” – how does the old saying go? The choreography in this duel is golden-age prequel lightsaber choreography at its finest. With Palpatine all but ordering Anakin to execute Dooku and Anakin obliging, this duel marks a pivotal step for Anakin toward the dark side. The ease with which Anakin executes Dooku represents a dark turn for his character that foreshadows his transformation into Vader. This marks yet another battle in Revenge of the Sith that carries tremendous consequences for the galaxy in the years ahead.
16. Rey V. Kylo Ren – Kef Bir (Rise of Skywalker)
Upon the ruins of the Death Star, Kylo Ren, and Rey engage in a frenzied dance of blue and red lightsabers, marking the second sequel trilogy duel to grace the list. Ren baits Rey with truths about her lineage, a temptation she can't resist, sparking a furious clash amidst a backdrop of crashing waves.
While the choreography looks beautiful, the fight lacks a certain thrill. The anticipation has lost its fizz, given this isn't the premiere (or even the encore) clash between them in the film. However, the duel's significance is immense, and the consequences presage the film's climax. The duel also provides redemption to a character mired in conflict throughout the trilogy, with Ben Solo discarding the Kylo Ren persona and renouncing the dark side.
17. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi V. Count Dooku (Attack of the Clones)
Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi face off against Count Dooku for the first time in battle on Geonosis. While still engaging, this duel falls short of its sequel. With the slick prequel trilogy choreography fans expect, it offers some compelling moments and a level of significance.
Dooku effortlessly overpowers both Anakin and Obi-Wan, showcasing his formidable strength by swiftly dispatching the two young Jedi. He severs Anakin's arm, leading to the young Jedi's need for a robotic prosthetic. This encounter imparts a crucial lesson to Anakin about the importance of teamwork.
18. Obi-Wan Kenobi V. Darth Vader – Mapuzo (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
Obi-Wan and Vader clash twice in the Kenobi series. Their initial meeting technically qualifies as a duel, albeit the most one-sided duel on this list. Vader tracks down Obi-Wan and engages in a game of cat and mouse as Obi-Wan attempts to evade him. Demonstrating his ruthlessness and calculation, Vader resorts to snapping a young boy’s neck, once again displaying his propensity toward youngling murder. All of this is done to lure out Obi-Wan. The scene is laden with emotion. The lopsided nature of the duel can be attributed to Obi-Wan's lack of practice and his struggle with a mix of guilt and fear over the transformation of his former Padawan and brother. Throughout the one-sided duel, Vader dominates and terrorizes Obi-Wan, taunting and torturing him.
This duel and the series as a whole masterfully capture Vader's ruthless and savage nature, as well as his intense thirst for revenge. Despite Obi-Wan's limited resistance, this scene remains impactful and sets him on a path to regain his strength in preparation for an epic showdown with Vader in the series finale.
19. Rey and Kylo Ren V. Praetorian Guards (The Last Jedi)
This duel stands as one of the most significant subversions of expectation in Star Wars history. Following Kylo Ren's betrayal and killing of Snoke, it initially appears that he's shifted allegiance as he joins forces with Rey to confront Snoke's Praetorian Guards. The guards present a formidable challenge for the two Force-wielders, leading to a chaotic and unorthodox fight due to the diverse array of weapons employed by the guards, ranging from sabers to knives and whips.
Surviving through collaboration, Rey and Ren's teamwork prevails. With a slight change of pace from the typical saber-on-saber clash, this duel provides some of the most enjoyable moments of The Last Jedi, including an emotionally charged exchange and a death that nobody saw coming.
20. Ahsoka Tano V. Morgan Elsbeth (Ahsoka)
The final entry on the list showcases Ahsoka Tano's duel with Morgan Elsbeth in the season finale of Ahsoka. Acting on General Thrawn's orders, Morgan is tasked with stalling Ahsoka to facilitate Thrawn's escape. Empowered by Nightsister Magick and armed with the Blade of Talzin, Morgan engages Ahsoka in a brilliantly choreographed clash atop the tower amid a relentless onslaught of blaster fire from stormtroopers. As all seems lost for Ahsoka, Sabine unexpectedly intervenes, pulling a Sabine ex machina to save Ahsoka, allowing Ahsoka to grasp the upper hand and deliver a killing blow.
Morgan's sacrifice thwarts Ahsoka's plan to stop Thrawn. The brilliant blue military tactician manages to escape, and the fate of Ahsoka and Sabine remains uncertain. The outcome of their return to the primary galaxy is poised to carry significant ramifications in future projects as we delve deeper into this unexplored realm of the Star Wars narrative.