An Elegant Weapon: Ranking the Best Lightsaber Fights


"“This is the weapon of the Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster – an elegant weapon, from a more civilized age.”"

So spoke Obi-Wan Kenobi when Luke Skywalker first activated the iconic weapon of the Star Wars series. But things aren’t always so civilized in a galaxy far, far away, and that’s why the Jedi need this weapon in the first place. Lightsaber fights are inseparable from the series, and the editors over at have decided to rank the ten best ones in the series based on “inventiveness, choreography and emotional impact.”

Check out the video below:

Here’s the breakdown of their rankings:

10. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. General Grievous (Revenge of the Sith)

9. Mace Windu vs. Darth Sidious (Revenge of the Sith)

8. Yoda vs. Count Dooku (Attack of the Clones)

7. Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader (A New Hope)

6. Obi-Wan vs. Jango Fett (Attack of the Clones)

5. Luke Skywalker vs. Vader (Return of the Jedi)

4. Yoda vs. Sidious (Revenge of the Sith)

3. Obi-wan vs. Anakin Skywalker (Revenge of the Sith)

2. Luke vs. Vader (The Empire Strikes Back)

1. Obi-Wan & Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul (A Phantom Menace)

The most surprising thing about this list is the top choice. It’s a pick from what many consider the worst movie of the series, but in many ways, the climactic fight between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul is the best part of Episode I. It really does have everything: excellent stunt work; a dynamic fight that takes advantage of the epic reactor room setting; shifts in momentum, as both sides gain and lose advantages in the fight; and high stakes that end in both tragedy and victory.

That being said, I wouldn’t label it the best lightsaber fight of the series. Here’s my list, with some reordering and additions and subtractions.

10. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. General Grievous (Revenge of the Sith)

9. Yoda vs. Sidious (Revenge of the Sith)

8. Mace Windu vs. Darth Sidious (Revenge of the Sith)

7. Obi-Wan & Anakin vs. Count Dooku (Attack of the Clones)

6. Luke Skywalker vs. Vader (Return of the Jedi)

5. Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader (A New Hope)

4. Obi-wan vs. Anakin Skywalker (Revenge of the Sith)

3. Luke vs. “Vader” (The Empire Strikes Back)

2. Obi-Wan & Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul (A Phantom Menace)

1. Luke vs. Vader (The Empire Strikes Back)

The reasoning behind my list goes back to one of the criteria the original list used: “emotional impact.” A lightsaber fight should be about more than stuntwork or choreography or camera moves. What matters most in a duel is the emotional stakes that surround the fight in the first place.

That’s why Luke versus Vader in Episode V is my personal favorite fight. The buildup to that confrontation lasts for nearly two movies. You could feel the tension in the Cloud City carbonizing room when Luke finally comes face-to-face with Vader. And unlike most duels where the two combatants simply want to kill each other, the ulterior motives beneath the surface are far more interesting. Vader clearly does not want to kill Luke, but is testing him in an effort to see if Luke could be a powerful ally.

That distinction is the guiding force of my rankings. It led to me including two fights that the original list left out as well: Luke’s fight with “Vader” in the cave on Dagobah, and the fight between Obi-Wan, Anakin and Count Dooku at the end of Episode II. It may be a bit of a stretch to call the first one a “duel,” as it lasts about 30 seconds, but it represents a crucial turning point for Luke when he sees his own face behind Vader’s mask and realizes the true danger of the Dark Side.

And I can’t help but feel that the fight from the end of Attack of the Clones is a major oversight that belongs on the original list. The scene shows the deteriorating relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin, which leads to Anakin losing his arm and Dooku getting away, both of which have quite an impact on the subsequent storyline.

What about your thoughts, Dork Siders? What are your favorite lightsaber fights?