The Star Wars saga is full of incredible moments, but few live up to the excitement of seeing lightsabers clash. The epic battle between the light and dark sides of the Force is at the heart of the entire series. Nowhere is that more prevalent than when the two go head-to-head in a fight for the fate of the galaxy. However, not all lightsaber duels are created equally, with some creating franchise-best moments and others falling flat.
Let's rank all of the lightsaber battles for The Skywalker Saga.
Honorable Mention: The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi holds the controversial distinction of being the only film in the main Skywalker Saga in which no two lightsabers ever come into contact with each other. That said, the final confrontation on Crait between Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo is an incredible sequence, with high emotions, striking imagery, and a great reveal that Luke was never even physically there. If Luke and Ben had actually crossed sabers at any point, it's safe to say this moment would sit comfortably fairly high on the list.
8. Attack of the Clones
While the duel in Attack of the Clones between Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku, and Yoda features the same flashy choreography and astounding John Williams score that makes the prequel fights so memorable, this one is best forgotten about. The initial bout between Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Dooku is serviceable, but it lacks emotion, given Dooku's introduction to the film coming so late in the runtime. The fight itself feels more like a dance than a battle to the death, and once Yoda enters the fray, things go bad. Yoda's use of a lightsaber seems to contradict many of his teachings in the original trilogy, and watching him flip around looks silly. It's a duel where the stakes feel too low, and the choreography doesn't do it any favors.
7. The Rise of Skywalker
The final lightsaber duel in the series should feel like an event. The entire saga has led to the most decisive battle between the forces of light and dark, and the outcome will determine the fate of the galaxy. Unfortunately, The Rise of Skywalker gives audiences a mediocre skirmish as Rey and Kylo Ren duke it out atop the Death Star wreckage. There's nothing inherently wrong with the scene. Both combatants demonstrate a few impressive moves, such as stopping a lightsaber blade with the Force, something that's never been shown in a film before. It's also an interesting change of pace to see Rey actively become tired as things drag on since most Jedi and Sith seemingly have unlimited stamina in the prequels. That said, it's far from a memorable or overly definitive duel when it really should have been. It comes far too early in the film to bring any finality and ultimately leaves a lot to be desired as the last-ever clash between sabers in the main saga.
6. The Force Awakens
The first Star Wars film in 10 years had much to live up to. It's heavily debated whether The Force Awakens succeeded in revitalizing the franchise or was just a tired rehash of familiar plot beats. Still, arguably, the film does a great job bringing back beloved characters while introducing likable new ones. Following the death of Han Solo, both the new protagonist Rey and the audience are left emotionally devastated, so seeing her take up the Skywalker saber to confront Kylo Ren is goosebump-inducing. What follows lacks any real fancy footwork to make the fight ultimately memorable, but it's hard to forget the excitement of seeing a new generation of Jedi rise to face evil once again. It works as a satisfying finale to the film, but it's not the best the overall series has to offer.
5. A New Hope
The first-ever on-screen lightsaber duel has not aged particularly well in some ways. A New Hope may have been a technical marvel in 1977, but it pales in comparison to the more flashy, fast-paced battles fans have seen since. It checks all the right emotional boxes, helped by some added backstory. The prequels and shows like The Clone Wars and Obi-Wan Kenobi show a rich history between Kenobi and Anakin/Vader, so their final confrontation holds a lot of weight. When watching the films chronologically, it feels as if the entire saga has been built to this moment. Kenobi's ultimate sacrifice feels like a powerful moment, giving himself to the Force to save Luke and "become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." That said, the fight is incredibly slow-paced and feels like two old men poking at each other with glowsticks. The clunky, almost non-existent choreography definitely keeps it from true greatness, but it holds enough weight story-wise to feel more significant than those lower on the list.
4. The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace holds the distinction of being the very best lightsaber duel for many fans, and rightfully so in many ways. From the legendary John Williams score to the outstanding choreography, the fight certainly leaves an impression and is undoubtedly the film's best part. With that said, it holds very little weight on an emotional or storytelling level. Darth Maul is nothing more than an amazing design with a unique lightsaber. He has no personality, development, or stake in the story, and given that he only has three lines and interacts with the main heroes just one other time in the film, fans have little reason to understand or care about him. Qui-Gon Jinn doesn't fare much better, with the film's stilted dialogue and Liam Neeson's uncharacteristically flat performance making for the least interesting protagonist in the saga. This all makes the three-way duel on Naboo feel empty, with characters fans have little reason to care about trying (and succeeding) in killing each other. Maul may go on to become a fantastic character in various animated projects, and Qui-Gon has been fleshed out in novels, comics, and appearances like Tales of the Jedi. However, within the context of the film itself, there isn't much going on outside of some flashy visuals and epic music.
3. Revenge of the Sith
Revenge of the Sith is undoubtedly the best of the prequel trilogy and finally cracks the code on lightsaber action. The epic, tragic duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and the fallen Anakin Skywalker hits the right notes, with proper emotional stakes, a dangerous, unique setting, and one of the best scores John Williams has ever crafted. The relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin is well-established, so Kenobi's turmoil over having to kill his surrogate brother, as well as the true consequences of Anakin's fall, is truly heartbreaking. Unfortunately, the fight does go on too long, and the over-the-top beats start to feel more like a video game, undercutting some of the emotional impact. It may not be a perfect sequence, but it does enough right to be one of the best action scenes in the entire saga.
2. The Empire Strikes Back
The best Star Wars movie of all time also features one of the best lightsaber battles ever. Luke facing Vader has been built to all throughout his training with Yoda. His master's constant warnings that the aspiring Jedi isn't ready for what's to come adds a significant feeling of dread in The Empire Strikes Back's final confrontation. Coupled with the capture of Han Solo, certain doom feels inevitable for the heroes, and this sensation never truly goes away. Just narrowly avoiding Vader's trap, Luke spends nearly the entire fight on the back foot. It's less that he is actually fighting Vader, rather he's just trying to survive him. Vader feels scarier than ever, clearly toying with the young Jedi throughout their confrontation. Both characters get visibly tired as things go on. Vader's iconic breathing becomes labored, and Luke barely being able to hold his arms up just before being sucked out the window. Then, the inevitable happens: Luke actually loses. Vader lands a strategic blow, cutting off the hero's hand and sending his weapon tumbling into the Cloud City pit below. All seems lost, but in that moment, Vader reveals the truth: That he is Luke's father. To this day, it's still the most iconic twist in cinematic history, capping off a brutal, desperate duel with a devastating revelation.
1. Return of the Jedi
Over 40 years later, Return of the Jedi's lightsaber duel is still the best the franchise has to offer. Coming off his devastating confrontation with Darth Vader in Empire, Luke has spent much of Jedi feeling much more confident in himself. He has clearly spent the time between films training to face Vader again. Only this time, it isn't about defeating the Sith but saving his father. Luke allows himself to be captured and come face-to-face with the most evil man in the galaxy because he believes in the goodness of Anakin Skywalker, no matter how deep it may be buried within Vader. Unfortunately, after the Emperor toys with Luke's emotions and springs a trap that spells certain doom for the rebel alliance, the Jedi is goaded into once again battling Vader.
What ensues is the most emotionally rich face-off in the saga, as both Vader and Palpatine pull Luke further into the dark. Initially refusing to kill his father, Luke flies into a fit of rage after his sister Leia is threatened. It's surprising to see such a violent turn from Luke, even briefly, but then seeing his reaction to his father's own severed hand brings the entire story full circle. There are many similarities between Anakin and Luke, including the potential for great darkness, but Luke rises above it, once again deciding not to fight. Tossing his saber aside and sacrificing himself for his father feels incredibly poignant. Vader's ultimate betrayal of Palpatine is what the entire saga has led to. It's a powerful and emotional sequence that brought the entire saga up to that point to a head, making for a fantastic conclusion to the Skywalker story for over 30 years.