The Top 10 Lightsaber Duels From the Star Wars Skywalker Saga That We're Still Not Over
Note: this article contains some major spoilers for all 9 Star Wars Movies. If you want to avoid spoilers or if you haven't seen all of the movies yet, we recommend heading to Disney Plus to watch all 9 movies before reading. The rest of society will be waiting for your return. Check out our recommended Star Wars viewing order here.
42 years. 3 trilogies. 9 films. The Skywalker Saga came to a full and complete close with the release of Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker to Disney+ on May the 4th, but the celebration isn’t over yet. Today is Revenge of the Sixth after all, so settle into your quarantine nest with your homemade blue milk and keep that Star Wars rewatch you started yesterday going.
Since we all have access to consume every piece of the story now, (and if you don’t have a Disney+ login, seriously, what are you doing here? Click out of this article, slide into someone’s DMs, and ask them for a password ASAP) let’s lightspeed skip into a ranking of everyone’s favorite part of a Star Wars film (and arguably one of the most iconic pieces of the franchise): the lightsaber battles.
10. Obi-Wan vs General Grievous (Episode III, Revenge of the Sith)
I am kicking off this list with the battle between Obi-Wan and General Grievous purely based on Obi-Wan’s dialogue in this scene. I know, I know, dialogue isn’t what you came here for, but his cadence on his opening line of “Hello there” is one of the most quotable lines in the prequel trilogy, and *spoiler alert*, after he defeats Grievous with a blaster and tosses it away, his “so uncivilized” line is an absolutely perfect parallel and set up to what was the Star Wars franchise’s introduction of lightsabers as a conceptual whole in A New Hope when Obi-Wan gives Luke the legacy saber and describes it as “an elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.” While the scene suffers from very heavy use of CGI that honestly didn’t age well, there’s still something very ~cool~ about watching Obi-Wan take on “Jedi Killer” Grievous and his 4 stolen sabers and emerging victorious.
9. Obi-Wan vs Darth Vader (Episode IV, A New Hope)
Going off of release order, this was the very first time Star Wars fans ever got to see two lightsaber blades cross, and WOW what a moment and a feeling. Having seen what we’ve all seen now with the more choreographed and intense duels in the prequel and sequel trilogies, this lightsaber battle feels a bit stiff, but a true and dedicated Star Wars fan will never forget their first time hearing the iconic sparking hum of the strikes of two lightsabers against each other.
8. Rey & Ben Solo vs Knights of Ren & Palpatine (Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker)
Okay, this one is a little bit of a cheat on this list, since technically two lightsabers are not actually used against each other. But this scene more than makes up for the lack of lightsabers against each other with the emotional payoff of seeing Ben Solo finally find his way back to the light and earn the #Bendemption that we’ve all been waiting for since the moment that he plunged his red crossguard saber into Han Solo’s heart (and broke mine in the process). The Force transfer of the legacy saber from Rey to Ben, Ben’s very Han Solo-esque shrug before he completely OWNS the Knights of Ren, the two of them simultaneously raising their blue sabers against Palpatine, and then capped off with Rey wielding both sabers as ~all the Jedi~, just… UGH. This was a peak Star Wars feels moment.
7. Rey vs Kylo Ren, Death Star Ruins (Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker)
This scene has a lot of what you want from a lightsaber duel. It’s one of the most visually pleasing lightsaber fights in the saga. Like, come on, the two of them going at it on the ruins of the second Death Star in the storm is a MOOD. The score is phenomenal, too, with the beats hitting at the same time as the strikes of their blades to build the tension that comes to a head when Rey finally bests Kylo Ren and runs him through with his own saber. What I love about this moment in this scene is that his hesitation before he goes to strike her down shows that there is still light in him, and her lack of hesitation to go for the kill proves that she’s got a little bit of Dark Rey in her after all. But her immediate regret in her decision followed by showing him compassion by healing him with her life force is ultimately what brought Ben Solo back to the light, so I suppose an argument could be made that in that moment she did indeed kill Kylo Ren with his own saber. “I did want to take your hand. Ben’s hand,” is the “I love you,” “I know,” of the sequel trilogy and I will not be taking any questions on this at this time, thank you.
6. Luke vs Darth Vader (Episode VI, Return of the Jedi)
The climax of the original trilogy is this fight between Luke and Darth Vader, with Vader trying to draw his son to give in to the ~power of the dark side~, and Luke feeling the good in his father still, and Palpatine just sitting on his throne soaking in the DRAMA unfolding in front of him, so convinced that he’s going to come out of this with a win regardless of the outcome. He sees Luke defeating Vader as a win because it means he gets a new, younger, more powerful apprentice, but if Vader defeats Luke, the Jedi are wiped out and he and Vader are left to rule unopposed. What he doesn’t foresee is Luke making the choice to refuse to strike his father down, toss his saber away, and choose to live in the light. “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” That line will never not give me chills.
5. Kylo Ren vs Rey (Episode VII, The Force Awakens)
Oh boy, this scene. THIS. SCENE. This is Kylo Ren as his bad-boy best, chasing down “the girl” who got away, only to find out she’s force sensitive and a badass in her own rite. You can almost see the heart eyes emoji come over his face as they fight through the forest of Starkiller Base, starting from the second that he tries to call to the legacy saber, and instead of flying to his hand, it nearly smacks him in the face on its way to Rey. Kylo has years of Jedi/Sith training under his belt, and this was her very first time even holding a lightsaber, and she manages to hold her own against him. I know that fact has been a hot topic of debate amongst the Star Wars fandom, but like, he had been SHOT so he’s physically compromised, and also hey, maybe she’s just allowed to be really naturally gifted at this, because I had been waiting to stan a female Jedi since I first dived into this fandom at age 7. The moment when she closes her eyes, takes a breath, and accepts the Force is the moment that she embraces her power and who she is. It's one of the defining scenes of the entire sequel trilogy, especially looking back at what we know now, with the Palpatine and the Force dyad of it all.
4. Luke vs Darth Vader (Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back)
This scene contains one of the most iconic plot twists in film history in general, not even just Star Wars, and that alone makes sure this ranks pretty high on this list. The reveal of “I am your father” is such a pivotal moment for Luke’s character as he’s faced with the truth of where he comes from, and the audience is left reeling in the wake of this information that Darth Daddy just dropped that we hardly even process the fact that he just CUT OFF LUKE’S WHOLE HAND, along with the legacy saber that everyone thought was lost to the depths of Cloud City until Maz Kanata pulled it out of her basement in The Force Awakens (seriously though, where DID she get that?!). That moment aside, this scene has some of the most iconic cinematography in the entire saga, with the dark, silhouetted shots of Luke and Vader with their laser swords slowing stalking through the shadows. Yes, Vader kind of hands it to Luke in this battle (I need you, the reader, to know that I just seriously wrote that line with no pun intended, and it was only in my proofread that I caught what I did. You’re welcome.), but is anyone surprised after Yoda straight up told him he wasn’t ready and Luke just pulled an "okay boomer” and went anyway?
3. Anakin vs Obi-Wan (Episode III, Revenge of the Sith)
“It’s over Anakin! I have the high ground!” “You underestimate my power!” *gets both his legs cut off and then set on fire* This battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin was the last nail in the coffin of Anakin Skywalker’s death and Darth Vader’s birth. It’s probably the most emotionally charged fight on this entire list, as Anakin has completely lost every bit of chill at this point (he just force strangled his pregnant wife?! Does he really deserve any rights at all anymore??) and Obi-Wan is forced to fight and ultimately defeat and leave for dead his padawan-turned-brother in the Force. No one is having any fun here, but its a beautifully shot piece of cinema, and Hayden Christenson’s best bit of acting he did thought either of the two films he was in. If this is the scene they used for his audition, I think I can understand why he got the job.
2. Rey & Kylo Ren vs Elite Praetorian Guard (Episode VII, The Last Jedi)
This fight is another kind of cheat on this list, because while yes two lightsabers are participating in this battle, they’re on the same side fighting the same enemy. This scene was a complete game-changer for the sequel trilogy. I still remember my jaw DROPPING when Kylo ignited the legacy saber into Snoke, sending it to Rey with a flick of his fingers, her hand reaching up to grab it, the two of them making some of the most sensual eye contact that’s ever been witnessed on screen, her face illuminated by her blue saber, his face lighting up red when he ignites his, before they turn to face the Elite Praetorian Guard, back to back. It’s the first time we see their dyad in the force in action, and damn, what a TEAM. I don’t know how ANYONE didn’t see the Reylo ship coming after witnessing that THIGH GRAB at the beginning of this fight. And that last move where she tosses Kylo the saber and he ignites it right through the Guard’s face?! I’ve never seen anyone make better use of a lightsaber.
1. Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul (Episode I, The Phantom Menace)
Was there ever really a doubt that this fight was going to take the number one spot? Yes, the second-worst Star Wars film contains the hands-down BEST lightsaber battle of the entire saga, no question. The choreography of these three extremely talented Force users holding absolutely nothing back in this nearly 15-minute long scene is worth every minute we had to sit through learning about trade taxation and Jar Jar Binks. The juxtaposition of Qui-Gon laying down his saber and kneeling to collect himself and his feelings opposed to Darth Maul pacing like a tiger in a cage is the perfect analogy and example of a Jedi versus a Sith, one all logic, the other pure unbridled emotion. I’m still not over Qui-Gon’s death in this scene, but damn it was satisfying watching Obi-Wan finish the job. This is Star War’s best lightsaber fight.