The holiday season is upon us, and with it dear readers the highly anticipated release of the seventh film in the “Star Wars” franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.
Under the direction of filmmaker J.J. Abrams, well-known for rebooting the “Star Trek” series, this seventh chapter picks up some thirty years after the end of “Return of the Jedi” and follows the adventures of heroes new and old in the decades since the fall of the malevolent Galactic Empire.
The “Star Wars” saga draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, from politics to ancient mythology to world religions, but one of George Lucas’ clearest inspirations is the influence he drew from martial arts. The chivalrous Jedi are a warrior class akin to Samurai or Shaolin Monks, who draw their power from the metaphysical source of all life known as The Force, and while they strive to achieve peace and harmony in the galaxy, they are also the most formidable of warriors, carrying the powerful yet precise Lightsaber by their side whenever the need to do battle arises.
So, with “The Force Awakens” making landfall in theaters across the globe, KFK takes a look back on the “Star Wars” films to rank the Top 5 Greatest Lightsaber duels in the series (in descending order).
5. Anakin and Obi-Wan vs Count Dooku – “Revenge of the Sith”
Two-on-one Lightsaber duels always up the stakes in the best way but then there’s just seeing the late, great Christopher Lee assuming the role of a villainous Sith Lord that makes this one of the better Lightsaber battles of the series. The swordsmanship of our two heroes and their adversary is masterful, but we also begin to see Anakin’s bloodlust and slow descent into the Dark Side of the Force manifest in this scene, earning it a spot in our Top 5 list.
4. Luke vs Darth Vader – “The Empire Strikes Back”
As you can probably surmise, the fact that one of the greatest twists in cinematic history rears its head in this scene has something to do with its presence on this list (we’ll leave the said twist unspoiled for anyone who’s been living under a rock since 1980). Looking past that, this is not only the first time Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader face off, it’s also Luke’s first big test of his abilities as a Jedi, when his Jedi training with Yoda hadn’t even finished- talk about putting the hero at a disadvantage! On top of that, we see Vader much more fleshed out as a villain in the film, making this battle with the young Jedi apprentice all the more palpable.
3. Luke vs Darth Vader – “Return of the Jedi”
Coming at the climax of the final chapter of the original trilogy, this is a rematch for the ages! The emotional power of this duel cannot be overstated; we see Luke being tempted to give in to the power of the Dark Side of the Force, and he lashes out with a rage we’ve simply never seen in him before. Of course, the true villain is Emperor Palpatine, who tempts our hero to give into his bloodlust, and all of this takes place as the Rebellion puts its plan to bring down the Empire for good into motion. There’s a lot going on in this finale, and it definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat!
2. Qui-gon and Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul – “The Phantom Menace”
Say what you will about “The Phantom Menace” as a whole, but when the film was released in 1999, this was the best Lightsaber fight of the entire series, by far! British wushu exponent Ray Park portrays the vicious Sith apprentice Darth Maul, and in this final battle, he single-handedly set a new standard for the martial arts skills of Jedi and Sith alike in all subsequent “Star Wars” films. He would go on to showcase his abilities as Toad in 2000’s “X-Men” and as Snake Eyes in the “G.I. Joe” movies, but it was this final fight that made him a star and made Darth Maul a fan-favorite character ever since. It was the best battle of Jedi and Sith the series had seen up to that point, until it was finally surpassed in 2005 by the number one entry in this list which is…
1. Anakin vs Obi-Wan – “Revenge of the Sith”
Coming at the climax of the third and final chapter of the “Star Wars” prequels, this battle of friends turned enemies, is simply breathtaking in its scope and intensity. Anakin has finally crossed over to the Dark Side of the Force and embraced his new Sith identity, Darth Vader and it’s simultaneously heart-breaking and awe-inspiring to see him and his former Jedi mentor Obi-Wan duke it out while surrounded by a river of molten lava. We knew this moment was coming since we first met Anakin, and “Revenge of the Sith” does not disappoint in delivering the spectacular action along with the necessary emotional power that his transition to the Dark Side deserves!
So that’s KFK’s selection of the 5 Greatest Lightsaber battles from the “Star Wars” films so far. Of course, with the “The Force Awakens”, with Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman of “The Raid” films all making an appearance would this list require an update? That’s not even counting next year’s entry, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” which includes martial arts virtuoso Donnie Yen in its cast. For lovers of martial arts, there’s no better time than now to get into “Star Wars” and this Christmas, may the Force Awaken in all you Jedis out there!