Ranking the Best Star Wars Lightsaber Fights Ever

From Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker to Duel of the Fates, here are the best and most epic lightsaber fights in live-action Star Wars.

Luke vs. Darth Vader in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Image

This Star Wars article contains spoilers.

Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars without lightsabers. The illuminated blades have become an iconic part of the franchise, as have the many characters who wield them. Lightsabers require great skill and mastery, especially when Jedi Master faces Sith Lord.

Lightsaber duels are the cornerstone of almost any good Star Wars project, and there have been many thrilling clashes over the franchise’s decades-long history. With so many to choose from, it’s time to look back at the very best duels from the live-action movies and TV series, and rank which is the greatest duel of all time.

12. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi

Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi have had several duels throughout Star Wars history, and two of the three rank as the very best the saga has ever had to offer in live-action. Let’s with the most recent.

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Taking place 10 years after the fight on Mustafar that left Anakin scarred and forever reliant on his menacing suit, their duel in the finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi is an impeccable addition to this series of clashes. On one side you have Darth Vader, who has become a nearly unstoppable force of dark side power, a monster who no longer resembles the brave Jedi Knight Obi-Wan once knew. On the other you have Obi-Wan, who shut himself off from the Force until a rescue mission brought him face to face with his former apprentice. And yet, the pair are still evenly matched.

What’s best about this duel is the storytelling that unfolds during the scene. Even after all this time, the master/padawan dynamic is still evident, with Vader so obviously still trying to prove himself to the man who basically raised him. For all of his anger and power, Darth Vader can’t best his former teacher and friend, even after he collapses the ground around him.

This duel is an apt mid-point between Mustafar and their final fight on the Death Star in A New Hope, concluding story threads from the Prequel Trilogy while also bridging the gap to Obi-Wan’s ultimate sacrifice in the Original Trilogy.

11. Ahsoka vs. Morgan Elsbeth on Peridea in Ahsoka

This isn’t the first time that Ahsoka and Morgan Elsbeth have fought, the two went head-to-head for the first time in The Mandalorian on the planet Corvus. Elsbeth proved to be a capable opponent, even when her only weapon was a Beskar spear. Ahsoka won that battle and brought Elsbeth to justice, but the Imperial magistrate wasn’t done.

In Ahsoka, it’s revealed that Elsbeth is one of the last surviving Nightsisters of Dathomir, a sect of witchy Force-wielders whose magick gives them unique abilities. On the extragalactic planet of Peridea, the ancestral home of the Nightsisters, Elsbeth’s powers are unlocked once again as she wields the powerful Blade of Talzin against Ahsoka. Their climactic fight is the first time we get to see Nightsister powers in live-action, and Elsbeth proves to be an even more difficult opponent for Ahsoka this time around. There are also a bunch of zombie stormtroopers thrown into the mix, which just makes this high-stakes duel that much cooler.

10. Rey vs. Kylo Ren on the Wreck of a Death Star in The Rise of Skywalker

Rey and Kylo Ren have many epic fights over the course of the Sequel Trilogy, and their duel atop the sunken wreckage of a Death Star in The Rise of Skywalker is one of their best. Their skills are more evenly matched, the crashing of waves around them provides a dramatic backdrop, and the ending is pure Reylo fanfic fuel. The way that Rey backflips through the crashing water, finally in command of her powers. When Ren follows after her, unphased by the waves collapsing around him, his red lightsaber glowing menacingly through the mist. It’s just a beautiful sequence from beginning to end.

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Rey effectively kills Ren in this fight, with his own lightsaber, as the spirit of a dying Leia calls out to both of them through the Force. Once Rey realizes what she’s done, she is able to heal Ren of his massive lightsaber stab wound in an incredibly touching moment. This fight is full of tension, heart, gorgeous visuals, and remains one of the few good things to come out of this movie.

9. Yoda vs. Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones

Yoda is constantly proving just how much power he contains in that tiny body, and his fight against Count Dooku on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones is perhaps the best showcase of his skills ever. He bats away giant metal canisters, keeps the roof from caving in on him, and even redirects Dooku’s Force lightning back at him, all before lightsabers are even drawn.

When the two finally get into a battle of the blades, Yoda leaps all around Dooku, parrying and parkouring like it’s nothing, giving us one of the most energetic and fast-paced showcases with a lightsaber ever put on screen. Shocking for a little guy who spends most of his screentime walking around with a cane or zipping around on a flying dish. Dooku finds out quickly that Yoda’s just been saving his energy for a fight. The only reason that Dooku gets away is because he makes Yoda choose between taking him down or saving Obi-Wan and Anakin, who are lying barely conscious on the ground and about to be crushed by a giant piece of metal. Dooku runs away like a coward, an anti-climactic end to what’s otherwise one of the best moments from the Prequels.

8. Luke Skywalker vs. Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi may be a controversial entry in Star Wars canon, but it’s hard to deny how hard its lightsaber fights go, and the duel between Luke and Ren on the planet Crait is not only one of this film’s best, it’s one of the franchise’s best.

The tension between uncle and nephew, former master and apprentice, is palpable. Ren finally has a chance at revenge for what Luke nearly did so long ago, and Luke finally has a chance to make amends for it. The way the loose, salty surface of the planet shifts to reveal blood red crystal underneath as the two dance in combat is a gorgeous visual, a fitting representation of the blood, both bad and familial, between the two. But what makes this fight even better is its memorable twist ending: Luke isn’t actually there in person—he’s projecting himself through the Force from an entirely different planet!

7. Yoda vs. Emperor Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith

After Order 66 is enacted and Palpatine’s true intentions are revealed, Yoda, the little badass that he is, decides to confront the Sith Lord on his own in a last-ditch effort to stop his rise to power. And where else could this duel for the fate of the galaxy happen but in the chambers of the Galactic Senate? Symbolism!

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Yoda’s mastery with both the Force and his saber have been well established by this point, but this is his biggest test ever on the big screen. Can he take down the greatest Sith Lord of all time?

Palpatine is clearly skilled with the blade, but his true mastery lies in manipulating the Force. As Palpatine chucks senate saucers at him, Yoda avoids them with ease, and the one that he throws narrowly avoids hitting Palpatine. The two are pretty evenly matched until the end, with Yoda only fleeing after falling to the lowest level of the senate chamber. He realizes they’re too evenly matched and that Palpatine now has the high ground and reinforcements to win.

6. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi

The epic battle of Father vs. Son, Light vs. Dark comes to a head in Return of the Jedi with Luke and Darth Vader’s final duel. Luke’s mastery of the Force is greater than when he last went up against his father, and now it’s his turn to come out victorious—a hand for a hand and all that. But there’s more at stake than just Rebels vs. Empire or Jedi vs. Sith here. This is actually the fight for Luke’s own humanity.

Emperor Palpatine is in the wings, watching this all go down, trying to persuade Luke to give into his anger and end his father’s life, but Luke refuses, choosing the path of the Jedi despite the temptation to succumb. Throughout, we get a dramatic fight that reveals just how far both have come in the saga. Despite Vader’s decades of experience and the powerful anger still within him, it soon becomes clear that Luke takes after the man his father once was when it comes to his Force-wielding and lightsaber fighting skills. Not only is this cat-and-mouse duel fun to watch, it’s an emotional conclusion to the story of Anakin Skywalker.

5.  The Acolyte – Khofar Standoff

This fight from The Acolyte may have just happened, but it has quickly become one of Star Wars’ best. The Stranger/Qimir holds back nothing as he takes on an entire team of Jedi, slicing and stabbing his way through them with ease, using the Force to pull Jedi onto his blade. But he also throws in a few new tricks we’ve never seen on screen before.

With a Cortosis helmet and bracer, he’s able to deflect their attacks and temporarily disable their lightsabers, going so far as to headbutt their blows directly. Lightsabers have always been powerful weapons, and this fight emphasizes just how deadly they can be in the hands of someone who doesn’t hold back. The result is a path of destruction that leaves a shocking amount of Jedi to become one with the Force.

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4. Luke Skywaker vs. Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back

This fight begins as a young Jedi-in-training taking on a powerful Sith Lord on his own, but by the end, it’s turned into a battle of father vs. son as Vader’s true identity is revealed in the climax of this tense duel in The Empire Strikes Back. Despite Luke’s inexperience, he is mostly able to hold his own pretty well, at least until he gets his hand cut off and launches himself down an exhaust tube, which is still a pretty badass way to get out of a fight you aren’t totally prepared for yet.

The cinematography in this scene is some of Star Wars’ best as the two fight against a harsh, industrial sci-fi backdrop, smoke and steam filling the room as their blades clash and the fight becomes a slow chase through the mechanical halls. But what really sells what we’re watching on screen is the high drama unfolding between father and son. The Skywalkers are so, so messy.

3. Kylo Ren and Rey vs. The Praetorian Guard in The Last Jedi

The stark red and black of the Supreme Leader’s throne room. The unexpected death of Snoke at the hands of Kylo Ren. Ren and Rey fighting back to back against the heavily armored and deadly Praetorian Guard. Most people remember where they were when they saw this epic fight unfold in The Last Jedi for the first time. It’s not an easy fight to forget.

The choreography is impeccable, with Ren and Rey fighting in near perfect harmony until the end, trusting each other completely for the first time. Ren’s betrayal of Rey at the end is a perfect (and incredibly heartbreaking) punctuation to one of the best lightsaber fights in Star Wars history.

2. Anakin Skywalker vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith

Once Anakin’s turn to the dark side is complete in Revenge of the Sith, the former apprentice and his master air out their grievances on the planet Mustafar. Both are quick with their blades, and acrobatic when it’s time to flip and platform around the Separatist facility. Obi-Wan and Anakin deal and parry blows in quick succession as their fight takes them out into the fiery lava flows of the planet, a frightening backdrop that explodes along with the emotions of the two opponents.

The words between the two cut almost as deep as their lightsabers, the sting of betrayal evident on both of their faces. These two were like brothers, like family until the dark side came between them. The fight is over once Obi-Wan gains the high ground, literally cutting Anakin down and leaving him for dead. It is a brutal, emotional fight and the true origin of one of the galaxy’s most fearsome villains.

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1. Duel of the Fates in The Phantom Menace

The Phantom Menace really kicked the Prequel era off right with the franchise’s best lightsaber duel ever. A fight between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul, this duel and its accompanying John Williams music are iconic for a reason. The tension that builds as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are separated mid-fight by timed shields, the dual-bladed might of Darth Maul, the calmness and resolve in the Force that Qui-Gon maintains until the end, and the epic final blow that Obi-Wan deals to Maul all make for an incredible fight that never fails to leave you on the edge of your seat, even after you already know how it ends.

But most importantly, this is the moment the Sith win. This isn’t just a fight for Naboo, it’s a fight for little Anakin Skywalker’s future. How would Anakin’s life have been different had the much more experience Qui-Gon survived to train him in the ways of the Jedi? We’ll never know, thanks to Maul and his shadowy master. By the end of the film, that same master is greeting Anakin as the new Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and promising that he’ll be watching the young boy with great interest for years to come. The result of the Duel of the Fates makes sure that the battle that runs across the Prequels is over before it truly gets started.