The action scenes in The Clone Wars are a highlight of the show. The unexpected angles, challenging terrain, and the way the characters’ movements tell about their personalities means that one swipe of a lightsaber is worth one thousand words. The fights show which characters are elegant and which are brutal, which show mercy and which do not.
The Clone Wars also has a large variety of action scenes, from lightsaber fights to blaster battles and spaceship sorties. Most of the big set piece fights feature Jedi, but there are also clones, politicians, and space cowboys with blasters aplenty. The vertical war in 2008’s The Clone Wars feature film was one of the best concepts in a film I found rather thin and goofy, and even as the television show became more mature both in subject matter and in the quality of the writing, the action scenes remained highlights. Without having to worry about actors getting hurt, the fights can be more extreme. It’s rare that a lightsaber fight stays a lightsaber fight in The Clone Wars. Instead it incporporates elements of martial arts that look both realistic and dangerous.
The following are some of the biggest, most intense fight scenes in The Clone Wars:
The Battle of Ryloth – Season 1, episode 21 “Liberty on Ryloth”
One of the earliest battles in the series is also one of the biggest, spanning three episodes. The battle of Ryloth contains many separate stories, including Jedi, starships, and clone troopers. The space battle starts with a bang, while on the ground Republic troops try to cross a bridge that offers the Original Trilogy thrill of people falling off catwalks while also providing a larger vista. The clones are alternately cannon fodder and major characters, and the battlefield shows off a range of guns and transport vehicles, including Aethersprite Jedi starfighters and AT-TE walkers. The attempted defense of Ryloth shows the kind of battle between the Republic and the Separatists that citizens of the galaxy far, far away probably think of when they think of the Clone Wars. There’s a brash, pure feel to the clash of powers in the blockade of Ryloth, which line up in front of each other like Civil War soldiers – or like action figures.
Savage Oppress vs Asajj Ventress – Season 3, episode 13, “Monster”
Savage Oppress’ introductory arc features a tribal obstacle course designed to prove his worth. Asajj Ventress uses it to show whether he is worthy of following her into the larger galaxy. The trials are a series of fights, one in pitch darkness, another atop a series of moving pillars, that show off the dramatic lighting of both the alien landscape and the characters’ glowing eyes. Both Savage and Ventress use a variety of bladed weapons, including knives and sickles, instead of the lightsabers they will later wield, with the fight occasionally becoming a wrestling match. Ventress uses nimble moves that look like Judo holds. The falls and hits feel real, backed by appropriately restrained music.
Anakin and Ahsoka defend Cato Nemoidia – Season 5, episode 17 “Sabotage”
The battle of Cato Neimoidia is short, really serving as an introduction to the four-part arc which fans would only later learn was the series finale. It’s an exciting one, though, with Ahsoka teetering on the edge of Anakin’s starfighter as she fights off Separatist buzz droids. The ship twists and blasts through an exotic landscape of upside-down cities strung beneath bridges. The sequence has a lightness too, as fast cuts and dialogue are used for humorous effect. In the end, the sky-high battle illuminates just how close Anakin and Ahsoka have grown throughout the series.
Quinlan Vos and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Cad Bane – Season 3 , episode 9 “Hunt for Ziro”
A chase over steep cliffsides brings Quinlan and Obi-Wan’s different fighting styles into focus in this episode. Cad Bane was one of The Clone Wars’ early original characters, a cowboy-inspired alien who holds his own against the Jedi with clever blaster moves and some help from a droid. Quinlan and Obi-Wan are their own enemies at times too, and this fight displays how the Jedi don’t always see eye-to-eye.
The Battle of Dathomir – Season 4, episode 19 “Massacre”
Nightsister zombies fight Separatist droids in this atmospheric, creepy battle. Zombies have appeared in the Star Wars universe before, but this was the first time we saw them on screen, raised from the dead to drop out of the chrysalis pods in which Mother Talzin’s clan of Nightsisters apparently keep their dead. The grotesque zombies clash with a horde of battle droids, undaunted by blaster bolts and broken jaws. The way the zombies move is a creative bit of direction itself. Meanwhile, Ventress duels General Grievous, two lightsabers against four.
General Grievous vs Army of Gungans – Season 4, episode 4 “Shadow Warrior”
One of the most visceral fights in The Clone Wars series comes from a surprising quarter – the Gungans. I find Jar Jar Binks as loopy as the next fan, but a Gungan like Captain Tarpals, who doesn’t suffer from Murphy’s Law quite so much, can be a fierce, spear-wielding, water-breathing warrior. In “Shadow Warrior,” Tarpals and an army of Gungans faces General Grievous and fares much better against the Separatists than they did in Episode I, shaking up the status quo of the Star Wars universe and nearly drawing and quartering the droid general. This episode also features a close lightsaber duel between Count Dooku and Anakin Skywalker.
Savage Oppress and Darth Maul vs. Darth Sidious – Season 5 episode 16, “The Lawless”
The return of Darth Maul heralded a series of dark, mature episodes of The Clone Wars, which did not quite capture the silent, obedient Maul from Episode I but did bring acrobatic double-bladed lightsaber combat to the small screen. In “The Lawless”, Maul’s last episode in the series, he fights the Sith Master he spent most of the season trying to find. Savage’s straightforward fighting style means he soon falls behind the others, while Sidious displays a creative mastery of the dark side that makes for some dizzying scenes of telekinesis. The fight plays out beside a Guernica-style frieze, and features a moment that is both a homage to the Original Trilogy and proof that some scenes just can’t be improved upon. Stark, dramatic lighting both obscures some of the characters’ movements and creates memorable images.
Anakin Skywalker and Captain Rex retrieve Tup – Season 6, Episode 1 “The Unknown”
This compelling episode leads to a scene in an H.R. Giger-styled setting in this close-quarters battle. It takes place in a narrow hallway, with the good guys working together to tear apart the Separatist droids. True to his future as Darth Vader, Anakin has an aggressive style not seen in many Jedi. Anakin is a not meditative monk, here, not at all – the Jedi is portrayed as an active assailant, almost frightening. He has become the monster waiting outside the door. There is a horror movie element to the tense moments where battle droids hesitate just beside the door, and Anakin comes in running, impaling one on his lightsaber. The fight ends in a strong beat in which Anakin refuses to lose any of his momentum.
Mace Windu vs Mother Talzin – Season 6 episode 9 “The Disappeared Pt. II”
Star Wars is in many ways a fantasy story: it’s heroes are wizards, it’s weapons are swords, it’s governments are regimes. “The Disappeared,” with it’s cultists and underground fortresses, pays homage to Indiana Jones, but turns the fantasy up to eleven in a brief but exciting battle between Mace Windu and Mother Talzin. The magic sword that she draws in the air might be a bit cheesy for people tired of permutations of weapons like the darksaber that can stand up to lightsabers, but “The Disappeared pt. II” established itself already as an episode that glories in shine and color. The two look evenly matched, and Mace, with his mastery of the aggressive lightsaber style Vaapad, is as willing to jump into the fight as Anakin was in “The Unknown.” The cultists put up a decent fight against Mace, but pitting two powerful Force users against each other felt absolutely necessary.
Runners-up include an underwater fight lead by Kit Fisto, and a battle against the Godzilla-like Zillo Beast. Even if the stories in The Clone Wars didn’t do it for you, the series’ appearance on Netflix starting on March 7 is a good chance to catch some exciting Star Wars action scenes.
What are your favorite action sequences in The Clone Wars? Tell us in the comments!