The opening moments of the original Star Wars showed audiences things regularly seen in sci-fi films, from complex spaceships to intense blaster battles. After a pivotal meeting between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, audiences were introduced to a weapon that would go on to help define the saga and set it apart from the rest of science fiction: the lightsaber.
"Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon... for a more civilized age," said Kenobi of the weapon.
While many elements of the film, and other sci-fi films in general, depicted technology that reminded audiences of the evolution of modern warfare, the lightsaber was a callback to medieval times, helping incorporate more fantastical elements into the series that made it stand out from the rest of the genre.
From budding Jedi Knights to veteran Sith Lords, the Star Wars films have seen a variety of different showdowns featuring the weapon, all offering their own captivating swordsmanship.
Scroll down to see our picks for best lightsaber duels from the Star Wars films!
9) Finn and Rey vs. Kylo - 'The Force Awakens'
When audiences saw Kylo Ren stop blaster fire in mid-air, we immediately began wondering about the strength of his lightsaber skills. Patient fans had to wait until the end of the film to see the character reach his full potential, even though he was up against two foes that were far from proficient.
In terms of pure combat, this duel isn't the most advanced, yet the emotional resonance is hard to ignore. Rey, having just seen Kylo murder Han Solo, allowed that anger to fuel her and take Kylo off-guard long enough to subdue him while Kylo discovered Rey's untrained abilities.
Additionally, watching the altercation unfold in the middle of a snowstorm on Starkiller Base created an eerie ambiance not often seen in other showdowns.prevnext
8) Yoda vs. Count Dooku - 'Attack of the Clones'
Given that audiences met Yoda when he was 900 years old, it was hard to imagine the Jedi Master as anything other than a frail old creature. In Attack of the Clones, we saw just how quickly he could move for his age, holding his own against Count Dooku in a captivating duel.
Dooku relatively easily vanquished Obi-Wan and Anakin, confirming with audiences just how skilled he was with a saber. When all hope seemed lost, Yoda emerged from the shadows, demonstrating an immensely acrobatic display of flips, leaps, and strikes to take Dooku by surprise and send the Sith retreating.
Logistically, there's a lot going on in this fight, all of which was made possible by a CGI Yoda, so while the actual fight mechanics might not be anything to marvel at, most audiences' jaws dropped when the Jedi Master entered the fray.prevnext
7) Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader - 'Star Wars'
The first official duel in the saga might not be the most action-packed, but after learning more about the relationship between the two former friends, retroactively analyzing the face off makes for a more methodical showdown.
After having previously met on the battlefield decades earlier, both opponents are calm and collected during their final confrontation. After a brief back-and-forth of blade swings, Obi-Wan ultimately allows himself to be "defeated" in combat, much to the shock of audiences.
Of course, this isn't actually what happened, with audiences and Luke learning that Obi-Wan had merely crossed over into a different state of being, yet the power and shock of Obi-Wan's defeat made for a memorable confrontation.prevnext
6) Darth Vader vs. Everyone - 'Rogue One'
Nearly 40 years after audiences learned of Darth Vader's villainy, we finally got to see his ferocity as he mowed down one Rebel Trooper after another at the end of Rogue One.
In hopes of preventing the Death Star plans from falling into the wrong hands, Vader boards a Rebel ship and uses a combination of deadly blows and powerful Force maneuvers to tear through his opponents like they were battle droids.
Less of an old Sith Lord like we saw in the original Star Wars, Vader comes across more like the killer in a slasher movie, reminding audiences of his brutality.prevnext
5) Rey and Kylo vs. Praetorian Guards - 'The Last Jedi'
Similar to their previous confrontation in The Force Awakens, Rey and Kylo's "duel" in The Last Jedi is more about the emotion and cinematography than the actual fight mechanics, with the two not so much dueling as destroying everyone who stands in their way.
In order to appease Snoke, Kylo brings Rey to the Supreme Leader, yet has ulterior motives with how the meeting will go down. After being ordered to strike Rey down, Kylo instead ignites Rey's lightsaber, killing Snoke, with the two joining forces briefly to vanquish Snoke's former protectors.
This scene was a pivotal moment for both characters, as it saw Kylo breaking his devotion to Snoke and offering a union with Rey, only for the budding Jedi to reject the proposal, with her lightsaber getting destroyed in the process. This puts the two characters in an interesting position going forward, as Rey will have to create her own lightsaber while Kylo must embrace the command of the First Order.prevnext
4) Obi-Wan vs. Anakin Skywalker - 'Revenge of the Sith'
With six films of history exploring the fallout between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, their confrontation was poised to be the most gut-wrenching duel in the entire saga, with the battle mostly appeasing audiences.
Thinking that Obi-Wan had a hand in turning Padme against him, Anakin sees no choice but to fully embrace the ways of the Sith and strike down his former master as an act of revenge.
The molten planet of Mustafar mirrors the explosive emotions on display in the duel, as the former friends seemingly knowing each other so well they can predict the other's maneuvers. Obi-Wan reluctantly strikes down Anakin, leaving him gravely wounded, refusing to finish the job.
The emotional confessions are nearly as powerful as each lightsaber strike, making for an incredibly powerful showdown. One of the sequence's flaws is its reliance on CGI, somewhat detaching the audience from the emotion each performer brought to the sequence, preventing it from becoming the greatest duel of all time.prevnext
3) Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul - 'The Phantom Menace'
In the original trilogy, audiences had grown accustomed to seeing intense battles with lightsabers, but in the 16-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, stunt coordination and special effects advanced immensely, resulting in a powerfully kinetic three-way bout.
Audiences had previously only seen Obi-Wan as an old man, with Phantom Menace putting his youthful energy on full display when fighting back against Darth Maul and his quest to eradicate the Jedi. Alongside his master Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan gave the bout his all, ultimately defeating Maul, but not without Qui-Gon paying the fatal price.
Phantom Menace might not have been a wholly satisfying experience for Star Wars fans, yet the final duel between the Jedi and Sith alerted audiences to what these new films could explore more strongly than the original films, creating a multi-tiered showdown the likes of which fans could have only ever imagined.prevnext
2) Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader - 'Return of the Jedi'
When Luke finally embraced that Darth Vader was his father and had devoted himself to the ways of the Jedi, he knew he could emerge victorious from a confrontation.
Their previous clash ended with Luke losing a hand and escaping into the chutes of Cloud City, yet now Luke's strength and resolve came from his reluctance to engage in combat. With the Emperor taunting him and threatening his closest allies, it's only after threatening Leia that Luke attempts to strike down the leader of the Galactic Empire.
Vader and Luke's bout was brief, yet incredibly emotional, as Luke ultimately would rather signal his devotion to non-violence than deliver a fatal blow. Audiences might not have gotten the explosive action they had anticipated, instead witnessing the culmination of all of Luke's training and Vader's embrace of his former self to topple the Emperor.prevnext
1) Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader - 'The Empire Strikes Back'
Surprisingly, the second-ever lightsaber duel in the saga is the most memorable for a variety of reasons, as the prolonged conflict offered audiences a variety of powerful moments.
Training with Yoda may have heightened Luke's abilities to a degree, but they could barely prepare him for a threat like Vader. Luke holds his own against Vader in short bursts, ultimately fleeing the combat to seek refuge in hidden parts of Cloud City. The duel offered audiences a more accurate depiction of the power of a young Jedi, while also reminding us that this power was still dwarfed by Vader's anger and hatred.
Even before the ultimate reveal that Vader is Luke's father, the sequence solidified itself as one of the most riveting scenes in the whole saga, with the confession merely being the icing on the cake of a duel that has cemented itself in the annals of cinema as one of the most compelling showdowns between good and evil.prev