If there’s one consistently brilliant element in the Star Wars saga, it’s the epic battles. Battles in space, on ice planets, in forests – the conflicts have been legendary. But the most memorable conflicts in Star Wars have always involved one particular weapon: the lightsaber.
One of the most imitated props in movie history, the lightsaber has been responsible for some of the greatest moments in the series. There’s no doubt that the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will produce at least one more amazing lightsaber duel (we’ve already caught a glimpse in the trailer).
In anticipation of what’s to come between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), here are our pick of the greatest lightsaber duels in Star Wars history.
7. Kylo Ren and Rey vs Praetorian Guards (The Last Jedi)
After a crazy plot twist that saw Kylo Ren kill his master, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), Ren joins forces with Rey to fight his way through Snoke’s supreme bodyguard outfit, the Praetorian Guards.
Given that they’re highly skilled and boast a variety of weapons, defeating the guards is no easy task for the two, and they must team up to ensure that they survive the ordeal. This is a shaky alliance of necessity, but a culmination of the strange relationship growing between the two confused characters.
Will we see that connection grow in The Rise of Skywalker, or will the decisive battle be between Rey and Ren themselves?
6. Obi-Wan vs Anakin (Revenge of the Sith)
The climax of the prequel trilogy, and the final stage of Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader, this lightsaber sequence defined the future of the saga.
Unable to reach his former apprentice, given that he’s now turned to the dark side, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) has no choice but to fight Anakin (Hayden Christensen), to ensure the safety of Padme’s (Natalie Portman) children, and the rest of the very galaxy.
The fight goes on and on, advantage tipping back and forth, but in the end Anakin, less experienced than Obi-Wan, loses the higher ground to his master. Obi-Wan begs him not to attack but, blinded by rage, Anakin goes for the kill. Obi-Wan severs his former friend’s legs and his arm, and leaves him to die as flames consume him.
One of the most exciting and poignant battles in the franchise, it was the final nail in the coffin for the Jedi who was set to bring balance to the Force.
5. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
The three-way lightsaber fight would pop up quite frequently during the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but this was the first. After a brief skirmish with Jedi master Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson) earlier in the film, evil Sith Darth Maul (Ray Park) is determined to carry out his orders.
He seeks to destroy both Qui-Gon and his apprentice Obi-Wan, who have been interfering in his master Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) plans, finally confronting them on Naboo. First of all, we’re hit with the jaw-dropping reveal of the double-ended lightsaber – a Star Wars first. Secondly, Maul proves to be a formidable opponent, using his weapon to fend off both of the Jedi and lead them on a merry dance throughout the spaceport hangar.
Separating the Jedi, Maul faces Qui-Gon one on one. The former manages to stun his enemy and, in his moment of weakness, impales him with his lightsaber. Obi-Wan, driven by grief, attacks and looks to have the upper hand over Maul but almost ends up defeated, using the Force to save himself at the last minute and slicing Maul in two with Qui-Gon’s own lightsaber, the ultimate revenge.
4. Yoda vs Count Dooku (Attack of the Clones)
Yoda (Frank Oz) had been hailed as a legendary Jedi Master ever since his appearance in the original Star Wars trilogy and, as we all know, being a Jedi Master means mastering the lightsaber.
We first met Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, as a wizened old mentor showing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) the ways of the Jedi. We saw examples of his expert use of the Force, but nothing else. In The Phantom Menace we are introduced to a more youthful Yoda, but he remains confined to scenes involving the Jedi council.
But he finally springs into action in Attack of the Clones. After proving too much for Obi-Wan and Anakin combined, the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) appears triumphant, and will kill them both. But, just as all seems lost, along comes Yoda.
After he can’t defeat Yoda using the Force, not even with force lightning(!), Dooku announces that the battle will have to be settled using lightsabers. Yoda drops his walking stick, pulls out a lightsaber and proceeds to give the most acrobatic display of awesomeness we’ve ever seen.
3. Obi-Wan vs General Grievous (Revenge of the Sith)
Who else was surprised at someone other than a Jedi engaging in a lightsaber duel? Never mind the fact that wheezy droid Grievous was actually wielding four of them.
Obi-Wan flies to Utapau to confront Grievous, and the Separatist faction based there. After easily dispatching his bodyguards, Obi-Wan is then challenged by Grievous himself, who has four lightsabers he’s taken from Jedi he has previously killed (a bit disrespectful if you ask us).
Despite boasting a quartet of weapons, and being able to do a really cool spinny windmill-y thing, Grievous is no match for Obi-Wan, who cuts off two of his hands and later defeats him by shooting him directly in the heart. The sequence is also responsible for what has now become Obi-Wan’s most famous line: “Hello there!”
2. Rey vs Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens)
In 2015, JJ Abrams triumphantly resurrected the Star Wars saga, investing The Force Awakens with a sense of physical tactility and wonder that, for many, was sorely lacking from the prequel trilogy. The movie hinges on the burgeoning connection between Rey and Kylo Ren, respectively the scavenger who’s strong with the Force, and the war-mongering head of the First Order.
The brewing sense of tension culminates in the striking lightsaber battle outside the First Order’s soon-to-be-destroyed Starkiller Base. It takes place at night in snowbound woods, which immediately gives it a more desolate and arresting atmosphere than many other Star Wars duels.
But the most important aspect is the character development: it’s set up that Finn (John Boyega) will be battling Ren, but after he’s put out of action, the lightsaber is summoned, by the power of the Force, into Rey's clutches. This is the moment where a definitive new Star Wars hero is born.
1. Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader (The Empire Strikes Back)
Of the two battles in the original trilogy between father and son, this one gets chosen, firstly because it shows how skill and experience with the Force can outstrip the youthful exuberance of an untrained Jedi. We’ve also chosen it because it ends with Luke getting his hand chopped off, and one of cinema’s greatest reveals.
The jaw-dropping twist is preceded by a brilliantly moody stand-off between Luke and Vader, as John Williams’ music fades to be replaced by the insistent hum of the lightsabers, while our warring characters are engulfed by plumes of steam and shafts of orange light.
In the original script, it was going to be revealed that Obi-Wan killed Luke’s father. But a script change midway through production twisted it around and revealed Vader’s terrifying connection to Luke. Actor Mark Hamill was sworn to secrecy – and arguably the most shocking and dramatic moment in the Star Wars saga was born.
Click here to book your tickets for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and tweet us your favourite lightsaber duels @Cineworld. The movie reaches us on the 19th of December.
Marvyn Wilson is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.