For many, Star Wars is about the gravity of the saga that unfolds, the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Luke and Leia in bringing freedom to the galaxy. For others, Star Wars is all about the lightsaber battles.
Over the decades, the lightsaber has been front and center in nearly every important action sequence of the franchise. It's the elegant weapon of both Jedi and Sith, a symbol of hope and anger. When these photonic blades cross, we're delighted by the spectacle.
It's been true since Obi-Wan and Darth Vader clashed on the first Death Star, and it remains true even as Obi-Wan and Darth Vader clash again during the Jedi master's years of isolation.
Here are our picks for the best lightsaber duels throughout Star Wars history and why they stand out to this day.
8. Luke vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi)
The showdown between Luke and Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi was more of an emotional showcase than it was a grand battle to the death. While it featured a battle of skill and determination, it simply isn't as good as some of the best fights in the franchise.
That said, the father-versus-son dynamic ratchets up the tension with the best that Star Wars has to offer, especially when Vader throws the Emperor down the chasm following Luke's torture.
The fight quickly becomes unbalanced, though, with Luke's triumph. In the end, it feels more functional than anything.
7. Rey & Kylo Ren vs. The Praetorian Guards (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Although not strictly a crossing of lightsabers in the traditional sense, this fight where Rey and Kylo Ren team up against the Praetorian Guards makes the cut because of the stunning cinematography.
After Kylo Ren kills Snoke, the Praetorian Guards snap into action to kill him and Rey, but together they manage to fend off the highly trained guards—even as they remain on opposing sides of the Force.
The pure action and brutality of the sequence is a fun departure from the usual grace of lightsaber battles, and the twist where Jedi and Sith fight together is one that's fresh and fun.
6. Rey vs. Kylo Ren (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
The first clash of the Star Wars sequel trilogy came when Rey and Kylo Ren crossed blades, with Rey wielding the lightsaber that was once cut from Luke's hand by Darth Vader.
This fight stands out for having the same continuity of the original films—although less stylized and more brutal to witness—as both Kylo Ren and Rey went at each other with weighted swings.
Although it ended with Kylo Ren's injury and Rey's escape, it felt new at the time and promised something more from upcoming films.
5. Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars: A New Hope)
As we now know in hindsight, the clash between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in A New Hope was actually the second time the two faced off against each other. But for us, it was the very first lightsaber duel.
This one wasn't just a normal fight; it was a moment of utter shock. The aged Jedi is trapped and he can't escape with Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie—but that's fine because he never intended to leave the Death Star.
After a tense battle against Vader, Obi-Wan becomes one with the Force and vanishes, even to the surprise of Vader himself.
4. Obi-Wan vs. Anakin (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith)
After Anakin Skywalker fell to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan was tasked with bringing down his former Padawan to stop evil from prevailing.
The fight ended up being one of the highlights of the prequel trilogy, as both master and apprentice push one another to their limits during a grueling battle on the lava planet of Mustafar.
Despite being evenly matched, Obi-Wan won by cutting down Anakin and leaving him to burn on the banks of a lake of fire. For fans, this was a moment long-awaited—a fight between two people who had come so far together, who still had a shared future ahead.
3. Luke vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)
The fight between Luke and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back cemented the idea that lightsaber duels could be the action centerpiece of Star Wars films. It was a cinematic showdown for the ages.
As Vader and Luke go head-to-head for the first time, it's clear that Vader is by far the more accomplished and skilled of the two; however, when he cuts off Luke's hand, he still has a secret left to reveal.
While the fight itself is raw and full of bitter anger, the climax comes when Vader reveals that he's Luke's father, and it makes the whole fight that much more meaningful in retrospect.
2. Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
The most recent addition to the Star Wars universe gave us what would instantly become a classic battle: the first canonical clash between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader.
As Obi-Wan brings Vader into a one-on-one conflict with him, he's initially beaten back by the Sith, forcing Obi-Wan to push himself further than he has in a decade.
The fight is raw, brutal, and full of prequel style from the pair, climaxing when Obi-Wan gets the upper hand against Vader and cracks his helmet to reveal Anakin underneath.
Obi-Wan's tearful apology to Anakin is pushed away by the realization that Anakin didn't fall because of Obi-Wan's failings—he fell due to Vader's great hold over him.
1. Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace)
The Duel of the Fates—the battle sequence where a young Obi-Wan and his master Qui-Gon Jinn fight against Darth Maul—is what saved the prequel trilogy from being wholly lambasted by fans.
It has everything one could wish for from a Star Wars lightsaber battle: a robust villain, a master who tries to teach his apprentice the value of patience, and the rise of said apprentice in his mentor's footsteps.
As Darth Maul fells Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan can do nothing but watch in horror because he's trapped behind a shield. When the shield opens, Obi-Wan comes charging out and spurs on a magnificently intense battle, with Darth Maul seemingly winning despite the apprentice's rage.
It's only when Obi-Wan calms himself that he rises from the pit and cuts down Darth Maul with vigor, before trying to help his fallen master who makes him promise to train Anakin.