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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Features >> article

The Top 5 Lightsaber Duels of All-Time
by Jolex Del Pilar

Tuesday, November 19 2002

We explore the mystique and awe of the lightsaber duel.

I can’t imagine that there’s anyone out there who hasn’t seen the STAR WARS TRILOGY and the subsequent prequels, however, I’m sure some do exist. My only question to you would be – where the hell have you been? If you haven't seen these movies, just admit that my 83-year-old grandmother is more in touch with pop culture than you are.

The recent release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (I still cringe when I hear that title) has gotten a lot of people in the Star Wars mood lately and conversations pertaining to the second part of the "prequels" are common.

Most thought that AOTC was generally better than the previous movie, the Phantom Menace. Personally, I found both equally entertaining. So what if Lucas can't direct for the life of him, he still makes great entertaining movies that a lot of you obviously pay to see (The Phantom Menace has a world wide gross of about $922.6 Million U.S). So I don't want any flame mails about how stupid Jar-Jar was, or how the Pod Racing scene was embarrassingly too long, or how Lucas's use of computer generated sets and characters has gone from "neato" to "obsessive". In the end, most of us don't go to Star Wars movies for the deep story lines, most people have already leaked them four months before release anyway. We go for the great action. In particular, one of the most intriguing and continually captivating aspects of the Star Wars universe has been the art of lightsaber dueling.

The art of the lightsaber duel has a very deep history behind it. First off, it is a very big part of the whole Jedi religion. The weapon itself reminds us of a much more noble time, where blasters and death stars didn't exist and things were settled without vaporizing everything. Sure someone might occasionally throw a force push or cheap you out by force choking you, but in the end, it was who could focus themselves through the force and wield their lightsaber who would end the day.

The movies have provided us with many great examples of lightsaber duels, and there should be even more to come when Episode III hits in 2005. However until then, here is the list of the top 5 duels from the five Star Wars movies. The rating criteria involves factors like importance (how defining was the duel in terms of the overall storyline), action, and overall style. Now without delay the list.

5. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader from "A New Hope" - Powerful Sith lord against faded Jedi

This Duel makes the top 5 for a variety of reasons. First off, this was the first Lightsaber Duel ever in the movies. Forgiving the technical lapses (I know it's 1977 but if you pay attention, their sabers momentarily switch and Obi-Wan is wielding a red saber for a bit) this Duel was important because it was a sort of "passing of the torch". It pitted the former master, old and weaker, against the former padawan, now a powerful Sith Lord. From the beginning it was apparent that Obi-Wan didn't have a chance. Now older, and much less in tune with the force, Obi-Wan was way passed his prime. Vader taunted Obi-Wan mercilessly, until the final slash in the hangar bay where Obi-Wan pulled his disappearing trick, becoming one with the force.

4. Luke vs. Darth Vader in "The Empire Strikes Back" - A startling revelation

The first duel between Luke and Vader was a finely set trap by the Sith Lord. Han and Leia, who have narrowly escaped the imperials, arrive on Bespin only to find out that Lando has turned control of the city over to Vader. Vader uses them as bait to lure Luke to the city so that they may meet. Master Yoda of course warns Luke that he is not ready to face Vader yet, but Luke rushes to confront Vader anyway. The confrontation is fairly one sided throughout. Luke isn't even a full Jedi yet when he meets Vader. In an awesome display of force power, Vader simply overwhelms Luke with force thrown objects and superior skill with the lightsaber. In the end, Vader reveals to Luke a horrible truth that gave birth to perhaps the most well known line of dialogue in any movie, “Luke I am your father.” Luke would never be the same again.

3. Master Yoda vs. Count Dooku from "Attack of the Clones"- Clash of the Titans

This duel was cool for all the right reasons. Even the little things were cool like the trademark "force pulling the lightsaber into his hand" thing that Yoda did, to Yoda reflecting Dooku's force lightning with his bare hand. Dooku himself was shown to be a powerhouse as a sith lord, easily dispatching both Obi-Wan Kenobi (the younger, cooler, Ewan McGregor version), and the chosen one, Anakin Skywalker, without much effort. However when Yoda hobbled into the Geonosian hangar to help Obi-Wan and Anakin, wooden cane and all, you knew he meant business. Of course Dooku tried his best to use his force powers to crush Yoda but it was all in vain. Every object thrown was simply pushed away, and even the darkside force lightning wasn't enough to bother the 900 year old Jedi Master as he simply reflected it right back at Dooku and even absorbed it into his hand. Dooku realizing that there was a stalemate brewing brought out his lightsaber and challenged Yoda to a duel. The ensuing duel was a whirlwind of dueling mastery. Each move precise and deadly, lightsaber combat had never been seen on such a high level of competition. Yoda, giving up advantages in height and reach used his force powers to become a Jedi buzzsaw, jumping and whirling his saber, battering Dooku's defenses. Finally in an act of desperation, Dooku was forced to endanger the injured Anakin and Obi-Wan by collapsing a crane on top of them. While Yoda used his force powers to prevent the crane from crushing the injured Jedi, Dooku made his escape. This probably would not be the last time these two meet, as the prophetic words of Dooku would suggest, "This is just the beginning."

2. Luke vs. Darth Vader from "Return of The Jedi"- Final Duel

By this time in the Star Wars timeline, only the serious force users remained in the galaxy, and they were all in one room. With Yoda passing into the force, only Luke remained to prove that a Jedi order had ever existed. The actual meeting between Sidious, Vader, and Luke wasn't very confrontational in the beginning. It was simply a battle of wills, with Sidious attempting to turn Luke to the darkside, and with Luke attempting to turn his father away from the darkside. Not until Vader threatened to turn Luke's sister (Leia) to the darkside did Luke's anger finally ignite. The ensuing duel between Vader and Luke was a complete turn around from their first confrontation. Tapping into the darkside, Luke allowed his anger to make him powerful, and he battered Vader across Palpatine's chambers until he finally cut off Vader's right hand, revealing a mechanical mess of wires and circuits. In the end, Palpatine would fall victim to Luke's will, as Luke would turn Vader to the lightside, and Vader would kill Palpatine by throwing out the garbage, down a long deep shaft.

1. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul - from "The Phantom Menace"- Duel of Fates

This wasn’t one of the most important duels in the Star Wars universe. In fact, the outcome of this duel was pretty trivial in the whole scope of things except for Obi-Wan ends up training Anakin instead of Qui-Gon. That doesn't detract from the fact that this was by far the coolest duel of all the movies in terms of pure action and drama. This duel had high energy written all over it, in fact the duel traveled throughout the entire power core of Naboo. Qui-Gon played the master Jedi with his determined padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, battling the mysterious but obviously lethal Darth Maul. The setting, the mood (helped greatly by John Williams' musical touch), and the duelist involved were all perfect in making this the best duel of all-time. Darth Maul's mastery of martial arts and his double-bladed lightsaber gave lots opportunity for great action as he kicked the two jedi around and evaded their attacks seamlessly. The final scene was classic as well with the energy doors separating the three combatants. Although Obi-Wan being forced to watch the coup de grace inflicted on Qui-Gon from behind an energy door is a little cliché, you can feel your heart sink the first time you see it, and feel Obi-Wan's rage. The final sequence between Obi-Wan and Maul is the most action packed duel sequence in lightsaber dueling history, featuring air attacks, mid-air flips, and complex sequences of attacks and parries. Although the ending sequence kind of makes Darth Maul seem like a dunce, Obi-Wan really showed why he was deserving of becoming a Jedi knight.

--- Jolex Del Pilar, aka Darth Q-bert

This list is subject to change when Episode III is released or if Natalie Portman EVER picks up a lightsaber. She doesn't even need to swing it...of course unless she wants too.

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