Rey and Kylo Ren lightsaber battle on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker poster.

The Most Epic ‘Star Wars’ Lightsaber Duels

The Force is strong with these ones.

Lightsabers are among the most iconic weapons in all of fiction, and certainly the weapon of choice in Star Wars. But what makes for a standout lightsaber duel? Personally, I think the best duels have a good combination of choreography, score, script, and context in the larger narrative—it’s complicated. Therefore, this list will be presented chronologically (according to the in-universe timeline, not in order of film/show release date) with ratings given for each duel. (Also, spoilers ahead for Star Wars Rebels and Clone Wars).

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Keep reading for the best lightsaber duels in the Star Wars universe, and tell us your personal faves in the comments (most of the video games were before my time, but I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the best duels in those)!

Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi (The Phantom Menace)

Ray Park as Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Some accuse the Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi duel in The Phantom Menace of being flashy or overly choreographed, but the music, the stunts, and the tension of the ray shields dividing the opponents led to one of the most suspenseful duels in all of Star Wars. It’s also one that’s only gotten better with age, with Darth Maul’s death being retconned in favor of continuing his story to excellent effect in The Clone Wars and Rebels. This is only the first Darth Maul duel on this list, and it is far from the last (or even the best).

7/10 lightsabers

Count Dooku vs. Yaddle (Tales of the Jedi)

This duel was a bit of a surprise but a welcome one. While the Dooku vs. Yaddle duel in Tales of the Jedi obviously is influenced by the Dooku vs. Yoda duel in Attack of the Clones, it feels a touch more emotional as you really do feel like Yaddle wants to help Dooku see that Palpatine will not help him fix the galaxy.

Like Anakin, Dooku could have walked a very different path if the Jedi had listened to him before Qui-Gon died.

While the duel is engaging, it’s also limited by the short runtime of the show. But I also feel like it was better than the Ahsoka vs. the Inquisitor duel, as we’ve already seen Ahsoka pull off that maneuver before.

7/10 Lightsabers

Darth Maul and Savage Opress vs. Darth Sidious (The Clone Wars, season 5)

Darth Maul and Savage Opress holding their lightsabers in an image from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, season 5
(Disney)

This was another absolutely incredible duel, and heightened by its resonance with Darth Maul’s Phantom Menace duel—only in The Clone Wars, it’s Maul who has to watch helplessly as someone he loves is killed in front of him: his brother and apprentice, Savage Opress (yes, that’s his name).

It’s also incredible in that we get to see Sidious dual-wielding lightsabers—which explains why he had a spare lightsaber to fight Yoda with after Windu kicked his first saber out the window. You get the sense that, despite the two wannabe Siths’ best attempts, Sidious is only toying with them for his own amusement.

9/10 lightsabers

Darth Maul vs. Ahsoka Tano (The Clone Wars, season 7)

Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano duel with lightsabers in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, season 7
(Disney)

Darth Maul vs. Ahsoka was a duel (at least) five years in the making—and it delivered. The two breakout characters of Star Wars: The Clone Wars dueled during what you know as the start of Revenge of the Sith. What’s even better is the understanding they have for each other as outsiders of the Force: the Former Sith and the “Not a Jedi.” Even better is the idea that maybe if Maul hadn’t hinted so strongly at Anakin being a Dark Sider, Ahsoka would’ve joined him and helped him defeat Sidious—meaning that somewhere in the Star Wars multiverse is a buddy cop story with Ahsoka and Maul vs. the Empire.

Add in the fact that Ray Park did motion capture for this duel and it really feels like the best of both animation and live-action mediums rolled into one.

9/10 lightsabers

Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (Revenge of the Sith)

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi duel with lightsabers in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Another duel that got better with time.

This is probably the most elaborate duel in Star Wars history with VFX, costuming (they had to make a dozen versions of the tunics for all the wear and tear during the battle), choreography, and score coming together in one impressive sequence. Some people accuse this duel of being over-choreographed, but I think that’s part of the point: Anakin and Obi-Wan know each other so well that it takes Obi-Wan getting a clear advantage (the high ground) to end it.

Also, the part where Anakin manually chokes Obi-Wan with his mechanical hand while the other almost forces Obi-Wan to cut himself with his own lightsaber is among the most intimidating things Vader has done (a move he later repeated during his duel with Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger in Rebels).

And people have meme’d the ending of the duel to death (for good reason), but Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen truly gave their all to this finale.

8/10 lightsabers

Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader (Obi-Wan Kenobi)

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader reprise their lightsaber duel in the Obi-Wan Star Wars series
(Disney+)

Here we have another duel that was a decade in the making: Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi. I had mixed feelings about this duel at first, but Jill Bearup’s breakdown of how this duel melds the Prequel-era Obi-Wan with the Original Trilogy Ben Kenobi won me over. It helps that Obi-Wan wins this fight not because he is fighting for the galaxy or the future of the Jedi, but because he is fighting to get back to Luke and Leia, the children of his beloved best friends. Getting to see Hayden behind the mask was the cherry on top of a wonderful and heart-wrenching moment (and a great connection to Star Wars Rebels).

8/10 lightsabers

Darth Vader vs. Ahsoka Tano (Rebels)

Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader duel with lightsabers in Star Wars Rebels
(Disney)

Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan dueling Darth Vader. Need I say more?

This duel is one of the few reasons I’m happy that Clone Wars originally got canceled, as it allowed Ahsoka to survive Order 66 and duel a “nearly in his prime” Vader.

Of course, I was initially so angry with this duel because it felt like it ended Ahsoka’s story when there was so much more to tell. Thankfully, Lucasfilm’s Dave Filoni seemed to agree, and went so far as to create a form of time travel in Star Wars to bring Ahsoka back.

The duel in its entirety is haunting, and James Earl Jones and Matt Lanter combining their voices after Ahsoka slashes Vader’s mask open is heart-wrenching. It affects Ahsoka so deeply that even as her former Master is attempting to kill her, she saves his life.

I don’t think I want this duel recreated in live action, but I would love to see some reference to it in the Ahsoka show.

10/10 lightsabers

Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Rebels)

Obi-Wan Kenobi holding Darth Maul in Star Wars: Rebels.
(Disney)

This was the rematch 17 years in the making. Obi-Wan and Maul had their clashes in the Clone Wars, but Rebels featured their final duel—and definitely their best.

While some people were let down by how short it was, there was so much meaning in its simplicity. Obi-Wan switching to Ataru to bait Darth Maul into trying to kill him (the same way he killed Qui-Gon Jinn), the way that Maul’s lightsaber was once again cut in half, the lighting, the music, the way Obi-Wan and Maul talk about Luke—I could go on and on, but it simply all comes together so beautifully, blending the prequels and original trilogy in a masterful way.

11/10 lightsabers

Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader (Return of the Jedi)

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader duel in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Empire Strikes Back duel is amazing … but I’m a sucker for backflips and emotional duels where neither party really wants to hurt the other. It’s also one of the few OT duels made better by the Prequels (anyone notice Luke taking the high ground?) and the culmination of Anakin Skywalker’s arc: love him or hate him, Anakin knows that the best way to get a Skywalker to do what you want (like turn to the dark side) is to threaten the ones they love. That, combined with his self-destructive tendencies, makes Anakin believe that the only way he can protect his son is by being killed by Luke and forcing Luke to take his place.

But Luke rejects that belief, defying both Sith and Jedi to save his father. And it works.

The duel itself might not be the most complex, but the script, score, and overall performances deliver.

9/10 lightsabers

Kylo Ren vs. Rey (The Force Awakens)

Daisy Ridley's Rey locked in combat with Adam Driver's Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

I maintain that the moment when Rey Force-pulls the Skywalker lightsaber away from Kylo Ren to the swelling of the Force theme is one of the best moments in all of Star Wars, not just the sequel series. Kylo Ren may have Skywalker blood, but he had a long way to go before making himself worthy of wielding that blade. And while Rey’s lineage was not yet known, her carrying on the tradition of desert rat child turned galactic savior makes her worthy of the blade.

It’s also fun since it’s a lightsaber duel in which one of the duelists is injured and the other is uneducated in the weapon, leading to interesting interactions like Rey using it as a spear with a bunch of thrusts while Kylo attempts more psychological means of fighting—trying to play on Rey’s doubt of her power and self-worth and the idea that she needs a teacher (specifically him).

But like Luke tapping into the Force to make that impossible shot on the Death Star exhaust port, Rey doesn’t need outside help. She just needs to trust in herself and the Force.

(The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker have some fun lightsaber sequences, but neither are quite duels and also sometimes suffer from odd breaks in the choreography.)

8/10 lightsabers

Ultimate ranking of Star Wars lightsaber duels from great to greatest:

Yaddle vs Dooku (Tales of the Jedi) – 7/10

Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi (The Phantom Menace) – 7/10 lightsabers

Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader (Obi-Wan Kenobi) – 8/10 lightsabers

Kylo Ren vs. Rey (The Force Awakens) – 8/10 lightsabers

Darth Maul and Savage Opress vs. Darth Sidious (Clone Wars, season 5) – 9/10 lightsabers

Darth Maul vs. Ahsoka Tano (Clone Wars, season 7) – 9/10 lightsabers

Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader (Return of the Jedi) – 9/10 lightsabers

Darth Vader vs. Ahsoka Tano (Rebels) – 10/10 lightsabers

Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Rebels) – 11/10 lightsabers

So, what’s your favorite Star Wars lightsaber duel?

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)


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Author
Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.