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'Star Wars' Staffers, Fans Debate Greatest Lightsaber Duel of All-Time

August 29, 2014

Lightsabers are, as Obi-Wan Kenobi described them so perfectly in the very first Star Wars movie, “an elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”

But not all that civilized. If the residents of a galaxy far, far away, were really so polite, then Skywalker, Vader, and the rest of sci-fi cinema’s most dysfunctional family would have gone to therapy, instead of attempting to slice each other to pieces. Of course, we’re happy these folks have so much anger, because these unresolved issues have led to some terrifically entertaining sequences in the six Star Wars flicks.

But which lightsaber duel is the best? The staffers at StarWars.com put together a list of their unofficial-but-kind-of-official top 10 fights — and we were pretty surprised with their top choice. Team Star Wars went with the climactic confrontation between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn at the end of The Phantom Menace, generally regarded to be the weakest of the six films.

After the results were posted to the Star Wars Facebook page, fans chimed in with their own impassioned opinions (10,000 and counting!). While many agreed with the StarWars.com choice, there were plenty of others who felt the top spot should have gone to the duel between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan at the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith. (For the record, StarWars.com put that one in third place). And several commenters raised their voices for the fight between Luke and Vader at the end of Empire Strikes Back. (StarWars.com gave that duel a silver medal).

So, what do we think? Well, we don’t work at StarWars.com, but we’ve seen the movies — and like the rest of you — we’ve got a few thoughts on the subject. Here are our top-five selections. Leave us a (civilized) comment and let us know what you think.

1.  There are few absolutes in this world, but you’re absolutely crazy if you don’t rank the fight between Luke and Vader in The Empire Strikes Back in the top spot. It’s beautiful and frightening, and there’s so much riding on the outcome. Not to mention a plot twist that turns the entire trilogy on its ear. If only Luke had checked ancestry.com, he wouldn’t have been so surprised.

2.   Say what you will about the prequels (and many people have), but their fight sequences are a wonder to behold. Top amongst them in our view: the “disagreement” between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker on the fiery planet of Mustafar at the end of Revenge of the Sith. From start to finish, the entire thing is a rush. Our only complaint — Obi-Wan’s use of the phrase “chosen one.” Ugh, can we retire that term already?

3.  Ask most Star Wars fans their thoughts on The Phantom Menace — actually, don’t (the question takes them to a dark place). But the one thing that movie had going for it, was the incredible fight involving Maul, Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. The fact that Maul battles in silence makes the entire scene creepy, in a wonderful sort of way.

4.  Revenge of the Sith had a lot of good fights, and the tussle between Yoda and Darth Sidious was among the best. Yoda enters the arena like a boss, and comes thisclose to taking down the personification of evil. Just one question, though: If the little, green guy can fight like that, why, exactly, does he walk with a cane?

5.  The Death Star duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 1977 original Star Wars, (officially titled, Episode IV – A New Hope), probably won’t get your heart racing, but it’s hard to argue with its elegance. These are two old friends, now bitter enemies, doing battle one more time. It’s clear that Obi-Wan is outmatched, which makes the conclusion all the more heartbreaking. We give it a “C+” for choreography, and an “A,” for emotional impact.

A few more honorable mentions that didn’t involve a lightsaber: Han vs. Greedo, Yoda vs. R2-D2 (“My lamp!”), Chewbacca vs. Lando, and Luke vs. the stinky (but warm!) Wampa.