No Star Wars film is complete without a good old lightsaber battle. With so much focus on blasters, large-scale battles and long-distance weapons, it’s always nice to see two opposing forces face each other in traditional, melee combat. The fact that they use what basically amount to ‘laser swords’ makes that combat so much more exciting.
Since 1978, Star Wars Episode IV brought us the first-ever lightsaber battle, and each subsequent film has strived to make each lightsaber duel more sophisticated and exciting than the last. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always worked. In many cases, lightsaber duels have transformed from dramatic, high-tension climaxes to over-choreographed, CGI-laden nonsense. But that pattern in Star Wars films could’ve been forgiven if said duels actually made sense and were executed properly.
On several occasions, Star Wars lightsaber duels were executed so poorly that the characters involved actually looked stupid. From swinging their lightsabers around without even touching each other (looking at you, Obi-Wan and Anakin), to jumping around nonsensically (Master Yoda), there have been many lightsaber duels in the Star Wars movie saga that were just plain dumb.
This contrasts with the truly dramatic and memorable duels, such as Luke’s duels with Darth Vader in episodes V and VI, as well as the first part of the Duel of the Fates. These contests were done masterfully well, and set the bar extremely high for everything that a great lightsaber battle needs. Unfortunately, many lightsaber duels, including the ten listed in this article, were so full of flaws that we can safely call them ‘dumb’.
10 Obi-Wan Kenobi Vs. Darth Vader - Episode IV
While this entry deserves special credit because it was the first lightsaber battle ever seen, it was rather disappointing in its execution. It was basically a suicide mission for Kenobi, and it was a strange contrast to every lightsaber battle that would follow. Both Vader and Kenobi moved incredibly slowly and awkwardly, as if they were carrying heavy longswords instead of lightsabers. In fact, both one of them barely moved at all, and seem to simply be hitting their respective lightsabers without much thought or coordination.
From its execution, this whole duel seemed to do nothing more but stall for time, leaving the Star Wars in dire need of a real lightsaber duel. Thankfully, this duel’s immediate successor would raise the level of drama and excitement much higher than this seemingly-rushed segment.
9 Anakin Skywalker Vs. Count Dooku - Episode II
This entire duel lasted less than sixty seconds, and was a clear example of lightsaber duels becoming over-emphasized in the prequel films. After Anakin was temporarily disabled by Dooku’s Force lightning and Obi-Wan was defeated in combat, Anakin jumped back into battle against Dooku with two lightsabers. Of course, two wasn’t better than one in this case, as Dooku disarmed and dis-armed Anakin with very little actual combat between them.
Seriously, more screen time is spent showing them waving their lightsabers around with the camera jumping back-and-forth between them than there is time devoted to them actually dueling. In the end, Anakin was quickly put in his place, and Dooku looked nearly unstoppable, until another force came in to challenge him.
8 Yoda Vs. Emperor Palpatine - Episode III
Before Yoda even challenged the newly-crowned Emperor, he said emphatically, "Destroy the Sith, we MUST!" That fervor must’ve gotten lost on him during this otherwise outstanding lightsaber duel, because after suffering one single critical blow, Yoda escapes, admitting that he had failed, and that he must go into exile.
This was despite the fact that Yoda was technically winning against Emperor Palpatine, and the latter’s victory only came when Yoda fell from a platform in the Senatorial chamber. The fact that he got up so quickly even after falling so far showed that he had enough strength to still fight, yet he chose not to. Yoda could’ve done so much more to combat Palpatine’s rapidly-growing power yet simply decided that he had failed and could no longer do anything.
7 Mace Windu Vs. Palpatine - Episode III
For a guy who’s supposed to be the second-most powerful Jedi in the Galaxy, Mace Windu demonstrated some pretty dumb behaviour throughout the prequel series. In this particular case, Windu and three other Jedi entered Palpatine’s quarters and dueled with him. Palpatine demolished those three other Jedi in short order, but he wasn’t a match for Windu.
Now, Windu, who just witnessed sinister Sith lord killing three powerful Jedi Masters, knew very well that Palpatine was ‘too dangerous to be allowed to live.' Yet, he kept stalling, instead of simply stabbing Palpatine as soon as he was disarmed and could no longer cast any more Force lightning.
While it made sense from a dramatic and storytelling perspective, this short and poorly-executed lightsaber fight made everyone involved, except for Palpatine, look dumb for going through with it.
6 Anakin Skywalker Vs. Count Dooku - Episode III
Dooku was built up as this unstoppable Sith master for the majority of Episode II. He defeated both Kenobi and Skywalker with relative ease, and even held his own against Master Yoda, arguably the most powerful Jedi at the time.
It’s this backstory that makes this first lightsaber battle in the third film particularly idiotic. Anakin not only overpowered Dooku in less than five minutes of actual battle time, but he cut off both of Dooku’s hands and managed to bring this powerful Sith to his knees so easily. It made all of Dooku’s build-up and emphasis in the previous film useless, and made this particular lightsaber battle feel more like early filler than something dramatic to look forward to. If it were given more length, this battle would’ve had a much greater impact, instead of being a forgotten battle in a movie jam-packed with lightsaber duels.
5 Qui-Gon Jinn Vs. Darth Maul - Episode I
Arguably, the shortest lightsaber duel in Star Wars film history, this battle was filled with logical errors and plot holes. Darth Maul was one of two Sith in the entire galaxy, which meant that his presence would cause a tremor in the Force whenever he approached a Jedi. Yet neither Qui-Gon Jinn nor Obi-Wan Kenobi noticed him until he was fifteen feet away.
Moreover, Qui-Gon was leading Anakin towards his ship. If Anakin didn’t tell Qui-Gon to slow down, Qui-Gon likely would never have turned around and noticed the Sith assailant approaching. Finally, Maul could’ve easily chase after Jinn by executing the same Force jump that Jinn had done to escape (after all, Maul is presented as one of the most acrobatic and athletic Force users in the film series’ history), yet he just stood there, ignoring a perfect moment to deliver a crippling blow to his enemies.
4 Finn & Rey Vs. Kylo Ren - Episode VII
As the audience, we were expected to believe that Kylo Ren, a powerful Sith who had trained under Luke Skywalker himself, couldn’t defeat a former Stormtrooper and a Force novice like Rey in a lightsaber duel. But lose he did.
Sure, it’s true that Kylo was in an emotionally disturbed state after committing patricide and had been injured by Chewbacca’s bowcaster. However, given his own powers, he should’ve defeated Finn with relative ease. Yet, Finn managed to hold his own for quite some time against Ren.
As for Rey, she didn’t have any proper training as a Jedi, yet was powerful enough to defeat Ren in single combat. It’s because of this that speculation on Rey’s background has exploded since the film was released. After all, how else could a scavenger from a backwater planet defeat one of the few remaining Sith in the entire galaxy?
3 Duel Of The Fates, Part II - Obi-Wan Kenobi Vs. Darth Maul - Episode I
This lightsaber battle kicked into high gear after Qui-Gon Jinn had been killed. Suddenly, Maul and Kenobi were dueling much more quickly and showed far more agility than when it was two versus one earlier. Even when Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber was cut in half, he kept fighting as if nothing had changed. It was on track to becoming arguably the best lightsaber fight in history.
Then, when Maul knocked Kenobi into a chasm, all intelligence disappeared from Darth Maul. Instead of using the force to throw objects at Kenobi or do anything smart to a helpless opponent, Maul started swinging his lightsaber against the chasm’s entrance, causing sparks to fly (and barely hit Kenobi). Then, Maul had a ‘deer in headlights’ moment as Kenobi force-jumped out of the chasm and bisected him, and didn’t even raise his own lightsaber to protect himself, making Maul look like a chump.
2 Master Yoda Vs. Count Dooku - Episode II
As awesome as it was to finally see Yoda in combat, this was very much a dumb lightsaber battle. Count Dooku had just defeated two powerful Jedi in Anakin and Obi-Wan, and in comes Yoda to duel with his former Padawan. It should’ve been something ultra-dramatic, but it came off as a complete farce. Yoda moved with such blinding speed and nonsensical direction that it felt like overkill. It felt more like a reason to throw in more unnecessary CGI than to progress the story.
It didn’t even achieve that, either; Master Yoda demonstrated some incredibly skill and speed, but Dooku still managed to escape, rendering all of Yoda’s efforts useless. That’s why most people look at this entry as one of the most ridiculous moments in Star Wars history, given that the duel feels more ‘campy’ than dramatic.
1 Obi-Wan Kenobi Vs. General Grievous - Episode III
From first glance, you knew General Grievous was a bad-ass character. Not only was he this intimidating cyborg, but he had killed many Jedi before his first film appearance, as seen by the trophy lightsabers he carried with him. He should’ve been more than capable of defeating Obi-Wan Kenobi single-handedly, especially since he wielded four lightsabers simultaneously.
Yet not only did Kenobi match this larger and stronger cyborg, but Kenobi actually defeated Grievous after numerous blunders on Grievous’ part. Even with four lightsabers to Kenobi’s one, Obi-Wan managed to cut off two of Grievous’ hands, before Grievous scurried away like a large mechanic spider. Of course, it didn't help Grievous' case that he swung all four lightsabers more or less at once, and didn't attempt to block with two and attack with two others, like any smart foe would in such a situation. Kenobi later won by opening Grievous’ chest and blasting his insides, completely devaluing the intimidating aura of a once-impressive antagonist.