Disney+’s Controversial List of the Most Iconic Lightsaber Duels in Star Wars

in Movies & TV, Star Wars

Rey and Kylo Ren Lightsaber duel Star Wars

Credit: Lucasfilm

May the Fourth is upon us, and that means every entertainment website and social media account is sharing some kind of Star Wars-related list. This includes the Disney+ Twitter account, where they asked followers to vote for the most iconic lightsaber duels of all time. And, there’s no nice way to say this; their options are wrong.

training lightsaber
Credit: Lucasfilm

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The lightsaber is arguably the most beloved weapon in all of science fiction and fantasy, next to Excalibur from the tales of King Arthur and wands from the Harry Potter franchise. But there’s nothing quite like swinging around a stick with your friends and making lightsaber noises with your mouth.

Since George Lucas’ first movie and throughout the plethora of Star Wars movies, TV shows, video games, books, and just about everything else, there are dozens upon dozens of memorable lightsaber duels that have stuck out in the minds of Star Wars fans around the galaxy. It’s just that very few of these actually made it on the Disney+ list.

The Five Most Iconic Lightsaber Duels (According To Disney+ on Twitter)

kylo ren and rey lightsaber battle
Credit: Lucasfilm

The official Disney+ Twitter account asked its followers to vote for the most iconic lightsaber duel of all time, but instead of leaving it as an open question, Disney+ provided five options, and they’re not great. Two are obvious and deserve to be there, two are questionable, and one absolutely does not belong.

The most difficult part of this is dealing with the word “iconic.” It can be easy for something to be entertaining, good, or even great. But for something to be iconic is another matter entirely. The other issue is what constitutes a duel. Is it between two people, or can some other people get involved?

So, let’s take a look and break down all five of the options presented by Disney+. Unsurprisingly, there will be a ton of spoilers ahead. So if, for some reason, you are looking at this article and have never seen a Star Wars, this is your moment to turn back.

Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader – ‘Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back’

empire strikes back lightsaber duel
Credit: Lucasfilm

For a long time, this was the first thing people thought of when someone brought up the subject of lightsabers. Luke Skywalker’s climactic fight against Darth Vader is probably one of the most tense lightsaber duels of all time.

To this day, it separates itself from other lightsaber fights because it doesn’t have any of the fancy flips or swordplay now associated with force users. Instead, it is more similar to a standard sword fight with deliberate moves and individual strikes. On top of that, there’s barely any music scoring the battle—just the sounds of the hallway and the lightsaber blades making contact.

Cap this all off with Vader cutting off Luke’s hand and the ultimate reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father, and you don’t just have the most iconic lightsaber duels of all time, but one of the most iconic moments in cinema.

Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul – ‘Episode I: The Phantom Menace’

Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) Darth Maul (Ray Park) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in the Duel of the Fates in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Credit: Lucasfilm

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The prequels, particularly The Phantom Menace (2001), get a lot of flack for many awkward moments and strange choices. However, two things from Episode I that everyone can agree are awesome: Pod Racing and The Duel of Fates.

While Luke battling Darth Vader had barely any music, The Duel of Fates has arguably John Williams’ best music in the entire franchise. It makes the whole lightsaber fight feel like the most crucial battle the audience has ever seen. This is escalated even further by the differences between Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Darth Maul.

Qui-Gonn is calm and experienced Jedi master, entirely dedicated to where the force guides him. On the other hand, Obi-Wan is young and wants to prove himself, often rushing straight into battle. Finally, there’s Darth Maul: the definition of the aggression of the Dark Side.

All this comes into play throughout the battle, with Obi-Wan getting knocked away, Qui-Gonn accepting his death, and Darth Maul losing because of his ferocity. When Obi-Wan finally defeats Maul in the end, you can’t help but cheer. And the fact that this basically defines the fate of Anakin Skywalker, AKA Darth Vader, is just icing on the cake.

The Phantom Menace may get many things wrong, but the Duel of Fates is not one of them.

Ahsoka Tano vs. Darth Maul – ‘The Clone Wars’ Season 7

Maul battling Ahsoka Tano, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Credit: Lucasfilm

One of the biggest tragedies of the prequels was the underutilization of Darth Maul. His terrifying design, combined with his double-bladed lightsaber made for one of the coolest Sith lords in all of Star Wars. And that’s saying something.

Fortunately, Maul was given new life in the Clone Wars animated series. Not only did he get a new pair of mechanical legs, but he also got to show more personality while still being absolutely terrifying. This is contrasted perfectly by Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s naive Padawan. The two work as perfect foils to one another, and it’s part of what makes their lightsaber fight so great.

Another part was Ray Parker Jr., the live-action actor who played Darth Maul, returning to do the motion capture in this sequence. It makes every single flip and spin of his lightsaber feel like you were actually watching the same man from Phantom Menace. On top of this, the double-bladed lightsaber clashes perfectly with Ahsoka’s dual-wielding lightsabers.

The battle has some great set pieces and really cool moments, like when Darth Maul barely dodges Ahsoka using the force to call her lightsaber toward her. It’s also nice to see one of the animated shows represented on the list. If there were one lightsaber duel to be represented from a Star Wars TV show, this would be the right one to choose.

Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader – ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’

obi-wan kenobi and darth vader rematch of the century lightsaber battle
Credit: Lucasfilm

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Oni-Wan Kenobi (2022) follows, you guessed it, Obi-Wan Kenobi as he hides out on Tatooine to avoid the Sith empire and keep an eye on a young Luke Skywalker. This eventually results in Darth Vader finding his former master and the two engaging in a rematch from their fight in Revenge of the Sith.

Obi-Wan’s battle against his former apprentice is the perfect middle ground between their first and final battles. Obi-Wan is struggling with the mistakes of his past, while Darth Vader utilizes his anger to show his strength and, by doing that, his weakness. Kenobi eventually finds strength in Anakin’s children and is able to incapacitate the Sith lord.

Part of what makes this feel weaker than other battles that didn’t make the list is that the camera is moving all over the place. Yes, we get good views of the critical moments, but the transitions seem to be lost in the distance. However, credit has to be given where credit is due: Darth Vader’s voice changing back and forth from James Earl Jones to Hayden Christianson is excellent.

There are plenty of emotional moments throughout the battle, great callbacks to their first encounter, and references to their future (callforwards?). However, it is hard to argue that this fight is better than either of their other battles. This lightsaber fight is good, but it is by no means the most iconic.

Bo-Katan Kryze vs. Moff Gideon – ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3

Bo-Katan and Moff Gideon engaging in a lightsaber duel
Credit: Lucasfilm

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This is probably the most controversial choice on Disney+’s list. In the final episode of The Mandalorian season three (2023), Bo-Katan Kryze goes head-to-head against Moff Gideon after she finally wields the Darksaber, an all-black lightsaber that is wielded by the ruler of the Mandalorians.

While the Darksaber is one of the coolest-looking lightsabers of all time, it doesn’t really get a moment to shine. Bo-Katan and Moff Gideon’s battle feels clunkier than most other lightsaber fights, lacking the finesse and acrobatics of more recent duels and the tension present in the classics. And even though Moff Gideon crushing the Darksaber is a tragic moment, it just feels like the loss of a tool and not the most important weapon to the Mandalorian people.

But the biggest kicker of this battle is that Moff Gideon isn’t wielding a lightsaber at all. Instead, he uses an Electrostaff, a weapon meant to battle Jedi and hold its own against a lightsaber. That means that this isn’t a lightsaber duel. In fact, the most exciting parts of the battle are after Din Djarin and Grogu arrive to help out Bo-Katan after the Darksaber is destroyed! A majority of the best moments happen without a lightsaber being present.

Bo-Katan Kryze vs. Moff Gideon is missing most of the elements that make other duels in the series feel memorable. Yes, this battle does serve as a climactic end to The Mandalorian‘s third season, but it is far from the most iconic battle in the series, let alone all of Star Wars.

Some Much More Iconic Lightsaber Battles

star wars revenge of the sith obi-wan and anakin on mustafar
Credit: Lucasfilm

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Throughout the entire Star Wars pantheon, there has been a number of lightsaber battles that have stuck out from the rest. Arguments can be made for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader’s final battle in A New Hope. It may not be flashy, but it cannot be denied that it is one of the most significant moments in the entire franchise.

Then there’s the final battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. A classic moment in cinema! Besides the classic Duel of Fates, there are also plenty of options in the prequel trilogies. There’s Obi-Wan’s battle with General Grievous in The Clone Wars, Obi-Wan and Anakin’s battle against Count Dooku at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, and Yoda’s fight against Darth Sidious, AKA Emperor Palpatine.

However, the biggest snub from the prequels here is the climactic duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, now known as Darth Vader. This fight is the perfect combination of flashy moves, dangerous set pieces, and an integral moment for the entire Star Wars universe. To this day, people still think of Anakin’s final flip that resulted in his defeat.

Kylo Ren and Rey having a lightsaber battle against the throne room guards in The Last Jedi
Credit: Lucasfilm

Another great lightsaber battle occurred in The Last Jedi when Rey and Kylo Ren battled the Praetorian Guards. While there are definitely arguments against the fight because it’s not technically a duel and a majority of the combatants don’t have lightsabers, seeing Kylo Ren and Rey team together against a common enemy shows that the two sides of the force could work together. Also, Kyo Ren catching the lightsaber and killing the guard who was restraining him was awesome.

In fact, both of Rey and Kylo Ren’s duels in the sequel trilogy could be on the list. Rey and Finn working together in the snow during The Force Awakens showed growth for both characters, and Rey battling Kylo Ren in The Rise of Skywalker surrounded by thunderstorms and crashing waves was the definition of epic.

the final lightsaber fight between Darth Vader and Starkiller in The Force Unleashed 2
Credit: LucasArts

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You could even turn to some video games for memorable fights, particularly the final battle of The Force Unleashed, where you take on Darth Vader as his apprentice, Starkiller. It’s a thrilling boss fight that has you genuinely choosing between the light and the dark side. Then there are other fights in Jedi Academy, Star Wars Jedi Survivor, and even Knights of the Old Republic.

There are even more skirmishes to consider that haven’t been mentioned, including Ahsoka vs. Darth Vader from the Clone Wars show and Yoda vs. Count Dooku in The Clone Wars movie.

Overall, the message is clear. Disney+, you made some bold choices on your list. But when it comes down to it, you were flat-out wrong.

What do you think is the most iconic lightsaber duel in all of Star Wars? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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