Not surprisingly for a movie series that features guys wielding laser swords, there are a lot of duels in Star Wars. But then again, not all of these even feature laser swords. Below are my top ten favorite duels (and an honorable mention).
10. Leia vs. Jabba
How does the Galaxy's most powerful crimelord go out? Choked to death by a slave princess in a Gold Bikini. You know? When I have to go out, I could think of worse ways.
9. Han vs. Boba Fett
After all the hype that had built up around Boba Fett it could not have ended any better in my book. Taken out by accident by a guy who was still half blind and didn't even realize what he was doing. The scream was nice. As was the plowing face first into the side of the sail barge and falling to your doom in the mouth of a giant sand monster. Joking aside, I really like it when movies take what you expect (a big showdown) and turn it on its ear. Raiders of the Lost Ark did this to great effect and I think this is another example of that.
8. Han vs. Vader
One of the shorter 'duels'. Han does an awesome quickdraw and manages to get off several shots- only to find it all for naught. Vader just ABSORBS the shots in his hand, then plucks the blaster away from Han without breaking a sweat. This scene does a great job of showing how good Han is, but at the same time how utterly outclassed he is. At the time it was awesome because we really never get to see Vader 'in action' all that much. He's usually just standing around menacingly or choking guys to death. Who knew he could just absorb blaster bolts!?
7. Yoda vs. Dooku
This is a controversial one. A lot of people were upset with the way Yoda was shown fighting. In the theatre a lot of people were actually laughing at this big showdown. And truthfully? I was one of them. But in this case, I was laughing WITH the movie, not at it. I mean, after all, what kind of fighting style IS a tiny dude like that going to use? Graceful and elegant just doesn't seem to work (it would take too long for him to be able to run over to an opponent). Psychotic, leapy buzz-saw? Yeah, I can believe that. There is a group of folks who think that Yoda shouldn't have been a duelist at all, that he was somehow 'above' that kind of thing. Meh. He was a Jedi knight. Jedi fight with lightsabers. It makes sense to me.
6. Obi-Wan vs. Anakin
Yeah, this one is remarkably low on the list considering what a big moment it was. This was THE fight that people had been wondering about since the first rumors of Vader's backstory began to leak out. It didn't disappoint. The duel was suitably titanic and charged with emotion and had a suitably horrific ending. But it just wasn't a 'cool' as some of the other duels- perhaps because I had built it up so much in my mind over the years that it didn't quite live up to expectations.
5. Han vs. Greedo
A short one, but an important one. I definitely like the original version better. It set the tone for Han Solo as a kind of 'grey' character in a universe of (literally) black and white. Besides, Greedo pretty much SAID he was going to kill Han. Han had every right to shoot before Greedo got the chance. I loved the coin flip to the bartender afterwards- sorry about the mess.
4. Jango vs. Obi-Wan
I loved this showdown and I imagine a lot of fanboys did as well. Here we finally get the scene they had been clamoring for since Boba's ignominious 'death' in Return of the Jedi. A knock-down, drag-out fight between a Jedi and a Mandalorian warrior. It did not disappoint. The duel as a whole did a great job of portraying just how badass BOTH combatants were. On the one hand, you have Jango using every weapon and dirty trick at his disposal- along with a lot of just flat-out guts and cleverness. And on the other you have an experienced Jedi Knight being pushed to his limits by a 'normal' person (albeit a normal person with rockets, flamethrowers, blades, tangle-wire, jetpack, etc.). To me I liked that it pointed out that however badass Jedi may be, they aren't invincible. This was important foreshadowing for events to come.
3. Yoda vs. Palpatine
I had always wondered if this duel ever took place. In the original trilogy, we see that Yoda is a very powerful Jedi. One of my first thoughts was "Why didn't he try to stop the Emperor?" Well here the answer is revealed: He did try. And he failed. THAT really drove home to me the power the Emperor wielded. Sure, Yoda knocked him on his ass a few times (literally), but the Sith Lord was just too much to overcome. Seeing Yoda scrabbling woundedly through the air ducts to escape was the culminating moment of the Jedi's fall from power. The good guys had truly lost.
2. Luke vs. Vader (on Bespin)
This duel had a huge impact on me as a 10 year old boy. Up until now I'd only really been exposed to stories where the 'good guys won'. I was shocked earlier in the movie when Luke seemed to be failing at his training and then came this fight. Whuf. It did a great job of setting things up, though. At first, Luke seems almost able to hold his own. In fact, early in the fight he displays some pretty cool moves (at the time at least). But slowly, Vader just pours on more and more of his own power. He wasn't just out to 'beat' Luke, he wanted to impress upon him just how outclassed he was. And wow, did he succeed. To his credit, Luke never gave up. He even managed to land a lucky blow. But then? Off came the hand. And moments later, the revelation that turned the saga (and Luke's psyche) on its ear. Yeah. Truly memorable.
1. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Maul
For all the faults in Episode I. All the things I didn't like. This was the one thing they did right- at least up until the very last blow of the duel. These were not the Jedi of my youth. Here was have an incredible duel with flips and leaps and moves so quick you could hardly see them. Add to this the 'Duel of the Fates' music and wow. I still get chills thinking about this duel. The fight choreography was nothing short of awesome. In my book, this is probably the best duel of all time. Unfortunately, there is one thing that sours it. The way Maul died just didn't fit with the rest of the duel. It seemed as though they just 'stopped' the choreography and tacked on this arbitrary ending. I know I or about a million fanboys could have come up with a better ending than what was done.
There they are. The top ten duels in Star wars. But before I go, there is one honorable mention:
R2 vs. Yoda
This scene still makes me giggle. Yoda, who has not yet revealed himself as a Jedi master, starts tearing apart Luke's camp site on Dagobah. R2 takes it upon himself to take back a lamp that Yoda had 'acquired'. The two get into a 'fight', with R2's claw clamped on the item, trying to pull it back and yoda wailing on the droid's head with his walking stick screaming "Mine! Mine!". Heheee. Nice.