There are many reasons why the Star Wars franchise is beloved by so many people across the world. The history of Star Wars features colorful storylines, thrilling plots, and epic space scenes. There is love, tragedy, and betrayal.
And of course, there are the moments within each movie that every fan looks forward to: the lightsaber battles.
Lightsaber battles are worth the watch. Full of power, light, and moves that are akin to dance-steps, they thrill the senses and keep viewers at the edge of their seats.
Because lightsaber battles are very much beloved, fans around the world keep up a continuous discussion about the duelists themselves. Who is the best Star Wars duelist? What are the skills and fighting styles of these duelists, and how do they match up against each other?
Considering the whole picture, it is difficult to rank lightsaber duelists in a definitive list from top to bottom. This is because these duelists are separated by time, have different strengths and weaknesses, and employ their own choice of fighting forms against opponents.
Still, it is interesting to take a close look at the top lightsaber duelists one by one and note what makes them special. Which form of fighting do they specialize in? Do they focus on teaching or fighting?
Here is a list of the top 12 best lightsaber duelists of all time.
1. Master Yoda
Many Star Wars fans argue that Yoda is the best and most powerful of all the lightsaber duelists. Taking a closer look at this volatile, wise, and calm master, it is not easy to contradict this opinion.
Yoda’s arrival in the Jedi Order was marked by a shift in the Force. It was not unlike the shift that occurred when the slave-boy Anakin Skywalker first made his appearance. Yoda’s high midi-chlorian count made him extremely Force-sensitive and led to his rise in the ranks of the Jedi.
Like Anakin, Yoda started small. Born in the outer rim, he journeyed towards the inner worlds in search of employment. However, his ship malfunctioned and he crashed on the planet Dagobah, where he was discovered by a powerful Jedi master who sensed his strong connection to the Force.
Yoda is remarkable for many reasons. One of them is his mastery of all 7 forms of lightsaber combat. Mastering just one of them is a great Jedi feat, but Yoda managed to learn and teach all of them.
A great argument for Yoda being the best lightsaber duelist is his perfect combat record. In his 900 years of existence, he is never once defeated in a duel. He is even known to outsmart seasoned fighters like Count Dooku and Emperor Palpatine.
But Yoda’s greatest strength can be seen in his teaching skills. On meeting new trainees, he can immediately sense what fighting form will best suit them. He is also known to have trained the best duelists of all time, including Count Dooku and Luke Skywalker.
2. Mace Windu
Two aspects set Mace Windu apart from all the lightsaber duelists of all time.
One of them is his singular purple blade. As a young knight in training, Windu kept failing at creating a lightsaber using common kyber crystals.
Following the guidance of his dreams, he asked to be left on the planet Hurikane. There, he helped the planet’s inhabitants and was gifted a rare purple crystal. It was only then that he was able to craft a powerful lightsaber of his own.
The other aspect that sets Windu apart is his creation of Vaapad, a variation of the Form 7 fighting style that was forbidden to Jedi in training. This fighting style is best described as walking the line between the Light and Dark sides of the Force.
Vaapad is the skill of using darkness to fight with darkness. With its use, a Jedi channels the darkness of his opponents and throws it back at them. Opponents completely lost in the Dark Side are the best targets of this fighting form.
Because Windu developed and created Vaapad, he was the perfect opponent for the powerful Emperor Palpatine. In Attack of the Clones, his use of this fighting form allowed him to win the lightsaber battle and disarm Palpatine.
3. Obi-Wan Kenobi
A brilliant lightsaber duelist with his own list of triumphs, Obi-Wan Kenobi stands out as the most patient fighter in the Star Wars universe.
Obi-Wan’s chosen fighting style is Form III, or Soresu. Soresu was first developed as a defense against blasters and involves tight movements that defend the body against bullets.
Obi-Wan’s patience is the characteristic that led him to become a forceful duelist. As a young trainee, he was not as talented as others in his rank. This only compelled him to work harder than everyone else beside him until he gained his title of Jedi Knight.
Also, it is his patience that led him to his well-known victory over the troubled Anakin Skywalker on Mustafar. Obi-Wan used Soresu to defend himself against Anakin’s rageful attacks. With patience, Obi-Wan eventually gained the higher ground that allowed him to defeat his opponent.
4. Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker is one of the most beloved lightsaber duelists of all time. One cannot doubt his skill and prowess, as he is said to have become the most powerful Jedi in history. This fact is told in Legends, where Luke is described as using brilliant golden Force lightning and many other stunning abilities.
However, even without referring to Legends, Luke can still be seen as a formidable and powerful Jedi in the original Star Wars trilogy.
For example, take Luke’s battle with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Compared with Vader, Luke is highly inexperienced. Yet he manages to land a number of blows on Vader during the fight before he has his hand cut off.
When Luke fights Vader again in Return of the Jedi, he shows himself as highly improved. Still, his training is far, far less than that of Vader, who started his own training as a young boy. But he shows his prowess with various lightsaber battle forms and eventually manages to defeat Vader.
But Luke’s strength is not only shown in his physical skill with a lightsaber. His mental and emotional capacities are also noteworthy. Throughout the lightsaber duels, he continually resists not only Vader’s blows but also his temptations to the Dark Side.
5. Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious)
The Emperor Palpatine started his journey to the Dark Side on his home planet of Naboo. After studying the doctrines of The Sith, he was drawn to believe its central teaching: power is the most important thing in the universe.
Palpatine was furious with his parents for being content with their lives. This led him to slay them in a fit of anger, and then go on to become a secret Dark Lord masked as a humble, quiet public servant.
Emperor Palpatine is a powerful Force-user. There is nothing as bone-chilling as his cry of anger, his leaps into the air, and his massive strength with Force lightning.
Also, his skill with a lightsaber is almost unmatched. In Attack of the Clones, he easily disarms and defeats the three Jedi who arrive with Mace Windu to arrest him. His fight with Windu is also impressive. If not for Windu’s skill with Vaapad, it is easy to see Palpatine coming out as the victor in the battle.
6. Anakin Skywalker
After hundreds of years in the Jedi Order, Yoda and other Jedi masters noticed a shift in the Force. They felt power, darkness, and the inability to see because of a blur that was caused.
The Jedi wondered whether it was the rise of the Sith, some darkness in the Force, or the arrival of the Chosen One who had been prophesied to bring balance to the universe.
A little later, the slave-boy Anakin Skywalker arrived in their midst. Many sensed that there was something special about this boy.
Anakin then went on to become a powerful and successful duelist. His Force-awareness helped him wield his lightsaber aggressively while predicting his opponent’s moves.
However, Anakin’s fear and anger got the better of him and compelled him towards the Dark Side. In the battle on Mustafar, his arrogance brought about his final fall to Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was then burned alive and forced to wear the heavy contraption known as Darth Vader’s suit.
But even as Darth Vader, he shows stunning skills with the lightsaber. Fans are divided on how high he could have gone if he stayed on the path of Light and reached his full potential as a Jedi.
7. Count Dooku
Count Dooku turned to the Dark Side of the Force for reasons which seem noble at first. Dooku was disgusted with the corruption of the senate and the Republic but stayed with the Jedi Order because he believed he could yet do some good. However, when his friend Qui-Gon Jinn passed away and nothing was done about it, he turned fully to the Dark Side.
What attracted him to the Dark Side and Emperor Palpatine’s temptation was the plan to destroy the whole Order and build a new one from scratch. From there, however, Dooku fell prey to the greed for power that fully and finally corrupted him.
As the last student of Master Yoda, Dooku has some powerful skills. His lightsaber fighting style is fluid and beautiful, using quick jabs and tight maneuvers to defend himself. In Attack of the Clones, he easily disarms both Obi-Wan and Anakin and shows his formidability by being able to stand up against Yoda himself.
8. Darth Maul
Darth Maul’s mother was in alliance with Darth Sidious at the time Maul was born. Sensing the child’s potential, Sidious took Maul at an early age and began his training.
Maul was a fierce fighter with restless anger always building up inside him. To contain him, Sidious put him in charge of fighting pirates who interfered with trade.
Darth Maul is well-known for his graceful fighting style and his double-bladed lightsaber. It was at the edge of this lightsaber that Qui-Gon Jinn met his fate. However, Maul fell to Obi-Wan Kenobi and it was not until later that he made his return as part of the Shadow Collective in the Clone Wars.
9. Qui-Gon Jinn
Qui-Gon Jinn was the apprentice of Count Dooku, and from him learned his aggressive and almost tireless fighting style.
But the thing that makes Qui-Gon stand out from the rest is his intelligence. Qui-Gon understood the prophecies of the Chosen One and the rise of the Sith more than anyone else did. He also believed that Anakin was the Chosen One and sensed the darkness within him.
Thus, it is argued that had he lived, Qui-Gon would have been the best teacher to Anakin. He would foresee Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side and start early to prevent it. If Qui-Gon hadn’t fallen so early, the wiping out of the Jedi and all that resulted could have been prevented.
However, the Sith knew Jinn’s powers and made sure to eliminate him. In Phantom Menace, Jinn fought an aggressive and furious battle against Darth Maul. Although he stood up well to his well-trained Sith opponent, his waning stamina and aggressive style soon led to his demise.
10. General Grievous
General Grievous is known as the leader of the Clone army in the fight against the Jedi Order. A powerful cyborg, he is seen wielding four lightsabers at a time in a machine-like dance of power. A true Jedi destroyer, he gathered the sabers of his fallen opponents in an ever-growing collection.
But Grievous wasn’t always a cyborg. He was once a valiant Kaleesh warrior from the planet Kalee. Losing his best friend and lover led him to depression and anger. When his planet was attacked by the Jedi, he allowed himself to be recruited by Darth Sidious and Count Dooku to gain the revenge he wanted.
However, Count Dooku planted a bomb in his ship, almost destroying him. The Sith then transformed him into an unbeaten machine with nothing left of the Kaleesh warrior but his brain, heart, and a few organs.
Grievous then rose to become the powerful leader of the clone army. His fighting style is truly something impressive, as he uses lightsabers in a whirling motion like propellers.
Although Rey had no formal Jedi training, the Force was always strong within her. To date, her lineage is shrouded in shadow. Fans debate whether or not she could be the daughter of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, or some other famous or obscure Jedi.
Even without knowing where she comes from, Rey’s innate skill with a lightsaber is something to behold. Luke’s blue lightsaber speaks to her and she is given visions that help her along the path towards ultimately finding him.
Rey’s awareness of the Force makes her a lightsaber dualist to watch out for. For instance, in her battle with Kylo Ren, she manages to reach out for power and ultimately defeat him.
12. Kylo Ren
Kylo Ren is the son of Princess Leia and Han Solo. At an early age, he began displaying similarities to his grandfather, Darth Vader. Afraid of where this could lead, his mother sent him to her brother, Luke Skywalker, for training.
Ren could never fully get rid of the darkness inside himself. He distanced himself from his parents, who were already very busy with their own affairs. Also, he discovered the secret of his connection to Darth Vader and felt furious that it was kept from him.
His weakness made him attractive to Snoke, a powerful Dark Side user. After leaving Luke’s training, Kylo Ren joined Snoke and became a formidable enemy to the Jedi Order Luke was trying to re-establish.
Kylo Ren caused devastation to the Jedi and the Skywalker family. He destroyed many Jedi and was responsible for Luke to go into exile.
Watching Kylo Ren, it is impossible not to be impressed with his style. His flaming lightsaber is different from those used by the other Sith Lords, featuring a glowing cross guard. Although he fell to Rey in The Force Awakens, he comes back in The Last Jedi stronger than ever.
Lightsaber battles are swift, brilliant, and spectacular to watch. Because of these 12 skilled duelists, they have become what they are now: unmatchable displays of power and finesse that are stunning to witness.