Let's face facts. No weapon is more badass than a sword. Fight scenes are often great in science fiction and fantasy movies, but fight scenes with swords? They're the stuff of legend. Here are ten of the very best sword fights in cinematic history.
Since we're all about facing facts today, I'm just going to admit up front that I might be a bit of a sword fight fan. So I couldn't narrow down this list to an exact ten. I had to throw in a few extras, mostly because I love you but also because I spent the last two days trying to narrow this list down to no avail. Without further ado, here are ten-ish of the best sword fights committed to film EVAR.
10. The Empire Strikes Back, Darth vs. Luke Even though this looks a little dated now, it's still the light saber duel that picks the biggest emotional punch in the Star Wars series. Luke loses his hand! If I were going with my personal favorite light saber duel, however, I'd have to say Darth vs. Obi Wan in A New Hope. It's not actually a very good fight — it's more like Darth and Obi Wan are having tea time conversation while occasionally waving light sabers around. Obi Wan's hood doesn't even get mussed. But in this fight between Darth and Luke, there's a lot of serious zooming around and smack talk. Definitely the best in terms of sheer swordplay.
9. (Tie) Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arthur vs. the Black Knight and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy vs. Sword Guy
Who hasn't at some point cried, "It's just a flesh wound!" or "Come back and I'll bite you!" That's because Monty Python's Black Knight duel is perhaps one of the best slapstick grossout sword fights you've ever seen. It really doesn't get more classic Python than this.
Another great slapstick sword fight is this ultra-short, ultra-memorable bit from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indy is menaced by Scimitar Sam. It answers the eternal adventure movie question, "Why are they having a sword fight when they could just shoot the guy?" Exactly!
8. Equilibrium, John Preston vs. Everybody
How can such a bad movie have such great fights? It's one of Earth's great mysteries, but the answer may have something to do with the fact that the movie's creators invented something called "gun kata" just for this flick (which is actually about a dystopia where everybody is doped up on a Prozac-like drug called — wait for it — Prozium). In this final boss scene, John Preston fights an entire room full of ninjas with samurai swords.
7. (Tie) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2, Neville vs. Nagini and Return of the King, Eowyn vs. the Nazgul
Both of these fights have the same basic structure of "character whom everybody underestimated comes to save the day with one swift stroke of a sword." Neville, the character who bumbled through the first few Harry Potter movies, has blossomed into a seriously courageous hottie. He's the only one who is able to destroy the final horcrux, the giant snake Nagini. Who doesn't love the moment when he comes out with the Gryffindor sword to save the day?
As a woman, I have to say this sword fight from Lord of the Rings' final chapter made me stomp my feet with glee. Everybody keeps telling Eowyn that she's only a girl so she shouldn't go fight. But when push comes to shove, she disguises herself and emerges as the bravest soldier on the field. She's challenged the Nazgul while wearing her full armor, and chopped his nasty steed's head right off. When she faces his empty shadow of a face, he intones, "No man can kill me." And what does Eowyn say, ladies? "I AM NO MAN!" Then she slams that sword right into his face and kills the shit out of him. Fuck YEAH!
6. Versus, Prisoner vs. The Man
In this insane flick about gangsters meeting zombie versions of everyone they've killed in the Forest of Resurrection, a prisoner and a woman are fleeing for their lives from both the gangsters and the monsters. But then the prisoner begins to recall that he is part of a great struggle between light and dark — a struggle that must culminate in this seriously off the hook fight with the mysterious "man." Seriously, do you really need to know plot details? Just watch and appreciate.
5. Matrix Reloaded, Neo vs. The Chateau
We probably won't agree on whether this movie was great, but we can certainly reach a consensus about the severe hella win of the fight scenes. In this sequence at the Merovingian's chateau, a lot of weapons are used — but there is a major swordy component. Watch Neo do his thing against the cyber-bads and remember what it was like to live in a world where The Matrix was the coolest thing you had ever seen.
4. Afro Samurai, Afro vs. Jinno
OK so this isn't from a movie — it's from the anime series Afro Samurai. This is an edited-together version of a fight that is so insanely out of control that it actually takes place over two episodes. Afro faces down one of his greatest enemies, the plushy-headed Jinno. While it may be more talky and emotional than Afro's fight with Robo-Afro, it's still one of the greatest anime sword fights ever.
3. Highlander, Highlander vs. Kurgan
I think this may be one of the most perfect movies ever made. It has pretty much everything, from Sean Connery running around in lacy outfits pretending to be Spanish, to our delightful Scottish highlander with a French accent and white sneakers. There are broadsword fights in trashed city alleyways. Disco lights pulse when one of the immortals dies. Plus the bad guy Kurgan is a perfect embodiment of everything parents feared in the 1980s — he's a Twisted Sister music video character with all his leather and safety pins and grunty ways. And seriously, there is nothing you can do to respond to this fight scene other than just make the devil sign with both your hands and your feet too. Highlander fights Kurgan in what I swear is a post-apocalyptic dance club, and then when he does his "quickening" thing there are SKULLS and SNAKES and other spooky shit floating in the air! Special effects MAGIC.
2. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Yu Shu Lien vs. Jen Yu
In this mythic fantasy epic, sister turns against sister during a search for a legendary jade sword. And they have one of the most seriously brilliant sword fights you have ever seen.
1. Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya vs. the Dread Pirate Roberts
"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." It's the speech that launched a thousand nerd jokes and internet memes. And here, in this first meeting (and duel) between Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts (AKA Wesley), we get a sword fight that is not only action-packed but filled with witty zingers that will make you fall in love with this classic fantasy comedy all over again.
OK so it isn't even remotely science fiction or fantasy (though it may be fantastical), but if you are like me you are pretty much begging for a taste of Rob Roy at this point. So here you go.
And by popular demand, one of the most gnarly fights ever committed to film, in Kill Bill.
What? You still want more? OK, here's Eric Bana fighting Brad Pitt in Troy. I know, I know. You'll be in your bunk.