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The 10 best Star Wars action scenes, ranked

If there’s one thing that Star Wars does better than any other space opera, it’s action. Since the debut of the original Star Wars film in 1977, the franchise has continuously upped its action game and put other franchises to shame. This week, the legacy continues with Ahsoka, a new Star Wars spinoff series heading to Disney+. If the trailers are any indication, fans are in for more lightsaber action and intrigue.

When considering the greatest action scenes in Star Wars, we decided that everything in the movies, the live-action series, and the animated series was fair game. However, the franchise’s epic space battles have been left out of this list because we wanted to focus on the more visceral action scenes between two or more characters. After all, that is where the greatest drama can be found, as you’ll soon see in our roundup of the 10 best Star Wars action scenes.

10. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith

Obi-Wan Kenobi takes on Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith.

In the soundtrack for Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s confrontation with Anakin Skywalker is known as the “Battle of the Heroes.” It’s a battle that Star Wars fans had envisioned for themselves in their own minds ever since it was implied in the Original Trilogy. And while some of the fight is a bit overly choreographed, there’s no denying the power of seeing two former friends at each others’ throats as the fires of Mustafar rage around them.

The ending of the battle is a bit silly, with Obi-Wan’s declaration of having the high ground and Anakin basically leaping right into the path of Obi-Wan’s lightsaber. But the raw emotion that follows is just about perfect as both men feel betrayed by each other, and Obi-Wan leaves his fallen apprentice to a painful and excruciating death. Unfortunately for Obi-Wan, his unwillingness to finish off Anakin led to the rise of Darth Vader.

9. Rey and Kylo Ren vs. the Praetorian Guards in The Last Jedi

Rey and Kylo Ren fight back-to-back in The Last Jedi.

The Sequel Trilogy often seemed so preoccupied with tapping into the nostalgia for Star Wars that many of its action scenes seemed like pale echoes of what came before. But although The Last Jedi has proven to be divisive among hardcore fans, it also has the sequel trilogy’s best fight. In the aftermath of Kylo Ren’s assassination of Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo’s rival and potential lover, Rey, finds herself fighting back-to-back with him against Snoke’s Praetorian Guards.

This put fans in the odd position of rooting for a villain who had turned over Rey to Snoke just a few minutes earlier. As for Rey, she thought that she had redeemed Ben Solo, so she risked her own life to help him triumph. But to Rey’s horror, Kylo Ren had no intention of turning towards the light. She had unwittingly helped him become the new Supreme Leader.

8. Kanan Jarrus vs. the Grand Inquisitor in Star Wars Rebels

Kanan Jarrus vs Grand Inquisitor [4K HDR] - Star Wars: Rebels

There have been a lot of great lightsaber fights in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, but one of the battles that really stands out is the final confrontation between Kanan Jarrus and the Grand Inquisitor in Fire Across the Galaxy, the first season finale of Rebels. Ezra Bridger and the crew of the Ghost broke into a Star Destroyer to rescue Kanan, but the weakened Jedi was forced to face the Grand Inquisitor alone when Ezra was taken out of the fight.

Kanan displayed a willingness to innovate as he incorporated the unique abilities of Ezra’s hybrid lightsaber/blaster to keep the Grand Inquisitor off balance. It’s easily one of the most inventive lightsaber duels in the franchise’s history.

7. Ahsoka Tano vs. Darth Vader in Star Wars Rebels

Darth Vader vs Ahsoka Tano [4K HDR] - Star Wars: Rebels S2+S4

A very strong argument could be made for the inclusion of Ahsoka Tano’s battle with Darth Maul in the final episodes of The Clone Wars because it was a great clash and Ahsoka’s victory solidified her place among the best warriors of her generation. However, Ahsoka’s battle with her former master, Darth Vader, gets the nod here because it’s not only an epic clash, it’s emotionally intense as well. Throughout Rebels season 2, Ahsoka was reluctant to believe that Anakin could become someone as evil as Darth Vader. But she couldn’t run from the truth forever.

Their reunion played out in the season 2 finale, Twilight of the Apprentice, as Ahsoka faced her former master for the first time. Anakin Skywalker had trained her well, but even Ahsoka wasn’t prepared for the sheer power of the Dark Lord of the Sith.

6. Showdown on Arvala-7 in The Mandalorian

Mando & IG-11 vs Desert bandits - The Mandalorian Season One (2019)

The very first episode of The Mandalorian set the tone for the series when the title character, Din Djarin, accepted a bounty on an unknown target in the remote world called Arvala-7. To get past a group of heavily armed mercenaries, Din reluctantly teamed up with a bounty hunter droid, IG-11, for what turned out to be one of the best shootouts that Star Wars has ever done.

Star Wars has always embraced some Western elements, but The Mandalorian really leaned into that here with a wild sequence that found both Din and IG-11 badly outgunned and outnumbered until they found a way to turn the tide.

5. Luke Skywalker returns in The Mandalorian

Luke Skywalker Saves Star Wars [4K HDR] - The Mandalorian

It’s very difficult for Star Wars to truly surprise fans at this point in its existence, but The Mandalorian‘s season 2 finale provided a shock for the ages when Luke Skywalker appeared in his prime for the first time since Return of the Jedi. During the season, Moff Gideon’s Death Troopers had been built up as the Terminators of the Star Wars universe. Even Din Djarin could barely fight off a single Death Trooper, much less a whole squadron.

Enter Luke, who answered Grogu’s call for assistance with one of the most impressive displays of Jedi powers we’ve ever seen. This is Jedi Master Luke Skywalker doing the things we always imagined that he could, and it’s glorious. The show withheld showing Luke’s face until after the battle, but the way he moved and fought left little doubt about who he was even before the grand unveiling.

4. The Battle of Scarif in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Donnie Yen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The Disney era of Star Wars produced its first truly great movie in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a film that dared to go to the dark places that even George Lucas seemed reluctant to explore. It’s a lot easier to go into battle knowing you have a Jedi or the Force on your side. Aside from Chirrut Îmwe, the heroes of Rogue One don’t have that conviction. But they go to the Imperial base on Scarif knowing that if they fail to recover the Death Star plans then the Rebel Alliance will be finished before it has truly begun.

Although there is also a visually arresting space battle that occurs above Scarif, the battle on the surface is what earns it a place on this list. Even in victory, every Rebel on Scarif lays down their lives to finish their mission. No other Star Wars movie has felt more like a war story than this one. And in war, people die, whether they’re heroes or not.

3. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker's final battle in Return of the Jedi.

There’s a reason why the lightsaber duels in the Original Trilogy have withstood the test of time. George Lucas and his collaborators understood that the action needed to be joined with emotionally resonant themes. In the case of Luke’s battle with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, he genuinely doesn’t want to fight the man that used to be his father. Luke actually holds back, while Vader does not.

What really elevates this duel is when Luke finally loses control of his rage at the idea that his sister, Leia, will be turned to the dark side if he refuses to join Vader and the Emperor. The operatic scene that follows is given even more power by John Williams’ score as Luke definitively defeats Darth Vader before realizing that he is far too close to following his father’s path to the dark side of the Force.

2. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back

Luke Skywalker faces Darth Vade in The Empire Strikes Back.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader only had two battles in the Original Trilogy, but the fight in The Empire Strikes Back is better than the one in Return of the Jedi for multiple reasons. On this occasion, Luke is truly outmatched by Vader and he barely holds his own. Before Darth Vader went full slasher mode in Rogue One, he had a truly horrifying presence in this duel as Luke simply could not get away.

Not only was the outcome in doubt for Luke, but he also lost the fight in a convincing fashion when Vader lopped off his hand in one of the film’s most famous moments. In the aftermath of that, Vader played his trump card and revealed to Luke that he was his father. It’s easily one of the great cinematic reveals of all time, and the perfect capper to an unforgettable sequence of events.

1. The Duel of the Fates in The Phantom Menace

The Duel of the Fates from Star Wars Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.

The long-awaited Star Wars: Episode 1 was not everything that we hoped for, and we still maintain that it was a mistake to introduce Anakin Skywalker as a literal child. And the less said about Jar Jar Binks, the better. But few could deny that the climatic duel earned its place in Star Wars lore. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn took on Darth Maul in Star Wars’ best choreographed action scene to date, which was accompanied by Williams’ now iconic Duel of the Fates suite.

This showed fans Jedi at the height of their power, and the Sith at their most terrifying. Darth Maul wasn’t as well-developed as Vader, but he was genuinely imposing and formidable. This battle alone almost makes The Phantom Menace‘s missteps worthwhile. Almost. But in terms of on-screen action, Star Wars has yet to surpass it.

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Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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