Before we get too far into this, let me say that this does NOT include anime. Sword fights in that are a genre unto themselves and that is list for a whole other day. However, movies and, to a far lesser extend, have given us some pretty epic sword fights. Battles between two combatants where the defining characteristic is whether or not one is better than the other. For this list, I chose the fights that either had the best choreography, the best witty banter between combatants or the most emotional themes happening at the time. Does that last one sound like a weird criteria? Well, we’ll get there when we do. Also, fair warning, there is at least one entry on this list that has some spoilers attached to it. Just thought you should know.
10. Aragorn vs. Lurtz
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
For a series with as many epic battles as there are in the Lord of the Rings films, there aren’t that many sword duels. And the one major duel that there is actually is refreshingly realistic. This battle is short. Anybody who knows anything about actual fights in the real world knows that people who know what there doing aren’t typically in fights for long. A skilled fighter can make short work of an opponent. This duel is no exception. Aragorn is out of his depth, with Lurtz being stronger and tougher than him. It is his skill with his entire arsenal and some blind luck that saves Aragorn’s life. In an emotional part of the film, this was a very nice way to wrap it up, along with us finding out what Aragorn is made of.
9. Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Captain Hector Barbossa
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
If you’re going to have a swash-buckling pirate adventure, then you’ve got to have some good sword fighting. Watching these two captains go head-to-head had everything that one could ask for. As always, Jack Sparrow seems totally insane and incompetent until he is actually in the thick of it. Barbossa is also no slouch, with the two being evenly matched, with one exception – Barbossa is invincible due to the curse. He runs Jack through, showing that, as always, Sparrow came to the party ready to play. The fight gets more and more intense until, at the last moment, Jack shows that he had a plan all along. How it all ends is SO intense.
8. Achilles vs. Hector
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pwning look so epic as this one. For real, Achilles kicks Hector’s ass and there was no doubt who the victor would be. Hector does his best to put up a good fight, but he’s out of his depth, and I think part of him knows that, too. The entire battle is Achilles playing with him, and the cold disregard that he has for Hector and his desire to do the right thing makes the battle that much more unpleasant. Achilles is now so powerful a warrior that he doesn’t even care about the fight. His entire part in the war on Troy is just an act of apathy and boredom. It’s a surprisingly cold fight scene, which is emphasized perfectly with the music and pacing.
7. Indigo Montoya vs. the Dread Pirate Roberts
The Princess Bride
This is a fight scene that is all about oneupsmanship and skill. The fight choreography here is just awesome. These two combatants appear evenly matched, with each one finding ways to get the upper hand on the other with both blade skill and witty barbs. Montoya is a man of honor. He is looking for the man who killed his father, to get revenge. When he is ordered by the buffoon he is following to kill Roberts, he takes this task seriously, yet never will dishonor himself by fighting dirty. He wants to win this battle with his skill alone, coming to quickly respect Roberts when he sees that his opponent may be his better. How the fight ends is in the same honorable fashion, with Roberts also having nothing but respect for Montoya. A duel of gentlemen. How often do you see that?
6. Rufio vs. Captain James Hook
It was a tough choice between this fight and the one between Peter Pan and Hook. But to me, this one always felt more epic. Rufio is clearly out of his league. Hook is a superior swordsman, yet the look on his face when he knows that it is going to be a duel between him and the life-long enemy of the Lost Boys is just priceless. And for a time, he appears that he might actually able to get the upper hand. However, much like Achilles, Hook had been playing with Rufio the entire time. It has a tragic ending, but it gives Pan the boost he needs to fight. Until the annoying children step in. Thank god the plot makes it so that their insipid lines don’t have to be suffered for long. I love Dante Basco, and I think that this was the more engaging duel, short as it was.
5. Jade Fox vs. Jen Yu
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Man, this is probably the best-choreographed fight ever! These two women are so evenly matched that it is awesome to watch. Were it not for the fact that the Green Destiny is indestructible, this fight could have gotten VERY ugly. As it stands, this is still an amazing fight to watch, the point where pupil abandons the teacher and they throw their friendship away for the sake of a sword that seems to cause death and destruction wherever it goes. But, as I said before, the best thing in this fight is the choreography. All the different weapons that are used and the skill of the women using them it amazing to watch and how the fight ends is just classic. Nothing like ending on a joke.
4. Captain Harrison Love vs. Zorro
The Mask of Zorro
This is one of those fight scenes where the themes come in to play. The new man behind the mask of Zorro lost his brother to Captain Love. His desire for revenge has been motivating him for years. All while he learned what it meant to be Zorro, he had the burning feeling in the back of his mind. It all comes to a head in this fight, where it looks at first like Captain Love is just going to shoot Zorro and be done with it. However, he chooses not to, wanting to kill this man with his own hands. However, his arrogance proves to be his undoing, as he is killed in probably one of the most fitting revenge deaths ever.
3. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
It was a REALLY hard choice between this fight and the final duel between the two in Return of the Jedi. However, this film takes it by a nose. Aside from the fight choreography, which, let’s all admit, was pretty lame, this fight gets almost everything right. The mood is amazing. So much of this battle is mood. It’s a battle of wills more than lightsabers between these two, with Luke being out of his depth and completely unprepared for what this fight would entail. At first, it looks like Luke may do well in this battle, but then you see that Vader was also playing with him, when he starts throwing stuf at him with the Force. For real, the scene where he is getting pummeled and his ass kicked at the same time is almost too intense. And then, after he loses a hand and has nothing left, there is one of the greatest reveals in cinema history. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you what that is.
2. The Bride vs. the Crazy 88
Kill Bill, Vol. 1
When Quentin Tarantino set out to make these films, part of his inspiration was samurai movies and anime. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this fight. It has all the over-the-top action that would do both of those genres proud. Not to mention, this scene has the greatest fight choreography is history! How they managed to get this scene that perfectly done is beyond me. For real, I’ll never know. Having come all the way to Japan for her revenge, The Bride is now left having to kill the 88 bodyguards of O-Ren Ishii. What ensues is a mess of totally fake blood, gratuitous gore and awesome action, the likes of which we may never see a batter version of ever again. The random music sets the tone of each part of the fight almost flawlessly, with some of it being a throwback to old samurai movies and other parts being funny and ridiculous just because. Quentin Tarantino at his very best.
And my favorite fight scene from movies and TV is…
1. Brienne of Tarth vs. Sandor Clegane, AKA. The Hound
Game of Thrones
Now you know why I called it Movies and TV. I can’t very well call this a movie, can I? Though Game of Thrones is like a REALLY long film series, given the budget. In any case, this is the greatest fight scene that I have ever seen. Much like Captain Love vs. Zorro, theme comes to play a lot into why this fight is so intense. It starts with Brienne and Podrick running in to Arya Stark. Since she doesn’t know who they are, she calls in her traveling companion, Sandor Clegane. Brienne figures out who Arya is, having made a promise to the deceased mother of the Stark family to look after her children. The Hound points out that there is no place left for the Stark children, and that the entire family is dead. This leads into a duel that has two broken warriors fighting not only with each other, but with themselves. The Hound has accepted that he is going to have to look after Arya, having found kinship with her from the fact that neither of them have a place in the world. Brienne feels dishonored as a knight, having failed to protect two of the people she has been vowed to protect, and now trying to save what little is left of the Stark family to preserve her honor. This is a brutal fight, also being very realistic, and how it ends is painful and part of the reason that Game of Thrones has just been getting better and better.
So, what was your favorite fight scene in TV or movies? Let me know in the comments section.
Until next time, a quote,
“Safety?! Where the fuck’s that?! Her aunt Illyri’s dead. Her mother’s dead. Her father’s dead. Her brother’s dead. Winterfell is a pile of rubble. There is no safety, you dumb bitch.” -Sandor Clegane, Game of Thrones