Martial arts drenched, boss-fighting sword duels? Yes, please! Even as a kid, I loved a good sword-fight. I watched swashbuckling adventures like Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood countless times, cheering on Robin Hood as he dueled the evil Sir Guy of Gisborne. As I grew older, I loved watching action stars like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee (side note: if you haven’t seen The Green Hornet TV show, go watch it now!) who made stylized fighting an art-form on screen. These are so many favorite sword duels that don’t fail to excite me! So here they are!
16 Favorite/Best Sword-Fights Ever!
(in no particular order)
(warning, there be spoilers here)
|Kenshin & Jin'e|
#1 Rurouni Kenshin
Scene: Kenshin vs Jin’e
Why: So this list could easily become an entire Rurouni Kenshin fight line-up because with 3 films, I LOVE every single fight in the films!! However, I’ve decided to be strong (it’s a struggle, let me tell you) and choose only a few from the movies. This is the final climatic sword fight in the first film and it is emotional and breathtakingly intense. Jin’e is terrifying as he tries to force Kenshin to unleash his killer side. I loooove when Kenshin finally uses his “high heaven” technique! Ahhh I have no words to express!!
|Chae Yoon & Yoon Pyung|
#2 A Tree With Deep Roots
Scene: Chae Yoon vs. Yoon Pyung (ep. 8)
Why: Taking cue from Wuxia-styled Chinese dramas, this riveting historical K-drama gives us fascinating characters in the form of vengeance-seeking royal guard Chae Yoon and secret society assassin Yoon Pyung. Both are insanely formidable warriors and when they finally face off together in the forest, I was so excited. The show uses a lot of slow-mo and sound effects to give the impression of extreme power instead of fancy footwork. However, the actors bring forceful passion in their acting that underlines this tense showdown.
|Yushin, Princess Deokman (in disguise), Bidam|
#3 Queen Seondeok
Scene: Bidam (with Yushin and Deokman) vs. the Hwarang
Why: I freakin’ love this scene! A truly great sword-fight not only furthers the plot, but reveals character, brings tension and pure excitement. This scene does that for me every single time I watch it. Bidam regrets his decision in giving Deokman over to the enemy (the Hwarang soldiers) and goes after her. He’s up against dozens of skilled warriors but Bidam doesn’t blink an eye. Luckily, Yushin shows up to help as well and these boys tear those Hwarang to pieces. One of my FAVORITE things about this scene is Hwarang leader Seolwon recognizing Bidam’s signature style is the same style of his former opponent, Munno. Chills.
|Saito & Kenshin|
|Officer Saito Hajime|
#4 Rurouni Kenshin
Scene: Officer Saito Hajime vs Kenshin
Why: THIS FIGHT! Why does this movie give me so many feels?? Officer Saito finally gets his moment to spar with Kenshin but he’s pretty ticked that the ex-samurai is using a dull-bladed sword. He taunts Kenshin who doesn’t want to fight but is forced to defend himself. The fighting in the rain is angsty and gorgeous and I can’t…
#5 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Scene: Jen Yu vs Everyone at the inn
Why: This is actually my favorite scene in the movie. Jen Yu, disguised as a boy, gets into a fight with a group of warriors at an inn. One girl against many, I just love the beauty and artistry in this scene. The wuxia elements are spot-on here and the way they filmed the scene is gorgeous as the camera fluidly follows her while she tears through room after room, a whirlwind of power. When she’s the last one standing at the inn… all you’re left with is: dang, she’s boss.
#6 Kundo: Age of the Rampant
Scene: Jo-Yoon vs Dolmuchi and his gang
Why: The movie itself sadly failed to hold my attention. Halfway through I decided to skip to the conclusion when I saw this scene. I love epic one-against-many battles and Jo-Yoon’s awesomely extravagant power and ability leaves you breathless as he takes on a small army of bandits. Of course, Jo-Yoon’s the baddie but who cares when the guy fights like that! The look of the scene is absolutely stunning with mellow, restrained colors and rich costumes and sets.
#7 Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011)
Scene: Yu Huatian vs Zhao Huai'an
Why: This is a crazy, CGI-filled Wuxia movie that manages to entertain despite its lack of story. One of the best and craziest fights is between deadly villain Yu Huatian armed with a sword and Zhao Huai’an fighting with a chain whip and sword in a desert. The battle takes is up a notch as they hold onto the chain rope and sword fight in the midst of a sand tornado’s vortex. Yep, you read that right. It’s typical Wuxia eccentricity yet makes for an intriguing backdrop for a fight.
|Inigo Montoya & Westley|
#8 The Princess Bride
Scene: Westley vs. Inigo Montoya
Why: This scene is hilarious and fun and everything a sword fight should be in a lighthearted swashbuckler film. Inigo is intent on killing his father’s murderer and gets in a duel with Westley, who he believes is the perpetrator. This fight has a wonderful fencing style to it that isn’t very common in films nowadays. Plus, it’s got some of the funniest, wittiest lines. "Hello my name is Inigo Montoya..."
|Namsoon & Sad Eyes|
Scene: Namsoon vs. Sad Eyes (duel in the alley)
Why: This Korean movie had a great cast but sadly the movie didn’t meet my expectations with some of the worst editing I’ve seen (were they trying to give someone a seizure?) and a plot that boasted of something deep but merely felt confused and unfinished. However, I did like this fight between girl police officer Namsoon (played by Ha Ji Won) and Sad Eyes set in the Joseon era. The fight near the stone wall has some pretty moments especially when they fight in the shadows with only their blades visible. The martial arts choreography is almost dance-like, lyrical and flowing. The scene plays out with a heavy dose of romantic tension that underscores the feelings between the star-crossed lovers.
|Anakin & Obi-Wan|
#10 Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Scene: Anakin vs. Obi-Wan (duel on Mustafar)
Why: Yes, Star Wars is on this list! It’s my favorite movie series and I love the lightsaber/sword fight choreography in this film. This is one the best, most intense and gorgeously put together fight scenes in the Star Wars saga. There’s a lot of emotion behind the scene as Anakin and Obi-Wan have practically grown up together and know each other’s styles and techniques intimately. As the introduction scene of Anakin’s turn into Vader, this is an electrifying and passionate fight.
#11 The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Scene: Jack Sparrow vs. Will Turner
Why: I loved this movie so much. When it came out I probably watched it 3 times in the span of a few days. Lol. This is such a great scene as Will decides to fight the pirate who “threatened Miss Swann”. Wonderful banter, hilarious moments, a great fencing style reminiscent of early swashbuckler films. Another unforgettable scene.
|Luke & Darth Vader|
#12 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Scene: Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader (on the Death Star II)
Why: It’s funny putting a fight scene from the old trilogy here. It’s definitely not a stylish fight like the ones choreographed nowadays but this one wins so many points for the intensity behind the fight. The sword play mirrors the emotions behind the most epic father-son duel ever. The fighting is on-and-off between dialogue that encompasses the combat perfectly. Of course the climactic moment explodes when Luke unleashes his anger on Vader and beats him down, severing his hand. What follows is the emotional, tear-jerking scene of Luke’s denial of the dark side and Vader’s redemption.
|Jin & Xiao Mei|
#13 House of Flying Daggers
Scene: Xiao Mei vs. Jin
Why: Oh this movie. Aesthetically beautiful with some surprising (and bizarre) twists, it’s not my favorite as the characters are very difficult to empathize with. This fight is still utterly intriguing between Xiao Mei, a blind dancer, and Jin. How she manages to fight with those long sleeves is besides me but she looks stunning while doing it and this scene is beautiful to watch. However, Jin becomes extremely unlikable for ruthlessly attacking a blind girl (and I still haven’t really figured why he had to fight her, lol).
#14 Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Scene: Kylo Ren vs. Rey
Why: I have to admit this scene didn’t really hit me the first time I watched it (my mind was overwhelmed with trying to keep up with the story and all the events thrown at us). Watching it a second time in theaters, I had new admiration for probably the most edgy, raw lightsaber battle in the Star Wars saga. Kylo and Rey’s fight is intense and less stylized giving it a unique sense of deadly urgency. Also a girl Jedi in the films? It’s about time.
|Yu Shu Lien & Jen Yu|
#15 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Scene: Jen Yu vs Yu Shu Lien
Why: I definitely took this incredible fight scene for granted when I first saw the movie. Re-watching the scene, its full of incredible seamless fighting. Jen Yu is armed with the Green Destiny Sword and faces off with Shu Lien who is determined to take the sword back. Shu Lien fights with a variety of weapons but Jen Yu’s Green Destiny Sword is a formidable match. The choreography is deadly perfection here making the audience feel as breathless as the two women sparring together. Plus, this scene gets mega points because two boss women sword-fighting each other. Yes, please!
|Kenshin & Soujiro Seta|
#16 Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno
Scene: Kenshin vs. Soujiro Seta
Why: Short, bittersweet and deadly. This is one of the shorter sword duels in the Kenshin movies but packs such an emotional punch. Soujiro Seta is a formidable henchman who is always oddly grinning and happy while fighting. Kenshin’s intensity is wonderfully contrasted with Soujiro’s playfulness which makes the fight all the more painful as Kenshin can’t seem to find his groove against the ex-samurai.