The relationship between a movie character and their blade is an important one that speaks of strong bonds and a troubled history. So when two sword-wielding combatants meet on the battlefield you know it’s going to get up close and personal. High-tech weaponry is cool and all, but sword fights have provided some of the greatest and most intense moments in cinema. These are some of our favorites. What are yours?
Photo: YouTube/Village Roadshow
9 ‘Rob Roy’
Throughout the movie, there’s a build-up of hatred toward Tim Roth’s character and compassion for Liam Neeson’s. It doesn’t lead to a wild sword fight on the edge of a cliff or in a burning citadel, but rather a cold, calculated and brutal showing in front of a private audience. The superior acting, excellent choreography and twisting of the viewer’s expectations make this a truly special sword fight. You’ll want to watch this one twice.
8 ‘Star Wars Episode I’
The best and most redeeming part of this film is the solemn, yet somewhat manic battle between the two Jedi and Darth Maul. Are they outmatched because of Darth Maul’s dual lightsaber, his superior grasp of the force, or both?
7 ‘The Princess Bride’
This is a fun and memorable fight because the two men battling are calm, cool, collected and have lots of amusing dialogue. Their constant movement through the rocky, cliff side set, periodic acrobatics and the easy flow of the fight make this fun to watch every time.
Just as you’re catching your breath from a crazy fight scene where Blade brutalizes an entire building full of vampires in viscerally inventive ways, this sword fight begins. The hyper-quick pace, great camerawork and charming 90s special effects make this a seriously kick ass scene.
5 ‘The Matrix Reloaded’
It’s Neo versus…everyone. The château this fight takes place in has all types of medieval weapons for everyone to go nuts with. We’re talking Sai’s, spears, swords, maces and even a frickin’ trident. The ninja-fied acrobatics and stunts, the sweet slow motion interludes, the constant destruction of the environment and the awesome assortment of weaponry keep every second interesting.
4 ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’
This is a great fight that sees the lightsaber being used to spectacular effect for the first time in cinema. The sound effects, deliberate pacing and twist at the end are what make this memorable. (Note: Fox doesn’t want you seeing that scene for free so this video is the next best thing: Jedi Kittens Strike Back.)
3 ‘Die Another Day’
When we think of fencing, “aggressive” and “violent” are not words that come to mind, but in this Bond movie they manage to take this type of sword fighting and make it a fast, nail-biting experience that only gets better as they change from fencing to one-handed sword play.
2 ‘Kill Bill’
Here, our protagonist Beatrix Kiddo takes her Hattori Hanzo sword to the Crazy 88s club, on the long road to her revenge. The fight that ensues is one of the bloodiest and craziest in all of cinema, involving loads of talented stunt people and a level of technicality that would make any choreographer’s head spin.
1 ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
The story goes that the actor who played the part of the swordsman had worked for months to become proficient in swordsmanship for what was to be a major fight between himself and Indiana Jones in the marketplace. But due to time constraints as well as a bout of dysentery that Harrison Ford and the crew were dealing with thanks to the local Tunisian cuisine, Harrison pulled Steven Spielberg aside to suggest doing a gag instead of an actual fight. And so, one of the best sword fights of all time was born; an instant classic that never even involved into a sword fight at all.
(Originally published on May 7, 2012.)
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