Top Movie Moments: Greatest Swordfights in Film

by librapaladin | created - 28 Nov 2011 | updated - 11 Feb 2012 | Public

A list of movies and scenes with the best swordfights in cinema. *Note- These swordfights include those with a focus generally on two or three characters (although incidental antagonists sometimes do get in the way). Therefore, large, epic sword battles with masses of enemies have been ommitted from this list. (Youtube addresses have been included at the end of each description for viewing. Only those with comments written are placed in any paricular order- the rest are, as yet, random.)

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1. Rob Roy (1995)

R | 139 min | Adventure, Biography, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
55 Metascore

In 1713 Scotland, Rob Roy MacGregor is wronged by a nobleman and his nephew, becomes an outlaw in search of revenge while fleeing the Redcoats, and faces charges of being a Jacobite.

Director: Michael Caton-Jones | Stars: Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth

Votes: 36,718 | Gross: $31.60M

Rob Roy MacGregor vs. Cunningham:

Perhaps the greatest swordfight in cinema for a number of reasons, it is certainly among the best of the best. The fight scene at the climax of the film, not including the tense build-up and laying out the 'rules of engagement', clocks in at 4 min. 56 sec. of uninterrupted sword fighting. While reasons for it's high standing on this list may not be apparent at first, wait for the end to deliver something amazing. This fight has wonderful pacing, keeping you enthralled with anticipation. There may be no better swordfight in film where you truly feel the danger the protagonist is in from the start. Watch it if you haven't already seen it!

2. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

PG | 136 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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51 Metascore

Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their old glory.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd

Votes: 607,790 | Gross: $474.54M

Qui Gon Jin & Obi Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul:

They might glow and sizzle with a futuristic take on the weapon, but a lightsabre is still a sword. All six of the Star Wars films involve at least one lightsabre duel, and while five of those films have made their way on this list, Episode I: The Phantom Menace comes in with the strongest sword battle of the series in my opinion. (Sorry Star Wars purists, but Episodes IV: A New Hope's Obi Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Vader duel just didn't live up to the swordfights in the other five films.) The Phantom Menace's climactic swordfight set a new standard for the lightsabre duels in the prequel trilogy. This one has it all cinematically. The coreography is stellar. John Williams produces an epic musical score for this fight, the cinematogrophy, editing, and even the sound effects give a stand-out performance. The only fault I could assign to this in regards to being a swordfight scene is that it is broken up into several pieces as the action of the film cuts away to other action going on simultaneously. The scenes with only the lightsabre fighting taken as a whole add up to approx. 4 min. 33 sec., and can be seen in that continuity at the Youtube address below.

3. Troy (2004)

R | 163 min | Drama, History, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
56 Metascore

An adaptation of Homer's great epic, the film follows the assault on Troy by the united Greek forces and chronicles the fates of the men involved.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen | Stars: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Julian Glover

Votes: 423,224 | Gross: $133.38M

Achilles vs. Hector:

Though the face-off between Achilles and Hector starts as a clash of shields and spears, it quickly develops into a proper swordfight. This movie set the tone in more recent years for what was possible for a choreographed swordfight not involving fencing rapiers or Eastern martial arts. Most non-fencing, Western swordfights in film prior to this one involved clunky sword-bashing relying on quick edits, gushing blood and enemy dismemberment for excitement. Here we see a fully realized duel between two great warriors.

4. The Princess Bride (1987)

PG | 98 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

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77 Metascore

While home sick in bed, a young boy's grandfather reads him a story called The Princess Bride.

Director: Rob Reiner | Stars: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon

Votes: 329,272 | Gross: $30.86M

The Dread Pirate Roberts vs. Inigo:

"You seem a decent fellow- I hate to kill you." - "You seem a decent fellow- I hate to die." As the grandfather reading the book to his grandson says, this one has it all- fencing, fighting, giants, true love; but it's the fencing that land it on this list. In both the film and the original novel, the swordfight between Roberts and Inigo is chalk full of verbal references to (real life) historical fencing masters and their (not so real life) series of positions and tactics. This fight is full of fun, clever swordplay that ranges over wide terrain, bringing to mind the swordfights of the old Robin Hood films. Cary Elwes, who played Roberts, was even cast for his 'Errol Flynn-like quality'.

5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

PG-13 | 120 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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93 Metascore

A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man in the frontier of the nation.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang

Votes: 230,951 | Gross: $128.08M

Master Li Mu Bai vs. Jen Yu:

In a film style that prides itself in numerous fight sequences, both beautifully choreographed and beautifully filmed, it's hard to choose just one greatest swordfight where there are many. It's even harder when you are choosing from what is possibly the best Chinese martial arts film ever made. Of all the swordfights in this film, this one stands out the most. It is a fulcrum moment in the story, and it is so gracefully beautiful and etheral. (Don't worry about the lack of subtitles in the video address below- you won't need them to enjoy the fight!)

6. The Musketeer (2001)

PG-13 | 104 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.7/10 X  
27 Metascore

Alexander Dumas' novel is updated with an eastern influence as D'Artagnan attempts to join the king's elite guards, the Royal Musketeers, and find the man who killed his parents.

Director: Peter Hyams | Stars: Justin Chambers, Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea

Votes: 13,287 | Gross: $27.05M

D'Artagnan vs. Febre

This is quite possibly the most innovative fencing swordfight I've ever seen- perhaps even the the most innovative of any swordfight ever filmed, and thus it deserves very high regards on this list. My only caveat- the only downfalls I would assign it- I wish it lasted a bit longer and, while the musical score is adequate, I believe it had an opportunity to bring out more of the emotional, epic nature of the fight sequence. Nevertheless, I can't help but return to this fight scene time and again as holding its own among the best.

7. The Last Samurai (2003)

R | 154 min | Action, Drama, History

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55 Metascore

An American military advisor embraces the Samurai culture he was hired to destroy after he is captured in battle.

Director: Edward Zwick | Stars: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, William Atherton

Votes: 347,296 | Gross: $111.11M

Captain Nathan Algren vs. Ujio:

This one might not conform to what would normally be thought of as a 'great swordfight', but it is definitely worthy. In this fight, Captain Algren has absolutely no chance whatsoever of winning. (Not really much of a spoiler in terms of the whole movie.) But this fight is great for other reasons- beautiful cinematography in the rain, great music, and most of all- the emotion and significance of Algren's unwillingness to stay down. In a fiight where killing your opponent is not the goal, perhaps Algren came out the victor in this one after all.

8. Scaramouche (1952)

Approved | 115 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

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18th century France. A man sets out to avenge the death of his friend at the hands of a master swordsman.

Director: George Sidney | Stars: Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker, Mel Ferrer

Votes: 4,750

Andre-Louis Moreau vs. The Marquis de Mayne

Despite an astonishing 6 min. 16 sec., its not the length of this fight alone that lands it a spot on this list. Andre-Louis Moreau, who has trained relentlessly for the sole purpose of avenging his friend's death by the hands of The Marquis de Mayne, finally gets an equal opportunity at the climax of this 1952 film. This is a big, sprawling swordfight, with great use of a wide environment and in-scene props, but it never goes to the realm of 'over-the-top', as many modern films do to try to compete. Watch for the on-lookers' reactions as the tension builds...

9. Ying xiong (2002)

PG-13 | 107 min | Action, Adventure, History

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85 Metascore

A defense officer, Nameless, was summoned by the King of Qin regarding his success of terminating three warriors.

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang

Votes: 159,464 | Gross: $53.71M

Nameless vs. Sky:

Another amazing and beautifully filmed Chinese martial arts film with several great swordfights; this film is perhaps even more beautiful in overall presentation than 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'. This is a complex swordfight. The entire fight clocks in at 6min 58sec, but initially it begins with multiple challengers. When it thins out to our final two combatants shown in the video clip listed below, the fight lasts approximately a 'heroic' 4 min 47 sec. But as I said, this fight is complex, and therefore requires a bit of explanation for some... The scenes in black & white represent a 'swordfight of the mind' as a symbolic test of will, patience, and timing as our two masters display a classic stand-off while awaiting the right moment to strike. (The dialogue is minimal in this scene, so again- subtitles are unnecessary.)

10. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure

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85 Metascore

Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies

Votes: 742,497 | Gross: $248.16M

Indiana Jones vs. The Flamboyant Swordsman:

Sometimes simplicity is the best possible solution. People will say this one doesn't count as a swordfight, but it belongs on this list. Sure it's a cheat- but that was the point of the scene, and it's just too memorable to dismiss. In this classic Indiana Jones scene, the 'swordfight' lasts a mere 11 sec., as a flamboyant swordsman in Cairo threatens our hero, Indy simply pulls out his pistol and shoots him. An interesting bit of trivia for this scene- the script had Indy engage his enemy in an elaborate fight scene involving his whip. A large number of cast and crew, including Harrison Ford, had gotten ill from food poisoning. After several attempts at filming the shot without succussfully performing his stunts, Harrison suggested that he just "shoot the (sucker)"!

11. The 13th Warrior (1999)

R | 102 min | Action, Adventure, History

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42 Metascore

A man, having fallen in love with the wrong woman, is sent by the sultan himself on a diplomatic mission to a distant land as an ambassador. Stopping at a Viking village port to restock on supplies, he finds himself unwittingly embroiled on a quest to banish a mysterious threat in a distant Viking land.

Directors: John McTiernan, Michael Crichton | Stars: Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Dennis Storhøi, Vladimir Kulich

Votes: 106,731 | Gross: $32.70M

(Viking Warrior) vs. Angus (Redhead):

While coming to the aid of a Norse community under a series of attacks, one of Bulwyf's thirteen warriors picks a fight with one of the young, disdainful lord's particularly large henchmen. What begins as a seemingly mindless viking brawl reveals itself to be a cunning little plot twist of a duel that will have strategic implications outside the fight.

12. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

PG-13 | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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63 Metascore

Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate "Captain" Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor's daughter, from Jack's former pirate allies, who are now undead.

Director: Gore Verbinski | Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley

Votes: 903,222 | Gross: $305.41M

Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Will Turner

What would a pirate movie be without a good swordfight? While the second film in the series (Dead Man's Chest) has the longest and most extravegant 'Pirates' sword fight (indeed, an early script called simply for 'the greatest sword fight ever put to film')- it is this simpler yet effective fight in the first film (Curse of the Black Pearl) which works best. Sometimes over-the-top is just, well... over-the-top. This one, however, shows just enough skill with the blade, timing in coreography, wit and signature Pirates of the Caribbean quirky humor to showcase the two heroes of the film.

13. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

PG | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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82 Metascore

After the rebels are overpowered by the Empire on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda. His friends accept shelter from a questionable ally as Darth Vader hunts them in a plan to capture Luke.

Director: Irvin Kershner | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams

Votes: 962,328 | Gross: $290.48M

14. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

PG | 131 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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58 Metascore

After a daring mission to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, the rebels dispatch to Endor to destroy a more powerful Death Star. Meanwhile, Luke struggles to help Vader back from the dark side without falling into the Emperor's trap.

Director: Richard Marquand | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams

Votes: 790,561 | Gross: $309.13M

15. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

PG | 142 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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54 Metascore

Ten years after initially meeting, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padme Amidala, while Obi-Wan investigates an assassination attempt on the senator and discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee

Votes: 531,669 | Gross: $310.68M

16. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)

PG-13 | 140 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
68 Metascore

Three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescue Palpatine from Count Dooku. As Obi-Wan pursues a new threat, Anakin acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine and is lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson

Votes: 592,769 | Gross: $380.26M

17. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

PG | 102 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

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97 Metascore

When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard's absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.

Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley | Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains

Votes: 41,613 | Gross: $3.98M

18. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

R | 111 min | Action, Crime, Thriller

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69 Metascore

The Bride wakens from a four-year coma. The child she carried in her womb is gone. Now she must wreak vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her - a team she was once part of.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen

Votes: 829,559 | Gross: $70.10M

19. Batman Begins (2005)

PG-13 | 140 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
70 Metascore

After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from the corruption that Scarecrow and the League of Shadows have cast upon it.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson

Votes: 1,102,716 | Gross: $206.85M

20. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

PG-13 | 131 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
61 Metascore

A young man, falsely imprisoned by his jealous "friend", escapes and uses a hidden treasure to exact his revenge.

Director: Kevin Reynolds | Stars: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, James Frain

Votes: 113,477 | Gross: $54.23M

21. First Knight (1995)

PG-13 | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Lancelot falls in love with Guinevere, who is due to be married to King Arthur. Meanwhile, a violent warlord tries to seize power from Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Director: Jerry Zucker | Stars: Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Julia Ormond, Ben Cross

Votes: 60,151 | Gross: $37.60M

22. Tristan + Isolde (2006)

PG-13 | 125 min | Action, Drama, Romance

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49 Metascore

An affair between the second in line to Britain's throne and the princess of the feuding Irish spells doom for the young lovers.

Director: Kevin Reynolds | Stars: James Franco, Sophia Myles, Rufus Sewell, David O'Hara

Votes: 47,378 | Gross: $14.73M

23. The Deluge (1974)

287 min | Adventure, History, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

During the 1655 war between Protestant Sweden and Catholic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth some Polish-Lithuanian nobles side with Swedish king Charles X Gustav while others side with the Polish king Jan Kazimierz.

Director: Jerzy Hoffman | Stars: Daniel Olbrychski, Malgorzata Braunek, Tadeusz Lomnicki, Kazimierz Wichniarz

Votes: 1,762