After the release of Star Wars in 1977, it became immediately apparent to George Lucas that the universe he envisioned would bring an onslaught of stories and characters that would exceed the limitations of his film saga. And so the Expanded Universe was created, and with it came an ongoing debate about who wielded the greatest power within the EU. Luckily, with Order 66, that controversy was expunged to make way for the latest SW movies. It makes assigning a title like “Best Duelist” that much easier and certainly manages to avoid much of the controversy.
Before delving into our list, let it be known that we will not be opening up the EU, today known as Star Wars “Legends.” Instead, we will shift our efforts towards the new mythos. All the films and television series under the official canon are fair game, but notable Legends names such as Revan and Galen Malek have been excluded for the purpose of moving forward within the new continuity. So without further ado, we present the 15 Best Lightsaber Duelist of the Star Wars Universe. Cue the John Williams soundtrack.
15 General Grievous
Born Qymaen jai Sheelal, General Grievous was originally a Kaleesh warlord from the planet Kalee. After a conflict with the Huk left him critically injured, he was reconstructed as a cyborg, where he became the Supreme Commander of the Droid Army. Recruited by Count Dooku, he was trained in the art of dueling while also being given the distinct advantage of having a cybernetic implant built into his makeup to increase his combative abilities.
Without any use of the Force, Grievous fared well against top tiered opponents, clashing with the likes of Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kit Fisto and Mace Windu. Utilizing his four mechanical arms, he was capable of wielding four lightsabers at any time, overwhelming his opponents with his sheer show of skill. Despite having slain multiple Jedi, Grievous ultimately falls at the hands of Kenobi after sustaining a significant blow to his synthetically built gut-sack.
With his quick reflexes, Grievous’ level of precognition approaches Jedi status, testing the limits of all who dared to challenge him. It’s his coded forms of attack that would ultimately fail him, but not before solidifying him as a worthy adversary in the Star Wars canon.
14 Qui-Gon Jinn
Leaving his midi-chlorian talk to a young Anakin Skywalker out of the conversation, Qui Gon Jinn was one of the most intelligent and Force sensitive swordsmen in the Jedi order. The apprentice of Count Dooku, he would go on to become the trainer of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who admittedly went on to excel past the abilities of his master. Both aggressive and technical in his approach, Jinn’s fighting style pushed his opponents into taking a defensive stance, forcing them into a corner and using their own lack of awareness to ultimately defeat them.
Falling at the hands of Darth Maul, it could be argued that Jinn’s tactical approach to fighting ultimately led to his demise, but it was his waning stamina matched with his forceful swordsmanship that left Maul with an open opportunity. Jinn would come back from the grave to teach Obi-Wan and Yoda about the possibility of immortality, but it would be his legacy as a skilled tactician and user of the Force that lived past his death and made him one of the wisest Jedi on this list.
13 Ki-Adi Mundi
One of the fallen Jedi executed during Order 66, Ki-Adi Mundi’s death was not the display of heroism and honor he exhibited as a member of the Jedi Council both before and during the Clone Warss. During the time of the Naboo Crisis, he was one of the Council members to deny Anakin Skywalker training as a Jedi, believing the young boy’s fear would lead him astray. It was his wise decision-making that earned him high regards from his fellow Jedi, prompting them to send him to Geonosis during the Clone Wars to retake the planet from the Republic and destroy the droid foundries established there.
Known to be a top ten swordsman in the Jedi Order, Mundi adopted a one-handed form of Soresu combat which focused heavily on tight bladework and defensive strategies to protect himself from blasters and to dodge direct attacks. He was also known to have experience in other, more offensive styles of combat such as Makashi and Ataru. Through his level of skill, he became the only Jedi of six left standing after facing General Grievous in the Battle of Hypori, showing stamina that few other Jedi can claim to have.
12 Darth Maul
Taken from his mother at a young age, Darth Maul was trained by his mentor Darth Sidious to be a lethal weapon for the Sith. A master in the ways of the dark side, Maul adopted an acrobatic fighting style which was as unpredictable as it was fierce. With his knowledge of the martial-arts fighting style Teräs Käsi, he developed an aptitude for anticipating Jedis’ movements, helping him to protect himself from multiple opponents while countering every move with deadly maneuvers of his own.
Gifted with a double-wielded lightsaber, Maul is shown using form six combat, better known as The Way of the Rancor, during his epic battle with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. This technique, which is popular with double-wielded fighters, doesn’t focus on any particular brand of combat training. Instead, the swordsman chooses to reflect attacks, possibly using telekinesis to push his enemies away until the perfect opportunity opens up. While Maul ultimately ends Qui-Gon’s life, he falls to Obi-Wan after being cut in half. But like any good fighter, he comes back stronger than ever during the Clone Wars, forming the Shadow Collective and going after the Galactic Republic to regain the power he lost.
11 Kit Fisto
Trained under Grandmaster Yoda, Kit Fisto is a Nautolan from the planet Glee Anselm with the distinct advantage of being accustomed to aquatic environments, making him one of a few Jedi capable of breathing underwater. As a Council member during the final years of the Clone Wars, he served as a leader for the Order, marching troopers into battle during the fight for Geonosis. He would eventually succumb to Emperor Palpatine when he and three other Jedi went to arrest the Sith Lord upon learning of his true agenda.
A master in many styles of lightsaber combat, Fisto is most shown using the ancient form, also referred to as Shii-Cho. Created during the transition from swords to the traditional lightsaber, the first form teaches the basics of attacks, focusing on disarming your opponent rather than harming them. He also showed a proficiency in form six, known as Niman, which is used in dual-wielding combat. During his battle against General Grievous, he holds his own despite not being a constant practitioner of the style. Although his primary method of fighting may seem antiquated, his skills built him a reputation as one of the finest fighters of his time.
10 The Grand Inquisitor
In the Star Wars universe, the title of Grand Inquisitor is given to high ranking fighters of the Galactic Empire who are utilized to hunt force-sensitive children capable of someday becoming powerful Jedi. In Rebels, that role is given to a Pau’an male, hand selected by Darth Vader. The Grand Inquisitor is well trained in the dark side of the force, but beyond his skill set is his knowledge of various offensive and defensive strategies, which he studies from the Jedi Archives of the Imperial Palace, giving him a blueprint for many of his opponents.
As a fighter, the Grand Inquisitor is methodical, delivering calculated strikes though precise movements. He repeatedly comes into contact with the likes of Order 66 survivor Kanan Jarrus and his Padawan, Ezra Bridger. On multiple occasions, he’s demonstrated his quick reflexes by deflecting slingshots and blaster bolts while also using his lightsaber much like a propeller, throwing it at his opponents in an unconventional display of combat. His quest to kill Kanan would lead to his demise, as he fell to him during their battle on the Sovereign Star Destroyer, purposefully plummeting to his death in fear of Darth Vader’s punishment for his failure.
9 Asajj Ventress
Born on the planet Dathomir to a member of the Nightsisters coven, Asajj Ventress was raised in the war-torn world of Rattatak as a slave to the criminal master Hal’Sted. It wasn’t until her master’s death that she was trained in the ways of the Jedi Order under the watchful eye of Ky Narec. After being orphaned once more, she was left to grieve the loss of Narec, waging war on the criminal pirates that controlled the region. She claimed Rattatak for her own and in her quest for power, she attracted the attention of Count Dooku to whom she would pledge her allegiance.
As a student under Dooku’s guidance, Asajj learned the ways of the second form, becoming a skilled double-wielded lightsaber fighter. Her signature curved-hilt lightsabers provided her near-perfect flexibility, helping her execute strikes at the most difficult of angles and deliver more powerful overhand attacks. Yearning to please Dooku, she easily rose in the ranks as a formidable warrior. Surviving the likes of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan, she was eventually betrayed by Dooku and managed to survive his attack and prove her worth to her former master.
8 Ahsoka Tano
Ahsoka Tano began her Jedi career as a Force-sensitive child taken from her home planet Shili by Jedi master Plo Koon. It was at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant where she would start her training, eventually being assigned by Yoda to be the young protege of Anakin Skywalker. Together, Ahsoka and Anakin’s fates are intertwined. After deciding to leave the Order, a decision which saves her from the Jedi Purge, she comes into contact with her former master once more, this time as the heavily armored Darth Vader. Locked in a battle, the two are caught in an explosion inside the Malachor Sith Temple, where Tano is presumed dead.
As the trainee of Anakin, Ahsoka develops a style of combat that is all her own. Utilizing an acrobatic form of Jar’Kai, which draws some of its movements from Ataru, she’s able to jump around gracefully with both of her lightsabers, attacking her opponents in swift, effortless motions. Known for having an unconventional guard stance with one lightsaber pointed downward and the other pointing in the opposite direction, Ahsoka’s methods are anything but predictable. She fights bravely against her former master, making her an imposing threat to the Empire.
7 Count Dooku
A former master of the Jedi Order, Count Dooku, also known as Darth Tyranus, was a lethal combatant who was overwhelmed by the temptations of the dark side. Taking over the apprenticeship handed out by Darth Sidious after the failings of Darth Maul, he would help form the Separatist Alliance and persuade star systems to turn against the Republic through the use of his military prowess.
A master of form two, also known as Makashi, Count Dooku’s fighting style is akin to that of a fencer. The fluidity in his movements flow together to make quick jabs and cutting motions, keeping his lightsaber close to the body so that he may defend himself from any disarming maneuvers. He showcases such talents during battles against Yoda and Obi-Wan, in both cases holding his own against the legendarily powerful Jedi. In the end, he loses to the aggression of Anakin Skywalker. On the cusp of becoming Darth Vader, Sidious orders Anakin to brutally execute Dooku. Still, during his apprenticeship, Dooku was able to preserve his hatred and achieve a power that was only made greater by his fighting abilities, making him a challenging foe in the SW universe.
6 Anakin Skywalker
It's been said that Anakin’s son Luke is the living embodiment of everything his father never became. When Obi-Wan took a young Anakin under his wing following the demise of Qui-Gon Jinn, he did so with the belief that he would bring balance to the universe. Sadly, the Star Wars universe is filled with hypothetical what-ifs. Maybe in another timeline, we could’ve seen how a full potential Anakin would’ve turned out. Instead, he was burned alive, placed in an armored respirator suit, and effectively limited as a fighter by playing second fiddle to Darth Sidious.
Fighting in many significant battles during the Clone Wars, Anakin’s greatest feat came when he beheaded Count Dooku after removing both his hands. Prone to distractions and quick to make the first move without much thought, he often found himself in predicaments he wasn’t always ready to resolve. His lack of patience and awareness would lead to his defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan after failing to maintain the higher ground in Revenge of the Sith, and while he would continue his excellence in swordsmanship as Darth Vader, his clunky armor slowed his progress, making him a story of what could have been.
5 Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan’s former apprentice Anakin Skywalker once referred to his teacher as a gifted Jedi with the wisdom of Yoda and the power of Mace Windu. That's high praise, considering the rankings of those two on this list. Trained by Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan became distinctly aware of his surrounding environment, utilizing a principle of combat known as Sokan to gain a tactical advantage over his opponents. This method eventually helped him defeat Anakin at Mustafar, giving him the higher ground and allowing him to exploit his weak points (namely, his former apprentice's overconfidence).
As a skilled warrior, Obi-Wan became the first Jedi Master in 1000 years to defeat a Sith Lord in combat, disposing of Darth Maul during the Battle of Naboo. His patience as a swordsman also paid off in battles against the droid army leader General Grievous, who he easily exposed by targeting his internal makeup. Still, after so many feats, it was Obi-Wan’s teachings which proved to be his biggest accomplishment. Reaching out to Luke Skywalker from beyond the grave, he encouraged him to use the force to tap into his true potential, leading to one of the universe’s most proficient swordsmen bringing peace to the galaxy.
4 Luke Skywalker
If you’re a follower of the EU continuity, you would know that Luke Skywalker becomes a god amongst men when it comes to comparing the power of the Force. But sticking strictly to movie and television canon, he falls a bit short of being the best fighter on our list.
It’s an uphill battle explaining why Luke isn't number one on our list when George Lucas has gone on record multiple times calling Tatooine’s finest the best that ever was. But knowing the extent of the Stars Wars universe and the countless examples of swordsmanship exhibited by several characters, we’d say there’s room to argue for another top choice (or three).
Still, Luke is nothing to scoff at either. With limited knowledge of the Force, he survived the likes of Darth Vader before coming back with a vengeance in Return of the Jedi to best his father in one-on-one combat. With perhaps the galaxy’s two greatest mentors in Obi-Wan and Yoda, he launched a franchise, saved the universe from falling to the dark side, and brought a new hope to the Jedi order. He may not be our top pick, but it’s easy to see why he’ll always be the number one duelist for so many fans.
When you’ve been around the block for 900 years, you tend to learn a thing or two. When Luke Skywalker first landed on Dagobah to seek the guidance of the powerful teacher Yoda, the little green guy may not have come off as the wise master we know now, but he quickly showed his hand, teaching his student the ways of the Force and how they go hand in hand with one's combative skills.
Teaching was nothing new to Yoda when he met Luke. For over 800 years, he passed his skills on to dozens of notable Jedi. Names like Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, Ki-Adi Mundi, Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi were all brought up under the tutelage of the calm and proficient leader of the Jedi Order. As a fighter, he’s swift and elusive, using his size to leap around and frustrate his opponents. He doesn’t force his attack, but rather waits for his opportunity to catch his enemy at a disadvantage. While his small stature puts him at the bottom of the list in physical strength, he makes up the difference in tactful maneuvers, lightning fast agility and Force knowledge.
2 Darth Sidious
It takes a considerable amount of patience to execute a plan that would wipe out the majority of the galaxy’s Jedi. Darth Sidious, born Sheev Palpatine, laid a foundation that took years to produce results, amassing a reputation as a mild-mannered servant with the good of the galaxy at heart. Underneath the facade laid the insidious, duplicitous and powerful rise of the Sith Lord who would manipulate Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and initiate Order 66, turning a clone army against the universe’s most powerful warriors.
A high-end master of multiple forms of combat, Sidious’ style is ambiguous, fluctuating wildly to counteract his opponent’s particular skills. As a Force-wielder, he channels his powers through his blade, creating a fluidity and force capable of killing multiple Jedi almost instantly. He demonstrates such abilities against Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar and Saesee Tiin when the Jedi go to arrest him after learning his true identity. It’s a show of almost unmatched potential. According to who you ask, Sidious is hands down number one on this list, but there was one more Jedi during that arrest attempt who was capable of besting the Dark Lord at his own game.
1 Mace Windu
One of two Jedi responsible for creating a new fighting style known as Vaapad, Mace Windu mastered the most difficult form of lightsaber dueling. The style in question was regarded as the most deadly, and when properly executed, it would appear so fast that the user looked to be wielding multiple lightsabers at once. But the form of combat was more than just a way of striking an opponent, it was a frame of mind that took considerable concentration and precision. It was that kind of dedication that earned Windu his spot on the Jedi council at the age of 28 and built his reputation as one of the most proficient fighters ever.
After the news of Senator Palpatine’s true identity became public knowledge, Mace was sent to secure the Sith Lord. A noted swordsman and second on our list, Sidious falls quite easily to Windu, who makes quick work of the adversary by disarming him. It was only by the intervention of Anakin Skywalker that Windu was ultimately distracted, which to a chopped off hand and a nasty fall out the window. Still, according to both George Lucas and Samuel L. Jackson, he survived the high fall that supposedly led to his demise, making him a survivor of Sidious’ attack and the best fighter in the Star Wars canon.
Gasp! Neither Luke, Vader, nor Sidious grabbed the number one spot! Surely you have some feedback on our rankings, so don't forget to leave your thoughts in the comments.