For those who love action and adventure, sword fights are always some of the most thrilling scenes. There’s something undeniably impressive about the acrobatics and agility required from this martial art. As cinematic history has evolved, sword fights have as well, resulting in amazing choreography, fantastic fight scene settings, and unique banter.
If you’re a lover of sword fighting, settle in for a wild ride, because this list is here to take you through some of the best sword fights in movies and anime history.
1. Kill Bill | The Bride vs. the Crazy 88s
Tarantino’s love of kung fu films has never been more obvious than in the cinematic masterpiece, Kill Bill. One of the most iconic scenes in the entire film is the battle between The Bride and the Crazy 88s gang. As Uma Thurman fights off dozens of swordsmen in anonymous black suits and masks, even a layman can recognize the blend of cinematic and choreographic mastery. Transitioning from full-color scenes to black and white before going back again, you’re taken on a journey of different perspectives while trying to follow the madness of comically spurting blood, snatched eyeballs, and thrown samurai weapons.
It’s outrageous, gleeful, and a joyous homage to the greatest of traditional kung fu sword fight scenes.
2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi | Rey & Kylo Ren vs. the Praetorian Guards
As the dramatic conclusion to the Star Wars saga, Rey and Kylo show their mastery of the lightsaber as well as their supernatural ability to anticipate each other’s moves when they fight against the Praetorian Guards. There is no banter or quotable moments here, just raw force and brute power as both heroes have the chance to show off their skills against multiple weapon types including flails, staffs, dual knives, and other swords — all with the same volatile energy power as a traditional lightsaber.
3. The Princess Bride | Westley vs. Inigo
While some sword fights end in death and destruction, others end in newfound friendships — like this sword fight in The Princess Bride. When Westley and Inigo Montoya square off on top of a high cliff, the witty remarks and appreciation of skills are pleasant, comical, and surprisingly warm. Instead of killing such a skilled swordsman, which Westley compares to destroying a stunning stained glass window, he disarms Inigo and runs away.
And so, a beautiful friendship is born.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest | Sparrow vs. Turner vs. Norrington
Beginning on a multi-level ruined bell tower and continuing on a detached and rolling water mill, this fight scene in Pirates of the Caribbean makes full use of unusual and inventive locations to add even more tension to the film. This three-way battle also offers an extra interesting element — with all three fighters trying to get their hands on a very special key. As they weave and dodge each other’s swords against a constantly shifting backdrop, the key offers a tantalizing goal other than simple fighting prowess and victory over their opponent.
5. Gintama | Gintoki vs. Takasugi
While some think Gintama is a simple parody show, there are some powerful moments throughout this Japanese anime. As Gintoki faces down his biggest opponent, Takasugi, this bloody sword battle eventually devolves into a brawl, but not before both parties showcase unique moves and self-sacrificing defenses that speak to each character’s development through the show.
Both characters are evenly matched and neither seems to gain the upper hand for long in this desperate battle. This sword fight isn’t just about winning — it’s about life and death. Sparks fly and blood splatters between two characters that were once friends.
6. Samurai Champloo | Jin vs. Mugen
With Mugen’s energetic breakdancing-influenced fighting style contrasted against Jin’s smooth, calm, and traditional training, their first encounter in Samurai Champloo offers viewers insight into their characters as well as a visual masterpiece that makes it hard to look away. Another fight that makes full use of the environment, you’ll see Mugen and Jin interact organically with the objects around them, using benches, tables, shoes, clothing, and even fire to gain the upper hand.
7. One Piece | Zoro vs. Ryuma
As Zoro battles against a dead master, he uses two swords against Ryuma’s one. The two call out their moves as they battle in peak anime style, adding to the drama and matching each attack against another, more powerful one. Part of the fun of this sword fight is that the two opponents do more damage to the building they’re in than to each other and the entire roof eventually collapses, forcing them to constantly move to new battlegrounds.
8. Ninja Scroll | Jubei vs. Mujuro
The last on this list of amazing sword fights is from Ninja Scroll. A heart-pounding fight scene where Jubei faces the blind samurai Mujuro, this is a fight to the death. Taking place in a serene bamboo forest, the illustration and fighting style calls to mind other incredible sword fights from movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers. The artistry behind the showers of raining bamboo leaves and tumbling green stalks set the scene in a way that other animations don’t consider.
While there are undeniably hundreds of powerful sword fights, this list would be never-ending if they were all included. Comment below to share your favorite movie or anime sword fight!