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8 Great Cinema Sword Fights

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For all the wonders of computer graphics and special effects in modern movies, few things compare with the excitement of a great sword fight. Two combatants (in most cases), two swords and a lot of action. In honor of the great movie sword fight master Bob Anderson, who passed away recently after a career that started with Errol Flynn and went right up to “The Lord of the Rings,” here are some sword fighting gems.

THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940)


We’re starting strong here. This is an incredible fight to the death between Tyrone Power as Zorro and Basil Rathbone as the bad guy. Don’t be fooled by the stilted dialogue. This is straightforward, no-frills action, where the fighters are confined to a single room.

KILL BILL: VOL. I (2003)

Uma Thurman is dazzling as The Bride, who seeks revenge on some former associates who did her wrong. Her epic battle against an army of Japanese gangsters, The Crazy 88’s, is the stuff of gory greatness.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)


Here’s one that’s not gory, but still great. Cary Elwes is The Dread Pirate Roberts and Mandy Patinkin is Inigo Montoya. Their duel is playful, inventive and sharp – just like the rest of this one-of-a-kind movie. And guess who choreographed this fight? Mr. Anderson, naturally.

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948)

You can’t very well have a list of movie sword fights without including one Three Musketeers flick. This one, with Gene Kelly, is my favorite (probably because it’s the first one I ever saw). Kelly plays D’Artagnan, and his joyful athleticism is on full display. His sword fights are filled with jumps, tumbles, taunts and vaults. They’re terrific fun to watch.

ROB ROY (1995)

Liam Neeson and Tim Roth engage in one of the most brutal, realistic looking sword battles in movie history. Part of the reason it works so well is because they give the fight time to evolve. There are bursts of effort and there are moments of mind games. And lots of tension.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

It’s a sword fight AND a wire fight! Ang Lee’s masterpiece is a stunning blend of beauty and violence, with visuals you’ll never forget, such as warriors balancing on tree limbs.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)

Rathbone is the bad guy again, going up against the one and only Errol Flynn as Robin Hood. What you have here is a sprawling, iconic sword fight that was copied to some degree by dozens of films in later years. Movie historians have noted that Rathbone was an excellent fencer in real life, making his work here all the more believable.

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)

I love, love, love this lightsaber fight. Some “Star Wars” fans will prefer the Darth Vader-Luke Skywalker fight (which Mr. Anderson worked on), or the Yoda-Count Dooku fight, or the Anakin-Obi-Wan fight, but not me. This one – with Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon Jinn and the evil Darth Maul is fast, slow, dramatic, operatic and a feast for the eyes. Plus check out the double-bladed lightsaber. I mean, come on.

So which ones are YOUR favorites? Add to the List!

10 Responses »

  1. “Kill Bill” Vol I&II hands down…Revenge is always oh so sweet.

    Reply
  2. What about Scaramouche? The eighteen minute sword fight in the theater is action packed. And it has Eleanor Parker to boot.

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    • That’s a very good one, Susan! Mel Ferrer, right? If I remember that one, they’re sword fighting along the railings of a theater balcony!

      Reply
  3. What about the 2 Danny Kaye’s fighting with each other in The Court Jester?

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  4. The only two of these films I have seen are Star Wars and the Three Musketeers- both excellent films! Good choices. Interesting list!

    Reply
  5. For true fencing, breathtakingly authentic, see Sunshine, starring Ralph Fiennes, directed by Istvan Szabo.

    Reply

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