Is Luke Skywalker the Best Lightsaber Duelist of All Time?

Updated on March 17, 2018
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.

Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker's History

Fans of the galaxy far far away will soon see more of the new timeline's Luke Skywalker in upcoming Episodes 8 and 9, but many seem unaware of just how powerful the Jedi already is. Even discounting the Expanded Universe's version of Luke (now referred to as the "Legends" timeline), where Luke went on to become the most powerful Jedi of all time, we still witness Luke's amazing potential in each lightsaber duel he engages in within the original trilogy.

Don't believe me? Here are several reasons why Luke Skywalker is an amazingly talented swordsman!

Versus the Cave's Illusion in Empire Strikes Back

In Episode 5, The Empire Strikes Back, while training under Yoda, Luke enters a mysterious cave engulfed in the dark side. He soon encounters what he believes is Darth Vader, engages him in a duel, and manages to maim his opponent within seconds.

Of course, we soon learn "Vader" was merely a specter of Luke donning the black armor, a visual showing Luke's potential to become the Emperor's new apprentice. And admittedly, Luke failed Yoda's initial test by refusing to surrender his weapon upon entering the cave. Nonetheless, a still very fresh Luke triumphed remarkably quickly against the dark spirit.

Luke Wounds Vader

Versus Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back

Later in the same film, Luke disengages from his training with Yoda to aid Han and Leia, who he envisions require his help on Bespin. Keep in mind Luke has only had a few weeks worth of formal training at this point and is ill-prepared to face a master of the dark side.

Nonetheless, Luke confronts Vader, perhaps afraid, but determined to remain true to the light. True, Vader toys with Luke throughout their long contest, but the young Jedi still attains subtle triumphs. First, he resist Vader's temptations to the dark side, even after he's lost his hand and knows the battle is over. Plus, Luke lands a glancing blow on Vader right before losing his hand.

Had Luke followed through with that swing, Vader may have fallen right then and there. The fact that the young Rebel managed to even scratch Vader, who has had decades more experience, shows Luke's vast potential and saber abilities.

Versus Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi

Episode 6, Return of the Jedi, takes place about a year after Empire. Despite still being rather inexperienced, Luke showcases near-mastery of his weapon.

In the climax of the film, Luke again confronts Vader aboard the second Death Star and reluctantly engages in a fight with his father. Notice that the clash is broken into three main segments, each of which highlights Luke's talents:

  1. Luke bombards Vader with a series of blows, eventually landing a kick that knocks Vader down a flight of stairs. Despite gaining the high ground (doing Obi-Wan proud), Luke attempts to call off the fight, a brave move against a dangerous foe.
  2. Vader taunts Luke for lowering his blade, then proceeds to assault him with his own flurry. Luke successfully repels the strikes, then further retreats from the battle and again appeals to the good buried deep within Vader. This simultaneously highlights Luke's physical and mental fortitude.
  3. Vader again taunts Luke and eventually enrages him by threatening to corrupt Leia to the dark side. Luke furiously assaults Vader, eventually slicing off his hand. On the verge of turning, Luke calms himself and spares his defenseless opponent. Again, he has triumphed both physically and spiritually as a Jedi. His compassion and mercy are soon rewarded when Vader intervenes to save him from Emperor Palpatine's Force lightning.

Luke in The Force Awakens
Luke in The Force Awakens | Source

Versus Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi

Since Episode 8 is still relatively new, I don't want to entirely spoil this battle, but suffice it to say Luke holds his own against the First Order's black-suited knight.

Summary of Luke's Triumphs

Despite being a rookie Jedi with little formal training, Luke held his own in his first match with Vader and outclassed him in the second. In Episode 6, an unarmed Luke walked into a room with two of the strongest Sith of all time; Luke not only survived, he outdueled and redeemed one and helped destroy the other. He (correctly) refuted Obi-Wan's belief that Vader was irredeemable, resisted the allure of the dark side, and landed at least one hit in every lightsaber contest he entered.

In short, the Force is truly with Luke Skywalker.

Which Luke do you prefer?

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Future of Luke Skywalker

Time will tell what future films have in store for Luke. Some speculate a possible parental connection to newcomer Rey, and she already wields Luke's (originally Anakin's) first blue lightsaber. Luke's power may be scaled down to make the villains more imposing (and shift focus onto Rey), but I hope the series showcases Luke achieving his astronomical potential.
Update: I'm proud to say The Last Jedi certainly showcased Luke's formidable powers while still allowing Rey to share the spotlight.

Between the upcoming movies and the many Legends stories chronicling Luke's continuing adventures, there's bound to be a version of the once-farmboy to satisfy any fan. Vote for your favorite iteration and I'll see you at our next Star Wars review!

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Jeremy Gill

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