During the first of my university experiences, as an under-under-underclassman I was required to take four semesters of physical education (PE). Along with the standard fitness/volleyball course (I still have a mean overhand bullet-serve that skims the net and is impossible to return), I enrolled in boxing, swimming, and fencing. I think that of the latter three, only fencing could be considered both a sport and an art form. I still have my French grip foil.
During the second of my university experiences, I voluntarily took classes in karate and weight training. One conceivably might add karate to fencing for artistic expression, yet fencing remains the quintessential confluence of grace, speed, technique, and spontaneous creativity. Small wonder, then, that sword fights are a central feature of literary and cinematic adventures. In Annalee Newitz's words, "Let's face facts. No weapon is more badass than a sword. Fight scenes are often great in science fiction and fantasy movies, but fight scenes with swords? They're the stuff of legend."
Her comments preface a mini-video collection called 10 of the Most Awesome Sword Fight Scenes Ever. Each description is accompanied by a link to its respective movie duel. In order from number 10 to number one, they are ~
- The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker
- (Tie) Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arthur vs. the Black Knight .... and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy vs. the Scimitar Guy.
- Equilibrium, John Preston vs. everybody.
- (Tie) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, Neville vs. Nagini .... and LOTR Return of the King, Eowyn vs. the Nazgul.
- Versus, Prisoner vs. The Man.
- Matrix Reloaded, Neo vs. The Chateau.
- Afro Samurai, Afro vs. Jinno
- Highlander, Highlander vs. Kurgan
- Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Yu Shu Lien vs. Jen Yu
- The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya vs. the Dread Pirate Roberts
When you click on the link to the collection, it may take a few moments to load, but it's well worth the momentary delay. Now about those choices. Clearly Annalee has overlooked a number of other, equally dramatic sword fights. The classical Japanese fencing in Akira Kurasawa's Seven Samurai, for instance, or the duels between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone (both classically trained swordsmen) in Robin Hood and Captain Blood, or the brawling battles in Gladiator. Nevertheless, I agree with her top two choices, especially The Princess Bride. The swordplay is inspired (the actors trained for months before filming), and the dialogue is tense and witty. If you have additional ideas, feel free to leave them at the 'comments' prompt below. En guarde!