Over the past few weeks, I’ve had fun watching some favorite old movies. They included The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Princess Bride, and Scaramouche. And one of the reasons I love these films is that they include a particular event that has enthralled audiences since the earliest days of theatre and then movies: a great sword fight.
In my last blog entry, I wrote about women archers in movies. This time, I thought I’d feature swordsmen. In the past, sword fighting was not only a part of war, it might also be used in a duel to settle a matter of honor. These days swordsmanship is most often on display as a sport, with special gear to protect the participants.
But in the movies, the setting is usually the past. The characters have no protective clothing – and the fight is to the death. The action is fascinating. The stakes are high. And you just hope the good guy wins.
While there are instances of sword fighting in a battle scene, I prefer the excitement of a one-on-one struggle. Whether historical or fantasy (where the swords might be light sabers), these adventure films give us some of the best sword fights in screen history. And in this list you will see one actor noted in four movies: Basil Rathbone, who was an exceptional swordsman in real life.
The Adventures of Robin Hood – Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) v. Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone)
Captain Blood -- Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) v. Levasseur (Basil Rathbone)
Highlander – Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) v. Kurgan (Clancy Brown)
The Mark of Zorro – Zorro/Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power) v. Captain Pasquale (Basil Rathbone)
The Princess Bride – The Dread Pirate Roberts (Cary Elwes) v. Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin)
Rob Roy – Rob Roy (Liam Neeson) v. Cunningham (Tim Roth)
Sanjuro – Sanjuro Tsubaki/The Samurai (Toshiro Mifune) v. Hanbei Muroto (Tatsuya Nakadai)
Scaramouche – Scaramouche/Andre Moreau (Stewart Granger) v. Marques de Maynes (Mel Ferrer)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) v. Darth Vader (David Prowse)
Of course, not all movie sword fights are meant to be taken seriously…
Finally, an honorable mention…
Raiders of the Lost Ark – Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) v. The Swordsman (Terry Richards) – If you’ve seen the movie, you know why it’s listed here. This sword fight had audiences cheering.
I know there are many other films I've not mentioned. Do you have a favorite cinematic sword fight?