Is there anything more badass than two people facing each other down across sparkling steel blades, exchanging witty quips until one or the other gets run through/sliced apart/loses their clothes? Well, obviously, the answer is no. There is nothing more badass.
I thought that the art of the movie sword fight had been lost, but after making this list I realized that there are actually some really cool fights from more recent flicks. Remember, these are badass sword fights, not necessarily the best sword play or the best choreography. I’ve tried to find videos where youtube would let me, but they’re a bunch of nazi communists sometimes.
10. DIE ANOTHER DAY: JAMES BOND/ GUSTAV GRAVES
Not the best James Bond movie, but the fight almost makes up for it. Jimmy squares off against Gustav Graves — in the best tradition of British baddies, Graves’s face is a perpetual sneer — and they manage to destroy a whole fencing academy. The fact that Madonna makes an appearance in a questionable leather girdle does nothing to diminish the extreme badassery of this fight. There’s all kinds of awesome double entendres, but when they take this fight into the hallway, it gets real.
9. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW/ WILL TURNER
We all know that pirates have the best fights, ‘cause they get to say things like ‘arr, belay tha’, ye sorry excuse fer a cross-eyed whelp!’. But Pirates of the Caribbean actually doesn’t have that many sword fights, which I find personally insulting. This is one of the exceptions. I love this fight between Jack and Will, because it’s Jack doing what he does best: winning by any means necessary. Will also pisses me off, so I love seeing the little bastard get bested.
8. THE MASK OF ZORRO: ALEJANDRO/ELENA
Sexiest sword fight ever. Only it’s not really a fight, ‘cause they’re all hot for each other, as is evidenced by all the grunting and hair flinging. The whole scene culminates in Zorro cutting off Elena’s clothes … which she is obviously into. What’s really cool is that Elena holds her own the whole time. Zorro actually has to put some effort into it.
7. CAPTAIN BLOOD: CAPTAIN BLOOD/CAPTAIN LAVESSEUR
Speaking of hot: Errol Flynn. Flynn might have been one of the better movie pirates, but he was not a great swordsman. Basil Rathbone, however, was. He goes a long way to making Flynn look good with a sword. Flynn, meanwhile, looks good showing all those white teeth. This has all the pre-requisites of the badass sword fight: nasty villain with bad French accent trying to get ahold of the hero’s girl, the dashing hero, a bunch of howling pirates, a roaring surf, Korngold trumpets. Classic stuff; this is the pirate fight against which all other pirate fights are measured.
6. SANJURO: SANJURO/MUROTO
No one has ever been quite such a badass as Toshiro Mifune (including his Hollywood counterpart Clint Eastwood) and here he proves it. Less sword fight, more sword draw. It’s the samurai equivalent of a quick draw, with buckets of blood. Sanjuro faces off against his rival Muroto, whom he doesn’t really want to fight, but Muroto is a total dick. Kurosawa dwells just long enough on the draw; no big music cues, no extensive swordplay. Just a draw, and it’s all over.
5. THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973): THE MUSKETEERS/EVERYBODY
While the swordplay in this movie is done mostly for laughs, it’s closer to the way that a fight probably was back in the day: not a lot of elegant parries, lots of slashing, tripping and flinging things. The laundry room fight keeps getting bigger and bigger as the Musketeers face off agains the Cardinal’s Men, the servants, and the clothes lines. What’s more, none of them know what the fight is actually about; they’re just there for the fun of it. Also, this fight includes a possibly inebriated Oliver Reed (who got stabbed in the neck at some point in the proceedings), which by default makes it totally badass. And sexy.
Just rent the movie. It’s hilarious.
4. ROB ROY: ROB ROY/CUNNINGHAM
When will people learn not to mess with Liam Neeson? Tim Roth’s Cunningham burned his farm, raped his wife, killed his cattle and shot his dog and still thinks he’s gonna get away with it? It’s Liam Neeson! What makes this great is that Cunningham really isn’t a slouch; he’s a great duellist and in terms of skill he should probably beat Robbie. But like all great villains, Cunningham talks too much and gloats too much. Rob Roy proves that a Scotsman is more of a badass than any English fencer.
3. THE PRINCESS BRIDE: WESTLEY/INIGO MONTOYA
Say it with me: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Of course, Westley didn’t kill his father and no one’s going to die. There’s lots of backflipping and brandishing of blades, not to mention some quality left-handed fighting and a lot talking. It’s a fairy tale fight, and one of the few between two good guys. They actually respect each other. Which makes it all the more badass.
2. THE COURT JESTER: HUBERT HAWKINS/SIR RAVENHURST
If you only know Danny Kaye as the other guy in White Christmas, you need to check out The Court Jester, and not just because it’s the funniest film in the history of laughter. At the end, Kaye’s Hawkins is hypnotized into believing he’s the world’s best fighter, and faces off against Basil Rathbone’s Sir Ravenhurst. But a snap of the fingers can bring him in and out of hypnosis. What follows is what’s widely considered one of the best sword fights of all time. Kaye leaps between self-confidence and sheer terror, and Rathbone gamely keeps up with him. The fight is hilarious, but it’s also impressive. Kaye never held a sword before. Rathbone was a former fencing champion and pretty much the best Hollywood sword fighter, even in his sixties. By the end of it, Rathbone gave Kaye credit for being one of the fastest learners he’d ever worked with. It’s a combination of speed and slapstick, expertly choreographed and just generally entertaining. Never thought I’d say this, but Danny Kaye is a total badass.
1. THE MARK OF ZORRO: DON DIEGO (ZORRO)/CAPTAIN PASQUALE
The final fight between Zorro and his arch nemesis is poetry in action. The whole movie has been building up to this: Pasquale strutting around with that Rathbonian ‘I’m the shit!’ look on his face, Diego being foppish one minute, and then transforming into Zorro. There are very few cuts in the scene, it’s almost full speed fencing (cranked down after the filming) and the two keep up a running dialogue of smartass one-liners. Rathbone sneers as only he can, and Powers proves why he was considered as an heir to Fairbanks and Flynn. You can almost smell the blood.
Remember, we here at Man, I Love Films don’t do definitive lists. We do our favorites and we want to hear yours. So, make sure and tell us about them in the comments section below.