Let's talk about swordfighting in movies.
April 1, 2006 12:19 PM   Subscribe

What are the most realistic swordfighting movies? Also, let's analyze the swordfighting in popular movies.

I'm looking for movies with realistic portrayals of swordfighting, be it fencing, broadswords, katanas, or whatever. The movies overall don't have to be realistic, just the swordfighting. (I'd be interested in a sci-fi or fantasy movie with a realistic swordfighting scene.)

Also, discuss the realism of the swordfighting in these movies:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Obviously most of the action in this movie is unrealistic. How about the swordfighting scenes that don't take place in the treetops? I know the actors aren't martial artists, so I'm assuming that the answer is "not very realistic", but I'd like to hear comments.

Star Wars
Again, clearly not a realistic setting. But imagine a world where lightsabers existed, and Jedi have powers as portrayed in the movies. (Super-fast reflexes, ability to leap great distances, etc.) Has anyone done any analysis of the likely techniques Jedi might actually develop? What is the best style when you're carrying a long, nearly weightless rod that can maim with a mere touch?
Imagining such a world, it seems like the lightsaber duels in Episodes 4-6 are far more credible than those shown in Episodes 1-3. Fewer superfluous backflips, etc. Thoughts?

Kill Bill, Part 1
I'm guessing the sword fights here were pretty laughable. How about the knife fight at the opening of the movie?

Feel free to add your own analysis of your favorite movies.
posted by agropyron to Society & Culture (78 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Scaramouche has some of the better movie fencing that I have seen. I actually was show this at fencing camp when I was younger. It is pretty obvious in the last duel who the better fencer is (it isn't the good guy) but the main character still does a decent job.
posted by Loto at 12:26 PM on April 1, 2006


Real fencing requires defending the lines of attack with minimal motion of your blade; your blade rarely leaves the space between your opponent's hand and your body (except to invite an attack); and since they're doing the same, your hands and blades rarely leave the space between your bodies. The moulinet - a continous circular sweeping cut of a sabre - is the flashiest move in the fencer's repetoire, but is not taught in the modern sport since it is slow and leaves you open to an easy stop thrust. So, except maybe in scenes set at fencing schools or competitions, you won't see any realistic fencing in movies.
posted by nicwolff at 12:52 PM on April 1, 2006


Katanas: In my martial arts days I recall being told that the average Katana encounter would be decided in less than 7 seconds, usually with either the first stroke or counter-stroke ending it. This was certainly true when we did practice matches.

Like most martial arts, the real deal isn't very photogenic. Broad strokes are almost unheard of, and there's seldom any reason to commit to impaling someone, as that would just tie up (and possibly damage) your weapon.

That said, The Seven Samurai has some decent Japanese style sword work in it, particularly towards the beginning.

It's also a pretty good film all around. Definitely worth the time if you haven't seen it before.
posted by tkolar at 12:56 PM on April 1, 2006


Crouching Tiger falls into the wuxia pien genre, so is more to do with philosophy and chivalry than realism.

The Sayoc knife work in The Hunted is pretty good.

Generally, bladed weapon fights in movies last too long and dont contain enough blood.
posted by the cuban at 12:59 PM on April 1, 2006


"The Duelists" with Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel. It's a classic and it's got some great sword fights.
posted by rinkjustice at 1:03 PM on April 1, 2006 [2 favorites]


If you like Seven Samuri, you should check out Bang Rajan.
posted by the cuban at 1:07 PM on April 1, 2006


Supposedly the battle scenes from Braveheart were relatively realistic. As in, Nasty, Brutish, and Short.

Lots of people taking quite a while to die was pretty normal.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:13 PM on April 1, 2006


The comic sword vs. gun scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark does a good job of summarizing the history of warfare.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:16 PM on April 1, 2006 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, while I'm thinking about Kurosawa, there's a terrific fight scene in the middle of Yojimbo. It's less a of "fight" per-se and more of a "title character quickly slaughters a bunch of men" -- but that's kind of the point; You definitely leave the scene understanding why Samurai were seen as feared and respected warriors instead of, say, a bunch of guys with swords.

About movie fighting in general, consider this quote from Erich Hartmann, the top fighter ace from either side in World War II:

"I never cared much for the dogfight. I would never dogfight with the Russians. Surprise was my tactic. Get the highest altitude and, if possible, come out of the sun...ninety percent of my attacks were surprise attacks. If I had one success, I took a coffee break and watched the area again."

If spotted first, he would simply retreat.

What I'm getting at is that real world fighting tactics generally don't involve honorable heroic faceoffs. If warriors meet on even odds, it's because somebody screwed up somewhere.
posted by tkolar at 1:17 PM on April 1, 2006


Oh, right. Anthony De Longis was dagger & rapier choreographer for the Highlander TV series (and also played a character/fought in Jet Li's recent Fearless.

His credentials (training) seem pretty reasonable.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:19 PM on April 1, 2006


As for the lightsaber, it seems to me that since the modern fencing sabre is very light and "maims" for scoring purposes with the slightest touch, that the techniques of lightsabre fighting would resemble those of modern sabre fencing, with maybe some epée mixed in since the lower body would be a target. You'd feint to the head or shoulders then drop the point under their hand as it came across to parry and slice up into the underside of their forearm with the back "edge" - actually one of my favorite moves in my sabreur days!

Come to think of it though, doesn't it appear in the movies that the lightsabre "blade" has signifigant inertia? All those vertical moulinets and two-handed parries are only right if they have heavy blades. Maybe although the blade is made of photons there's a magnetic field containing them that, uh, has to be dragged through planetary fields (or interacts with the artificial gravity on ships)? Or maybe it's generated by a rotating magnet that acts as a gyroscope? Or maybe it's those fucking midiclorians again.
posted by nicwolff at 1:19 PM on April 1, 2006


nicwolff, I would imagine the deal with "heavy" parries with lightsabers are that when two lightsabers touch each other they push against one another in much the same way two metal swords would--in which case you would need to exert force to block attacks.

That said, I'd definitely agree with everyone else, the realism of a movie swordfight is just about inversely proportional to how photogenic/fun it is to watch.

I recall reading about the saber choreography in Episode I, and that the choreographer included various strokes/movements from a couple different real sword styles, but also other stuff--like tennis! :)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:34 PM on April 1, 2006


The knife fight at the end of the first Under Siege movie was pretty good in the sense that it was fast and bloody (though the ending is fairly ridiculous.)

Real fencing requires defending the lines of attack with minimal motion of your blade; your blade rarely leaves the space between your opponent's hand and your body (except to invite an attack)


Yes. And worth re-reading. i remember when i was involved in fencing in college, there would invariably be some Errol Flynn wannabe who would wave his blade around like he was trying to get better reception or something. Those duels rarely lasted more than 10 seconds, and then only if we were playing with him.

As for the lightsaber, it seems to me that since the modern fencing sabre is very light and "maims" for scoring purposes with the slightest touch, that the techniques of lightsabre fighting would resemble those of modern sabre fencing, with maybe some epée mixed in since the lower body would be a target.


i never thought of it this way, but you make an excellent point. i had always thought of lightsabers as being more a katana analog, but perhaps something like a rapier or fencing saber would be a more accurate representation.

Speaking of katanas, perhaps i could hijack this question and interject one of my own; in real katana or wakazashi combat, is it true that one would parry with the spine of the blade? Conceptually it kinda makes sense as you wouldn't want to damage the integrity of your 'one meter straight razor', but i've never seen this represented in any film. Is hollywood misleading me or is my info on ancient Japanese martial skills way off base?
posted by quin at 1:53 PM on April 1, 2006


Don't overlook The Princess Bride, which not only includes a swordfight that is an homage to all those old Errol Flynn movies, Wesley & Inigo discuss what they're doing using actual swordfighting lingo.
posted by adamrice at 2:00 PM on April 1, 2006


Yeah, the first duel in the Seven Samurai with Kyuzo is actually a pretty nicely played exchange, though telegraphed just long enough for the audience to see the action.

Mostly if the combatants in movie swordfights actually get within distance for their blows to connect, as opposed to just beating their blades around, I'm reasonably happy. Realistic exchanges are damned near invisible to untrained observers.
posted by furiousthought at 2:00 PM on April 1, 2006


cyrusdogstar: "force" = mass * acceleration. If the lightsabre's blade has no signifigant mass, than it has no inertia, and swinging your blade over your head doesn't help you any, it just leaves your whole front open to a quick attack. That whole style of swordplay only makes sense if your opponent can't just poke you in the chest because your blades are heavy and hard to swing quickly.
posted by nicwolff at 2:06 PM on April 1, 2006


Speaking of katanas, perhaps i could hijack this question and interject one of my own; in real katana or wakazashi combat, is it true that one would parry with the spine of the blade?

In my (albeit limited) training, I was never taught a technique that involved catching or guiding your opponent's sword on the spine, but I was taught several that involved guiding your opponent's sword with your blade.

Using the spine would definitely be an awkward manuever using the style I was taught.
posted by tkolar at 2:12 PM on April 1, 2006


Oh, but when it comes to things that immediately discredit a movie swordfight, it's gotta be the sword wrestle. You know, where the adversaries' blades clash near the hilt and it suddenly turns into a contest of strength, as if the loser would somehow go moosh, instead of just intentionally giving way, letting the "victor" hurtle way off balance, and spearing the twit in his exposed backside.

I don't mind this so much in lightsaber fights, though, because I take a lightsaber to be the physical extension of the Force a Jedi projects or whatever, so lightsaber fights seem to work on a more metaphorical level. Not that I think the lightsaber fights nicwolff is proposing wouldn't be more interesting from a fleshed-out sci-fi angle.
posted by furiousthought at 2:23 PM on April 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Also, in The Princess Bride, the swordfighting is done by the actors. There's a scene involving a flip through the air that used a stunt man, but otherwise it's all them.
posted by cmyk at 2:24 PM on April 1, 2006


There is a great sword fight in Rob Roy. Here is what Roger Ebert had to say about it:

"The sword fighting sequence, staged by William Hobbs, is the best of its sort ever done. In most movie sword fights, the participants leap about effortlessly, their blades shimmering and clashing. Here we get the sense of the deadly stakes, and the great physical effort involved."
posted by wannalol at 2:41 PM on April 1, 2006


nicwolff, when your lightsaber meets your opponent's lightsaber, you're going to be pushing against each other trying to drive the lightsaber into the other guy's face. Given this property of the lightsabers, wouldn't it make sense to bring your weapon to him forcefully? Your arms would still have the momentum even if the lightsaber blade is weightless, and that would matter when your blades met.

And no, I don't think fencing style would be the best lightsaber style. For one thing, your blades don't slide neatly along one another like foils do. For another, in an actual lightsaber battle one touch would not equal another. You really want to cut your opponent in half, not just slice his leg a little or cut off his hand. (As we've seen, a Jedi with one hand gone is still dangerous.)

Thanks for the recommendations on realistic fight scenes so far. Yes, I've seen Seven Samurai, and the very fast fight scene near the start of that movie has always fascinated me. So yeah, I'm looking for more stuff like that. Keep the recommendations coming, if there are any more.
posted by agropyron at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2006


Returning to Kurosawa again, I always thought Rashomon had a pretty realistic sword fight. It appears to be the first time either of the combatants have ever engaged in a real sword fight, and they're both completely terrified of each other. The desperation and exhaustion on Toshiro Mifune's face at the end of the fight seems about right.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 2:58 PM on April 1, 2006


Thanks tkolar, it always seemed sketchy to me, but i couldn't deny the logic of not wanting to have the edges connect and thus dull or damage the blade. (especially when you consider the value/ importance of the katana as a symbol to the Samurai).
posted by quin at 3:11 PM on April 1, 2006


Actors in a lot of acting schools are required to take swordfighting classes. Obviously, these classes are geared towards producing an enjoyable spectacle for the audience, and not for any other purpose.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:23 PM on April 1, 2006


As a fencer myself, I second The Princess Bride. We used to show that movie's sword fights to the kids at the day camp and say 'look, if they can do proper footwork on boulders and stairs, you can do it on a level gym floor'.
posted by tiamat at 3:23 PM on April 1, 2006


Tangentially--there's not much that's as unrealistic as the hero charging around in a blade-weapon battle with no helmet on (viz. The Last Samurai.) Makes you want to shake the idiot and shout PUT ON YOUR FARKING HAT! To do that in real life would be the same as announcing that you don't keep any vital organs in your head.
posted by jfuller at 4:08 PM on April 1, 2006



... i couldn't deny the logic of not wanting to have the edges connect and thus dull or damage the blade.

Well for starters, if you want your blade to remain pristine, you probably shouldn't be cutting up other people with it, particularly if they're wearing armor.

Also, in the techniques I learned you would never be attempting to stop a blow . . . i.e. it would never come down to a constest of force. You use your sword to guide theirs where you want it go, preferably in such a way that your counterstroke flows very naturally. The katana is defintely a finesse weapon as opposed to, say, a Claymore.

(especially when you consider the value/ importance of the katana as a symbol to the Samurai).

While the license to carry a sword, period, made Katanas an important symbol to the Samurai, for the most part they seemed to have been treated more like trusty hunting rifles. They were passed from one generation from the next, and a very few had legends spun around them, but for the most part they were just tools of the trade.

It is true that Samurai generally would exhaust their bow and spear options before drawing their swords, but appears to have been a practical matter. Needless to say, it's much safer to shoot someone with an arrow than it is to engage in close quarters combat with them.

ramble ramble ramble... sorry for the off-topic, folks.
posted by tkolar at 4:09 PM on April 1, 2006


My wife and I are stage combat choreographers in Cleveland, so this is right up my alley.

I have not had any classical fencing training, because stage combat is not about real fencing techniques. Our swordwork is adapted from those techniques, but uniquely so for the stage/screen. Real fencing is too fast and small (in that the fencers present as little a target as possible to their opponents) to be very interesting for a staged fight. Not only that, but we are usually working with actors who have had little to no fight training and we have to teach them the basics of swordwork and footwork, plus the choreography, in a very short time.

I can't speak to the Japanese films because I have no experience with that style of fighting. As far as western swordfighting goes, anything with Errol Flynn is a sure bet. He worked a lot with a Canadian master named Paddy Crean who was one of the most respected choreographers in the business and was largely responsible for setting the standards we use now for stage and screen fights, as far as technique is concerned. He had a lot of classical training to draw upon, but he knew the value and importance of making it exciting and interesting for the audience.

The point I'm long-windedly trying to make is, if you're looking for dead accurate fencing representations on film, you're probably not going to find much. It isn't fun to watch unless you're a fencer. Fights on stage and on film are there to help propel the story - they are like dialogue with steel instead of words. They get embellished and exaggerated and drawn out of their original context in order to get the point across. They all have their origins in real historic combat, and there are people in the fight community who are constantly researching historical techniques and preserving the knowledge of fencing masters from the "days of yore", but it all becomes adapted out of necessity. Examples: the moulinet (big swing around your shoulder with the sword) - yes, very slow, but it's very dramatic and dangerous-looking to the audience. It tells them something important is about to happen in the fight. The corps a corps (sword-wrestling, hilt to hilt) - completely useless in real fencing and probably highly inaccurate, but it's incredibly useful for when the actors need to remain engaged in combat but also need to deliver important lines that might get drowned out by clashing steel.

My recommendations for film fights: Errol Flynn (anything, really, but I like The Seahawk), both Gibson's and Branagh's Hamlet, Rob Roy, Braveheart (there really aren't any duels, but the mass combat is pretty realistic), and the duel in the Firefly episode between Mal and Atherton Wing (can't remember the name of the episode right now.) Oh, and of course, The Princess Bride, which is our favorite movie of all time. Funny thing, though - when we got the DVD, we immediately went to the first fight between Wesley and Inigo to watch it on slow motion and learn the choreography - and they're TERRIBLE! Their footwork is great, but the bladework is awful. Their targets are usually up above their heads, and a lot of the time it's the same two or three attacks back and forth. The thing that makes the fight so good is that they are absolutely committed to their moves and they really know what their characters are trying to do.

I hope this helps a bit. I've never tried to write it all down, we usually just end up saying all this piecemeal over the course of a few days of teaching or choreographing. In the end, it's all about acting - if you think it looks good and it's exciting, then great. If you think it looks shite, well, it probably is.
posted by starvingartist at 4:31 PM on April 1, 2006


and the duel in the Firefly episode between Mal and Atherton Wing (can't remember the name of the episode right now.)

Shindig.

/Firefly geek
posted by quin at 4:49 PM on April 1, 2006


Katanas: In my martial arts days I recall being told that the average Katana encounter would be decided in less than 7 seconds, usually with either the first stroke or counter-stroke ending it. This was certainly true when we did practice matches.

Takeshi Kitano's Zatôichi definately incorporated the concept of sword fights being over in seconds, in the fights in the film there's one or two strikes and maybe a parry and it's all over. I recall reading some interview with the director that he wanted to make the sword fights as historically realistic as possible.

I like Ang Lee, Lucas and Tarantino, but they aren't basing their sword fights on anything historically accurate, they're based on other films. I don't think it's because quick sword fights are dull in film (Zatoichi pulls them off extremely well) but a lack of imagination of film makers that unfortunately leads to cliche's being repeated over and over.
posted by bobo123 at 5:24 PM on April 1, 2006


it's incredibly useful for when the actors need to remain engaged in combat but also need to deliver important lines that might get drowned out by clashing steel.

...which, ya know, when it comes to "realism"...

The thing is that as a piece of staging it's an unrealistic depiction of what would happen in a fairly rare situation in a swordfight, you see it all the time, unlike a moulinet or a spinaround slash it usually lasts half the fight, and it's not even particularly dramatic or cool-looking with swords, especially the thin little rapiers you see it performed with more often than any other weapon. It's scary with knives of course. And Conan could probably pull it off with a big ol' serrated two-hander. Hell, lightsabers look like they'd burn you if they touched you. But as it is usually implemented? no. That is my particular beef with the corps a corps, that and I completely forgot its technical name.
posted by furiousthought at 6:05 PM on April 1, 2006


I like the swordfighting in Excalibur. I'm not an authority on authenticity, but I'm guessing that, for the most part, Boorman displays combat realistically: short, bloody, painful and unpleasant, even for the victor.
posted by SPrintF at 6:09 PM on April 1, 2006


I can't vouch for their accuracy, but the sword fights in Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers are a lot of fun.

The titular caracter V in V for Vendetta is fond of the sword fights in the 1934 version of The Count of Monte Cristo. (Come to think of it, the sword fights in the 2002 version were pretty good.)

The Untouchables: "Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:10 PM on April 1, 2006


The battles in Zaitoichi, the Blind Samurai seem pretty realistic, in that they're very, very quick.
posted by ph00dz at 6:17 PM on April 1, 2006


Pretty much any true martial art teaches that the fight should be over as quickly as possible - ideally in two moves - the block and the strike (you never start a fight yourself - hence always needing the first block). This goes for hand-to-hand combat and weaponed combat, so it's no suprise that Samurai sword-fights were over quickly. The Hollywood vision of two brawlers trading blows/cuts/shots for minutes is often the most unrealistic thing about fights - the human body can take far less punishment than movie directors would like!
posted by benzo8 at 6:24 PM on April 1, 2006


A few movies and shows to mention: I thought the swordfighting in Pirates of the Caribbean was a lot of good fun and not technically stupid; and what swordplay there is in the HBO series Rome qualifies as realistic in an up-close, brutal, and short sense, and seemed very Roman-style to me (whereas with Gladiator? Very exciting, but who could tell what was going on?) Basically movie swordfights are a lot better than they were in the '80s when I was first exposed to them. Hell, even the Buffy vs. Angel swordfight on network TV wasn't that bad.

Zatoichi was like watching some guy play Diablo, I thought, but maybe that was just me.
posted by furiousthought at 6:32 PM on April 1, 2006


I second Rob Roy. Great scene. As they go on they get tired and winded... adds a lot to the realism.
posted by starman at 8:08 PM on April 1, 2006


I too was shown Scaramouche in fencing class, and saw fencers swoon over the circle parries in The Princess Bride.

While it's off-topic (though you're going as far as light sabers, so maybe it's not), Enter The Dragon has some excellently short weaponless battles. Some have to be shown in slow motion because Bruce Lee is just so goldurned fast.
posted by Aknaton at 8:23 PM on April 1, 2006


As Rinkjustice noted, The Duellists contains the two most realistic portrayals of duelling with rapiers that you will ever see in cinema. Nothing else even comes close. One encounter is an experienced swordsman employing exactly the same techniques that I use against a novice foe. The other, a duel at dawn is absolutely perfect. I'll refrain from further detail so as not to spoil it. The saber sequences are also good, but one makes some concession to entertainment. The movie itself is one of Ridley Scott's better works, having won best picture at Cannes.

Stage fighting is an art unto itself, with technique designed for exactly the opposite goals from that of duelling: to project your intentions and not hit the other person. This is surprisingly difficult, which is why the vast majority of bladework you see in movies is laughable. For the most part, when someone wielding a western weapon in single combat points the blade away from his opponent, or bends his arm, he is using technique that would be suicidal in a duel. As a general rule in stage combat, you never want to point your weapon at an opponent, if there is any chance that he could impale himself on it.

William Hobbs is perhaps the best fight director in the business, and certainly the most realistic. IIRC he was once a top ranked fencer in Australia. He also penned a useful book on stage fencing I had in my collection at some point. Clearly his goal in The Duellists was realism and he was given free reign to pursue it by Scott. While none of his other works approach this dedication to accuracy, they are all excellent and distinct in this quality from even the best of his peers.

As others have noted, the fencing in Rob Roy is both realistic and entertaining. It is also an accurate portrayal of the murderous lethality of the rapier in single combat compared to its predecessors such as the short sword. The entirely implausible ending to the final duel is a bit of a letdown however. Other notable works by Hobbs are Excalibur, The Three Musketeers, Four Musketeers and especially the fencing in Cyrano de Bergerac . I love the liberal use of kicks and the off-hand in these last three movies, as such would be common when not constrained by gentlemanly rules of duelling. The "fencing wrestle" described by furiousthought is perhaps not so unreasonable in that context, I've encountered similar positions infrequently myself in competition, but it is quite the laughable cliche in any free-for-all fight.

The second best in my personal pantheon of fight directors is Bob Anderson, responsible for the superb bladework in The Princess Bride and The Mask of Zorro. He was also behind the light-saber play in the first three Star Wars movies, actually doubling as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. The fights in Empire are superb, taking their cue from Eastern Arts, and vastly superior to the abominations of the prequals. As Nicwolff noted, it would seem realistic lightsaber technique would be a combination of modern saber and epee, with a focus on attacks to the unprotected hand and arm. In the interest of suspension of disbelief, I can only assume some unknown properties of the lightsabers such as inherent inertia, or perhaps jedi-mental "armor" which dictates the use of ancient techniqe. Or perhaps it is that such style is necessary to cultivate the proper "Zanshin" to employ jedi powers...

I am less familiar with work in the black and white golden age of movie fencing. Ralph Faulkner is a stand-out fight director of that era, also a former Olympic competitor. In general, the technique of this time is more closely related to stagework and thus less realistic, although still athletic, impressive and dangerous. Scaramouche, The Mark of Zorro and The Prisoner of Zenda are all excellent examples.

While I was entertained by Crouching Tiger, its fight sequences bear no relation to reality, and I am dismayed by the effect it has had on subsequent fight direction. The only even remotely decent fencing I've seen since this movie is Bob Anderson's direction in Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Carribean which were both well up to his usual standards of excellence.
posted by Manjusri at 11:03 PM on April 1, 2006 [6 favorites]


Rather than realistic moves, which you will not see for reasons already stated (they look boring onscreen, and/or they happen too fast for audiences to see what happened), I look for good strategy and tactics - person A does X, person B adapts their plan in a clever way to counter it.

Cleverness in a fight scene is seriously cool.

In this light, there was a nice moment in crouching tiger when, confronted by the girl armed with the green destiney (a blade that could not be parried without having it destroy your weapon), the women at one point made a quick series of feint attacks, to keep the girl on the defensive, preventing attacks and preventing any contact between the blades until she was in range for a real attack. That's the kind of adaptive tactics that make a fight interesting to watch in the same way that a real fencing match is interesting to watch, and thus realistic - regardless of how exagerrated the actual moves are.

Star Wars works the best because there are no timing holes in the choreography. Unlike real fencing, in all productions, you get moments where one person, for example, starts a dodge or a parry which just doesn't make sense, and then quarter of a second later, their opponent gives the first hint of mounting the attack that the dodge/parry is supposed to be in response too. In star wars, the characters actually are prescient, so those timing errors cease to be errors at all, and you can just watch and enjoy :)

A problem with star wars, however, is that while it is never stated, you must assume that lightsabres have a one-second cool-down period when switched off before they can be switched back on, else there would be no way to swordfight with them - whenever anyone tried to block or parry, the attacker could just momentarily flick their blade off then on again, such that it passes right through the parry and cuts the opponent in half.

I third the rob roy scene. I can't remember anything of the actual swordplay, but the background and stuff was realistic.

I like a sword fight to make sense and tell a story. In phantom menace, Maul initially retreated, but in doing so was controlling where they would end up, he couldn't beat them together, but he seperated them, then finished them off one by one. Then he got a terminal case of being the bad guy in a hollywood movie, but, you know, it happens to the best (worst) of 'em :-)

In some movies, the fight scene is just a bunch of supposedly exciting moves spliced together with no semblence on continuity, until one dies, and that's it.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:23 AM on April 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


You can see that lightsabers don't immediately switch on and off - they extend and retract, taking a couple of seconds each way.
posted by Orange Goblin at 4:16 AM on April 2, 2006


IANASF, but the swordplay in Yojimbo and it's sequel, Sanjuro are spectacularly workmanshiplike.
posted by 31d1 at 8:41 AM on April 2, 2006


Orange Gobin:

No, the speed of retraction and extension seems to be up to the operator - there are some scenes when it's pretty much instant, and others where it's very lazy.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:50 PM on April 2, 2006


Although one would be hard-pressed to find a bigger Kurosawa fan than I, I offer a grain of salt to the OP: the swordplay in Yojimbo and Sanjuro is certainly fun to watch, but the limitations of the special effects of the era are *quite* apparent. Quite a few bad guys are felled in both movies without Toshiro Mifune so much as coming within a foot of striking them with his sword.

But you should watch Yojimbo and Sanjuro, anyway.
posted by CRM114 at 9:22 PM on April 2, 2006


While not a movie (yet), Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson includes a discussion of the differences between kendo and real sword fighting.
posted by Apoch at 10:41 PM on April 2, 2006


Undoubtedly, the most exciting swordfighting sequences I've ever seen were in a French film called Le Bossu ("On Guard"). The fencing was so fun to watch that it inspired me to take fencing lessons...briefly.
posted by scottjlowe at 2:15 AM on April 3, 2006


I'm not really qualified to speak with authority on the topic, but I'll toss in yet another vote for Rob Roy - the sword fight at the end is short and vicious and seems far more real to my layman's eye than any of the others I've seen. A pity the resolution is so unrealistic.
posted by Ryvar at 2:28 AM on April 3, 2006


For fencing - the much overlooked By The Sword with Eric Roberts and F Murray Abraham does a fantastic example of what an actual fencing battle would be like. Bob Anderson handles the blademaster work and as a result of the story we see not the sports type fighting, but an actual battle with two sworn enemies and no limitation as to direction of battle. The problem you'll find with films is that by definition they are crafted for entertainment, hence any fight scenes you watch will be overly stylised and unrealistic (for example - one of the best unarmed fights in recent cinema is that between Sgts. Elias and Barnes in "Platoon" - it looks exactly like every fight I've ever seen).

If you've ever been to any martial arts tournament or display you can see massive differences between today's idea of combat as a sport and what the martial style was originally intended for. Real fights don't have rules so if you can smash someone over the head with the pommel of your blade you do it and then you kill them whilst they are on the floor. Whilst fencing, kendo, iaido and MMA all have their places in the world they cannot be compared to real combat where life is on the line and desperate measures sometimes save lives. Hollywood is particularly bad at showing this because of the relentless obsession with fairness and good guys and bad guys.

quin earlier states that the knife fight between the characters in Under Siege looks good, and it does, but use of the reverse hold with a knife cuts down on your reach and will get you cut to pieces if you ever find yourself in the (highly unlikely) position of a stand up knife fight - I'd recommend a reading of William Ewart Fairbairn's knife combat manual as a comparison. It gives a good idea of the difference between what would nowadays be seen as "jutsu" or "do" forms. Hollywood veers between artistic and sports but has very little time for realism.

Otherwise here are some short sample videos of William Emerson (of Emerson knives fame) using his Karambit knives in close combat - see how quick it is? Whilst I wouldn't vouch for the use of these techniques IRL, you couldn't have that in the film world. We still live in a world whereby people need to see actors open their shirts to reveal the body armour lest we think they are bulletproof. Seeing someone drop from a knife blade in less than a second is going to leave quite a few people very baffled indeed. (Note the attacks to the femoral artery in the video? Highly underused in most films but extremely lethal none the less).
posted by longbaugh at 3:20 AM on April 3, 2006


(And to Apoch's mention of Snow Crash, there's a wonderful long sequence in the middle of Stephenson's The Confusion where a brutal undercutting of swordplay-as-ballet is capped with the admonition: "You don't engage in courtly play-fightin' with one such as this. You get a friggin' tree-branch and keep hittin' him with it until he dies." Not that it's any more necessarily realistic than The Princess Bride, but a nice counter-take on most fictional representations of swordfights.)

Great answers from the MeFi fencing/stage-fighting crowd.
posted by BT at 4:19 AM on April 3, 2006


I have practiced Traditional Sword Arts for a few years now (not nearly enough, though), so I know some things about Japanese swordfighting. As far as what movies would represent realistic swordfighting techniques in that domain, I would say some period pieces like Seven Samurai would give you a nice idea. I also quite liked the fights (short as they were) from Tasogare Seibei. Stay away from Zatoichi, though; it may look cool, the fights may be short and brutal (except the final Zatoichi vs. the village, as always), but as swordfighting technique goes, it's bunk. I have read that it was loosely inspired from a style called Muraku ryu, but really nothing more than that.

As it goes, stage fighting is a totally different beast than real swordfighting. That's not bad; I do enjoy over the top fighting like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It makes for better theater, it's more entertaining, it's not a long moment of high tension and little movement followed by one or two quick, intense strikes and one (or two) death.

As to the eternal debate between blocking on the spine of the blade vs blocking with the edge of the blade (yes, it comes up often), well, do what your sensei says. There are styles that do either and not the other, there are styles that do both. There are justifications for either way. Since we don't fight with swords anymore, the traditional arts aren't concerned about being effective and pragmatic before all, and rather aim to pass on the teachings of those that came before us as they were passed on to us. It's assumed that if the style thrived and survived for centuries during wartime Japan, the teachers had effective techniques. At this point it's more about the philosophy and human teachings contained in the style. But that's another story entirely, I suppose. And that's really only important in the context of practicing Traditional Japanese Sword Arts (koryu), otherwise you can argue till you're blue in the face about which is better, blocking with the spine or the edge, and that's fine with me; I do what my teacher tells me to do :).
posted by splice at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Speaking of lightsaber speed of extension/retraction, I can only say: "I see your Shwartz is as big as mine..."
posted by anthill at 8:56 AM on April 3, 2006


The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) or The Prisoner of Zenda (1952). Pretty good sword fights.

(For some reason, I always think of these when I read the Miles Vorkosigan novels of Lois McMaster Bujold.)
posted by Kikkoman at 9:42 AM on April 3, 2006


I also enjoyed the answers from the stagefighting crowd; thank you for chiming in. I hope you don't take it badly if I don't mark them as best answers, since I was asking more about anti-stage-fighting, that is, screen combat that's not intended to look showy, but realistic.
posted by agropyron at 9:56 AM on April 3, 2006


The Musketeer
posted by Blandanomics at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2006


Anthony De Longis was dagger & rapier choreographer for the Highlander TV series

He also made some instructional videos for the traditional Spanish fencing style, La Destreza, which was featured in one of the Highlander episodes.

I think I read somewhere that Count Dooku's lightsaber style in Episode II was based on Destreza, but I'm not sure.
posted by homunculus at 10:33 AM on April 3, 2006


you can see massive differences between today's idea of combat as a sport and what the martial style was originally intended for. Real fights don't have rules so if you can smash someone over the head with the pommel of your blade you do it and then you kill them whilst they are on the floor.

The platonic ideal of the Real Fight, where two completely committed, enraged, skilled, and conditioned foes go at each other with basically genocidal anything-goes fury until one or both men die, does always seem to come up in these kinds of discussions. I don't think that's what most people including longbaugh are talking about in this thread (I don't remember the Platoon fight) but I would first submit that that wasn't a terribly common scenario even in eras where the sword was a weapon of choice, and second, that even so we can infer from the form of the tool that getting in a clinch and pommeling your foe, while it could happen, wasn't a desired tactic or a real common thing to do: otherwise historical swords would look more like fantasy swords, with spikes on the pommel or bell guard, the better to put down your foe with your dirty fighting tricks.

When it comes down to it the most popular real-life fighting tactics involve surprise, superior numbers, or both, nothing special to it!

I have another rant somewhere in here about how, in a society where fights are commonplace, the brick-breaking and high-kicking stunts that are so derided these days are actually a much more practical display of martial skill than making a routine of going out and finding the best-conditioned guy in your weight class and trying to beat him into a pulp, for the very same reason animals depend more on ritual displays than knock-down drag-out fights to settle things among their own kind: why get yourself hurt unnecessarily? who knows when you could be in for a actual fight?
posted by furiousthought at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2006


Off-topic literary swordfighting references: Try Ellen Kushner's book Swordspoint and Steven Brust's homages to Dumas père in the Khaavren romances, The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, and the three volumes of The Viscount of Adrilankha (The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, and Sethra Lavode), which are chock-full of swordplay and wordplay.

On-topic: Nobody has yet mentioned Stephen Frears' 1988 Dangerous Liaisons, which has a fine duel between Valmont and Danceny (John Malkovich and Keanue Reeves) at the end. Also, Jose Ferrer has great swordfights, though not realistic ones, as Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac from 1950.
posted by cgc373 at 11:14 AM on April 3, 2006


Surely the scene in the first Indiana Jones movie where the Big Hairy Guy flips his sword around menacingly and Indiana just shoots him qualifies as realism, under the "don't bring a sword to a gunfight" clause.....
posted by Rumple at 11:44 AM on April 3, 2006


"nicwolff, when your lightsaber meets your opponent's lightsaber, you're going to be pushing against each other trying to drive the lightsaber into the other guy's face. Given this property of the lightsabers, wouldn't it make sense to bring your weapon to him forcefully? Your arms would still have the momentum even if the lightsaber blade is weightless, and that would matter when your blades met."

But why wouldn't he simply run you through? Big motions only make sense when your opponent can't make a quick motion. And most of the swings would be evaded, not blocked, thus making you a candidate for being cut in half.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on April 3, 2006


Wikipedia has a fairly detailed article on the various forms of lightsaber combat.
posted by homunculus at 6:30 PM on April 3, 2006


furiousthought - I've had the opportunity to peruse some old combat manuals from the 14th Century and also to watch these techniques used by people in simulated one on one melee and there is a surprising amount of technique involved. I'm a regular at the Leeds Royal Armouries which, as well as retaining samples of many different types of weaponry is also responsible for the study of many older forms. European martial arts (including Graeco-Roman styles such as pankration) were ignored for a long time thanks to everyone obessing over styles from China and Japan and it really only seems like the past couple of decades this has been addressed with the founding of such groups as ARMA and so on.

Utilisation of the two handed sword (again, specifically in a one on one situation) would take advantage of the crossguard to hook and lock an incoming attack before attacking with the pommel to the face. The sword itself could be gripped when using armoured gauntlets and the crossguard could be used to attack or trip the opponent. Whilst I will grant that the medieval battlefield was likely no more organised than modern film portrays there was certainly no lack of technique utilised in combat. Even 600 years ago it would have been obvious that those who train will likely defeat those who have not.

I totally agree with your point that the above scenario in reality vs. film is extremely rare but I do disagree with your ritual display theory - in fairly recent history there were martial artists going to one another's salles/dojos etc and challenging one another. You can watch the video of Emin Boztepe fighting William Cheung in Germany back in 1986 for evidence of this as well as the $100,000 Gracie challenge which was never beaten to my knowledge. As long as people train to fight they will always want to prove themselves to be the best and display doesn't cut it.
posted by longbaugh at 5:06 AM on April 4, 2006


Yes, kikkoman
posted by Pressed Rat at 10:24 AM on April 4, 2006


Favorite (not realistic, however) movie swordfight: The Court Jester.
posted by papercake at 11:05 AM on April 4, 2006


longbaugh – I'm not discounting any of that at all! My POV on the subject is not that extreme. And I don't think I made any claims on the historical – intricacy? – of western swordplay. (When it comes to ARMA types, I'm torn between admiration for their ability to puzzle out technique from the nearly incomprehensible drawings in those old fighting manuals, and vague pity that they have to go around saying "arming sword" all the time.) And honestly I don't claim to be an expert. But it does seem to me that the no-holds-barred fight to the death is as much of a social construct as the duel to first blood, quickdraw at high noon, counting coup or any other more "artificial" kind of face-off – if a guy with a sword really wanted someone dead more than anything else, he'd jump 'im or bring friends.

I don't doubt that there were moves that involved the pommel of swords, but I can't imagine they were moves of first resort, for the same reason you talk about reverse gripping a knife not being optimal, multiplied by a lot. (Plus the physical form of the tools.) It does, however, make sense that a 14th century swordsman would train for infighting the way modern sport fencers mostly don't.

I freely admit that my rant on breaking boards is half-cocked, but that sort of thing has been a way for martial artists to get out of some fights to prove themselves, no?
posted by furiousthought at 11:52 AM on April 4, 2006


I cannot personally vouch for its authenticity (not having been there! :)), but the swordfight at the end of Robin and Marian struck me as more like real swordplay -- the swords are heavy, the fighters get tired, etc.

The movie as a whole is a lot more "medieval" than most Middle Ages movies, IMO.
posted by Sand at 1:14 PM on April 4, 2006


Excalibur has wonderfully realistic swordfighting sequences. Wonderfully realistic means that you don't go swinging around 80lb. swords in 500 lbs. of armor like a nancy boy. The actions are heavy and deliberate, and the brutal hacking is better at getting your opponent on the ground (where you then stab him through the visor or breast plate if you've got the muscles). One of the things I liked so much about the movie was how it got across the point that when you've got that much weight on your back, if you fall down, you're dead. That's it. You don't jump back up. It's game over.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:45 PM on April 4, 2006


Sorry to avoid answering the actual question, but I've been adding steadily to my netflix cue this whole time. In the interests of other people looking for fun sword fighting flicks to rent, watch Douglas Fairbanks. I mean, The Three Musketeers has him knifing somone to death while doing a one-handed cartwheel, so this answer isn't technically "on topic"... but it's still one of the coolest fight scenes I've seen.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 11:00 AM on April 5, 2006


A few notes spurred by the commentary:

Corps-à-corps means literally: body-to-body. This is not the same as the touching of guards or hilts. In modern fencing the meeting of guards is interpreted as corps-à-corps and requires an immediate halt to the action (more so in foil and sabre, in épée the action is properly allowed to continue unless clearly dangerous). However, this is a convention in the interests of safety and civility, not a literal translation.

Unless one is trying to bludgeon an armored opponent into submission, strength in swordplay is a much less useful property than leverage and quickness. When a blow is properly parried (blocked), the configuration of the blades (foible to forté) is such that leverage offers a huge mechanical advantage to the defender. Not only are more powerful blows futile, the added momentum on a miss will leave one more vulnerable to a return blow in the increased time required to return to guard. The damage inflicted by an edged weapon is maximized by a well-timed slicing motion in the cut, rather than application of edge-on force.

Were I responsible for young Luke's training, I would focus on a rudimentary épée technique: the stop hit. You simply keep the point trained on your opponents exposed sword hand and forearm, and he is forced to counter this threat before performing any move, or else impale his forearm effectively stopping his attack, and his ability to wield a weapon for that matter. The extremely light weight of modern weapons facilitate this technique, improving the deception (dodging) of attempts to beat (knock) the blade aside. I should imagine lightsabers even more ideal for this purpose, especially with no guards to protect the hand. Throw in a couple of sabre cuts and Luke should be more than equipped to deal the examples of jedi saber play I have observed, backflips notwithstanding. Not sure how to handle the whole telekinetic flotsam to the back of the head thing though.

Papercake mentions The Court Jester, a splendid movie with excellent choreography. It was shown to me by my first fencing coach. The fight direction is the work of Ralph Faulkner, who also does a bit of doubling for Kaye. Basil Rathbone is an accomplished stage fencer, and Danny Kaye's raw athletic talent shines.

When watching stage fencing with a critical eye for realism I look for the following criteria:

Number of cuts
Using a jumbled series of quick cuts to represent dynamic action is simply a cop-out on the part of a director, and means they didn't have the expertise to safely choreograph and shoot the action.

Distance of the combatants
Most sequences place the fighters far too close together. If the blades are crossed, then the fencers are in mortal peril of an immediate strike to the body. If they don't immediately retreat to safe distance, one or the other should rightly be on the ground bleeding in short order.

Size of the motions
Real weapons are considerably heavier than modern fencing blades, and the actions are naturally much larger. But it is a measure of ability of the fencers, and a nod to realism when the actions are kept under control, and the blades stay for the most part confined to generally threatening their target. Bonus points for actually pointing directly at their foe, and a lunge while threatening a target will win me over completely.
posted by Manjusri at 1:46 PM on April 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


You mentioned the Star Wars films. While Episode I's fight is the most dazzling, I once read that the Episode IV duel between older Obi-Wan and Darth Vader is one of the most realistic portrayals of Kendo ever committed to film and most likely how Jedi would fight if they were, you know, real. I don't remember where I read this or how accurate the claim is, but I like to think it's true.
posted by nthdegx at 2:41 AM on April 6, 2006


The Last Samuri wasn't so bad on the sword fighting front, IMHO. The ninjas though, they were funny.
posted by asok at 1:15 AM on April 7, 2006


Just a note for those who comment on the heavyness of medieval swords, in particular Civil_Disobedient's claim of 80lbs swords. These are actually total myth. Medieval swordsmanship (european/italian etc, not japanese) is not my area, but I've talked with a number of practicioners, and the belief that swords were ultra-heavy and that manipulating them was a ponderous and heavy affair is on the same level as the belief that katana can cut through anything, including car doors, big trees, etc.

I refer you to an article on the ARMA website (association for the renaissance martial arts) about the two-handed great sword, where Mr. David Edge, former head curator and current conservator of the Wallace Collection museum in London, is quoted as saying:

Original weapons are indeed far lighter than most people realize …3 lbs for an 'average' late-medieval cross-hilt sword, say, and 7-8 lbs for a Landsknecht two-handed sword, to give just a couple of examples from weapons in this collection. Processional two-handed swords are usually heavier, true, but rarely more than 10 lbs. The heaviest and most enormous sword in our entire Armoury only weighs 14 lbs and was probably ceremonial.

Historical exemples support this fully. An 80 pound sword would be totally ridiculous. See the sidebar to the article, which explains how ludicrous even a 40 pound sword would be. A quote from the sidebar:

When someone says "a longsword weighs 15 pounds", you can reply, "Oh, like this?" as you hand them 15 pounds of a half-inch thick steel slab four feet long and two inches wide. There's nothing like holding the truth in your hands. If there were really battle swords that actually weighed 40 pounds, or even just 15 or 20 pounds, then where are they?

But all this is a derail, anyway :)
posted by splice at 8:19 AM on April 7, 2006


furiousthought, your comment about the ideal Real Fight are very interesting. I believe I can provide an intriguing perspective about this.

I practice a traditional Japanese sword style that originates some 400 years ago. It has evolved since then, of course. We have different sets of forms (kata or waza, if you're familiar with Japanese terms), and it's very interesting to compare them. For example, an introductory set we practice was composed in the 20th century by various masters, drawing forms from different styles, in order to produce a "representative" set of forms to introduce kendo students to traditional swordsmanship. This has spread since then and is used by various groups to introduce students to japanese swordsmanship, for different organizational bodies to grade students, etc. It's a very formalized set, very formal etiquette, and the forms are all responses against attacks by the enemy. They are also very "clean", no real dirty moves, just cut and cut, done.

The other sets we practice are those specific to our style. One set was integrated into our style by such and such master some 100 years ago. Another was from perhaps 150 years before that? Some others we practice are attributed to the very first master, 400 years ago. It gets very interesting when you start comparing them. The most recent set is a bit more paranoid than the standardised, representative set presented above. The forms are all a response to an attack, excepting one, which is the proper form for assisting someone commiting ritualised suicide.

Then, the older set, you have one questionable situation, where you might be killing someone by surprise. But otherwise, the waza are responding to an attack, although they are yet more paranoid than before (being that they keep the focus on the opponent longer after he might be dead, just in case). You also sometimes do "dirty" things like stepping on someone's sleeve when you have them down on the ground, so you can stop them from reaching for their sword before you cut up their spine.

When you get to the oldest sets, the real fun begins. There, you have waza where you hide under a porch and wait for someone to come by, you come out and kill them. Hide in a closet, wait for someone to open it, whack. Distract someone in the dark by tapping your sword on the ground off to your right, wait for them to try to get you there, kill them. In yet another one, you throw your sword down after your opponent seizes your wrist, you then bring him down to the ground and mangle his face with your fist.

It's really interesting to see how brutal these old techniques are, compared to the refined, ritualized techniques that rose in later times, where someone would be more likely to be in a duel instead of a battle. Then there's the whole philosophical aspect that came from those techniques (satsunin-to/the sword that takes life vs. katsujinken/the sword that gives life).

But as far as theatrical combat goes, well, whatever looks good is best. You won't get points for being authentic, except from curmudgeons like me, and while I appreciate a realistic swordfight, I'm sure my tastes for theatrical combat are very different from a normal person (ie. anyone that doesn't take up the futile arts of the swords :).

Anyway, sorry for the long rant. Hope it's interesting to all of you.
posted by splice at 8:55 AM on April 7, 2006 [2 favorites]


Conceptually it kinda makes sense as you wouldn't want to damage the integrity of your 'one meter straight razor', but i've never seen this represented in any film. Is hollywood misleading me or is my info on ancient Japanese martial skills way off base? quin

In my study of the use of the Japanese sword, as an advanced beginner user(i.e less-than 10 years), I was *always* taught to use the edge{the Ha} itself for parries and blocks {Shin Kage Ryu & Genpo Soto-Jutsu styles}. Though we never did live-blade contact, we were guided towards purely martial uses of the blade. No sparring.

The true Katana was an amazing work of art and ancient metalurgical science. A short documentary on the subject "Decisive Weapons - Soul of the Samurai The Samurai Sword"(only available on bittorent AFAICT) talks of it even being able to cut through other sword blades without damage! This fits in with the lore I've heard during study.

That said, I've had many issues with sword-based films:
Most of the Matrix swordwork leaves a lot to be desired. While some is OK, some is atrocious in the way their bodies move(i.e. Morpheus cutting the SUV down the side). If you wish to understand swordsmanship, look at the way the persons bodies move: balance and an alignment towards the 'center' make a lot of difference for believability. Most of the Chinese and/or Japanese movies I've seen, although stylized, contain a lot of real movement in them.

Another area is that of etiquette, which actually bother me more. The Last Samurai had scenes that would have had Tommy immediately beheaded, while, although "fantasy", Kill Bill had much of the respect I have come to appreciate about (Japanese)swordsmanship.

(Sorry about a fragmented post, there is just too much to say, and so little time) And thank you all for mentioning the movies I haven't seen :)
posted by a_green_man at 2:35 AM on April 8, 2006


I'd just like to say that people should stay away from Kitano's Zatoichi - the old Zatoichis are waaay better and there are 26 of them, not counting Darkness Is His Ally from the 80s, with was superb.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:45 PM on April 8, 2006


Also, The Sword of Doom has some amazing sword fighting sequences. They even work well in terms of drama--lots of sizing one another up and replacing long battles between two fighters with long battles of one dude versus 40.

I really need to see some of the old Zatoichis at some point.
posted by thecaddy at 11:32 AM on April 11, 2006


There's an older movie, The Great Race, which has a pretty authentic swordfight in it. It's a comedy, but Tony Curtis and Ross Martin have a nice duel with foils at one point.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 8:45 PM on April 11, 2006


Realistic knife fight on film?

Ahem...

Saving Private Ryan
posted by frogan at 11:23 PM on April 11, 2006


Going off-topic a bit, and reminded by the Ebert quote above. I think the first two Thief video games have excellent sword-fighting. The point is that the broadsword featured is a large, unwieldly weapon and the protagonist seems barely capable of lifting it.
posted by hnnrs at 2:26 AM on April 13, 2006


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