It doesn’t last for 10 minutes but otherwise you are completely right. A countdown list of must see swordfights IMO:
15. Alain Delon vs. Stanley Baker in "Zorro" (1975). Italian flick, that mixes the Zorro legend with elements from italo-western in bad style. The film’s one highlight is this lengthy (ca. 10 min.) sword fight near the end.
14. Cary Elwes vs. Mandy Patinkin in "The Princess Bride". This seems to be a favourite of many but I don’t rank it that high. Choreography is nice to look at but it’s a kids movie in the first place, so the element of danger is completely missing throughout the fight. This is the film’s highlight though.
13. Harvey Keitel vs. unknown actor in "The Duellists". There are many fights in this of course and that made it difficult to pick one for me. I chose the first duel as it sets the tone for those that follow. Clearly a dangerous to life-threatning combat. Yes, that’s what duels relly may have looked like at the their time. Very authentic.
12. Errol Flynn vs. Henry Daniels in “The Sea Hawk“. Flynns best screen fight IMO and sadly it‘s not Basil Rathbone he encounters. A stunt double had to jump in for lengthy scenes, because Daniels couldn‘t fight at all. But director Curtiz makes the best of it. He often pans back the camera and delivers very impressive scenes. I especially like the eerie play of shadows on the walls.
11. Robert Taylor vs. George Sanders in “Ivanhoe“ (1953). OK, not a sword fight exactly, it‘s axe against flaile. The duel is marred by a jump cut from the duel arena to an approching King Richard in between. Otherwise a fine achievement. Especially the scenes of Ivanhoe at foot defending himself against the violent attacks of a horse mounted Bois Gilbert are great.
10. Pierce Brosnan vs. Toby Stephens in “Die another Day“ (2002). By far the best action scene in this overblown entry to the Bond series. These ancient weapons easily top all the scifi-gadgetry. Also great as a study in escalation: The fight starts as a light sports combat with foils and culminates into the clash of two rascals dashing with broad swords.
9. Danny Kaye vs. Basil Rathbone in “The Court Jester“ (1955). If nothing else, this is for sure the best fun sword fight in movie history. What a brilliant idea from the script writer to have Kaye transformed from master swordsman to helpless coward with a finger snipping.
8. Robert Wagner vs. James Mason in “Prince Valiant“ (1954). Nitpicking first: The sword design is flawed here, the (aluminium) blades looking much too broad to be believable. The choreography however is great. There is a touching moment in the middle of the fight, when a music tune sets in and we realize the advantage switches from evil Sir Braque to the young prince.
7. Mark Hamill vs. David Prowse in “The Empire strikes back“ (1980). The best laser sword duel from Lucas Star Wars tales, including all episodes I-VI. Although the later prequels were eager to top this fight, they never succeeded. The movements may appear a little slow and the sheer spectacle limited compared to some of the later duels, but they never again reached the emotional depth of this one.
6. Bruno Wolkowitsch vs. Frédéric van den Driessche in "Lagardère". French TV movie after the period novel "Le bossu". Although this is a training fight, not a combat between enemies, it is also a delight for the viewer: The choreography is outstanding and the actors really seem to enjoy their parts as master fencer and apprentice.
5. Steward Granger vs. James Mason in “The Prisoner of Zenda“ (1952). Although overall this Technicolor remake of the 1937 film isn‘t as good as the original, the climactic duel is not only longer but also far superior here. The scene was clearly extended, to benefit from Grangers athletic power and his fencing experience – and it works.
4. Liam Neeson vs. Tim Roth in “Rob Roy“ (1995). A very one sided fight this is and you will fear for the hero‘s life from the beginning. Also the combat creates the illusion of watching an authentic period duel. The twist at the end of the fight comes as a surprise, although I‘m not sure the realism is suspended here for a moment. Anyway a very suspenceful fight.
3. Michael York vs. Christoher Lee in “The four Musketeers“ (1974). Despite several comedic elements the sword fights in Lesters Musketeer films are mostly grim and violent. This final duel between d‘Artagnan and the musketeers arch enemy Rochefort is especially intense and bloody and yet it‘s carefully built up and beautifully photographed.
2. Tyrone Power vs. Basil Rathbone in “The Mark of Zorro“ (1940). The best sword fight choreography from Hollywoods Golden Age. A perfect mix of action (very fast paced for it‘s time) and sharp tongued dialog. Power, whose fencing capability wasn‘t on par with Rathbones had to be doubled for some scenes but the blending of stuntman and actor performing has been done carefully to keep the illusion.
And finally .....
1. Steward Granger vs. Mel Ferrer in “Scaramouche“ (1952). Set in a pompous theatre, the duelists make it the showroom for a fight to remember. They fence it out on the balconies and stairways, through the hall and on the stage. Ingenious Director George Sidney abandoned music as well as dialog for these six and a half minutes. So all you hear is the clinging of the blades, the opponents gasping and the fear cries of the shocked audience. Both actors underwent a lengthy training camp with belgian fencing master Jean Heremans and it shows: They are superb. An unsurpassed classic.
wow. that is an awesome list. I need to see nearly all of these. thanks.
I've seen most of the swordfights on the list and, with a possible exception of the Mark of Zorrow, none of them even hold a candle to Scaramouche. There is simply no other sword fight in cinema history that comes even close to this masterpiece.
According to his autobiography, Steward Granger seriously injured his groin during the filming - collapsed straight onto the back of a chair and landed on his .... eeww!! But it was all for art and well worth it!