Among blade weapons, the sword is what I find the most impressive. And I think it’s not only me; the universal sentiment on the matter is the same, for in fiction, swords are given more emphasis than any other blade weapons and swordsmen are fondly portrayed as the coolest, most badass, and most important among weapon-wielding warriors. And for that reason, there are plenty of notable swordsman-type characters in fiction. That is why this list deserves 20 slots.
As I’ve observed, the most awesome depiction of swordsmanship in fiction are those done with the Japanese katana. Hence, in making my list, I excluded the characters that are in my lists for top ten samurais and ninjas in fiction for there are a lot of katana-wielders there (to give chance to other characters). But katana-wielding characters that weren’t contenders on those lists for ninjas and samurais (for they were not explicit samurai-type or ninja-type characters) are still considered for this list. Also, characters that merely have a sword as one of the weapons in their repertoire, even if they are fantastic in wielding it, are excluded as well (so, no Deadpool). Only those that have swords as their primary weapon are considered.
I admit that the Swordsman, a former Avenger (currently dead), despite being a proficient, er, swordsman (he should be, considering his choice for a code name) is not really a very interesting character. Superheroes of archery concept, silly as it is on paper, like Green Arrow and Hawkeye, worked magnificently. But a swordsman concept superhero like the Swordsman? Not so. However, though the attempt to duplicate the success of the archer superhero by doing it this time around with a swordsman character failed, I still think he deserves a slot here for he’s the most popular (if not only) of such kind.
Possessing all the strengths and powers of an Asgardian, Valkyrie is more than a mere sword wielder. Prior her Avenger membership, I never found her as a remarkable character. But when she became part of the Secret Avengers, that’s only when I’ve learned that she is one of the most badass female swordsman in fiction. Though she is not as powerful as Thor, she however possesses the same kind of formidability, hardiness, and battle-hunger as Thor’s.
Whenever Prince Adam raises his Power Sword and uttered, “By the power of Grayskull,” he transforms into He-Man, “the most powerful man in the universe.”
Since he was conceptualized in a different era (80’s), his depiction was forbidden to actually use his sword in combat (though that would change in future portrayals). He-Man would usually just use his intellect to outsmart his opponents, and any use of violence is mostly limited to body throws. The only times he was portrayed using his sword to attack was on inanimate objects or robots. Despite of this, He-Man and his Power Sword are just too iconic (at least, for me and those belonging to the past two generations) to be ignored.
At the present, He-Man’s appearance is extremely corny and even borderline gay, but during his time, He-Man could be considered as the epitome of badass manliness.
17.) GROO THE WANDERER
Sure, Groo is extremely stupid. However, as far as being a warrior is concerned, he’s a fearsome swordsman that enjoys combat and is capable of singlehandedly routing entire mobs of adversaries in battle.
16.) CONAN THE BARBARIAN
As a barbarian, Conan is a toughened and gritty warrior. However, he also possesses brilliant intellect. Thus, he succeeds in battle by the use of both brain and brawn. He is versatile in various types of combat – both armed and unarmed – but he is most formidable with a sword, which is the weapon he is usually armed with.
15.) HARU GLORY
Haru is the central character of Rave Master. Despite being a mere teenager, Haru is already good in swordsmanship, a skill that he continually improves through everyday training. Haru, being the new Rave Master, wields the kickass sword, Ten Commandments, which is empowered by his Rave (or Holy Bring). It is called Ten Commandments for the sword has ten forms with ten respective special abilities.
14.) CHARLES DE BATZ-CASTELMORE D’ ARTAGNAN
D’Artagnan is actually a real historical figure, but he’s more famous as a fictional character as depicted in Alexandre Dumas’ “d’Artagnan Romances”, with The Three Musketeers being its most popular title. Initially, D’Artagnan was a talented but hotheaded youth that he even challenged and engaged the Three Musketeers in swordfight all at the same time. He impressed the legendary Three Musketeers – Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – so much that they adopted him into their elite ranks (making him the “4th Musketeer”) and established a great lifelong friendship with him. With his skills and intelligence, D’Artagnan would rise among the ranks and would become the Lieutenant of the Musketeers.
13.) ICHIGO KUROSAKI
Ichigo is the main protagonist of Bleach (but he’s only my third most favorite character in it). The manga/anime revolves around the Shinigami or soul reaper. Their weapons are called Zanpakutō, which are “soul” weapons that take the form of a katana when “unrealeased.” But once they are “released” – as shikai or bankai – each Zanpakutō takes a different form of weaponry or energy. Few Shinigami has their Zanpakutō in sword form even after release (thus, not many Bleach characters are considered for this list). Ichigo, however, is one of those that have their Zanpakutō constantly in sword form even when in “released” status. Even as a bankai, his Zanpakutō solely and strictly stays in a sword form. As a swordsman, Ichigo has shown excellent natural aptitude even though he only has been a Shinigami for a short time, as he was able to overcome opponents that are more experienced and initially stronger than him.
12.) BEATRIX KIDDO
12.) BEATRIX KIDDO
“The Bride” is arguably the most badass female katana-wielder I have seen in movies. Kiddo is as deadly in (open hand) kung-fu as she is with a katana. But it was with a katana where she shone most on her path of revenge against Bill and his minions of assassins; her most epic moment being her clash with the Crazy 88 gang, Gogo Yubari, and O-Ren Ishii.
11.) MACE WINDU
11.) MACE WINDU
With the awesomeness of lightsabers, there should be at least one Jedi in this list. And I choose Mace Windu to have that spot because I’ve always been under the impression that Mace Windu was the greatest lightsaber wielder among the Jedi (while Yoda was the best one in terms of projecting the Force). He mastered all seven forms of lightsaber combat. He has admitted that his greatest character flaw was his enjoyment of fighting, which is a characteristic that can lead a Jedi to the dark side. Thus, he created Vaapad – the seventh and deadliest form of lightsaber combat – to channel this inner darkness of his into something positive.
10.) ERZA SCARLET
As an S-class mage, Erza is one of the most powerful magi of Fairy Tail. Erza’s magical ability is to summon, equip, and arm herself with various forms of armor and weapons at will. Her weapons are mostly swords, but sometimes she also summons axes, hammers, lances, and staffs. She can swiftly swap her armors and weapons even in mid-battle, allowing her to choose to perfect combination on a given situation. She can do magical attack, which heavily rely on her swordsmanship and choice of swords.
9.) KENPACHI ZARAKI
Here’s another Bleach character, and one of the greatest badass in fiction. Despite of having no bankai at all, Kenpachi rose to the rank of captain and is considered as Gotei 13’s most dangerous Shinigami. Since his Zanpakutō has no formal release, it completely stays in katana form. He overwhelms his opponents with his raw but excellent swordsmanship, immense spiritual energy, battle lust, and sheer badassery.
8.) TAKESHI YAMAMOTO
Yamamoto is the Rain Guardian of the 10th Vongola, Tsuna Sawada. Yamamoto possesses a friendly and cheerful personality. Though not really stupid, he was initially naive enough to be convinced by Reborn that the mafia adventures he was having with Tsuna and the others were mere role-playing. He is a big baseball nut that he values it only second to his friends. In fact, since he’s mind is fully occupied with baseball, he was not really interested in being a swordsman. It was only for the sake of fighting for and protecting his friends that he willingly took up swordsmanship. As Hitman Reborn! progressed, Yamamoto would continue to develop into a formidable swordsman.
7.) TOKIYA MIKAGAMI
Tokiya Mikagami is one of my most favorite anime characters of all time. He is a tactical combatant, and can be ruthlessly cold-hearted in battle. But what makes him a remarkable swordsman is his sword, Ensui, which is preliminary a sword handle, and then when put in contact with water, it adopts it as its blade.
Zorro could be the most well-known name in this list for he is a pop culture icon that has been depicted in many forms. He dons a mask to hide his real identity, Don Diego Vega, for as Zorro, he aims to right the injustices done by the powerful and corrupt politicians against the poor and helpless. Zorro is a master fencer, capable of engaging several opponents at once. His great skill as a swordsman is enhanced by his sly tactical mind, athleticism, coolness, and quick-thinking. He is also an incredible acrobat – fluid, dexterous, and graceful; there is no waste in his movements. He also succeeds in combat because he makes use of psychological mockery on his enemies – provoking them to become angry, hence, making them inept and unstable to fight – to his advantage. He is also masterful in using the whip and in horsemanship.
Hiei was one of my earliest anime favorites. One of the main reasons I grew fond of him was of his awesomely lightning fast and skillful swordsmanship; it captivated me for it was the first time I had encountered such style (since then, I’ve witnessed it countless times in other animes, which I find out was a common trope for anime swordsmen).
Aragorn stands out as the greatest warrior in Lord of the Rings. With kingship as his birthright, Aragorn is a natural leader and commander. He is capable of wielding other weapons (he also carried a bow) but his main identity is that of a swordsman. He is so skillful with the sword that he can hold his ground against a mob of opponents and kill them all. Just like with the case of Legolas, whose archery prowess was only heavily demonstrated on the movies, so was it was with Aragorn, whose swordsmanship was unparalleled and outstandingly beautiful to watch in the LOTR movies.
3.) & 2.) CONNOR MacLEOD & DUNCAN MacLEOD
Despite having a mess of a continuity and a bunch of horrible movies to its name, Highlander has an awesome premise. Immortals roam the earth for centuries, incapable of dying unless their heads are cut off. Immortals duel each other in a fight to the death called “the Gathering.” Once an Immortal won after beheading his opponent, the “Quickening” happens, wherein he gains all the power and knowledge obtained by his opponent during his lifetime, with a lightning storm commencing around the victor. So it means that an Immortal gets stronger with each kill he does (it is also implied that in a “Quickening”, an Immortal receives pleasure that is comparable to a massive orgasm). The purpose of this is for the Immortals to battle each other until one is left to receive “the Prize” (the tagline of Highlander is “There can only be one.”)
The two and three spots go to the two lead protagonists of the Highlander franchise. Connor was the star of most of the movies, while Duncan was the star of the TV series. Both of them are awesome swordsmen.
1.) ROROANA ZORO
He is easily the most badass member of the Straw Hat Pirates. In a world in which most of the powerful warriors gained power through devil-fruits (including the main protagonist, Luffy), Zoro’s strength and power were not products of these. Though he is not at all the greatest swordsman in the One Piece universe (that would be Mihawk or Shanks), he is easily the most impressive nonetheless. He is not only proficient in wielding one sword, nor just two swords, but he is completely capable in wielding three swords at once! So outside of Himura Kenshin (for he is the best samurai in fiction, and, thus, exempted from contention for this list), Zoro is the most awesome swordsman there is.