Ahead of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we amass the top 50 Star Wars moments from the franchise.
December is upon us, which usually means only one thing, Christmas! However, after J.J. Abrams’ outstanding achievement last year with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, this month sees us venture back into a galaxy far, far away once again. However, for the first time since 2008’s The Clone Wars, and for the first time ever in Live-Action, a cinema released Star Wars feature is breaking away from the episodic franchise, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Set in the events between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Rogue One looks at the the efforts of the rebellion, in the face of the Empire’s new battle station. Set to be a complete feature, with no openings for a sequel, this project is a tantalising one, and better yet it comes from Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and features a top notch cast. So with all this said, and ahead of the film’s release on December 15th here in the UK, we decided to look back across all 7 live action movies and come up with a Top 50 Star Wars moments countdown. Impossible you say? Well, we find your lack of faith disturbing…oh yeah, spoilers follow!
50. Death of Dooku (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, 2005)
It is arguable that Count Dooku (played with superb menace by the late great Christopher Lee) is an under-utilised villain, whose real story takes place in the unexplored (by live action films) gap between Attack of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith, and the years before the events of Attack Of The Clones, whereby he was trained by Yoda but left the Jedi order, only to become a Sith under Darth Sidious. In spite of this, Dooku is a big figure in the separatist army and his death at the beginning of Revenge Of The Sith sets the tone early, as Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is urged to execute Dooku – after a fast and furious lightsaber duel – by the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (Sidious) (Ian McDiarmid). This really is a murderous start to the darkest film in the Star Wars saga.
49. R2 Awakens (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
After the loss of a beloved character (more on that later), in spite of a win for the Resistance against The First Order, General (formerly Princess) Leia (Carrie Fisher), Rey (Daisy Ridley), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the rest of the Resistance were in need of good news. And it arrived as the dormant beloved astromech droid R2-D2 (portrayed in the series by the late Kenny Baker) activated, and no sooner than he awakes, he bickers with C-3PO and projects the missing key to the map being carried by BB-8, a map that leads to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)! R2, we missed you.
48. Sarlaac Scramble (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
Slimy crime lord Jabba The Hutt, aims to watch from his luxury sail barge, as Luke, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and friends are fed to the “almighty” Sarlaac pit – essentially a toothy, tentacled gob in the sand (with a big beaked worm poking out in the 1997 digital remastered version). However, hold the cabaret, because naturally Luke has a plan and soon he is swinging his lightsaber across the skiff transports and fending off Jabba’s mercenaries. This scene is an exciting first act finale to the film that sees Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) narrowly escape the Sarlaac’s grip, fan favourite Bounty Hunter Boba Fett (played by Jeremy Bulloch; originally voiced by Jason Wingreen) dispatched by sheer luck, and Leia does the thing many have failed to do, as she slays Jabba brutally, using the very chains she is confined by. All this and a damn big explosion too, to see our heroes escape in style and return to their fight against the Empire!
47. Death of Shmi (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of The Clones, 2002)
After leaving his mother years prior, Anakin is increasingly haunted by dreams of her suffering, however as Anakin travels back to Tatooine, he discovers that these dreams are far more, they are visions. Tusken Raiders abducted Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August) a month prior, leaving most with little hope that she has survived, however Anakin fails to accept this and finds his barely alive, tortured mother, who then dies in his arms (that is what is called a rough night). The resulting violent actions of the young Jedi, are an early indication of his susceptibility to the dark side to come.
46. The Cave (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
In a scene that acts as a dream-like prelude to the shocking events later in the film, this scene sees Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz), allow Luke to enter a force sensitive area of Degobah, to confront destiny, in the shape of a vision, whereby he fights and decapitates Darth Vader (portrayed by Dave Prowse/voiced by James Earl Jones). Though fans would also lose their head upon hearing later developments that made this symbolic scene make perfect sense.
45. Kenobi and Fett Battle on Kamino (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of The Clones, 2002)
In the original trilogy Boba Fett was an enigma, which added to his appeal, however in the prequels, he was given a controversial backstory as an unaltered clone and son of ruthless Bounty Hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison). However, whatever you may think of the move, Jango was given a lot more action to take part in and certainly made an impression in this exciting rain strewn battle with then Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) on a landing platform at the Kamino cloning facility. Weapons aplenty used and a close escape, not to mention a subtle nod to the infamous head smack blooper in A New Hope, made this a very enjoyable scene.
44. Boonta Eve Classic Podrace (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999)
Many hearts raced (ahem) when young Anakin (Jake Lloyd) needed to win the biggest pod race on Tatooine, in fact his freedom, the safety of Queen “Padme” Amidala (Natalie Portman) and the mission of Obi-Wan and his master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) were all riding – pardon the pun – on Anakin winning a race he had never even finished in the past, after a deal was made with greedy Toydarian dealer Watto (Andy Secombe). A narrative detour it may be but the 3-lap pod race sequence in The Phantom Menace tips its hat to the sports movies of old and is filled with innovative alien racers, engaging sequences and continuously entertaining set pieces.
43. Grandfather (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
Earlier in The Force Awakens, we find that the powerful Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is in fact the son of Han Solo, but now does the dark bidding of the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) – can’t be his real name. However one scene in particular adds layers to this fascinating development, as a conflicted Ren talks to the part melted helmet of his grandfather Darth Vader, stating, “I will finish what you started”. This brief scene is slightly unsettling, as it gives us insight into Ren’s obsession in being as powerful as Vader, and it makes clear Ren’s constant tantrums throughout the film, as this is a volatile young man being torn apart by the two sides of the force and, as we all know, later in the film one side claimed him completely.
42. An Uncivilised Clash On Utapau (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, 2005)
General Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood), the cyborg leader of the Separatist army, played a supporting villain role in Revenge Of The Sith but at the mid-point of the movie, came to have his own moment to shine, as he was confronted by Obi-Wan Kenobi on the planet of Utapau. This conflict between the former warrior and the Jedi Master saw Grievous duel with 4 lightsabers (in visually astonishing fashion) against Kenobi, a war between the clone troopers and the droid armies and a thrilling chase through the planet later led to a final fight. However, despite ruffing up Kenobi (and his glorious hair), this was the General’s last stand, as a few shots with a blaster saw Grievous’ vulnerable gutsack set alight, giving a whole new meaning to heartburn. Mind you, when Grievous stares down Kenobi at one point and says “army or not, you must realise, you are doomed”, it was an awfully foreboding moment for the events that followed in the film.
41. The Rancor (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
Jabba’s pet Rancor, a towering beast with huge claws and a taste for flesh, was not your average hamster pet, as Luke would find, as negotiations went awry and Luke was dropped into the pit with Jabba’s beloved beastie, to be torn asunder for his and the palace’s amusement. However, with a good aim and ingenious use of a skull, Luke was able to kill the monster, much to Jabba’s chagrin, and the Rancor Keeper’s too, who upon seeing the dead creature, cries as much as we did during the montage in Pixar’s Up, moving on…
40. “I Thought They Smelled Bad On The Outside” (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
After a close shave encounter with the unshaved carnivorous Wampa, Luke finds himself stuck in the plummeting temperatures of the ice planet of Hoth, all that keeps him going is the ghostly appearance of Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) telling him, he must find a Jedi known as Yoda. However, Han soon arrives and when his Tauntaun creature dies due to the cold, Han uses his noggin’ (or more precisely Luke’s lightsaber) to open the creature’s stomach and use its warm innards to keep Luke insulated as he sets up camp…whatta friend!
39. “Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
Luke is cleaning up R2-D2 and C-3PO for his uncle, as they are sold to the family by Jawas but as we all know destiny cannot be stopped and soon Luke stumbles upon the now infamous message from Princess Leia for the attention of an Obi-Wan Kenobi. “Wonder if she means Old Ben Kenobi?” muses Luke, we’d say it’s a safe bet.
38. Battle of Geognosis (Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, 2002)
After Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme are sent to their execution in the battle arena of Geognosis, Count Dooku and the other separatist’s fun is ruined by the arrival of Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and many other Jedi, who engage in a conflict with the new and improved droid armies of Dooku and his crew. Seeing the Jedi in battle is a dream come true moment, as is the sequence where Jango Fett meets his match in Windu who beheads the bounty hunter, much to his son Boba’s (Daniel Logan) dismay. The Jedi are outmatched but Yoda and the clone armies arrive to save the day and thus, begun The Clone War has…
37. “I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
The higher ranking officials are clearly very pleased with the “technological terror” they have built, as they discuss their plans to vanquish the rebel alliance. Vader is less certain but Chief Conan Antonio Motti (Richard LeParmentier) has the gall to stand up to Vader, who reacts the only way he can and almost chokes the chief to death, were it not for the imposing Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) breaking up the “bickering”, not sure about you guys but we’d call this a bit more than mere bickering.
36. Jakku Village (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
After the opening crawl sent us shooting back into the swing of things, what really anchored the fact that Star Wars was back (and the force was with it) was the opening scenes in a Jakku village where Poe Dameron meets with Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) and gets hold of the map fragment detailing Luke’s whereabouts, only for The First Order to arrive and ruin things. This opening stretch of the film immediately asserted The Force Awakens’ reliance on sets and location, as well as menacingly introducing new unhinged baddie Kylo Ren and giving us one of the few glimpses of Captain Phasma’s (Gwendoline Christie) nastiness – lets have more of her next time please?
35. Trash Compactor (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
As Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca try and escape the detention level of the Death Star, they take refuge in the waste disposal area, bad move, as not only are they attacked by a trash dwelling Dianoga but the walls start closing in, in a scene that has great set design and which showcases some of Han and Leia’s immediate back and forth chemistry together.
34. The Weak Minded (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
As Obi-Wan and Luke enter Mos Eisley spaceport, with the sought after R2-D2 and C-3PO, they think they are doomed when some Stormtroopers pull them up. However with a wave of the hand and “These aren’t the droids your looking for”, they are on their way. And no, it’s not because Alec Guinness is just that good (though he was, is and will always be) but the old Jedi mind trick played a part…just don’t try it on the playground kids.
33. “Unlimited Power” (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, 2005)
Upon discovering that Chancellor Palpatine is Sith lord Darth Sidious (duh), Anakin informs Mace Windu, who assembles a team to take Sidious down, but not before Sidious can continue to work his dark powers on Anakin. Windu’s fellow Jedi are easily dispatched but Windu holds his own, until Sidious uses Anakin’s arrival on the scene to spin the story the way he wants it and naturally Anakin – to save his lover’s life (irony) – turns. This leads to Windu’s death and is in turn the initial birth of Darth Vader and The Emperor.
32. Lightsaber Vision (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
How Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, last scene falling down a shaft at Cloud City, ended up in the possession of Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) is a fantastic question but we will just have to wait to find that out. However, the Jedi weapon calls out to young Jakku scavenger Rey, who grasps it and experiences intense visions of her hazy childhood abandonment and of Kylo Ren’s dark deeds, what does this all mean? Why are there all those voice cameos? Who are Rey’s parents? Something tells us will will find out come Episode VIII in 2017.
31. Alderaan (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
Grand Moff Tarkin is truly an underrated presence in the Star Wars saga, yes he is a high ranking empire official that lacks Vader’s power but he more than matches the Sith lord’s wickedness, as denoted in this scene of cruelty where Tarkin forces Leia to reveal the location of the rebels by holding her homeward hostage…only to then destroy it with the Death Star before her eyes. Cold man, cold. Hard to believe Cushing was wearing slippers while filming his scenes!
30. “It’s a Trap” (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
As the Rebel forces aim to disable the Death Star II’s (snazzy name) shield generator on the planet of Endor, Lando Calrissian leads a brave rebel starship blockade against the Empire’s forces. However, all is not right and as Mon Calamari leader Admiral Ackbar (Tim Rose, voiced by Erik Bauersfeld) puts it, “It’s a Trap”. This one line has gone on to be one of the most iconic lines of dialogue in Star Wars and is the ultimate signifier that sh*t is indeed going down!
29. Ren v. Finn/Rey (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
After that scene, Ren in many ways is left irredeemable and on the snowy woodland surface of Starkiller Base, he confronts Rey and Finn. First duelling with Finn and leaving him wounded, we find that Rey is the person who truly is at one with the force as she – in a goosebump inducing moment that uses a legendary John Williams piece of music from A New Hope – gains hold of Anakin’s lightsaber and puts it to good use, defeating the shaken and unprepared Ren. One wonders how Ren and Snoke will repay the favour in the next film and whether Ren needed some plastic surgery after that face slash.
28. Lord Vader (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, 2005)
The money shot in all the promotion for George Lucas’ finale in his prequel trilogy was the image of Darth Vader rising into frame and indeed the birth of the “more machine than man” Vader we have come to know and love in the finale of the film was a powerful moment. As we saw how Vader became and even got a glimpse behind the mask. Even Vader uttering a dramatic “noooooooooo” when he hears from Sidious that his anger killed the love of his life Padme, does not derail this moment.
27. Mos Eisley Cantina (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
Often imitated, rarely duplicated, even J.J. Abrams paid homage to this scene in The Force Awakens, it is the cantina scene from A New Hope. As Luke and Kenobi enter the cantina, which is packed to the gills with characters that have all gone on to have a life of their own in the (now non-canon) expanded universe, the atmosphere is immediately tense as the bartender says the droids must leave and Luke is provoked by Cornelius Evazan (Alfie Curtis) and thug Ponda Baba (Tommy Ilsley). Even the alien cabaret of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes did little lighten the mood when this ‘dis-arming’ encounter kicked off.
26. The Parable Of Plagueis (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, 2005)
When Anakin is summoned by Palpatine to The Galaxies Opera House (yes, that is its real name), who is watching some kind of alien performance art, he then proceeds to clear the viewing box and tell Anakin a tale about “The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the wise”. This scene is one of the best acted in the film, as it showcases McDiarmid’s dedication to the character and asks so many questions about the secretive past of the shrouded Sith lord. It is in this scene that we know it is not long before Sidious sets his sinister plan in motion. How did Anakin not see it coming?
25. Who Shot First? (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
Of all the moments listed this has to be the most controversial of the lot. Back in 1977, when confronted by Jabba’s hired bounty hunter Greedo (Paul Blake), Han Solo established his character by choosing a good blaster shot as opposed to playing these games with the Rodian. However, in 1997, in a seeming attempt to smooth out this trigger happy edge for the popular hero, George Lucas edited the scene so Greedo shot and missed, only for Han to shoot Greedo dead in return. Fans were not happy, both for the alteration to Han’s attitude and for the awkwardly jerky edit they used, that saw Han move his head in an Exorcist like unnatural fashion. To this day audiences still talk about this moment but even beyond the edits and remasters, it was a very effortlessly cool moment akin to the old Western saloon confrontation. “Sorry about the mess”.
24. Luke (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
Despite the central plot being about finding him, Luke was a very elusive presence in The Force Awakens, only fully being revealed in the last moment of the film, as Rey – with a complete map – travelled to an unknown planet and saw the Jedi stood atop a hill, that seemed to house an ancient Jedi temple (we have yet to find out though), and handed him back his father’s lightsaber. This moment, thanks to a slowly building score by John Williams and some gorgeous cinematography (the scene was filmed in Ireland’s Skellig Michael), was a tantalising way to end the film and suggested that we are in for some fantastic things in the future. Welcome back Luke, we missed you, nice beard.
23. Burning Homestead (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
John Williams’ scores have been a staple for the live action Star Wars adventures and few can argue that certain sequences are made iconic by the master composer’s sublime music. One such moment is the death of Luke’s Uncle Owen (Phil Brown) and Aunt Beru (Shelagh Fraser), whose home has been ransacked by stormtroopers looking for the droids. All Luke finds when he arrives too late is their charred bodies. As if this moment were not powerful enough, Williams’ track “Burning Homestead” plays over the imagery, giving us and Luke a moment of realisation of his destiny, and thus bringing our arm hairs on end in the process. Interestingly, the track was also used for a similarly awesome moment in The Force Awakens (see #29).
22. “We’re Home” (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
It was the line that closed the first trailer and was used throughout the film’s promotional run but the actual moment where Han Solo and Chewbacca return to the Millennium Falcon and meet Rey and Finn is truly special. Combining dashes of nostalgia with staggering excitement for the future (much like the film as a whole), this moment saw Han’s development as a character, as he has come to change his whole outlook on the force, and seeing him and his right hand wookie back was truly heartwarming, especially as they were back on their ship, the very ship that made the kessel run in 14 parsecs…sorry 12!
21. What Are The Odds? (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
As Luke is making do on the “slimy mud hole” known as Degobah, he should really count his blessings as Han, Leia, C-3PO and Chewbacca are evading the Empire in a series of sequences that are among the most thrilling in The Empire Strikes Back. As the Star Destroyers pursue them, the gang head into an asteroid field, which kick starts a series of breathtaking sequences, boosted by some of the most dynamic and heart pounding moments of scoring by John Williams. And as if these innovative chase scenes couldn’t get any better, the group close their asteroid games escaping from the jaws of a space slug after they unknowingly took refuge inside its body thinking it was a cave in an asteroid…in fairness space slug teeth are not the first thing you’d check for on an asteroid!
20. Yoda v. Dooku (Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, 2002)
There are longer, bigger and more inventive moments in Star Wars but for sheer audience gratifying scenes, seeing Yoda intervene as Count Dooku decisively defeats Anakin and Obi-Wan in his secret hanger on Geognosis, has to rank right up there. For years Star Wars fans wondered what would happen were the pint sized Jedi Master ever to use a lightsaber and – after a few force duels between the green Jedi and the Sith lord – we finally got our answer, as Yoda reached for his lightsaber and unleashed an athletic display upon the Count, forcing his former padawan to retreat to his oddly awesome Solar Sailor ship.
19. Vader vs. Kenobi (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
There have been numerous lightsaber battles over the course of the films and all have boasted better athleticism than this meeting between master and apprentice, however, in spite of the limited swordsmanship, this duel between Vader and Kenobi on the Death Star was really more about ideology than flips. As a moment, it was our first look at “the weapon of the Jedi” in duelling action and as Luke watches his mentor cleaved in twain, only for his body to disappear much to Vader’s surprise, this really was another moment of mythic narrative effectiveness, that showed us all that Kenobi was willing to sacrifice himself for the new hope that was Luke and the rebellion.
18. Speeder Chase (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
Through the huge arching trees of Endor, this speeder chase saw Luke and Leia pursue some stormtroopers to stop them raising the alarm, what followed was an exciting chase sequence that came with fast paced thrills, brilliant special effects and featured more sharp turns and weapon firing than a Trump rally. This moment also acted as an important point in the story, as it would separate our heroes, to make way for the inhabitants of Endor’s introduction! More on those particular furry warriors later.
17. Size Matters Not (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
Yoda’s training of Luke on Degobah is very traditional fantasy, with the wise warrior teaching the impulsive young individual the ways of the force (and how it can lift rocks). However what overshadows all these scenes of levitation and somersaulting is this moment of awe, once again aided by a mighty piece of music by Williams. As Luke takes a break he is dismayed to see his crashed X-Wing Fighter sink further into the misty watery depths of the planet, encouraged by Yoda to try and use the force to bring the ship back up, Luke’s frustration leads him to give up. Until Yoda shows us all, for the first time onscreen, the extent of his power and brings the ship not only to surface but to land. “I don’t believe it” says Luke, “that…is why you fail” replies Yoda, in a moment that really defines Star Wars and its embrace of the spirit, the heart and the soul.
16. “You Failed Your Highness” (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
In many ways this moment, like a few others on the list, is a combination of scenes and sequences but in the overall outlook, it is all part of the same moment in the film’s plot. Luke for the first time meets the Emperor and for the second time duels with his father, it is in these moments (and thanks to the threatening of Luke’s sister Leia – yes hindsight is a swine (cough cough big kiss) that Darth Vader truly dies and Anakin returns from the darkness to save his son from being turned into a crisp by force lightening by an angry Emperor. Anakin’s killing of the Emperor destroys Vader and his insidious master and redeems the once “chosen one”, as Luke shows his father how it’s done by standing up to the Emperor and refusing to turn, as he did all those years back. This array of sequences really is the death of the Empire and the return of the Jedi.
15. Battle on Endor (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
As Lando and co. battle in space, the team on the ground side with the teddy bear like Ewoks to bring the fight to the Empire in a woodland set battle, that sees the Empire uncharacteristically involved in a guerrilla warfare like situation, as they face not only a Rebel force but a local insurgency. These moments are exciting, uniquely assembled and even, at one point, sad, as Ewok Nanta is gunned down in one poignant scene and his comrade tries in vain to wake him. Excuse us a moment, we have some dust in our eye.
14. Battle Of The Heroes (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, 2005)
Much like moment number #16, this is technically cheating as it could be seen as a series of moments from Yoda facing Sidious in the senate to the series of events that made up Anakin and Obi-Wan’s battle on the volcanic world of Mustafar. Yet, again, we would argue that these sequences make up one dynamic, climatic and artistic moment in Star Wars, as the biggest heroes and villains of the franchise clash in an encounter that sees good overpowered by the malice of evil (as Yoda fails to defeat The Emperor Darth Sidious) and good die (as Kenobi begrudgingly destroys Anakin…leaving only Vader). The CG heavy duels and set pieces still divide some but this moment, backed by Revenge of the Sith’s centrepiece Williams track, is incredible on the big screen and brings the film’s sinister closure upon us. We all know eventually that good prevails but for now, evil has its dark day and the chosen one becomes the accomplice to the new scar faced ruler of the galaxy.
13. “The Garbage Will Do” (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
As Rey and Finn, alongside BB-8, are attacked on Jakku by the First Order, they run for a ship but have to make do with one that Rey moments earlier called “garbage”, and what is that ship? That’s right the Millennium Falcon. Thus Rey and Finn make a cinematic getaway from the TIE Fighter’s through a Star Destroyer graveyard among the sands of the planet surface. This chase scene is effective on two fronts, on one hand it is an exciting moment early in the film that offers some thrilling images and on the other hand it is a reflective nod to the past, as not only are Finn and Rey using the iconic ship to escape (pre-empting Han and Chewbacca’s return) but they are, with that “garbage” line, referencing Luke’s very comments in A New Hope, where he calls the ship “a piece of junk” upon first seeing it. Crikey, for a piece of junk, this ship certainly keeps going pretty damn good! If only our cars were so reliable.
12. Bounty Hunters (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
Now we realise that after all the moments we have had so far, this brief sequence that lasts little more than 10 seconds being ranked so high will be a little bit controversial, however we ask you, how many stories and discussions has this one sequence resulted in? The bounty hunters of Star Wars have gone on to become one of the most beloved groups of unaffiliated assassins in not only this franchise but in Sci-Fi. As Vader grows desperate to capture the Falcon and its crew, he gathers a group of the meanest and most capable bounty hunters in the galaxy to do the job. IG-88, 4-LOM (Chris Parsons), Zuckuss (Cathy Munroe), Bossk (Alan Harris), Dengar (Morris Bush) and, yes, Boba Fett, made their cinematic debuts in this moment and all have gone on to enjoy fan favourite appeal, with Fett in particular (despite doing very little onscreen) becoming one of the most popular characters in movies.
11. Battle of Hoth (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
On the ice planet of Hoth, the Rebels thought themselves relatively safe but after an Imperial Probe Droid finds their base, so starts one of the finest battle sequences in cinema. Starting off the film with the same bang that ended the first movie, this first act battle sequence saw the effects and scope of Star Wars drastically heightened, with the towering AT-AT Walkers of the Empire, pitted against the ground forces and flying T-47 Airspeeders of the Rebels. The resulting battle was chaotic, enthralling and explosive, not to mention a homage to the war movies that inspired Lucas’ vision in the very first place. Ironically this battle has itself become a landmark of cinema, being paid tribute to most recently in Captain America: Civil War.
10. Death of Yoda (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
Death scenes in Star Wars are like sob stories in X-Factor (plentiful) but there are a few that really do strike straight at your heart and the death of Yoda is one of the most poignant moments in the saga. Yoda is a character who, from his innocent and rather comedic introduction in Empire Strikes Back to his lightsaber swinging action in the prequels, has engrossed viewers of all ages with his unique appearance, strange way of speaking and his mystic levels of power and wisdom. And yet the character’s greatest moment takes place in his final moments. Not only does this scene set up the reveal of Leia as Luke’s sister, it adds the finishing touches to Luke’s character, as he prepares for the inevitability of facing his father again. In this moment of weakness, Yoda embraces his body’s end but his spirit will indeed live on and after living a 900-year long life, in this one peaceful moment, you see that this Jedi Master has accomplished his goal of giving the galaxy the best chance in Luke…the rest is now up to him.
9. Opening Crawl (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977; all)
From the initial hit of John Williams’ now instantly recognisable title theme, A New Hope had audiences thrilled and the opening crawl of the film has become the trademark introduction for every leg of the Star Wars journey thus far. This crawl did do much to set up the backstory and instil the film with that old fashioned, almost Greek legend-like approach. The opening crawl of Star Wars draws you in to every individual cinematic offering in this saga and the first time in particular, does much to thrill and leave you grasping your seat, especially as the very next shot was a huge and captivating sequence of the vast Star Destroyer passing overhead. Look up ‘Magic of the movies’ and you’ll see this cited.
8. Order 66 (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, 2005)
For the sake of saving the site from being attacked by angry comments, we won’t rank this moment ahead of some others but there is no denying that Revenge Of The Sith delivers on the downfall of the Jedi Order. From the moment the newly revealed Darth Sidious contacts Commander Cody (Temuera Morrison) to “execute Order 666”, initiating a betrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi, John Williams’ tragic and frankly tear jerking music sets in and then one of the darkest and most upsetting moments in Star Wars commences. Order 66 is an operatic moment of tragedy that trots across the galaxy seeing Jedi like Plo Koon (Matt Sloan) and Ki-Adi Mundi (Silas Carson) turned upon by their Clones. These sequences are almost artistic in their visual power, with the audio-visual showcase telling a better story than dialogue ever could. This is a Shakespearean moment that really does leave you breathless, distraught and at times frightened by the levels of darkness onscreen. As Yoda is overcome by the loss and Anakin (now Vader) draws his lightsaber to slay some scared younglings, you know you have just experienced the fall of the Jedi and while the Jedi would return with Luke and Leia, the Jedi Order in this moment became practically extinct.
7. Duel Of The Fates (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999)
Whatever anybody thinks of the prequel trilogy, calling them meritless is hogwash and this moment from The Phantom Menace remains one of the greatest in the history of Star Wars. The Duel of the Fates (named as such due to Williams’ mesmerising track that backs much of it) sees the ensuing battle between the Naboo forces and the Trade Federation but really the whole moment is defined by Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi facing Darth Sidious’ tattooed horned apprentice Darth Maul (played by Ray Park; voiced by Peter Serafinowicz). Maul may have got a bit of a rough deal, after being promoted as the prequel trilogy’s big bad, only to be dispatched at the end of just one film but his unveiling of a double-bladed lightsaber in that Naboo hanger is hands down one of the the most brilliant visual shots in Star Wars. Then the resulting battle between the Sith Apprentice and our two Jedi heroes is a stunning display of athleticism, emotion and character development (see the moment in the laser divider corridor). This is the best lightsaber duel in Star Wars and is likely to remain so for some time.
6. Death of Vader/Anakin (Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, 1983)
After being defeated by his son and practically sacrificing himself to kill the Emperor, Vader (or rather Anakin) is dying and as Luke tries in vain to drag his father to a transport to escape, we all know this is the end. In this moment between Luke and Vader, we not only see the damaged and frail man beneath the helmet all this time, we see the final technological aided malice of Vader peeled from Anakin. All that remains is the one great Jedi and now proud father looking upon his son with his own eyes. After all the establishing of Vader as one of the greatest villains in cinema, this moment sees the audience do a complete U-turn in their feelings, as we not only pity this man, we feel affection for him. The story of Anakin culminates in this moment as, thanks to his son and daughter’s faith, he returns to the light and dies redeemed as a man and as a Jedi once again.
5. Battle of Yavin (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
Owing a great debt to wartime classic The Dam Busters, the attack run is but one brilliant aspect to The Battle of Yavin, which sees the Empire’s weapon of mass destruction, The Death Star, approach Yavin 4 the moon base of the Rebels. The ensuing space battle sees the Rebel forces, led by Luke, fighting the vast armies of the Empire, with the fate of the galaxy in the balance. The space battle is a marvellous display of intimate and passionately constructed set-pieces but it is the attack run itself (to land a proton torpedo in an exhaust port thus destroying the station #DesignFlaw) that is the meat of this moment. The drama of Vader’s group of pilots picking off the X-Wing Fighters one by one, the brilliance of Luke relying on the force to accomplish the mission and the last minute arrival of Han (complete with “yeeehooo”) to clear Luke of Vader and the other pilots, it all makes this whole finale uproariously entertaining.
4. Han (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, 2015)
The most recent moment it may be but in Abrams’ The Force Awakens – a film imbued with glee, energy and excitement – there was one huge punch to the gut and in many ways it was a punch we expected in the death of a major character but this whole moment is simply perfect in its execution. As Han and Chewbacca plant charges at Starkiller base, Kylo Ren leads some forces to sweep for intruders, at this moment Han knows what he must do and with a shout of “Ben”, he meets his dark side seduced son halfway across the bridge of this vast chamber, over a smoke-laden, seemingly endless pit. As he tries to bring his son back from the monster he has become, Rey and Finn’s arrival moments prior in a door above, has cast the sky light on father and son. However it is with the eclipsing of the light that we know what will happen, as Ren offers his lightsaber to his father, only to ignite it through Han’s chest. As Han slips away slowly holding his son one last time, he falls into the light coloured smoke below as Ren is left in shadows above, all the while Leia feels the loss back at the base of the Resistance. However one crucial element that sells this scene besides the mise-en-scéne’s power and Williams’ emotive “Torn Apart” is Chewbacca’s pained cry and angry outburst as he shoots Ren (a figure he must have known as a child bare in mind) and blows the charges. This scene is deep and rich in meaning and the most memorable moment of the film bar none and even beyond all this, this moment sees the demise of arguably the most beloved Star Wars (and for that matter movie) hero before our eyes.
3. Vader Enters (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977)
They always say you only get one chance to make a first impression and as the Rebel Blockade Runner is ensnared by the Star Destroyer, the Rebels are attacked by the white armoured Stormtroopers, with the smokey, blasted open doorway producing trooper after trooper, overwhelming the Rebels. However, we then get our first glimpse of the man that will become one of the greatest antagonists in movie history as the tall, imposing and impressive Darth Vader arrives, complete with a sinister musical cue. Without so much as a word, he scours the bodies in the hallway and walks on, with his odd breathing apparatus sound echoing from the big movie screen. His aggressive handling of the situation later as he seeks the Death Star plans (held by C-3PO and R2-D2) only further exemplifies the character of Vader, just as this introduction showcases his calculated power and cruelty.
2. “I Love You” (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
Han Solo and Princess Leia’s relationship slowly builds up in its closeness throughout Irvin Kershner’s perfect Sci-Fi sequel, from the opening insults (nerfherder), to the passionate kiss aboard the Falcon. However the climax is in this scene, as Solo is led to what could be his doom in the carbonate freezing chamber. Essentially being used as a test dummy, before Vader uses the tech on Luke, Han and Leia could be seeing one another for the last time. The script originally called for Leia to call out “I love you” and Solo to reply with something to the effect of “I Love You Too”, however Ford instead changed the line to two more effective, less clichéd and more convention altering words, “ I Know”. Both perfect for the character and brilliantly memorable, this dialogue exchange is one of the most quoted ever and while some have suggested it was inspired by the “Legacy Of Love” episode of ‘50s show One Step Beyond, this should not take away from Ford’s in-tune decision, which was perfect for the character, his relationship with Fisher’s Leia and left us all in heart aching awe of this moment.
1. “Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father…” (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
What else? As Luke evades Boba Fett in a Cloud City corridor, he finds himself drawn to the carbonate freezing chamber, where Darth Vader awaits him. What happens from here on in is all a part of cinema history. The battle between Jedi in training Luke and powerful Sith Vader is one that sees the helmet wearing villain almost toy with and torture our pure hero. There is a religious parable feel to the action, as the confrontation goes through the bowels of the Cloud City complex and takes the lightsaber duel to a lone bridge, over a deep vacuous chamber. At this point a lucky shot by Luke angers Vader, who gains the upper hand, quite literally, as he severs the hand of Luke and forces him to the end of this structure hanging out over the huge drop. The wind blows, the music slows to a near stop and Vader attempts to ensnare Luke to the dark side. And then….it happens. “…Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father” says Vader, “He told me enough…he told me you killed him” replies an injured and exhausted Luke, “No…I, am your father” and with that line of dialogue, the audience shares Luke’s cry of “Noooo”. So powerful is this brilliant twist by Lucas that it has been homaged/parodied so many times that it has become cliché itself but this was back when you never saw it coming. Whatever any of us think, this is the moment that will forever define Star Wars and which will stand the test of time to be one of cinema’s most enduring and memorable moments. In terms of plot, character, shock and entertainment, this revelation was a huge achievement and no other ‘Best Of Star Wars’ list can ever be complete without it at number one. May the force be with you…