The 10 best Star Wars moments
Not too long ago (OK, it was in 1976), a book called Star Wars: From The Adventures of Luke Skywalker was released with the hopes of promoting a new movie in production. That movie was Star Wars. It became a series, a franchise, and a part of the everyday lives of millions of people. Four decades and eight films later, people still can’t get enough of the series. The films are a gateway to the novels, video games, toys, cons, shows, and enough content and merchandise to drown an entire fan base. Viewers have fallen in love with Star Wars‘ incredible characters and want to relive and repeat the illuminating, blindsiding, scandalous, or epic moments in the series. With a ninth film on the way, and the Force being with us, we decided to rank the top 10 best Star Wars moments.
10. Darth Maul Lights Up
Up until Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, lightsabers were minimal in the movie’s plot. They appeared about as much as a sword in a Shakespeare comedy. In this Star Wars moment, the first prequel changed the game with hundreds of CGI droid fighters to deflect laser beams at. It also introduced Darth Maul, a being of few words with the double-sided lightsaber. Maul stands in front of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan holds out his weapon, instantly evening the odds and giving two Jedi knights a run for their money. It showed fans that lightsabers are customizable for function and aesthetic. After this, everyone wanted one.
9. Darth Vader Force Chokes
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Star Wars owes much of its success to the original badass, Darth Vader. With that line, Vader not only emphasizes the importance of the Force, but also shows his power and ruthlessness, reasons he should be feared. It’s inferred that viewers don’t know much about the Force at that point in the series, especially if one watches them in the order they were made. The best Star Wars moments don’t always have explosions or whistles. Sometimes, it’s the little things. This scene had impact because it educates, shocks, and leaves fans wanting more.
8. Yoda Has a Lightsaber
I saw Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, opening night in 2002. It’s the only time I’ve ever been to the movies and the audience gave a standing ovation mid-film. Yoda, 900 years old, is shown in Episodes V and VI in a depressed, decrepit, isolated state, uttering that “there’s another…Skywalker,” before his body disappears. In Episode I, Yoda is shown as a prominent member of the Jedi Council, and that’s pretty much it.
Close to the end of Episode II, after an epic battle between dozens of Jedi knights and the droid army, Yoda has a face-to-face interaction with the film’s main antagonist, Count Dooku. After Dooku tries to best Yoda with force lightning and moving giant objects, he suggests a duel. Anyone who watched the films in either order (numerical or release) Episode III or Clone Wars might be confused or might wonder if another cast member is going to help this tiny old creature. Yet Yoda doesn’t reach for his lightsaber; he opens his robe and uses the Force to bring it into his hand. The battle is high-flying. Yoda flips, spins, and would have easily taken down Dooku had Aniken and Obi-Won not arrived to pretty much get in the way.
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7. Order 66
Everyone loves a good betrayal. The most Game of Thrones-style moment of the franchise belongs to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It turns out that the massive clone army created by a Jedi for the Republic also had plans to destroy the Jedi. After the Emperor and Darth Vader defeat Mace Windu and most of the council, the Clone troopers shoot down their commanding Jedi. Obi-Wan barely escapes. A small number of other Jedi survived. Without this order, the Empire never would have risen to supremacy. It created the foundational conflict of the original trilogy and the new Star Wars films of this decade. This is why at the start of Episode IV, the Jedi are legend and the Force is a religion. It’s also why in Episode VII, Rey only knows the Jedi from fairytales.
6. I Love You….I Know
Is Star Wars a love story? Before people were shipping Rey and Ren, they were stanning Han Solo and Princess Leia. Toward the end of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Han and Leia share a steamy kiss before being dragged apart from each other’s grasp. Leia, played by the iconic Carrie Fisher, utters, “I love you,” which takes a new viewer aback a bit after watching Han and Leia bicker for two films. Solo, played by the also iconic Harrison Ford, not to be outdone, responds with, “I know,” in one of the most Han Solo things one could say to such a grand gesture.
At the start of Episode VI, when Han is unfrozen, blind, and hears Leia’s voice, he echoes her sentiment: “I love you,” and Leia echoes his: “I know.” Sure, their relationship is at a weird point and they are separated by the time Episode VII rolls around, and their demon spawn is kind of the worst, but their loving moments reveal a strong connection that could be felt throughout the Force.
5. Strike Me Down
The first lightsaber duel is not long into Episode IV: A New Hope when Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader stand face to face. Anyone who watched the films in numerical order knows the history, the drama, and what’s at stake. Anyone who watched the films in the order they were made knows that Darth Vader was a former student of Obi-Wan’s, and that he is the bad guy that can use the Force to choke anyone that disagrees with him. The fact that it has weighed either way shows the brilliance of the film, and moments like this keep those who’ve seen every Star Wars film returning to them again and again. What struck audiences with this Star Wars moment was the lightsaber itself. Was it a solid or was it light? The audience knew that the lightsaber could cut through an arm (from the bar scene), but who knew that Obi-Wan would disappear upon being struck?
4. Are The Jedi Extinct Now?
The Jedi, like gender, are a construct. Sometimes, you gotta burn it all down. In Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, everything fans have known about the Force and the Jedi order are turned upside down. In a moment that echoes Darth Vader and Obi-Wan’s “Strike me down” moment, Luke Skywalker has an encounter with his former student, Kylo Ren. Turns out Luke was protecting himself only to turn into dust and join Yoda and Obi-Wan as Force ghosts. Also, the Jedi texts are on fire.
This moment is perhaps the most polarizing of the series. On one hand, this is what needs to happen in order for the Skywalker line to be eradicated. If Anakin was created by the Sith out of nothing in order to bring balance to the Force, Rey is the Force’s response to that force. On the other hand, what did they do? With so many questions and so few people who know the ways of the Force left in the Galaxy, fans eagerly await to see this arc’s conclusion.
3. Blowing up the Death Star
This was the Star Wars moment that thrilled the world. The rebel squadron faces a giant, moon-like weapon that can destroy stars. These scenes make audiences feel like they’re a part of the action, flying through space. The only way to do so is to get a tiny laser into a little hole. As rebels get shot down, it becomes clear that it’s up to Luke Skywalker to take it down, with no radar and listening to Obi-Wan’s force ghost. “Use the Force, Luke,” Obi-Wan says. He gets a little help from Han Solo whose appearance showed a change of heart. With no radar, Luke shoots. The Force was with him.
Many rebels pass, but Luke fends off Darth Vader and finally gets his lasers into the tiny opening. The explosion is still visually stunning to fans. Spacecraft-flying brought some of the purest joy to Star Wars fans. It’s inspired video games, spin-offs, and other work within the Expanded Universe.
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2. No, I am your Father…*Breathes*
This was the moment that brought Greek-level drama to popular American cinema. All along, the most evil villain was the father of the heroic farm boy. In Episode V, in the middle of a lightsaber duel, Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker that he is in fact, his father. Luke’s reaction is loud and full of emotion. He grapples with that anger, that identity crisis, and loses his hand before leaving the scene with his life.
Sure, Vader is German for “father,” and his name is literally, “Darth Father.” Yes, when they re-released the films theatrically in the ’90s, they showed this moment in the trailer. This Star Wars moment is the most repeated moment from the series because it is so iconic. Also, Vader’s breathing makes the moment ripe for parody.
1. The Cantina Scene
If you poll Star Wars fans and ask, “What is Star Wars about?” you will hear a number of responses. Ultimately, the Star Wars films are about good versus evil and the moral struggles one faces in that tension. The films have given fans very clear depictions for “good,” and “evil,” but they have also depicted the moral gray areas. Maybe good people do bad things, or bad people do good ones. What is good, anyway?
Star Wars is also about taking people by surprise. The cantina scene in Episode IV is iconic on its own. There is so much creativity and precision in the scenery and the appearance of every alien in that bar. Obi-Wan has to slice off the arm of an alien that wanted to kill (and maybe have sex with) Luke. Droids aren’t allowed inside (a call back to The Clone War?)
They gang meets Han Solo, pilot of something called The Millennium Falcon, for transport. Han is also wanted by “The Huts,” so despite providing a service to the heroes, he’s on the run. If this veil of mystery wasn’t enough to add to the introduction of Solo’s character, the film adds more conflict. Greedo, working for Jadda the Hut, is done waiting for Solo to pay the money he owes. Solo shoots Greedo, and a bar fight breaks out, prompting the crew to leave immediately.
The franchise is also about attitude, and a bit of controversy. In the original cut of the film, Han shoots first. The “Disney cut” of the film shows Han getting shot at instead. The moment defined his character so well for fans, a rift formed between fans the creators. This moment is everything Star Wars is about: character and fandom. Full of Star Wars‘ ragtag spirit and the idea of being yourself to the fullest in the face of your adversity keeps Star Wars fresh for every generation that comes across it.