Over the last forty years, the world has been mesmerised by Star Wars. It’s fair to say everything changed for moviegoers the day it was released in 900+ theatres across North America in May, 1977. With the success of the first movie (which we now know as A New Hope), two more sequels were released. If the Star Wars story ended there, I personally would have still been very content. But George Lucas got itchy feet and wanted to tell another story – the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker – in what we refer to as the prequels. More recently George Lucas sold his beloved Star Wars franchise to Disney. A new trilogy and two new stand alone films have now expanded the Star Wars universe.
I love Star Wars, but I don’t seem to write about it enough. It’s probably because I’m afraid to geek out totally in front of all my readers. So I’ve taken the plunge and decided to name my top ten best moments in all of Star Wars. For the record we will be only looking at the eleven feature films release to date but we may revise this list as Disney continues to add to the saga.
Of all the films, the original trilogy is strongly represented here, and rightly so. The prequels have their moments but lack somewhat the surprise and originality of episode IV to VI. The Disney trilogy including Rogue One and Solo have in all fairness not yet been truly subject to time and reflection. In truth, I understand the debate about their place in the Star Wars universe is still being rewritten. That said, it’s probably time to reveal my top ten Star Wars scenes as of today, because tomorrow I’m likely to change my mind about some of my choices. Honourable mention to Obi-Wan’s fight with Jango Fett on Kimono in Attack of the Clones. It came so close to squeezing into my top ten. But anyway, check out here below my take on the best moments in all of Star Wars. Enjoy!
10. The Holdo maneuver.
After failing to allude the First Order through hyperspace (due to some secret new technology called hyperspace tracking) the Resistance in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi find themselves in a real pickle. When the Resistance secret plan to jettison survivors on the nearby planet of Crait is discovered and the First Order begins annihilating their escape pods, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) who is in command in General Leia’s absence, decides to sacrifice herself to save the Resistance by turning the Resistance flagship towards Snoke’s command ship. What at first looks like a simple distraction, turns into one of the greatest moments in all of Star Wars, when Holdo jumps to hyperspace and blasts straight through Snoke’s flagship. At the moment of impact, when we expect to hear the roar of explosions, we instead hear silence creating a surreal and striking visual of Snoke’s flagship breaking up. Nothing in Star Wars lore had prepared audiences for this unprecedented and emotionally unforgettable moment. Love it or hate it, there is no denying you will be left gobsmacked by its audacity.
9. The Duel of the Fates.
For sheer Star Wars drama, it is difficult to match the spectacle of ‘The Duel of Fates’ between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace. From the moment Dart Maul ignites his dual lightsaber to his demise at the hands of Obi-Wan, it is one of the most emotionally taxing choreographed lightsaber battles in the saga’s history. Heightened by John Williams amazing musical score the whole sequence, some five minutes, elbs and flows at a pace masterfully directed by George Lucas, who copped a lot flack at the time for The Phantom Menace being clumsy and cute. If you ask me, there is nothing cute about Darth Maul!
8. Darth Vader’s ruthless hallway massacre.
Over the years, Star Wars fans turned to books and comics to visualise what Darth Vader might have look liked at his zenith. But it was never fully realised until fans actually got to see the full extent of Vader’s power in Star Wars: Rogue One. The merciless onscreen slaughter of rebel troops in his attempt to retrieve the stolen plans of the Death Star left almost everyone including critics gobsmacked. Interestingly, this iconic Rogue One scene almost didn’t happen. It is my understanding that it was a complete afterthought. In a ballsy move months out from the release of the film, Rogue One editor Jabez Olssen and director Gareth Evans felt something was amiss with its ending, so they pitched the idea of Vader going berserk on the rebel Calamari ship to executive produce Kathleen Kennedy. She surprisingly absolutely loved it and the scene was shot and the rest they say is Star Wars history.
7. Anakin verses Obi Wan on Mustafar.
Prequel haters were in for a treat when the third instalment delivered arguably one of the saga’s greatest lightsaber battles. In a fitting conclusion to Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker had fully succumbed to the dark side, as he battles his mentor, teacher and friend Obi Wan on the lava plains of Mustafar. After failing to reason with Anakin, Obi Wan who held the high ground in the most decisive moment of their epic battle was forced to cut down an overly cocky Anakin. With Anakin’s limbless body lying on the ground, a remorseful Obi Wan begins to professes “You were the chosen one. It was said you were sent to destroy the Sith, not join them.” At its conclusion George Lucas had truly delivered, even managing to insert one of the saga’s most emotional moments in Obi Wan’s revelation to Anakin before he turned his back on the fallen Jedi. “You were my brother Anakin! I loved you.”
6. The Battle of Hoth.
Far from a winter wonderland, Hoth’s inhospitable climate was outwardly the perfect hiding spot for the rebel alliance, who struck a blow against the Empire with the destruction of the first Death Star. But when Darth Vader in his dogged chase for Luke Skywalker decides to send remote probes into the far reaches of the galaxy, it wouldn’t be long before the Empire once again catches up with the rebels. And when they do they instigate a breathtaking ground assault with heavily armoured AT-AT – Imperial walkers. In short the rebels are left reeling forcing them to enact a tactical evacuation. The Battle of Hoth was visually one of the most impressive set pieces (only second to the Death Star run) that left fans in awe of Star Wars expanding universe and its ability for sustaining suspense and drama. When the rebels figure out how to topple the walkers with cabling from their snowspeeders and succeed, it is one of the most satisfying David and Goliath moment of the whole saga.
5. Rey verses Kylo Ren, The Force Awakens.
Despite what some diehard fans of the new trilogy want to believe, Star Wars isn’t broken. Moreover, for girls and women in general who feel strong female characters are underrepresented or under-appreciated in the Star Wars universe, director JJ Abrams in The Force Awakens went about readdressing that balance in spectacular fashion with the introduction of Jakku native and scavenger Rey. It’s fair to say Rey by the end of Disney’s new trilogy grew quickly to become one of Star Wars most loved characters.
With an array of defining moments which includes her Jakku introduction, it’s hard to pinpoint where audiences truly fell in love with Rey. But one cannot ignore what most fans had come to see and that was a good old fashioned lightsaber fight between foes. Rey’s tenacity and fighting qualities were never in doubt, but we all collectively cheered how quickly she seized upon the use of the force, when she subconsciously summoned Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from Kylo Ren’s reach. The look of surprise on her face is priceless.
The ensuing lightsaber fight is one of the best in the saga. It’s raw and far from flawless as an injured Kylo Ren and Rey duel. You can feel both their fear and anger as they stumble and try to gain the advantage. Never had theatregoers been treated to such a visually beautiful and jarring scene, set against the darkness of a forest where trees themselves become casualties. And with the glow of lightsabers illuminating the snow covered ground, what more could you possibly want?
4. Yoda lifts Luke’s X-Wing.
After Luke escapes the clutches of the Empire from the ice planet Hoth, he travels to the Dagobah system in search of the Jedi master Yoda. Force ghost Obi wan Kenobi believed that Luke has a lot to learn about being a Jedi, so why not learn from the best. Things don’t go well for Luke when he arrives on Dagobah. Firstly he crashes his X-wing into the swamp and then gets the run around from Yoda when it comes to training him. Once Yoda commits to training Luke (probably because he’s such a pain in the ass), the problems start. Luke sees limitations in everything he does. In short, it’s all too difficult.
When his X -wing finally sinks to the bottom of the swamp, Luke concedes that there is nothing he can do. Yoda is astounded by Luke’s negativity and tells him to use the force and to lift the goddamn X-wing out of the swamp. Luke says that he will try but is immediate told “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Luke in effect must unlearn what he has learned and as Yoda points out size does not matter when it comes to the force. So Luke tries anyway and fails and soaks about it. Even after Yoda gives a stirring speech about the force, Luke won’t listen believing that the oldest Jedi in the galaxy asks the impossible. It is here that we come to understand the true power of the force as Yoda then lifts Luke’s X-wing out of the water. Luke is dumbstruck. “I don’t believe it.” Yoda simply replies, “That is why you fail.”
3. Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke Skywalker. “No, I am your father!”
The biggest reveals in all of cinematic history occurs in the third act of The Empire Strikes Back. It is a watershed moment for the Star Wars saga that has seen it sit on top of most ‘best scene’ lists in print and media. I’m of course talking about the “No, I am your father” scene where Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker that they share the same DNA. In truth, I don’t think it has the same impact it once had especially upon the release of the prequels and in particular The Revenge of the Sith scenes where we come to see how Anakin Skywalker transforms into the dark lord. Luke of course onscreen has no idea Vader is his father until his fateful meeting with him on Cloud City but for audiences because of the expanded universe its a little nowadays anticlimax.
Still though it doesn’t take away the fact that for decades anyone seeing the original trilogy for the first time were blown away by the revelation. If we are to be completely honest it is Vader’s revelation to Luke that truly propels the Star Wars saga forward. Luke finds himself with a real dilemma. He is comprehensively beaten by Vader in their lightsaber duel and bares the scars to prove it with his hand chopped off. He now contemplates whether he should join his father to rule the galaxy together or sacrifice himself for the rebel cause by jumping to his presumed death. Luke of course chooses the righteous decision and plummets dramatically down Cloud City’s air shaft. Spoiler alert, Luke survives but must face a new truth about his role in the rebellion.
2. Battle of Yavin (Attack on the Death Star).
There is arguably no better set piece battle than the entire build up and subsequent Battle of Yavin that takes places in the trenches of the battle station codenamed the Death Star. Star Wars: A New Hope and to some extent Rogue One is all about the rebels getting the secret plans of the Death Star back to their base and analysing its weaknesses to destroy the most feared weapon ever created by the Empire. It is in effect a planet killing machine that can travel through hyperspace at will. In doing so it instils fear across the universe, keeping planetary systems in check from acting out in rebellion.
Fast forward to the climax of A New Hope, Luke Skywalker and his motley crew of rebels lead the charge to destroy the Death Star before it lays waste to the rebel base hidden on the fourth moon of Yavin. Inspired by dogfight footage of World War Two, George Lucas and his brilliant team of model makers and special effects gurus went to work to create one of the most exciting scenes in all of Star Wars. With clarity, tension and all the drama of a space opera, moviegoers cheered on Luke’s X-wing assault on the Death Star as he tries to dodge ion cannons, tie fighters and Darth Vader. Just when all seems lost Luke (but really Han) finds a way to save the day.
1. The Mos Eisley cantina scene.
The single greatest moment in Star Wars history is the unassuming cantina scene in A New Hope. I can already feel your hatred as you initiate a Darth Vader choke hold on me. But if you let me breath I’d like to explain briefly why. [Sigh, and deep breath.]
The Mos Eisley catina scene arrives early in A New Hope and as Obi Wan points out to Luke, “Watch his step, this place can be a little rough”, the audience is left to wonder what sort of backwater saloon has the old Jedi master taken a naive kid into for his first drink. But once through the doors the Star Wars universe infinitely explodes with lively characters – both aliens and monsters – never before seen by audiences and probably a wide-eyed Luke. And yes, it is rough and ugly.
This scene in George Lucas’ mind remained largely unchanged apparently from the very first draft. Uncle George had hoped to use this scene as a bridge that leads us to an introduction to Han Solo and Chewbacca and wait for it – the Millennium Falcon. Moreover, we get to see Obi Wan use his lightsaber and offer his apologies when he cuts off the limbs of a wanted criminal. All the while this is all happening, an awesome alien band is playing wacky swing music. (The song is so catchy that it will run continually through your mind for the rest of your life. Am I right?) Last but not least when Obi Wan concludes his business with Han about obtaining safe passage to the Alderaan system, we’re led to believe our adventurers are all set to go. But one last scene with Han’s run in with Greedo concludes a satisfying cantina experience. By the way, don’t believe all the retcons, Han shoots first!
Great kid! Don’t get cocky! Excellent list. Most of my moments would include Chewbacca but I love every one of these
Chewbacca definitely has some great moments in Star Wars. When he goes on a rampage after Kylo Ren kills Han, is right up there in my books.
Porg eating, arm ripping, chess playing, hands behind his head, fake cuffs, pit fighting, ship maintenance engineer and medal less (until very recently). He’s the star of the show for me and he rocked in Solo too
Great list. I can’t argue with these as they are all great. I would add the trash compactor scene.
I like Jabba’s Sail Barge and Poe Dameron trolling Hux in the opening scene of The Last Jedi.
That Rogue One scene is a great call.
I went into this with an amused smile thinking, “okay, if Empire Strikes Back doesn’t have about three or more of these, then something is amiss.” Empire’s got three and ANH has two. I approve. 😛
I would personally put the duel in Cloud City a little higher, though. It’s clearly the most impactful lightsaber fight of the entire saga, and I would submit that “I am your father” is the biggest swerve line in cinematic history in general. There are a few that come close — the Sixth Sense ending and finding out who Keyser Soze is maybe get an argument — but this one is kind of in its own league, IMO.
I would also add Yoda’s explanation of the difference between the Light and the Dark Sides of the Force (“anger, fear, aggression” versus “calm, at peace, passive… a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack”) here. To me, this is the must-see, quintessential statement of the moral philosophy of Star Wars boiled down to a one minute soliloquy. If you want to understand the Force in particular and the saga in general, that’s the most important scene in all eleven movies. Every other commentary and characterization on the Force, in all three trilogies, hearkens back to it.
Jedi master Foley, how right you are. Without Yoda’s credo not a lot would make sense. It goes without saying Yoda’s “Fear is the path to the dark side” speech is right up there too. Thanks for your thoughts. I’m thrilled you approve that the original trilogy is well represented here. In truth it could have easily been an entire top ten with episode IV to VI moments. Such is the strength of these movies.
Good list. And an interesting one. You make a good case for your No.1, but I still can’t agree with it 🙂 I love the cantina scene, but no way would it be that high on my list. Nice to see you showing some love for the Holdo Manuever too.
Great selection here… I’ll even agree on the cantina scene (if only if you could do without the band). I’d probably count myself among the prequel haters: I found them tedious and hammy so I’d probably swap out Duel of the Fates for something from Rogue One which I think is an absolute solid entry and benefits from both having a very different tone and being outside of the ‘Skywalker saga’ massively.