WARNING: This contains spoilers for every Star Wars show and movie in current canon.
Who doesn’t like a good list from time to time? We decided to come up with the greatest moments in Star Wars history. So, we chatted up a few folks on Reddit, Facebook, and tossed the question around the office until came up with what we think are the best moments in the entire Star Wars franchise. Mind you, this is in no particular order.
35.The big yellow STAR WARS. This was a Reddit suggestion that surprised us. Mostly because we didn’t think of it ourselves. John Williams bombastic score with the larger than life words drifting into space never fails to give me chills in a movie theater. The opening crawl, preceded by the logo is as iconic as any other aspect of the films.
34. Duel of Fates – Lightsaber battles embody the very core of almost every Star Wars story. In a single image they capture its hallmark blending of science fiction and fantasy. They are action packed but more importantly they are emotionally charged. Nearly every time a lightsaber comes out it is a defining moment for a character or characters. Which is a long way of saying…they’re on here a lot. The Duel of Fates, the battle between Darth Maul and Obi-wan Kenobi and Qui Gon Jin is the one scene in The Phantom Menace nearly every Star Wars fan can get behind. It is beautifully choreographed, has great character moments for the Jedi, is backed by some of John Williams best scores, and is a confrontation that reverberates throughout the saga.
33. Melting a Door with a Lightsaber. It’s not a big moment in the story. But when Qui-gon Jin uses his lightsaber to melt open a door, it was a wonderful moment for fans. The original trilogy doesn’t do a lot with the lightsabers. For the most part they are used as standard swords with the ability to deflect lasers. Those of us who were born in the 70’s and 80’s spent years leaping off our couches with flashlights, running in our back yards with sticks, and playing other pretend lightsabers. We created countless different ways you could use a lightsaber. Finally seeing the movies catch up to our imagination was a joy.
32. Holdo Maneuver – Story aspects aside, this sequence is one of the most beautiful looking shots in Star Wars history. Rian Johnson is a talented director, regardless of your feelings of TLJ, the scene is gorgeous and the decision to cut the sound was genius. It is one of the most visually stunning things in Star Wars – and that is saying something.
31. Star Destroyer Over Jedha – Star Wars has a long history of telling and not showing. We hear how evil the Empire is, but beyond blowing up Alderaan we don’t see much of it. Their occupation and control of the galaxy is, for the viewer, carried out through dialogue. Actually seeing a Star Destroyer above a city while troops patrol the streets is a visual that captures the tyranny and control of the Empire beautifully.
30. The Mos Eisley Cantina – a scene so iconic it has been parodied, referenced, and even became a trope within the saga. Seeing all the different aliens drinking, talking, and fighting in a grimy bar really set a tone in the movie. It was something movie goers hadn’t really seen before. Backed by one of Williams most accomplished pieces – making standard instruments sound alien, not to mention unbelievably catchy – it is a sequence that never gets old.
29. “I find your lack of faith disturbing” – Vader really enjoys choking people. Like, really enjoys it. We’re not judging – everyone’s got a thing. But, because he does it so often it’s hard to pick one instance – so we went with the first force choke in A New Hope. And what’s not to love? It is a scene that instantly tells the audience nearly everything they need to know. Vader is an evil wizard who does not suffer fools lightly but is not beyond reason.
28. The Clone Troopers Arrive on Geonosis – Back in 1977 A New Hope set up two important questions(among many) that titillated fans for 20 years 1. “What were the Cl0me Wars?” And “how did the Empire defeat the Jedi?” While the earliest parts of Sideous machinations start in TMP it is the final moments of Attack of the Clones where we see the beginning of The Clone Wars and end of the Republic. The design of the clone troopers looking so close to Stormtroopers and Lucas’s decision to have them fight right to left (usually reserved for villains in western cinema) is a brilliant piece of foreshadowing.
27. Battle of Hoth – There is a reason nearly every Star Wars flight game has this battle. It’s amazing.
26. Kessel Run – Han Solo’s claim to fame is also one of the best space sequences in the saga. Tense, funny, and a part of Star Wars lore wonderfully realized.
25. Luke and Leia – Together Again. Even if it is as a force projection, Luke taking the time to essentially say goodbye to his sister and giver her something of Han’s is sweet. The interaction was almost perfect for their characters. One being serious while the other joking – though both saying the same thing. It is a dynamic that the original 4 heroes have had since A New Hope – it was nice to see it be there at the end to.
24. Rogue One Ending– The first major battle of the Empire and the Rebellion would have been enough of an ending to Rogue One. Thankfully, someone disagreed and put in that scene. Darth Vader has less than 40 minutes of screen time in the entire original Saga. Yet he is one of the most feared men in the franchises history. To be honest we never really understand why. We hear more about how much of bad ass he is rather than see it. RO finally showed us exactly why Vader is t he most feared man in the galaxy in a stunning scene.
23. Twin suns – It is such a simple image that captures so much of the beauty and wonder in Star Wars. My eldest son and I (he’s 10 btw) re-watched the whole saga in anticipation of Rise of Skywalker- he turned to me and said “I think that’s one of the best scenes in the who series.” Its no surprise then that it becomes a motif that repeats through out the saga, especially where Luke Skywalker is concerned. It is particularly moving when revisited in The Last Jedi.
22. The Beast. Solo had a lot going against it. Bad marketing, a story no one initially wanted to watch, and a major public mess behind the scenes. Most importantly it had to take one of the most iconic characters in film history and fill in the blanks in a satisfying way. The success rate of this front is a bit iffy. But one spot that it nails is the introduction between Han and Chewie. Funny, action packed, and shows why and how the two work so well together. Not only is a it visually interesting and a cool fight sequence, it underscores the banal evil that has infected every inch of the Empire.
21. Death Star Trench Run – I don’t know that I need to explain this one do I?
20. Anakin Kills the Sandpeople. Ho-ly. $#!t. Talk about dark. The prequel trilogy fumbled the fall of Anakin Skywalker more often than not (thank the maker the Clone Wars cartoon did the heavy lifting there) but this scene nails it. “Not just the men. But the women. And the children. They were like animals and I slaughtered them like animals.” Damn Ani. That’s just cold.
19. Yoda training Luke. Which part? Freaking pick one – they are all awesome. “Do or do not…” “…that is why you fail.” “Judge me by my size…” “Wars not make one great.” “…seagulls, stop it now.” Every moment between those two is solid gold. This is heightened when comparing how Yoda reacts to both Anakin and Luke. Both are powerful, brash, and headstrong young men. But where Anakin is never able to humble himself, Luke does so with earnest. The result is that the suspicion Yoda had with Anakin is replaced with hope for Luke. The audience can see the love and patience Yoda shows Luke, even when he is dissapointed in him. It is a wonderful look at the dynamic between Master and Padawan in the Jedi realm.
18. Death of Satine – Obi Wan Kenobi is easily the purest and noblest of Jedi in the saga. He is the Galahad of Star Wars. The Clone Wars series plays wonderfully with this by tempting Obi Wan’s faith with love and grief. If there was ever something that could have tempted Obi Wan to live a different life, away from the Jedi, it was the love of Satine. Her death at the hands of Darth Maul is tragic and scars the Jedi Master more than any battle he’s fought in. Not going to the dark side in that moment is probably the biggest trial Kenobi ever faced. Watching him go through it all is simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant.
17. Baby Yoda – There is no denying that “The Child” is the cutest thing in Star Wars history. But its reveal was such a shock that asks more questions than it answers. It is the kind of plot development that enhances the sense of wonder. The fact that they kept it a secret as well as they did in this day and age is astounding. It’s more than that though. It brings a sense of wonder to a part of Star Wars we thought we knew. We had more or less accepted that we wouldn’t know much about Yoda and Yaddel’s species. But the introduction of Baby Yoda posses so many interesting concepts explored throughout he first season of The Mandalorian. Even more promising is the charge Mando is given at the end of season one, to find “The Child’s” home planet. Being merely shown Yoda’s home world sounds mildly interesting. Discovering it though – that’s exciting.
16. It’s all true…. – One thing TFA does right is the ending of Han Solo’s character arc. From selfish, skeptical, smuggler, to a believer who risks his life just to see his sons face one more time. There are missteps along the way, but not with this character. One of the greatest moments is Han willingly admitting that the force is real and the sense of wonder that it instills in him. Its a long way from Han smugly saying “…I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field controls my destiny! It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.” Ford’s performance is what sells this moment. Gruff and smug one moment, then – quiet and reverent the next. It’s something we’ve never seen from the scruffy smuggler before.
15. Sidious vs Maul and Savage. The rule of two is a great story telling device. It creates a fascinating relationship between villains. It is an apprentices duty to surpass and kill their master in order to make the Sith stronger. It is the duty of the master to kill any apprentice that will not meet that challenge. They’re each others must trusted ally and fiercest enemy. But what if the master and apprentice both fail at their duties? Maul’s survival turns him into a much more interesting and tragic character than the silent bad-ass of TPM. His desire and attempts for revenge comes to a wonderful head in this confrontation. AS pointed out by Freddy Prinze Jr in an epic pod cast rant, Maul is Sisyphus – doomed to fail. Yet, at this moment you honestly feel he deserves to win and are burdened with the terrible knowledge that he never will.
14. The Death of Leia and redemption of Ben Solo – The falling and redeeming of characters is a running theme throughout the saga. Han and Lando are scoundrels who help save the galaxy. Anakin becomes Vader and is saved by his son. There is something a bit more tragic about Ben Solo. A Jedi who is so lost he destroys the things he (and we) loves. I fault the sequel trilogy most of all for not exploring this concept. Killing Han Solo, reducing Luke to a hermit, and causing the end of Han and Leia’s marriage is something that deserved explanation. While Rise of Skywalker doesn’t mend that completely – it makes a decent effort to create a satisfying conclusion. Leia using her Jedi powers, and her very life, to force her son to confront his light side and watching him struggle to forgive himself and turn towards the light is a powerful and emotional conclusion to so many threads in Star Wars history.
13. Darth Plageus the Wise – Memed to death this scene has been – because it is awesome. The lighting, the composition, the fable like quality, the foreshadowing, the expanding of the lore and Williams score. It all works so well. It is surprising that it took the sequel trilogy until the third movie to figure out to use this scene. Fans had not only latched onto this scene back in 2005, it was the core of most fan theories regarding questions from The Force Awakens ten years later.
12. Luke jumping off the skiff. – Despite the amount of action, there isn’t a great deal of “fist pump” moments of triumph in the saga. The execution of Luke’s plan to save Han is one of them. 30 years later it still makes me feel giddy with excitement when I watch it. The tension right before it is palpable, Williams’ score is as brilliant as ever, and the moment kicks off a sequence of traditional high seas pirate swashbuckling – Star Wars style.
11. The Rancor – Star Wars is full of weird creatures and terrifying monsters. But, the build up and reveal of the Rancor has yet to be topped. If you ever get a chance to see the old documentary from Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga (usually available on YouTube) you can watch Lucas and team discuss the development and execution of the rancor in depth. Watching Lucas reenact the rancor slurping up the Gamorrean guard’s arm is oddly satisfying.
10. “You got a lotta nerve showing up here.” – Lando and Hans relationship is the kind of thing that elevates Star Wars from a fun movie series to a classic. It is a long loving friendship between heroes that is almost completely devoid of trust. Neither the characters nor the audience is ever truly sure where anybody stands. And everyone is OK with that. Lando’s exploitation of this dynamic just to mess with Han makes for a fun scene and a perfect introduction.
09. Moff Gideon Wields the Dark Saber – If there is one thing the Disney canon has done well its incorporating all the mediums together to create a far more cohesive franchise. The end of Mandalorian season 1 ends with a moment that most viewers were indifferent to but had hardcore fans howling with excitement. Moff Gideon wielding the Dark Saber is a deep cut into Star Wars lore. What is the Dark Saber? Think the Mandalorian version of Excalibur. Based on the old concept of the vibroblade, the Dark Saber was created at the request of George Lucas for an episode of The Clone Wars season 2. The sword is over a thousand years old and is a symbol of power on Mandalore. The fact that it is in the hands of a Moff shows just how bad things have gotten on Mandalore since we last saw it. It would be like seeing a Nazi wearing The Crown Jewels.
08. Luke and Leia Jedi Training “Fan service” has become a bit of a dirty word when talking about Star Wars lately. The practice of putting Easter Eggs and references into the movies has, at times, replaced good storytelling. The Rise of Skywalker manages to create the best of both worlds in one scene. Original Trilogy era Luke training Leia in the force is something many of us have wanted to see since the early 80’s. This short scene represented what so many of us wanted out of the new trilogy. This was the adventure we wanted to see, a true continuation of the events from Return of the Jedi.
07. “I know” Poor Harrison Ford. Trapped by his own talent. The one character he seems most ambivalent about (if not a bit antagonistic) has become so iconic and inextricably tied to the man due to Ford’s talent and his own creative choices in the role. No scene exemplifies this more than ford’s ad-libbed “I know” to Carrie Fisher’s heartfelt “I love you.”
06. “…You are not a Jedi yet”. – The Prequels get a lot of hate, but they do add a surprising amount of depth to the original movies. Vader struggling to lock onto Luke in the trench run shows how powerful Luke actually is. The Clone Wars shows why the bartender in Mos Eisley might be prejudice against droids. But, one scene that was always oozed menace and intrigue was Luke first confrontation with Vader on Cloud City. Vader’s first words to Luke is a cold taunt “The Force is with you young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet.” James Earl Jones delivery is pitch perfect, adding a quiet emphasis the last half of the line. Knowing who Anakin was, seeing him battle through the Clone Wars, and understanding that he knows this is his son – adds an extra layer of darkness to this confrontation.
05. “You were my brother Anakin.” – There is a reason that fans wanted a Kenobi movie with Ewan McGregor and a lot of it comes down to this scene. McGregor’s performance is fantastic. We have a brilliant lightsaber battle that alters the course of the Galaxy – but for Obi Wan it is a gut wrenching battle against someone he’s known and loved since they were a child.
04. Ahsoka vs Vader – The new canon has done some great things, one of which has been the way it treats the identity of Darth Vader. There are a handful of people who knew Anakin Skywalker before Order 66 and survived. Even fewer know or even suspected what became of him. Ahsoka Tano, once Anakin’s padawan, left the Jedi before Order 66, thus sparing her life. But, hen the Empire arises she becomes a key figure in creating the rebellion – this leads her to a chilling confrontation with Vader and the truth of what happened to Anakin Skywalker. Seeing Anakin behind Vader broken mask and hearing his voice as he attack the one he loves is brilliant and gut wrenching storytelling.
03. Maul vs Kenobi – The final confrontation – It’s fair to say that being cut and half and dropped down a dark pit constitutes as a pretty bad day. So, you can’t really fault Maul for holding a grudge against Kenobi. Using the powers of the dark side, Maul survive the events of The Phantom Menace. He creates a cybernetic body and goes on a path revenge against all who wronged him. He eventually amasses power and becomes obsessed with trying to destroy Obi Wan Kenobi. Maul finally tracks the old Jedi down on Tatooine and the two settle and old score. Kenobi quickly dispatches the tortured Dathomirian and then gently holds his oldest enemy as the two marvel at the powers of the force. It is oddly touching and
02. Order 66 – Chilling, heart breaking and at the crux of two trilogies. ‘Nuff said.
01. Death Star Throne Room Duel – Regardless of whatever faults Return of the Jedi may or may not have, the climax is nigh perfect. It captures the conflict of two trilogies perfectly. Combined with some of Williams best work in a long career of masterful pieces these scenes are just a stunning piece of storytelling. While we said this list wasn’t a ranking, if it were – this would still be in the #1 spot.