A long time ago in a galaxy... here, Star Wars was just a movie. Imagine that! A single movie. A phenomenally popular movie, a movie that was at the forefront of a great paradigm shift in Hollywood, but a movie nonetheless. A little over 40 years ago a single cinematic entry (and a handful of action figures) was all that existed in the Star Wars canon. It was a labor of love for auteur George Lucas and a technological milestone in film making. The audiences who lined up time after time to see the original Star Wars (or Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope as we know it today) knew it was special. Still, they could scarcely imagine the multimedia, multi million dollar behemoth it would become.
Today, while we know Star Wars as a series of films, we know that cinema is just the tip of the snowspeeder. The Star Wars brand encompasses comics, action figures, endless Legos, novels and more video games than you can shake a joypad at. There's more on the way too, with anticipation already building for TV projects like The Mandalorian and the as-yet unnamed Cassian Andor live action show. However, outside of the films themselves some of the best content in the Star Wars galaxy has been in animation. While early animated efforts were at best spotty in quality (Ewoks, anyone?) shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels have expanded and improved upon the cinematic mythology. They've also introduced us to a plethora of powerful characters. Let's take a look at some of the most powerful of these wonderful animated characters from that galaxy far, far away...
20 HONDO OHNAKA
What's a sprawling fantasy epic without a pirate? Hondo Ohnaka is a Weequay voiced by one other than voice acting legend Jim Cummings. As a Weequay he has an appearance that is somewhere between simian, reptilian and insectoid. The latter is perhaps appropriate since one of Hondo's most enduring powers is his cockroach-like aptitude for survival.
While he can hold his own in a fight, his skills in deception, manipulation and sheer evasion have seen him cheat death countless times in both the Clone Wars and Rebels animated shows. We've seen him stare down the barrels of blasters and gaze into the glowing beam of lightsabers time after time, yet he's always lived to tell the tale!
19 AGENT KALLUS
Redemption is a common theme in the Star Wars saga. The traitorous Lando Calrissian may have sold out his friend Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back but he was there to celebrate with the rebellion when the empire fell in Return Of The Jedi. Darth Vader may have been the most feared and hated man in the galaxy, but it was he who ended the Emperor's rule.
Agent Alexsandr Kallus may have made a name for himself in the Empire's feared Imperial Security Bureau but throughout the course of the Rebels animated series he became a rebel spy and eventually an integral part of the nascent Rebel Alliance. his outstanding combat prowess, tactical genius and bravery have earned him a place on this list.
18 KETSU ONYO
Ever since Princess Leia first wielded a blaster rifle, Star Wars has blazed a trail for intelligent, fierce and strong (yet compassionate and understanding) female characters. Even those with gruff outward exteriors have eventually been revealed to hide hearts of gold. The Mandalorian bounty hunter Ketsu Onyo is no exception.
While Ketsu's goals may occasionally align with those of the Rebel Alliance she is very much a lone Loth-Wolf. She has a vast arsenal of weapons and (as you'd expect from a Mandalorian bounty hunter) she has the skills and ferocity to use them to devastating affect. She's also as adept in sabotage and subterfuge as she is in the art of combat.
17 GARAZEB "ZEB" ORRELIOS
The rebel known as "Zeb" to his friends is a Lasat and one of only a handful to survive the devastation of his home world (an act for which he harbors a burning hatred of the Empire). He is a valued crew member of the Ghost and a key figure in the early days of the Rebel Alliance. His design (and retroactively, his species) are based on early concept art for Chewbacca by legendary illustrator Ralph McQuarrie.
His great physical strength is supplemented by his extensive training as a Captain of the Lasan Honor Guard. As one of the last of his race he is one of only a few in the galaxy with the skill to handle his unorthodox weapon, the bo-rifle.
16 SABINE WREN
Sabine is known to most Rebels fans as a prolific artist and arguably the heart of the Ghost's crew. Yet, despite her warmth and artistic proclivities, Sabine Wren is nonetheless a Mandalorian, a warrior and a great (albeit reluctant) leader. Her talent with a blade matches her talent with a can of spray paint after her training with the Jedi Kanan Jarrus.
Moreover, her time as an Imperial cadet and a bounty hunter have made her more than proficient in the use of blasters and she has a particular talent for explosives. Her finest hour came when she claimed the legendary Mandalorian weapon known as the Darksaber for her clan.
15 CAPTAIN REX
It's hard to lead a distinguished military career when you're a clone. Yet, while legions of his brothers lost their lives in the Clone Wars, Captain Rex broke the mold and led a long life with impressive combat distinctions. He was able to reverse the synaptic programming that forced his brothers to obey Order 66.
Despite overwhelming odds his talent for military strategy and sure aim with his twin blasters saw him through battle after battle. The leader of the legendary 501st Squadron until the end of his days, Rex remained an active member of the rebellion right up until the battle of Endor. No mean feat given that clones age more rapidly than their regular human counterparts!
14 HERA SYNDULLA
She may not have Zeb's hulking size and brute strength. She may not have Kanan's mastery of the force and she may not have Sabine's creativity. Nonetheless, Hera Syndulla is the moral glue that holds the Ghost together... not to mention a darned good pilot and an excellent tactician.
Captain of the Phoenix Squadron and the daughter of resistance leader Cham Syndulla, Hera has fought the tyranny of the Empire from a young age. She is warm, caring and compassionate, but not afraid to make hard choices, like when she blew up her childhood home on Ryloth to help her rebel friends escape the Empire's clutches.
13 SAVAGE OPRESS
Yeah, okay so his name is incredibly on-the-nose. Nonetheless, the Zabrak brother of Darth Maul has proven himself a devastatingly fierce combatant. Gifted enormous physical strength and force sensitivity by the mystical Mother Talzin, he may not be the leader and strategist that Maul is, but he's every bit as ferocious.
He's held his own against some of the strongest Jedi and Sith in the galaxy including Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi and his former master Count Dooku. Though he lost his life to Darth Sidious, he lasted longer in combat with him than the likes of Kit Fisto, Saesee Tiin and even Mace Windu. And he's voiced by Clancy Brown. Who doesn't love Clancy Brown?!
12 SAW GERRERA
Before he was brought to life in live action by the one and only Forest Whitaker, Saw Gerrera made his canonical debut in the Clone Wars animated series. Sure, he's a controversial and contentious figure, even among his fellow rebels (especially among his fellow rebels). Yes, his violent guerrilla tactics are anathema to gentler rebels like Mon Mothma.
Nonetheless, few could deny that Saw Gerrera is a man to be reckoned with. His ruthlessness and strategic genius made him able to fight the Empire using the same uncompromising tactics. What's more, by the time we see him Rogue One his abundance of robot prostheses shows us that he's incredibly hard to kill.
11 QUINLAN VOS
There are some Jedi who embrace the sacred monastic traditions of the order. The likes of Obi Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda are prime examples. Then there are those with a more unconventional streak. In Quinlan Vos' case, that unconventional streak is literal (it's right there on his nose).
The Jedi master has had his dalliances with the dark side, and even fallen in love with the assassin Asajj Ventress. Yet, despite his occasional disdain for the Jedi way his heart was always in the right place. His powers of retrocognition (seeing the memories of others when touching objects that they had come into contact with) made him an excellent tracker and he was no slouch with a lightsaber either!
10 EZRA BRIDGER
When we first meet him in Rebels, Ezra Bridger is a callow youth filled with misplaced anger. Under the tutelage of his Jedi tutor Kanan Jarrus and the crew of the Ghost, however, he learns what it is to be a hero. Throughout the show he conquered not just physical threats but his personal demons.
He defied convention throughout his Jedi career. His first lightsaber was also a blaster and he was able to open a Sith holocron (a feat impossible for any without a little of the dark side in their hearts). Nonetheless, he remained on the path of the light. In the series finale he saved the day with both a noble act of self-sacrifice and an incredible use of the force.
9 PRE VIZSLA
Throughout the galaxy Mandalorians have a fearsome reputation as a warrior race. By the time of the Clone Wars, however, they had evolved into a far more diplomatic and peaceful people. Pre Vizsla (whose name is likely an homage to the VFX technique of pre-visualization of which George Lucas was an early proponent) had other ideas. He sought to restore the Mandalorian warrior way. And he wasn't above resorting to evil to do so.
The leader of the Deathwatch group, Vizsla is an expert marksman and duelist. He's fought Obi Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, Count Dooku and Darth Maul. Plus, fun fact: Vizsla was voiced by actor and director Job Favreau who will soon be bringing The Mandalorian to our screens.
8 CAD BANE
You will never find a more apt example of scum and villainy! The vile mercenary Cad Bane is among the most amoral and self-serving creatures in the galaxy... unfortunately, he's also one of the most deadly, quickwitted and resourceful. He may not be force sensitive but he has been able to hold his own against numerous Jedi.
Bane's incredible arsenal is more than a match for any lightsaber and unlike the average Jedi knight he has absolutely no aversion to fighting dirty. Following the death of Jango Fett in Attack Of The Clones he became the galaxy's most notorious bounty hunter. Since we have yet to see his death on-screen it's likely he will return for the seventh season of Clone Wars.
7 THE GRAND INQUISITOR
Despite the best efforts of Emperor Palpatine and his clone army, not all of the Jedi were killed after the infamous Order 66 was decreed. The task of locating and eliminating the last few Jedi was entrusted to the force-sensitive squad known as The Inquisitorius. Of these dreaded Jedi hunters none is more fearsome than the Pau'an known only as The Grand Inquisitor.
In his former life as a guard of the Jedi temple, The Grand Inquisitor learned a great deal about Jedi fighting techniques giving him an advantage in combat over his fellow Inquisitors. While he lost his life in the first season of Rebels he made a huge impression on fans and the canon.
6 KANAN JARRUS
Known as The Last Padawan, Kanan Jarrus is responsible for helping to keep the flame of the light side of the force alive during one of the darkest periods in galactic history. While he was unable to complete his training before the Jedi purge, he nonetheless accomplished many great things and was instrumental in the formation of the Rebel Alliance.
Blinded at the hands of Darth Maul, this impairment only strengthened his affinity with the force, making him a better fighter, teacher and leader. In the final season of Rebels we see Kanan not only demonstrate remarkable mastery of the force but great heroism too!
5 ASAJJ VENTRESS
An assassin, a bounty hunter, a Night Sister of Dathomir and an apprentice to the Sith Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress is steeped in the dark side. Nonetheless, she is still capable of showing that she still has a semblance of compassion and humanity. Nonetheless, she is a fearsome warrior with an eclectic combat repertoire.
Unlike a Jedi or Sith she is able to draw on a wide range of combat styles and is not limited to one technique. This makes her a powerful and unpredictable opponent. She has fought users of the dark and light side to a standstill and is more than a match for anyone in the galaxy foolhardy enough to oppose her.
4 AHSOKA TANO
One of the most beloved characters to enter the Star Wars canon via animation, Ahsoka Tano made her debut in Clone Wars. She is the former padawan learner of Anakin Skywalker. Despite her loyalty to the order and her master Ahsoka (affectionately referred to as 'Snips' by Anakin) was falsely accused of crimes at the height of the Clone Wars.
While she was later exonerated, the experience made her lose faith in the Jedi and she turned her back on Anakin and the order. She would return in Rebels to guide the nascent rebellion. She has stared down the likes of General Grievous, Asajj Ventress and even Darth Vader himself in a climactic duel with her former master in Season 2.
3 GRAND ADMIRAL THRAWN
When Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, many fans were aghast to learn that much of the canon they had grown to love in the novels, games and comics of the Extended Universe would be stricken from the canon. Among the casualties of the Extended Universe (retroactively referred to as 'Legends') was fan favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn created by Timothy Zahn.
Fortunately, Thrawn would later be resurrected for Rebels and his affable brand of menace was brought into the Imperial fold. Thrawn is a tactician without peer, able to learn volumes about a culture by studying their artworks. He's also a devastating marksman and hand-to-hand combatant. Though he was forged alliances with the Empire and Anakin Skywalker his true agenda is never quite known.
2 MOTHER TALZIN
Mother Talzin is the matriarch of The Night Sisters of Dathomir and wielder of an ancient magic that is very different to the kind of force use we see from the Jedi and the Sith. She is capable of feats beyond those of any force user and even Emperor Palpatine fears her dark sorcery.
Her powers transformed Savage Opress from an anemic youth to a gigantic powerhouse and she has demonstrated the ability to resurrect her fallen Night Sisters. From her home on Dathomir she can extend her influence across the galaxy; a feat that we learn in The Last Jedi would kill a lesser force user.
1 THE BENDU
If knowledge is power, The Bendu is the most powerful creature in the galaxy. The giant creature is named after the moniker for Jedi knights in George Lucas' early draft of The Star Wars (they were originally called Jedi Bendu and Mace Windu was the first Lucas referred to by name) and voiced by former Doctor Who Tom Baker.
While he is aligned neither with the light nor the dark side of the force, the ancient creature boasts tremendous mastery of the force combined with knowledge that neither the Jedi nor the Sith possess. While we don't see much from The Bendu in terms of vulgar displays of power, his wealth of arcane knowledge positions him at the top of this list.