Over its 40 year (and counting) history, the Star Wars franchise has created some of the coolest things in all of pop culture. Characters like the devilishly charming smuggler Han Solo, the mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett and princess-turned-general, Leia Organa are beloved icons; the Jedi mythology and way of life is so revered that it’s become an official religion in some countries; the lightsaber is the world’s best known laser sword and the villainous Darth Vader is so ingrained into our collective cultural psyches that he can be recognized just by someone breathing into their hands and uttering the immortal line, “Luke, I am your father” in an echoey baritone.
Even the far less-loved entries have moments of greatness. The incredible Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan vs. Darth Maul fight at the end of Phantom Menace is almost good enough to make up for the rest of the film’s considerable weaknesses. The Last Jedi may split fan opinion right down the middle but we can all probably agree that nothing was greater than Luke Skywalker brushing everything Kylo could throw at him off his shoulder. But, for all of the franchise’s cool moments, there’s also a galaxy worth of embarrassing ones that fans would definitely rather forget with the wave of a Jedi mind trick hand.
15. LUKE MILKING AN ALIEN
The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson’s controversial eighth instalment to the ongoing main film series, is filled with shocking moments that were either applauded or reviled by fans. There’s the (non-)reveal about Rey’s parents, Kylo Ren’s murderous turn against his master Snoke that no-one saw coming and Luke Skywalker’s bitter rejection of the Jedi way of life.
Aside from the much-memed Kylo “thiccest boy in the galaxy” Ren’s surprise shirtless scene, the moment that set the internet ablaze with the most GIF and meme-sharing was a grizzled Jedi Master Luke doing his utmost best to gross out Rey — and us — on Ahch-Too, by milking and drinking from the drooping teet of some kind of alien sea cow. Whether it’s blue or green, that guy sure does love his space milk.
In Vader’s defence, a cry of “NOOOOO!” in reaction to tragedy hardly ever passes an actor’s lips without sounding corny and ridiculous, even for James Earl Jones’ voice. This cringey moment came at the very end of the third Episode in the prequel series, Revenge of the Sith. Anakin had just had his final confrontation with former friend and mentor, Obi Wan — a battle that quite literally cost him an arm and a leg (…and the other leg.)
After being rescued from the brink of death by Palpatine — who’d been rebirthed as the Emperor — Anakin was also reborn into the mythic, masked figure we know from the original series. “Arise, Lord Vader!” But, he was still anxious to know if it had all been worth it — if Padme still lived. Sadly, the Emperor had bad news for him, prompting Vader to react in his typical, overdramatic way.
13. LUKE AND LEIA CAN’T STOP KISSING EACH OTHER
It’s possibly the most infamous incestuous smooch outside of Jaime and Cersei Lannister’s more hardcore antics in Game of Thrones. In Empire Strikes Back, the kiss that Leia plants (unknowingly) on her twin brother was clearly more about antagonizing Han than it was about an attraction to the young Jedi. But, in the Marvel tie-in comics that filled the gap between Empire and the release of Return of the Jedi, it seemed to be the latter.
Clearly, no-one from LucasFilm clued the writers into the Skywalker siblings’ secret status because Luke and Leia continued to share multiple romantic moments. They kissed at least two more times in Star Wars #23 and #25, and very nearly wound up in bed together later on, only to be interrupted by an invasive droid. In hindsight, these make for very uncomfortable moments for just about everyone involved.
12. LUCAS’ “GREEDO SHOT FIRST” RETCON
For a long time, fans loved debating whether it was Han Solo or Greedo — the bounty hunter who corners Solo towards the start of A New Hope — who fires the first shot during their tense meeting in Mos Espa. The original scene plays out like the old Westerns that Lucas took some inspiration of for the saga. It’s literally a game of quick draw — too quick, it turned out, for the audience.
The reason why fans obsessed over this seemingly inconsequential detail for so long was because it was character-defining for Han. The “Han shot first” slogan embraces the smuggler’s darker elements. This was something George Lucas decided to readdress in the 1997 special re-releases, which featured some very clumsy CGI tinkering to clarify that Greedo fired first, which not only looked terrible but diminished Han’s heroic growth.
11. LEIA’S “MARY POPPINS” MOMENT
You know the moment we’re talking about. In The Last Jedi, audiences held their breath as Leia was drained of hers — pulled into the harsh darkness of space as her son’s TIE fighters blew apart the deck of the Resistance ship she’d been standing on. For a few painful moments, it seemed like the Resistance leader was done for.
But, you should never underestimate a Skywalker. With a frozen arm outstretched, Leia had just enough Force-power to pull herself back to the ship to safety. Was this an incredible use of the Force? Absolutely. Did it look unintentionally ridiculous? Unfortunately… yes. Yes it did. And, as many eager photoshoppers noticed, the general’s silhouette looked a lot like a certain fictional British nanny floating through space.
10. PADME DIES OF A BROKEN HEART
It wasn’t a shock to learn that Anakin’s wife dies just as he recieves the Vader mantle in Revenge of Sith. We already knew that their children — Luke and Leia — were separately adopted and never knew their real parents, and we would have bought the perfectly plausible explanation of complications from giving birth as a cause of death. So, why needlessly add the far less plausible “died of a broken” heart thing?
Presumably, it was meant to emphasize her grief over her husband’s betrayal but it just seems so pointlessly over the top. A theory from Retrozap reckons that Palpatine had a hand in it, which explainins why the medial droids were perplexed and how he was able to reliably inform his apprentice of her demise. Padme’s death also created an annoying plot hole: how can Leia have memories of her mother in the original series if she died so soon?
9. YOUNG ANAKIN’S “YIPPEES!”
Podracing is a contentious word for Star Wars fans. For some, the blisteringly fast race sequence was one of the highlights of the much-maligned Phantom Menace. But, for others, it strayed too far from the main story for far too long. Its lengthy inclusion was most likely just one big commercial for the LucasArts Star Wars: Episode I Racer tie-in game released in 2000.
Considering how closely associated Star Wars is with merchandizing, can you really blame George? Young Anakin Skywalker often attracts much of the same vitriol as his adult version. While younger audiences identified with him, older viewers found him grating. And, if you thought lil’ Ani was irritating just using his indoor voice, his constant “YIPPEE!” exclamations during the podracing on Tatooine won’t exactly change your mind.
8. HAN SOLO’S DANCING IN STAR WARS KINECT
If you thought the worst thing to happen to our favorite space smuggler was a toss up between being frozen in carbonite by Jabba the Hutt or being lightsaber-ed through the gut by his own son, think again. Developed by LucasArts and Microsoft Studios in 2004, Star Wars Kinect was (as the title suggests) designed to make use of the Xbox 360’s Kinect motion sensor.
On paper, the idea of being able to pretend to swing a lightsaber around in your living room sounded like every fan’s dream come true. The reality was a crushing disappointment. The horrible cherry on top, however, was the “Galactic Dance Off,” where you could force Han to bust a move to a reworking of Jason Derulo’s “I’m Going Solo” in the very chamber he was frozen in, while a captive, bikini-wearing Leia dances for Jabba’s amusement.
7. ANAKIN’S CREEPY FLIRTING WITH PADME
In The Phantom Menace, nine year-old Anakin meets 14 year-old Padme and their relationship has a distinct big-sister-little-brother vibe. Ten whole years pass until they’re reunited in The Clones Wars, in which Padme quickly learns that the little kid she meet briefly a decade ago has spent that time intensely fantasizing about her. So, we’re already off to a creepy start in their romance.
Anakin then spends the film gazing at one of the leading political voices in the Galactic Alliance like ravenous crocodile eyeing up its prey, uses his hatred of sand(??) as a pick-up line and admits to her that he’s super into the idea of being space Hitler before rolling around in a meadow with her. (Padme, that was your cue to LEAVE HIM.) We know Anakin is destined to be a villain but why does that mean his romance game has to be so bad?
6. LUKE SKYWALKER SINGING IN GOLD SPANDEX
Some things in Star Wars, like the sacred Jedi texts, should be burned out of history, and yet somehow find a way to survive. This was something Mark Hamill discovered when a clip of him reprising his his role for a 1980 Star Wars parody for German TV started circulating on Twitter, nearly 40 years later. “I remember not wanting to wear a gold jumpsuit like a rejected member of ABBA,” the actor tweeted.
“Or if I could memorize any dialogue in a foreign language but thought, ‘Who cares? No-one outside of Germany will ever see this!’ Thanks to the Internet — NOTHING EVER GOES AWAY. Who knew?” The earthier tones and simplicity of the original series’ costumes helped make Star Wars a more serious take on a genre that was synonymous with campiness. This brief clip reminds us of the silliness we could have had.
5. RACIST CARICATURES
Star Wars has struggled with diversity and equal representation ever since Lando Calrissian seemed to be the only black person in the galaxy back in the original series. The prequel series did slightly better with Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu and a handful of other recurring human characters of color, and the sequel series finally gave us a person of color in a lead role in the form of ex-Stormtrooper Finn.
But, the series is just as guilty of misrepresenting minorities as it does underrepresent them. Slave owner Watto, in Episode I, has been accused of being a horrible Jewish caricature due to his money-grubbing merchant status and cartoonish Yiddish accent. Then there’s Jar Jar Binks, who has an equally thick accent (West Indian) speaks broken English, has certain enlarged features and comes from a jungle-dwelling tribe who use primitive weapons. Yikes.
Just hearing the “M” word is enough to turn some Star Wars fans’ stomachs. This scientific explanation of what exactly makes someone strong with the Force, as explained by Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace, is another example of George Lucas inserting answers to questions literally no-one wanted answered. For decades, most fans were content with the idea that the Force was just space wizardry or mystical energy.
Star Wars isn’t sci-fi, so a cold, hard scientific explanation of something of that’s appeal is largely based on its aura of mystery and magic is the equivalent of J.K Rowling using chemical equations to explain how potions work in Harry Potter. We don’t want it, we don’t need it and it just seems to completely go against the spirit of the thing we love. Thankfully, Midi-Chlorians seemed to leave with Lucas when he yielded the creative reigns to the series.
3. ANAKIN’S TEMPER TANTRUMS
A villain like Darth Vader deserves an origin story worthy of his place in cinematic history. That’s why it’s so disappointing that what we ended up with in the prequel series was a sullen, bratty and whining teenager. Obviously a lot of time passes between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, so we can understand there being a similar gap in personality between Anakin and Vader.
But, dear god did George Lucas do his best to make Hayden Christiansen as wooden and unlikeable as possible. From dialogue that barely passes as plausible human speech, to deep-seated inner turmoil being reduced down to moody frowns and clunky rebuttals like, “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.” You half expect to hear a bedroom door slamming after Anakin’s “I HATE YOU!” scream at Obi Wan.
2. JAR JAR BINKS
In terms of cringiness, it’s less about specific moments with Jar Jar and more about his entire existence. Okay, kids love him, and why wouldn’t they? If you side-step the awful racism of his characterization and culture (which is a BIG side-step) he’s just a goofball with a long tongue who’s there to relieve dramatic tension. Star Wars is, as well, inherently supposed to be a family-friendly franchise, despite all the youngling slaughtering.
For adults though, Jar Jar Binks’ presence in the prequel series is about as welcome as Lucas’ CGI additions to the original series: a pointless irritation that we desperately try and ignore. Luckily, after The Phantom Menace, Lucas begrudgingly scaled Jar Jar’s role back considerably, but the fact that he admitted to having bigger plans for the Gungun has led to wild speculation that Jar Jar might’ve be a secret Sith lord.
1. THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL
The 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special is without a shadow of a doubt the worst thing to ever befall the franchise. This made-for-TV movie aired in 1978 between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It marked the official introduction of Boba Fett into the canon, meaning that, like it or not — it has an inescapable place in the franchise’s lore. The Special follows Han helping Chewie get home in time to celebrate “Life Day.” (A Christmas substitute.)
We’re introduced to Chewie’s wife, son and grandfather — who thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to watch an erotic hologram in their living room and make himself… happy. There’re also instructional cooking videos, a cameo from Bea Arthur, a trippy Jefferson Starship musical interlude, and appearances from Vader, Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Luke Skywalker caked in enough make-up to look like a Madame Tussaud waxwork. Happy Life Day, everyone!
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