“Star Wars” isn’t just a franchise that’s managed to spread its wings from movies to comics to toys to cartoons and so many other mediums. It’s a religion to a lot of people, a global movement and indeed, a way of life. There’s a rare magic about George Lucas’ baby that you can’t help but gravitate to and which few other properties can recapture. The saga tells the story of the Skywalker family and their varying stances on the essence of life called The Force, comprised of the Light as well as the Dark.
As it inspired and fueled our collective imagination, many analogies and parallels, to this day, are drawn by fans from different walks of life. Lucas’ galactic dynasty and unique soap opera, in the majesty of its space battles and Jedi-Sith mysticism, does pack quite a few WTF moments, most of which remain timeless. That’s why we’ve decided to peer deeper into that galaxy far, far away and analyze some of its most surprising and iconic moments.
In “The Phantom Menace,” we were introduced to one of the most sinister members of the Sith in Darth Maul, portrayed by Ray Park. He would go on to become a fan favorite despite many arguing that the character was severely underused in this prequel. That said, in the short time we had him for in the cinematic universe, his mysterious nature and devilish design were brilliantly matched by how effective he was as a warrior.
Maul, apprentice to his master in the shadows by the name of Palpatine, eventually squared off against Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), but in a strategically smart move, he separated the duo and killed the former. It came as a shock to fans who were in awe of the wisdom and overall attitude of the sage. When he perished at the hands of Maul, whose double-edged red lightsaber went straight through the Jedi’s chest, it left a lot of jaws on the ground.
19. Obi-Wan’s Revenge
Immediately after Maul killed his master, the padawan moved from the role of apprentice into full-blooded warrior and re-engaged the Sith in a fight to the death. Obi-Wan found the going tough against the quietly-snarling and heavily-intense Maul, but stayed composed enough to return from the brink of defeat. In a swift Force-aided move, he split the villain in half and avenged his Master.
While it ended Maul’s career on the big-screen too early, it was a clever move to thrust Obi-Wan into the role of Master Kenobi, a crucial element in the transition of Anakin Sykwalker into Darth Vader. Both Maul and Qui-Gon were seen as collateral damage, a bit rushed, but necessary to evolve Obi-Wan’s status and overall arc. What made this a big moment was how flawless the execution of it was and also, that no one expected him to treat Maul like a sub-sandwich. Karma’s a hell of a thing, especially when served instantly, although “Rebels” has since offered Maul a second chance on-screen.
18. Anakin’s First Tragedy
After the entire midi-chlorians debacle that was used to add backstory to Anakin being the Chosen One, he changed from the not-so-random youngster Qui-Gon placed faith in to the padawan Obi-Wan trained, despite concern and resistance from his superiors. Anakin left Tatooine to train after Qui-Gon died, but was haunted by visions that took him back home in “Attack of the Clones” to cap the relationship with his kidnapped mother. He found her clinging to life and eventually passing away in his hands.
Enraged he killed her captors, a group of Tusken Raiders including men, women to children, and took his first step to the Dark Side. The incident corrupted him into wanting to learn how to keep his loved ones alive as long as he could, making him susceptible to Palpatine’s Sith philosophy on death. Seeing him crying was one of the more redeeming aspects of Hayden Christensen’s performance and it really hit home as he lost his mother.
17. Dooku’s Handiwork
It was a poetic revelation to see that Darth Vader had a robotic arm in “Return of the Jedi” because it matched up to when he amputated Luke’s arm in the preceding film. Like father, like son. Many wondered how Vader got this arm lopped off in the first place, which was finally shown in “Attack of the Clones” when, after his mother’s death, Anakin and Padmé tried to rescue Obi-Wan from the hands of Palpatine’s new Sith lackey, Count Dooku.
In battle, Dooku (played by the late legend Christoper Lee) proved too strong for the Jedi duo and cut off Anakin’s arm while really putting a hurting on Obi-Wan — only for Yoda to save the day and send Dooku running for the hills. When he sliced Anakin’s arm off, fans finally got an old plot thread stitched. Critical reception of their relationship notwithstanding, Anakin and Padmé’s marriage acted as a great showcase for Anakin’s newly cybernetic limb, and a great visual moment that brought together the original trilogy with the prequels.
16. The Windu Cleaner
Seen and heard as one of the biggest voices on the Jedi Council, Mace Windu was brought to larger-than-life by Samuel Jackson, who injected an intuitive, commanding presence to the character. As he took on Palpatine in “Revenge of the Sith” we saw just how strong he was. Windu was able to stave off the Force-lightning from Palpatine, deflecting it and disfiguring the famously gnarly villain; that is, until Anakin intervened and betrayed Windu, skewering and electrocuting him before sending him plummeting to his death.
The fallen Jedi then pledged allegiance to the Emperor, helping cement his descent. Windu’s tactical skill with the lightsaber was a big highlight of the film as he subdued the villain with some aplomb, but as he died, you could feel a fanboy hush eclipse the scene because Anakin just helped murder one of the pillars for all Jedi. That moment surely emphasized that Anakin’s move to the Dark Side was a dire one with no return. Well, unless Jackson and Lucas punk’d us and he’s still alive…
15. Anakin The Pacifier
Order 66 was one of the biggest turning points in the prequels, as it saw the cult-fave Palpatine instruct the Stormtroopers to turn on the Jedi Order and kill them in battle. It also resulted in Anakin slaying the kids at the Jedi temple effectively wiping his brethren out. What made this moment so heartbreaking was the horror on their faces when the younglings sought protection from him, unaware of his impending betrayal.
This sequence was fitted with emotive, hauntingly gorgeous music which acted as a eulogy for the Light Side, bar Master Yoda, who escaped. It was also the soundtrack to a tormented Anakin discarding the last remnants of his soul. When he powered his lightsaber on and startled the kids, let’s just say that cutting away from that scene was a boss move, because it was so heavy. After all, showing isn’t necessarily telling. It was implied and that was scary enough, punctuating how truly lost he became, and how crappy a babysitter he was.
14. The Roast of Ani
That epic battle in “Revenge of the Sith” with Anakin and Obi-Wan was arguably the most badass the movie franchise had offered. Seeing them use the Force as well as take it to the max in their lightsaber duel was an emotional rollercoaster. We still felt sympathy for Anakin, who had embraced the Dark Side fully, but rooted for Obi-Wan, who had just lost his Jedi Order.
The fiery pits of Mustafar saw Anakin’s arrogance get the better of him as Obi-Wan held higher ground, only for his former student to attempt to usurp him acrobatically. What ensued was a slice-and-dice that left Anakin burnt and writhing in pain but running on hate. Obi-Wan teared up in regret over how wrong they were about Skywalker, and more so, how he had to leave his brother to die — a mistake that he and the galaxy would eventually come to regret.
13. Darth Vader Suited Up
Holy shit definitely sums up how most fans felt in this modern classic of a moment. This was what we had all waited for when the prequels were announced, and while we cringed hard when Anakin expressed pain over losing his wife, it was a hell of a thing seeing him brought up from the operating table to take his first breath — a symbol of one of the greatest despots cinema has ever seen.
It was a huge payoff that helped wash away a lot of the disappointing things about Episodes I to III (though maybe not completely), and left us all shaking at the fact that we had finally seen how Vader came into being. It helped to bookend a painstaking journey which really tugged at our heartstrings, because we knew the fiend that Vader would become. However, being a fan fave, we all cheered when Darth Vader made his presence felt officially. The older folk waited decades for this and it was a dream come true to finally see it happen.
12. The Skywalker Ranch BBQ
When Luke came back home in “A New Hope” to find the charred remains of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, it felt like a statement from the Empire. It was one of intent and turned a stubborn boy into a man on a quest for the greater good. When Stormtroopers failed to find the droids they were looking for, they punished the Skywalkers in the meanest way possible.
The burning homestead he encountered as he raced back home after realizing his family was in danger was an ominous precursor to the skeletal remains awaiting him, and most fans would agree that it was one of the trilogy’s darkest scenes, made even more tumultuous by the next shot. It cut to the Tie Fighters and the Death Star as if to reemphasize that if the Emperor didn’t get what he wanted, punishment was inevitable. This ranks as one of the franchise’s biggest tragedies and signified early on just who Luke was dealing with.
In retrospect, the first “Star Wars” film, “A New Hope,” really had little to cheer for in terms of sanctity of life. As we latched onto Obi-Wan’s charisma — which was magnetic to say the least, thanks to the wonderful Alec Guinnes — it came to a grinding halt when he was struck down suddenly by Vader. It was an act that few expected, because Obi-Wan still had so much tutelage to offer, and we were really waiting for him to meet Leia and the Rebels.
That said, he became a Force Ghost and would play a big role in Luke’s training, even in the afterlife. Still, when he sacrificed himself and allowed Vader to strike him down, leaving just the robe behind, shocked was certainly an understatement. There wasn’t much optimism to cling to after this point, but hey, we kept faith and it paid dividends. The death of Obi-Wan definitely left a mark in cinema for decades to come; tragic, but oh so poignant.
10. Death Star Doom
As the Rogue Squadron’s assault heightened, Luke’s piloting skills were given that extra boost by Obi-Wan’s Force Ghost. What really stood out, though, was how Obi-Wan influenced his shooting ability to expose the one flaw in the Death Star’s design. When he took it out — shades of his father in “The Phantom Menace” — it was a moment of sheer joy.
Watching the Death Star explode indeed gave a new hope to many fans, who were really seeking a win in a film that was so cruel to its protagonists. It was a victory for audiences worldwide and one that’s still relived with the same jubilance to this very day. The fall of the Death Star would factor hugely in two more movies, but nothing will ever top this David-beats-Goliath scenario that played out, making Luke the hero the galaxy needed (and deserved). That one shot topped anything he ever did back on Tatooine with womp rats. The maverick was officially a hawkeye marksman now.
9. Sister, Sister
As Yoda revealed that “There is another” hope against the Dark Side, Luke definitely felt a sense of belonging as he was no longer alone. However, the danger ante was upped and eventually, as he barely escaped the clutches of his father, he would be rescued by Han Solo and Princess Leia (owned by Carrie Fisher) — the latter proving to be his sister via telepathic Force link.
While it made their kiss gross and weird, it added more meat to their family history, although further serving to convolute the story. It seemed reactive or retcon-ish but when the dust settled, it allowed Han to poach Leia and also, threw a wrench into the wheels of the family dynamic. Their relationship would be acknowledged in the now non-canonical Expanded Universe, but Leia’s Force-sensitivity never really had a grand impact thereafter — which did feel like a missed opportunity.
8. Han Solid
When the doors opened in Cloud City and we revealed that Han’s friend betrayed the heroes, we all felt gutted. From their stories of smuggling to gambling with the Millennium Falcon, it was a fun bromance. But that Judas called Lando was merely protecting his people and it brought full-circle the reach of Vader; not to mention Boba Fett (another fan fave), who really had it in for the good guys.
When Han was frozen in carbonite, it was a shocking moment because some even thought that he died. This was a huge WTF moment, enhanced by his response to Leia as she professed her love. Seeing him frozen, knowing that he was leaving his love behind, in a film that really left Luke and Leia patching their wounds was a win for the Empire. Not often do we see villains take away such a momentous victory like this, but “Empire” did so with a sober class. Untouchable, indeed.
7. Redemption of the Jedi
Despite saving his son, Vader was mortally wounded. Still, having redeemed himself, he wanted to look down on his son Luke with his own eyes and we saw his true face for the first time as he unmasked. It was another remarkable and unbelievable moment from Lucas as we stared down on Anakin — pale and scarred from the Obi-Wan fight. It was a tearjerker because he finally saw his son, Jedi to Jedi, and even acknowledged the family legacy.
As he passed, Anakin was grateful that apart from saving the galaxy, Luke saved him as well, rescuing his family’s heritage in the process. Redeeming Anakin was no simple task for all the indiscretions he committed in his youth, but Lucas found a way of washing off those infractions. In this moment, it was not only about the return of Luke as an experienced Jedi to take down the Empire, but also, it was very much about second chances and forgiveness as Anakin returned from the abyss.
6. Force Ghosts United
With Vader taken to Endor and burned by Luke, we end up seeing the Holy Trinity of Force Ghosts at the end. Obi-Wan was there, alongside Yoda and a restored Anakin. It’s a touching snapshot that ends a chapter which also saw Luke reveal their true heritage to his sister. This scene holds a lot of importance as it shows that Anakin was truly redeemed and also, it proves that Luke did bring balance to the Force.
Of course, all of this happened in the midst of an Ewok party as the Empire was well and truly crumbling. From lighting his dad’s pyre to looking on at his predecessors, it was apparent on Luke’s face that he accomplished what he set out to do: save the galaxy, reset order and reignite the Light of the Jedi. The Jedi Council regained some semblance of whole in the afterlife, so here’s to hoping that they found Windu roaming somewhere.
5. Rey Kickin’ Ass
Having witnessed the death of the closest thing she’s ever come to in terms of a father figure, the enigmatic Rey decides to kick Kylo Ren’s ass! It helped that Chewbacca shot him after he killed Han, of course, but what ensued was Rey standing tall with a lightsaber and a greater understanding of the Force. As Kylo tried to summon the blue lightsaber, it ended up being Rey who channeled the Force and lit it up in a crowd-roaring moment.
While Kylo disappointed in losing the fight — not even using a Force-push or Force-lightning — take nothing away from Rey dominating him. This entire fight was filled with HELL YEAH moments, including when they pushed their lightsabers onto each other and stared down fiercely. With all the cuts she took on him, it’s shocking she didn’t kill Kylo, but at the end of the day, it’s 1-0 to Rey. Time to go back to the drawing board, Ben!
4. Bye Bye Palpatine
As Luke returned, fully trained in the wake of Yoda’s death, it was with a Jedi swagger and confidence like never before. Not only did he engineer the rescue of Han with Lando helping, but he finally took the fight directly to Lord Vader and the Emperor. It wasn’t easy, as the Emperor tried to get him to feed into his hate and come over to the Dark Side by killing and replacing his father.
However, Luke’s heart prevailed as he beckoned the remaining sliver of Light in Anakin to save his son and betray Palpatine. I am a Jedi, like my father before me: a line that filled the audience with such pride and wonder as we saw the hero, incorruptible and pure, fight off temptation. While Palpatine tried to electrocute Luke, Vader decided to resign by tossing his boss to his demise. With Vader missing his right hand, it was no easy feat overcoming the malevolent Emperor, and at the end it did come at a price.
3. Rey Meets Luke
First off, we didn’t want Luke to appear in just a cameo capacity. We also wanted a hint of his ties to Rey, portrayed with such passion by Daisy Ridley. We wanted elaboration on what happened with him and Kylo, his student, and why he abandoned ship for the Knights of Ren to wreak havoc. We wanted more insight into Snoke, Luke’s relationship to Rey and so many other burning questions.
But amid the lack of dialogue, as Rey held the lightsaber to Luke, no matter what we desired, we collectively lost our minds when Luke pulled his hood down. With Rey’s arm outstretched and Luke, robotic arm in tow, yet to accept the weapon, the teasing grew bigger and bigger and still lasts in the lead-up to the next film. It was such a nostalgic trip that no one cared when it cut to the credits. We wanted more of everything, of course, but what we got still left us ecstatic, in disbelief and of course, in dire need for more: a mixed bag of emotions that only “Star Wars” can elicit!
2. Killer Ren
One of the biggest flaws of “The Force Awakens” was that this scene was foreshadowed a lot, so when it did finally occur, it didn’t have the gravity and impact it was supposed to. That aside, we were still holding our breaths as Kylo Ren unmasked and offered a glimmer of hope to his father that he’d come back from the Dark Side. No matter how super obvious the lead-up was, as he pierced Han with the lightsaber and tossed him into oblivion, we all felt out hearts drop because he frickin’ killed his father: THE Han Solo!
Would it have been better if the familial reveal was made there on the bridge in a throwback nod to the Skywalker reunion? Maybe. But either way, watching Han beg his son to forsake his evil ways only to pay the ultimate price is something we’re yet to forgive. Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo, has a lot of explaining to do, but when this whiny brat gets his comeuppance, expect no sympathy from us.
1. I Am Your Father
Not only was this one of the greatest moments in the legacy of “Star Wars,” but almost every single bit of the Skywalker mythos hinges on it, making it one of the most powerful scenes in cinematic history. When Vader asked Luke to join him on the heels of cutting off Luke’s arm, audiences the world over held their collective breath. The ensuing revelatory lines were pure genius, even if it took some work and reshaping from Lucas in terms of how organic the father angle would be.
The pain that coarsed through Luke — portrayed by the always great Mark Hamill — felt so real that we all sensed the truth to Vader’s words. That one scene tore through the audience even more when he asked Luke to rule with him by challenging and overthrowing Palpatine. It showed there was more to Vader than met the eye, but it also felt like a stab to Luke’s heart as everything he knew changed. “The Empire Strikes Back” still treads today on the power of this very line.
Did you like our picks? Let us know if you’ve got any more epic “Star Wars” moments that you love in the comments!
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