Star Wars is a galaxy that is shaped by tragedy. Luke Skywalker is drawn into his epic journey only after his Aunt and Uncle are murdered, for instance, and Anakin Skywalker begins his journey to the Dark Side after seeing his tormented mother die. We get it: sometimes, the tragedy is a necessary part of a hero’s journey. One thing that Star Wars has not historically had is a lot of women. This is something that newer movies like Rogue One and The Last Jedi are trying to fix, but the Star Wars movies and TV shows are often dominated by men and their adventures. This makes what happens to these women stand out so much more.
The vast majority of women in Star Wars have received a disproportionate amount of tragedy. They’ve seen billions die in front of them, they’ve been betrayed and abandoned, and sometimes…well, sometimes they’re just eaten by a rancor. There’s more tragedy happening to these women than you can shake a Gaffi stick, but we’ve narrowed it down to the top 15. If you want to discover just how bad things got for these lovely ladies, then keep scrolling to check out the 15 worst things to happen to women in Star Wars!
15. LEIA WATCHES HER WORLD DIE
When it comes to women in Star Wars and tragedy, it’s tough to top what happens to Leia in A New Hope. She is captured by the Empire and tortured by Vader. Then, of course, she’s forced to watch billions of people die on her homeworld when Alderaan is blown up by the Death Star.
Part of what makes this so tragic is Tarkin’s logic for targeting Alderaan. He was trying to force Leia to give up the Rebel base location, so she falsely named Dantooine. Tarkin figured Dantooine was too far away to make an effective Death Star demonstration and went ahead with destroying Alderaan. Chances are Leia wakes up at night from nightmares wondering if her homeworld could have been spared if she had named a different planet closer to the Galactic Core.
14. REY’S ABANDONMENT ISSUES
The Force Awakens brought us a new generation of Star Wars characters that could be enjoyed by newer and older generations of Star Wars fans alike. One of those characters is Rey, who seems destined to be the new Jedi hero that the Resistance needs. This is a pretty cool future for Rey, who has a pretty tragic past.
Via flashback, we see that Rey was dumped on the backwoods planet Jakku when she was very young. Since then, she’s been forced to scavenge and fight for her survival, and she lives by herself fantasizing about the day someone comes back for her. While future movies will delve into who left her there and why, the truth is that child abandonment on a hostile world is pretty stone cold cruel.
13. THE MURDER OF MARA JADE
When the original Star Wars Expanded Universe first began, some fans were skeptical of new characters being introduced. Who could be worthy of fighting alongside cool characters like Luke and Han and Leia? Writer Timothy Zahn put everyone’s mind at ease when he introduced Mara Jade, and she quickly become a fan favorite character.
Mara was trained by the Emperor himself as a sort of super secret agent, but when he died, she was cast adrift in the galaxy. She focused on eventually killing Luke Skywalker, and ironically ended up falling in love with and marrying the Jedi Master. They spent many years together, but in a tragic twist, ended up being killed by Jacen Solo, Han and Leia’s son who turns to the Dark Side (surely you’ve never seen a character like that, right?). Being betrayed by family is one of the cruelest ways to die!
12. THE BETRAYAL OF AHSOKA
The Clone Wars cartoon became a beloved series, but fans were initially skeptical of the new character, Ahsoka Tano. She was Anakin’s Padawan and a kind of kid sidekick who eventually grew into her own. Many fans wondered how (or if) she’d survive Order 66, and we eventually see the tragic answer.
When the Jedi Temple on Coruscant gets bombed, Ahsoka gets framed for the crime. The Jedi Council promptly kick her out of their order and give her to the Republic to stand trial for the crime. Eventually, Anakin discovers that the crime was committed by a different Jedi (Barriss Offee). The Jedi Council felt guilty and pardoned Ahsoka, and they even offered to promote her to Jedi Knight. Ahsoka left the Jedi for good, and though this helped her survive Order 66, she had to live with the betrayal of the Jedi for the rest of her life.
11. JYN ERSO’S SACRIFICE
As a movie, Rogue One managed to do the impossible: it introduced a brand new set of interesting characters and told a self-contained story. One of the interesting characters was Jyn Erso, who had been living on the galactic fringe before being dragged into the Rebellion by her father, a reluctant Imperial designer. Jyn’s time in the Rebellion is brief and successful, but ends in tragedy.
First, she has to see friends like the droid K-2SO die in front of her. Her other new friends are dying left and right on the battlefield, following a plan intended to help Jyn and Cassian’s mission. They eventually transmit the stolen Death Star plans, but when Tarkin fires a low-powered Death Star blast at the planet, she gets to slowly watch death come for her while she and Cassian sit on the beach, unable to even say anything to one another.
10. AAYLA SECURA’S MUTILATED BODY
While they varied in quality, one of the neatest things about the prequel movies is that we got to see so many new Jedi characters. In dramatic irony fashion, though, we knew ahead of time that most of them were doomed to die, something that we see in Revenge of the Sith. For whatever reason, blue Twi’lek Jedi Aayla Secura gets the most grisly of these deaths.
She was surrounded by clone soldiers on the jungle planet Felucia when Order 66 came through. She was betrayed and shot to death by the clones, but that’s when it gets weird. It’s been established in the Star Wars universe that a single shot can kill someone. Aayla falls to the ground after three shots, but the camera lingers on the clones as they all fire on her dead body for about ten seconds, mutilating her corpse for no real reason.
9. SABINE WREN’S DEADLY LEGACY
The Star Wars Rebels cartoon had two difficult legacies to live up to. It was the spiritual successor to the beloved Clone Wars cartoon, and it was serving as a kind of immediate prequel to A New Hope, albeit with new characters. It ended up being a smash due to characters like Sabine Wren, whose tragic background eventually catches up to her.
Sabine was Mandalorian born but briefly joined the Empire. She’s a natural tinkerer, and she developed a weapon called The Duchess that the Empire eventually used to break through Mandalorian armor and kill these soldiers. Sabine is able to sabotage the machine so it can’t be used again, but she has to live with the idea that this weapon and others she made during her time with the Empire may have been used to kill countless people, negating all of the good she has done as a hero.
8. THE MANY DEATHS OF SHAAK TI
Most of the women on this list only get to experience tragedy once. With Jedi Master Shaak Ti, she manages to die multiple times, with extra layers of tragedy added onto her story. How is this possible? Blame it on behind the scenes shenanigans.
Shaak Ti is one of the few Jedi we do not see die onscreen in Revenge of the Sith. However, scenes were filmed that showed her being stabbed to death by General Grievous and one where she is killed by Darth Vader. Later stories eventually confirmed she was killed by Vader, so she got to feel a more personal sense of betrayal before death than most of the Order did. She also foresaw her own death and used the time to create a holocron about everything that happened, meaning she had to chronicle countless tragic acts before being murdered by a former friend and ally.
7. OOLA THE RANCOR BAIT
Many of the tragedies on this list have to do with things like being betrayed by friends and allies or being emotionally tormented. Some characters, though, just die in the worst way possible. That is certainly the case with Oola, better known as the green Twi’lek girl in Return of the Jedi.
She is forced to dance for Jabba the Hut, and she’s not exactly happy about it. When she decides to rebel by yanking on the chains restraining her, Jabba hits a button that drops her into a pit where she is eaten by his pet rancor. Not only is this a brutal way to go (being forced into slavery and then eaten by a giant creature), but it’s doubly tragic as early scripts called for her to dramatically escape. The sequence would have cost too much money, though, so she was sentenced to her grisly death.
6. NOMI SUNRIDER’S STAR-CROSSED ROMANCE
The name “Nomi Sunrider” may not ring any bells for any but the most hardcore Star Wars fans. She was a Jedi during the Old Republic era, thousands of years before the galaxy had ever heard the name “Skywalker.” Sadly, Nomi experienced a kind of personal tragedy in the most public way possible.
One of the Jedi she fought alongside was named Ulic Qel-Droma. After many adventures, they developed feelings for each other and fell in love. However, Ulic Qel-Droma eventually joined with Sith Lord Exar Kun and fully went to the Dark Side. Nomi had to lead the fight against the man she loved, and she used an ancient Force technique to actually cut Qel-Droma off from the Force. This completed the tragic circle, forcing Nomi to sentence the Jedi she once loved to a fate worse than death for the sake of the entire galaxy.
5. MEETRA SURIK’S EXILE
If we’re being honest, “Meetra Surik” may be the most unfamiliar name on this list for many people. This is because even those who know the character gave her a better name! Meetra is the canonical name of the main character in Knights of the Old Republic 2. Incidentally, she has a background more tragic than anything that happens in the game.
Like many Jedi, she joined Revan and Malak to go to war against the Mandalorians. She effectively ended the war by setting off a Mass Shadow Generator at Malachor V that killed countless soldiers on both sides of the war. The pain from the deaths she caused made her body shut itself off from the Force, and when she returned to the Jedi Council, they could not explain what had happened and exiled her from the Jedi out of fear, leaving her more alone than ever before.
4. LUMINARA’S CORPSE TRAP
Luminara Unduli is another Jedi Master whose death we do not see onscreen in Revenge of the Sith. We saw a lot of Luminara in the Clone Wars cartoon, and fans spent many years wondering how (or if) she died. Eventually, Star Wars Rebels confirmed that the details of her death were particularly nasty.
Rather than being instantly killed by clones, Luminara was actually captured by The Empire. She was stuck in a prison in the middle of nowhere before being summarily executed by the Grand Inquisitor. Those long days of knowing death was inevitable was bad enough, but the Inquisitor kept her remains so that she could be used to lure more Jedi to their death in the future, as the Empire tries to do with Kanan and Ezra. Thus, the tragedy of Luminara’s death continues well after she has actually passed away.
3. HERA LOSES HER MOTHER
In Star Wars Rebels, Hera is the heart and soul of the team. She is a natural leader, good at both keeping her ersatz family together and leading strikes for the Rebellion. It turns out that these skills come at a cost, though, due to her particularly tragic background.
Hera’s father actually helped the Jedi during the Clone Wars, but after the Republic became the Empire, he became a freedom fighter trying to drive the Empire off the Twi’lek homeworld. Hera’s mother gets killed in this struggle, and Hera focuses entirely on trying to become a better fighter and pilot. This leads to an estrangement from her father which lasts for years, forcing Hera to seek out a new family to replace the ones she has effectively lost even before the Rebellion officially began.
2. LEIA’S BIKINI SLAVERY
Sure, it’s the look that launched millions of fantasies in millions of fans, but the whole golden bikini thing for Leia was pretty damn demeaning. This was on the orders of Jabba the Hut, who preferred to keep the women around him scantily-clad and chained up. And though Leia later uses that same chain to kill Jabba, the bikini look would be off-putting for many fans for decades.
The primary argument is that it objectifies Leia. As a character, part of what made her so cool was that she broke audience expectations: Luke and Han expected a helpless princess, and they found a badass fighter and leader. In Return of the Jedi Leia is reduced back to the status of a princess needing to be rescued. She is also reduced to being a sexualized object instead of a three-dimensional character, which is degrading even in a galaxy far, far away.
1. PADME DIES OF A BROKEN HEART
It’s the scene that launched a thousand memes, but the death of Padme is pretty brutal. Anakin is lured to the Dark Side because he thinks this will let him keep Padme from dying. However, his turn to the Dark Side is what effectively kills her, with a medical droid infamously declaring that she dies due to a broken heart.
Even fans who like the prequels snicker at the line, but what happens seems understandable. At this point, Padme is aware that her husband is a mass murderer. He has killed several of her friends and associates and murdered an entire temple full of children. Anakin also colluded with Palpatine to destroy the democracy that Padme dedicated her entire life to. She died because she had literally nothing else to live for, which is the worst possible way to die!
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