In the past year or so, I’ve started listening to Collider‘s various podcasts and videos alongside my usual intake of The Weekly Planet and Mr. Sunday Movies. I will often listen to Collider Live, am an avid listener of Jedi Council and have also become a big fan of the Rule of Two spin-off podcast.
During last week’s episode, Mark Reilly and Marc Fernandez counted down their top ten favourite Star Wars moments and encouraged listeners to do the same. And after listening to the podcast yesterday, I’ve opted to do just that.
Like Reilly and Fernandez, I’m also just going to be sticking to the movies, otherwise, this list could become overwhelmed with Kanan Jarrus moments.
Also, spoilers, obviously.
The Honourable Mentions
First up are the honourable mentions, because there’s so much good stuff in Star Wars that I couldn’t fit my favourite moments onto a top ten list.
#5: “How ya doin’, ya old pirate?!”
from The Empire Strikes Back
First honourable mention on my list is the introduction of one of my favourite characters in Star Wars: Lando Calrissian. Fleeing the Empire, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Chewbacca and C-3PO seek refuge in the Cloud City over Bespin, where they are greeted by the mysterious Lando.
Instantly, actor Billy Dee Williams jumps out as a charming presence on screen, giving Harrison Ford’s roguish smuggler a fascinating new rival. Lando would continue to charm audiences in Return of the Jedi and Solo, but it’s in this first scene that he truly talked his way into everyone’s hearts.
#4: “At an end your rule is… And not short enough it was”
from Revenge of the Sith
Revenge of the Sith has its ups and downs, but one way it really delivered was in the epic fight scenes that would determine the fate of the whole galaxy. From the moment the film starts, and you see Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi fly into the Battle of Coruscant, you know that for the Star Wars galaxy, the stakes have never been higher than they are in this movie.
And even though we all knew the outcome, watching the power-players like Yoda and Palpatine duke it out (in what is essentially just two uber-powerful elderly men smack-talking one another) is what made this movie. Bonus points to this scene for being perhaps the most awesome display of force powers used in an actual battle (as in, you know, both parties are actually there).
#3: “Welcome, young Skywalker”
from Return of the Jedi
Another Palpatine scene, this time from the moments before his death. If I could, I would have included all the scenes from Luke and Palpatine’s first meeting, through to the Emperor’s death, if I could, as it’s all so richly packed with Star Wars goodness.
Ian McDiarmid’s smarmy line delivery as the Emperor really sells the Sith Lord’s evil presence, and the final fight between Luke and Vader is one of my personal favourite duels in Star Wars.
#2: “Since when do you know how to fly?”
There’s a lot of debate over how good a movie Solo actually is, but personally, I love it. It’s a movie made for the fans, with loads of references and important moments that I really enjoyed. Did we need to see every early moment of Han Solo’s life? Of course not.
But after seeing the Kessel Run on screen, I’m glad we did. Although dark, the sequence is dynamic and fun – delivering one of the most interesting Star Wars space sequences (not including the huge battles) in cinema, with so much variety and danger lurking around every corner.
I was starting to question at this point why every Disney Star Wars movie had a tentacle monster in it, but out of the three, this one is the best.
#1: ‘Binary Sunset’
from A New Hope
One of the most important, and most referenced scenes in Star Wars. The moment Luke’s journey began and the first steps in an adventure that would span decades, introduce us to amazing characters and a fascinating universe. It all started here (well, really it started with Princess Leia, but you know what I mean).
There’s so much being said in this scene, without a single line being uttered, and it’s powerful enough that even the scenes that reference it – Owen and Beru receiving Luke under the twin suns in Revenge of the Sith and Luke Skywalker’s final moments in The Last Jedi – take my breath away all the same.
The Top Ten: #10 – 5
#10: “Begun, the Clone War has”
from Attack of the Clones
Don’t get me wrong. Attack of the Clones is a bad film, and this moments inclusion on the list isn’t trying to convince you otherwise. But despite all of it’s many, many flaws, there are some things that Attack of the Clones gets right. One is the depiction of Jango Fett. The other is the sense of scale it gives to the Clone Wars.
Last time I watched the movie, I noticed how the battle of Geonosis is so much grander in scale than any other conflict in Star Wars. People always think of the Battle of Hoth as a prime Star Wars battle, but the battle of Geonosis just feels so much more dangerous. Explosions, dust, lasers coming from every angle. It’s chaos.
And so, when you hear Yoda remark about the beginning of the clone wars and watch Chancellor Palpatine oversee the Clone Army’s boarding of the Star Destroyers, you know that things are going to kick off in a major way, and that the marriage of Anakin and Padmé, seen in the next scene, has no chance of surviving such a conflict.
Alongside a string of immense John Williams tracks, beautifully threaded together, full of references to older songs and original music made for this film, this scene takes on a new level of power and makes it deserving of a top ten spot.
from Rogue One
You know why this moment’s on the list. It’s badass. Perhaps the most badass moment in Star Wars.
With all of Rogue One‘s protagonists having died retrieving the Death Star plans on Scariff, the action transitions to the Rebel Alliance’s cruisers, where a group of Rebel soldiers find themselves trapped in a dark corridor with Darth Vader.
What ensues is a massacre at Vader’s hands. Something every fan knew the Dark Lord of the Sith was capable of, but something we’d never actually witnessed in Live-Action form. Prior to this moment, Vader’s kills were either slow and lumbering or done from inside his TIE Advanced. But here, we finally get to see him cut loose. And it’s glorious.
from The Force Awakens
As I’ve said many times before, I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Force Awakens, but I still believe that there are some truly great moments in it, many of them involving my favourite character of the Sequel Trilogy: Kylo Ren.
To me, Ben Solo is one of the richest characters in all of Star Wars, and while some may mock his emotional nature, I think that makes him seem all the more dangerous.
So when Finn and Rey find themselves cornered by him in the forest of Starkiller Base, you know that things are about to go down. And with Adam Driver’s incredibly desperate and menacing portrayal of the character, you can really feel the tension build between him and Finn, who not only holds the Skywalker lightsaber that he hopes to possess, but who has abandoned the First Order’s cause in favour of his parent’s ‘Resistance’.
#7: “Do. Or do not. There is no try”
from The Empire Strikes Back
One of the most fascinating things about Star Wars is, of course, the Force. But up until this scene, it was still rather unclear of what it’s true capabilities were. Sure, we understood that Obi-Wan Kenobi could influence the mind, and Luke could use basic telekinesis, but it was Yoda who educated not just Luke, but the world on what the Force was.
“Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter. You must feel the force around you.”
Yoda’s teachings tap into the spirituality of Star Wars, giving it’s most mystic element a relatable explanation. And as he demonstrates this power, and that beautiful John Willams theme swells up, you find yourself watching a scene that truly makes you believe that anything is possible.
#6: “Son of Darkness”
from The Last Jedi
The second time I watched this moment on the big screen, I was with my girlfriend Rachel, and as the heroic music blared up in response to Kylo Ren’s murder of Snoke, she gripped my hand with anticipation.
While both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi had had a tendency to mimic scenes from the classics, here was a point where the film had taken the rule book and ripped it to shreds. ‘The Emperor’ stand-in was dead, and with it, the threat to the Galaxy was ended a whole movie early. Where would the movie go next, how would alliances change? This scene brought with it so many questions and opportunities.
And then Rian Johnson took it one further, as instead of the redemption that everyone was expecting, the former Ben Solo instead chooses to supplant his master and become the new great threat to the galaxy. It’s at the stage now where people lament The Last Jedi‘s use of ‘subverting expectations’, but personally, I think this was a great turning point for the series – one which said ‘Look, we love nostalgia, but we’re ready to do our own thing. Deal with it’.
The Top Ten: #5 – 1
#5: “Only a Sith deals in absolutes”
from Revenge of the Sith
As a child of the nineties, I obviously missed the chance to go see the original trilogy in the cinemas. But one of my most vivid memories as a child is going to see Revenge of the Sith. Although it, and the two films that precede it, do have their fair share of issues, once you reach this point – the point the whole series thus far had been building to, you can’t help but find yourself immersed.
Hayden Christensen, for all those who bemoan his acting, does an outstanding job as he transforms from the whiny Anakin Skywalker to the unhinged and bloodthirsty Darth Vader. Ewan McGregor perfectly catches the spirit of the stoic, yet broken Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. And the clash that ensues (or the first half, at least), is a gorgeous display of fighting choreography and special effects used to create the wild, untamed landscape of Mustafar.
By the time the movie came to DVD, I found myself gearing up for this scene, and talking along with the two characters in what is one of the most heartbreaking and memorable moments of the movie series.
#4: “I’m just glad you’re here. At the end”
from The Last Jedi
However, while the battle on Mustafar is one of the most heartbreaking scenes, the winner of the most heartbreaking scene is the moment when Luke and Leia reunite after over half a decade apart.
The scene is set with the Resistance suffering the greatest defeat we’ve ever seen our heroes face. Their numbers are practically non-existent, and they face certain doom. There is no conceivable way they can win at this point (and until Episode IX comes out, that still seems to be the case).
But then, in walks Luke Skywalker, empowered by his talk with his old master, and ready to ‘face down the whole First Order with a laser sword’. And while that scene is amazing and shocking in itself, the real reason this makes it so high up the list is because of the dialogue between Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher’s characters right before. As a nod to the ‘Luke and Leia’ theme plays, the two have a dialogue that starts off seemingly trivial but speaks volumes. And with every rewatch, it becomes even more emotional – in part because of the tragic death of Carrie, but also due to the fact that on-screen, you can tell that Leia almost certainly knows Luke isn’t really there. The trio will never be reunited. And while some may, understandably hate that, I think that tragedy makes moments like this all the more powerful.
Also, ‘The Spark’ is some of John Williams’ finest Star Wars work.
#3: “I am your father”
from The Empire Strikes Back
This originally wasn’t on my actual list. But really, how could it not be? It’s the most iconic moment in all of Star Wars. The cinematography, the brutality of Vader, the pain seen in Mark Hamill’s eyes. And that revelation – it’s the moment where Star Wars stops being just an epic space fantasy, and really becomes the family drama – the Skywalker Saga – that we now know it to be.
That’s probably enough said about that. You all know that this one makes most people’s lists, so back to my more personal choices…
#2: ‘Victory Celebration’
from Return of the Jedi
You’ll understand when you reach number one, but truthfully, this may actually be my favourite moment in Star Wars (or it was, prior to the Sequel Trilogy kind of undoing it).
As I said before, as a child of the nineties, by the time I got these films on home entertainment (thanks Sis), they were the remastered versions. They included the original theatrical cuts too, but it was the remastered versions that were spotlighted. And while some of the choices aren’t the best, I think it all becomes worth it thanks to the new ending to Return of the Jedi.
Whereas the original version had the famous ‘Yub Nub’ song, the new version sees an extended cut as the scene visits some of the famous planets from across the originals and the prequels, accompanied by heartwarming music and images of celebration. It gives the saga a real sense of finality, as it’s clear it’s not just our heroes who have triumphed over the Empire but the galaxy as a whole.
It’s the end of a war that started in Attack of the Clones finally coming to a close, and the result is a beautiful moment. The perfect mix of bombastic celebrations and heartwarming, personal interactions.
#1: ‘The Might of the Empire’
from A New Hope
There it is. The number one spot. A blunder so fantastic that they didn’t even cut it out in the remastered version. A moment that many actors claim to be responsible for. It’s infamous. It’s hilarious. It’s fantastic.
And it sums up how useful Stormtroopers are perfectly.
Images courtesy of StarWars.com