WARNING: Spoilers for pretty much all of “Star Wars” follow, specifically most of the films, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” “Star Wars Rebels” and “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.”
May the Fourth is here and what better way to celebrate than by looking at the best moments from across the vast “Star Wars” canon. Ranking the films can lead to hours of debate, so I’ve decided to keep things positive by looking at some of my favorite moments in the entire saga. For the sake of keeping the list from being longer than it already is, I’ve settled on the canon films, TV series and console games. That means none of the books, “Forces of Destiny” shorts or the “Star Wars: Uprising” mobile game (which I have recently discovered is apparently considered canon) will not appear on this list.
“Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” - Duel of the Fates
The one seemingly unanimous thing that “Star Wars” fans can agree on when it comes to “The Phantom Menace” is just how awesome Darth Maul is. Most of it stems from his terrifying design, which has its own origins in George Lucas asking artist Iain McCaig to, “draw your worst nightmare.” This fight between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi against the phantom Sith is just great to watch and stands as my favorite lightsaber duel in the entire saga. Maul doesn’t talk much so the incredible stuntman, Ray Park, does it all through using his body language. Going along with the well-choreographed fight is the equally epic score from John Williams. One honorable mention I want to point out for this film is the podrace, primarily the first couple of laps — which are silent musically and allow sound designer Ben Burtt to flourish.
“Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones” - Shmi’s death
Pernilla August as Anakin’s mother Shmi is one of the most underrated performances in the prequel trilogy to me. This scene capitalizes on that and also has some payoff for Hayden Christensen’s awkward and somewhat creepy performance of Anakin in this scene as well. All that frustration he has been letting build-up inside is finally released on a village of Tusken Raiders. John Williams’ slow crescendo into some chaotic string-instrument noises really sells the whole moment as well.
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” - Maul and Savage versus Sidious
For the sake of keeping the list from being even longer, I’ve included the film “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which is essentially a four-episode arc sewn together for a film release, with the actual series. “The Clone Wars” is what really accelerated my fandom for the series and ultimately stands as my favorite part of the entire franchise, really because it’s what I grew up on. There are multiple moments I love, but the best to me comes from the episode “The Lawless.” Maul has taken control of Mandalore and has grown his power large enough to bring out Sidious. Now up until this point, Palpatine has been very careful and from what we’ve seen, had anyone else do his dirty work. This warranted his involvement though and the outcome could not have been cooler. We see him use both his sabers and enjoy every minute of schooling Maul and his brother Savage Opress. This tops off what was already a spectacular episode for Obi-Wan and his loss of Satine.
“Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith” - UNLIMITED POWER
The first-ever “Star Wars” film I got to see in theaters was “Revenge of the Sith” with my dad back in 2005. Part of that plays into it being my favorite “Star Wars” movie, but also the fact that it is just a fun ride from start to finish. The opera house scene with Palpatine tempting Anakin with the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise is a solid runner-up, but it is Palpatine fully revealing himself as Sidious that stands out to me. Ian McDiarmid plays it perfectly as the unhinged Sith lord, who has spent years grinding through a slow, boring political system in order to take control and finally gets to reveal his true self. It is the simple glee he has in zapping Mace Windu out the window that gets me, as he is having the time of his life finally striking at the Jedi.
“Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” - Order 66 flashback
“Jedi: Fallen Order” was a solid tale in the “Star Wars” mythos, one that stuck to the core hero’s journey found in characters like Luke, Rey and Ahsoka, but still managing to add its own twists for Cal Kestis. Cal’s major test is overcoming the death of his master, which he works to find peace through a flashback to Order 66. As soon as the moment began and a clone trooper was high-fiving Cal for good luck on his training, I knew we were in for a tear-jerker. Seeing Order 66 carried out from the perspective of a Jedi Padawan we’ve grown attached to adds even more layers to the scene in “Revenge of the Sith.” This moment is only amped up by the fact that they use the “Anakin’s Betrayal” theme just like in the movie as the flashback carries on as well. It is a touching moment and one that will stick with me on future rewatches of the film.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” - Enfys Nest reveal
There is a good bit to love about “Solo.” Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover both do a great job at playing the younger versions Han and Lando respectively. There is plenty of Chewie love thrown in along with the unexpected inclusion of Darth Maul (which I will always be sad about having spoiled for me). Enfys Nest is perhaps my favorite piece of the puzzle though, which I can solely base on her killer theme. My favorite moment comes with her reveal at the end though along with her crew, helping Han overthrow Dryden’s goons. She is such a well-designed character and I hope we see more of her soon.
“Star Wars Rebels” - Caleb Dume’s sacrifice
As a series, “Rebels” has a bunch of awesome moments all-around. The quick and final Samurai showdown between Old Ben and Maul in the Tatooine desert, Ahsoka facing down the monster her former master had become, the World Between Worlds and pretty much anytime Grand Admiral Thrawn is on screen. The one that sticks with me most though is the sacrifice of Kanan Jarrus (formerly Jedi padawan Caleb Dume). It is a perfect ending for his Jedi journey, with him showing an incredible display of power by holding back the explosion of an entire fuel depot to buy time for his family. Along with Kevin Kiner’s score, the cherry on top is the fact that he regains his sight to see Hera one last time with his own eyes right before becoming one with the Force.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” - The last five minutes
“Rogue One” is awesome but I don’t think I can put this on the list without choosing the final minutes of the film. Vader’s scene in the hallway is terrifying and made me understand just what my dad and probably everyone else thought about him when the original trilogy was released (because seeing Darth Vader breakdance in Disney World definitely cramped his image a bit). My jaw dropped at the hallway scene and then proceeded to drop even further when the camera continued on to reveal Princess Leia. “Rogue One” is a “Star Wars” fan’s fantasy.
“Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” - Han’s improv
The one that started it all, “A New Hope” is the foundation for everything on this list. Stuff like the Death Star run and the Cantina scene are great, but my favorite is the simple exchange of Han in the detention center trying to buy time for Luke. It is hilarious and is what really makes me love Han as a character, always trying to talk his way out of things. The “how are you” kills me each and every time.
“Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” - Luke meets Yoda
From all of “Star Wars,” this is by far my favorite scene in the franchise. It is the fact that Mark Hamill really believes in Yoda as a character that makes us buy into him, which stems from Frank Oz’s excellent performance himself. I love Yoda the wise Jedi master just rummaging through Luke’s stuff and then he starts to just beat R2-D2 with a stick over a flashlight. It’s definitely an act, but I do think there is a bit of truth in his exaggerated senile persona.
“Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” - The throne room
The entirety of Luke’s story during the final act of “Jedi” is as good as it gets for “Star Wars.” The Emperor is cackling the entire time, reveling in what he believes to be his greatest triumph. Then you have Luke cast away his saber, realizing that striking down his father as Obi-Wan, Yoda and even the Emperor want him to do would completely go against the core of being a Jedi. It is that act that spurs his own father to realize it isn’t too late to make things right which spurs him to throw the Emperor down the Death Star shaft. It is the perfect embodiment of Rose’s controversial quote in “The Last Jedi,” “That's how we're gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”
“Star Wars Battlefront II” - Luke on Pillio
“Battlefront II’s” campaign had some faults, but it did give us a glimpse at a post-”ROTJ” Luke Skywalker. Del Meeko, an elite Imperial soldier, finds himself trapped in a cave on Pillio only to be rescued by Luke, who looks past his allegiance. When asked why he does, Luke simply replies, “because you asked.” They end up cooperating in order to find an old vault of some of the Emperor’s relics. As they leave, Luke tells him his choice isn’t just to join the rebellion, but one to simply be better. As another honorable mention, “Battlefront II” has a hilarious mission with Lando (Billy Dee Williams reprising the role) paired with a very funny and sarcastic character introduced in the game, Shriv. If there is anything I would want more of that debuted in the campaign, it’s Shriv.
“The Mandalorian” - The Child holds back the flames
I loved the first season of “The Mandalorian” and there were many cool scenes with the character himself, but the one that stole the show all season-long was The Child (aka Baby Yoda). He has a number of adorable moments but my favorite is him being a bit more heroic. He holds back the flames of a stormtrooper to save his friends and then simply flops over from exhaustion. How can you not love that? Also, bonus points due to the fact that the special stormtrooper’s design is pulled from “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.”
“Star Wars Resistance” - B1’s noble end
I love battle droids and their slapstick humor, so one popping up in “Star Wars Resistance” excited me. I was very happy to see B1 leading the super battle droids as the Colossus’ security detail. Unfortunately, B1 meets his end only a few short episodes after he was introduced. They also never bothered to repair him, or at least he never showed back up even by the series’ finale.
“Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens” - Finn and Poe’s escape
One of the best dynamics in the sequel trilogy is the one found between Finn and Poe. Their escape from the Star Destroyer at the start of the film was the perfect introduction to the two’s pairing. Poe coming up with Finn’s name is another smaller moment that gets you that much more attached to both characters. The sequence as a whole has action, laughter and heart, the perfect mix for a “Star Wars” moment.
“Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi” - Yoda’s lesson to Luke
Seeing “The Last Jedi” for the first time was one of the worst theater experiences I’ve ever had (the audience not the film). The distractions wouldn’t take away from the moment those green ears came into view as Luke goes to burn the sacred Jedi texts. This entire scene between the two is wonderfully done by Rian Johnson and feels right in line with “Empire.” As wise and as powerful as Luke has become, he is never too old for another lesson from Yoda. I think the CGI Yoda serves the prequels well for his purpose in their story, but I also believe that using the puppet with Frank Oz puppeteering was the right choice here. Yoda here also has the perfect blend of wisdom and silliness that he has in “Empire” as well. His lesson on the importance of failure is a solid one that translates well into our own lives.
“Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker” - Rey channels all the Jedi
The climax of “The Rise of Skywalker” is definitely a visually impressive one and while I wish Ben had gotten more to do than show up and get zapped into a hole, Rey’s moment of being empowered by all the Jedi that came before her is pretty darn cool. It’s really cool hearing not just prequel Jedi, but Ahsoka and Kanan from the animated side as well. I think it would have been cool to have seen some of them as Force ghosts too (at least the ones that have that ability, though I wouldn’t be mad at all of them getting to through some special Force explanation). Rey then channeling all of Palpatine’s hatred back at himself is a pretty fitting end for him and also ties into Yoda’s whole, “a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense - never for attack.”