The 20 Most Iconic Moments in Star Wars Movie History
Star Wars: A New Hope was released over 45 years ago, and over the course of almost five decades, the film franchise has had a plethora of memorable moments. From the opening crawl with John Williams' score blasting its stirring anthem, to Lando Calrissian blatantly flirting with Leia right in Han Solo's face, to Emperor Palpatine finally (Finally!) getting his comeuppance, Star Wars is the gift that keeps on giving. And as we celebrate Star Wars Day (May the 4th), we thought what time was better to look back on the best gifts the series has given us, as fans.
We all have moments that stir our Star Wars soul and over the course of the nine Skywalker Saga and two anthology films, there have been plenty of them. However, which of those favorite moments actually had the biggest impact on the adventures of some of the most beloved characters in movie history? What are the important and long-lasting moments that shaped the course of Star Wars?
Here are our picks for the 20 most pivotal moments in Star Wars movie history. Did your favorite moment miss the cut or not rank as high as you'd like? Let us know in the comments below.
20. The Bodyguard - Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (Episode II)
At the beginning of Attack of the Clones, a failed assassination attempt on Padme (Natalie Portman) leads to Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) recommending to the Jedi Council that her old friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), protect her. The future emperor does this knowing full well that Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is Kenobi's apprentice and likely his feelings for Padme. The two gradually fall in love. Romantic relationships are forbidden in the Jedi order, making this one of many steps by Palpatine to put a wedge between Anakin and the Jedis.
19. Darth Maul lives - Solo: A Star Wars Story
At the end of Solo: A Star Wars Story viewers learn that it's not actually Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) in charge of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. After killing Vos, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) chats via hologram with its true leader, Darth Maul, voiced by Sam Witwer and played physically by Ray Park, reprising his Phantom Menace role. It's unclear what his live-action future holds for Maul but his return is sure to shake up the Star Wars universe, even if some of his fate has been detailed in the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series.
18. Rey doesn't sell BB-8 - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII)
When Rey (Daisy Ridley) rescues BB-8 from a scavenger she has no idea that the tiny droid is carrying the missing piece of an intergalactic map that will help the rebels find Luke Skywalker. Rey briefly considers selling BB-8 for food rations while bartering with Unkar Plutt (Simon Pegg) at Niima Outpost but eventually decides against it. It’s a move that sets Rey on her path with the Force and the alliance.
17. Chirrut takes a walk - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Near the end of Rogue One, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) have secured the schematics to the Death Star but can't transmit them to the rebels because the shield around Scarif prevents it. In order to drop the shields, blind, Force-sensitive warrior Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) walks through a volley of blaster fire and turns off the master switch, allowing the shield to come down and the transmission to go through.
16. Han shoots first - Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV)
Despite George Lucas’s attempt to retcon Han Solo to make everyone's favorite scoundrel look more like John Wayne and less like a gunslinger, Star Wars fans all know the truth. Han shooting Greedo first in the cantina established the character not as a cold-blooded killer as Lucas had feared but as a badass who doesn't hesitate when action is required.
15. Rey saves Ben Solo - The Rise of Skywalker (Episode IX)
On Kef Bir, the ocean moon of Endor, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) get in an epic battle on top of the destroyed remains of the second Death Star. Distracted when he senses his mother’s death, Ren drops his lightsaber which Rey grabs and then stabs him in the abdomen, ending the fight. Rey then Force heals Ren, unlocking him from the prison of the Dark Side and changing his fate and that of both Rey and the rebellion.
14. Obi-Wan has the high ground - Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III)
Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) have a long-awaited showdown on the fiery planet Mustafar. Near the end of their fight, Obi-Wan jumps from a platform on a lava river to the safety of the shore. With a tactically superior position, Obi-Wan warns Anakin that the fight is over but his overly confident apprentice tries to jump over the veteran Jedi and gets sliced and diced in the process. Palpatine eventually finds the broken, charred body of Anakin and fits him with his now legendary suit.
13. Han Solo confronts Kylo Ren - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII)
During the rebel attack on Starkiller Base, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) sees an opportunity to speak to his son Ben/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Solo tries to reason with Ren and attempts to get him to come home. Although seemingly tempted by his father's plea, Ren's decision leads to what may be the most heartbreaking scene in Star Wars history as Han Solo is killed by his own son.
12. Anakin stops Mace Windu - Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III)
The Jedi Council discovers that Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is the Sith behind all the chaos in the Republic and confronts him. Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) eventually disarms Palpatine but the two are at a stalemate with Force lightning and lightsabers lighting up the room. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) arrives and must decide who to save. He sides with Palpatine just as Windu is about to strike a killing blow and Anakin's path to the Dark Side is complete.
11. Lando sells out Han - Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)
On the run from the Empire, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fish), and the crew decide to lay low in Cloud City, which is run by Solo's old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Unfortunately, they arrive shortly after Darth Vader (James Earl Jones), and Lando is forced to turn on his friend, who ends up frozen in carbonite. Lando more than makes up for his actions, soon becoming a key player in the rebellion.
10. Qui-Gon defies the Jedi council - Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Episode I)
Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) believes so strongly that Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) is the one person to bring balance to the Force that even after the Jedi Council rules that the boy is too old to be trained, he says he'll do it anyway. While the matter isn't settled at the time and Jinn is later killed, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) would eventually follow his master's lead and train Anakin as a Jedi.
9. Queen Amidala's vote of no confidence - Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Episode I)
With the Trade Federation waging war on her home planet of Naboo, Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) goes to the Galactic Senate for help. Frustrated by a lack of action and egged on by Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), the queen moves for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum (Terence Stamp), putting a leadership change in play. This leads to Palpatine becoming the new chancellor.
8. Galen Erso sabotages the Death Star - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
An important, albeit reluctant, part of the team that constructed the first Death Star, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) realizes that he's in a no-win situation. While he doesn't want to make a weapon of mass destruction, he knows the best way to help is by creating a flaw that can destroy it. Erso's storyline in Rogue One also resolves one of Star Wars: A New Hope's most infamous plot holes.
7. Obi-Wan lets Vader strike him down - Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV)
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) may be an "old fossil" according to Han Solo (Harrison Ford) but the Jedi master plays an important role while trapped on the Death Star. Not only does he disable the tractor beam on the Millennium Falcon but he also diverts Darth Vader's (James Earl Jones) attention so Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and their team can escape. Overmatched by his former apprentice and not wanting to get Luke involved, Obi-Wan is struck down and becomes one with the Force. This allows him to continue to guide Luke Skywalker.
6. The tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise - Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III)
During the Star Wars version of a Cirque du Soleil show, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) summons Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and tells him the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise, a Sith so powerful he could use the Force to create life and keep the ones he cared about from dying. With Anakin's dreams predicting Padme's death in childbirth, this information brings him even closer to the Dark Side.
5. Order 66 - Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III)
Once Anakin (Hayden Christensen) becomes Palpatine's (Ian McDiarmid) apprentice, Order 66, a secret order programmed into clone troopers identifying all Jedi as enemies of the Republic, is put into play. With thousands of Jedis eliminated, Palpatine is able to consolidate his power without much resistance.
4. The murder of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru - Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV)
While in Obi-Wan Kenobi's (Alec Guinness) hut, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) manages to finally see the entirety of a message hidden in R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). Obi-Wan encourages Luke to go with him to Alderaan and learn the ways of the Force but he refuses, saying there's work to do and that he doesn't want to get involved. However, once Luke returns home and finds the charred remains of his Uncle Owen (Phil Brown) and Aunt Beru (Shelagh Fraser) there's nothing left to keep him on Tatooine and his path as a Jedi begins.
3. Vader turns on the Emperor - Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Episode VI)
After defeating Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in combat but refusing to kill his father, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) tosses his lightsaber aside, proving he can't be turned. Realizing Luke won't join him, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) attacks him with Force lightning. Seeing his son near death, Vader picks up Palpatine and throws him into the second Death Star's reactor core. With his actions Vader not only redeems himself but brings balance to the Force.
2. Yoda lifts the X-wing out of the water - Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)
While training with Yoda (Frank Oz), Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) X-Wing sinks into the swamps of Dagobah. Encouraged by Yoda to use the Force to move his ship, Luke tries and fails, leaving him frustrated. Proving that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself and the Force, Yoda pulls the X-Wing out of the swamp as an astounded Skywalker looks on.
1. Darth Vader reveals he's Luke's father - Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)
A clearly overmatched Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is defeated in a lightsaber duel by Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). With his right hand cut off and his lightsaber lost, Luke retreats to a small extension on an air shaft catwalk. Vader tries to convince him to join him before telling the shocking truth that he is Luke's father. It's a moment that stunned movie goers and forever changed the course of Star Wars.