The Force Awakens is just days away, but before we get a collection of new great memories, let’s remember the top 10 greatest Star Wars moments of all time.
(BEWARE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR EPISODES I-VI)
10. Star Destroyer Opening – Episode IV: A New Hope
Okay, this might not be the most dramatic and important moment we’ve ever seen in Star Wars, but it’s an iconic opening scene that perfectly sums up the entire concept of the franchise in basically one shot.
Following the epic opening crawl, we see a small Rebel ship slowly fleeing across space amidst gunfire. This sets up the idea of the war, and then we see a humongous Imperial Star Destroyer chasing it down, immediately embodying the intimidating power of the Empire as it attempts to destroy the Rebellion.
What’s more is that, especially in 1977, it’s a visually stunning scene. With special effects that had never been seen before, it creates a completely convincing representation of space, and brilliantly sets up the beautiful scope that Star Wars will cover, making it arguably one of the greatest opening scenes to a movie of all time.
9. Order 66 – Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
The prequels are generally a bit lacking when it comes to iconic Star Wars moments, but there are some occasions where they do shine.
One such occasion is near to the end of the final prequel, Revenge Of The Sith, when Emperor Palpatine sends out orders to Clone Troopers to execute ‘Order 66’, which will lead to the genocide of the Jedi, and following that, we’re met with an extremely melancholy montage of Jedis across the galaxy overpowered by Clones, signalling the beginning of the dark times.
What really stands out in this sequence is the final transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. We see him dramatically fall to the dark side as he leads the destruction of the Jedi, and he falls so far that he even goes to murder a group of Jedi ‘younglings’; one of the darkest moments in all of Star Wars’ history.
8. Darth Maul Lightsaber Battle – Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace is generally criticised as one of the two weakest Star Wars films, and that’s with good reason, but after sitting through about two hours of messy story, we do reach a fantastic climax.
That comes in the form of the lightsaber battle between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi and the evil Sith lord Darth Maul. Played out with John Williams’ exhilarating score: ‘Duel Of The Fates’ behind it, this is an epic battle with such fast-paced and exciting choreography and action that it gives you a genuinely entertaining few minutes amidst one of the most disappointing films of all time.
7. Anakin v Obi-Wan – Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
The entire prequel trilogy comes to its head at the end of Revenge Of The Sith in the epic duel between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
As Anakin completes his transition to the dark side, he faces off against his old master, Obi-Wan, in an intense and thrilling lightsaber battle played out in front of an erupting volcano. Beyond the thrilling action the duel features, it’s also an emotionally intense sequence, as Obi-Wan reluctantly battles his old apprentice with great sadness, whilst Anakin’s anger has reached boiling point.
It’s most likely the best moment in all of the prequels, and definitely the most emotionally powerful, and provides a thrilling conclusion to an ultimately disappointing trilogy.
6. “Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The sequence in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker is trained by Master Yoda on the swamp world of Dagobah is iconic in setting up what a Jedi really is.
We learn over the course of his training that Luke’s occasional impatience is costing him the ability to unlock his full potential with the Force, but under the guidance of Yoda, the wisest Jedi who ever lived, Luke begins to understand what is required to become a great warrior.
But we don’t truly understand the incredible intensity of the Jedi until Yoda speaks the immortal advice: ‘Do, or do not. There is no try.’, signally the long and arduous path Luke has ahead of him before reaching the status of a Jedi master.
5. The Death of Vader – Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi
Across the three films of the original trilogy, Darth Vader, the most evil man in all the galaxy, is the main antagonist, asserting his authority and attempting to crush the Rebellion wherever possible.
However, things come to a head in the climactic lightsaber battle between himself and Luke Skywalker, with the mysterious Emperor watching on. When he fails to kill Luke, the Emperor steps in and begins to brutally attack the young Jedi with his powers of Force lightning, intending to burn him to a crisp.
But in that moment, Vader watches on, and sees the errors of the Empire’s ways. After an extreme dilemma, the Sith lord picks up the Emperor and throws him down a gaping chasm to his death.
After three films, we finally see the good side of Vader, and in his final moments, Luke removes his helmet so that he can see one last time with his own eyes. The man who was more than machine does ultimately have a human side, and it’s an incredibly moving moment to witness.
4. The Battle Of Yavin – Episode IV: A New Hope
This sequence is probably the reason that Star Wars has been the greatest success story of modern cinema.
At the end of Episode IV, the Rebels convene to deliberate on plans to destroy the Empire’s Death Star, and discover a weakness on its exterior, amidst a labyrinth of trenches, that would prove fatal if hit by an X-Wing fighter.
Then, Luke Skywalker and a team of X-Wings fly from the Rebel base towards the Death Star, and participate in a World War Two-style aerial dogfight. Imperial fighters attack as hard as possible, and the Rebels suffer casualties, but Luke, under the guidance of Obi-Wan, and with the help of Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon, manages to get into a trench and make the perfect shot that ultimately destroys the Death Star, and signals a famous win for the Rebellion.
3. “I love you”, “I know.” – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the best film in the whole Star Wars saga, and one of its most compelling plot lines is the development of the relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia.
The two start off the film like bickering siblings, calling each other names like ‘scruffy-looking nerf-herder’, but as the film progresses, they fall in love. It all comes to a head near the climax, when Han Solo is about to be frozen in carbonite under the orders of Darth Vader.
Just before Han’s fate is set though, Leia finally says to him: ‘I love you’. It’s a significant moment in the original trilogy, but what makes it so iconic is what happens next. In typical Han Solo maverick fashion, he replies to Leia: ‘I know’. A great moment with fantastic emotional power unlike few other moments in the series.
2. The Two Suns Of Tatooine – Episode IV: A New Hope
Early on in Episode IV, we meet young Luke Skywalker, a whiny, annoying young man who lives in a small hut on the desert planet of Tatooine.
However, after he meets Ben Kenobi, C-3PO and R2-D2, and learns of the ensuing Rebellion against the Empire, he begins to dream about actually becoming a Rebel fighter.
Of course, stuck in poverty on the sand planet, it never seems possible, but one night, as he steps out into the open at dusk, he looks over the horizon towards the two suns of Tatooine, dreaming of the possibilities of joining the fight and venturing into space.
It’s an iconic moment because it signals the beginning of one of the greatest hero stories of all time, and with John Williams’ wonderful score playing behind it, it’s a truly beautiful moment that will forever be remembered as a cinematic great.
1. “I am your father.” – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Of course this is the number one pick, there could never be anything else.
During the climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, which is already a pretty emotionally intense one, we are met with the definitive cinematic twist, one of the greatest and most unexpected moments of all time.
Luke, having had his hand chopped off by Vader, is now defenceless, and retreats to a small pillar jutting out over a huge chasm. Vader corners him, and begins to taunt him about his dead father, saying that Obi-Wan never told him what really happened to his father.
Angered, Luke retaliates by saying that it was Vader who killed his father, until the Sith lord finally reveals: ‘No, I am your father’. At that moment, the music builds, the emotion on Luke’s face turns from confusion to anger to desperation in a matter of seconds.
As he screams to the heavens, he thinks it’s all over, and there is nothing to live for, so he throws himself to what he thinks is his death below, in a moment that has shocked audiences across the globe ever since its first screening, and that’s why it’s the greatest Star Wars moment of all time.