Film has the power to transport you to new worlds and alternate universes. As we’ve often written before, Star Wars is one of our favorite universes due to the depth and breadth of its lore. But sometimes, there are snapshots in cinema that stand out more than others, even in long-running franchises. For The Lord of the Rings, it’s the Battle of Helm’s Deep. For Game of Thrones, it’s the Red Wedding. With this in mind, here is our list of the sci-fi juggernaut’s 9 best scenes.
Honorable Mention: “Do or do not. There is no try.” (The Empire Strikes Back)
Austin — Yoda, the wise sage and oldest Jedi ever, tells Luke Skywalker this credo before giving us our first true glimpse into the power of the Force, effortlessly lifting a heavy X-Wing out of the water by simply holding out his hand. It shows Luke how to look at the big picture, for it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Yoda isn’t being literal here — we do need to try things before we become a master — he’s trying to get Luke to believe in himself, believe that he can actually do this instead of just shrugging and making a lame attempt. “I don’t believe it,” Luke says when the ship hits the ground. “That is why you fail,” Yoda tells him, and we all learn a valuable lesson in the process.
Brandon — Luke Skywalker, for all his redeeming qualities, has always been a funny combination of whiny and skeptical. When Yoda puts him through the wringer, he realizes how much he’s got left to learn — including how to park his starship. As his X-Wing sinks into the swamps of Dagobah, Yoda tests his resolve and declares a simple, yet firm philosophy: “Try not! Do…or do not. There is no try.”
9) “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” (A New Hope)
Austin — The scene that launched a thousand nerd fantasies establishes that this old man named Ben is actually kind of a big deal. Princess Leia Organa is introduced to us as a headstrong, fearless leader from the jump. To Luke, it’s a literal princess to save. She is asking for help, but for Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi’s help. No wonder she isn’t impressed by Luke, or his height, when they first meet. Still, every story begins with a goal in mind, and Luke’s goal is to save her, and maybe even the galaxy.
Brandon — After dealing with an Imperial raid, led by Darth Vader, Princess Leia sends a message to exiled Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. Through thick and thin, R2-D2 is determined to complete his mission, no matter how much trouble he causes in the process. Luke Skywalker? He’s just the delivery boy until he’s recruited for the rescue mission. Without this scene, however, Star Wars doesn’t really happen. Mind you, this is also the scene where Luke finds out his father was a Jedi.
8) Snoke’s Throne Room (The Last Jedi)
Austin — The scene that subverts everything about Star Wars is most likely controversial, but you have to admit that killing the Big Bad halfway through the final trilogy is gutsy. It comes out of nowhere too, but in a way that astounds the audience and gets us hyped for what’s next — a Rey and Kylo Ren team-up against the oddly undisturbed Praetorian Guards. It’s the only movie in any of the trilogies to have no lightsabers clash, but Rey and Ren duke it out with their minds, words, and powers instead.
Brandon — I have to admit, I did not see this coming until it was already underway. Everything about this scene’s introduction screamed “TEAM UP!” but it wasn’t solid until Kylo Ren was turning the lightsaber on Supreme Leader Snoke. This scene ignited not just the weapon, but the hearts and minds of fans the world over. The cinematography, the choreography, the emotional resolution that Rey and Ren were not at all on the same page, was all sold beautifully.
7) Darth Maul Naboo Entrance (The Phantom Menace)
Austin — This is the scene that defines the prequels in my humble opinion. We see, for the first time, a double-bladed lightsaber helmed by a true warrior in red and black. The music that goes with it adds to the coming battle — two Jedi against a Force-sensitive being with no fear for his opponents. In a phrase: It’s on. When I say that, I don’t just mean for this movie, but for a whole new generation. It’s also, chronologically speaking, the first on-screen Jedi vs. Sith battle, and boy does it live up to everything that goes with that statement.
Brandon — Listen, I’ve talked a lot about how much this duel meant to me as a kid. It all stems from this moment when Darth Maul faced down the entire crew on Naboo. As the hangar doors open, the ominous horns of “Duel of the Fates” is queued and we see a cloaked figure wearing all black. As the Jedi volunteer to face him, and the Naboo Royal Guard volunteer to “take the long way”, Maul removes his cloak and reveals his double-bladed lightsaber for the first time in the franchise. Twenty years later, and nothing has been the same since.
6) Han Solo Kills Greedo (A New Hope)
Austin — Whether Greedo or Han Solo shoots first is a debate that undercuts the meaning of the scene. This is the first time we’re introduced to the swash-buckler; a handsome rogue who does what he wants when he wants no matter the stakes. His first on-screen kill comes with a laid-back grin across his face that tells you all you need to know about who this man is and what he’s about.
Brandon — This might be self-explanatory, but I’ll say it again for the people in the back: HAN SHOT FIRST! At the Mos Eisley cantina, Han Solo is put into a prickly position by Greedo, a bounty hunter under the employ of Jabba the Hutt. Originally, Han got the drop on him and shot the green dude before he died. Over time, however, the scene has been altered (awkwardly, I might add) to have them shoot at the same time. All this aside, Han’s defining moment shows he’s not just some good-looking guy in space. He’s Harrison Ford in space, and that means he’s a sharpshooting badass.
5) “You were the Chosen One!” (Revenge of the Sith)
Austin — The most heartbreaking scene in the prequels comes when Obi-Wan Kenobi, a steward of the Force and the light that goes with it, learns that he has truly lost his Padawan and will never have him back. It’s no surprise that he says “I have failed you, Anakin, I have failed you,” because that is how he feels, and he’s at least partly right. What’s beneath this all is the fact that he also feels he failed Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn- — his own teachers and mentors.
Brandon — Say what you will about the prequels, but this scene is the reason Ewan McGregor is so beloved. We’ve previously talked about the fact that Anakin Skywalker’s duel with Obi-Wan was one of the best in the franchise. This scene was the aftermath. Battered, burned, and broken, Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader is almost complete. He had fallen to the Dark Side, betrayed his loved ones, and become mad with power. In this moment, staring at the body of his fallen student and brother, Obi-Wan laments: “You were the Chosen One!” The lines may have been corny, but the emotions were spot on. As Kenobi mourns the loss of his “brother”, he leaves the young Sith Lord to complete his baptism by fire.
4) Order 66 (Revenge of the Sith)
Austin — Ah yes, the fall of the Jedi, one of the most depressing scenes in the whole saga. We see a montage of the good guys and gals dying all throughout the galaxy. Even though we all saw it coming (the Clone Troopers do look like prototypes of the Stormtroopers after all), it still is a painful reminder of what was lost before the dark times.
Brandon — This sequence is sold primarily by John Williams. From the moment Anakin marches on the Jedi Temple and Emperor Palpatine tells the faithful Clone Troopers to “execute Order 66”, audiences are treated to a somber montage of slaughter as the Jedi are extinguished in the heartbreaking mutiny. Master Yoda’s reaction seals the deal, as he senses the weight of the tragedy from afar and recognizes the depths of his own failure, and Williams’ score masterfully carries us through it all.
3) Luke Destroys the Death Star (A New Hope)
Austin — Of course, we have to include the climactic end of the first movie to ever hit theaters, and it’s a tense sky battle that sees our young hero blast away the Death Star with the help of the Force — and of course, his new BFF Han Solo. Without Solo and his witty line — ”Great shot kid that was one in a million!” there is no death to the Death Star, no heroes welcomed at the very end, no awesome crescendo and send-off to the beginning of a new era in film and sci-fi.
Brandon — Luke got to put his money where his mouth was and showed the Rebellion just how good a pilot he would turn out to be. Faced with the truth that his wingmen were gone, our hero decided to eyeball The Impossible Shot using nothing but the Force. No targeting computer, no wingmen, and thanks to Han Solo, no interference. He pulls the trigger and becomes a full-fledged legend and, technically, a badass.
2) Binary Sunset (A New Hope)
Austin — The iconic scene that most shouts Star Wars is when our hero, Luke Skywalker, looks out on the two suns of Tatooine and thinks about his life- — what it is, what it could be, what it might be. The music alone makes it a masterpiece in storytelling, and it all comes together here.
Brandon — Luke Skywalker. Farm boy. Soon to be adventurer. Always looking on the horizon, as Yoda would criticize him for in the sequel. But honestly, can you blame him? Look at the beautiful horizon on Tatooine! Sure, it’s a desolate desert where you’ll need to shoot first and ask questions later, but this scene also showed the dichotomous serenity of Luke’s home planet. “The Force Theme” just brings the emotion of the moment to the forefront.
1) “I am your father” (The Empire Strikes Back)
Austin — Oddly enough, the most misspoke line in movie history is the basis for this scene— a bitter twist of the knife as Luke finds out the epitome of evil is his own father. The reason he cries out is because he knows it’s true, for how could someone come up with something so wrong out of nowhere? Desperate to escape, he falls lord knows how far down until he is eventually rescued by Leia, and must face a new truth he was never prepared for.
Brandon — You’ve probably noticed a pattern developing, but this is literally the most iconic scene in the franchise. It’s a huge turning point in the series and a major part of Luke’s character development. It’s also one of the best delivered lines in the franchise. James Earl Jones is a godsend in this department, and Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke’s pain and betrayal are equally as powerful.
How do you feel about our list? What does yours look like? Which is your favorite scene? Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters December 20, 2019. Hopefully, this will bring a new contender for future lists!