One of the most important things in a story is setting. What good are strong dialogue and action if the set pieces are boring and uninspired? This is something that is essential to the Star Wars franchise — location, location, location. And so, continuing our series on the “most iconic” aspects of Star Wars, here’s our list of the franchise’s most important locations.
Honorable Mention: Naboo
Brandon — Naboo is the home of three pivotal characters in the Star Wars saga: Padmé Amidala, the former queen and late senator; Jar-Jar Binks, the clumsy Gungan exile turned representative; and Sheev Palpatine, the conniving politician and hidden Sith Lord. The former was the eventual mother of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa, the second was a political pawn, and the latter became the eventual Emperor.
What makes Naboo stand out is twofold: it is the locale of the Duel of the Fates, as well as the inciting incident that leads to the Trade Federation becoming a separatist entity. It is also a stunningly beautiful set piece, with the architecture of both Theed and Otoh Gunga imprinting upon my young mind. We spend so much time with this place in the prequels that it’s impossible — hell, disrespectful — to ignore it.
Honorable Mention: Crait
Austin — Cynics would say that this is a clear ploy at awing crowds with the white salt terrain above red rock on Crait, the last stand for the Rebels in The Last Jedi, and while that may be true, it doesn’t matter. A salt planet really seems right up Star Wars’ alley, considering the plethora of unique planets in their arsenal, and whether pandering or not, the red lines created by V-4X-D ski speeders is pretty mesmerizing. It’s honestly too bad we didn’t get more.
9) The Galactic Senate (Coruscant)
Brandon — Read very carefully: The Senate is one of the most important locations in the entirety of Star Wars. Throughout the prequels, we see this as the main arena of Palpatine and Amidala, with their dueling philosophies regarding the responsible use of power taking center stage. As Palpatine subtly becomes a power-hungry warmonger, Amidala does her best to resist him and push for peace. In the end, liberty dies with “thunderous applause”. Also, Palpatine throws the room at Yoda.
Austin — Only the very evil Darth Vader would decide to live in the very place where he was almost burned alive, but maybe it’s because of the poetry of the notion. He was, afterall, reborn there as a microcosm of evil. We only see it at the end of Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, but it is important to note that the home of Vader plays a much bigger part in who he is in the comics.
Austin — The ice planet, remote and almost completely invisible to the Empire until the very end of Act I of The Empire Strikes Back. It’s one of the only places in Star Wars where there issnow, and provides Luke with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s message to find and train with Yoda.
Brandon — Hoth is home to one of the best battles in the saga. It also has the honor of hosting the majority of Empire’s first act, with the Rebels holed up at Echo Base and Vader obsessed with finding “young Skywalker”, who has his own problems after being mauled by a wampa. One thing no one ever forgets about this planet: those AT-AT walkers advancing on Echo Base. Beautiful!
Brandon — Dagobah is the set piece for Empire’s second act, and a brief part of Return of the Jedi’s as well. When Yoda failed to defeat Sidious on Coruscant (again, after having the Senate thrown at him), he went into self-imposed exile. More than two decades later, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 all but crash land into his lap, and he’s confronted with training the reckless young hero. The Jedi Grand Master puts the kid through the ringer, testing his body, mind, and spirit before Skywalker rushes off to Bespin, only to get his hand chopped off. Upon the young Jedi’s return, Yoda technically knights him with his final words. Aside from the aforementioned events, this swampy world gave us the cave in which Luke faces a Force projection of Vader — one that would prove to be very clear foreshadowing of Empire’s most memorable scene.
5) Cloud City (Bespin)
Austin — The city in the clouds introduced us to Lando Carissian, a reformed man caught between protecting his city and an old friend of his that stole his ship. We see, in the beginning of its introduction, a happy, almost dream-like place bright and luminous, where people seem prosperous and far away from the clutches of evil. But, the inner workings of the place are all metal and darkness, perfect for our hero to face off against ultimate evil and get his hand chopped off.
4) The Jedi Temple (Coruscant)
Austin — This place, where the main room is a circle of Jedi Masters sitting in chairs and deciding the fate of the galaxy with less wisdom than they had first thought, begins Anakin Skywalker’s descent into darkness. They put him on the Jedi Council, but puzzlingly so, do not grant him the rank of Master, probably as a test to see how Anakin would react. He did not react well. It also becomes the place where Anakin kills younglings-children training as would-be Jedi.
Brandon — First things first: this is, by far, the most impressive CGI architecture we got out of the prequel era. The Jedi Temple was as wondrous as fans could possibly imagine, and its sheer size gave a conflicting aura of humility and elitism. The Temple is important for what it represents and for what has happened within its walls. This was where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker trained as Jedi Knights (as well as Ahsoka Tano). This was where Jocasta Nu told Kenobi that the Jedi records were the preeminent source of wisdom in the galaxy. This was where a fallen Skywalker murdered his fellow Jedi — men, women, and children alike. The Temple housed some of the biggest Jedi moments in the franchise, and deserves its spot on this list.
Brandon — Tatooine means so much to this franchise. Having appeared in five franchise films, this merciless desert planet is the home of Shmi, Anakin, and Luke Skywalker, as well as Jabba the Hutt, Owen & Beru Lars, and the Toydarian junk trader Watto. It’s also got Sand People and Jawas, because why the hell not? This place is iconic not just for the creatures and people who hailed from it, but because of the events. In the original film, Luke and Obi-Wan meet Han Solo and Chewbacca at the Mos Eisley cantina. In Return of the Jedi, Luke and the gang visit Jabba’s palace and destroy his sail barge. In the prequels, Anakin Skywalker wins the Boonta Eve podrace, Qui-Gon Jinn faces down Darth Maul, and Anakin returns to slaughter a tribe of Sand People — like animals — for killing his mother. It’s too important to ignore, and Jakku is proof of that.
2) The Millennium Falcon
Austin — It made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs! This ship has been in almost every major battle and is still flying after all these years. The very thing Luke called a piece of junk when we first see it is probably in its swan song at this point, but it was quite a ride while it lasted.
1) The Death Star
Austin — That is no moon. A spaceship made to look like a planet floats around the galaxy imposing its will on unsuspecting planets with the pull of a lever. When people think of Star Wars, they think of this looming over everything. Even though it was destroyed by our hero Luke in A New Hope, the fact that they made a second one, and then an imitation of a third, proves that the mere thought of its power drives Rebels into a fury. Also, what an idea to create a planet looking spaceship that blows up entire worlds. Honestly, this thing is one of the main reasons Star Wars has persevered as long as it has.
Brandon — You can’t be surprised by this choice. The series is called Star Wars for literal reasons, and wars tend to birth superweapons. The Death Star is so iconic, people who have never seen Star Wars know what it is. It has appeared in some way, shape, or form in six franchise films (including Rogue One and the upcoming Rise of Skywalker). Each destructive satellite has had the power to wipe out billions in the blink of an eye, and each has been destroyed thanks to the heroes exploiting some sort of engineering vulnerability. Neither of those scenarios ever gets old to watch, although the concept itself is definitely tired.
How do you feel about our list? What does yours look like? Which is your favorite location? Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters December 20, 2019. Hopefully, this will bring a new contender for future lists!