The full trailer for Star Wars IX – The Rise of Skywalker has landed and we inch closer to the theatrical release. As a result, we feel that a Top 7 Stars Wars list is in order. No, it’s not original to do such a list and yes, it’s been done many times before, but Star Wars is such an incredible piece of cinema that it demands opinion and favourite moments!
Each of the moments listed must be a small section of a film – usually a scene but it could also be as quick as a simple action or short piece of dialogue. The key is that it contains a fixed number of characters and brings about a particular theme or feeling. There is no limit to how many moments we can use from each film and we will not shy away from using the same characters or films if we feel that those moments represent the best of Star Wars.
The list has been chosen with the following in mind:
– How the moment represented the characters on screen
– How much of an impact the moment had on the viewer
– How that moment helped to shape the rest of the story
– How visually striking the scene surrounding that moment was
– How the use of music added depth to the scene
Finally, the qualifying list of films are as follows: I: The Phantom Menace; II: Attack of the Clones; III: Revenge of the Sith; Solo; Rogue One; IV: A New Hope; V: The Empire Strikes Back; VI: Return of the Jedi; VII: The Force Awakens; VIII: The Last Jedi.
So, before you nip down to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters, read the full list below…
7: Luke’s Force Projection – The Last Jedi
Given the public reception to TLJ and the results of this scene, we’re starting off on dodgy ground here. When analysed with a level head, however, there is plenty to admire in this moment. In terms of cinematography alone, this scene is incredibly well shot, with grand views and details that have been carefully thought through. The full reveal of Luke’s form being a force projection is not given until the end of the fight, but there are subtle details which give the keen sighted viewer the clues to realise the reality.
The fact that Luke does not even swing his lightsaber and yet still comes away triumphant is a clever piece of writing that feels well executed in the moment and true to Luke’s character (unlike certain other parts of the film…). The scene does this whilst showing genuine character progression for both parties, even if the anger from Kylo Ren is a little over the top prior to the encounter.
George Lucas was initially critical of The Force Awakens and derided its retro tone whilst referring to how he worked hard to make each film completely different. Even through viewings of lesser loved Lucas SW films, we, as fans, realised that SW is about creating new and exciting cinematic experiences. When a SW film introduces interesting new mechanics, it moves the films forward in the way that was initially intended. So, when TLJ introduced a new force skill (at least in canon material) via Luke’s force projection, it brought something genuinely different and exciting to the saga. Of course, it helped that it was so expertly scripted and filmed during this scene.
6. Obi Wan Defeats Anakin – Revenge of the Sith
Just to be clear on this again, our use of the term ‘moments’ doesn’t necessarily equate to a whole scene, but could still last long enough to capture a particular theme. For me, the entire Obi Wan v Anakin fight on Mustafar as a viewing experience is……ok. The choreography is incredible and it was great to finally see a full lightsaber duel between two highly skilled warriors, but it just doesn’t quite feel right in terms of emotional impact and pacing. That is, until the very end.
For arguments sake, we’ll include everything after the famous line ‘I have the high ground!’ Obi Wan’s move to counter Anakin’s jump looked great in motion and felt like an appropriate end given the experience and maturity of the two combatants. Personally, I feel that this is Ewan McGregor’s golden moment in the Star Wars films. The speech he delivers feels genuine and passionately delivered. The most effective moments of Hayden Christensen’s acting here are the wordless looks he gives Obi Wan as he writhes in pain. Sometimes a huge amount of powerful acting can be delivered in just a look, something that we’ll come back to later in this list.
5. Duel of Fates – The Phantom Menace
Leading on from the last entry in this list is an encounter that ‘wowed’ audiences on its initial release and is still one of the (few) standout moments from a film that has not held up well. Much of TPM seemed to be geared towards this moment and, in all honesty, it’s what most fans wanted to see after a 16 year hiatus for the saga.
Firstly, outside of the Emperor and Darth Vader, fans had not seen any other sith in canon SW up until this point, and we were desperate to see more. On initial appearance alone, Darth Maul looked fantastic – scary, athletic, other-worldy and typically Star Wars-esque. Then….he opens up a double-bladed lightsaber in a moment that made fans go wild. It was another well timed SW moment of bringing something new to the franchise.
The fight itself, for all its build-up, did not disappoint. The choreography was superb and the pacing was outstanding. Whilst the visuals were also awe-inspiring, they felt real and added complexity in a way that elevated the viewing experience. And finally, we can’t pass without mentioning the remarkable score by John Williams. The music fits itself to the scene so perfectly that it helps to create an intense but wonderful piece of cinema.
4. Han Shoots First – A New Hope
It almost seems like a defiant act to stick this in when the scene itself has been changed by its original creator, but the thing with art is that fans take ownership over the artwork in its released form, and many fans (like me) prefer the original scene. I’ll now clarify why this gets so high up on our list.
This scene was very early on in the SW lifecycle and people knew next to nothing about its world. In terms of context, it comes after our young adventurer sets of on his journey with his wise old mentor. We’re introduced to a dirty bar where we first set our eyes on a ‘wretched hive of scum and villainy’, as Obi Wan puts it. The whole scene adds a completely different layer to the story and its timing is great.
Then we meet Han Solo, a pilot that we know nothing about. His attitude seems slightly arrogant, mildly charismatic, yet we have no idea as to whether he’s trustworthy or not. This makes his encounter with Greedo even more intriguing and casts major doubt over him when he kills Greedo in cold blood. However, it felt really fitting to the moment. It had already been established that Mos Eisley Cantina was a vile place with some shady characters and every suggestion was given that Greedo would have killed him if necessary. Han’s actions in this scene make his character arc even more satisfying later in the saga and let the viewer know that story would not be sacrificed to save characters.
3. I Am Your Father – The Empire Strikes Back
Of course this is an obvious choice – it’s one of the most famous scenes in film history. That doesn’t prevent it from being any less brilliant though. Instead of retreading other articles by telling you that the revelation was so big because the prequels weren’t available when this was released etc. etc., I’ll explain the other things that makes this superb viewing.
On the back of a compelling and intense lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vader, we get to the point where Luke is in a precarious position on the edge of a platform with one of his hands missing from the battle. He is exhausted from the fight, he’s scared of what will happen to his friends, he’s realised how much more powerful Vader is than him and he feels close to death. This is all before Vader informs him of his true parentage.
Not only does this conflict Luke because Vader is seen as the monster, he’s also realised that Obi Wan – his mentor – had lied to him. Obi Wan was the only guiding figure he had after his aunt and uncle were murdered by stormtroopers and he’d betrayed his trust. This put Luke in a ridiculously complex situation that was incredible to watch as the viewer.
This moment also marked the point that SW increased its level of depth in storytelling. Prior to this revelation, it was good vs bad, the heroes vs the monsters, but now it wasn’t so clear cut. Luke was the product of a ‘monster’ and it led to decisions and story arcs that bravely veered away from the formulaic and stale good guy kills the bad guy and everyone’s happy ever after plot-line. To my eyes, SW had created its own cinematic universe in this moment.
2. Binary Sunset – A New Hope
This scene is very simple but tells you a lot about SW. The binary sunset presents a beautiful backdrop at a time when our on screen hero is dreaming of adventure. The baron landscape draws the viewer’s attention to the key parts of the scene whilst the details of the small, surrounding features reinforce the film’s overall vision.
It is very clever in that it invites you in to empathise with Luke to the point where you can read his internal emotion, despite the subtlety of Mark Hamill’s delivery. Once again, the music rises to help the viewer understand the levity of the situation whilst we eagerly await his adventure.
In many ways, this is the start of the SW saga and it sets a tone that whisks the viewer away to assume their own place in Lucas’ unique universe. Upon first viewing of this scene, you just feel that the film will be something special, and on repeated viewings you realise how perfectly this scene sets the platform for the original trilogy’s tone.
1. Vader’s Redemption – Return of the Jedi
Our number 1 entry could be highly pivotal going into the release of the final film of the saga. The battle between and Vader and Luke, and the ensuing encounter between Luke and the Emperor is an incredible scene that sprung a few more SW surprises on us.
As if the lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader wasn’t climactic enough, the real pay-off begins upon Luke’s apparent victory. Luke’s glances from Vader’s severed, mechanical hand to his own robotically assisted hand reaffrirms his vision from the cave in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a simple but clever use of symbolism and feels genuinely in-keeping with Luke’s character as he turns away from his temptation to the dark side.
Until this point in the trilogy, we hadn’t seen much in the way of force powers, so the Emperor’s use of force lightning was an incredible moment which suitably demonstrated the heightened power of the sith lord. The brilliance of the scene can be summed up by the camerawork moving between the ferocity of the Emperor, the excruciating pain of Luke, and Vader’s masked face – despite the silence and the mask covering his expressions, the camera moves so skilfully that the viewer feels as if they can read his emotions through the subtle shifts that he makes.
The resulting actions of Vader turning on his master to save his son and return to the light side wrapped everything up so perfectly. As the chosen one who fell to the dark side, he was redeemed by his son, and together they brought peace back to the galaxy. The ending displayed how well SW could represent the grey areas of character’s personalities whilst retaining a spectacular battle against evil.
As an additional, fun bonus to finish off, here’s a supplementary list of the Top 7 Star Wars films of all time.
1 = Star Wars V – The Empire Strikes Back
2 = Star Wars IV – A New Hope
3 = Star Wars VI – Return of the Jedi
4 = The Empire Strikes Back – Deleted Scenes
5 = Star Wars Holiday Special
6 = Caravan of Courage – An Ewok Adventure
7 = Star Wars X – Jedi Assemble