50 Greatest Star Wars Moments

30. Kylo Ren vs Luke Skywalker

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Finally, 34 years after Luke Skywalker had his final lightsaber battle in Return of the Jedi, we are given his final cinematic fight. This is our original hero, The Last Jedi. Or, at least Kylo Ren thinks so when they face off against each other in front of the ruins of the rebel base. On white snow with blood red soil underneath, the master and the apprentice face once again – Obi-Wan’s second protégé vs the grandfather of his first. Who will come out on top?

Despite The Last Jedi being as divisive as marmite (you either love it or you hate it), this scene is indisputably beautifully done. The lighting looks gorgeous, Luke standing against background flames is epic, and all of the subtle little clues as to what is really going on give it a huge amount of rewatch factor. It isn’t the most choreographed or balletic fight in the films (despite a slow-motion limbo dodge of Ren’s lightsaber), but the Disney era films never seem to go in for prequel-level skills. Luke is out of practice, and Ren never really went up against anyone, and so the sloppiness of it works for the characters and the story. Gravity feels real, and watch out for that footwork.

It is a great stand between the two characters, and it truly feels climactic and epic. The world is always better when Luke Skywalker steps up to the plate, and when it’s against family, it’s personal. With everything on the line, The Last Jedi finishes off in fine fashion. (KJ)

29. Han Shot First

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

A debate surrounding Star Wars that has raged on and on and on, is: who shot first? In A New Hope, after being briefly introduced to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, he is accosted by Greedo. Han’s employer, Jabba the Hutt, isn’t happy that he doesn’t have the money he has been promised by Han, and a ‘friendly’ discussion starts up between the two of them in one of the Mos Eisley cantina booths. Greedo’s gun pointed at his face, Han draws his own under the table. Shots are fired. Greedo goes down. But who shot first?

The issue is that there are now five different versions of the specifics of who shot first, Greedo or Han, and all of them contradict each other. And that’s even before we add in the whole Disney Plus ‘Maclunky!’ issue, where a random word was added to Greedo’s dialogue for the streaming service’s release, a word which came almost out of nowhere and confused most of the internet, especially as it hadn’t been there ever before in a 42-year-old film with multiple changes.

Still, the scene itself shows Han Solo’s lightning reactions, his need to survive and get ahead of the game. And whether you think he shot first and therefore shows a ruthlessness in him that he needed to live in the job he did, or that he was just lightning-fast to respond to a shot gone wide, it still gives a great introduction to one of cinema’s greatest heroes (not to mention a side-character that has a whole lot of lore attached to him now, despite just being called ‘The Alien’ in the original script for a one-page scene). As for Harrison Ford, when he was asked who shot first, his response was ‘I don’t care.’ Sounds about right. (KJ)

28. Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor Die

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

After securing the Death Star schematics, Jyn Erso transmits them to the Rebellion. But when Governor Tarkin orders the Death Star to incinerate the entire planet, Jyn and Cassian Andor find themselves stranded on Scarif with no hope of escape. Wounded and exhausted, they limp to the shore, where the blast from the Death Star can be seen along the horizon. Accepting their fate, the pair embrace as the light from the Death Star’s rays overtake them.

This moment is significant for its inevitability and the way the filmmakers were able to convey the enormity of Jyn and Cassians’s sacrifice. Stealing the Death Star plans was always a risk, one that our heroes took regardless of their chances for survival. It’s emotional to watch as the score swells and the sun sets, Jyn and Cassian finding comfort in each other’s embrace. Their lives might be coming to an end, but their courage has allowed the rebellion to continue and, as we know, eventually win.

Rogue One is not the most universally beloved entry in the Star Wars franchise, but it manages to stick the landing with such a powerful ending. It underscores the saga’s message of hope and resilience, and it gives greater context to the iconic opening of the original film, A New Hope. (MR)

27. Lando Calrissian Betrays Han Solo

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

Han Solo’s anxiety at reuniting with his old friend Lando Calrissian is proven to have been an omen as the charismatic leader of Cloud City walks Han and Leia directly to Darth Vader, betraying the alliance in an attempt at self-preservation. Upon seeing Vader, reluctant hero Han immediately takes out his blaster and attempts to take down the Sith, although unsuccessfully. Vader has captured some of our most beloved heroes and a charismatic new character is to blame.

The impact of this moment comes from the shock of it taking place. Lando is simply explaining the use of Cloud City to his guests, the music lighthearted for what seems like plain old exposition. “I’ve just made a deal that will keep the Empire out of here forever,” he says before opening some doors. Darth Vader is on the other side. We see Lando, then Vader, then Han, in three quick shots, establishing the betrayal, and following some brave but ultimately pointless shots from Han, Lando’s decision is clear. “I had no choice, they landed right before you did,” he says, indicating his regret. Would the self-serving Han Solo have done the same thing to Lando? Perhaps. And that’s the point. Lando is not a hero yet, just another character in the universe looking to survive under Empire rule.

All that has been told to us about Lando Calrissian becomes true in this moment. His charismatic façade is dissolved. He betrays our heroes, and whether they deserve it or not in his eyes doesn’t matter to us, because we know this could be fatal. Ultimately, Lando is given redemption, choosing as Han did to do the right thing and join the rebels’ cause, but that decision only matters because of this one; a decision that changes the course of the Saga forever. (JW)

26. Rey Hears the Jedi

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

In the closing moments of the final episode of the Skywalker Saga, Rey lays motionless on the ground as Emperor Palpatine’s powers send resistance spaceships tumbling towards the ground. Bloodied and teary-eyed, Rey asks “be with me?” and we are taken through the planet’s atmosphere and into the darkness of space, John Williams’ Jedi score hitting as we do. This is when we hear the voices of the Jedi. Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness are both heard as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Hayden Christensen is heard as Anakin Skywalker, Ashley Ekstein’s Ahsoka Tano can be heard, as can Freddie Prinze Jr’s Kanan Jarrus, Olivia d’Abo’s Luminara Unduli, Jennifer Hale’s Aayla Secura, Angelique Perrin’s Adi Gallia, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu, Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jin, Frank Oz’s Yoda, and of course Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker. “Rise,” they suggest. And rise she does.

The camera twists from beside Rey into a position from which we are looking down at her. Her face aligns with the centre of the frame as she aligns with the force, the horrors of the wars above dissipated as she finds peace beyond (as indicated through the camera traversing through the lightning and into space). The lightning bathes her in blues and whites, the visual indicator being that she is now at one with the light. From the universe come the voice of the Jedi. It’s a spine-tingling moment; true dream factory stuff.

Cinema can provide us with some wonderful things. The voices of characters we have loved and lost, returning in support of our hero’s final stand, is one of them. Hearing so many voices that defined most people’s childhoods is as cathartic as it can get. As Rey rises, so do our hopes. And the overriding message of Star Wars is present: anyone can choose to do the right thing, even if it hurts. (JW)

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