How does one begin a list of the Top 10 Star Wars Moments? Perhaps with what started it all. In 1971, a young George Lucas released his first feature film, THX 1138. A dystopian vision of a future ruled by an oppressive government, THX was a showcase of humanity’s worst qualities, and of how terrible the world was. The movie was fairly unsuccessful. Dissappointed, Lucas put out another movie. A hopeful coming of age story that mirrored his own childhood in 1950s Modesto. American Graffiti’s fun-loving spirit was a resounding hit with moviegoers making nearly $140 Million on a budget of merely $777,000. Lucas noticed that the moviegoing public seemed to view celluloid not as a lesson, but as an escape; a portal to another world, one freer than their own.
Lucas began working on something new. A western space opera with starships and aliens, but also standoffs, farms and cantinas. A film that put eastern mysticism and faded samurai nobility into a dusty new setting. This film would have sword fights, but they would be fought with blades of light. Cowboys and Desperadoes would shoot it out in pristine hallways and the ships wouldn’t sail through space; they would scream, flip, and roll like WWII dogfighters.
On May 25, 1977, millions of children and children and heart looked into a screen and shot through hyperspace to a different universe that they didn’t want to leave. Action figures (plastic atrocities by today’s standards) couldn’t be kept on shelves. In the messy aftermath of the Vietnam conflict, this world of unambiguous struggle between good and evil became a phenomenon, instantly inserting itself into global pop culture. Here are the top ten Star Wars moments from 40 years of the galaxy far far away. (Sequel trilogy excluded for the sake of congruity)
#10: The Skywalker Wedding
This is probably one of the least recognized moments in Star Wars and one of the least involved scenes. Its one of several conclusion scenes thrown on to the end of Attack of the Clones to tie up all the loose end, but it’s beautiful anyway. Tacky or not, this scene shows us the passion that Anakin Skywalker had as a young man, and hints at how it could turn so quickly to hatred.
#9: Vader’s Rampage
Next up on the list is the definitive manifestation of that hatred. Darth Vader as an unstoppable killing machine. Seeing his saber light up that dark room, and hearing that ominous breathing as rebels scramble to get the death star plans to the Tantiive IV perfectly sets up the stage for the original film (even though the rebels clearly were not on a diplomatic mission).
#8: The Duel of the Fates
While the Battle on Mustafar isn’t the greatest in the saga, it is probably the most climactic. The explosive lava around Anakin ans Obi-Wan as they duel to the death is superb atmosphere. To top it off, Ewan Macgregor and Hayden Christensen went through an almost “Keanu Reeves-level” combat training regimen to prepare for it. It combines prequel era elegance with the scrappiness of a street fight, creating the perfect depiction of a shattered friendship.
#7: The Battle on the Sail Barge
Luke Skywalker steps on to the diving board. ” You should have bargained, Jabba. That’s the last mistake you’ll ever make.” He says. In time with the building staccato score, we see the face of every player in the overly complicated plan that has been slowly unfolding for the past half hour. Skywalker walks the plank…but then leaps back up, catching his lightsaber. Now a full Jedi Knight, he ignites his emerald blade; In this moment of swashbuckling, he embodies the Errol Flynn to Han Solo’s Clint Eastwood.
#6: The Twin Sunset
Whenever someone tells me that George Lucas isn’t a good director, this moment is the first thing I bring up. It’s barely a scene, and happens in about half a minute, but it truly demonstrates Lucas’s fluency in the language of visual storytelling. Luke’s distant stare at the horizon says more about his desire for a new life than any amount of dialogue ever could. This scene is something we all can relate to, even if our sky only has one sun.
#5: Yoda vs. Dooku
Similar to the raw thrill that comes from seeing a sith powerhouse like Vader let loose, seeing Yoda in combat, finally, is breathtaking. If there’s one thing the prequels got right, it’s the lightsaber duels. Specifically the way that every warrior’s personality is translated into the way they use their blade. Dooku, a count, fights with style, saluting his opponent and showering his opponent with a volley of elaborate flourishes. Yoda fights with a deeper Sagacity, concentrating his energy and expertly countering each of Dooku’s attacks.
#4: The Battle over Bespin
Empire‘s climax is a fantastically shot combat sequence that takes us through the shadowy carbon chamber, the stark hallways of cloud city, and finally to a perilous wind shaft. This fight is a work of art. The way that the blue and red sabers light up the haze as they clash is nothing short of iconic. To truly appreciate this duel one must consider the plot significance of this event. This is a battle where the good guys lose. The young Jedi doesn’t destroy the death star. Evil wins; physically and mentally as Luke’s true lineage is revealed.
Shortly after Empire was released, a study was conducted to determine what people thought of Vader’s claim to being Luke’s father. Many people over seven thought he was lying — cast included, the original line spoken by David Prowse was actually “No, Obi-Wan killed your father” — using Luke’s insecurities to get in his head. Kids under seven believed him… and it terrified them.
#3: The Battle of Hoth
The most intriguing thing about Star Wars for many people is its inventivity. While a snowspeeder trapping the legs of an AT-AT might seem common today, For 1980, it was pretty uncommon. This massive setpeice is also a prime example of the exquisite detail with which everything in Star Wars is rendered.
#2: Han’s Return
When you ask most O.G. Star Wars fans who their favorite character is, they’ll probably say Luke Skywalker. It makes sense. He’s the hero of the story, the one with the lightsaber, and the one with the cool force powers.
However, a lot of people will also say Han Solo because in many ways he’s everything Luke isn’t. He’s not a young kid making his way in the galaxy, he’s a grizzled and hardened smuggler who knows its ropes and has seen its worst side. He can’t fight off a horde of stormtroopers with his laser sword; his wits and his trusty DL-44 are all he’s got. Most importantly though, his struggle is vastly different from Luke’s. Luke must master his fear and his anger to become who he is destined to be. Han is already a top notch pilot. His battle is with himself, between protecting his own interests and fighting for what he knows is right. Han’s Comeback isn’t what clinches victory for the rebels. but when the Milennium falcon whips over the Death Star trench, Han whooping all the way, its tough not to do the same.
#1: The Battle for the Fate of the Galaxy (or the second time Luke and Vader fought)
After seeing Luke get soundly destroyed by Vader in Empire this battle is a gratifying relief. A neophyte before, Luke is more seasoned this time around. He is so in control throughout the whole duel, constantly refusing to fight Vader, but swinging his saber like a true Jedi Knight when he must. The saga’s climax comes after this, and is definitely epic, but when you look at other action franchises, this is the scene that sets this one apart. Good triumphs over evil by deactivating its lightsaber.
Thanks for reading! What are your top 10 Star Wars moments? Comment down below!
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