The 40th anniversary of Star Wars is upon us! It is hard to believe that a quirky sci-fi film that went on the change our cultural and celluloid landscape is 40 years old. In that time, Star Wars and all the films and TV shows that followed, boasted many important and awe-inspiring moments that continue to resonate with fans throughout our planet. As we celebrate Star Wars’ 40th anniversary let’s look at the series’ greatest moments.
40. Rey Claims The Lightsaber From Kylo Ren (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens): Nobody was sure about who was the main hero in the new Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. That mystery was solved beyond a doubt when Rey used the Force to claim Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and battle Kylo Ren. Her eventual victory cemented the fact that she is the best hope for the galaxy.
39. The Pod Race (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): As flawed as the first Star Wars prequel was, the exciting and breakneck pod race on Tatooine with all the weird pilots and their distinctive pod vehicles was one of that film’s best moments.
38. Anakin’s Spiritual Journey on Mortis (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Ghosts of Mortis”): On a distant world, Anakin Skywalker became corrupted by the dark side of the Force after encountering spiritual embodiments of the Force. Terrifying visions of his rise to Darth Vader highlighted this powerful story arc that better explored his fall from grace than the prequel films.
37. “These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): Forget using the Force to do super acrobatics, wield lightsabers and levitate objects. When Ben Kenobi used a Jedi mind trick against stormtroopers interested in Luke Skywalker’s wanted droids, that scene displayed one of the most powerful aspects of the Force. Honorable mention goes to the bar scene in Episode II where a younger Kenobi tells a drug dealer to go home and rethink his life.
36. Darth Maul’s Final Duel (Star Wars Rebels “Twin Suns”): Darth Maul finally finds his ancient enemy Obi-Wan Kenobi in exile on Tatooine. The older Jedi isn’t interested in fighting Maul until the former Sith apprentice deduces that Kenobi is protecting someone (Luke Skywalker). The resulting lightsaber duel is brutally short and to the point with Maul quickly killed. It may have disappointed those waiting for a drawn-out sword fight, but the scene demonstrated that Kenobi was indeed a master. Plus, it cast Maul in a sympathetic light as he seemed to see the error of his ways in his last breath.
35. Ahsoka Tano Vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars Rebels “Twilight of the Apprentice”): Ever since Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka left the Jedi Order near the end of The Clone Wars series and reappeared during Star Wars Rebels, fans have wondered how she would react to seeing her former master as a Sith. We got our answer in the second season finale where she faced off against Darth Vader and proved she was his equal. What was more engaging than the duel was her coming to terms with her former master’s fall.
34. The Battle of Geonosis (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): A Jedi force set out to rescue Anakin, Obi-Wan and Senator Padme Amidala from Separatist forces, but they weren’t enough. Enter the new clone army led by Jedi Master Yoda and before you know we witnessed a full-scale and chaotic ground war between clone troopers and droid soldiers. Seeing all the intense blaster fire and wild looking vehicles of all shapes and sizes engaged in battle was a spectacle and for Star Wars that is saying a lot.
33. Cassian Andor Murders an Informant (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): It was a small scene in the first live-action Star Wars spinoff film. Cassian Andor gets vital intel from a Rebel spy who cannot keep up with him as stormtroopers close in on them. Instead of helping his comrade Andor unexpectedly kills him. This cold-blooded act drove home the point that Rogue One was a decidedly dark film that took risks by showcasing this morally gray character who goes to extremes for the Rebellion.
32. Anakin Pursues Obi-Wan’s Killer (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Friends and Enemies”): One of the best arcs in the animated series featured Obi-Wan Kenobi faking his death and going undercover with bounty hunters. Anakin, believing his master to be dead, relentlessly pursues Obi-Wan’s killer, who is actually Obi-Wan in disguise. This development was an undeniable a high spot in this tense and captivating story arc.
31. The Grand Army of the Republic Sets Out For War (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): Following the climactic Battle of Geonosis in the film, the Galactic Republic unveils its mighty clone army to counter the Separatist threat. With much fanfare marching legions of white armored troops leave Coruscant in giant ships to engage the Separatist droid armies. While many celebrated this moment, others (and we) knew better than to hail these troopers because they foreshadowed the coming of the evil Empire.
30. Luke Enters the Cave (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back): Luke’s training on Dagobah was quite intense not because of all the jumping around and his levitating rocks. Part of his training had him going into a mysterious cave drenched with the dark side of the Force and confronting his own inner demons and fears. This chilling moment was sobering for the young Jedi and us, as well.
29. “Chewie, We’re Home” (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens): The greatest moment in the seventh Star Wars film was when a visibly older Han Solo and his trusted partner Chewbacca, board their beloved Millennium Falcon many years after they lost it. Han’s iconic line to Chewie about being back home was all it took to make this one of the film series greatest moments. Of course, the nostalgia of seeing these two beloved figures together again on the screen was a huge factor in why the scene stole the show in this Star Wars film. But come on, who didn’t get a kick out of seeing Han and Chewie returning to where they belonged?
28. Rex Mutinies Against General Krell (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Carnage of Krell”): The brilliance of this animated series was that many episodes and arcs didn’t even feature the main heroes and this was the best of them. Focusing on the clone trooper Rex, this story had him under the command of a brutal and dictatorial Jedi general, who hated clones. Krell’s eagerness to send clones to their deaths finally drove Rex to stage a mutiny against the crazed Jedi. This was a pivotal moment in developing Rex as a distinct character within an unexpectedly mature story.
27. Yoda Vs. Count Dooku (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): Some may think Yoda physically battling his former apprentice Count Dooku with Force lightning and a lightsaber duel was silly and cartoonish, but damn, it was fun to watch! The idea that this diminutive little green being could be so lithe and acrobatic was one of the best moments in Star Wars films and cemented the fact that Yoda is one tough little warrior.
26. “It’s A Trap!” (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi): The original Star Wars films had been building up to this moment: the Rebellion’s climatic battle against the Empire. It was certain that the conclusion of the space battle over Endor and the second Death Star would determine the winner of the Galactic Civil War. Audiences were on the edge of their seats when the desperate Rebel fleet emerged from hyperspace to confront the Imperial ships guarding the battle station. They then fell off their seats as the Rebel leaders, Lando Calrissian and Admiral Ackbar, realized they led their fleet into a trap.
25 “I Am One With The Force. The Force Is With Me” (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): The Star Wars spinoff stood out from the Saga films with its more adult tone, which also meant main characters died. The most heartbreaking moment in the film was when the blind warrior monk Chirrut Inwe navigated through deadly blaster fire from stormtroopers on Scarif to activate a switch so that the Death Star plans could be transmitted to Rebel forces. When he did his, Chirrut intoned his mantra about the Force with a religious fervor. Chirrut’s noble actions underscored the consequential sacrifice all of the film’s heroes made to bring hope to the galaxy.
24. Battle Over Coruscant (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): This underrated Star Wars film had one of the greatest openings in the film series. After the famous opening crawl the camera pans down to a lone Republic star destroyer over the planet Coruscant. Tribal drums are the only clue to a pending battle. Soon after, the camera follows Jedi starfighters piloted by Anakin and Obi-Wan into a sprawling epic firefight between Republic and Separatist ships. The hectic scenes that followed with explosions and firepower everywhere was one of the greatest space battles ever shown on a Star Wars film.
23. Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi Enter The Cantina (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): One of the most outlandish and humorous moments in Star Wars films was when Luke and Ben first entered the seedy cantina bar on Tatooine in order to find a pilot to transport them off the planet. The bizarre sight of all the weird aliens brought many guffaws among viewers yet the scenes perfectly conveyed the dangerous and seamy atmosphere of the drinking establishment. Plus, it set up terrific character moments like Han Solo’s introduction, Kenobi showed his prowess with his lightsaber, and Luke learned he had a long road ahead of him in being a hero.
22. Yoda’s Introduction (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back): The tiny Jedi Master had the most innocuous introduction in this film. When Luke first encounterd him on Dagobah, Yoda seemed like a feeble-minded goofball who would provide some needed comic relief. However, Yoda revealed his true self by dropping his daffy behavior and talking sternly, which shocked not just Luke but anyone unfamiliar with the epic story. It was one of the film series’ most memorable and unpredictable character introductions.
21. The Millennium Falcon First Jumps Into Hyperspace (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): This was one of the earliest and most gasp-inducing depictions of faster-than-light travel shown on film. The beautiful streaks of light outside the cockpit window of the Millennium Falcon punctuated the nerve-wracking and tense scenes before that moment. Our heroes were being pursued by Imperial forces the second they left the planet Tatooine and embarked on the greatest space adventure of all time to free a galaxy far, far away. The startlingly quick light show was a perfect harbinger for what lay ahead for our heroes and us.
Just for laughs…a special mention must go to the Star Wars Holiday Special. Yes, you read that correctly. The special with its insipid story and corny skits should be mentioned as an unofficial “great moment” because it’s so bad, it’s good!
To Be Continued…