Banner Image: Yuri Turkov / Shutterstock.com
In 1977, Star Wars grabbed us from the opening titles and took us on a mythic journey that has captivated us for more than four decades.
Filled with epic battles, bizarre creatures, love stories, betrayals and the inevitable high-speed chases, it’s a saga that’s deeply embedded itself in pop culture.
Sure, epic tales of good vs. evil aren’t exactly the new kid on the block. Just ask Homer. But why is it that Star Wars has taken the modern era by storm? Is it the stellar cast? The snappy dialogue? The special effects?
There’s probably no explaining the Star Wars magic. All we know is that it’s filled with iconic images that have worked their way into the cultural lexicon and stayed there. And with The Rise of Skywalker recently released in theaters, it seems like a good time to look back on some of the most memorable moments that lead up to it.
So here, in no particular order (because hey, we all have our favorites), are some of the greatest moments from the three trilogies.
(To avoid any spoilers, we’ve left out The Rise of Skywalker.)
1. “Never Tell Me The Odds.” (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
Han Solo. We love his swagger, his sarcasm and, above all, his guts. When the Empire assaults a rebel base, he flees in the Millennium Falcon along with Leia and a skeleton crew.
But when his not-so-trusty spaceship begins to falter, he decides to hide out in an asteroid field— an idea to which C3-PO has major objections.
When the droid begins to give Han their chances of survival, our hero simply quips, “Never tell me the odds,” and plunges in any way.
That’s what we call mind over asteroid. Maybe Han should have been a life coach.
2. Leia Chokes Jabba In A Metal Bikini (Episode VI: The Return of The Jedi)
The infamous bikini. It probably lingered in the imaginations of men long after their adolescence. But despite the slave girl getup, we already know Princess Leia is no pushover.
With heaving breasts and golden arm bracelets, she chokes the fat blob of a villain with the very chains he locked her up with.
In the process we learned two things:
One: Leia’s not into bondage.
Two: Choking a monster is a great bikini bootcamp workout.
3. The Jedi Mind Trick (Episode IV: A New Hope)
It’s the power we wish we all had. And the trick Obi-Wan Kenobi uses to bend minds and influence storm troopers.
“You don’t need to see his identification. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. He can go about his business. Move along.”
With these simple words, the Jedi master breezes through a search point with Luke, CP-3O and R2-D2 who happen to be carrying the Death Star plans.
It’s probably one of the most famous and most parodied lines of the franchise.
Now, you will keep reading this article. You love it. You will share it with your friends.
4. Luke Gets Schooled By Yoda (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
Yoda actually has very little screen time in Episode V, but the tiny green Jedi master makes an indelible impression.
While Yoda trains Luke in the ways of the Force on Dagobah, the young Skywalker starts to feel sorry for himself when he fails to lift his X-Wing out of the swamp. This is when Yoda admonishes him with the famous line, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
When Luke still fails to lift his craft out of the mud, Yoda uses his Jedi powers to raise into the air himself.
When it comes to the Force, size doesn’t matter.
5. Darth Vader Suits Up (Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
And now we veer over to the dark side. The prequels, I mean. Plodding, heavy-handed and utterly without humor, they nonetheless had their moments.
The most dramatic being when the grotesquely maimed Anakin is finally transformed into Vader with a high-tech suit. Piece by piece we see him slowly come together. Until, at last, the infamous mask goes on and Vader draws his first breath.
Now that’s what we call cinematic.
From then on, it’s all wheezy breathing and evil deeds for one of Hollywood’s most famous villains.
6. The Trench Run (Episode IV: A New Hope)
And now we cut to the chase. Literally. This famous fight/battle scene inspired many that came after it in the Star Wars series. Luke’s wild ride through the treacherous trench work of the Death Star was a triumph of piloting for the character.
It was also a major feat of editing, model work and scoring for the production team.
Sure, special effects have come a long way since. But there’s no denying this action sequence keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Also, it inspired a ride at Disneyland. Now that’s famous.
7. “Chewy, We’re Home.” (Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
Han Solo and Chewbacca walk into Millennium Falcon after years apart with this iconic line spoken by Harrison Ford. For fans that were feeling battle-weary after the laborious prequels, it was like a breath of fresh air. Star Wars was back and had found its sense of fun once again.
Finally, we could all stop yawning. Yippee!
8. Vader Chokes Admiral Motti (Episode IV: A New Hope)
When Admiral Motti mocks Darth Vader for his belief in the Force, he finds out exactly how real it is.
As Vader chokes him with his Jedi powers from across the room, he says with casual menace, "I find your lack of faith disturbing."
Really, Vader, that’s what’s disturbing? Maybe someone should have told you that’s not how the Force is supposed to work.
9. “I Love You.” “I Know.” (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
Leia and Han. They’re the ultimate I-Love-You, I-Hate-You, I-Love-To-Hate-You couple.
This scene from The Empire Strikes Back pretty much sums up the dynamic of their relationship.
As Han is being lowered into a carbonite mold, Leia bursts out with a possibly final, “I love you.”
Instead of coming back with the scripted , “I love you too,” Harrison Ford improvised the line, “I know,” in return. And a legendary scene was born.
Sorry, George, you can’t take credit for that one.
10. “It’s A Trap!” Duh. (Episode VI: The Return of The Jedi)
Star Wars nerds adored this line decades before it became a famous GIF. Admiral/Crustacean Ackbar catches on a little too late that what he thought was a sneak on attack on the Death Star was actually expected all along.
He pays by getting sucked into space. But at least he’ll always live on as a GIF.
11. Duel Of The Fates (Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
This is a major lightsaber throw down. A young Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn face off against Sith warrior Darth Maul. Set to a dramatic score by John Williams, this beautifully choreographed fight scene takes place on a series of raised platforms bringing even more tension to the action.
As fans know, Qui-Gon is killed by the Sith, leaving his young protégé behind. Just as one day Obi-Wan would be killed in front of his pupil, Luke. Whoa. This shit is deep.
12. Rey vs. Kylo Ren (Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
Kylo Ren is trying to summon a lightsaber from the snow. It quivers and dislodges. But instead of flying into his hands, it swooshes right past him into the hands of Rey. She herself looks as surprised as Kylo that she successfully used the force to summon the weapon.
But the surprise lasts just for a moment before she dives into action to take on Kylo. It’s one of the best girl-power moments in the franchise. Sorry, I meant woman-power. Rock on with your bad self, Rey.
13. The Cantina Scene (Episode IV: A New Hope)
When Luke enters a bar on Mos Eisley it’s like a scene straight out of the wild west. With aliens. We see a host of bizarre-looking creatures from all over the galaxy while tapping our feet to one of Star Wars catchiest tunes.
We also meet some major characters and are treated to a barroom brawl. What does the wild, wild west have over Mos Eisley? Nothing partner.
14. BB-8’s Thumbs Up (Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
Too-adorable creatures in the Star Wars series can be controversial. Lord knows the Ewoks unleashed a hellstorm of criticism. That being said, this high-tech thumb ups from BB-8 to Finn is way too adorable to resist.
Also, I would take him to a concert anytime.
15. The Trash Compactor (Episode IV: A New Hope)
Lei, Luke, Han and Chewie are forced to escape down a garbage chute on the Death Star. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a garbage monster that has it in for Luke. And as if THAT weren’t bad enough, the walls start to close in on them.
The tension and the witty repartee are classic Star Wars. Still glad I didn’t have to watch it in smell-a-vision though.
16. The Speeder Bike Chase (Episode VI: Return of the Jedi)
Luke and Lei pursue Imperial Scout Troopers through the forest of Endor in this gripping chase sequence on flying bikes. I think this could be considered an extreme sport.
17. Chewie Gets Food Shamed (Episode VIII: The Last Jedi)
Wow, Chewie must have been really hangry to skin and roast anything as adorable as a Porg. But when he’s about to take his first bite, one of the cuddly critters gives him second thoughts with a pair of big, sad Porg eyes.
Suddenly, his meal plan is looking a lot less appetizing. Still, hard to imagine Chewie chowing down on Tofurkey.
18. The At-Ats (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
There’s a lot of weaponry in the Stars Wars saga. But perhaps nothing as memorable as the All-Terrain Armored Transports.
They look like mechanical dinosaurs and utterly destroyed the Rebel base camp on planet Hoth. But as the saying goes, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
These seemingly invincible machines have a dramatic downfall when Luke and Wedge tie up their legs and throw grenades inside them.
So much for Dino-might.
19. Dual Sunset on Tattooine (Episode IV: A New Hope)
So simple and yet so iconic. Luke Skywalker takes in a double sunset over the sand dunes of Tattooine to the accompaniment of a moody score by John Williams. Breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly atmospheric, this is one of the ultimate expressions of what we call cinematic.
20. “No, I Am Your Father.” (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
No list (no matter how short or long) is complete without this most pivotal of moments in the Star Wars saga.
Luke Skywalker has already lost his hand in an intense battle with arch villain Darth Vader. But the truly fatal blow comes when Vader reveals Luke’s true heritage. Darth Vader didn’t kill Luke’s father. He IS Luke’s father.
Luke is overcome with anguish. And when the movie was originally released, the audience felt like they just got hit by an asteroid. Greek tragedy has nothing on Lucas.
This scene is absolutely the most famous of the entire Star Wars saga. Not to mention one of the most famous in the history of cinema.
The Force Is Still With Us
Well, those are just a few of the great moments from the Star Wars trilogies. Obviously, there are many more. Like the iconic opening credits, the decisive battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader and a host of others.
The lingering question is where will the franchise go now that the Skywalker storyline has come to a conclusion? With more movies, TV series and video games in the works there are a galaxy of possibilities. So stay tuned fans.
The ride isn’t over yet!