Across all the Star Wars films, the saga has introduced so many iconic characters that everyone is bound to have their own favorites. Still, within the George Lucas-created franchise, a number of compelling Star Wars characters stand out from the humans, aliens, and droids across the galaxy. Here is our take for the 10 best characters featured in the Star Wars saga. For the record, we’re looking at the eight original live-action theatrical films as a whole. So don’t expect Darth Maul to be listed here, as his appearance in the films was sadly limited.
10. Jyn Erso
As the main hero of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jyn Erso is far more than meets the eye. Early trailers depicted her as your run-of-the-mill rebellious malcontent, but after seeing the film, it’s not hard to see her complexity. She’s someone whose whole life has been stolen away from her by war and destruction. She’s inspired to fight for something larger than herself, and sacrificing herself for the sake of the galaxy. Our only regret is that Rogue One could very well be her only appearance, although rumors that Felicity Jones is signed on for an additional Star Wars movie give us hope for at least a cameo sometime down the road.
Alongside R2-D2, C-3PO holds the distinct honor of being one of two characters to appear in every Star Wars film, from The Phantom Menace all the way to Rogue One. Anthony Daniels brings a special life to the protocol droid, giving us someone who’s equal parts an obnoxious nag, and a trusted friend. Beyond that, he’s spoken some of the most-quoted lines in the entire franchise, all while conveying a range of complex emotions behind his rigid gold suit. Suffice it to say, the Star Wars saga simply wouldn’t be the same without him.
8. Emperor Palpatine
The Dark Lord of the Sith, Palpatine — or Darth Sidious, depending on which alter-ego you’re talking to — represents the epitome of evil in the films. As portrayed by Ian McDiarmid, the character systemically conquers the galaxy throughout the prequels, essentially manipulating the entire galaxy to his will. Until that fateful moment at the end of Return of the Jedi, nearly everything in the saga “has transpired according to [his] design,” as he readily admits. The gleeful satisfaction with which he causes death and destruction makes him one of the most indelible cinematic baddies of all time and a Star Wars character that moviegoers can’t help but love to hate.
7. Leia Organa
Leia may be the female lead of the original trilogy, but she’s unfortunately one of the few noteworthy women in the saga. However, as portrayed by Carrie Fisher, the character is bold, brave, and commanding from the first moment she appears in A New Hope. A member of the Imperial Senate moonlighting as a leader of the Rebel Alliance, she matches Han Solo in guts and Luke Skywalker in heart, initially serving as the most sophisticated, forward-thinking member of the three. Even when her storyline leads her to that iconic golden bikini in Return of the Jedi, Leia seizes the opportunity, killing Jabba the Hutt herself.
6. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Unlike most of the characters on this list, Obi-Wan Kenobi has not one but two gifted performers bringing him to life on-screen. Sir Alec Guinness played the Jedi Master in the original trilogy as a wise mentor to Luke Skywalker, and Ewan McGregor brought a more youthful, vibrant side of the character to life in the prequels (ultimately becoming one of those films’ strongest assets).
In both incarnations, Obi-Wan represents the by-the-book foil to characters like Qui-Gon Jinn and Han Solo. He is the saga’s version of the archetypal knight or samurai warrior, completely devoted to his order and the moral compass of the saga, alongside a certain diminutive colleague (more on him later).
We still don’t have the full story on Rey’s background, but that doesn’t make her any less of a great character in Star Wars lore. Daisy Ridley’s stellar performance gave the saga a truly intriguing heroine, balancing her feelings of abandonment with a heroic streak we see throughout. And as the new trilogy goes on, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her become a powerful Jedi in the vein of Luke and Obi-Wan.
4. Luke Skywalker
When audiences first meet Luke Skywalker, the character is desperate for an escape from his humdrum life as a moisture farmer on Tattoine. As such, he immediately fills the role of audience proxy, allowing characters like Obi-Wan and Yoda to indoctrinate him into the ways of the Force just as audiences are swept up in the adventure with him. Over the course of the original trilogy, Mark Hamill conveys Luke’s initial naïveté as well as his growing understanding of the complex world of good and evil he’s gotten himself into. By the time the final film rolls around, his journey is largely complete, with the innocent farm boy transformed into a Jedi Knight who comes face to face with Emperor Palpatine himself.
The thought of a Muppet-like creature joining the Star Wars universe must have been a bit jarring for audiences back in 1980. However, Yoda — voiced by Frank Oz — is the spiritual heart and soul of the Force throughout the saga. As powerful as he is wise, the character leads the Jedi Council in the prequels, battles Palpatine in an epic showdown and ultimately trains Luke Skywalker to become the last remaining Jedi.
Moreover, he has remained a fan-favorite due to his infectiously quotable dialogue, his endearing appearance, and his skills with a lightsaber. Yoda himself warns Luke not to judge him by his size, and audiences listened, allowing the little 900-year-old warrior to develop into one of the saga’s most beloved characters.
2. Han Solo
The pilot of the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo has a unique place in the Star Wars saga. While Luke’s desire to become a Jedi and Leia’s goal to destroy the Empire motivate them, Han begins as an outsider who only assists Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids so that he can pay off a debt. Along the way, he forms a friendship with the Skywalker twins (and romantic love, in the case of Leia), which leads the smuggler to develop into a general for the Rebel Alliance. Despite that, he always has a sarcastic remark on hand (“Boring conversation anyway … “) and shares an indelible bond with co-pilot Chewbacca. With a Han Solo origin film in development, whoever assumes the role from Harrison Ford certainly has his work cut out for him.
1. Darth Vader
At this point, little can be said about Darth Vader that hasn’t already been acknowledged. His intimidating suit and omnipresent mechanical breathing already lend the character a menacing quality, and with the voice of James Earl Jones, it’s hardly a surprise that he is one of the most iconic characters to ever grace the silver screen. Perhaps the strongest testament to just how revered Vader is, lies in the fact that fans still largely consider him to be the best Star Wars character, despite the criticisms they launched at actors Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen’s portrayals of the pre-Vader Anakin Skywalker. Even so, Anakin/Vader’s journey is the crux of the entire Star Wars saga, painting a tragic tale of redemption at the hands of his son.
- Padme Amidala
- Boba Fett
- Lando Calrissian
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
Additional reporting by Nick Cannata-Bowman.
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