Now that Star Wars fans have the long-awaited sequels to the original trilogy in their grasp, it’s undeniably a good time to be an admirer of the “galaxy far, far away.” With Star Wars: The Force Awakens heralding the start of a new era for the saga, fans can finally put the divisive prequel trilogy in the past. However, despite their less than sterling reputation, the prequels actually weren’t the complete messes that many accused them of being. In fact, the films had plenty of their own strong points to offer.
We’re taking a closer look at some of the standout scenes throughout Episodes I, II, and III, and in the interest of exploring the trilogy in greater depth, we won’t be including any of the climactic lightsaber battles. The scope of these sequences isn’t necessarily their most important aspect. It’s the way in which they capture the spirit of Star Wars or otherwise capture major events that we’re looking to pinpoint. So let’s get started.
1. The Jedi escape
Even though The Phantom Menace is largely considered among the series’ worst entries, its opening sequence gets a lot right. Right away, we’re introduced to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi amidst an ordinary mission that will ultimately have life-changing consequences for the galaxy. Faced with an attack on their lives by the Trade Federation, the two immediately establish what the Jedi looked like in their prime, something fans had never seen up to that point. Qui-Gon’s burning through the blast doors with his lightsaber still counts as one of the character’s best moments in the film.
2. Anakin denied training
At first glance, this scene is simply the final payoff to the setup of Anakin’s potential training as a Jedi. However, there’s more to it than that. Qui-Gon volunteers to train Anakin, giving Obi-Wan the opportunity to assert himself as a Jedi Knight. Best of all, viewers are given their first glimpse at the resentment that Anakin will harbor for the Jedi Council, Mace Windu in particular. These negative emotions are what ultimately fester into a deep-seated hatred by the time Revenge of the Sith rolls around. Well played, George.
3. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Jango Fett
Boba Fett was an instant fan-favorite after his first big-screen appearance in The Empire Strikes Back (remember, his A New Hope cameo wasn’t added until the special edition). So it was cool to see Attack of the Clones center on his backstory as an unaltered clone of bounty hunter, Jango Fett. While Boba himself is just a boy at this point, the battle between Jango and Obi-Wan far surpasses any action bits the younger Fett would get in the original trilogy. Plus, it’s not often we get actual fisticuffs in a Star Wars film.
4. The Battle of Geonosis
Just as the introduction of Qui-Gon and young Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace gave fans their first hint at the Jedis’ power, this scene — which kicks off the beginning of the Clone Wars — demonstrates their ability to take on a grander conflict. With dozens of lightsabers in action, the Battle of Geonosis establishes the collective strength and teamwork between the Jedi. Plus, there’s no way we can turn down a chance to see the always-badass Samuel L. Jackson rocking a purple lightsaber in combat.
5. The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise
Now that all those fan theories are floating around the internet, this moment in Revenge of the Sith has been scrutinized more than ever before. While there’s still no telling if Darth Plagueis and Supreme Leader Snoke are one and the same, Palpatine’s chilling tale of a Sith Lord who fell prey to his apprentice — clearly implied to be Palpatine himself — simultaneously serves as an effective way to manipulate Anakin’s vulnerability to the dark side and lends a bit of insight into Palpatine’s own past. Still one of Ian McDiarmid’s finest moments in the entire saga.
6. Order 66
Before the prequel trilogy even began, fans knew that every Jedi who isn’t Yoda and Obi-Wan was unlikely to survive. This heartbreaking sequence — bolstered by John Williams’s stirring score — finally brings that fate to light, as now-Emperor Palpatine systematically eliminates the vast majority of the Jedi in one fell swoop. It’s the beginning of a dark era for the galaxy, and the scene itself has the gravitas to match the weight of that shift. Thankfully, at least the whole thing ends with a cheer-worthy moment featuring Yoda.
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