Star Wars has been all over the news lately. The Clone Wars television show just ended its run with the final 13 episodes streaming on Netflix Instant (so many dangling plot threads!) and Episode VII is scheduled to begin production in May, creating limitless new possibilities for the franchise. Plus, the new animated series Rebels will begin sometime later this year.
So with Star Wars as relevant as ever, I look at my 10 favorite Star Wars characters of all time. While I haven’t read many Star Wars comics or novels, I’m a huge fan of the films and The Clone Wars So I present to you characters both old and new that I adore from this seemingly immortal franchise.
10. Cad Bane
A bounty hunter that gives Boba Fett a run for his money in the coolness department. This western motif gunslinger from Star Wars: The Clone Wars is specially equipped to take on Jedi. With dual blasters, jet boots, and a breathing apparatus designed to work around Force chokes, Cad Bane has taken on and beaten numerous lightsaber wielders. Unlike his more famous bounty hunter brethren, Cad Bane has no real moral center, taking on any job, given the right price. He also has more awesome moments on screen.
Standout Moment: Chasing after the same target, Cad Bane runs into Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Quinlan Vos. Bane decides to take them both on, pulling out every trick in his bag and even dueling Kenobi with Vos’ lightsaber. He gets away in the end, too.
9. Boba Fett
Sure, he gets by mostly on his looks (see my article on The Boba Fett Effect), but he’s left an indelible impression on fans worldwide. Boba Fett barely speaks, but he leaves an impression due to his amazing costume and cool-as-a-cucumber attitude. His ship, Slave-1, is completely original, even in a world filled with one-of-a-kind ships. Sure, his death scene was a shame, but fans loved him so much, they undid it in books and comics, sending him on countless adventures and expanding his history.
Standout Moment: After successfully tracking, capturing, and freezing Han Solo in carbonite, Fett attempts to take his body to Jabba the Hutt. Luke, Leia, and Lando try to intervene, but they’re too late. Fett blasts off into the sky, sealing the heroes’ defeat at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
8. Luke Skywalker
Yes, he’s the hero of the original trilogy, but he’s not my favorite character. Hamill creates a compelling character that follows along the classic trajectory of the hero’s journey – changing from naïve farm boy to true Jedi over the course of three movies. But he’s kind of annoying at times (“But I wanted to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power convertors!”) and is less compelling than most of the characters with whom he shares the screen. Still, he’s an indelible symbol of the franchise.
Standout Moment: Luke confronts Darth Vader in the bowels of Cloud City, completely unprepared but desperate to protect his friends. He fights bravely, but is totally outmatched. He loses his hand and suffers Vader’s paternity bomb, but refuses to submit.
Lovable and dangerous at the same time, the Wookie known as Chewbacca is filled with personality, despite never uttering a single understandable line. Like R2-D2, we only fully understand his communications through other characters. But actor Peter Mayhew excels at emoting through body language. Some of the best scenes in Episodes IV – VI play off Chewbacca. An ace pilot and handy with a crossbow blaster, he’s the perfect sidekick. Just make sure to let the Wookie win.
Standout Moment: With the Rebels on the ropes during the Battle of Endor, Chewbacca plays a crucial role in turning the tide. Swinging onto the top of an AT-ST, Chewie climbs in, tosses out the Imperial pilots, and uses the chicken-legged fighter to beat back the evil forces.
6. Captain Rex
One of the real strong points of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was giving the Clone Troopers personalities and real heart. Despite looking and sounding the same, each was a unique character. And Captain Rex was the best of the best. A true leader, this Clone Army Captain not only was a strategic mastermind, but was more than willing to dive headlong into battle with Obi-Wan and Anakin. With his dual pistols, Rex conquered countless droids and even took on powerful foes like the Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress. The lack of closure due to Disney’s cancellation of the series of one of the real disappointments that came from the premature end.
Standout Moment: Trapped on the dangerous planet of Umbara against overwhelming forces, Rex rallies the Clone Troopers to victory. Then, faced with the treachery of the defecting Jedi Knight Pong Krell, Rex and the troops take on the dark Force user and win!
5. Ahsoka Tano
Ahsoka may be the most dynamic and the most endearing of all the characters introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Ways. She also has one of the biggest arcs. Going from fresh padawan to formidable Jedi, she is both a great foil to her master Anakin and a strong character in her own right. She’s an easy standout in an insanely large cast, and also has some of the best battles. Since she is in none of the movies, the question remains throughout the series: what happened to Ahsoka? She’s also the star of some of the best episodes from the series.
Standout Moment: Abducted by Trandoshan hunters, Ahsoka is placed on a jungle-like moon and used as game to be hunted. But she refuses to give in to overwhelming odds. Teaming up with untrained Jedi younglings and Chewbacca (!), Ahsoka uses her wits and skill with a lightsaber to win and escape.
4. Obi-Wan Kenobi
One of the few characters to actually benefit from the prequel trilogy, Obi-Wan is great as both a wise counselor and a formidable warrior. In the prequels, he takes part in some of the best battles, particularly against Darth Maul and Anakin, and showcases the strengths of this updated form of lightsaber combat. In the original trilogy, he is a sage guide, stealing scenes in A New Hope and providing mystical guidance to Luke in the second and third films. Both Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness put in star turns and create a cohesive character throughout the series.
Standout Moment: The Duel of the Fates, as Obi-Wan and his master Qui-Gon Jinn take on the fearsome Darth Maul. His blazing fast one-on-one fight with the Sith apprentice is a true standout in the entire series.
3. Darth Vader
While he starts out as a fairly simple villain in A New Hope, albeit an amazing one, Darth Vader’s tragic story arc is the real backbone of the series, especially given the influence of the prequels. But let’s forget those movies. Whiny Anakin Skywalker is only a solid character in The Clone Wars. But Darth Vader is a brooding, volatile badass who is actually deeply wounded, not just physically, but emotionally. His crisis of conscience as he watches The Emperor slowly kills his son is one of the best scenes in all of Star Wars, with his sacrifice and death being truly satisfying and giving great closure to the character.
Standout Moment: The final battle. Vader both tempts and tries to kill his son Luke, only to have his plan backfire and nearly end in his death. Seeing Luke about to be killed by The Emperor, Vader turns his back on the Dark Side, throwing the true villain of the series into a giant shaft at the cost of his own life, but redeeming himself in the process.
Does anyone save the day more often than R2-D2? Part loyal pet, part Swiss Army knife, this little astromech droid seems to save everyone’s skins at least once per movie. From turning on the space cruiser’s shields in The Phantom Menaceto turning off the trash compactors in A New Hope, every hero in Star Warswould have been long dead without this little guy. He’s equal parts cool and adorable and may be the most recognizable character in all the movies. Artoo is probably the smartest and bravest of them all.
Standout Moment: As the heroes try to escape from Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back, R2 once again saves the day. Not only does he help repair C-3PO and unlock all the passageways needed to escape the floating citadel, he undoes the tampering done to the Millenium Falcon by The Empire, restoring the hyperdrive and allowing for a last second escape.
1. Han Solo
Could it really be any other? Men want to be him. Women want to be with him. Han Solo is the very definition of the lovable rogue. Going from anti-hero to begrudging hero over the course of three films, Han is the character that everyone loves. Harrison Ford makes him equal parts grouch and romantic and he has some of the best lines in the movie. (“I know,” “Never tell me the odds,” and “You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life” stand out in particular.)
He has an awesome blaster, the best spaceship ever, and the sidekick that anyone would want. Plus, he has great interactions with every character on screen: doubting Obi-Wan, arguing with Chewy, fighting with Lando, and, of course, romancing Princess Leia. No one on film, television, or page can compare. You can’t top Han.
Standout Moment: Han and Chewy pilot the Millenium Falcon and take on the Imperial Fleet in The Empire Strikes Back. Dodging asteroids, Tie Fighters, a giant monster, and a Star Destroyer, they manage to outwit and outrun far superior forces.