The Star Wars Universe is so full off brilliant, rich characters that have become cinematic and pop culture classics. And continuing my celebrations of all things Star Wars I’m going to be counting down my 10 favourites. This list will mainly focus on what I consider to be main characters from the films, although I will also touch on some of the expanded universe, because despite a number of brilliant minor or supporting characters that is definitely a list for another day. This list is completely my own opinion, and with a topic with so many passionate fans, I would love to hear who your favourite Star Wars characters are in the comments.
10) Rey – With all the new characters, and the returning classics, it is undoubtedly Rey who stands out as the main focus of The Force Awakens, and I would guess (I am writing this before seeing The Last Jedi) the entire new trilogy in the same way Luke was in the Original Trilogy. There is a huge amount of mystery surrounding her character after that first film, namely her parentage and how she is able to muster such control of the force with seemingly no training, and the answers to the questions about her character will probably dictate where she ends up in most people’s estimations. At the moment Rey is an inspirational character to many, someone who had to fight all her life on Jakku to just survive, and in typical Star Wars fashion found herself thrown into the fight for the fate of the Galaxy. I am fascinated to see where her story will go, I think there is a distinct possibility that she could be corrupted by the Dark Side if Luke Skywalker isn’t everything she hoped he would be, but at the moment I truly have no idea, and that is exciting to me.
9) Darth Maul – Maul’s presence in the films is not hugely significant. He is the main antagonist of the The Phantom Menace, although being controlled by Darth Sidious of course, but even in his one film appearance he doesn’t get a huge amount of screen time. What time he does get makes an impact though. He’s just a hugely cool character and, unlike Boba Fett, he got a worthy end. Going down fighting two Jedi in one of the best Lightsaber Duels in Star Wars history (check out this list for my ranking of those) and even killing Qui-Gon Jinn in the process. But it’s beyond the film that he goes from a cool villain to a great character with his appearances in the animated show. Becoming more of a neutral figure following his resurrection in The Clone Wars, he doesn’t fight for the Light or the Dark side, he fights for himself. And it’s the characters who don’t fall into a simple black and white that often interest me more, that’s why I latched onto Cassian Andor in Rogue One more than most people.
8) Kylo Ren – Kylo Ren really divided people. Some thought he was just a whiny teen, however I am of the school of thought that Ren is one of the most conflicted and fascinating villains that we have seen so far in the Star Wars Universe. We have so many good characters being manipulated and corrupted by the Dark Side, that it is fascinating to see someone who is inspired by his grandfather, Darth Vader, and wants to be a Sith lord, but also has that influence from the Light Side of the force pulling him in different directions. Much like Rey he’s a character who final place on the list will be shaped by his journey in the next two films, but I do believe that in killing his Han at the end of The Force Awakens this was him snuffing out that spark of goodness and making the opposite choice to Vader. There is a high chance that I could be completely wrong and that Ren can be redeemed, and as with Rey the mystery is fascinating.
7) Grand Moff Tarkin – I think people underrate Grand Moff Tarking in A New Hope. They forget or do not realise that he is the principal villain of that film, and that Vader is under him in the Empire’s pecking order. It is Peter Cushing’s performance in the film that makes Tarkin really stand out. He always has a charm and an intelligence to him that makes him seem more threatening than even Vader. And in the end his great undoing is his hubris. Believing that there is no possibility that the Death Star can be destroyed he refuses to leave “in their moment of triumph” despite warning about the station’s weakness. All of this just makes him such a rich character amongst the countless brilliant characters in the original Star Wars. It is also important to note that Cushing found the boots so uncomfortable to wear that Tarkin is actually wearing slippers in every single scene. And if that isn’t the greatest thing you’ve ever heard then I don’t know what is.
6) Finn – Of all the new characters introduced in The Force Awakens FN-2187, or Finn as Poe named him, is my favourite. The whole idea of Stormtroopers as people who were conditioned by The First Order from birth to believe in their ideals and carry out their orders without question is terrifying, and one of the easy comparison that could be drawn to fascist regimes. And it is through Finn, a Stormtrooper in his first combat who finds himself unable to take part in the senseless killing of unarmed and innocent villagers, that we get to explore these ideas. I also love the focus on the ordinary people of the universe, and not those who are tied into the Skywalker family or other key characters. And that is exactly who Finn represents. Someone who couldn’t stomach the horrible acts that The First Order were committing and had to run. He isn’t driven by a need to do the right thing (there’s the great joke between him and Poe whilst they are escaping) but by self preservation, and the desire to protect his friends.
5) Han Solo – I know he’s going to be many people’s number 1, and I love Han Solo as much as anybody else, but there are just 4 other characters that I love more. I don’t think that it’s a surprise to anyone that Harrison Ford was the man who was made into a star by the Original Trilogy of films. From that first moment that you meet Han in the Mos Eisley Cantina he made such an impression on me, and almost everyone else watching. He fits into a very similar category as Finn, in that he is more a representation of the average person in that world. Not someone fighting for the Light or Dark side, but someone out to make a profit and make his own way. Throughout Ford brings the roguish charm that Han is famed for, but is also capable of being genuinely hilarious. His arc is definitely at its most interesting in both A New Hope and The Force Awakens. With A New Hope being his journey to being that hero who comes back to save Luke, when there is nothing in it for him, it’s about him taking a stand and picking his side. In The Force Awakens Ford got to give the Han the swansong he deserved. His final scene, where he confronts his son is one of the great moments in Star Wars history, and Ford acts his heart out. It’s just impossible to talk about great Star Wars characters without talking about Han.
4) Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker – He’s the granddaddy of movie villains. He’s probably the greatest movie villain ever. But more interestingly than any of that the first 6 films in the Star Wars saga is about his journey from potential chosen one, to fallen Jedi Knight, to an evil dictator, to finally being redeemed by his son. I know for some people the characterisation of Anakin in the prequels puts a blot on the character, and he is definitely one of the weakest elements. But if you look at his journey it is truly a classic tragic downfall. And if you want to see Anakin Skywalker as a great character in his own right then go and watch The Clone Wars animated show. He’s a brilliant leader and powerful Jedi that you would genuinely believe would be coveted by the Emperor. But let’s talk about Vader. From that opening scene on the rebel ship he’s imposing, striking, and memorable. The Rogue One sequence showed off the Vader that has been seen in much of the expanded Universe as he slaughters a whole corridor of rebels, and proved that he is one of the greatest bad guys in movie history. But it’s the finale of Return of the Jedi where Vader real shone for me. His redemption in that final battle is brilliantly earned, and wonderfully done. Darth Vader is to me the redemption story perfected in cinema, and in the end he is the hero who destroys the Dark Side.
3) Ahsoka Tano – For me Ahsoka counts on this list because she is one of the central characters in The Clone Wars animated film. Now whilst she isn’t a great character in that film, her story in The Clone Wars TV show makes her one of my absolute favourite Star Wars characters. She begins the series as an annoying padawan who Anakin doesn’t particularly want to teach, but develops into a brilliant, strong character in her own right. Her mentor-learner relationships with Anakin and Commander Rex are some of the best in the show. But what really made her one of the greatest characters in the entire Star Wars canon for me was in the final season where she grows disillusioned with the Jedi Order after being framed for murder, and leaves to forge her own path. Again this calls back to my love of characters who don’t just follow the basic good/bad divide, but actually bring an interesting and different perspective to the world. Her reappearance as one of the characters who helped found the Rebel Alliance in Rebels was a great moment for her fans, and her encounter and duel with Vader, where she learns that he is her former mentor and friend, is one of the greatest moments from the entire Star Wars canon.
2) Princess Leia – Of the original trio of heroes there was one who really got stuff done. And that was Leia. In A New Hope she is the one who inspires Obi Wan and Luke to be brought together, she never gives up the rebels under torture from Tarkin and Vader, and when Luke and Han come to rescue her she’s the one who actually takes charge of their escape, keeping it together despite having just lost her entire home planet. And more than just being an incredible strong female role model, not something that you saw a lot in 1977, she was played by the incredible Carrie Fisher. Fisher as Leia gives an absolute tour de force performance, she has such a presence despite being so young at the time. Her romance with Han in The Empire Strikes Back is incredibly well done, and completely believable. Coming into the new trilogy I do wish we had more of her as the General in The Force Awakens and that is one of the things that I hope we get more of in The Last Jedi.
1) Obi-Wan Kenobi – My number one Star Wars character has to be Obi-Wan Kenobi. Even most of the harshest prequel critics have to appreciate how great Ewan McGregor was in that role. When you couple that with Alec Guinness’ portrayal in the Original Trilogy, and his story in the animated shows, it all adds up to one of the greatest characters ever. In the Prequel Trilogy Obi-Wan is essential a failure, and it is his pride and shortcomings as a friend and teacher that led to Anakin turning to the Dark Side. Despite this you cannot help but love him as McGregor brings such joy to his performance. He manages to make even some of the most stunted dialogue in that trilogy sound convincing and powerful, but also brings a great humour to the character. In Revenge of the Sith he never fails to move me with his grief at Anakin’s betrayal. When it moves on to the Original Trilogy I love that he is trying to correct these mistakes with Luke, appearing to him as a force ghost to try and constrain his ego and convince him not to go and confront Vader. Outside the films his story line in The Clone Wars show was one of my favourites as he experiences love with the Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore and has to deal with the return of Darth Maul, the man who killed his master. And of all the characters on this list, if we are to have spin off films, I would be most interested in seeing one about Obi-Wan during his time in exile.