In anticipation of release of the latest Star Wars film – The Last Jedi – I thought it would be a nice way to mark this moment by asking a bunch of bloggers and writers to choose their favorite moment or scene in all of Star Wars.
It’s a tricky business.
I myself have so many favorite moments or scenes in Star Wars – and for so many different reasons – that it’s virtually impossible to pick just one in any definitive way.
I mean, how do you pick from such a vast, rich tapestry? From the podrace sequence in Episode I or the final Death Star battle of Return of the Jedi to the escape from Cloud City in Empire or the Rey/Kylo duel in the snow-covered forest in The Force Awakens, the Star Wars saga has given us so, so many special, bad-ass, poignant or crucial moments, both little or big, both quiet, character moments and huge sequences or technical or special-effects brilliance.
A few years ago, in fact, I tried to compile what I thought were the 20 greatest moments in Star Wars – and even narrowing it to 20 had been really difficult.
Nevertheless, I put the request out to some fellow bloggers who I know and love and invited them to name their own favorite moment. I probably didn’t give people enough time or notice. However, two of my absolute favorite bloggers have taken the time to provide their considered contributions – for which I am grateful.
The thing about asking people their favorite Star Wars moment, is that you often end up surprised by what the answer is.
It differs so much from person to person. Helena Khan, from the Aggressive Logistics blog, previously mentioned something as simple as ‘Darth Vader’s epic line “The Emperor is not as forgiving as *I* am”.’ My little sister mentioned a BB8 moment from The Force Awakens. My friend always says it’s the moment in Return of the Jedi where Lando and the Falcon escape the Death Star just as it blows. A reader of my blog, named ‘Zihark’, says of a key visual moment in The Phantom Menace, “Seeing Otoh Gungah for the first time in theaters was chilling, and led to a long fascination with both architecture and underwater construction and pool designs…”
Famously, the noted feminist author and social critic Camille Paglia wrote a whole essay on the climactic finale of Revenge of the Sith, centering on the extended Anakin/Kenobi lightsaber duel against the dramatic lava backdrop. ‘The long finale of Revenge of the Sith has more inherent artistic value, emotional power, and global impact than anything by the artists you name,’ she said in this interview with Vice. She also affirmed in a later interview, “The finale of Revenge of the Sith is the most ambitious, significant, and emotionally compelling work of art produced in the last 30 years in any genre – including literature.”
But what are we, here, saying?
My good friend, Robert Horvat – a Jedi Master who runs a superb music and history website, Rearviewmirror, and an illuminating Byzantine history site – has contemplated long and hard and gives us the following candidate…
ROBERT’S CHOICE: ‘The Duel of the Fates, Three-Way Lightsaber Duel’ (The Phantom Menace)
Robert says; ‘When my gracious host asked me to name my favourite Star Wars scene, immediately I thought that’s easy. But after some more serious it became apparent that I couldn’t narrow it down to simply just one. I was torn between a handful of great scenes from across all eight Star Wars films (not including forthcoming The Last Jedi) like Han Solo frozen in Carbonite or Darth Vader’s apocalyptic showdown with an outfit of rebels in Rogue One.’
‘But if I had to choose just one for sheer drama, it is difficult to match the spectacle of The Duel of Fates between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace. From the moment Dart Maul ignites his dual lightsaber to his demise at the hands of Obi-Wan, it is one of the most emotionally taxing choreographed lightsaber battles in the saga’s history.’
‘Heightened by John Williams amazing musical score the whole sequence, some five mintues, elbs and flows at a pace masterfully directed by George Lucas, who copped a lot flack at the time for The Phantom Menace being clumsy and cute. If you ask me, there is nothing cute about Darth Maul!’
Editor’s note: Robert, who loves Star Wars probably as much as I do, surprised and delighted me with his choice, as I know how much he loves – in particular – A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back; and I wasn’t expecting him to pick something from the prequels.
But what a glorious choice – who could argue with the Duel of the Fates? From Maul’s dramatic entrance via the sliding doors to Obi-Wan’s naked aggression, with the genius of the force-fields in-between, it’s all sublime. It’s one of the greatest sequences in all cinema.
Robert is off to catch The Last Jedi as I’m typing this, I think. His latest Star Wars piece – on Rey, specifically – is here.
Another friend/blogger has answered the call and answered the same question. Migarium, an extra-terrestrial living on Earth for research purposes (and who writes the addictive blog, Unnecessary News From Planet Earth) has chosen the following scene.
Note: English is not Migarium’s first language, as he is from a different planet/civilisation…
MIGARIUM’S CHOICE: ‘Yoda’s Deathbed Scene’ (Return of the Jedi)
Migarium says; ‘For me, it is Yoda’s death scene. I felt sad so much about Yoda no longer being physically present. Because, Yoda, the master of the masters, was about to integrate with the Force in that scene and to end his physical existence, so with his own poignant words “forever sleep.” But Luke made the nonsense sentences such as “I need your help”. How selfish!’
‘The last earthly energy of 900 years-old Yoda which was the last of his kind in the whole universe (perhaps also first at the same time) at high grandmaster level, has been spent for Luke’s training. What was the point? I think when Luke said “then I am a jedi now,” Yoda summarized in his look with a sarcastic smile. As if Yoda said to Luke with that look, “I wish I could have given training to Leia, instead of you!”‘
‘Why this is my favorite scene: because, as Yoda is leaving us- even if at that moment – he shows how wise and unforgettable a character he is. And for me, any of the others never could be like Yoda.’
‘I was an adolescent extraterrestrial, when I watched Return of the Jedi at first; in 1996 if I remember right. And I guess, what happened in adolescent ages would not be forgetten, whether you are extraterrestrail or not :).’
Editor’s Note: I should say here that Migarium was clearly seeing things in that scene – and in Yoda’s body language and subtexts – that I certainly have never noticed. Yoda would’ve preferred Leia? That’s a revelation!
But it just shows that we all see the same films and the same scenes through our own lenses: each of us finding something in them that someone else misses or overlooks. Migarium’s choice – Yoda’s deathbed scene – has always been one of my favorites too; it gets me in the feels every time. The dying of not just a legendary figure, but of an era – a bygone, golden age.
Well, then, I’ll finish by adding what I think is the greatest moment in Star Wars.
I’ve been thinking about it long and hard and, believe it or not, I’ve essentially come to the same conclusion as I did a few years ago (see here). Back then, I was struggling to decide whether the Anakin/Obi-Wan Mustafar Duel or this moment I’ve picked below should be considered the greatest moment in Star Wars.
I thought I might’ve changed my mind by now; but, nope, I just can’t put any other moment or scene above this one…
The BURNING BLOGGER’S Choice: ‘Luke’s Final Assault on Vader’ (Return of the Jedi)
This moment – the moment that Luke finally cries out in anguish and relentlessly attacks Darth Vader – has always given me goosebumps every time I’ve ever watched it. It now looks very slow compared to the kick-ass lightsaber dueling of the prequel trilogy (such as the piece of cinematic brilliance Robert chose above), but this final half-minute of the Luke/Vader contest at the end of Jedi is powered not by fancy skills, great powers or excellent choreography, but by the sense of emotion, climaxe and closure.
This is all raw, desperate emotion and no style.
It is aided massively by that extraordinary and dark choiral swell once Vader threatens Luke’s sister (you just can’t underestimate how much John Williams’s music adds to a scene or a moment like this) and Luke, devoid now of all hope, simply let’s rip into his father, no longer believing Anakin Skywalker can be redeemed.
Yet ironically it’s this very nothing-left-to-lose assault and Vader’s defeat that does induce the redemption of Anakin. In attacking in this way, Luke comes perilously close to the Dark Side himself – a moment much more resonant now that we’ve seen Revenge of the Sith. Post-ROTS we now recognise that in Luke’s ultimate resistance to Palpatine Vader sees the strength that he should’ve himself had all those years ago.
Thematically, there is a real resonance now between ROTS and ROTJ, particularly in Padme’s deathbed insistance that “there is still good in him”, her convinction that Anakin can still be saved, and the naive, innocent (and ultimately correct) belief of her son here that this is true, even though the bitter and war-hardened Yoda and Obi-Wan disagree.
Having the Emperor there, looking on and applauding as his precious Vader is cut down by this newer, fresher young blood, is also fascinating. But what’s most interesting – to me – is that it is only one thing that finally makes Luke get up and attack his father: it is only when Vader threatens Leia that Luke realises in an instant that he can’t let Vader continue on. It’s Luke’s love for her sister that ultimately drives his actions – and ultimately redeems their father.
This all then comes down finally to a story about love. But not cliched, Hollywood love of the carnal kind: but the platonic love of a brother for his sister, a son for his father, and – finally – a father for his son. Luke’s love is also an inverse of what destroyed Anakin in ROTS. Where Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side was driven by love (for Padme), it was a possessive, obsessive love – whereas Luke’s is a selfless, unconditional love. Destructive love corrupted Anakin – but redemptive love brought him back at the end.
It’s Luke’s innocence and naivety that makes him the hero of the Star Wars saga; he remains untainted by either ambition (like the Sith) or tradition (like the Jedi of the prequels), nor jaded by the bitter history, but remains a noble idealist. Luke is selfless – he thinks here, first, only about redeeming Anakin Skywalker, and then, finally, only about protecting his sister. He is the Jedi that Anakin should’ve been, but wasn’t.
Played out in literal darkness and shadow, this is Star Wars at it’s most Gothic and at it’s very best. It is also arguably the most thematically important single moment in the entire saga – the moment where Luke both defeats and conquers Vader and redeems Anakin and the moment Anakin finally destroys Palpatine.
For those reasons, I just can’t pick a moment other than this one – even though there are so many others I also want to choose. But that’s a testament to richness and scope of Star Wars.
I want to thank both Robert Horvat and Migarium for contributing to this article; and providing such good, thoughtful choices.
Let’s hope that The Last Jedi will also provide its own epic, poignant, stunning or unforgettable moments to add to the already rich mosaic of Star Wars. I am pretty sure it will.
This website will now be a spoiler-free zone until the end of December. I won’t be posting anything on the new film until I’ve seen it at least twice; and until I’ve relaxed for the Christmas period.
I hope everyone enjoys the film. I hope Leia gets a fitting finale. And I hope Luke gets some good news and can cheer up a little bit.