The 50 best Star Wars characters

We count down our favorite denizens of a galaxy far, far away…

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  • Jabba the Hutt

    Who is he?
    An enormous green slug with a voracious appetite for heavy licking, hookah pipes, hard funk and little amphibious spider-creatures. Jabba is the most powerful gangster in the Galaxy—though precisely how he achieved this exalted position without really being able to move around or hit people (thanks to his undersized Tyrannosaur arms) is a matter of conjecture.

    Why do we love him?
    Because he’s such a staggeringly nasty piece of work: corrupt, lascivious, grotesque, an immoral monster to whom the execution of an underling is as everyday an occurrence as making a cup of tea (not that we can really imagine Jabba sticking the kettle on—that’s what our number 27, Bib Fortuna, is for).

    On a technical level, Jabba is just a beautiful piece of creature design, taking three months and costing half a million dollars to build and requiring three puppeteers to operate. It’s a genuinely impressive, memorable and convincingly vile piece of engineering, just as unpleasant today as it was in 1983. All of which makes George Lucas’s dismissive comments about the original puppet—and his decision to use a completely naff, plasticky CGI replacement in both The Phantom Menace and the Star Wars Special Edition—not just wrong, but kind of insulting.

    Seen in:
    Return of the Jedi (we’ll generously overlook his other appearances)

    Key line:
    “You will soon learn to appreciate me.” Unless your name’s George Lucas, that is.

    Jabba the Hutt
  • Luke Skywalker

    Who is he?
    The hero, of course! Luke is the clean-livin’, hard-workin’, elders-respectin’, teeth-whitenin’, sister-kissin’ all-American boy from Tatooine whose adventures form the backbone of the original Star Wars trilogy. Just a simple kid from a broken home, Luke pulls himself up by his own utility belt and goes on to win shiny medals, master the Force and save the entire galaxy from evil. Result!

    Why do we love him?
    Because he’s the ultimate family-friendly adventure hero: kind to animals and droids, good at fighting, flying spaceships, swinging across chasms on ropes and doing the right thing, and just a teensy bit bland. There’s a lot in the films about Luke being tempted by the Dark Side, giving in to his hate and choosing the easy path, but never for a second do we believe he’s actually going to do it: hell, he even saves the universe’s most fearsome villain from himself.

    None of which is intended as a criticism: Mark Hamill’s performance is consistently intelligent, heartfelt and witty, and Luke never comes close to crossing that line between upstanding hero and annoying goody-goody. But if you can find a Star Wars fan over the age of 14 who doesn’t prefer Han Solo, we’ll eat a womp rat.

    Seen in:
    The original trilogy

    Key line:
    “I care!”

    Luke Skywalker
  • R2-D2

    Who is he?
    A cheeky, level-headed dustbin on legs who comes complete with an Inspector Gadget-like array of convenient little nozzles and appendages. Think Henry the Hoover meets a Swiss army knife, only with personality.

    Why do we love him?
    From juggling turbolifts on an enemy battleship to saving Anakin Skywalker’s miserable life to fixing Luke’s X-wing stabilisers during the first Death Star run, from mending the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon to cutting his way out of an Ewok trap, Artoo does all the hard galaxy-saving work and gets precious little credit.

    It’s no surprise he was the first cast member to be confirmed for the upcoming Star Wars trilogy: without him the Imperial forces would be ruling the galaxy and Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie would be little more than glutinous splodges on the inside wall of a trash compactor.

    Seen in:
    All six movies (and more to come)

    Key line:
    Concerned uh-oh type beep, as if to say, “here we go again.”

    R2-D2
  • Emperor Palpatine

    Who is he?
    The evil mastermind behind the Imperial takeover of the galaxy. Initially, Palpatine is a seemingly trustworthy senator who guards a terrible secret: he’s actually a Sith Lord, master of evil. Later, he’s a wizened little wizard with the wickedest cackle this side of the Yellow Brick Road.

    Why do we love him?
    Because he’s the one of the few characters who actually gets deeper and more interesting in the prequel trilogy—and because hey, evil is always fun to watch. Ian McDiarmid’s performance is one of the richest in the series. Yes, there’s a touch of the pantomime villain to him, but that’s part of the fun.

    Palpatine’s transition from avuncular politician to devious power-grabber to lightning-fingered madman to all-powerful galactic dictator is deliriously enjoyable to watch, and director George Lucas and McDiarmid work hard to squeeze every ounce of lunatic glee from each successive, excessive incarnation. That said, by the time of the climactic battle in Return of the Jedi he’s become something genuinely creepy: a nightmarish man-crone whose spiteful self-assurance and seemingly bottomless capacity for hate makes him the most memorable bad guy in the series—bar one.

    Seen in:
    All six movies except Star Wars

    Key line:
    “I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the Dark Side will be complete!”

    Emperor Palpatine
  • Yoda

    Who is he?
    The diminutive backwards-talking mystical muppet whose knowledge of the Force is second to none. In the original trilogy he’s a marvel of creature design: tactile, sympathetic and loveable. His CGI incarnation in The Phantom Menace looks like a rubber troll sprung unnervingly to life, though this does improve somewhat over the next two movies.

    Why do we love him?
    You have to ask? He’s Yoda! Eight hundred years old and still going strong, master of telekinesis and Eastern philosophy, a whizz with a lightsaber who also has a wicked sense of humor and an odd fascination for pocket torches.

    Everything about him is iconic: that idiosyncratic manner of speech (part aging Jewish comedian, part inscrutable samurai warrior), that unique raspy voice (supplied by Frank Oz, so the similarity to Miss Piggy is understandable), the amazing puppet work, even the really-not-so-terrible CGI in the last two prequels (the way he bounces off the walls during the lightsaber battle is amazing).

    Seen in:
    All six movies except Star Wars

    Key line:
    “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

    Yoda
  • Chewbacca

    Who is he?
    A seven-foot walking carpet with natural furry flares, a resistance-chic bandolier and a vocal repertoire consisting of barks, rumbles and surprisingly-hard-to-imitate growls. Co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, Chewie is another of those Star Wars characters who inspires a deep devotion despite his inability to speak—in English, at least.

    Why do we love him?
    Because he’s the ultimate man, despite being a Wookiee. Chewbacca is tall, hirsute, fashionable, tough, endlessly loyal, a bit of a joker, a crack shot with a crossbow, an expert driver, great at spaceship DIY and we reckon he probably gives the best hugs in the universe.

    Every man would love to be his buddy, and what woman wouldn’t want a partner this hardworking, affectionate and dashing? Sure, those heart-to-heart chats might be slightly hard work, but perhaps this is what they mean by “sweet nothings.” We also love Chewie because he was played by the loveable Surrey giant Peter Mayhew, who has the best Twitter feed of all the Star Wars alumni (it’s @thewookieeroars, if you’re interested).

    Seen in:
    The original trilogy and Revenge of the Sith

    Key line:
    His dismayed howl when the Echo Base doors slam shut against the Hoth night is heartbreaking.

    Chewbacca
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Who is he?
    From thrusting young Jedi hero to desert-wandering retainer to shimmering blue apparition, Obi-Wan is either the selfless, beating heart of the entire Star Wars saga, or a total doormat. Still, like the great man said, many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

    Why do we love him?
    Because he’s absolutely ruthless with a lightsaber (as our hapless number 30 knows only too well). Because his shades-of-beige wardrobe is both functional and stylish. Because he wears a trimmed beard with boundless elan. And because he’s played by two very fine actors, including perhaps the greatest thespian ever to emerge from this sceptered isle, Sir Alec Guinness.

    Still, it does give us slight concern that he’s basically a one-man walking support network for the accident-prone Skywalker family. And where does it get him, really? He’s forced almost to kill his best friend (who is, let’s face it, kind of a dick anyway). He’s left to shuffle around a desert for two decades as a glorified long-distance babysitter. Then, as soon as his life starts getting interesting again, he’s unceremoniously knocked off by said best friend and forced to spend the remainder of eternity as a ghost in the company of the guy who killed him! Now that’s loyalty.

    Seen in:
    All six movies, in various states of being and nothingness

    Key line:
    “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

    Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Princess Leia Organa

    Who is she?
    The proud, upraised face of the Rebel Alliance: a beautiful, sarcastic, blaster-packing, man-juggling, no-bullshit-taking, Danish-pastry-haircut-wearing icon of womanhood—for two movies, at least. That whole gold bikini incident in Return of the Jedi may have dented her feminist credentials ever so slightly, but at least she got to throttle Jabba the Hutt for it.

    Why do we love her?
    When we were little, Princess Leia was just an annoyance: the last action figure we’d want to unwrap on Christmas morning. Then, as adolescents, she became a bit more (ahem) interesting, but hardly a character to be taken seriously, gold bikini or no gold bikini. But now, as grown-ups, we can look back and realize that Leia, token female though she may be, is actually the most shaded, complex character in the entire Star Wars saga.

    As a very public figure working for an outlawed cause who doesn’t just lose her family but her entire home planet, she’s got a lot more at stake than either of her flyboy toyboys. As a woman in a man’s universe she stands her ground at every turn—see how she faces down both Tarkin and Vader without breaking a sweat—becoming neither a remote aristocratic figurehead like Mon Mothma or a put-upon drudge like Aunt Beru.

    As the only eligible female in several light years she clearly gets a kick out of playing off Han and Luke against each other, and refuses to get sucked into any of that mushy stuff (the “just… hold me” episode notwithstanding). She has the quickest mind, the sharpest tongue and, lest we forget, the most money. But she’s willing to risk everything for the cause she believes in. They picked the wrong Skywalker!

    Seen in:
    The original trilogy

    Key line:
    “I am not a committee!”

    Princess Leia Organa
  • Han Solo

    Who is he?
    The captain of the Millennium Falcon, and the cockiest space pilot in the galaxy. Han Solo is every young boy’s hero, cruising from star system to star system with his hairy BFF, Chewbacca, getting into scrapes, shooting the place up, performing occasional acts of random heroism and being rude to women until they fall madly in love with him.

    Why do we love him?
    Because it’s damn near impossible not to—his hair is great, his Humphrey Bogart-cowboy-hipster outfit is legendary, his wisecracks are second to none and his lopsided grin has broken a million hearts on a thousand worlds. But there’s more to it, somehow: in The Empire Strikes Back particularly, Lawrence Kasdan’s crackling, old-Hollywood dialogue combines with Harrison Ford’s evident love of language and sheer insouciance as a performer to raise Han to a place few other movie characters ever reach.

    This isn’t just another two-dimensional figure fluttering up there on the screen, this is someone we know, someone we care about. It’s really no wonder so many people take Star Wars so damn seriously: how many franchises have managed to generate this kind of uncanny emotional bond between characters and audience? For thousands of people, losing Han would be like losing a friend. A friend with a really, really cool spaceship.

    Seen in:
    The original trilogy

    Key line:
    “I know.”

    Han Solo
  • Darth Vader

    Who is he?
    We don’t think it’s going too far to suggest that here is the single most iconic screen villain of all time: his appearance is terrifying, his voice bone-chilling, his words pure, dripping evil. But what really turns Darth into the stuff of our childhood nightmares are his actions: from snapping necks left and right—both in person and remotely—to cutting off his own son’s hand (let’s just let that one sink in for a moment), this is a guy who really, really shouldn’t be trifled with.

    Why do we love him?
    Because, however much we love them, the movies are full of sarcastic space pilots, pistol-packing princesses, upstanding blonde heroes, robot sidekicks and wise old wizards, but there will only ever be one Darth Vader.

    His backstory is perhaps problematic—the pre-teen Anakin is just a horrid little squirt, while Hayden Christensen’s grown-up incarnation can’t quite get beyond that terrible dialogue and fully engage as a character. That said, his descent into evil is carefully, convincingly handled, and the climactic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi is truly, operatically magnificent.

    But it’s nothing next to Darth’s greatest hits: emerging in a billow of smoke from a shattered blast door; tuning up his TIE-fighter controls like a snooker player chalking his cue; throttling his commanders one by one like the expendable flies they are; revealing the truth to Luke on that rickety gantry; turning on his former master as unearthly electricity howls in the bones of his face; and finally, heartbreakingly, lying stretched out on that medieval pyre as black smoke wreathes around his broken corpse. He is a perfect creation, never to be improved upon. Darth, we tremblingly salute you.

    Seen in:
    All six movies

    Key line:
    “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.”

    Darth Vader

Jabba the Hutt

Who is he?
An enormous green slug with a voracious appetite for heavy licking, hookah pipes, hard funk and little amphibious spider-creatures. Jabba is the most powerful gangster in the Galaxy—though precisely how he achieved this exalted position without really being able to move around or hit people (thanks to his undersized Tyrannosaur arms) is a matter of conjecture.

Why do we love him?
Because he’s such a staggeringly nasty piece of work: corrupt, lascivious, grotesque, an immoral monster to whom the execution of an underling is as everyday an occurrence as making a cup of tea (not that we can really imagine Jabba sticking the kettle on—that’s what our number 27, Bib Fortuna, is for).

On a technical level, Jabba is just a beautiful piece of creature design, taking three months and costing half a million dollars to build and requiring three puppeteers to operate. It’s a genuinely impressive, memorable and convincingly vile piece of engineering, just as unpleasant today as it was in 1983. All of which makes George Lucas’s dismissive comments about the original puppet—and his decision to use a completely naff, plasticky CGI replacement in both The Phantom Menace and the Star Wars Special Edition—not just wrong, but kind of insulting.

Seen in:
Return of the Jedi (we’ll generously overlook his other appearances)

Key line:
“You will soon learn to appreciate me.” Unless your name’s George Lucas, that is.




Users say

1 comments
Janeen V
Janeen V

HEY NOW!!  IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO EAT THAT WOMP RAT!!  I think Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker was one of the greatest all-time fits for an actor IN ANY ROLE!. His combination of hope, purity and  innocence combined with his chronic restlessness and permeating sadness made him so believable that to this day I still believe Luke Skywalker lived in that galaxy long long ago and far far away. .But that hope that somehow managed to fight it's way through all that sadness and restlessness--well that gave even ME hope!!  So, you've found your gal that not only prefers Luke to Han, but absolutely could not even STAND Harrison Ford!  For the record,  I think first place should have been a 4-way tie between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Alec Guiness's Obi Wan, and the inimitable yet lovable Yoda. Who could possibly choose between those 4? All were superb!!!!   But Han Solo? Ohmigod he was horrid!  I saw Star Wars when it first came out, and absolutely could not stand Harrison Ford in that role,  I thought he was so awful that I almost didn't go see The Empire Strikes Back, but loved the other 4 so much that I just had to go. I just closed my eyes when Harrison Ford came onscreen--and still do--and have throughout the years. I feel the same about Samuel Jackson--he was absolutely awful as Mace Windu!  Ford and Jackson are 2 of the highest paid and worst actors of all time in my opinion..... I have to close my eyes when they come onscreen. But all is redeemed with just the sight or sound of Alec's Obi Wan, Mark's Luke, Oz's Yoda or James' Earl Jones' Darth.  SO EAT A WOMP RAT--I'm an original and die-hard Star Wars lover and I cannot and never could stand Harrison Ford's Han Solo! I would have loved Clint Eastwood as Han, though...........

See all Star Wars films

Episode IV: A New Hope

The movie that started it all: a work of pure spectacle and wonder.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The best (and bleakest) movie in the series? Most fans think so.

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

We may have been wondering if it was time Lucas tried his hand at universes new.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The film grinds its way from nonsensical plot exposition to anti-climactic finale.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

After the longueurs of The Phantom Menace, George Lucas was taking no chances.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Breathless, dramatic, effects-filled, badly acted and slightly disappointing.

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