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50 Best ‘Star Wars’ Characters of All Time

From Mos Eisely aliens to the most dangerous Jedi ever, our updated ranking of the heroes and villains in a galaxy far, far away

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There are many reasons why George Lucas’ story of a young man, an evil Empire and a galaxy far, far away captured the imaginations of the generation who grew up on that original trilogy, and why it still reels in younger viewers weaned on prequels, sequels and other canonical spin-offs. Yes, its archetypal tale of good vs. bad is mythic and timeless – but it’s the vast universe that saga set up, full of alien races and oddball technology, that has arguably kept people coming back to dig into the far corners of Star Wars‘ worlds.

Watching the movies, you’d run across a character – sometimes a major player, other times a mere face in the background – and you’d think: Where did they come from? What’s their story? How did that weird-looking droid become a bounty hunter? What’s Boba Fett hiding behind that mask – and where can I get that rocket pack?!? And once the action-figure lines began dipping deep into the supporting players, you really started to get a sense of densely populated this universe was. (Was “Hammerhead” a mean nickname, or the official tag for a whole species of flat-faced badasses?) A minor figure in that wretched hive of scum and villainy could show up in the sequels/prequels with more of their brethren in tow; even the ones shrouded in mystery turned into fan favorites.

Naturally, some of these denizens in the endlessly mutating multiverse have lefter stronger impacts than others. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to rank the Top 50 Best Star Wars Characters to date – the greatest Jedis and Jabba sidekicks, Wookiee and Ewok MVPs, memorable Empire/Rebel Alliance military men/women and mercenaries-for-hire, loyal ‘bots and extraterrestrial louts, and, of course, the main heroes and villains. (We’ve stayed away from non-specific groups and species such as Stormtroopers or Tauntauns.)

And we’ve updated the list to include Last Jedi and Solo characters – really, no definitive ranking would be complete without those films’ Resistance fighters, Cloud-Riders and interstellar scoundrels. Let the arguments over why Lobot ranked above Oola begin. And may the force be with you, always.

Darth Maul; Star Wars

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Darth Maul

Real talk: Darth Maul was a pioneer. A man of few words, the Sith Lord with the Rorschach ink blot of a face was the first guy to break the mold on light-sabers, his double-bladed weapon paving the way for Kylo Ren’s cross-sword beam in The Force Awakens. Even more importantly, he also inspired millions of Star Wars fans to ignore the fact that the most anticipated movie of all time was borderline unwatchable. Refreshingly comfortable in his own skin for a series in which the villains are so often hiding their face or cloaking their true intentions, Darth Maul radiates pure evil through his jaundiced yellow eyeballs; George Lucas has described the big bad of The Phantom Menace as “a figure from one of his darkest nightmares.” (Which kind of makes you wonder where Jar Jar Binks came from.) DE

Watto; Star Wars

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BB-8

The rolling droid who accompanies the human adventurers of The Force Awakens manages to make metal seem cuddly, earning him (it?) insta-fan-favorite status – especially with the franchise’s youngest viewers. Unlike past kiddie characters like Jar-Jar Binks, however, our spherical hero has great comic timing; the mechanical thumbs-up he shoots at Rey when he helps the ex-stormtrooper gets one of the movie’s biggest laughs. Which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise: Comedians Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz provided the digitized “voice” that brought director J.J. Abrams and special-effects artist Neal Scanlan’s creation to life. STC

Obi-Wan Kenobi; Star Wars

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Obi-Wan Kenobi

Though Ewan McGregor put the “wan” in Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels, the Jedi Knight personifies the patience, wisdom, and discipline required to harness the Force. Alec Guinness’ well-known contempt for Star Wars aside, his gravitas as “Old Ben” Kenobi in the original film defined what Lucas felt a hero ought to be — a standard for courage and decency that Anakin and Luke Skywalker followed to widely varying degrees of success. For all their faults, the prequels gave the elder statesman for the Force a backstory that legitimately deepens the character, explaining why he’s so cautious in bringing Luke along and why he carries such regret for his failures with Anakin. All that’s missing is a how-to on the “Jedi mind trick.” ST

R2-D2; Star Wars

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R2-D2

While his partner frets, nags, and offers the occasional translation, our favorite compact, diminutive friend bloops and bleeps the gang out of sticky situations. Need a wingman in aerial dogfights against the Imperial Fleet? Bleep-bloop-bleep. Garbage compactor mere seconds away from crushing the heroes of the Rebel Alliance? Bleep-bloop-bloop-bleep. A disembodied, discombobulated C-3PO wriggling on the ground, in need of rescue — again? Bloop-bloop-whistle. R2-D2 gets it the fuck done. The droid can even be outfitted to serve drinks. Along with Yoda, he’s perhaps the only Star Wars character to be a paragon of excellence in both the prequels and the original trilogy, and the surest way out of a jam. Only con: Easily tipped over. ST

Rey
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Rey

Complaints that The Force Awakens‘ desert-dwelling heroine is just too good at everything she does – pilot, mechanic, Force-wielder, lightsaber duelist, escape artist – ignore two important factors. First, her flashbacks indicate that there’s much more to her mysterious past than meets the eye, and we wouldn’t be surprised if long-buried memories of Jedi training were a part of it. Second, breakout star Daisy Ridely is an absolute joy to watch in the role, a magnetic screen presence who nails moments of mirth and melodrama alike. (The same could be said for her franchise warrior-sister Jyn Erso, who feels as if she’s been cut from the same cloth as Rey.) If she’s the Star Wars Universe’s new chosen one, the good folks at Lucasfilm have chosen wisely. STC

Luke Skywalker; Star Wars

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Luke Skywalker

Han Solo is the bigger badass, but the original trilogy’s actual hero is the franchise’s most stealthily fascinating character. Talk all you like about the Joseph Campbell-style “hero’s journey,” but what makes a restless farmboy such a strong anchor for this space opera is that even after he’s mastered The Force, he still seems like one of us. The pivotal player in a decades-old interplanetary struggle for democracy, Luke is both compassionate and temperamental — and never sure if he’s using his powers the right way. Anyone who thinks of Star Wars as a simplistic story of good and evil needs to look more closely at the young Skywalker, who always seems to be on the brink of turning dark, even when he’s saving the day. NM

Princess Leia; Star Wars

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Princess Leia

When studio heads pay lip service to the importance of creating “proactive” female protagonists for their blockbusters, it shows how far Hollywood remains behind Lucas’ conception of Princess Leia from almost 40 years ago. Luke and Han may be the central heroes of the original trilogy; it’s Leia, however, who provides its heart, which doesn’t mean she isn’t capable with a blaster. The late, great Carrie Fisher turns her every line of dialogue into a mocking jab, refusing to let the smart, spitfire character settle into simply being a Death Star damsel-in-distress. It’s impossible to erase the fact that she and Luke kiss in the first film (and, er, the second film), but what’s great about her love story with Han in The Empire Strikes Back is that it feels like a relationship of equals, the two strongest-willed people in the galaxy realizing they’re nuts about one another. As for the racy slave number from Return of the Jedi that jump-started a generation of boys’ sexual awakening, just remember she managed to kill Jabba while rocking it. We miss you, Carrie. TG

Yoda; Star Wars

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Yoda

Like a lot of good mentors, Yoda doesn’t make things easy on his pupils, expecting them to figure out things on their own rather than spoon-feeding them important life lessons. (How else to explain a character who refuses to speak in the traditional subject-verb order?) Introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, the diminutive Jedi master remains one of the most remarkable non-human characters ever created, one who the Muppeteer Frank Oz immediately connected with. (“[Jim Henson] showed me a sketch of Yoda — and it felt right,” he would later explain. “Sometimes you have to work at something before you have that feeling, but this felt really good.”) By avoiding computer effects, Lucas and his team made Yoda seem as real as Luke, creating a warm father-son rapport between the characters that’s crucial to Empire‘s emotional arc. For the prequels, Lucas went with soulless CGI version: Not a good decision, it was. TG

Boba Fett; Star Wars

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Boba Fett

Everyone’s favorite intergalactic bounty hunter made his first canonical appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, chasing down Han Solo for Jabba the Hutt. But even before that, Boba Fett was well-known to the Star Wars hardcore, who’d seen the character march in a California parade and pop up in animated form in the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special — both in 1978. Jango’s little boy-clone was a hit before he’d even really done anything on the big screen. And given that he’s barely in the original trilogy, some may wonder why he’s so popular. So we’ll say it again: Intergalactic. Bounty. Hunter. Throw in the armor and the rocket launcher, and it’s no wonder that Lucas felt compelled to make the Fett family so integral to the prequels. Some characters demand to get off the side of the stage and into the thick of the action. NM

Darth Vader; Star Wars

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Darth Vader

The original trilogy created the impression that the franchise was chronicling Luke Skywalker’s journey from daydreaming teenager to the galaxy-saving Chosen One. But the prequels provocatively shifted that narrative: What if the Star Wars universe is really about the rise, fall and eventual redemption of Luke’s father? Continuing Hollywood’s fascination with origin stories, the second cycle of movies deepened our understanding of the man who would become Darth Vader — showing how an impressionable, slightly snotty kid named Anakin Skywalker discovered his Jedi powers, fell in love with a beautiful princess and was then seduced by the Dark Side. Complain about Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen’s bratty performances all you want — and you should, they’re terrible — but that central idea remains potent, and it powerfully informs audiences’ subsequent viewings of the original trilogy. Now, Darth Vader isn’t just a compelling force of evil, one of cinema’s most magnetic villains: He’s a tragic figure crying out to be saved. TG

Han; Star Wars Characters

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Han Solo

“I love you!”

“I know.”

It’s the galaxy’s most notorious response to a proclamation of amore, but Han Solo is far more than a smug swashbuckler. The scoundrel-turned Rebel leader may not be George Lucas’s most unique creation, but the Falcon’s scrappy flyboy is the original trilogy’s most vital asset. Harrison Ford’s classic masculinity and lopsided grin, worn with the casual flair of a man utterly at ease in the galaxy, made him a premiere heartthrob and the lifeblood of the franchise’s holy trinity. Solo is the Western hero, the noir detective, and the hot-rodding rebel rolled into one. He’s a grand patchwork of every movie hero Lucas ever loved, assembled for a new audience.

Beyond the charm, the funky ship, and the “who shot first?” arguments (Han did, of course, end of story), the Correllian smuggler’s own conflicts make him the saga’s most complex character. Starry-eyed Luke instantly embraces the Force and the urgent drama of the Rebellion. Han takes some convincing, just as we do. In The Empire Strikes Back, still the series’ high-water mark, Solo blossoms as a flawed hero grappling with opposing urges. The deep-rooted survival instinct that drives his headstrong cockiness is shaken by love for Leia and the moral imperative of the Rebellion. Han’s intuition, skill, and passion fly us through the trilogy’s twists like the Falcon threading the needle of an asteroid field. Just don’t ever tell him the odds. RF

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