Ranking the best moments of modern day Star Wars: Numbers 11-15

On Twitter, Bryan Young recently asked his followers what their favorite moment of the modern Star Wars era (the Disney era) is, and there are too many great ones to count.  Inspired by that, we’ll be taking a look at this author’s top 50 moments from recent Star Wars material.  Today, we look at numbers 11-15.

15. Han’s new co-pilot

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Han and Chewie fly for the first time (Solo: A Star Wars Story)

With Lando Calrissian grieving the loss of his first mate, Han Solo takes the controls of the Millennium Falcon as the group flees Kessel.  Running up against an Imperial blockade and with cargo that is essentially a ticking time bomb, Han decides to pilot the Falcon directly into the maelstrom – which, as Lando notes, is a “terrific way to get yourself killed.”  Inside the maelstrom, Chewbacca finally takes over in the cockpit and reveals to Han that he’s actually 190 years old, thus knowing plenty about how to fly.  Qi’ra gets up from the co-pilot’s seat to let Chewie sit, and thus the iconic piloting duo is born.  Han and Chewie skillfully maneuver the Falcon against TIE Fighters, asteroids, debris, a giant space creature, and the Maw before escaping with an astonishing new record of making the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs (at least when you round down).  With the Star Wars theme blaring as Han and Chewie fly together for the first time, it’s nearly impossible not to smile.  There are plenty of awesome things about Solo and plenty of great things we get to see on screen (including Han and Chewie’s first meeting, for example), but it may be their first time flying together, in the midst of making a daring Kessel Run, that is the most memorable and most thrilling.

14. “You have that power too”

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Leia uses the Force to save herself (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

Near the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker tells his sister that, “The Force is strong in my family.  My father has it.  I have it.  And… my sister has it.”  Though Leia Organa opted not to train as a Jedi as Luke’s first student and to instead focus on politics, Leia is undoubtedly quite strong with the Force.  Without training in it, she displays the Force on numerous occasions – knowing to rescue Luke on Bespin; knowing Luke wasn’t aboard the Second Death Star when it blew; sensing Han’s death – but it’s not until The Last Jedi that we truly see Leia’s Force prowess emerge.  Though untrained in the ways of the Force, Leia taps into it when her life is threatened.  The First Order surprises the Resistance with a capability to track them through hyperspace, and Kylo Ren destroys the small Resistance defense fleet.  Leia commands the desperate defense from the bridge, where Kylo senses her and hesitates to fire.  His wingmen do fire, however, blasting the bridge and sending all in it – including Gial Ackbar – flying out into space to their deaths.  The beloved General, however, won’t go down so easily, and while in the expanse of space she uses the Force to pull herself back onto the Raddus, saving her life.  Though some will be quick to dismiss the scene because of how it looks, the emotional weight and sheer joy of seeing Leia use the Force on-screen should outweigh any concerns about execution.  It is a beautiful moment that fans have been waiting decades for, and it’s made even more touching given the fact that it was Carrie Fisher’s last film portraying Leia.

13. She’s not running away

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Holdo’s desperate hyperspace jump (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

Filmmaking is most definitely an art, and a good director utilizes every tool at his or her disposal to create the desired effect.  In The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson does this beautifully during Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo’s heroic sacrifice.  Staying behind on the Raddus to give the fleeing Resistance transports a chance, Holdo is surprised when the First Order detects the cloaked transports and begins firing.  Desperate, she comes up with a plan: she engages the hyperspace engines on the Raddus and turns the ship toward the Supremacy, Snoke’s flagship.  Then, she jumps to hyperspace, right through the First Order fleet, tearing it apart and allowing the Resistance to escape at the sacrifice of her own life.  The scene plays out amazingly on screen, as John Williams’ score is perfect in the build-up to the moment, as Johnson cuts the scenes to add to the drama, and then as Holdo’s jump happens… silence!  Nearly every time I saw the film in theaters, the extended silence – with breathtaking visual effects of the First Order fleet torn apart by the hyperspace jump – was accompanied by at least a couple of audible gasps in the audience.  Rightly so.  The scene is very much an art, and Rian Johnson does it perfectly – and it’s the perfect emphatic exclamation point to questioning audiences that, yes, Amilyn Holdo is very much a hero devoted to the Resistance.

12. Expanding the universe

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Thrawn’s return into canon (Rebels Season 3, Episode 1: “Steps into Shadow”)

One of the most frequent criticisms of the modern Star Wars era has been the erasure of the Expanded Universe as canon, but regardless of one’s opinion on that matter one of the highlights of this era of canon storytelling has been one of the most iconic EU characters being brought back into canon: Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Dave Filoni unveiled the news at Star Wars Celebration in 2016 to a standing ovation, and Thrawn made his debut in the season three premiere.  Voiced absolutely perfectly by Lars Mikkelsen and with a fittingly chilling theme from Kevin Kiner, the Rebels crew did a terrific job with the legendary Chiss Grand Admiral.  Though his appearance in the season three premiere was rather brief, he loomed large during the final two seasons of Rebels as the big bad guy, including his crippling attack on the Pheonix Squadron over Atollon and his blockade of Lothal.  One of the greatest thrills of this era of Star Wars storytelling has been the resurgence of Thrawn (and others related to him, such as the Chimaera, Rukh, and Captain Pellaeon) in both animation and writing (with new novels by Timothy Zahn).  He’s one of the most compelling characters that Star Wars has to work with, and they’ve brought him back to the forefront.

11. Mending an old wound

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Kenobi vs. Maul, one last time (Rebels Season 3, Episode 20: “Twin Suns”)

After reintroducing Maul to the Star Wars universe years earlier with The Clone Wars, it was beyond fitting that Dave Filoni got to oversee the ending to Maul’s story, and that it came at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Maul’s rival.  Having recently learned that Kenobi was alive, Maul tracks the old Jedi Master to his place of exile in the Tatooine desert.  Maul is bent on revenge, though Kenobi is hesitant to fight.  Once Maul realizes that Kenobi has a purpose for being in this desert and that the purpose is to protect someone, however, Kenobi realizes he has no choice and ignites his lightsaber.  Maul charges Kenobi, but after a few parries Kenobi slices Maul down the chest.  The former Sith dies in Kenobi’s arms, hoping that the chosen one (whom Kenobi believes he’s protecting) will avenge them.  Though the brevity of the fight may turn some people off initially, there are so many layers to it – most notably, the fact that Kenobi changes to Qui-Gon Jinn’s fighting style and Maul, sensing it, uses the same move that killed Jinn so many years earlier… only to find that Kenobi was ready for it.  And the voice acting of Stephen Stanton is absolutely brilliant as Old Ben Kenobi, perfectly mimicking Alec Guinness (and, of course, Sam Witwer is terrific as always as Maul).  It’s a fitting ending to a great character, and it also ties in to Kenobi’s purpose in the desert, as the last we see of him is watching over Luke from afar.

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