The best of Star Wars in 2018: End of year awards!

With 2018 coming to a close, let’s take a look back at the best moments from Star Wars over the past calendar year, giving out several awards.  We’ll hand out the hardware for best film, best show, best book, best comic, best comic arc, best episode, best game, best song, best hero, best villain, best performance, biggest surprise, best storyteller, and then lastly, the best Star Wars story of the year.

Let’s jump in to the awards!

Best Film:

Winner: Solo: A Star Wars Story

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It’s probably funny to even include this one, since there was obviously only one film that was released this year.  But at the same time, I do think that Solo deserves some love and recognition, since it was a terrific and entertaining look at the early years of Han Solo.  It’s a movie that shows fans some important moments, such as how Han got his last name, Han’s first meeting with Chewbacca, Han meeting Lando, Han seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time (and then later flying it for the first time, too), and Han making the record-breaking Kessel Run.  It’s a film that is a lot of fun.

Best Show:

Winner: Star Wars Rebels

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This category had more competition than Solo did (as Resistance, Forces of Destiny, and Galaxy of Adventures were all also considered), but ultimately the decision was just as easy.  The fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels was absolutely incredible, and that was especially the case in the second half of the season, which aired this year.  The death of Caleb Dume, the world between worlds, the liberation of Lothal, and that epilogue were all among the best moments not just of Rebels but of all Star Wars animation, period.

Best Book:

Winner: “Thrawn: Alliances” by Timothy Zahn

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There were a number of Star Wars books this year, and this is the first category in which I’ll actually include an honorable mention… but the winner, in my opinion, was definitely “Thrawn: Alliances.”  It’s no secret that I loved this book, and I think it may be my favorite one Timothy Zahn has written.  It has pretty much everything, and the book brings together two separate but related storylines: one sees Thrawn team up with Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, and the other sees Thrawn team up with Darth Vader.  Zahn weaves both of these stories together really well, and the book significantly explores the characters of Thrawn, Skywalker, Vader, Padme, and others.  It contains intrigue, action, and adventure, adding up to a must-read Star Wars book.

Honorable Mention: “Last Shot” by Daniel José Older 

Best Comic:

Winner: “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith” by Charles Soule

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Here I’m referring to which comic overall was the best, not which arc or issue was the best (that will come next), and the main contenders in my opinion were “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith,” the main “Star Wars” line, and “Age of Republic.”  I’ve been impressed with the first two issues of “Age of Republic” but we really haven’t seen enough of it to warrant this award, and to be honest, the Vader comic is just so tremendous that it’d be hard to beat anyway.  Writer Charles Soule and illustrator Giuseppe Camuncoli combined to tell a fantastic story about Vader’s early years in the suit.  They explore his transformation into the cold Sith Lord, exploring him hunting Jedi, building his castle, etc.  The series is full of exciting moments, great character development, thrilling surprises, and great storytelling.  If you’re looking to read a Star Wars comic, this would be a pretty good place to start.

Honorable Mention: “Poe Dameron” by Charles Soule and “Star Wars” by Kieron Gillen

Best Comic Arc:

Winner: “Fortress Vader” (“Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith”)

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This was the final arc of “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith,” and I think it was probably the best one, too.  The main premise of this seven issue arc was Darth Vader getting his castle on Mustafar, which was first seen in Rogue One.  We see Vader given this world by Palpatine, and also receive the mask of an ancient Sith named Momin.  We come to learn Momin’s backstory, and we see him ‘helping’ Vader build the castle – only to return in the flesh and battle the Sith Lord.  After Vader defeats Momin, he enters into this mysterious realm through a Force vision in which he sees plenty of interesting and intriguing visions that are laid out in a visually stunning way (which is, in my opinion, the best issue of the entire series).  At the end, we realize that Vader is truly Vader, having fully and finally moved on from Anakin Skywalker.  This arc obviously is enriched by the previous issues, but it can stand alone just fine too.

Honorable Mention: “Hope Dies” (“Star Wars”) and “The Awakening” (“Poe Dameron”)

Best Episode:

Winner: “A World Between Worlds” (Star Wars Rebels)

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As I mentioned earlier, I think that the second half of season four of Rebels is absolutely fantastic, and that means that there are a number of episodes that I think would be deserving of this spot (in my ranking of the best Rebels episodes, three of them from this year received the highest grade possible).  But I’m giving the nod to “The World Between Worlds,” because I think it’s exciting storytelling paired with incredible nods to the rest of the franchise while expanding our understanding of the Force – and also revealing what happened to Ahsoka Tano in her confrontation with Vader.  This whole idea of the world between worlds is interesting, and it made for one of the most amazing episodes of Star Wars animation there has ever been.

Honorable Mention: “Jedi Night” (Rebels) and “Family Reunion and Farewell” (Rebels)

Best Game:

Winner: Star Wars Battlefront II

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In this category I was actually split between the two main Star Wars games: Battlefront II and Galaxy of Heroes.  One of them is a console game, the other is a mobile game, and I enjoy both of them.  I have literally played Galaxy of Heroes every single day this year, but I’m actually giving the nod here to Battlefront II for this reason: it is the most-improved game of the year.  The way Battlefront II has revitalized the entire game is impressive.  The balances and changes they have made have worked, and the Geonosis update was absolutely terrific.  I really enjoy the Kessel map, too, though that update wasn’t near as large.  But the additions of Geonosis, Kessel, Obi-Wan Kenobi, General Grievous, and new skins have really transformed a lot, as have new game modes.  Ewok Hunt, which was added this year, was one of the best, most enjoyable, and creative game modes I’ve seen in a Star Wars game, and it’s still really fun to play.  I haven’t exactly been thrilled with some of the moves the developers of Galaxy of Heroes have made this year, but it might not even matter considering the massive transformation and improvements made by Battlefront II.  And with more content on the way for 2019, now is as good of time as any to jump in and give it another chance.  You may be surprised at how much better it is.

Honorable Mention: Galaxy of Heroes

Best Song:

Winner: “Reminiscence Therapy” by John Powell (and John Williams)

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This year has seen plenty of great Star Wars music, with Kevin Kiner (Rebels), John Powell (Solo), and John Williams (themes from Solo and Galaxy’s Edge) all composing beautiful music worthy of recognition and consideration.  In many ways, my decision on this one was made very difficult because of the fact that I love so much about Solo‘s score that I didn’t even know which individual piece to name above the rest.  But ultimately, I settled on “Reminiscence Therapy” for a reason that allowed me to cheat a little bit: it combines so many great themes together.  In this one piece (which plays during the Kessel Run), we hear the Imperial motif from A New Hope, the asteroid theme from The Empire Strikes Back, the TIE Fighter Attack score from a number of Star Wars films, and the themes for Han Solo and Chewbacca heard throughout Solo: A Star Wars Story.  The way John Powell was able to so masterfully and perfectly blend together so many themes, both new and old, is absolutely incredible, and it makes for a wonderfully beautiful piece of music – one that I think stands out ever so slightly above the rest in a year filled with plenty of it.

Honorable Mention: “Mine Mission” (John Powell)

Best Hero:

Winner: Ezra Bridger

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I have always enjoyed Rebels, but I have not always liked Ezra Bridger.  I found him annoying in the first two seasons, but his character growth in seasons three and four has led me to a much deeper appreciation for Ezra.  I’m glad I gave him a chance, because I found him easy to root for in season four, and as he took center stage even more than usual after the death of Kanan Jarrus, Ezra continued to shine.  He overcame the death of his friend and mentor and helped to liberate Lothal, destroying the portal to the world between worlds and then helping to liberate the city – by withstanding the Emperor’s temptations, fighting off his royal guards, and then defeating Thrawn as the two jumped into hyperspace together aboard the Chimaera, thanks to the Purrgil.

Honorable Mention: Han Solo

Best Villain:

Winner: Darth Vader

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One of the characters who has really had the chance to shine in recent years has been Darth Vader, as he has starred in a variety of media – films, shows, comics, books, and games.  This past year, Vader served as a main character of the book (“Thrawn: Alliances”) and the comic series (“Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith”) that I thought were the best of each category in Star Wars this year, and he also showed up as an antagonist in the main Star Wars comic line (including most notably in the “Hope Dies” arc, where a particular highlight is him engaging in a dogfight with Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon) and in Galaxy of Adventures.  In short, Vader has shown up seemingly everywhere this year, and everywhere he has shown up he’s been awesome.  He has been one of the most prominent faces in Star Wars this past year, and the way Lucasfilm has handled him has been great.

Honorable Mention: Grand Admiral Thrawn

Best Performance:

Winner: Alden Ehrenreich 

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The biggest reservation I had about Solo before seeing the film was how Alden Ehrenreich would do selling audiences on the fact that he was supposed to be Han Solo.  But after seeing the film, I was blown away by how well Ehrenreich did at playing Solo, not just imitating Harrison Ford but portraying the smuggler we have grown to love over the last four decades.  In fact, I found Ehrenreich’s performance one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film, and I think that he was tremendous.  I’d love to see him portray the character of Han Solo again, and I think he’s absolutely believable as a young Han.  In my opinion, there’s really no other worthy selection for this one (though I did include an honorable mention), because Alden Ehrenreich stepped into a difficult situation portraying one of the most iconic characters in film history who had been played by one of the most recognizable and accomplished actors in film history – and did so seamlessly.

Honorable Mention: Donald Glover

 

Biggest Surprise:

Winner: The Clone Wars is saved

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This year has seen the conclusion of one animated show (Rebels), the premiere of another (Resistance), two different animated short series (Forces of Destiny and Galaxy of Adventures), the announcement of two future live-action TV shows (The Mandalorian and the yet-to-be-named Cassian Andor show), and the announced return of The Clone Wars, making for a packed year for Star Wars shows.  But none of those announcements were as big or as surprising as the return of The Clone Wars.  I had hoped and wondered whether they might announce something like that when I saw they were going to do a Comic-Con panel, and then it happened: at the end of the panel reflecting on the show, Dave Filoni revealed a brand-new trailer featuring the return of the show, with the tagline, “Clone Wars Saved!”  A seventh season of the incredibly popular show will be coming to Disney+, and fans were thrilled at the announcement.  It was a move that was incredibly well-received by fans, and it promises the return of a show that was also very popular.  The fact that it came as a surprise made it even better.  I’m super excited about all of the other shows too, but when it comes to this year’s biggest surprise, this one wins.

Honorable Mention: Maul showing up in Solo

Best Storyteller:

Winner: Dave Filoni

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This will not come as a surprise to those who have read this site for a while, but I believe Dave Filoni is the best Star Wars storyteller out there right now, and Rebels season four is among the very best Star Wars stories out there too.  Filoni is tremendous, and the way that he was able to weave together so many themes in the second half of Rebels season four, exploring new avenues of the Force, giving us plenty of emotional moments, and giving the characters a fitting conclusion – while leaving the door open for future stories.  Filoni wins this award primarily for his work on Rebels, but he also oversees Resistance (though not on a day-to-day basis), has been hard at work on The Mandalorian (for which he is an executive producer and director), and is helming the seventh season of the revived The Clone Wars.  So, in other words, there is no one more dominant or as good at telling Star Wars stories than Dave Filoni currently.

Honorable Mention: Charles Soule

Best Star Wars Story:

Winner: Star Wars Rebels

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We finally come to our last award, and it’s in many ways the biggest of them all: the best Star Wars story of the year.  This incorporates all avenues and mediums of Star Wars storytelling, selecting one for having told the very best story.  And that, in my opinion, is easily Star Wars Rebels.  “Jedi Night,” “The World Between Worlds,” and “Family Reunion and Farewell” are among my very favorite episodes of Star Wars animation ever, and Rebels tied things up in a very emotional, exciting, and satisfying way.  When it comes to telling Star Wars stories this year, Rebels stands out above the rest in an impressive group.

Honorable Mention: Solo: A Star Wars Story and Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith

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