Strength can be defined in a number of ways. Some use it to denote physical force, but it can also mean strength of the will, an emotional fortitude to weather even the toughest circumstances of life.
If we take the latter meaning, then I’m convinced that Leia Organa is the strongest character in the Star Wars universe. She’s not the most physically overpowering character, but she may just be the strongest.
“She is a senator,” George Lucas once said in an interview. “She graduated from college. She’s a very smart person, very much in control. And she’s a good shot. And the two guys were – one was naive and didn’t know anything, had no knowledge. The other one thought he knew everything, but he didn’t know anything either. She is the one that knew everything. She was the one that was driving the whole story. … When you’ve lined them up, she’s the main character, for God’s sake.”
Strength through suffering
When you take a step back and look at the story of Leia Organa, it really is quite tragic. Her birth mother lost the will to live right after giving birth to her and her twin brother, who was separated from her at birth. Her birth father, meanwhile, was the most hated man in the galaxy, the evil Darth Vader. Her adoptive parents, Bail and Breha Organa, loved her well, but when she was 19 they were killed – along with everyone else she knew on her home planet of Alderaan – when the Empire blew it up and forced her to watch. While in an Imperial prison cell awaiting execution, she is ‘rescued’ by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, though she needs to help them escape. As they do so, Ben Kenobi – the one whom she contacted for help – is struck down by Vader. The Rebellion succeeds in destroying the Death Star, but their troubles didn’t end there. They wind up chased from Hoth by the Empire and Han and Leia travel to Cloud City, where Han – whom Leia has come to love – is taken captive by the Empire and frozen in carbonite before her eyes. She helps rescue Han, but in the process is made a slave of the gruesome Jabba the Hutt. She kills Jabba and winds up with the Rebellion on Endor, where she is told by Luke that he is her brother – and that Vader is their father. Many years later, that information would be leaked to the rest of the galaxy, which would put an end to Leia’s political career and derail her hopes of becoming First Senator. With the New Republic refusing to take the rising threat of the First Order seriously, Leia founds the Resistance. But then her son, Ben Solo, rebels and turns to the dark side. Wrecked with failure, her brother, Luke, goes into exile. And her relationship with her husband, Han, deteriorates under the weight of the sorrow. Still Leia leads the Resistance, and the First Order strikes at the New Republic, wiping out its capitol and the entire Hosnian system. After a brief reunion with Han, Leia watches her husband go try to save the day… and bring their son back. But when Han confronts Kylo, the son kills the father. Leia senses this through the Force, having lost her husband at the hands of her son. Shortly thereafter, some of her son’s pilots fire upon the bridge of Leia’s flagship, wiping out the Resistance leadership and leaving Leia in a coma. With the Resistance on life support along with its leader, Luke shows up once more to allow them all to escape, but then becomes one with the Force.
This is the tragic story of Leia Organa. She lost her birth parents, her adoptive parents, her home planet, her husband, her brother, her son (to the dark side), and her standing in the senate. And still, through it all, she exhibited the incredible poise and strength of character, the mental resolve, to keep fighting. As Commander D’Acy says in The Last Jedi, as Leia would say, “save your sorrow until after the fight.” That’s what Leia did. After she lost Alderaan and everyone she loved on the planet, she still helped get the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. After her son turned to the dark side, her brother left, and her and Han became distant, she still led the Resistance against the First Order. After her husband was killed, she still commanded the final stages of the attack on Starkiller Base. Faced with an incredible amount of suffering, Leia Organa stayed strong.
Her family history of doing so isn’t exactly the best. Her father, Anakin, turned to the dark side because he couldn’t stand the thought of losing his wife. Her brother, Luke, didn’t turn to the dark side but did go into exile because he lost his nephew and apprentices. But Leia? She never even flirted with the dark side, or with giving up.
Strength in power
Leia is not simply strong because of her sufferings, however. She has faced a lot in life, for sure, but she is also quite powerful in a number of areas. From the very beginning of A New Hope, when Leia emerges from the shadows and fires upon stormtroopers, the audience realizes that this isn’t an ordinary princess. And at a time where women weren’t exactly kicking butt and taking charge in films, Leia Organa did. Han and Luke arrive to rescue her aboard the Death Star (and, to be fair, she probably wouldn’t have escaped without them), but she then takes charge. As they stand firing at troopers in the detention cell, Leia blasts a grate open. Han asks, “what the hell are you doing?” and Leia replies, “somebody has to save our skins.” That was Leia: taking charge and leading the way, even in a fight. She’s quite capable with a blaster, as is seen in the original trilogy. She can easily hold her own in a fight.
But Leia is also stronger in the Force than many, given the nature of her family history. And while she chooses to focus more on politics than on becoming a Jedi, she still nonetheless learns some things from Luke about using the Force. And Leia uses the Force in every Star Wars film after A New Hope, in some way, shape, or form. In The Empire Strikes Back, she senses where Luke is and leads the crew to rescue him. In Return of the Jedi, Leia senses that Luke wasn’t on the Death Star when it blew up. In The Force Awakens, Leia sense Han’s death. In The Last Jedi, Leia not only senses Luke’s death but also senses Kylo’s arrival in space outside the Raddus and saves her own life by using the Force to draw her back into the ship. And that’s all not to mention the many times already in other canon Star Wars material that Leia has used the Force to sense things.
Strength in leadership
It is hard to think of many better leaders in the Star Wars universe than General Leia Organa. She joined the Rebellion at the young age of 16 and quickly earned the favor of Mon Mothma, and Leia soon earned her way into Rebellion leadership. She occupies a spot in the command center on both Yavin and Hoth, and in the Battle of Hoth it is Leia prepping the pilots. After the Battle of Endor, Leia became one of the most crucial and trusted figures in the New Republic, filling a prominent role as senator, legend, hero, and close confidant of Mon Mothma. Years later, Leia was widely regarded as the favorite to take up the office of First Senator (which was proposed to replace the role of chancellor), but her campaign was ruined with the revelation that she was Vader’s daughter. Leia then formed the Resistance and led it as commander-in-chief. Her leadership of the Resistance in particular showed off her charisma and her connections, as she composed the group almost entirely of friends and allies who were loyal to her (including Gial Ackbar, Nien Nunb, Amilyn Holdo, etc.). The people of the Resistance looked to Leia for inspiration, hope, and leadership.
Leia was a skilled politician and diplomat who knew how to talk her way out of it and how to treat people. She fought in the political realm, and she proved to be an incredible asset for the Rebellion, the New Republic, and the Resistance mainly because of her steadfast and determined leadership.