This year has certainly been a crazy one for everyone, that’s for sure!
And it also marked a notable change for Star Wars: it was the first year not to have a theatrically released film since 2014! But we still got a ton of content from a galaxy far, far away, including a couple of incredible shows, a new video game, a holiday special, and a plethora of books and comics!
So, much like we’ve done for 2018 and 2019, let’s hand out some awards for the very best of Star Wars in 2020!
Winner: The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special
While there was no full-length film released to theaters this year, there was an hour-long one that debuted on Disney+. So, since there was nothing else for this category, I thought I’d at least mention it here and give it a bit of credit. I am talking, of course, about The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. Directed by Ken Cunningham, this film pays homage to the now-infamous Star Wars Holiday Special while paying tribute to – and poking fun at – the entire Star Wars saga. It tells the story of our heroes, post-The Rise of Skywalker, heading to Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day with Chewbacca and his family. But as Rey has a crisis of confidence while trying to train Finn, she winds up traveling to an ancient Jedi Temple and being sent through time as she learns an important lesson. This film is really well-done, very entertaining, quite humorous, and has a great and meaningful story at the heart.
Winner: The Mandalorian
This was, without any doubt, the most difficult one for me to decide and the closest of all. There were two absolutely fantastic Star Wars shows that came out this year, with The Clone Wars season seven and The Mandalorian season two. I will make an important clarification later about this decision, but I’m giving the ever-so-slight edge to The Mandalorian. While The Siege of Mandalore is the best thing either of these shows did, the entirety of the shows gives the edge to Mando. I think that this show found even more solid footing after a great first season, focusing on a very compelling storyline of returning the Child to the Jedi. With stunning visuals and thrilling action sequences, this journey introduced us to familiar characters like Cobb Vanth, Bo-Katan Kryze, Ahsoka Tano, Boba Fett, and Luke Skywalker. It felt like week after week there was a huge reveal and a thrilling moment, but even for all of these characters brought in, I think they managed to keep the story grounded on Din Djarin and Grogu and their story. The season was fun, thrilling, surprising, and satisfying. It’s more than deserving.
Honorable Mention: The Clone Wars; Resistance
Winner: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising (Timothy Zahn)
As is typical for Star Wars, there were still a number of books published this year, and that means there are plenty of good options to choose from here. There were three in particular that I really loved, and I’m giving the edge to the first chapter of Timothy Zahn’s new Thrawn trilogy. I’m a big fan of Thrawn and have enjoyed the previous trilogies that Zahn has written, and this one takes us back to Mitth’raw’nuruodo’s time with the Chiss Ascendancy. It introduces us to brand new characters and places and feels so fresh, while also maintaining that familiarity with the franchise. It’s an entertaining read that explores things we haven’t really seen before, and when you add that with Thrawn as the central figure, it’s my favorite book of the year.
Honorable Mention: From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back (various); Alphabet Squadron: Shadow Fall (Alexander Freed)
Best Comic Arc/Issue:
Winner: The Rise of Kylo Ren (Charles Soule)
This series first released in 2019, so it might be easy to forget that it came out mostly in 2020! It’s been a long year! But The Rise of Kylo Ren released three of its four issue mini-series in 2020, and so I’m considering it here in the category of best comic. And with this as a contender, there’s really no question in my mind on the winner. Greg Pak’s Darth Vader series deserves mention as well, as it has far exceeded my expectations and found a way to tell a new Vader story (we’ve had plenty of Vader comics in recent years) while still being very engaging and feeling very important. But there may be no more significant story told via comic than The Rise of Kylo Ren, which explores Ben Solo’s descent to the dark side and him becoming the master of the Knights of Ren. It’s so significant, in fact, that I was kind of surprised they told it in a comic book, but I’m glad they did, because Charles Soule’s writing and Will Sliney’s drawings are tremendous. This tells of the fall of Ben Solo and the rise of Kylo Ren. It’s very thrilling, deeply heartbreaking, and massively significant to the saga. In a year with a number of good comic series, this one wins easily.
Honorable Mention: Darth Vader (Greg Pak)
Winner: “Victory and Death” (The Clone Wars) and “Chapter 16: The Rescue” (The Mandalorian) (tie)
This category was also packed with options, with worthy contenders from all three Star Wars shows this year. In the end, I wound up going back and forth between the final episode of the season for both The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian, as both of the finales were fantastic. So I finally just decided to take the easy way out and give it to both of them in a tie. Though stylistically they’re very different and content-wise aren’t all too similar, there are certain similarities that do bind them together: both feature fan-favorite characters in tense situations; both have fantastic and thrilling action sequences; both contain some truly emotional and moving moments; and both feel like an end to the shows we love (even though The Mandalorian continues on). I couldn’t bring myself to pick just one, and so I’m cheating and taking both of them here.
Honorable Mention: “Old Friends Not Forgotten” (The Clone Wars); “The Phantom Apprentice” (The Clone Wars); “Shattered” (The Clone Wars); “The Escape” (Resistance); “Rebuilding the Resistance” (Resistance)
This category is typically fairly sparse each year, and that wasn’t much different in 2020 – however, we did get Star Wars: Squadrons! It’s a starfighter game, something that many fans had been wanting for years, and it’s a brilliant one at that. Though the game is quite limited (there are only a couple of modes and a set number of maps), it’s fun to play. And the campaign was much better than I expected and told a very engaging story about the New Republic Starhawk project, which was very cool.
Honorable Mention: Galaxy of Heroes
Winner: “A Friend”; “Open the Door”; and “Come with Me” (Ludwig Göransson)
So this award is a three-way tie, but it’s only that because these three pieces on the soundtrack are played in sequence in the final episode of The Mandalorian. This is the music that plays as Luke Skywalker arrives and comes to the rescue, all the way up through when Din Djarin says goodbye to Grogu. The entire piece(s) is absolutely incredible and fits so well with what’s going on at the moment, but is also beautiful to listen to. But there was a ton of really great Star Wars music released this year, as always, and so I’ve included a ton in the Honorable Mention category to pay rightful attention to some of my other favorites.
Honorable Mention: “Ahsoka Lives” (Ludwig Göransson); “Capture the Flag” (Ludwig Göransson); “Troopers” (Ludwig Göransson); “The Bad Batch” (Kevin Kiner); “We Don’t Understand” (Kevin Kiner); “Burying the Dead” (Kevin Kiner); “Race You to the Surface” (Kevin Kiner); “Tusken Raiders” (Ludwig Göransson); “Snacks” (Ludwig Göransson); “Life Day” (Michael Kramer)
Winner: Rosario Dawson and Ashley Eckstein (tie)
I’ve decided to give this award as a tie to the two people who played Ahsoka Tano this year, as both of them are more than deserving of recognition. Ashley Eckstein of course is the original voice of the character and returned for the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars, and she absolutely nailed it, as always. But then Rosario Dawson played the character in live-action, and she too nailed the performance, matching the voice inflection and pacing, as well as the tiny mannerisms that just screamed Ahsoka. The character was introduced to plenty of new people for the very first time this year through these stories, and the performance of both Eckstein and Dawson have helped to make Ahsoka such a beloved character both in animation and in live-action.
Honorable Mention: Pedro Pascal; Sam Witwer
Winner: Luke Skywalker shows up in The Mandalorian
This one is the runaway winner, and in large part because they were able to keep it a surprise until the episode dropped. The other major appearances in The Mandalorian were all leaked months before, from Ahsoka Tano to Boba Fett to Bo-Katan Kryze to even Cobb Vanth. But they somehow kept Mark Hamill’s return as Luke Skywalker from leaking, and it made it all the more amazing in the moment when a lone X-Wing appeared. Then the black robes, the green lightsaber, that familiar hilt – it was Luke Skywalker! Seeing him show up was incredible, and he made quick work of the formidable Dark Troopers through a very impressive display. And then, of course, in an emotional moment, he took Grogu to train him. Even leading up to this final episode, I knew that if a Jedi were to appear, it basically had to be Luke. But I really didn’t expect them to do it, at least not this season. Yet when they did, it was so incredible. Think back to the beginning of 2020: what would you think if I told you that the next season of The Mandalorian would include Ahsoka, Bo-Katan, Cobb Vanth, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, and R2-D2? It’s crazy to think about all the show pulled out for this season. So The Mandalorian easily included the biggest surprises of the year, and this was certainly the biggest.
Honorable Mention: Ahsoka Tano’s live-action debut; tons of new Star Wars projects announced
Winner: Dave Filoni
For the third year in a row (out of the three years I’ve been doing this), Dave Filoni is the winner – and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon, with the numerous projects he’s still working on. He was credited as creating, developing, and executive producing Resistance, which wrapped up in a very exciting and satisfying way early in 2020. He obviously served as the showrunner for The Clone Wars season seven, working as the supervising director and writing most of the episodes. He returned to the role of executive producer, director, and writer in The Mandalorian, working closely with Jon Favreau to create the series, and in doing so he brought some of his animated characters to live-action for the first time (most notably Ahsoka Tano, but also Bo-Katan Kryze). And then he was announced as an executive producer on three new Star Wars live-action series coming up, as well as the animated series The Bad Batch. Filoni was present everywhere in Star Wars storytelling this year and had a pivotal role in the major stories told in the galaxy far, far away. That’s not a surprise, though, given his involvement in tremendous stories over the years. But it makes him the easy choice for this award.
Honorable Mention: Jon Favreau; Charles Soule
Best Star Wars Story:
Winner: The Siege of Mandalore
It sounds crazy, but if I’m being honest, this may have been one of the easiest choices on this whole list for me. Now, you might be wondering why I’m giving the Siege of Mandalore the best story when I gave The Mandalorian the award for best show over The Clone Wars, but here’s why: as I mentioned above, I think that the overall season for The Mandalorian ever so slightly edged out the overall season for The Clone Wars, but when you look at the final arc of the latter, it’s without a doubt some of the very best Star Wars content that has ever been made. And I mean that as no slight to The Mandalorian or any other story, but the Siege of Mandalore was as good as it gets. It would be in the very top-tier Star Wars for me. It wraps up the beloved show so well, showing us the finale we always knew happened but never thought we’d get to see. The emotional arcs of Ahsoka and Rex are moving, the fight scenes breathtaking, the animation stunning, the drama and intrigue off the charts – even though we already know how Revenge of the Sith ends! It’s a sign of a great story when a prequel – to which you already know who survives and the basics of what happens – keeps you on the edge of your seat, thrills you, and moves you. In a year filled with a lot of great Star Wars content, The Siege of Mandalore was without a doubt the best Star Wars story in 2020 – and among the very best ever.
Honorable Mention: The Mandalorian; The Rise of Kylo Ren
4 thoughts on “The best of Star Wars in 2020: End of year awards!”
Great list, and I agree with practically everything you chose! I need to get into the Thrawn books, though, I want to know more about his character.
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I love Thrawn, so I’d definitely recommend checking it out! The original Thrawn trilogy from the 90s (Heir to the Empire trilogy) is no longer canon, but was massively significant to Star Wars stories and obviously continues to impact things today. Very enjoyable. Then Timothy Zahn has a newer Thrawn trilogy that serves as a prequel/tie-in to Rebels that is also really great. This new trilogy is off to a good start as well!
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He’s a great character. I don’t often enjoy reading the “villain’s” side of the story, but he’s different. He’s not inherently evil, he just works for the other side, and it’s interesting to get into his head.
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Great list! Every time I even think about the Siege of Mandalore, I feel emotional all over again. After being a SW fan from ’77 (including skipping school to see RotJ opening day–LOL!), I’m shocked that the final Clone Wars arc has become my absolute favorite 2-ish hours of SW–ever–but there you go. 🙂
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