In the history of Hollywood cinema, there is no other film franchise that’s quite as well put together as the Star Wars saga. The entire series is highlighted with fantastic, charismatic performances from its leads, innovative costumes and makeup, and, hands down, the single greatest score in science fiction movie history. Of course, none of those creative achievements would shine through if the series wasn’t captured properly. Fortunately for movie nerds, the Star Wars saga isn’t just captured “properly,” it’s shot with one of the most iconic and rewarding film styles in the blockbuster film dictionary. Here are some of the best shots.
16. Face-to-Face with the Emperor
After three long films, the puppeteer behind Darth Vader’s cruelty is truly unmasked. Though he’s a stooped old man with a raspy voice, Emperor Palpatine’s one big scene — as the final temptation of Luke Skywalker — is played to perfection every step of the way.
15. A New Journey, ‘The Force Awakens’
It’s hard to match the excitement audiences felt watching Luke Skywalker and robot buddies set off to change the Universe, but they got reasonably close depicting the heart-warming team-up between an outcast named Rey and a plucky R2-D2 devotee named BB-8.
14. I Will Only Grow Stonger, ‘A New Hope’
One might be a septuagenarian and the other might be mostly robot, but the confrontation between Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader at the end of Star Wars never lacks for energy or intensity, right up until Obi Wan disappears.
13. Warp Speed, ‘A New Hope’
Under threat from an encroaching squad of Imperial stormtroopers and their ilk, Luke and his buddy Obi Wan enlist a puckish rogue named Han Solo and his co-pilot, a Wookie named Chewbacca. As their ship, the Millennium Falcon, reaches escape veloctiy, the ship jumps to warp speed … and no teenager in the seventies would ever be the same again.
12. The Happy Ending, ‘A New Hope’
Just before the credits roll on the group’s first real adventure, Han and Luke get their just reward for blowing up the Death Star, previously fried R2-D2 gets a make-over, and all is right with the world.
11. The Small Moon, ‘Return of the Jedi’
There’s something disquieting, yet beautiful about the jagged progress of the second Death Star in the series’ sixth chapter, Return of the Jedi.
10. Dark Times Lie Ahead, Luke, ‘Empire Strikes Back’
Han Solo is in carbonite. Luke’s down a grabber. Things look pretty gloomy in the closing moments of Empire Strikes Back, but at least the team has each other … minus Han.
9. R2’s Quick Escape, ‘A New Hope’
Just before her ship is captured in the opening moments of the original Star Wars film, the world catches a glimpse of the pluckiest robot ever to get pissed off at Yoda for stealing his lamp, R2-D2, the bot who holds the plans that could take down the Empire.
8. The Chase Across Endor’s Moon, ‘Return of the Jedi’
In order to facilitate the last push to take down the Empire’s second attempt at a Death Star, the Rebels need to take down a small base on the forest moon of Endor. Of course, what’s a last ditch effort to save freedom without a high speed chase through old growth forests before hand?
7. AT-AT On the March, ‘Rogue One’
Nothing says, “you’re boned,” quite like the plodding advancement of the Empire’s massive AT-AT’s. At least, that’s the message conveyed in the closing moments of Rogue One.
6. Gladiators Surrounded, ‘Attack of the Clones’
One thing the prequel trilogy did very well was make use of the fact that Jedi weren’t an endangered species (yet). This allowed them to stage some truly epic battles with Jedi running hither and thither throughout. None were more enthralling than this opening to the Clone Wars held in an old arena on a backwater world.
5. Meet Darth, ‘A New Hope’
Few people realized that the black clad figure leading the assault on a small Rebel ship in George Lucas’ Episode IV: A New Hope would become perhaps the most recognized villain in movie history. But he did, and entrances like this is what made it happen.
4. Reunited, ‘The Force Awakens’
JJ Abrams’ contribution to the Star Wars canon was filled with beautiful shots, but none were more stirring than the post-battle reunion between estranged exes Han Solo and Leia.
3. Do or Do Not, ‘Empire Strikes Back’
Several of the series most interesting shots come from Luke’s training with his “great things come in small packages” mentor, Yoda, on the swamp world of Degobah.
2. Clashing Sabers, ‘Empire Strikes Back’
Before the shocking revelation that bad guy Darth Vader is hero Luke Skywalker’s daddy comes in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the father-son duelists come to blows in the carbonate chamber in Cloud City. Filmed largely in shadow, the entire scene is a riveting clash of darkened, primary colors.
1. Sunset Over Tattooine, ‘A New Hope’
The ennui of a bored farmhand being lured to adventure is captured beautifully in this oft revisited shot that’s bolstered by John Williams’ stirring score. The shot evokes familiar cinematic themes while still firmly planting the audience in an alien world.
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