When George Lucas released Star Wars for the first time in 1977, he had no idea how much of a juggernaut the franchise would be in the years that have followed. It’s become one of the biggest parts of pop culture over the last 40 years with 11 movies released so far. They’ve made audiences laugh, cheer and exclaim in equal measure.
And there have also been moments that have forced fans to reach for the tissues. Starting with 1999’s The Phantom Menace, every single movie in the franchise has made audiences shed quite a few tears.
11 The Phantom Menace: Anakin’s Goodbye
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace introduced a young Anakin Skywalker, who is a slave owned by Watto on the planet of Tatooine. Jake Lloyd’s character comes across as sweet and innocent, in stark contrast to the villainous Darth Vader he’d become many years down the line. So that makes his goodbye to his mother, Shmi, all the more tragic.
Anakin and Shmi part ways and fans know they’re going down two very different paths, with one destined to become bad and the other helpless to stop it. A close second for Episode I was the death of Qui-Gon Jinn but, given he wasn’t in the original trilogy, the writing was always on the wall.
10 Attack Of The Clones: Shmi Skywalker’s Death
While on the subject of Shmi, it’s time to talk about her sad passing in Attack of the Clones. That movie is fun, keeping the tone light and casual for the most part. But Shmi’s death at the hands of the Tusken Raiders is poignant.
Anakin goes back to Tatooine to try and save her, having become aware of her struggles via his dreams. Yet while he manages to get to her, he’s unable to stop the person he loves most from dying. The fact he comes so close makes things extra emotional and it’s sad seeing Anakin lose control in the aftermath, slaughtering the Sand People for their heinous crime.
9 Revenge Of The Sith: “You Were My Brother Anakin”
The third act of Lucas’ prequel trilogy was always going to see Anakin become Darth Vader. That is, after all, the point of all three films. And it’s sad when the moment actually happens, with Hayden Christensen’s character losing to Obi-Wan Kenobi after a fiery lightsaber duel on the planet of Mustafar.
Ewan McGregor’s Kenobi is visibly distraught at seeing his old friend burn as the lava engulfs him, having chopped off both of his legs and a hand as well. The duo had been like brothers over the course of the saga so far but this incident really is the death of that friendship, with Anakin reaching the point of no return.
8 Solo: Qi’ra Snubs Han
Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t fare the best at the box office, with Disney’s blockbuster struggling to recoup what it cost to make. While that’s the case, however, it’s still a welcome addition to the franchise. A young Han Solo is fun to see, while Emilia Clarke’s character Qi’ra is an intriguing debutant.
And Qi’ra is responsible for Solo’s saddest moment when she rejects Han, sending him on his way at the end of the movie. While he’s free as a bird, she’s still tied to the criminal syndicate Crimson Dawn. Their love may exist, but their lives have taken them down alternative roads and this is perfectly summed up in this scene.
7 Rogue One: Galen Erso’s Death
Rogue One, simply put, is a bloodbath of a Star Wars movie. Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor both perish, despite being protagonists, while Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus, K2-SO, and Saw Gerrera all meet their ends as well. Even the villains aren’t safe, with Orson Krennic a casualty when the Death Star pays a visit to Scarif.
But, out of them all, Galen Erso’s passing is arguably the saddest. Like Anakin with Shmi, Jyn spends many years apart from her father. And when she finally gets to him, she’s too late, with Galen dying when a Rebel Alliance ambush comes calling. This ultimately spurs Jyn on, giving her the fire to light the spark to blow the whole thing up.
6 A New Hope: Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Death
A New Hope was originally called just Star Wars, only getting a new name when Lucas opted to press ahead with the original trilogy. It was the first time fans got a glimpse of iconic characters such as Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Darth Vader. And it also introduced the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Alec Guinness gives an excellent performance as the wise Jedi Master, who acts as a mentor to Luke – particularly after the Empire callously murders his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. Therefore, when Darth Vader cuts him down, it’s a really sad moment. Kenobi would later return but being a force ghost isn’t the same as being physically there, meaning he can only do so much for Luke.
5 The Empire Strikes Back: Han Solo In Carbonite
The ending of The Empire Strikes Back sees many of the Rebels’ major players in a state of chaos. Luke is left without a hand when Darth Vader slices it off, Lando Calrissian is forced out of Bespin by the Empire and Leia Organa is left crushed when Han Solo is whisked off to Jabba the Hutt by Boba Fett.
Han and Leia have an emotional parting, with the latter finally telling the loveable rogue she loves him. Han merely says ‘I know’, in one of Star Wars’ most famous quotes of all time. And it’s heartbreaking seeing him taken away from Leia, though it does set up a rather exciting finale…
4 Return Of The Jedi: Darth Vader’s Funeral
For Return of the Jedi, it was a choice between two scenes. The first is the death of Yoda, with the Jedi Master passing away on Dagobah due to old age. But the second is the funeral of Darth Vader. With John Williams’ force theme playing in the background, and Luke looking dejected, it’s certainly a moment that makes fans weep.
Especially given how, shortly before dying, Vader redeemed himself by throwing Emperor Palpatine down the chute of the second Death Star. Anakin’s journey is completed at this moment, bringing things to a satisfying ending. That is until the sequel trilogy came along…
3 The Force Awakens: Han Solo’s Death
Han Solo is one of the most beloved characters in the whole of Star Wars. So when it was announced Harrison Ford would be reprising his role for The Force Awakens, it got excitement tingling across the fandom.
But that excitement was to be short-lived, with Kylo Ren brutally murdering his father on Starkiller Base. Ford had hoped to be killed off during Return of the Jedi, but he didn’t get his wish. When he did, it was to be at the expense of many the fans who had hoped to see the original trilogy character embark on yet more heroic adventures.
2 The Last Jedi: Luke Skywalker’s Death
The Force Awakens decided to hold back the character of Lule Skywalker, instead saving him for the sequel: The Last Jedi. Fans had waited many years to see Mark Hamill’s character back in action. And he didn’t disappoint, with Luke central to all things that happen.
Yet his death was sad because it deprived the chance to see Luke have a prominent role in the third installment of the sequel trilogy. Having been held back for a year, people wanted more. It was also well handled, with Luke sacrificing himself to save the galaxy in a truly heroic act.
1 The Rise Of Skywalker: Leia’s Death
To complete the hat-trick, Leia’s death is the most poignant moment in The Rise of Skywalker. For obvious reasons. Firstly, because it allowed people to grieve for Carrie Fisher – who sadly passed in December 2016.
And, secondly, because Leia – like Luke – sacrificed herself. She does this to bring Ben Solo back to the light side of the force and her son doesn’t let her down, joining the fight against Palpatine to save the day and end the Sith Lord’s rule once and for all.
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