Words: J. Wood & J. Senior
You may not have heard, but there’s a new Star Wars movie out this week. To commemorate the release of The Force Awakens, we at Reel Steel thought we needed to take a look at the very best moments of the timeless series so, without further ado, I give you my three favourite moments from each of the original trilogy, plus a special bonus moment too. Also in addition to my favourite moments, our editor Josh will weigh in with his picks across the films from the original trilogy.
A New Hope
This is the moment that for me first sets Star Wars aside from other science fiction and fantasy as something more elegiac. Thus far in the story we are aware that there is a galactic war, that Darth Vader exists as a malevolent force of evil and that the two droids are on a secret mission from a princess. However this scene puts Luke Skywalker, an orphaned, bored farmhand front and centre of the saga, on a barren, desert world with two suns. Not for the first o last time John Williams’ score works away from the most noted excerpts with a clever, gorgeous melody that truly makes the moment complete.
Escape From The Prison Block
The first time the three major players all come together. Luke and Han’s efforts to free Leia, against all of Han’s better judgement plays out as almost a comedy of errors, as Han and Chewie bundle their way through a hardly thought through semi-plan. Buoyed by Luke’s boundless enthusiasm and Leia’s level headed calm, this shows how great the dynamic that would drive the franchise would be from the very earliest opportunity.
Darth Vader vs. Obi Wan Kenobi
Alec Guinness was a genuinely world class actor cast amongst a group of debutants and little knowns as a source of heft. His sage presence throughout the first hour of this film leads the audience to believe that his character would play a major role in the franchise. However putting him up against the monstrous like Vader gave the franchise the first moment that would truly define it. While this may not be the best lightsabre battle of the franchise it is still enthralling stuff, and the repercussions of its shocking conclusion have implications throughout the franchise.
Editor’s Pick: The Clumsy Storm Trooper
In an array of moments this is often the one I find myself coming back to with fondness in A New Hope. Not technically a classic moment but it’s a moment that does remind us that even Star Wars films are just movies and were largely made with fun intended, no matter how many humanitarian messages people attempt to withdraw from the series. The sight of this Storm Trooper clanging his head on a low hanging door has me in stitches every time. Maybe a letter needs to be filed to The Death Stars health and safety officer?
The Empire Strikes Back
Luke Meets Yoda
Following Obi Wan’s death in A New Hope, Luke’s fate was left open at the start of Empire, as the only person with Jedi Powers fighting for the forces of good. The beginnings of the Dagobah sequences do not bring the greatest hope of greatness as Luke and R2 come across a strange little being. Empire is a film of great reveals, and as the strange little green being with the mangled syntax is revealed to be the great Jedi warrior, the franchise once again entered a new plane.
Betrayal on Cloud City
Luke’s visions on Dagobah offer the audiences a hint at the horrors to come, but when Han, Leia and Chewie enter the banquet room on Cloud City, the sight of Vader and Boba Fett hammers home quite how serious their situation is. The subsequent torture and freezing in carbonite of Han cements Empire as the truly dark film of the franchise, using the clever building of Han and Leia’s relationship to emphasise the tragedy. Some would have expected the big reveal to be on here, however I feel lesser celebrated elements of the franchise need highlighting.
The Final Shot
My favourite scene in the entire franchise. Much like the binary sunset, this has much to do with the fantastic score of John Williams, using his wonderful skills to heighten a quieter moment in the franchise. There have been few films within a franchise end on such a down note, the hero has lost his hand, all relations have been turned on their heads and Han is in mortal danger. So to end it simply, with Luke, Leia and the droids watching the Falcon head to Tattooine is a subtle yet effective way to end a wonderful film.
Editor’s Pick: The Debut of Slave 1
Long before we get to see Boba Fett in full action we see his iconic space ship tailing the Millenium Falcon on its way to Bespin. We had to wait until Attack Of The Clones to really see it in action, but for a spaceship that is so impractical (it lands flat on its back like a turtle that’s rolled over) it has possibly the coolest name of any vehicle in all six movies and only adds to the cult of cool that surrounds Boba Fett’s character.
Return Of The Jedi
Sail Boat Battle
Han is rescued yet he, Luke, Leia, the droids Chewie and Lando are still in terrible danger as they are sentenced to being eaten by The Sarlacc, and be digested over a thousand years. Although the ill-advised slave outfit Leia is wearing looks worse each time I watch the film, this is a nice relief after the darkness of The Empire Strikes Back. This sequence captures the Saturday morning matinee atmosphere that Lucas showed with Raiders of the Lost Ark, and pits Return of The Jedi on firm, triumphant ground.
Luke Reveals All to Leia
After the reveals first by Vader and then Yoda, the fact that Luke lets Leia into the secret of her true identity adds an extra dimension to the stakes of the final battle. Their connection at the end of The Empire Strikes Back is now firmly explained, whilst the humanity on show between them is the high point of the franchise’s emotional impact.
The Battle of Endor: Space
The final act of Return Of The Jedi is a masterclass in intercutting narratives to create a wider picture. Of these three segments the space battle is the one that always stuck out to me. There is the spectacle of the dogfight, the charisma of Lando holding things together, the cult iconicness of Admiral Akbar and the sheer brilliance of seeing the Star Destroyer crash into the surface of the Death Star. This is triumphant filmmaking portraying the triumphalism of the narrative’s conclusion.
Editor’s Pick: Hover Bikes
This is possibly my favourite moment in the whole trilogy. It’s the moment when you finally see the brother-sister bond between Luke and Leia in full effect as they wizz between the trees of Endor taking out box helmed Storm Troopers one by one. My particular favourite part is when Luke chops the front off of an oncoming Hover Bike and nobs its pilot straight into a tree stump, and causes it to explode. Luke’s finale in this film is pretty tame so it’s quite nice to see him in full Jedi flow before the film gets a bit sulky and everyone starts wearing black, like a goth teenager.
The Tale of Darth Plagueis The Wise
Ironically, for a series very little renowned for it’s screenplay, especially in the absurdly trite prequels, the bonus comes from Revenge Of The Sith, and the fantastically written scene of the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Brilliantly acted by Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine, he tells Anakin the story of the Sith Lord murdered by his apprentice having mastered the concept of immortality and reincarnation. Played out in a way that so cleverly semi-suggests it, almost barely hiding his own mask while still maintaining cover, the scene sticks out like a sore thumb in Revenge Of The Sith, in that it is so well portrayed.
Editor’s Pick: Pod Racing
Quite late in the day I’ve realised I have a Star Wars vehicle fetish, which is something I never expected. Maybe I would like the Fast & Furious movies after all…
… So we come to Pod Racing, a sequence from the much maligned Phantom Menace, which for the record I think is absolutely fucking great. Darth Maul yo!
But the Pod Racing section is a total classic, we get to see Anakin Skywalker before he turned into Darth Vader being all Home Alone cute and taking on the grown ups at their own game in this deadly-floaty-car-type-race thing.
It spawned a range of merchandise in its own right, including a rather chintzy arcade game that I once spent three hours trying to master on Blackpool Pleasure Beach to no avail.
Also, a fun fact for you Jake Lloyd who played young Anakin on screen was arrested last year for drink driving and crashing his own car. I guess his pilot skills are only effective on Tatooine?