“It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” That’s how Obi-Wan Kenobi first described the Force in 1977’s Star Wars, although a good alternative explanation would have been “it allows you do some ridiculously cool things.”
There’s a lot of awesome things in Star Wars, but few things are more awe-inspiring that an impressive Force skill. Telekinesis, mind control, life-after-death – there’s a never-ending list of awesome abilities that are seen across all the expanded universe books, comics, games and TV shows, although you don’t need to go out of the movies to see immense power. Here are the fifteen most impressive use of the Force in just the movies.
Because, like any franchise, the scale of Star Wars grew as the series went on, the use of the Force became more impressive with each new movie. For this list we’re going to be taking into account how impressive a power was at the time of its release as well as how it stacks up in the wider galaxy, otherwise few moments from the original trilogy would make it through.
15. I Am One With The Force And The Force Is With Me
When it was first announced Rogue One would be about the Rebels stealing the original Death Star plans, all involved seemed keen to point out it would be a more grounded Star Wars film, with little in the way of Force mysticism and a more gritty feel instead.
That wasn’t exactly true. Aside from a certain Sith Lord we’ll get to in a moment, the Force was present through Guardian of the Whills Chirrut Imwe. Although Donnie Yen’s blind character wasn’t a Jedi, he was still able to tap into the Force to aid him in battle, taking down a squad of Stormtroopers on Jedha and later managing to dodge a hellfire of laser blasts on Scarif to help Jyn transmit the Death Star plans.
As defined in the original movies the Force could only be wielded by those in tune with it (later retconned to be related to midichlorian count), but this completely changed how it worked; now anybody could tap into it to some degree, turning it from a magical power into a metaphor for the power of belief.
14. Obi-Wan’s Mind Trick
The first verifiable use of the Force in Star Wars is hardly anything too impressive – it’s Obi-Wan scaring off the Tusken Raiders by mimicking a Krayt Dragon cry (something that gets increasingly ridiculous with each change to the sound effect).
The Jedi makes up for it later, however, by showing just how useful the Force can be with the iconic “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” mind trick as he, Luke and the droids enter Mos Eisley. Like most times the Force is used in earlier movies it doesn’t hold a candle to what’s shown in later films – especially as the mind trick power was weakened by being ineffective on certain species, such as Hutts and Toydarians – but the sheer shock on Luke’s face and Alec Guinness’ casual smirk as he does it make it a show-stopper every time.
Rey would use the same trick in a similar manner in The Force Awakens to escape Starkiller base, something even more impressive given her complete lack of training.
13. Lightsaber Dueling
The most captivating idea in all of Star Wars is the lightsaber duels. They may be on paper just sword fights with lights, but it provides such a striking image that everybody has, at some point, pretended to replicate them.
And, of course, they’re Force-powered. Yes, anybody can swing a saber and partake in a fight, but to do so adeptly and to the level shown in the best duels requires serious Force majesty – compare Finn essentially having to constantly block Kylo to Rey actually besting the Knight of Ren. The battles, especially those in the prequels, would be over in seconds if the combatants weren’t fully connected to the Force. The only exception is General Grievous, but he has such fast mechanical limbs it makes up for his lack of Jedi reflexes.
Beyond taking on users in one-on-one duels, the other core lightsaber Force power is being able to block blaster bolts. First seen in Return of the Jedi, it’s an essential part of making the defensive weapon so powerful.
12. Vader’s First Force Choke
Darth Vader’s physical strength was established in his very first appearance when he lifted Captain Antilles off the ground and snapped his neck. As 1977 audiences soon learned, however, he didn’t actually need to use his hands at all to inflict damage; in the middle of the Imperial boardroom scene, Vader swiftly responded to a disturbing lack of faith in his abilities by Force choking Admiral Motti. It wasn’t just a menacing trick, but really highlighted just how broad the Force could be.
The Force choke became a go-to trick from Vader, with Admiral Ozzel and Captain Needa both succumbing to it fatefully in Empire (rather humorously, Admiral Piett inexplicably survives), and it made a return in Rogue One. Curiously, while it’s a Dark Side associated power, it was also used by Luke in Return of the Jedi on Jabba’s Gammorean Guards; this appears to be a remnant of early drafts that had Luke forsake the Jedi and become a lone ranger at the movie’s end.
11. Luke’s Lucky Shot
As essential as the Force is in the original Star Wars, we don’t actually see Luke use any magical powers for most of the film; all of his successes – saving the Princess and escaping the Death Star – come from skill, heroism and a fair bit of luck.
It’s only at the end, where he surrenders to the Force and switches off his targeting computer during the final attack on the Death Star, where he finally shows his adeptness. It’s not just that Luke was able to fire the perfect shot using just the Force, but that he did so where Red and Gold Leader had failed while using advanced technology. It’s the perfect embodiment of Vader’s “insignificant next to the power of the Force” argument, only one that comes from the Light Side and shows the true power that Luke is capable of.
This element may be why later trottings out of a planet-destroying superweapon fell a bit flat – Lando and Poe destroyed the Death Star II and Starkiller base respectively through more traditional, less surprising means.
10. Yoda Lifts Luke’s X-Wing Out Of The Swamp
It may look rather paltry next to his antics in the prequels, but in jaw-dropping terms one of Yoda’s most impressive uses of the Force has to be lifting Luke’s X-Wing out of the Dagobah swamp. Using the Force to move objects had only just been introduced in this film, with Luke bringing his lightsaber to him in the Wampa’s cave and lifting some rocks during training, but audiences had seen nothing on this scale before.
The iconic scene isn’t just a cool moment or jazzy effect, but a major narrative payoff. Yoda’s deceptive size had been established from his first introduction and the trapped X-Wing an underlying plot point, so the Jedi master succeeding where Luke just failed acts as a physical embodiment of the spiritual lessons he’s been teaching. And, aside from showing the power of the Force, it highlighted how much Luke had to learn to become a full Jedi, making his later decision to face Vader unprepared even more gallant (and foolhardy).
9. Force Premonition
One of the most unremarked on, yet essential Force abilities that appear throughout the movies is premonition. It’s how Anakin is able to be an accomplished pod-racer (something that in turn wins him his freedom) and is one of Rey’s earliest experiences with her powers.
The most impressive case, however, comes from the original trilogy when Luke totally unexpectedly has a vision of Han and Leia being tortured on Cloud City. At this point, the young Jedi is still in the middle of his training, but this sudden show of foresight reveals just how powerful he could become. This plot point was later used add weight to the prequels, with Anakin suffering recurring dreams of the death of both his mother and Padmé.
From a screenwriting level, what’s particularly commendable is how the films make these visions essential narrative developments – it’d be very easy for seeing the future to be simple deus ex machina, but even George Lucas with the prequels made them part of the fabric of the world.
8. Kylo Ren’s Blaster Stop
The Force Awakens featured a lot of classic Force powers – mind tricks, visions and other forms of telepathy chief among them – but J.J. Abrams wasn’t afraid to introduce new ideas within them. He kicked off with a bang, having Kylo Ren assert his dominance as a new villain by stopping a blaster bolt and its shooter in the first five minutes; something never seen in Star Wars before, the shock on Poe Dameron’s face was only matched by the causality with which Kylo eventually let it go at the end of the scene.
As the start of a new era of Star Wars, something genuinely new (especially in a movie with a rather familiar plot) made a striking impact and helped win everyone round on Disney’s new enterprise; this wasn’t going to be a complete slave to the past.
7. Darth Vader Attacks The Rebels
One of the most hyped elements of Rogue One was Darth Vader. Gareth Edwards’ film was bringing back many iconic elements from the original trilogy, but none were more exciting than getting to see Sith Lord back at full power after he’d been so altered by the prequels.
In the end, Vader only appeared in two sequences, but boy did he bring it. The menacing summoning of Krennic, culminating in a simple-yet-effective Force choke, would have been enough, but the final ten minutes gave something more: as Rebel soldiers scramble to get the plans to the Tantive IV, Vader hacks them down with ruthless efficiency. There’s so much Force mastery on show here – a highlight is lifting a soldier up in the air before Darth casually slices him as he passes – that the scene pretty much eclipses any other fight scene in the series and sets a high bar for future installments.
What makes the sequence even more impressive from a contextual standpoint is that it was a result of the widely-reported reshoots.
6. The Force Awakens In Rey
In the original six films, the Force was something immensely powerful but always took time to grow; Anakin had limited ability when Qui-Gon found him and Luke could barely move a lightsaber before meeting Yoda, while Leia’s tapping into mystical energy field was mainly through feelings.
The same is not true of sequel hero Rey. After touching the Skywalker lightsaber and experiencing a Force vision that takes her into the galaxy’s past and future, she immediately becomes a Force adept; she’s able to counter Kylo Ren’s attempts at mind reading, trick a Stormtrooper and later actually win a duel against Kylo, all without a single moment of training.
This has led to some severe criticism of Daisy Ridley’s character, with many going as far to call her a Mary Sue. How much that rings true hinges on how The Last Jedi elaborates on her backstory – if there’s a logical explanation, then that will surely make her the most impressive Force user bar none.
5. Force Lightning
In Return of the Jedi, when Vader presents Luke’s lightsaber to the Emperor, Palpatine mockingly remarks “ah yes, a Jedi’s weapon”, hinting that the Sith master doesn’t need to use something rudimentary. It doesn’t take long for him to reveal why that is; when Luke throws his saber away after refusing to kill his father, the Emperor unleashes a barrage of Force lightning.
Making choking adversaries look positively useless, lightning was a violent power that immediately incapacitated Luke and inadvertently led to Vader’s death – no offensive power in the movies before or since has quite matched its destructiveness.
It proved so striking that the power made a strong return in the prequels, with Dooku revealing his turn to the Dark Side with a blast at Anakin and Palpatine using it heavily after his dark identity was revealed (even if it could be reflected back at him to disfiguring results). It’s also been a mainstay of Star Wars games, making playing as a Dark Side user infinitely more fun.
4. Yoda Stopping Force Lightning
What made Force lightning so awe-inspiring in Return of the Jedi was that it was an unstoppable Dark Side power. However, the prequels introduced a way the Jedi could fight back.
After Dooku has incapacitated Anakin and Obi-Wan on Geonosis, small, frail Yoda turns up. The new Sith attempts to show his former master how much more powerful he has become, sending a blast of lightning towards him. However, Yoda nonchalantly blocks it with his bare hands, and when a stronger blast comes his way actually absorbs its energy. It was an unprecedented show of the Force that rightly cemented Yoda as one of the most powerful users in the series.
That the Jedi later engages in a massive acrobatic show which goes directly against his “size matters not” adage from Empire puts a bit of a damper on the scene overall, but that shouldn’t take away from the pure coolness of his lightning stop.
3. The Senate Fight
Yoda’s physical Force mastery doesn’t end with simply stopping Force lightning – he did that and so much more in his Senate chamber battle with the Emperor at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
Paying off three movies of politics and six of power development, the home of trade negotiations became a battleground as the two Force masters fought tooth and nail for the galaxy. Palpatine escalates things first, throwing pods at Yoda, but the Jedi quickly fights back by catching one in mid-air and sending it back. That the Jedi lost shouldn’t take away from the skills on show.
Amazingly, the sequence was originally meant to be bigger; there was more action between the pair planned after they first rise up into the chamber and Lucas had also envisioned for the fight being captured on video by Senate cams. However, these ideas proved too excessive for what is essenitally a secondary conflict to Anakin and Obi-Wan’s Mustafar duel.
2. Creating Life
Forget midichlorians – one of the most audacious creative choices made with The Phantom Menace was Anakin’s immaculate conception. However, while at the time it seemed to be a strained Jesus parallel, it was actually setting up an essential reveal for Episode III.
In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tempts Anakin to the Dark Side with “The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise”, telling of a Sith Lord who learned how to stop death and create life. Skywalker obsesses over the former, but the big shocker in the latter power – the implication is that Palpatine manipulated the midichlroians to create an all-powerful being to deceive the Jedi into thinking he was the Chosen One.
The original script was actually going to go one step further and confirm that he created Anakin, a twisted take on the original trilogy’s “I am your father” reveal. The finished film didn’t go that far, but it still established what is probably the most powerful Dark Side ability of all.
1. Force Ghosts
When Obi-Wan says to Darth Vader during their fateful lightsaber duel on the Death Star “if you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”, he wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest; Kenobi famously survives death, first as an intermittent detached voice, then in a near-physical form, and was eventually joined on the other side by Yoda and Anakin Skywalker.
This, above all other shows of the Force, solidified the Light Side’s ultimate power; the Dark Side may allow the creation of life and the ability to stop death, but the Light enables users to actually transcend such basic constructs and become one with the Force itself.
The mythology of this spiritual immortality was subtly expanded in the prequels, with Revenge of the Sith revealing the ability to live on from death had in fact been discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn, who taught his former master and apprentice how to acheive it during their self-imposed isolation.