Star Wars holds the distinction as the most beloved movie series in all history. Few franchises evoke the mix of high tech and mythic sorcery, all while introducing the most creative environments movies have ever known. Star Wars characters, vehicles, dialogue and locations have all entered the popular lexicon from preschool to politics, and with the recent revival of the franchise by Disney, the franchise shows no signs of retreating into memory anytime soon.
For all the wonder of the series, however, and as great as the series can be, it can also be, well, pretty bad. In fact, Star Wars has, by turns, been completely godawful from time to time. We here at Screen Rant hold the series in the highest regard. That said, even die-hard devotees like us have a problem stomaching certain moments in the franchise. We don’t want to dwell on the unpleasant, but since Rogue One invites us all to revisit the series, remembering some of the historic lows of Star Wars is in order. Put away the lightsabers, here come the 15 Worst Moments In Star Wars!
15. “Here everything is soft and smooth.” – Attack Of The Clones
George Lucas is a family man. The proud father of three grown children, he and his new wife Melody welcomed his fourth child in 2013. Despite his previous marriage to Oscar-winning editor Marcia Lucas, and a prolonged affair with singer/actress Linda Ronstadt in the 1980s, George apparently doesn’t have much of a way with women.
His dialogue, by his own admission, underlines that sentiment. This phenomenon becomes most obvious in the painful love scenes of Attack of the Clones when Anakin Skywalker waxes poetic by telling Padme she doesn’t feel like sand. And then she marries the guy?! Forget the mood swings. Forget the murderous impulses. Forget the mental instability. Padme’s love for a man with such a goofy concept of a compliment makes the audience question her sanity! If the Original Trilogy emphasized the space portion of “space opera,” the prequels underline the operatic elements. With that in mind, Anakin’s love dialogue strikes a note way off key!
14. The bad wampa suit – The Empire Strikes Back
Die-hard fans of the Original Trilogy no doubt know that the early scenes on Hoth originally included a series of wampa attacks, not limited to the one on Luke. Wampas would have attacked the Echo Base en masse, breaking down walls and killing poor tauntauns. Imperial troops would have also encountered the murderous beasts when they entered the base. Said scenes—Luke’s run-in included—proved disastrous however when the wampa suit looked plain ridiculous on camera.
The Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back includes several new scenes of the wampa, largely because George Lucas and director Irvin Kershner both hated the way the suit looked. As Kershner observed in his DVD commentary, the film more implied the beast rather than show it out of necessity. That shows even in the theatrical cut of the movie, when brief shots of the wampa look more like a Muppet than a yeti. For a series that prides itself so much on effects, the wampa hits an eye-rolling low.
13. “NOOOOOO” – Revenge Of The Sith
What is it with characters shouting “noooooooo” in Star Wars movies? It happens in just about every outing, sometimes to good effect, and others, to distraction. Case in point: the “birth of Vader” sequence in Revenge of the Sith. 2005 marked not only the end of the Prequel Trilogy, but the brief return of the legendary James Earl Jones to the role of Darth Vader. As fans watched with held breath, Vader, dressed in his iconic suit, suddenly became the feared villain of the Original Trilogy. Then, of course, Vader bellows a clunker of a line with his howling “noooo!”
Fans echoed the sentiment, though in a different way. The operatic nature of the prequels made them hard to stomach in contrast to the more gritty and grounded approach to the Original Trilogy. Seeing an Original Trilogy character like Vader incarnated in this operatic form made the scene—one of considerable dramatic weight—distracting rather than moving. Vader’s destruction of the medlab, however, almost made up for the perceived silliness of it all. Almost.
12. Kylo Ren takes off his helmet – The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens went to great lengths to evoke nostalgia for the Original Trilogy, including providing a black-clad, mask wearing villain in the character of Kylo Ren. To the credit of writer Michael Arndt, who concocted the character during his tenure working on the script, Kylo has a fantastic backstory. As the son of Han & Leia, and the grandson of Darth Vader, Kylo (nee’ Ben Solo) seeks to use his knowledge of the Force to wipe out the Jedi order and fulfill his granddad’s legacy.
As a character, Kylo Ren compels the audience for the first two thirds of the movie. Then The Force Awakens makes a bad choice — Kylo removes his helmet. As audiences beheld the face of Adam Driver, snickers erupted in the theatre. Driver, regardless of his acting ability, does not have the kind of charisma or physical presence for an intimidating villain. Audiences might think that was the point: that Ben wasn’t supposed to be scary, though the first 2/3s of the film suggest otherwise. Either way, including the snicker-inducing scene derailed a good deal of the dramatic tension The Force Awakens had built to that point. The script, for the record, contained a better idea: as written, Ben would not have removed his helmet until his confrontation with Han Solo.
11. Charal turns into a bird – Battle for Endor
The television Ewok films continue to divide Star Wars fans. While some admire them for their universe-expanding stories (they are, after all, the original anthology movies), other fans can’t stand the sight of the cuddly Ewoks in their life-and-death adventures. Fans generally regard The Battle for Endor as the superior of the two Ewok films, in part because of some great action sequences, and some interesting villains. Actress Sian Phillips plays the villainess Charal, and provides the film with some much-needed menace. Even then, however, The Battle for Endor makes some questionable choices.
In particular, Charal’s magical ability to transform into a bird raises a few eyebrows. Star Wars, of course, relies on magical and mythical storytelling tropes, though the series had avoided a vulgar use of magical elements to that point. Seeing Charal transform feels more like a scene out of Harry Potter than Star Wars, and the use of magical conventions, no doubt, is one element that makes fans question the creative choices of the Ewok films. That said, Phillips does give the role her all, and given the introduction of the Force witches the Nightsisters to canon, maybe animal transformations can have a reasonable explanation.
10. Itchy Watches a porno – Holiday Special
The Star Wars Holiday Special reeks of bad 1970s variety shows and the overwrought Star Wars mania that the original film unleashed upon the world. Star Wars fandom, like the Star Wars stories, has evolved considerably from its early days of Harvey Corman cameos and Bea Arthur musical numbers… thank God!
The Holiday Special contains some of the most cringe-inducing, teeth gnashing moments in the entire series. Our pick for the show’s low: the scene in which Chewbacca’s elderly father Itchy settles in for a softcore porno hologram show, with the sexual hologram played by Oscar-nominee Diahann Carroll no less! Carroll proceeds to sing a very 1970s disco ballad, with all the sensuous intonations of Andrea True. In a holiday special full of “WTF” moments, Itchy’s holographic porno becomes the “WTF” moment. The sequence has nothing to do with the plot of the show (such as it is), nor does it gel with anything that Star Wars has done before or since! No wonder George Lucas has said he wanted to destroy every copy of the special with a hammer!
9. Any given moment Jar Jar Binks is on screen – The Phantom Menace
You knew it was coming. The Phantom Menace revived Star Wars after an almost 20-year period of dormancy. The long-awaited Prequel Trilogy promised lots more space battles, a look at the rise of Emperor Palpatine, and insight into the Jedi genocide. Fans did not expect, however, a Jerry Lewis-style slapstick comic relief character like the amphibious Jar Jar Binks to pop up in the story.
The inclusion of Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace not only damaged the reception of the film, but it also would continue to color the reception of the Prequel Trilogy as a whole. George Lucas, contrary to popular belief, did not intend the character as a racist caricature of Rastafarians, gay people, or anyone else, but rather as a Star Wars analogue to the bumbling servant in Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. Unlike C3-P0 and R2-D2, who served the same function in the Original Trilogy, Jar Jar never won over audiences. The character continues to cast a pall over the whole franchise, even today, and might just be the single most grating, obnoxious character ever committed to film.
8. “Good Call, my young Padawan”- Attack Of The Clones
Attack of the Clones tried a great deal to distance itself from the sins of The Phantom Menace. George Lucas worked hard to include more action and fan-favorite characters like Yoda and Boba Fett to hold audience interest. He also tried to improve the dialogue, and failed miserably. Attack of the Clones teems with clunker lines, often laughably bad, and always distracting. Just as Anakin’s compliments of Padme not feeling like sand strained the patience of viewers, so did the inclusion of colloquialisms in the Star Wars speech.
For example, in the midst of the Battle of Geonosis—itself a great sequence—Obi-Wan Kenobi compliments Anakin on some battle tactics with the line “good call, my young Padawan.” A line like that feels more like something out of Wayne’s World than Star Wars, and reminds audiences of Lucas’ desperate attempts to sound cool. Alas, the dialogue of Attack of the Clones, even more than the leaden romantic subplot, mires the film into the realm of the asinine, making it the weakest movie in the entire series.
7. Introducing Starkiller base — The Force Awakens
So much of the success of The Force Awakens comes from an overreliance on nostalgia. That makes a fun viewing experience for older fans, but does little to enrich or further the ongoing saga of the Skywalker family. The movie has earned a good deal of criticism for emulating the plot of the original movie too closely. This sin becomes most obvious in the introduction of Starkiller Base.
It’s one thing to include characters or environments that recall those of the Original Trilogy. Starkiller Base, however, goes too far. The superweapon is little more than a steroidal version of the Death Star, a plot element the series had already explored on more than one occasion. If the Death Star relied on cinematic conceits to make sense (just where did they find all the metal to build it?), the Starkiller takes advantage. Characters on distant planets witness the destruction of star systems in an instant, which overlooks even the most basic, common sense laws of physics. The way the base powers itself makes even less sense. Planets needs heat! If it eats up a star to fire, can’t it only fire once? How can it sustain life?
The Starkiller Base strains all credulity, and becomes symbolic of the fan pandering which preoccupies The Force Awakens. Audiences want a new Star Wars stories to evolve and expand the series. The Starkiller, however, recalls only other adventures from the Star Wars galaxy that played much fresher and had better execution.
6. Darth Maul sliced in half – The Phantom Menace
The first images of Darth Maul helped anticipation for The Phantom Menace and indeed, the Prequel Trilogy as a whole hit a fever pitch unequaled in cinema, before or since. Fans expected to see this red-skinned, horned, devilish figure as a new master villain—a character that could equal Darth Vader both as a visual and as a storytelling icon. No wonder The Phantom Menace disappointed so many fans then, when the final movie featured a limited appearance by Maul who ended up dead in the movie’s final reel!
Of course, Maul has since returned in canonical appearances in The Clone Wars and Rebels. In 1999 though, or in the context of just the live action films, Darth Maul feels like the biggest waste of a character in the history of the series. Maul remains a fan favorite, in part because of the further adventures and backstory his later appearances introduced. Virtually none of the character’s best moments appear in The Phantom Menace, however, his sole live-action outing. The limited appearance of Darth Maul prompted fans to question George Lucas’ motives in writing and directing the prequels, and much like Jar Jar Binks, would cast a shadow of resentment over the rest of the Prequel Trilogy.
5. Death of Boba Fett – Return Of The Jedi
Boba Fett had one of the longest introduction periods in Star Wars history. The Star Wars Holiday Special teased the character as Darth Vader’s “right hand” man. The character became one of the first toys released for The Empire Strikes Back, building up a mystique around him, and hinting at his vital function in the plot. Empire also introduces Fett as a cruel and cunning warrior, and as audiences first saw his ship Slave I fly off with Han Solo’s frozen body aboard, viewers wondered what further diabolical deeds Fett would commit in future Star Wars adventures.
Then came Return of the Jedi, which saw Fett’s role reduced to that of background character, and his demise at the end of the film’s first act. For the first time, die-hard fans questioned how Star Wars could waste such a beloved character. Lucas had created Fett under the plan to make Star Wars an ongoing series, and had considered making Fett a recurring villain in future episodes. Lucas’ desire to end the saga with Return of the Jedi nullified the chance audiences would see Fett again, and thus the demise of the character came to represent the collective disappointment of fandom that Star Wars should ever end.
4. “NOOOOOO” – The Empire Strikes Back
George Lucas has often described Star Wars as a tone poem, with certain characters and plot points echoing one another across the trilogy. Maybe that’s why the series can’t seem to get away from hilarious lines like “Noooo!” Just as Darth Vader would bellow the line to the sight of rolling eyes everywhere, The Empire Strikes Back features the other most notorious use of the line in the series. Granted, the scene calls for hysteria: Darth Vader has just revealed to Luke Skywalker that he’s his father! Poor Mark Hamill would endure criticism for years to come for his delivery.
In fairness, the line plays better in Empire than in Sith, and if Mark Hamill deserves culpability for it falling flat, perhaps that has something to do with Hamill reacting to a different line. Lucas had gone to great lengths to keep Luke’s true parentage a secret—even actor David Prowse, who plays the physical Darth Vader, didn’t know the real line. Director Irvin Kershner informed Hamill of the real dialogue just moments before filming the scene. In any case, the line became a silly punctuation to one of the most shocking scenes in cinema history, forever distracting from the dramatic reveal
3. Greedo shoots first – A New Hope: Special Edition
We here at Screen Rant would be remiss in composing this list not to mention some of the most obvious changes to the Original Trilogy over the years in the so-called Special Edition versions. One glaring alteration casts a pall over the whole endeavor. Han Solo’s murder of the bounty hunter Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina made for a shocking bit of character development back in 1997. George Lucas, however, came to question the choice, especially after Han Solo and Princess Leia would later find love together. Lucas found Solo’s cold blooded killing a bit too grizzly for a character regarded as a hero.
Lucas tried to split the difference in the Special Edition by having Greedo shoot at Han first. Die hard fans came to hate the change, favoring a more ruthless Han Solo. They also came to hate the Special Editions, both because of annoying or obvious changes, and because Lucas refused to release the original theatrical versions of the films on home media. The circulation of the so-called “DeSpeciailzed Editions” has helped quell fan frustration, though the lingering memory of Greedo Shooting first continues to haunt Lucas’ legacy as Star Wars creator.
2. Slaughter of Sandpeople – Attack Of The Clones
When he planned out the Prequel Trilogy, George Lucas had originally intended The Phantom Menace to feature a teenaged Anakin Skywalker, who would begin his romance with Padme and already show signs of the darkness that would later consume him into Darth Vader. Lucas backed away from that plan, reducing Anakin’s age to portray the character as more innocent. The choice, unfortunately, would pose issues later, as Lucas struggled to give Anakin a credible dark turn.
One scene in Attack of the Clones illustrates this problem. Anakin returns from rescuing his mother, and confesses to Padme that he slaughtered an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders. Anakin’s on-the-nose dialogue about “hating” and “slaughtering” the raiders stiffens the scene, robbing it of drama. Padme’s indifferent reaction doesn’t help either. As before, Lucas’ choice of dialogue hampers the story more than advances it, and makes talented performers like Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman look silly. What could have been a powerful scene of Anakin’s despair instead becomes a head-shaking moment of clumsy writing.
1. Midi-Chlorians – The Phantom Menace
Few subjects in Star Wars lore have attracted as much discussion as the “midi-chlorians,” the sub-cellular structures which connect living things to the Force. Fans who treat Star Wars as religion—including those who actually claim the film series as an actual religion—balked at the literalization of the mystic Force. Lucas managed to pay off the introduction of the midi-chlorians in Revenge of the Sith by having Palpatine disclose that the tiny creatures could create and sustain life. That didn’t do much to quell fan outrage over the introduction of a biological source of the Force.
A closer reading of the scene in The Phantom Menace reveals a very different explanation. Midi-chlorians don’t create the Force, so much as connect living creatures to it. In broader philosophical terms, the microscopic creatures are somewhat akin to physical brain cells connect to ethereal thoughts, or nerve cells converting physical contact into sensation. Even so, if midi-chlorians are meant to explain the point in Star Wars where the intangible become tangible, Lucas’ clumsy introduction of the concept doesn’t provide fans with enough clarity. Thus, midi-chlorians would become widely criticized as an unnecessary addition to the Star Wars mythos, one which takes away from the very magic that makes the series so loved.
Did we leave out your most loathed Star Wars moment? Tell us in the comments!
KEY RELEASE DATES
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story release date: Dec 16, 2016
- Star Wars 8 / Star Wars: Episode VIII release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film release date: May 25, 2018