There are many, many reasons why Carrie Fisher’s death is an absolute tragedy. From her ceaseless work to de-stigmatize mental illness to the sharpness and wit that shone through her novels, work as a screenplay doctor, and comedy, to the kindness and warmth enjoyed by her family and friends, the world is truly a poorer place in her absence.
Of course, among the heartbroken are the millions of fans of Star Wars, and Fisher’s historic sci-fi heroine, Leia Organa. Like Fisher herself, Leia is too often remembered for a few powerful moments, which overshadow several amazing scenes involving the character that, for whatever reason, pop culture decided weren’t as iconic as a farm boy awestruck by a hologram meant for Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’ll never forget Carrie Fisher, and we shouldn’t forget that her most famous character is easily one of the most capable, intimidating forces in the galaxy far, far away. Here are the fifteen most badass times Leia showed us what a princess (or general) is really capable of.
15 Instantly and ruthlessly interrogates Lando with Chewie’s help
Despite this unenviable situation, Leia shows remarkable strength of will when Lando does the right thing and double-crosses the empire...and is predictably almost strangled to death by an enraged Chewbacca. Still wary of Lando, Leia keeps her cool (though doesn’t bother to hide her anger) as she plays the good cop to Chewie’s bad cop, learning where Boba Fett is bringing Han. While she’s too late to stop the Slave I from departing, Leia can at least rest assured knowing she’d do pretty well opposite Michael Starsky or Gabriel Cash.
14 Turns around Han Solo’s famous “I know” - and saves his life
There are few scenes in Star Wars more powerful than Han Solo being frozen in carbonite. Faced with the very real possibility that the man she loves is about to die, Leia professes her love for him. Han’s simple response of “I know” is an amazing mix of the character’s emotional guardedness and subtle reassurance. I know you do, and I’ll tell you how I feel if I make it back. Still, it must’ve been hard for Leia to hear such an ambiguous answer, which is part of what makes the role-reversal in Return of the Jedi so satisfying.
In the midst of the Battle of Endor, Leia (recently wounded by blaster fire) and Han are taking shelter by the entrance to the shield generator. Two stormtroopers approach from behind, and between this and Leia’s injury, the situation seems hopeless. Han looks ready to give in when Leia reveals she has a concealed blaster pistol, prompting a visibly relieved Han to say “I love you.” There’s something beautiful about Leia’s subtle smile as she replies with “I know”...and proceeds to instantly drop the two stormtroopers with two perfectly placed shots. If nothing else, it’s a much punchier follow-up to the line than being frozen in carbonite.
13 Leia meets the Ewoks without being trapped or almost eaten
While not as bombastic or attention-grabbing as marching heavily armed into danger, the bravery of befriending an alien creature alone in an unfamiliar environment is just as important as being a hero, a fact Leia demonstrates after falling off the speederbike she stole on Endor. She promptly encounters an Ewok, and slowly and deliberately greets the spear-wielding creature with food and the promise of friendship.
Meanwhile, Luke, Han, Chewie, and a small group of rebels go out looking for Leia, and promptly get caught in a massive snare set by the Ewoks. After cutting themselves down, the group is surrounded by the creatures, and their behavior promptly results in them being tied to spits to be roasted alive. Leia, on the other hand, managed to enter the Ewok village as an equal, and even got them to braid her hair. While Luke does get the gang out of trouble by using the Force to play up C-3PO as a god-like figure, he probably wouldn’t have needed to if he’d had Leia’s diplomatic savvy and charisma.
12 Stays brave and bold in a seemingly hopeless situation
A New Hope, which begins with Leia’s capture at the hands of Darth Vader (but after she had successfully smuggled the Death Star plans off-planet), probably represents the Princess at her most passive, since she spends much of the film in captivity. In spite of -- or perhaps because of -- her serious predicament, A New Hope also has some of Leia’s most inspiring moments, including one made powerful due to revelations in Rogue One.
When confronted aboard the Tantive IV by Darth Vader, Leia tells him off for attacking a peaceful, diplomatic vessel, already a brave thing to do when you’re smuggling Imperial secrets. What Rogue One reveals in its heart-pounding third act is that Leia’s ship had just come from the intense space battle just above the planet of Scariff, and that Vader had literally watched the ship flee the battle with the stolen plans.
With this information, Leia’s protestations become a stunningly bald-faced lie, demonstrating how much contempt she has for the Empire’s most feared enforcer. She keeps this attitude throughout the film, even mouthing off to the imposing Grand Moff Tarkin (and, if the new expanded universe is to be believed, mocking posh Imperial mannerisms in the process).
11 Endures brutal torture without divulging any information
Sadly, Leia’s sass comes with a terrible cost. In their desperation to obtain the location of the plans, the Empire locks her in a prison cell aboard the Death Star, where Darth Vader personally tortures her for information with the help of an interrogation droid. Impressively, we later learn from conversation between Vader and Tarkin that Leia refused to divulge any information. Considering that the droid appeared to be equipped with some sort of truth serum (or at least a very menacing syringe) and that Darth Vader was probably desperate enough to use the Force to try to pull information out of her, Leia still didn’t give the Empire anything useful.
Compare this to Poe Dameron’s capture in The Force Awakens. The ace pilot bravely holds out during more conventional interrogations, but when Kylo Ren personally intercedes, he gives up BB-8 almost immediately. This isn’t meant as a slight towards Poe -- by all accounts, he was heroic in holding out as long as he did -- but rather as further proof that if any character in Star Wars can keep a secret, it’s Leia.
10 Successfully bluffs the best military minds of the Empire under the ultimate pressure
Eventually, Tarkin gives up on torturing the information out of Leia. Instead, he brings her to a viewing station and pulls out his trump card: a planet-destroying laser pointed at the helpless world of Alderaan. Leia’s impressive composure briefly breaks during this scene, as she pleads with Tarkin to spare her adoptive homeworld, but Tarkin refuses to yield unless she divulges the location of the rebel base.
Playing the role of the damsel in distress perfectly, Leia lies once again to Tarkin, telling him that the base is on Dantooine (a planet the rebellion had long ago abandoned). The commander of the Death Star completely falls for it, later stunned when he discovers the princess managed to lie to him despite enduring isolation, torture, and perhaps the worst threat he could have possibly made. Unfortunately for Leia, Tarkin had planned to destroy Alderaan no matter what she said. But that doesn’t mean the surviving Alderaanians are out of luck just yet…
9 Rallies the survivors of Alderaan
One of the best additions to the new expanded universe, Mark Waid and Terry Dodson’s Star Wars: Princess Leia comics are full of incredible moments for the character. However, the very premise of the miniseries is badass in and of itself: Leia takes a brief sabbatical as leader of the Rebellion in order to rescue the survivors of Alderaan’s destruction from an Imperial purge, showing the kind of cleverness, determination, and bravery we’ve grown to love in the process.
What’s really so powerful and touching, however, is the series’ end, where Leia abdicates her title as princess and leader of the Alderaanians in order to return to serving the Rebellion. Leia’s royal heritage was one of the last things she had of her lost homeworld, but she still gave it up in order to lead others in the fight against the Empire. When others would sit in their ivory towers and try to incite change from above, Leia is more than willing to dive into the trenches to get things done. Speaking of which...
8 Kicks ass with a lightstaber on Nar Shaddaa
As Luke Skywalker’s sister -- and Anakin Skywalker’s daughter -- Leia should theoretically be one of the most powerful force-users in the entire Star Wars series. Unfortunately, a lack of training (and the erasure of the old expanded universe, which built on this potential here and there) has kept Leia from fulfilling her full potential as the most badass Jedi ever. Thanks to Jason Aaron and Stuart Immonen’s Star Wars: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon comic series, however, fans can at least cross one of their most-requested Leia moments off of their lists.
While on a mission to rescue Luke Skywalker on Nar Shaddaa, Leia finds herself up against Imperial forces without a blaster...but with a lightsaber, that proves to be a relatively minor problem. The moment is brief, and shared with other non-Jedi like Han Solo that also use laser swords furnished by R2-D2, but the images of Leia preparing to cut down pilots and stormtroopers with a Jedi weapon just feel right on a very visceral level.
7 Uses the Force to save Luke’s life, with zero training of any kind
Try to imagine Leia’s mental state as she sits on the Millennium Falcon at the end of Empire Strikes Back. She’s seen the rebels suffer a devastating defeat on Hoth, been eaten by the 2nd worst space worm in Star Wars, had to watch the man she loves be betrayed, tortured, and possibly killed in an experimental freezing procedure...when suddenly, she hears Luke’s voice in her head, begging for help.
Rather than do what any of us probably would have done -- chalked it up to a severe case of stress, PTSD, and probable sleep deprivation -- Leia unconsciously uses her connection to the Force to identify the voice as Luke’s, and guides Lando to his dangling body at the underside of Cloud City. It took Luke several...units of time on Dagobah (that part of the movie was always a bit fuzzy) to learn how to use the Force enough to send a message out, but Leia was intuitive enough to receive and interpret the message in moments.
6 Rescues Han, Luke, and Chewbacca from their disastrous rescue attempt on the Death Star
As far as nitpicks in A New Hope go, the slap-dash nature of Han, Luke, and Chewbacca’s plan to rescue Princess Leia is largely ignored in favor of questions about why the Death Star was constructed with such an obvious weak point (though Rogue One decisively puts that point to rest). This is understandable given how little time and resources Luke and the gang had to plan their rescue, but the plan is still absurd on a fundamental level. It worked well enough to get the trio to the prison cells, but getting them back to the docking bay after alerting half the station would prove to be no easy task.
Fortunately for them, the prisoner they were rescuing easily proved to be the most capable member of the group during the escape. Despite lacking the planning and maps of the battle station Luke and Han had, Leia still manages to figure out an escape plan to save the gang. If she’d had the same resources her rescuers had, she probably could’ve found a way to get them out without almost getting crushed, but considering she had approximately 45 seconds to come up with a strategy, it’s still pretty impressive.
5 Becomes a badass bounty hunter to rescue Han
When it came time for Leia to rescue Han from captivity, she had two years and the full resources of the Rebel Alliance to work with, and the plan she came up with was impressive enough to match. Working closely with Luke Skywalker, she seeded Jabba’s organization with collaborators, starting with Lando posing as a guard, and Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 giving themselves up as captives. But the badass part of the plan comes with Leia successfully taking on the role of the bounty hunter Boushh, to the point that she successfully convinces Jabba the Hutt that she’d be willing to blow his entire throne room up with a thermal detonator.
He’s not the only one she fooled, either; Boba Fett immediately fumbles for his rifle when he sees her pull out the bomb, something he probably wouldn’t do if he thought she wasn’t playing for keeps. Sadly, the plan encounters a small hitch when Jabba discovers Leia’s true identity, but that doesn’t stop Leia from ultimately getting Han out alive.
4 Is casually one of the best shots in Star Wars
Besides their humiliating defeat to stone-age teddy bears, Stormtroopers are perhaps most frequently mocked for being unusually poor shots. The criticism has a fair amount of weight; aside from their entrance in A New Hope, stormtroopers have proved alarmingly inept at shooting any adversaries other than unarmed Jawas and farmers. The good guys aren’t much better, however. Han usually gets his target eventually, for example, but unless he’s seated at a bar table across from him, it’s rare for Han to hit his mark in one shot.
Leia, on the other hand, does slightly less shooting than Han or Luke, but eagle-eyed viewers of the films will note that when she does shoot, she almost invariably hits her target. In fact, EU materials have helped explain why: Leia learned military and self-defense training alongside the traditional courses for the heir to the Alderaanian throne. Still, the fact that she consistently outshoots Han Solo, a seasoned smuggler and space-criminal, is pretty impressive.
3 She’s the only one of the original trilogy protagonists to keep fighting after the rise of The First Order
Also impressive is how Leia handles what has to be two of the most traumatic events of her life: her son betraying the new Jedi order to the dark side, and the return of the Empire in the form of the First Order. Luke responds to these events by disappearing, telling no-one but R2-D2 the location of his newfound hermitage. Han and Chewie, meanwhile, go back to hustling, abandoning their new lives to distract themselves with schemes and shenanigans.
But Leia never stops fighting. She tries to use her position as a senator to convince the Old Republic to keep fighting the good fight, and when that doesn’t work, she gathers up as many people as she can to go out and fight them herself. Lots of people find keeping busy helpful in working through grief, but running an entire military organization seems like a bit much. Speaking of...
2 Runs a rebellion as a 19-year-old
If you’ve been around long enough, try to imagine what you were doing as a 19-year-old. Odds are you were struggling through your first year at college, trying to fit into the workforce, or just bumbling through life in general. It’s safe to say that few of us were competent enough at 19 to run anything larger than a Cinnabon stand, let alone overseeing major portions of an intergalactic resistance movement.
Leia makes it look so easy that we often forget that someone her age performing as well as she does is nothing short of genius. The feat becomes even more impressive when we recall that, at the time of A New Hope, the Rebellion wasn’t her only job -- she was also serving as Alderaan’s senator! How many actual senators, most of whom are well into middle age or older, could we trust to do their jobs and topple a fascist regime on the side?
1 Strangles Jabba the Hutt to death with her own chain
Did you really think anything else could be the most badass moment on the list? In addition to being significant for the plot (killing one of the most persistent, if reclusive, villains of the original trilogy), the galaxy (Leia essentially used her chains to strangle Al Capone to death in his own base during a gunfight), and symbolically (women using the very chains of their oppressors to break free), the scene also demonstrates one of the best uses of fanservice in all of nerd culture.
Putting a character like Leia in an outfit like the gold bikini is something very common in geek media, but often, for no reason other than to thrill teenage boys; which incidentally, risks alienating female fans that (rightfully) resent the objectification. But by having Leia absolutely destroy her oppressor in the outfit -- and in such a way that part of the outfit itself is used in his destruction -- shows that, ridiculous get-up or not, she still has all the power and respect that she’s always had. To quote Carrie Fisher. “She's a prisoner of a giant testicle who has a lot of saliva going on and she does not want to wear that thing, and it's ultimately that chain...that is used to kill the giant saliva testicle.”
Did we leave out your favorite badass Leia moment? Let us know in the comments!