George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars was initially influenced by the iconography of World War II mixed with the science fantasy elements of TV serials like Flash Gordon. The space battles were designed to look like dogfights, the ground battles were designed to look like firefights in the trenches, and the lightsaber duels were actually designed to look like laser-tinged versions of the fights in swords-and-sandals epics.
10 The Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones
Prior to Attack of the Clones, we’d never seen more than two or three Jedi Knights fighting on the big screen at the same time. Right before the battle between the Separatists’ droid soldiers and the Republic’s Clone Army, which was thrilling if a little heavy on the CGI effects, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme have to fight alien creatures in a gladiatorial arena.
Then Mace Windu gathers up the survivors from his strike team and they enter the arena to take on the Separatists with the full might of the Jedi. And then Yoda brings the cavalry, the now-complete Clone Army, to their rescue.
9 The Battle of Crait in The Last Jedi
After all these movies, the filmmakers are clearly struggling to come up with new gimmicks for planets, because Crait is covered in salt. Although there’s a lot in The Last Jedi that fans weren’t pleased with, and rightly so, the final battle on Crait was an undeniably spectacular sequence. Rather than use a small character moment to build to a big battle sequence, Rian Johnson used a big battle sequence to build to a small character moment.
The Resistance and the First Order hit each other with some blows, and then a newly heroic Luke Skywalker emerges to duel with Kylo Ren. Luke turns out to be a Force projection acting as a distraction to give the rest of the Resistance time to get away.
8 The Battle of the Great Pit of Carkoon in Return of the Jedi
A lot is accomplished during the Battle of the Great Pit of Carkoon. In ownership of Han frozen in carbonite and an enslaved Leia, Jabba takes all the Rebels who failed to rescue them out to the middle of the desert to sacrifice them to the Sarlacc Pit.
R2-D2 shoots Luke’s lightsaber out at him, which allows him to free himself from his captors, Lando in disguise helps to free Han and Chewie and fight off the guards, and Leia frees herself by strangling and killing Jabba with her own shackles. The only downside to this breathtaking battle sequence is Boba Fett’s underwhelming death.
7 The Battle of Takodana in The Force Awakens
The space battles of George Lucas’ early Star Wars movies were inspired by World War II. Lucas took WWII dogfights and put them in outer space. When J.J. Abrams came to reboot the saga, he set his first airborne battle – the First Order’s attack on Maz Kanata’s castle – in the skies above Takodana.
So, it pretty much did look like WWII dogfight, just with X-wings and TIE Fighters and laser blasters. It was very visceral, and no Star Wars battle is complete without the action on the ground. In this one, Rey confronts Kylo Ren, Finn fights a Stormtrooper with a lightsaber, and Han tries Chewie’s bowcaster on for size.
6 The Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back opens with the Rebels posted up on Hoth. As soon as Darth Vader locates them, he comes down with the full force of the Galactic Empire, sending an army of Snowtroopers into the base to smoke the Rebels out and setting legions of AT-ATs on the Rebels’ Snowspeeders.
The Rebels come up with the innovative technique of shooting out lines to wrap around the AT-ATs’ legs to trip them up. The Battle of Hoth reintroduced audiences to the Star Wars universe in The Empire Strikes Back in a fresh and exciting way – it’s familiar, but also new.
5 The Battle of Scarif in Rogue One
While the visual style of the battle sequences in George Lucas’ original Star Wars movies were heavily influenced by World War II, Gareth Edwards’ battle scenes in his surprisingly fantastic spin-off movie Rogue One were more inspired by the look of the Vietnam War.
The Battle of Scarif proves this, with ground-level handheld shots that look like they were filmed by a war reporter and firefights in exotic spaces of jungle. It’s also an important battle in terms of plot, because it was all built around the Rebel Alliance’s struggle to steal the Death Star blueprints, which led to the fall of the Empire.
4 The Battle of Naboo in The Phantom Menace
Anakin’s role in the final battle sequence in The Phantom Menace might have ripped off Luke’s role in the final battle sequence in A New Hope, since he used his expert piloting skills and Force sensitivity to blow up the Federation control ship (which, admittedly, doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Death Star”), but the Battle of Naboo as a whole is a terrific climax to a not-so-terrific movie.
Padme joins her soldiers on the battlefield, while Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon take on Darth Maul in the breathtaking “Duel of the Fates” sequence. What lets the Battle of Naboo down is the fact that the Gungans are involved.
3 The Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi
It’s surprising that more fans don’t criticize Return of the Jedi for rehashing the Death Star plot of A New Hope. It’s a crazier plot point than Mr. Krabs opening a second Krusty Krab right next door to the first one. This is probably because the movie makes it work, and since the Death Star is only halfway constructed when the Rebels destroy it, it doesn’t feel like a total rehash.
We jump back and forth between various stages of the battle: Luke’s final confrontation with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, Han and Leia’s espionage mission down at the Endor-based outpost, and Lando using the Millennium Falcon to blow up the second Death Star from the inside.
2 The Battle of Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith
Fans generally agree that Revenge of the Sith is the finest of the three prequels. It opens with a spectacular space battle over Coruscant where Anakin and Obi-Wan take on General Grievous and the might of the Separatist Army in an attempt to rescue a captive Palpatine.
Rather than get the wider perspective of this battle, we focus on Anakin and Obi-Wan’s starfighters as they spin and zip around the empty void of space. The visual effects are dizzying in the best way, we feel the impact of every blast – it’s truly cinematic. This is what CGI-era Star Wars should look like.
1 The Battle of Yavin in A New Hope
Of course this one tops the list. This was the first huge battle in a Star Wars movie, the one that introduced us to this strange galaxy far, far away. Everything in the plot of A New Hope converges in this battle sequence, which is what makes it so great. Avengers: Endgame recently did the same thing with a final battle that paid off 22 movies’ worth of storytelling.
Luke uses the Force to send a torpedo with the guidance of Obi-Wan into the shaft that will blow up the Death Star, Han and Chewie come back to help the Rebels and save the day, and Darth Vader gets sent into a tailspin with his evil empire in shambles.