Given that the Star Wars saga is a series of movies about intergalactic conflicts between a totalitarian military faction and a guerrilla political uprising, we’ve seen plenty of the characters bite the dust over the years.
We didn’t care too much about some of them, like Jabba the Hutt or any number of unnamed Stormtroopers, but we really did care about a lot of them. Since the Star Wars movies are constructed like operas – their official classification is “space opera” – their death scenes are always very dramatic and theatrical, bordering on Shakespearean. So, here are the 10 Most Heartbreaking Deaths In Star Wars.
10 Admiral Ackbar
Despite having little characterization and very few scenes, Admiral Ackbar became a Star Wars icon with three words in Return of the Jedi. “It’s a trap!” is one of the most memorable quotes in the saga’s history, for reasons that are unknown yet somehow obvious, and it immortalized what could’ve been a forgettable character.
And then he was killed off in an instant in The Last Jedi. It was such a fleeting moment that many fans didn’t even realize it had happened. They looked down for one second to get a handful of popcorn, and when they looked back up, Ackbar was gone.
9 Most of the Jedi Order
In Revenge of the Sith, when Palpatine finally got into power and began his evil plan to take over the galaxy, his first move was to execute Order 66. Order 66 turned out to be a command sent out to all the Clones who had been assigned to protect Jedi Knights to slaughter them.
We saw it play out in quick succession in a montage, with most of the new Jedi Knights that the prequels introduced us to that we’d come to know and love getting wiped out. It was heartbreaking to see all the Jedi Knights on goodwill missions suddenly realize that the soldiers sent to protect them had been ordered to kill them.
8 Vice Admiral Holdo
The Last Jedi wasn’t universally adored, and neither was Laura Dern’s character Vice Admiral Holdo, but there’s no doubt that she redeemed herself by the end. After spending the whole movie as a bureaucrat with a stiff upper lip rejecting Poe’s drastic decisions, she finally got on board.
Holdo didn’t just sacrifice herself to save the rest of the Resistance – which would have been a noble enough action on its own – she did it in the most awesome way possible. She gunned the last Resistance ship up to lightspeed and drove it right into the First Order’s fleet, blowing them out of the aether of space.
7 Qui-Gon Jinn
Of the many things in The Phantom Menace that fans reacted negatively to, Liam Neeson’s Jedi Master character Qui-Gon Jinn was one of the few parts that people actually liked. He was an interesting character and the only one who believed in Anakin. He was an incredible fighter, a peaceful Jedi, and a likable guy.
He was set up for a bright future in the Star Wars universe, and then he was cut down – quite literally – in his prime by Darth Maul. His final moment with Obi-Wan is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in Star Wars history. Why couldn’t it have been Jar Jar!?
Yoda’s death in Return of the Jedi wasn’t as shocking or unexpected as some of the other death scenes in Star Wars, where characters are stabbed with a lightsaber or blown up in the vacuum of space, but it was just as heartbreaking.
Luke returned to Dagobah to complete his training, only to find that his 900-year-old master was on his deathbed. The timing was fortunate, because it allowed the pair of them to share some final words. Yoda lives on as a Force ghost, but that doesn’t take any of the tragedy away from the moment of his passing.
5 Darth Vader
As fans watched the original trilogy and saw the sheer evil in Darth Vader, few of them predicted that when he died at the end of Return of the Jedi, they’d be sad. But at the very last second, he realized the error in his Dark Side ways.
He saw that his son, Luke, was getting tortured by his mentor, the Emperor, and he decided to save the former by tossing the latter down a reactor core shaft. But in the process, he took some of the heat from the Emperor’s Force lightning himself and he died in Luke’s arms. It was surprisingly affecting.
4 Everyone in Rogue One
While Disney’s second experimentation with the “Anthology” spin-offs wasn’t too successful, resulting in mixed reviews, financial disaster, and an almost entirely forgettable movie, their first one, Rogue One, got things off to a terrific start. Gareth Edwards’ $1 billion-grossing movie was full of memorable moments, including the finale, in which all the new characters that we’ve come to know and love got wiped out by the Empire’s first test of the Death Star.
They succeeded in their mission, setting off the events of A New Hope, and they all just sat down on Scariff and accepted their fate. Hearts across the world were broken.
3 Luke Skywalker
Luke went out in the best way possible in The Last Jedi. He’d become grizzled and bitter after having his temple burned down with all his young Jedi Padawans in it by his own nephew, which some fans criticized for being out of character. But then at the end of The Last Jedi, we saw the true Skywalker emerge on the planet Crait. Well, not the true Skywalker – it turned out to be a Force projection.
But the Force projection embodied the spirit of the true Skywalker. He walked out in front of the full force of the First Order and took on Kylo Ren to buy the cornered Resistance some time and keep their fight going. As he slumped down from his zen state on Ahch-To, it was the end of an era for millions of movie fans.
2 Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan’s duel with Darth Vader in A New Hope would later become recontextualized by the prequel trilogy. It was the first time they’d been in the same room together since Obi-Wan spared Anakin’s life – albeit without his limbs – on Mustafar.
But even before then, when A New Hope was the only movie we had, it was a tragic and heartbreaking moment. Obi-Wan meant so much to Luke, who had already lost the aunt and uncle who raised him, and he gave him one last look before being slashed down by Vader’s lightsaber. The silver lining is that he then became “more powerful than you could possibly imagine,” but it was still sad.
1 Han Solo
Harrison Ford actually wanted Han Solo to be killed off as far back as Return of the Jedi. But it still came as a surprise to fans when he was abruptly killed by Kylo Ren – otherwise known as Ben Solo, Han’s own son – in The Force Awakens.
When Han, Chewie, Rey, and Finn arrived on Starkiller Base, Han’s priority was simple: find his son and save him from the clutches of the Dark Side. But as he cried out, “Ben!” and stepped out onto that bridge, the atmosphere was immediately tense. Killing Han is something Kylo Ren might not be able to come back from.