After the exciting release of the Rogue One trailer, there was an unfortunate minority out there complaining about the emphasis on female characters in both that trailer (which focused on Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones) and in The Force Awakens. But the fact is, there have always been strong female characters in the Star Wars universe.
So here’s a list of all those badass female heroes and villains who have brought some gender balance to a galaxy that is always talking about balancing the Force. From Jedi to witches to royalty, the most powerful women in Star Wars are all here. But you may think there’s one notable omission: Captain Phasma. Her “power” in The Force Awakens was having one of her Stormtroopers turn on her, then get captured, sealing Starkiller Base’s doom. Maybe she’ll prove us wrong in Episode VII – and maybe Mon Mothma will be a major factor in Rogue One, after her appearance in the trailer. And one other thing: we’re talking canon characters only here, or course.
Here they are, the 15 Most Powerful Female Characters in Star Wars.
12 PADMÉ AMIDALA
Most of Padmé Amidala’s power comes from her skills as a politician. She was elected Queen of Naboo at a young age and managed to help her people survive the Trade Federation’s invasion and unite her people with the planet’s other inhabitants, the amphibious Gungans. She was a strong anti-violence advocate, telling the Senate, “If we offer the Separatists violence, they can only show us violence in return! Many will lose their lives. All will lose their freedom.”
Despite that, she had some battle skills as well. For a kid who grew up in the cozy, lush environs of Naboo, she showed remarkable bravery and poise during the frantic Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones, handling a blaster with ease. She referred to it as “aggressive negotiations” after Anakin called her out on her previous belief in “a diplomatic solution.” As powerful as she was, she ultimately lacked the power to keep the love of her life, Anakin Skywalker, from turning to the dark side.
11 RAE SLOAN
Certainly in the movies, we didn’t see much in the way of the fairer sex fighting and working for the Empire. But the books and comics have made up for that with the introduction of high-ranking officer Rae Sloan. She first appeared in the very first novel of the new canon, Star Wars: A New Dawn. At the young age of 30 she was named captain of the Star Destroyer Ultimatum and has risen to the rank of admiral.
She took a key role in the Battle of Endor, which, of course, took place during the time of Return of the Jedi (though she wasn’t seen in the movie), commanding the Star Destroyer Vigilance. Also appearing in the novel Aftermath, she ultimately led the retreat after the rebels destroyed the second Death Star, as the highest ranking officer remaining in the fleet.
10 SHAAK TI
Although we don’t see a whole lot of Shaak Ti in the movies, we have to assume that as a Jedi General with a seat on the Jedi Council, she’s pretty powerful – both physically and in terms of her influence. And we do see her in the The Clone Wars TV series. In the series, she oversaw the production of new clone troopers on Kamino, and she made some key decisions during the Battle of Kamino, when the Separatists attacked. She also easily took out a bunch of Aqua droids.
A member of the Togruta species, on the big screen we see her fighting valiantly, wielding her blue lightsaber, during the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones, but most of her scenes were cut out of Revenge of the Sith. Her death, impaled by her own lightsaber, is depicted in a deleted scene, which would not be considered canon, but it was later shown to happen the same way in-canon in The Clone Wars, in a vision that came to Yoda.
9 CIENA REE
Much like Rae Sloane, Ciena Ree was one of the youngest officers ever to captain a Star Destroyer. Though she’s only made one appearance in Star Wars canon, in the 2015 young adult novel Lost Stars, she’s made an impact and is sure to show up again. Ciena draws some of her power and psychological strength from the memory of her twin sister, who died as an infant.
She was a top student and was immediately assigned to a prestigious post on Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer, Devastator. At times she was actually somewhat conflicted about the Empire’s ethics, especially after the Death Star’s destruction of Alderaan, but she stayed to honor her oath to them. You know that crashed Star Destroyer on Jakku in The Force Awakens? Ree intentionally crash landed it and was ultimately captured by the New Republic, coming to understand their side of the conflict.
8 SABINE WREN
Don’t mistake Sabine Wren’s free spirit and sarcastic humor for weakness. Far from it. She’s a fully trained Mandalorian warrior with superior confidence and fierce combat skills as she battles the Empire with her rebel friends. Due in part to her early days as part of the Empire, she’s a rebel not just in name, but in spirit – not one to follow orders, wanting to follow her own lead.
Also because of her early days with the Empire, she has inside knowledge of the bad guys, which makes her a huge asset for the rebels aboard the Ghost on Star Wars: Rebels. Though a dedicated artist, her technical knowledge runs deep when it comes to combat, weapons, electronics, mechanics and even languages.
7 LUMINARA UNDULI
We saw Jedi Master Luminara Unduli briefly in action in Attack of the Clones (her green-bladed lightsaber skills were on display during the Battle of Geonosis) and Revenge of the Sith, but she really shone in The Clone Wars TV series. She was successful on many key campaigns, but the green-skinned Mirialan did occasionally find herself in trouble and in need of rescue. She was nearly defeated by Asajj Ventress and by zombies after being captured by Karina the Great.
She returned, in a sense, in Rebels. She was rumored to have survived the Jedi massacre of Order 66. And the fact was, she had, but was taken prisoner and eventually executed. But her remains were so powerful with the Force that they were used to lure Jedi Kanan Jarrus into a trap.
6 HERA SYNDULLA
Twi’lek rebel Hera Syndulla is very much at the heart of Star Wars: Rebels. She was born with a sense of power to an influential family, with a Twi’lek resistance leader as her father. Her father’s rebellion inspired her to do the same against the Empire, so she became a top-notch pilot, with her own ship called the Ghost, and recruited a team to help her take down the dreaded ruling power.
While she’s not Force-sensitive, her powers are still impressive, both as a pilot, a persuasive leader, and a strategist. She’s also highly observant, which proved handy when she deduced that an Imperial spy was in their midst.
5 AAYLA SECURA
Like Hera Syndulla, Aayla Secura is a Twi’lek, but Secura is Force-sensitive – in fact, she’s a Jedi Knight and general, leading the 327th Star Corps of clone troopers. We first saw her in Attack of the Clones, where she fought during the Battle of Geonosis, and she also appeared in Revenge of the Sith, when she died at the hands of her clone troopers after Order 66 was issued. She also appeared in a number of episodes of The Clone Wars and a couple of recent comics.
She often overcame adversity during the Clone Wars, fighting off rocket droids during the Battle of Quell and overcoming a crash landing. The blue-skinned Jedi was considered a cunning warrior, adept with her blue lightsaber, and she was strong as both a leader and mentor to younger Jedi.
When we first meet her in The Force Awakens, Rey doesn’t appear to be particularly powerful. While resourceful, she’s largely powerless, a scavenger who depends on the mercy of her boss for meager scraps of food. But, slowly, her powers are revealed. She’s a strong young woman. She stands up to a fellow scavenger, saving BB-8. She scolds Finn for trying to “save” her by holding her hand. She’s a skilled pilot.
Of course, we also learn that she’s Force-sensitive, which is a whole other kind of power. When captured, she definitely doesn’t need saving like your typical damsel in distress. She saves herself by fooling a Stormtrooper with a Jedi mind trick. And, while fighting Kylo Ren, she makes a distinct decision not to give up when faced with certain death, and fights back, showing impressively instinctive lightsaber skills. And the best may be yet to come from Rey, as we look ahead to Episode VIII.
3 AHSOKA TANO
While she never appeared in any of the live-action films, young Jedi Ahsoka Tano played a key role in the The Clone Wars and, most recently, Star Wars: Rebels. Like Shaak Ti, she’s a member of the Togruta species. She began as a Padawan, under the watchful eye of Anakin Skywalker, with whom she was a key factor in a number of dangerous campaigns.
Eventually, Ahsoka became a respected Jedi leader and used her powers outside of the battlefield as well to help those in need, on a couple of occasions liberating people who had been enslaved or captured. She ultimately left the Jedi Order after they falsely accused her of bombing the Jedi Temple hangar. But she she showed up again in Rebels, operating undercover against the Empire and serving as a mentor to the young rebels.
2 ASAJJ VENTRESS
Asajj Ventress was very much her own woman. And an immensely powerful woman at that. Her independence and side-switching likely had a lot to do with being born into the clan of Nightsisters, witches with mystic abilities who avoided the galactic conflict going on around them. So not only did Ventress have the powers of a Nightsister, but she was also strong with the Force.
Originally, she was a Jedi Padawan, but when her master was killed she felt the Jedi had abandoned him, so she left the Order obsessed with revenge. Her anger led her to the Dark Side, eventually falling into an apprenticeship with Count Dooku (although not as a Sith apprentice). She proved herself to be adept with a double-lightsaber attack, and a powerful pilot as well, besting Anakin Skywalker and mocking him. Anger and revenge were always the driving force of all her powers. Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano once proclaimed Ventress “too powerful for any one Jedi.”
1 LEIA ORGANA
Princess Leia, as we first knew her, was, of course, the first blast of girl power we ever saw in Star Wars, back in the opening scenes of A New Hope. She provided a powerful twist on the tired “damsel in distress” trope, at a time in film when there were far fewer examples of strong women. Sure, she gets captured and is in need of rescue, like any other damsel in distress, but she’s snarky, headstrong, and helps battle her way out. Not to mention that she’s a key member of the Rebellion, even early on.
In Return of the Jedi, she, along with Han, is rescued again from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt, forced to wear a slave bikini. But she eventually turns the tables on the giant slug and strangles him. And over the course of that film, we also learn that she is strong with the Force. Fast forward to the time of The Force Awakens, and Leia has formed the Resistance against the First Order, and helped to strategize the search for her brother, Luke Skywalker. In all, she played a key role in helping the good side to the destruction of three horrifying space stations.
What other women in the Star Wars universe deserve a shout-out? Let us know in the comments!