Star Wars has given audiences so many beloved characters from the galaxy far, far away. It's worth mentioning that while in the two most recent movies, The Force Awakens (2015) and Rogue One (2016), female characters have been the leads, heroines have always been at the core of the Star Wars universe. After all, Princess Leia was groundbreaking in A New Hope's (1977), which will celebrate its fortieth anniversary this year.
To celebrate Princess Leia's fortieth birthday, we took a look at a number of tough, brave, clever, and strong women in Star Wars. The women listed are canon only, which means that Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Nomi Sunrider, and countless other women from Star Wars Legends do not appear on this list. However, women from across the Star Wars canon, including movies, television, and books, are all included.
Here are 15 Kickass Women In Star Wars.
15 Shaak Ti
There are a number of female Jedi Masters who were members of the Jedi Order before Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge. Among their numbers were Adi Gallia, Luminara Unduli, Yaddle (who was the same species as Yoda), Depa Billaba (the master of Kanan Jarrus), Jocasta Nu (the Chief Librarian of the Jedi Archives), and Shaak Ti.
Shaak Ti appears in both the Star Wars prequel films and in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) television series. During the Clone Wars, Shaak Ti was in charge of the training of clone troopers on Kamino. She also appears in Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003), the noncanonical animated series produced by Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Dexter's Laboratory (1995) and Samurai Jack (2001). Shaak Ti also features into the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. In the game, she has escaped the Jedi Purge and is in hiding on Felucia. Across all of these mediums, Shaak Ti proves that she is a skillful and powerful warrior, tempered with wisdom and honor.
14 Sabine Wren
Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar) is a main character on Star Wars Rebels (2014) and a member of the Rebel crew that operates the Ghost. Originally from Mandalore (home to other powerful women, including the sisters Satine and Bo-Katan Kryze), Sabine went to the Imperial Academy briefly. However, after seeing the cruelty of the Empire on Mandalore, she ran away, first working as a bounty hunter and later joining the Rebel Alliance. A weapons and demolitions expert, Sabine has a signature style and artistic passion that she brings with her wherever she goes: from her colorful Mandalorian armor to her unique graffiti, Sabine is sure to make an impression. She is also the current wielder of the Darksaber, an ancient weapon from her homeworld. Even though she is only a teenager during the years leading up to A New Hope, Sabine illustrates a wisdom and a bravery beyond her years. Her ultimate fate is unknown, but if the most recent season of Rebels is any indication, Sabine is destined to be a leader, both for the Rebel Alliance and for her homeworld.
13 Steela Gerrera
During the Clone Wars, Steela Gerrera, alongside her brother Saw Gerrera, was an insurgent on the planet Onderon fighting against the oppression of King Sanjay Rash. The King had been put into power by the Separatists as a puppet governor, and Steela and her brother organized the resistance against this unlawful rule.
Steela was an accomplished sniper, and she worked hard to keep the peace between her brother, Saw, and Lux Bonteri, the son of a politician who had also joined the cause. While Saw Gerrera was blunt, forward, and valued military training, Lux had the characteristics of a diplomat, and so the two often got into ideological arguments. Steela was devoted to her cause, and gave her life to the liberation of her planet. She was killed by the droid garrison on Onderon as she fought to free her homeworld. Her memory lived on with her brother, Saw, who kept a hologram of her on his person at all times.
12 Maz Kanata
Maz Kanata (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o) appears in The Force Awakens, she is already over a thousand years old. The Force-sensitive pirate queen lives on the jungle planet of Takodana, in her castle, which serves as a den for thieves and smugglers from across the galaxy. While Maz is not trained in the ways of the Force and has hidden her powers after seeing what the Empire did to the Jedi, she is intuitive and wise. She is small in stature, but outspoken and powerful - Maz is not someone who you want to cross.
Maz helps Han Solo, Chewbacca (who she has a soft spot for), Finn, and Rey on their journey. She helps Rey realize that the Force is with her and that Luke Skywalker's lightsaber is calling to Rey. After Maz's Castle is attacked by the First Order, the audience does not see what becomes of Maz, but she will no doubt return in the upcoming Star Wars films.
11 Ciena Ree
In the Star Wars movies, women tend to be on the side of the Rebels. It's true that Captain Phasma, a female stormtrooper commander, serves with the First Order, but on screen, women are largely involved in the resistance. Captain Phasma's limited appearance in The Force Awakens precluded her from this list, although her subsequent appearances in future Star Wars films may make her a better candidate.
Captain Phasma is not the only female who fought for the Empire or First Order. In Claudia Gray's novel Lost Stars, Ciena Ree offers a complex portrait of a woman who is fighting for the Empire. Ree is a talented pilot who is loyal to the Empire, and becomes even more devoted to its cause after some of her friends are killed in the destruction of the first Death Star. Ciena is not only passionate and driven, but she is also an example of how the Empire could be a positive influence. The daughter of poor farmers on a rural planet that offered no opportunities, Ciena used the Empire to escape and transcend her humble beginnings; much like Luke Skywalker, she dreamed of exploring the galaxy, and the Empire offered her the chance to live her dreams.
10 Mon Mothma
Mon Mothma has a long career in politics and leadership. She was a Senator in the Galactic Senate on Coruscant, and continued as a Senator after it became the Imperial Senate. Troubled by Palpatine's rise to power, however, she worked with other Senators to develop a plan for resistance. Eventually, she helped to found the Alliance to Restore the Republic, fighting against the Empire. She is a key figure in leading the Rebel Alliance, especially after the death of her friend Bail Organa on Alderaan. After the Rebels successfully dismantled the Empire, she would go on to serve as the First Chancellor of the New Republic.
Mon Mothma has survived the rise and fall of governments, and she approaches every situation with a calm courage, tactful intellect, and devotion to peace. One of Mon Mothma's major efforts as the First Chancellor was cutting back the military holdings of the New Republic (a bold decision, although Leia Organa disagreed with it).
9 Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla is the captain of the Ghost, a VCX-100 light freighter, and its crew. A Twi'lek from the planet Ryloth, Hera grew up during the tumultuous Clone Wars. Her father was a Twi'lek revolutionary who fought against the Separatists and later the Empire. Hera, however, chose to serve the larger Rebel Alliance against the Empire. A talented pilot, Hera is formidable in the cockpit. Her flying skills have saved her fellow rebels on many occasions.
Hera is also a natural-born leader. She is the glue that keeps the Star Wars Rebels crew together and focused on their common goal against the Empire. Hera's story on Rebels is far from done, but an easter egg in Rogue One may be a clue for where Hera ends up. Many fans think that the "General Syndulla" that is mentioned by Rebel intercoms is a reference to Hera, who appears to have gotten a promotion.
8 Asajj Ventress
Asajj Ventress was a Nightsister from the planet Dathomir, as well as a Dark Jedi and assassin trained by Count Dooku during the Clone Wars. Wielding two lightsabers that could hook into a double-bladed weapon, Ventress was a menace to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Cruel and controlled, Ventress was masterful in her ability to channel her rage into her fighting. She was a deadly and cunning adversary.
However, while Ventress had served the Sith, they betrayed her. Palpatine, fearing that Dooku had taken Ventress as an apprentice to kill him, ordered Ventress's death. Ventress escaped Dooku's attempts to kill her, and she vowed vengeance on the Sith. She worked as a bounty hunter, and later teamed with the rogue Jedi Quinlan Vos to defeat Dooku. While Ventress did not kill Dooku, she gave her life so that Quinlan Vos was not lost to the dark side of the Force.
7 Rae Sloane
Rae Sloane is a loyal Imperial who eventually attained the rank of Admiral in the waning days of the Galactic Empire. Sloane had an impressive military career and serves as one of the major characters in Chuck Wendig's Aftermath novels. Ambitious and calculating, Sloane worked her way up through the ranks, starting as a cadet at the Defiance Flight Training Institute. She later served as the Executive Officer on Grand Moff Tarkin's personal Star Destroyer the Executrix. At the Battle of Endor, Rae Sloane had made her way to being a vice admiral and the commander of the Imperial Star Destroyer Vigiliance. Following the Battle of Endor, Sloane was the highest ranking Imperial officer that was still alive. She organized the retreat from Endor, and ensuring that the Empire would fight another day. In the final days of the Empire, Sloane served as one of the key players, competing both with Rebel enemies and fractures from within.
6 Doctor Aphra
Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra is an adventurer and archaeologist who completed missions for Darth Vader during the reign of the Galactic Empire. Doctor Aphra is a major character in the Darth Vader comic series, and along with her assassin droids BT-1 (Beetee) and 0-0-0 (Triple Zero), she explores the galaxy in her ship the Ark Angel. Doctor Aphra is the Indiana Jones of the Star Wars universe, although she has a dark twist to her. Unlike Indy, the Doctor is not above torture and murder, and her tactics go hand-in-hand with the Sith Lord she works for. Despite this, she is surprisingly likeable, with a sarcastic wit that is only matched by her terrifying intellect. In the most recent comics, Aphra and Triple Zero discovered that Padmé Amidala had given birth before her death and that her son had been taken by Jedi; Darth Vader has currently tasked Aphra with discovering the location of this son.
5 Padmé Amidala
Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) was the Queen of Naboo, and later served as Naboo's Senator in the Galactic Senate. She provided time and time again that she would follow her heart to the ends of the galaxy - whether for her homeworld's safety or for her husband, Anakin Skywalker. As Queen, she refused to bend to the will of the Trade Federation or place her personal safety over the lives of others. During the Clone Wars, Padmé Amidala worked for peace and unity. She was a deft orator and capable politician, but she was also an effective shot with blaster if the need arose.
While she was, at times, manipulated by Palpatine, she resisted his efforts to become Emperor of the Republic and went on to work with Bail Organa to form the Rebel Alliance. Her children, Luke and Leia Skywalker, never knew their mother, but they share her bravery and devotion.
4 Ahsoka Tano
Ahsoka Tano is a former Jedi and talented Force user. She was the Padawan of Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, and after leaving the Jedi Order, went on to become one of the founding members of the Rebel Alliance. As "Fulcrum", Ahsoka worked as an intelligence officer for the Rebels, and also helped to recruit new members to the Alliance. During this time, she also faced off with her old master, now Darth Vader, in Star Wars Rebels.
Ahsoka is gifted in lightsaber combat, specifically Form V or "Shien", which utilizes a "reverse grip". After leaving the Jedi Order, she wielded two shorter white blades, the color of which signified her place as neither a Jedi or a Sith. Ahsoka is a survivalist, who was forced to go out into the galaxy on her own after leaving the Jedi Order. This led to her being incredibly resourceful, and so in addition to her incredible connection with the Force, she is also a talented mechanic and pilot.
3 Jyn Erso
Jyn Erso is the daughter of Lyra Erso and Galen Erso, the scientist who worked as the chief engineer of the first Death Star. Jyn was separated from her parents at a young age, when her mother was killed and her father was brought into Imperial custody. During the remainder of her childhood and teenage years, she lived and fought against the Empire with the Rebel insurgent, Saw Gerrera. At sixteen, Jyn was abandoned by Saw, and was forced to make her way through the galaxy on her own. After learning that her father was still alive and had created a secret way to destroy the Death Star, Jyn joined with the Rebel Alliance. Along with Cassian Andor, Jyn led a group of rogue Rebels to get the Death Star plans at the Battle of Scarif. While Jyn gave her life on Scarif, the Death Star plans were successfully delivered to the Rebel Alliance and the mission was a success.
Rey is the Force-sensitive heroine of The Force Awakens who stands up to the First Order and Kylo Ren alongside Finn, Poe Dameron, Han Solo, and Leia Organa. Rey grew up largely in isolation on the desert planet of Jakku. She survived by working as a scavenger, collecting precious metal and scraps from the wreckage from the Battle of Jakku. It is possible that during this time Rey was unknowingly using the Force in order to climb inside of these towering wrecks. Rey is also a talented fighter, wielding a staff (which later is replaced with Luke's lightsaber) and a pilot. With minimal training in the ways of the Force, Rey is able to use a Jedi mind trick on a stormtrooper and fight off Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel.
At this time, Rey's past and parentage are unknown, and will certainly be revealed in the later Star Wars films. But regardless of her origins, Rey has a strong relationship with the Force, and her powers will only increase under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker.
1 Princess Leia
Princess Leia not only paved the way for future heroines in Star Wars; she helped to promote complex and strong women in cinema. Leia defied the "damsel in distress" trope and gave audiences a woman who could rescue herself. Brave and devoted to her cause, Leia was willing and able to lie in the face of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. But more than her heroism, Leia is stubborn, passionate, intelligent, talented - she is the portrait of a complex woman, the leader of the Rebel Alliance and the Resistance, who gives her life to defending the galaxy. Leia's life is full of tragedy: her mother died young, her father fell to the dark side of the Force, her homeworld was annihilated, her son fell to the dark side, her husband and brother ran away and left her to stand her ground alone. But Leia perseveres through heartbreak and fights for a better galaxy.
Did we miss a kickass woman? Tell us in the comments!