Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker is fast approaching, and the excitement is permeating throughout the Star Wars fandom. The film will bring the culmination of the 40+ year Skywalker saga. Through all these films, audiences have been awestruck, drowned in emotion, connecting to the universe and the stories, and of course to the phenomenal characters.
A lot of this love is inspired by the performances of the fantastic actors starring in the iconic films. Here is the best individual performance in each Star Wars film, limited to the theatrically released, live-action movies.
10 The Phantom Menace - Liam Neeson As Qui Gon Jinn
The Phantom Menace is undoubtedly one of the weaker ventures into the galaxy far, far away. Especially in terms of performances, it is very slim pickings. Even with fantastic, experienced actors such as Natalie Portman involved, performances were uninspired and clunky, with very questionably dialogue questionably delivered.
None are outstanding, but by a hair Neeson's performance takes it. Qui Gon was a fascinating character and Neeson's delivery and presence were better than the rest of the films cast, meaning his death is an emotional one - albeit with the help of McGregor.
Honorable Mentions: Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker.
9 Attack Of The Clones - Ewan McGregor As Obi-Wan Kenobi
With even poorer writing, Attack Of The Clones stands on an even lower pedestal than The Phantom Menace, yet it is far easier to pinpoint its best performance, that being of Ewan McGregor. Even with the cringe-worthy, awkward dialogue, McGregor does the absolute maximum with poor material.
Perhaps having an easier job due to having a reference for his performances, Ewan McGregor stands above the rest in this film. McGregor delivers better, seems smoother and more natural than the rest and truly embodies Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Honorable Mentions: Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, Frank Oz as Yoda.
8 Revenge Of The Sith - Ewan McGregor As Obi-Wan Kenobi
Without a doubt, the best of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Revenge Of The Sith offers fans one of the franchises' best performances in Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan. He again steals the show, his performance here is on another level, becoming a huge part of the iconography of the franchise.
Ian McDiarmid's outing as Supreme Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine is outstanding also, but with such fantastic character performance, amazing delivery, great scenes, and believable emotion. McGregor's is of consistently high quality throughout this movie and the two previous.
Honorable Mentions: Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine, Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker.
7 Solo: A Star Wars Story - Donald Glover As Lando Calrissian
Charming, charismatic, fun and a fitting performance in the footsteps of the great Billy Dee Williams, Donald Glover's performance in Solo: A Star Wars Story is simply phenomenal. A fun, underrated film which came out at the wrong time, Solo: A Star Wars Story has a lot to offer, the best being Donald Glover.
Glover embodies Lando, delivering a performance arguably better than the original. Donald Glover's love for the franchise shines through in his performance as audiences feel how enthused and passionate he is about the project and the character, delivering an untouchable performance.
Honorable Mentions: Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett.
6 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Alan Tudyk As K-2SO
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a great war film set in the Star Wars universe with fantastic visuals, moments and a battle scene for the ages. One area it does arguably lack though is character due to the lack of development at the film's disposal. What is not arguable though is K-2SO stealing the show throughout the film.
Witty, funny with impressive comedic timing and delivery, Alan Tudyk's voice performance allows for an extremely memorable droid to be born. Due to Tudyk, the droid's death is emotional for the viewers and manages to stand out in such an action-packed, fast-paced third act.
Honorable Mentions: Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera, Ben Mendelssohn as Director Krennic, Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe.
5 A New Hope - Harrison Ford As Han Solo
The film that kicked off world-changing phenomena, A New Hope shaped a generation with its universe, story, and characters. With a plethora of great performances, from Alec Guinness’ Oscar-nominated Obi-Wan Kenobi to James Earl Jones’ iconic Darth Vader, it is a hard but necessary choice to put Harrison Ford’s scoundrel in this spot.
An icon on the screen and off, Ford’s performance is as perfect as it is memorable. Cool and calm, charming and charismatic, Harrison Ford as Han Solo is a match made in cinematic heaven. Arrogant and sharp-tongued and has the audience latching onto every word and feeling whatever emotion is meant to be felt when Ford is on-screen during his amazing performance.
Honorable Mentions: Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
4 The Empire Strikes Back - Mark Hamill As Luke Skywalker
The central protagonist of the Skywalker saga, Luke Skywalker is one of the greatest and most iconic characters ever put on screen. Hamill’s performance in The Empire Strikes Back is raw and emotional, in his training as well as in his care for his friends, and his role in cinemas most impactful twist cannot be understated.
What is sometimes lost in Hamill’s performance, is the fact that for a large portion of the film he is acting opposite a puppet. These are some of Star Wars’ most memorable scenes with Yoda and Luke. Hamill’s performance as the eager, raw, young Jedi to be is the star of, what is widely considered, the franchise's greatest film.
Honorable Mentions: Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Frank Oz as Yoda, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.
3 Return Of The Jedi - Carrie Fisher As Leia Organa
A hero, an icon, our general, Carrie Fisher will likely have a very emotional time on-screen during The Rise Of Skywalker as audiences say their last goodbye to Princess Leia. It is safe to say of all fans’ special time with her on-screen, Carrie Fisher’s outing in Return Of The Jedi is her best.
Funny and charming but also strong and impactful Fisher was excellent. Leia’s love for Han and her discovery that her brother is Luke was a great journey to follow. Leia was great as part of the iconic ensemble audiences grew to adore, and transcended them in this film - even with one of cinema’s greatest villains coming into the fray.
Honorable Mentions: Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo.
2 The Force Awakens - Adam Driver As Kylo Ren
A phenomenal actor both in, and out, of Star Wars, Adam Driver's performance in The Force Awakens is the best of a great bunch. The film is littered with new faces, good to great performances and a story that, while familiar, is deserving of the 'Skywalker saga'.
Driver's performance was susceptible to silliness and becoming cartoonish, but instead was a mature look at the torn nature of Kylo and his feelings with a fleshed-out narrative for the young Ben Solo. Kylo has been the star of the sequel trilogy thus far and it was all kicked off with this smart and nuanced yet big and bold performance from Driver.
Honorable Mentions: The whole supporting cast.
1 The Last Jedi - Mark Hamill As Luke Skywalker
In The Last Jedi, Mark Hamill delivers better than ever before. He is not the usual Luke, nor Hamill, audiences are used to in his younger years, instead, he is an older, more experienced and, ultimately, a more torn Luke. In exile on Ach-To after a moment of doubt where he thought about slaying his nephew, Luke is a hermit, expertly performed.
Had it not been for Hamill's fantastic outing, Driver would again appear here for being an absolute star. But with the range and the emotion exuding from Hamill here, he takes it. Luke's arc throughout the film is terrific and Hamill's performance transcends it.
Honorable Mentions: Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Daisy Ridley as Rey, Carrie Fisher as Leia.