No cultural phenomenon has ever inspired such devotion, passion and – for want of a better term – extreme nerdiness as Star Wars. It’s hard to explain just what it is – but we reckon a lot of it has to do with the characters. They can be heroic or evil, alluring or repulsive, robotic or cuddly – but they’re always memorable…
10 Jabba the Hutt
Who is he? An enormous green slug with a voracious appetite for heavy licking, smoking and little amphibious spider-creatures. Jabba is the most powerful gangster in the Galaxy – though precisely how he achieved this exalted position without really being able to move around is a matter of conjecture.
Why do we love him? Because he’s such a staggeringly nasty piece of work: corrupt, lascivious, grotesque, an immoral monster to whom the execution of an underling is as everyday an occurrence as making a cup of tea.
Seen in: Return of the Jedi.
Key line: “You will soon learn to appreciate me.”
9 Luke Skywalker
Who is he? The hero, of course! Luke is the clean-living, hard-working all-American boy from Tatooine whose adventures form the backbone of the original Star Wars trilogy. Just a simple kid from a broken home, Luke pulls himself up by his own utility belt and goes on to master the Force and save the galaxy from evil. Result!
Why do we love him? Because he’s the ultimate family-friendly adventure hero: kind to animals and droids, good at fighting, flying spaceships, swinging across chasms on ropes and doing the right thing, and just a teensy bit bland.
Seen in: The original trilogy.
Key Line: “I care!”
Who is he? A cheeky, level-headed dustbin on legs who comes with a complete Inspector Gadget-like array of convenient little nozzles and appendages. Think Henry the Hoover meets a Swiss army knife, only with personality.
Why do we love him? From juggling turbolifts on an enemy battleship to saving Anakin Skywalker’s miserable life to fixing Luke’s X-wing stabilisers during the first Death Star run, from mending the hyper-drive on the Millennium Falcon to cutting his way out of an Ewok trap, R2 does all the hard galaxy-saving work and gets precious little credit.
Seen in: All six movies and more to come.
Key line: concerned uh-oh type beep as if to say “here we go again”.
7 Emperor Palpatine
Who is he? The evil mastermind behind the Imperial takeover of the galaxy. Initially, Palpatine is a seemingly trustworthy senator who guards a terrible secret: he is actually a Sith Lord, master of evil. Later, he’s a wizened little wizard with the wickedest cackle this side of the Yellow Brick Road.
Why do we love him? Because he’s one of the few characters who actually gets deeper and more interesting in the prequel trilogy – and because hey, evil is fun to watch. Ian McDiarmid’s performance is one of the richest in the series.
Seen in: All six movies except Star Wars.
Key Line: “I am defenceless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the Dark Side will be complete!”
Who is he? The diminutive backwards-talking mystical puppet whose knowledge of the Force is second-to-none. In the original trilogy he’s a marvel of creature design, tactile, sympathetic and loveable. His CGI incarnation in The Phantom Menace looks like a rubber troll sprung unnervingly into life, though this does improve over the next two movies.
Why do we love him? You have to ask? He’s Yoda! Eight hundred years old and still going strong, master of telekinesis and Eastern philosophy, a whizz with a lightsaber who also has a wicked sense of humour and an odd fascination for pocket torches.
Seen in: All six movies excepts Star Wars.
Key line: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Who is he? A seven-foot walking carpet with natural furry flares, a resistance-chic bandolier and a vocal repertoire consisting of barks, rumbles and surprisingly-hard-to-imitate growls. Co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, Chewie is another of those Star Wars characters who inspires a deep devotion despite his inability to speak – in English at least.
Why do we love him? Because he’s the ultimate man, despite being a Wookiee. Chewbacca is tall, hirsute, fashionable, tough, endlessly loyal, a bit of a joker, great at spaceship DIY and we reckon he probably gives the best hugs in the universe.
Seen in: The original trilogy and Revenge of the Sith.
Key line: His dismayed howl when the Echo Base doors slam shut against the Hoth night is heart-breaking.
4 Obi-Wan Kenobi
Who is he? From thrusting young Jedi hero to desert-wandering retainer to shimmering blue apparition, Obi-Wan is either the selfless, beating heart of the entire Star Wars saga or a total doormat. Still, like the great man says, many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
Why do we love him? Because he’s absolutely ruthless with a lightsaber. His shades-of-beige wardrobe is both functional and stylish, and because he’s played by two very fine actors, including perhaps the greatest thespian, Sir Alec Guinness.
Seen in: All six movies – in various states.
Key line: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”
3 Princess Leia Organa
Who is she? The proud face of the Rebel Alliance: a beautiful, sarcastic, blaster-packing, man-juggling, Danish-pastry-haircut-wearing icon of womanhood – for two movies, at least. That whole gold bikini incident in Return of the Jedi may have dented her feminist credentials, but at least she got to throttle Jabba the Hutt for it.
Why do we love her? Leia, token female though she may be, is actually the most shaded, complex character in the entire Star Wars saga. As a very public figure working for an outlawed cause who doesn’t just lose her family but her entire home planet, she’s got a lot more at stake than either of her flyboy toyboys. She has the quickest mind, the sharpest tongue and, she’s willing to risk everything for the cause she believes in.
Seen in: The original trilogy.
Key line: “I am not a committee!”
2 Han Solo
Who is he? The captain of the Millennium Falcon, and the cheekiest space pilot in the galaxy. Han Solo is every young boy’s hero, cruising from star system to star system with his hairy BFF, Chewbacca, getting into scrapes, performing occasional acts of random heroism and being rude to women until they fall madly in love with him.
Why do we love him? Because it’s impossible not to – his hair is great, his cowboy-hipster outfit is legendary, his wisecracks are second-to-none and his lopsided grin has broken a million hearts on a thousand worlds. But there’s more to it. This isn’t just another two-dimensional figure on the screen, this is someone we care about. It’s no wonder so many people take Star Wars so seriously: how many franchises have managed to generate this kind of emotional bond between characters and the audience?
Seen in: The original trilogy.
Key line: “I know.”
1 Darth Vader
Who is he? We don’t think it’s going too far to suggest that here is the single most iconic screen villain of all time: his appearance is terrifying, his voice bone-chilling, his words pure, dripping evil. But what really turns Darth into the stuff of our childhood nightmares are his actions: from snapping necks to cutting off his own son’s hand. This is a guy who really, really shouldn’t be trifled with.
Why do we love him? Because the movies are full of sarcastic space pilots and wise old wizards, but there will only ever be one Darth Vader. Darth, we tremblingly salute you.
Seen in: All six movies.
Key line: “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.”
With him rumoured to return in The Force Awakens, we look back on Darth Vader’s screen time so far
Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Key moment: winning the pod race
Young Anakin establishes himself as a preternatural talent, and gives George Lucas’ lame prequel one of its only two pieces of excitement (see also Darth Maul’s lightsaber threeway), with this stunning race sequence.
Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Key moment: Anakin falls…
Having secretly married Padmé, Anakin’s life takes a turn for the worse when he loses his hand in a lightsaber fight with Count Dooku and gets seduced to the Dark Side by the sinister with Senator Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious.
Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Key moment: …Vader rises
Left legless and burnt to a crisp on Mustafar by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker is rebuilt, turning from mulleted, petulant young man into the most iconic bad guy in the whole history of the movies.
Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Key moment: Killing Obi-Wan
“If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine…” Obi-Wan warns him but Vader pays no notice, lightsabering him into oblivion (or, at least, a blue ghost) as payback for that dust-up on Mustafar.
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Key moment: “No, I am your father…”
The greatest moment from the greatest sequel OF ALL TIME sees Luke, having lost his hand at the hand of Vader, get hit with the mother of all whammies. Word is that The Force Awakens begins with Luke’s severed hand floating through space…
Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Key moment: Redemption
Unable to watch his son die, Vader finally turns back to the Light side, lobbing Palpatine to his death before collapsing, mortally wounded. Luke removes his mask, to reveal again the man inside. The Sith is gone. The Jedi returns.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is out in cinemas across Dubai from Thursday December 17.