5 Best ‘Star Wars’ Moments
The light saber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader was easily the most anticipated moment in the first of the Star Wars sequels, and it lived up to the hype: Vader relentlessly pushes Luke to his physical limits, as the young Jedi-in-training tries to muster his still-growing abilities. And then there’s the moment that stunned audiences and elevated the franchise into the realm of tragedy: Luke learns simultaneously of both his mentor Obi-Wan’s deception and his own hideous lineage in one fell swoop. (Take that, Freud!) No wonder he throws himself off that bridge — even if he lives, despairing and confused, to fight another day.
When it came to Hope’s climactic battle, in which a ragtag rebel fleet attempts to destroy the Empire’s planet-killing space station, George Lucas wanted to emulate the feel of the aerial dogfights he had seen in World War II movies. With the aid of the groundbreaking visual effects pioneered by John Dykstra, the director did it: The clash between the rebel and Imperial fighters is more dynamic than any space battle seen on the screen before. Ships dive, circle and strafe each other — the camera moving right along with them — in a breathless 10-minute sequence that left the Death Star going up in an explosion and audiences gasping with delight.
The scene raised the stakes for the entire story: Han Solo was frozen in carbonite, meaning one of the saga’s major heroes was taken out of commission, his ultimate fate left uncertain. The sequence is filled with dread, anguish and grief, making our characters feel like real human beings (no offense, Chewbacca; we feel your pain, too) for perhaps the first time in the entire saga. Han’s parting line to Leia’s “I love you” (“I know”) is as perfect as it gets.
It was a foregone conclusion that Vader and Luke would meet again, this time not just as Sith Lord and Jedi Knight but as father and son. Their final confrontation makes a lot of that movie’s other faults forgivable. It’s operatic and dark, with the Emperor goading Luke to kill his own father and embrace the dark side — until Palpatine decides that Luke himself must die, leading Vader/Anakin to redeem himself in the noblest way possible. It’s the dramatic climax that the entire original trilogy was building to, and it pays off powerfully. (So why did George Lucas tamper with it for the Blu-ray release, exactly?)
Is there anyone who does not know this very first Star Wars shot, easily one of the greatest intros in modern film history? Following the opening crawl, the camera pans down from the stars to the surface of a planet, over which a rebel blockade runner flies into view. Then we see what is pursuing it — an Imperial Destroyer that soars overhead and just keeps coming and coming and coming, filling the screen with its massive bulk. That shot still has the ability to make one’s jaw drop. It all starts here.
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