With 40 years of cinematic domination under its belt, the Star Wars saga has latched itself to the pop-culture psyche of millions worldwide with a series of legendary moments.
From Darth Vader’s endlessly quoted reveal, to the Death Star trench run, Rey calling the Skywalker lightsaber to her, Anakin and Obi-Wan’s fateful clash above the lava falls; these scenes are as iconic as the oldest myths.
There are many underappreciated moments though and so, with the final instalment in the Skywalker saga heading to our screens next week, we took a look at the most underrated scenes so far.
The Jedi Leap Into Action (The Phantom Menace)
Lured into a trap by the Trade Federation, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are ambushed. Gas pours into the room and the droids prepare to attack.
John Williams’ score ups the ante as two lightsabers ignite amidst the fog. The two swing into the fray in a whirlwind of laser fire and perfectly-choreographed elegance.
For the first time, we see the Jedi fighting in their prime, a far cry from the elderly Obi-Wan and half-trained Luke in the original trilogy. The scene took multiple takes so McGregor and Neeson could learn to stop reflexively making the lightsaber sound effects.
Talk Of Podracing (The Phantom Menace)
After attacks by sea monsters, battle droids and a blockade, Qui-Gon and company are stranded on Tatooine. They take shelter from a sandstorm in young Anakin Skywalker’s home.
The Jedi master, Padmé and their saviours sit at the table, with Padmé stunned that slavery still exists in the galaxy. It’s one of the series’ rare glimpses into life away from the swashbuckling, and cements the legendary status of the Jedi as Anakin questions Qui-Gon.
Williams’ score is understated; a gentle arrangement with a magical gleam evident as Qui-Gon listens to Anakin’s tales of podracing and dreams of becoming a Jedi with patient humour.
Anakin vs. Dooku (Attack Of The Clones)
Discussions of the final duel of Episode II are usually dominated by arguments over where one stands with regards to CGI Yoda.
But before the Jedi master appears, Obi-Wan is injured and Anakin faces Count Dooku alone. The only sources of light remaining are the scarlet and blue blades.
With no score besides a thrumming drumbeat, thematic subtext is left to a rapid succession of close-ups. Ghostly saber-lit faces throw the struggles (between dark and light, between Dooku’s assured grace and Anakin’s headstrong cockiness) into sharp relief – in just 25 seconds of shot-reverse-shot. Simple, effective, gorgeous.
Force Connection (Revenge Of The Sith)
The conclusion to the prequel trilogy has countless great scenes, but the most unusual comes as twilight falls across Coruscant.
Having discovered that Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord, Anakin wrestles with his decision to turn his kindly mentor over to the Jedi.
His knowledge of Palpatine’s manipulation rages against his belief that the Sith may be his only way to save Padmé from certain death, and he reaches out across the cityscape to her.
Not a word is spoken: everything is communicated in the yearning faces of husband and wife as Williams’ uncharacteristically sombre, ominous score speaks of pain and portent.
The Good Guy (Solo: A Star Wars Story)
Besides suffering a (relatively) poor box office – contending with Deadpool 2 will do that – the second Star Wars standalone fell prey to a number of problems, including a change in director.
Ron Howard’s finished film still has an awful lot going for it, including Alden Ehrenreich’s note-perfect characterisation of Han Solo.
Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra confronts the young smuggler: he claims to be a great outlaw, a cold-blooded gunslinger. She looks right into his eyes and says simply ‘you are the good guy’.
It’s a direct retort not only to Han, but to the legions of fans who mistake Han for being ‘cool’ in any way, shape or form. He’s not the best smuggler in the galaxy – he’s just a very lucky idiot with a kind heart. His uncomfortable shift and overly-incredulous reply, ‘I am not… I’m… a… terrible person…’ says it all.
Jumping To Hyperspace (Return Of The Jedi)
For the first time, we see the full force of the Rebellion. Tens, if not hundreds of starships coalesce before the attack on the second Death Star.
The Millennium Falcon weaves in and out, leading the charge before every craft makes the jump to hyperspace in a glorious light-show of multicoloured ion drives, and the music swells to an incredible crescendo.
It doesn’t matter how many behind-the-scenes stills and documentaries you show me, I still refuse to believe it’s all just models and paintings.
Finn’s Confession (The Force Awakens)
Much like the dinner table scene in The Phantom Menace (even Williams’ music cue is echoed here), this is a quieter moment in a film jam-packed with space battles and escapes from giant monsters.
Finn – having lied his way into cahoots with the Resistance cause – finally admits to his newfound friends that he’s not a hero, but a stormtrooper on the run, and plans to leave the fight behind.
Rey – having been alone for so long – begs him not to leave, but Finn is adamant. In a franchise so often relying on over-egged declarations of love and hatred, a simple, honest moment between two friends who obviously care for each other is a welcome change. Boyega and Ridley sell it beautifully.
Luke’s Routine (The Last Jedi)
The Samurai origins of the Jedi Order are finally depicted in the self-exiled Luke Skywalker’s simple day-to-day existence during the first act of The Last Jedi.
The grizzled hermit strolls along the windswept crags of his island, fishes for food, and milks a giant sea cow.
Much ridiculed at the time, it’s a genuinely fun sequence that reveals no matter how far Luke claims to have fallen, he still abides by the harmonious, peaceful ways of the Jedi.
The Boy With The Broom (The Last Jedi)
One of my favourite movies from last year was the wonderful Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, particularly its key message that anyone can be the hero.
The same is true for the parting moments of The Last Jedi. If only some fans could stop getting wrapped up in the minutiae of ‘how does he have the Force?’, ‘will he fit into Episode IX?’ and so on, they’d realise it’s the perfect image to conclude a Star Wars film.
No matter how desperate the Resistance now are, there is always hope in the next generation, and it speaks to anyone in the audience who ever picked up a broom/cricket bat/tree branch as a child and imagined it humming brilliantly to life.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker will be released in UK cinemas 19th December.