It is quite simple to argue that the greatest film franchise of all time is Star Wars. Some may argue for Batman or other comic book-themed flicks, and others might be in the James Bond camp, but no, let’s not play games, Star Wars is head and shoulders above the rest, sitting on a throne made of dead Rancors, tossing chunks of tauntaun meat down the gullet of its pet Sarlacc, while sipping a drink made of Jawa juice and the tears of haters.
Don’t get us wrong, there are some glaring problems with the series. The dialogue has been rough since the 70s, and the prequels were vastly inferior to the original trilogy. But the release of The Force Awakens brought new life into the series, and despite the plot being a repeat of A New Hope, it was an amazing experience.
Part of what makes this series such an icon is the wide array of characters that all play different but important roles in each film. In A New Hope for example, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Obi-Wan and the droids make up an eclectic cast that enhance the already outstanding plot and setting of the film.
What few people take into account when watching these films however, is the amount of minor heroes who make their own subtle, impacts on the storyline. Indeed, the force works in mysterious ways and plenty of times throughout the seven movies, minor characters (some who have just a single line of dialogue) influence the story far more than many viewers will notice. Here are eighteen of the most incredible unsung heroes in the Star Wars films. Let us know in the comments if we missed someone.
18. Raymus Antilles
Seen only briefly in Revenge of the Sith and at the start of A New Hope, Raymus Antilles of Alderaan was a starship pilot who served the Organa family. He led ships before Princess Leia took over as the Senator for her planet, and continued in her service once she had taken that job. A capable leader, soldier and pilot, Antilles stayed loyal to Leia until his death at the hands of Darth Vader in the opening scene of A New Hope.
After the stormtroopers and Vader have boarded the rebel ship, Antilles was the rebel officer being force-choked by the big man in the black suit. He refused to give up the princess, refused to admit who or what was aboard the ship (it was most definitely not on a diplomatic mission), and bought precious time for the Leia to get her important message for Obi-Wan Kenobi into R2-D2.
Aside from being one of our unsung heroes of the Star Wars series, smuggler BoShek of Corellia also had the greatest sideburns in the galaxy. He didn’t utter a single audible line, but he was the first pilot to whom Kenobi spoke in the cantina in Mos Eisley. He wasn’t interested in taking on the job (he didn’t have a capable ship at the time), but politely deferred the opportunity to two other pilots he knew. Those two were Chewbacca and Han Solo. Without BoShek having directed Kenobi and Luke to Han and Chewie, they may never have met. His brief conversation with the old jedi proved an essential one to the story.
16. Padme/Amidala’s Handmaidens
Natalie Portman‘s portrayal of Queen Amidala of Naboo was a great performance until the romantic scenes with Hayden Christensen started to destroy the already-shaky prequels. But regardless of the poor dynamic and terrible dialogue (thanks, George), the character was intriguing and besides being powerful and beautiful, part of her allure were the posse of hotties who followed her around, periodically acting as servants and decoys, depending on the situation. Two of them were played by gorgeous actresses who are well-known today; Keira Knightley and Rose Byrne (Sabé and Dormé, respectively). These ladies were essential to ensuring the safety of the queen, as proven by Cordé’s death at the start of Attack of the Clones, when assassin Zam Wesell tried to kill Senator Amidala.
15. The Bothans
Known throughout the galaxy for being resourceful, clever and very crafty, the Bothans are only mentioned briefly in the original trilogy. Mon Mothma, a rebellion leader, says before the attack on the second death star and the assault on Endor that “Many Bothans died to bring us this information”.
In the expanded story, Bothans are revealed to be a furry, bipedal race who look like a cross between a cat and a dog. They are widely known as gifted spies and a very political race who sought power and financial gain above nearly all else. This competitiveness and the drive to advance themselves and their own species is part of what made them such cunning spies. Without their input prior to the attacks on that death star and Endor, there would have been a greater chance that neither operation would have ended in success.
14. Admiral Ackbar
The famous Mon Calamari admiral may be known for his memorable and brilliantly delivered line in episode six: “IT’S A TRAP!” but he is one of the most important leaders in the Rebellion and as of The Force Awakens the New Republic/Resistance. Born on the Mon Calamari homeworld of Mon Cala, he was drafted into military service and spent his life in the armed forces.
While most Star Wars fans focus on the famous line and the squid head, Ackbar is recognized by his peers as one of the finest tacticians in the galaxy. He planned out the coordinated attack on Endor and on the second Death Star.
Casual Star Wars fans may not know this character by name, and to them he may be just be “that bald dude with the electronics on his head”. Lobot is a cybernetically enhanced human with an implant that makes him brilliant at math and statistics. He originally worked for the Empire running battle simulations and calculations, but eventually came into the service of Lando Calrissian. While on Bespin he was one of Lando’s key aides, as his implant allowed the two to keep in contact no matter where they were in the Cloud City facility. When Vader had invaded the city, and was holding Lando and the rebels prisoner, they were in the middle of transport and he called Lobot into action, ambushing the stormtroopers escorting the group and allowing them to make their escape. If that escape does not happen, Leia, Chewie and Lando cannot pick up Luke and the sixth episode looks very different.
12. Dexter Jettster
Star Wars has featured some very disgusting creatures. The Rancor was an absolute abomination, the sarlacc was just a pit with teeth in the desert, and Watto was a nasty representative of a nasty looking fly-species; the Toydarian. Besalisk diner owner of Dexter (familiarly referred to as Dex, by Obi-Wan) is another alien that looks pretty nasty. In his case however, it has as much to do with his behavior (scratching himself and filthy clothes) as what his species looks like. With that said however, he was a former prospector and lived a gritty life and was an essential informant for Kenobi during his important investigation in Attack of the Clones. He was able to identify the poison dart that killed the bounty hunter as a Kamino saberdart.
11. Lor San Tekka
The opening scene from The Force Awakens had plenty of film buffs saying “wow, Max Von Sydow, I sure hope he becomes a regular character and doesn’t die in the next couple of minutes”. And then he got unceremoniously hacked down by Kylo Ren. His character, despite his brief appearance in the film, has had a major impact on the story. Lor San Tekka was an explorer, historian and scholar, and a man who studied the Jedi way (though not force-sensitive) during the dark ages of the Galactic Empire. During his travels, which spanned decades, he came into possession of a map that would show where Luke Skywalker was located. He gave this to pilot Poe Dameron at the start of The Force Awakens, shortly before his death.
10. Bail Organa
Bail Organa wasn’t seen in the original trilogy and died when Alderaan was destroyed in A New Hope. He was the Senator for Alderaan up until that point and was an active opponent of many of the power-grabs by Palpatine. He is recognized as one of the founding members of the Rebel Alliance. In addition to starting the movement however, his importance also stems from the fact that he adopted Leia after Padme’s death and raised her from infancy. Obviously there is the case that no matter who Leia had been raised by, she would have turned into someone great because of the Force, but one also has to believe that being brought up by a senator helped her develop the leadership qualities (not flawless, but becomes more of a capable leader as the series progresses) that got her through the challenges she faced. In short, the force was there for sure, but Bail raised a great warrior-princess.
9. Owen and Beru Lars
The same that was said of Senator Organa can be said of Owen and Beru Lars. Anakin’s uncle and aunt by marriage, these two raised Luke from shortly after his birth. His upbringing was by no means as cushy and impressive as Leia’s time on Alderaan, but growing up with a small farming family on Tatooine made Luke a resourceful, hardworking guy. Owen and Beru were hard on him from time to time (especially uncle Owen, who was resentful of Luke “wasting time with his friends”) but they instilled in him a solid sense of discipline that benefited him in his later life, during Jedi training and beyond.
8. Wicket Wystri Warrick
What would Return of the Jedi look like without those loveable bipedal Yorkshire Terrier lookalikes the Ewoks? Well, the rebels who landed on Endor would probably have been destroyed pretty quickly by the Imperial forces on the planet. The Ewoks may have been primitive in their methods, but when they needed to come through and help the rebels win the Battle of Endor, their knowledge of the terrain, along with their mastery of guerrilla tactics helped the good guys win the day.
7. Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
For most of the Star Wars series, Anakin was one of the worst men in the galaxy. Between the rampant force choking, the sand people massacre, the murdered younglings (hard to take an atrocity seriously when the word “younglings” is used), he was quite simply a profoundly bad dude. After Attack of the Clones, he only did one decent thing, and that was throwing the emperor to his death; killing the most evil man in the original trilogy.
Vader’s redemption seems obvious to many fans as an example of a heroic act after decades of terrible deeds, but he is widely remembered (for good reason) for the despicable things, rather than as a deeply troubled man who deep down, wanted to do well, but got corrupted by an evil manipulator.
6. Captain Panaka
Captain Panaka was the head of Queen Amidala’s security staff on Naboo. He was an important figure during the occupation by the Trade Federation during The Phantom Menace. Wise, brave and a consummate professional, Panaka had all the traits an influential person could ever want in their security detail.
Panaka is one of the reasons the queen was able to remain safe during those times. He stayed with her during the escape from Naboo (that took them to Tatooine) and for the return to the planet and battle to retake Theed (the capital city). While he is a fictional character, Panaka has many characteristics important to a bodyguard, including phenomenal attention to detail, which earned him the nickname “the fastest eyes on Naboo”.
5. Lando Calrissian
There are plenty of Star Wars enthusiasts who will argue that Billy Dee Williams‘ character Lando is essentially neutral in the story given the fact that he gave up Han but then participated in the Rebellion’s efforts to get him back and subsequent attack on the Death Star. His actions in the Cloud City were void of any choice on his part. Vader was not a reasonable man, and did not ask for anything, Lando and all of cloud city would have been torn to shred by Vader and his stormtroopers had he made any attempt to circumvent the intentions of the Empire.
Rather, Lando made the best of a bad situation, coming up with a plan to get himself, Leia, Chewie and the droids out of Imperial custody (with his trusty colleague Lobot), then played a key role in getting Solo back, and finally piloted the Falcon during the second Death Star assault.
4. Boss Nass
We aren’t happy to include a Gungan on this list, because of the hatred that this species of funny talking, aquatic morons garnered from many fans after episode one. It’s safe to say that Jar Jar Binks is the most hated character in the entire series and that his race are not far behind. But in spite of how stupid and annoying they are, the Gungans played a role in The Phantom Menace and one of their leaders was a hero during Naboo’s fight against the Trade Federation. That was the face-shaking Gungan leader Boss Nass.
3. Arvel Crynyd
If you don’t recognize this name, don’t feel too bad, it took some digging to find. If we say “Green Leader” does that ring a bell? Okay, how about the A-Wing pilot whose ship becomes damaged beyond repair in the second Death Star battle and drives it into the bridge of the main star destroyer? That’s right, we’re talking about that scene when the largest ship in the Imperial fleet has its main control center knocked out and dives directly into the Death Star it was supposed to be protecting from the Rebel assault.
Crynyd’s ship may have been damaged beyond repair, but it looked like he had some control at some point, and knowing he would not live to see another day, piloted that doomed craft into the sensitive point on the largest enemy ship on the battlefield.
2. Biggs Darklighter
We don’t know much about Biggs Darklighter from the movies. Obviously in the expanded universe there are plenty of stories about his exploits, but for much of A New Hope we just hear how he and Luke were close friends and wanted to join a rebellion together. He and Luke are reunited before the assault on the Death Star, but little did they know it would be nothing like Beggar’s Canyon back home.
Biggs and Luke are two of the three X-Wing pilots who make the third (and only successful) trench run. Biggs didn’t make it, and was killed by Darth Vader while covering for Luke while Luke prepared to take the shot. Biggs sacrificed himself for his good friend Luke and for the rebellion.
1. Wedge Antilles
What kind of a name is Wedge anyway? Well, the name of the finest pilot in the rebellion, for one. Wedge Antilles is the third pilot who enters the Death Star trench with Luke and Biggs. Wedge’s onboard droid got hit when the three were being chased by Darth Vader and the other two Tie Fighters. Wedge pulls out of the trench after Luke tells him to do so, shouting that he’s “not doing any good back there”.
Biggs didn’t get to live to fight another day, but Wedge did. In fact we see Antilles again in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He was the pilot who took down the first AT-AT on Hoth, and took his X-Wing inside the second Death Star with Lando Calrissian to take out the power systems.
Along with his heroics in these battles he saved Luke from certain death during the first Death Star assault, chasing down a tie fighter that Luke was unable to maneuver away from.