Benjamin Cox's Top 20 Coolest Star Wars Characters
Back in 1977, the world was quite unprepared for just how successful George Lucas' sci-fi epic would be. When it first went on general release in the US on 25th May, it was shown in just 32 cinemas and only 40 by that first weekend - a laughable number in today's industry. In fact, many cinemas had to be persuaded to show the film at all - 20th Century Fox forced the film to be shown in theatres by withholding the much-more anticipated adaptation of The Other Side of Midnight. They needn't have worried - the film became an overnight sensation, turning its cast into megastars and Lucas into a very rich man indeed. Although the term had been used in cinema since the 1940's, Star Wars was one of the first films to be considered a 'blockbuster' and quickly became one of the highest grossing films in history as well as a pop culture phenomenon.
With the sequels expanding the setting and backstory of the characters (not to mention planting the seeds for prequels, further sequels and spin-off movies), Star Wars was assured of its place in cultural history. With countless fans still hopelessly in love with the franchise, many often dressing up as their favourite characters, the films have become synonymous with geek culture but these days, a curious thing seems to have happened. Geek culture is big business with the likes of Marvel, DC and Lucas still pulling in vast sums of money. Geek culture is currently very cool.
Which brings us to this list. Cleverly analysing each character from all of the feature films, I have devised a scoring system which gives us a cool rating. Note that some features can cause cool points to be deducted as well and also note that I have not featured any characters from the Clone Wars animated movie, TV series or expanded universe - just the Episodes I-VIII and the stand-alone Rogue One. But this hasn't been ignored completely - a minor part in one film can often lead to many appearances outside of the movie series (Boba Fett springs instantly to mind) and/or popularity with the fan-base at large. As an example, take Nien Nunb - the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon alongside Lando Calrissian in Return Of The Jedi. Nunb has featured in several stories in the expanded universe as well as returning for the current trilogy but he's also obviously a good pilot and enjoys the company of the likes of Lando. But he's still not much more than an annoying sidekick and this brings his score to +3. By contrast, BB-8 scores a 0 while C-3PO scores -2. Jar Jar Binks scores so low, it wasn't worth finishing the calculation.
So. Shall we begin?
Number 20 - Aayla Secura
Cool Points: +8
A more obscure character to start our top 20 with but one who scores fairly high on the cool scale. For starters, Aayla Secura is a Jedi Knight who fought throughout the Clone Wars and was involved in the rescue of Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme from the Geonosian gladiatorial arena in Attack Of The Clones - one of the best scenes in that entire movie. But unlike her companions like Ki-Adi-Mundi or Kit Fisto, Aayla stands out. Her striking appearance and alluring sexuality have made her a fan favourite, especially among the cosplaying community. Lastly, only hardcore fans of the series will recognise the name. She doesn't have much in the way of close-up shots or a stand-alone scene but she's there in the background, chopping up droids and quietly getting on with the job.
Number 19 - Baze Malbus
Cool Points: +8
Despite appearing in spin-off Rogue One, Baze Malbus makes an instant impact thanks to his very-cool back-mounted repeater cannon. Bodyguard and companion to blind mystic Chirrut Îmwe (who wasn't far from making this list himself), Baze joins the fledging Rebel Alliance as a veteran of many military campaigns and uses his mighty weapon to devastating effect. I also like the look of the character and the performance given by Jiang Wen in the role, giving the supporting character a real edge that the film needed. Like Aayla, he isn't front and centre of the narrative but makes a serious noise taking care of the bad guys.
Number 18 - Captain Phasma
Cool Points: +8
Our first baddie on our list and while Phasma kinda feels wasted in the current series, there is something about her that catches your interest. Only the second female villain in the series so far, Phasma is another character that instantly looks cool in her shiny chromium armour that not only reinvigorates the classic Stormtrooper look but combines it with a cape - a surefire sign of evil intent. Not only does she stand out from the identi-kit baddies she finds herself commanding but she's also very popular with fans. Her reduced role in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi has been met with criticism from some quarters and her figure was the best-selling such model featured in The Force Awakens. No doubt that she will also inspire ambitious cosplayers in the years to come.
Number 17 - Queen Padme Amidala
Cool Points: +8
Horribly underperformed by Natalie Portman in The Phantom Menace, she redeems the character in the second instalment by being genuinely kick-ass. Like her daughter Leia, she never misses with a blaster (a nice touch) and is instrumental in fighting the villainous forces gathering around the peaceful world of Naboo. Unusually for a character in the often-derided prequels, her look and style are instantly synonymous with the world of Star Wars and she has since become a solid fan favourite. As well as appearing in multiple guises at conventions via those darned cosplayers, Amidala also continues to feature in several "expanded universe" mediums including The Clone Wars film and subsequent TV series, novels and video games. Tragically, she is reduced to weeping love interest in the third film but her feelings mirror the decline of her lover Anakin to the Dark Side, her pain all too evident.
Number 16 - Chancellor / Emperor Palpatine
Cool Points: +8
Perhaps a little surprising to find the tyrannical Darth Sidious this far down the list but actually, Palpatine's character is more interesting than one may suppose. Brilliantly played by Ian McDiarmid, Palpatine's political ambitions and manipulations feel worryingly real as opposed to the more fantastical elements of the series and thanks to McDiarmid's performance, the character feels just as evil in his human guise as he is as the power-hungry Sith Lord. He also has some tricks up his sleeve - despite his apparent age, he successfully duels with Yoda in Revenge Of The Sith and even gains the upper hand until Yoda manages to escape and of course, there is his terrifying Force Lightning. And frankly, who wouldn't want that power at their fingertips? His sly manipulation of both Skywalkers makes him a dangerous and deadly force to be reckoned with.
Number 15 - R2-D2
Cool Points: +8
Arguably the most unsung hero of the entire franchise (the droid is one of the few characters in the franchise to appear in all eight movies, although he has a break in Rogue One), R2-D2 is one of the most recognisable and iconic characters in the saga. Utterly fearless and endlessly useful, his lack of spoken dialogue is no barrier in understanding the droid's reaction to those around him. Together with C-3PO, they provide much of the humour found in the original trilogy as they bicker and argue their way around the galaxy dodging blaster fire and thermal detonators. But R2 still feels like a friend you'd like to have and that makes him far more endearing than his golden droid sidekick.
Number 14 - Qui-Gon Jinn
Cool Points: +9
The headstrong Jedi Knight who took Obi-Wan Kenobi as his Padawan apprentice, Qui-Gon Jinn deserves his place on this list despite only appearing in The Phantom Menace. For starters, he's played by Liam Neeson and it could be argued that his appearance in this film would pave the way for him to appear in the sort of gritty action movies he seems to specialise in these days like Taken. His rebellious nature in defying the Jedi Council when he discovers the young Force-sensitive Anakin on Tattooine gives him depth and in many ways, his actions determine the entire franchise - would Anakin turned to the Dark Side and annihilated the Jedi along with Darth Sidious without Qui-Gon's belief in him? He'd still be racing pods around that track if Qui-Gon hadn't taken him in! The only thing that possibly counts against him is his weakness in combat with Darth Maul but considering the Jedi hadn't fought a Sith for almost a thousand years, I can forgive him that.
Number 13 - Luke Skywalker
Cool Points: +9
A simple farmhand on the backwater world of Tattooine, Luke had no idea of the fate in store for him or his true potential as one of the most powerful and influential Jedi in the galaxy. The lynchpin of the original trilogy, Luke thankfully turns from being just a pilot to Yoda's final apprentice and finally the one to stand and defy the Emperor and his own father, Darth Vader. I remember watching Return Of The Jedi for the first time and the only thing that took my attention off Leia's gold bikini was watching Luke take on all-comers at Jabba's palace, his black uniform in marked contrast to the more muted colours of previous films. Here was a man confident of his own abilities and using them to their full devastating effect, the first time I wanted to be a Jedi. His numerous appearances in the expanded universe underscores his popularity with viewers and he remains arguably Hamill's signature role. Shame about his daddy issues, though.
Number 12 - Grand Moff Tarkin
Cool Points: +10
Peter Cushing may only have appeared in just one movie but the character's impact cannot be understated. For starters, he is an utterly ruthless force within the Empire as demonstrated when he willingly destroyed the planet Alderaan in front of Princess Leia when there was no realistic need to, causing the deaths of potentially billions. You know someone is not to be messed with when they have Darth Vader as their effective second-in-command on board the Death Star. Lets not forget that it was Tarkin, not Vader, who was the primary antagonist in A New Hope although nobody really seemed to know what a Grand Moff actually was. Throw in his countless appearances in the expanded universe as well as digitally popping up in Rogue One and Revenge Of The Sith and it's clear that Tarkin is one of the key figures in the entire saga.
Number 11 - Chewbacca
Cool Points: +12
What can we say about Chewie that hasn't already been said? Co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, mechanic, warrior, friend to Han Solo, smuggler, hero of the Clone Wars, fuzzball - Chewbacca is all of these things and more. Like R2-D2, his lack of language is no barrier to understanding the character and he has become one of the most instantly recognisable figures throughout the series. A mainstay of the narrative since his cameo appearance in Revenge Of The Sith, Chewbacca's bowcaster weapon and bandolier are cool accessories that you can't help but covet and his no-nonsense attitude to the pompous C-3PO provide some light relief during some of the more darker moments in Cloud City. But more than just a supporting character, Chewie has become a much-loved cultural icon that represents the franchise in the wider world in the same way that Vader or Yoda do.
Number 10 - Admiral Ackbar
Cool Points: +12
Now before you go off on one claiming that Chewie is cooler than Ackbar, allow me to explain. First of all, Ackbar has the distinction of appearing in almost as many memes as Yoda with his classic line "It's a trap!". No other character in Star Wars makes quite so much of an impression with a handful of scenes and throwaway lines as Ackbar does - he only really appears on screen during the final battle in Return Of The Jedi and yet, his expanded universe appearances and fan-boy popularity meant that he would inevitably return for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. His unique physiology (he's a walking, talking fish!) also helps him stand out among the assorted alien races seen in the series but what seals the deal for me is that Ackbar is a more niche character than Chewie, who is synonymous with the series. Ackbar appeals to the more obsessive fan rather than the casual observer, who might struggle to even name him.
Number 9 - Boba Fett
Cool Points: +12
The legendary bounty hunter that not only brought Luke Skywalker into contact with Vader but also delivered Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett's credentials are second to none. Instantly recognisable and hugely popular among cosplayers and fans of the series, Jeremy Bulloch's appearance as Boba remains as menacing as ever. A cloned "son" of famed bounty hunter Jango Fett, Boba's relentless pursuit of his enemies and array of unconventional weaponry makes him possibly one of the most deadly villains in the saga - no wonder Vader called for his services in The Empire Strikes Back after failing to capture Skywalker or Solo in the aftermath of the Battle Of Hoth. The only thing that undermines him is his semi-comedic death in Return Of The Jedi as he is casually thrown into the mouth of the Saarlac when his jet-pack is accidentally activated - a directing decision that Lucas himself regrets, a sign that Boba could and perhaps should have gone on to bigger and better things.
Number 8 - Darth Maul
Cool Points: +13
The undoubted highlight of The Phantom Menace, Maul's first appearance with his double-ended lightsaber is so cool that it featured in almost every pre-release teaser Lucas put out. Combined with that glorious choral piece by John Williams, Maul couldn't have made a bigger impact as the murderous Sith apprentice which ramped up expectations for the film to fever pitch (and arguably led to many people being underwhelmed by the film, which isn't as bad as you might remember). His unparalleled agility made him too much for the likes of poor Qui-Gon and his heavy use in the expanded universe even brought him back to life after being dispatched by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Even his ship, the Sith Infiltrator Scimitar, is a cool piece of kit. In a movie often dismissed by fans of the series, Maul's appearance is one of the coolest scenes in the entire franchise and few would argue with that.
Number 7 - Mace Windu
Cool Points: +14
How can a character played by Samuel L. Jackson not be one of the coolest in the series? A grimly determined Jedi Master with a uniquely purple lightsaber, his calm exterior betrays a fiercely capable warrior - his rescue of Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme from the Geonosian arena was the first time we'd seen a group of Jedi take down dozens of enemies with lightsabers swirling through the air and frankly, this was the only real reason to watch Attack Of The Clones. But his greatest moment would come in Revenge Of The Sith where he defeated Darth Sidious one-on-one and would have prevented the rise of the Empire single-handedly if he wasn't betrayed by Anakin's turn to the Dark Side. In short, Mace Windu is a legitimate bad-ass and one of Jackson's more intriguing and beloved roles.
Number 6 - Jabba The Hutt
Cool Points: +15
A surprisingly high entry for Tattooine's premier gangster but Jabba is more than deserving of it. Like Vader or Yoda, Jabba has become one of the defining characters of the series and instantly recognisable. His name has been assimilated into wider pop culture as an insult, a distinction that is unprecedented in the series so far, and his numerous appearances in the expanded universe indicates a wider level of popularity. In a strange way, Jabba's influence hangs over the original trilogy like a thin cloak - Han's actions in joining the Rebellion are, in part, due to his desire to escape Jabba's vengeance so when the slug-like fiend finally appears in Return Of The Jedi, his deep voice and repulsive appearance resonates much deeper than one supposes. And, of course, the rescue of Han from Jabba's palace is possibly the best action sequence in the entire series - from Leia's iconic gold bikini to Luke's realisation of becoming a true Jedi Knight and the chaotic destruction of Jabba's floating sail-barge amid the desert sands, it's one of my favourite sequences in the entire franchise that I never get tired of watching and it's all down to Jabba. Thanks, big man!
Number 5 - Obi-Wan Kenobi
Cool Points: +15
A genuinely gifted Jedi master whose life has been more or less documented in the series, Obi-Wan Kenobi is possibly the most influential character in the saga. It was Obi-Wan who took Anakin Skywalker as his apprentice, who fought Anakin once he had turned to the Dark Side on the volcanic world of Mustafar and left him for dead, who R2-D2 sought out after Leia recorded herself begging for his assistance after being kidnapped by Vader and who eventually found himself acting as Luke Skywalker's mentor before being cut down by Vader. But more than all of that, he was also a heroic leader in the Clone Wars and has inspired countless imitations among fans and cosplayers alike. Still appearing in the expanded universe more than forty years after his debut appearance in A New Hope, there's no denying that Obi-Wan has become an iconic character and not even death can stop him. Which is cool, however you look at it.
Number 4 - Darth Vader
Cool Points: +15
Wait a minute, why so low? Well, fourth isn't bad - it's only his poor appearance in Revenge Of The Sith that prevents everyone's favourite Sith Lord from featuring higher so thanks for that, Hayden Christensen! But nobody can deny that Vader is not just a timeless baddie in the series but one of the greatest villains in all cinema. From his terrifying first appearance in A New Hope to his chilling cameo in Rogue One (which actually has a devastatingly brutal scene as he massacres rebel troopers with zeal) and his eventual redemption in Return Of The Jedi, Vader's presence helped the series become one of the most successful movie franchises in history. Instantly recognisable and synonymous with the series, Vader continues to inspire and intimidate in equal measure thanks to his trademark black mask, thinly disguised threats and James Earl Jones' timeless vocals. The Force truly is strong with Vader.
Number 3 - Yoda
Cool Points: +17
The diminutive Jedi master with over 800 years experience, Yoda is one of the most powerful Force users to have ever lived. From his years on the Jedi Council to his command during the Clone Wars and his self-imposed exile on the mysterious world of Dagobah, Yoda has been a staple of the series since The Empire Strikes Back when he reluctantly begins training Luke. What makes Yoda cool, though, are his unique speech patterns and his species - there has never been an acknowledgement of his species or homeworld and there has never been another member of his race seen in even the expanded universe. His digital rendering in the prequel trilogy meant that Yoda could participate in more elaborate scenes including hyperkinetic lightsaber duels with Count Dooku and Darth Sidious while the character himself has transgressed into wider public consciousness - you can even adopt a Yoda voice for your sat-nav which, as he himself might say, "cool indeed, it is."
Number 2 - Han Solo
Cool Points: +18
Considering he's a stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder (ok, not that scruffy-looking), Han Solo remains the lovable rogue who captured our imagination and our hearts. Perhaps less silver-tongued than his buddy Lando Calrissian, Han is a practical anti-hero who discovers that he has a more noble side to him than even he realised. The character arc from self-centred pirate to hero of the Rebellion over the original trilogy is one of the strongest sub-plots in the series and his no-nonsense sense of humour translates well into the action scenes, which will hopefully be seen in his forthcoming spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story. Universally loved and with possibly the coolest ship in the series in the familiar shape of the Millennium Falcon, Han is almost the coolest character in the whole saga.
Number 1 - Princess Leia Organa
Cool Points: +18
Perhaps more than Han, Leia has become the most recognisable character in the series due to her unique hairstyles, uncanny accuracy with a blaster and her ability to turn a gold bikini into the stuff of legend. Fisher's portrayal of Leia shows a woman of surprising strength in a man's world, the sole female role-model for countless fans and cosplayers in the series and possibly the first female action hero to hold her own in a sci-fi setting. As the series rolled on, she became more than a damsel-in-distress - she served as a leading light in the Rebellion and later the Resistance and outside the films, served as a representative of the series as a whole. She remained Fisher's signature role until her death in 2016 which saw an outpouring of grief from fans across the world. More than perhaps any other role in the Star Wars saga, Leia reminds us that we all have a part to play and we must never give up, even if the cost is sometimes too great.
- Count Dooku - +7
- Anakin Skywalker - +6
- K-2SO - +6
- Lando Calrissian - +6
- Poe Dameron - +6
- Rey - +6
So there you have it - a possibly surprising choice at number one but a deserved winner. If you have any other candidates from the movies (remember, no characters from any TV show or the animated Clone Wars film) then please feel free to mention them in the comments section below. I hope you've enjoyed this rundown of the coolest characters in Star Wars.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox