Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.
Piloting: An overlooked aspect
Star Wars fans like myself often see discussions of its lightsaber-wielding characters. Or perhaps we'll encounter debates on the workings of the light and dark sides of the Force. While these topics are awesome, it's about time we look at one of the most underrated aspects of Star Wars: the space battles. Watching the films, we see incredible pilots perform daring maneuvers with their spaceships.
Some of the most thrilling moments come from the aerial battles. In fact, after the rolling golden credits, every film opens with a ship travelling through space. To finally give credit where it's due, let's countdown the five best pilots we see within the Star Wars movies, and highlight some of their accomplishments.
5. Boba Fett
Boba Fett, the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, is the one who delivered the carbonite-frozen Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt. We see his piloting skill in Episode 5 when Han Solo tries to trick pursing Imperials by hiding his craft among jettisoned garbage. Fett anticipates this move, and thus tracks where Solo is headed, leading to the Empire's capture of Solo, Leia, and Chewbacca.
If not for Fett's cunning, the Rebels would have made a clean escape. Also of note is that no one in Solo's party noticed their pursuer, hinting at Fett's subtlety and piloting ability. Plus, he owns a customized and formidable ship, Slave 1.
Additionally, in Episode 2, we see Fett as a young boy. Despite his youth, when Jedi Obi-Wan and Jango Fett (Boba's father) duel, Boba capably operates his father's starship to fire upon the Jedi. Clearly, even as a kid, you don't mess with this bounty hunter.
4. Luke Skywalker
The young farmboy destined for greatness develops into a powerful Jedi throughout the original saga. However, he already begins with his extraordinary piloting abilities. We see these skills in each movie he appears in. Except Episode 3; as good as he'll become, infant Luke can't fly.
- Ep. 4: Survives the Death Star assault and destroys the station
- Ep. 5: Leads a team of Rebels against Imperial AT-ATs and discovers their weakness
- Ep. 6: Navigates the forests of Endor on a speeder bike, dispatching several Scout Troopers along the way
Additionally, his connection to the Force provides reflexes and insight other pilots lack. Luke's impressive, but he's low on the list because of the help given to him when destroying the Death Star, and due to his crashed speeders in Episodes 5 and 6.
3. Wedge Antilles
Do you remember Ol' Wedgie (on second thought, I'm never using that nickname again) from the original trilogy? One of the best Rebel pilots, we see him aid the Alliance in all three original films.
- Ep. 4: Survives the Death Star assault and saves Luke from a Tie Fighter
- Ep. 5: Destroys several of the AT-AT tanks without taking a hit
- Ep. 6: Successfully flies through the narrow passages of the second Death Star and destroys its power regulator
He may not have as much screen time as other characters, but no one can deny Wedge's dogfighting abilities.
2. Han Solo
Most Star Wars viewers dreamed of being like Han. The cocky smuggler with a golden heart may have no force powers, but he proves a capable warrior and skilled pilot.
- Ep. 4: Escapes two Star Destroyers and saves Luke during the Death Star assault
- Ep. 5: Evades several Tie Fighters and Star Destroyers despite the Millenium Falcon's bulk, and navigates through a perilous asteroid field
Update: Han also displays impressive piloting in Episode 7, as does new character Poe Dameron.
You gotta admire Han for his quick reflexes, formidable piloting, and funky dance moves. Wait, what?
"These aren't the pilots you're looking for."
- Jango Fett
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Lando Calrissian
These three show impressive vehicle handling, but didn't quite make the cut. And now, our number one pilot in Star Wars is..
1. Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
You don't mess with the Chosen One when he's behind a cockpit. Like Luke, his latent Force abilities provide an edge most pilots lack, but Anakin boasts of a much better vehicular resume:
- Ep. 1: At only age nine, wins a Podrace and destroys the Trade Federation's space station
- Ep. 2: Successfully chases after bounty hunter Zam Wesell through shortcuts and daring manuevers in a speeder
- Ep. 3: Manages to enter the Separatist command station alongside Obi-Wan; while Kenobi's vehicle is badly damaged, Anakin's barely has a scratch
- Ep. 4: Now Darth Vader, Anakin destroys an alarming number of Rebel ships in the Death Star assault
If not for an inept wingman, who crashed his craft into Vader's, Luke would have been shot down, the Death Star would survive, and the Rebellion would perish. As Obi-Wan once proclaimed, Anakin is not only a cunning warrior, but the best star pilot in the galaxy.
Perhaps if Vader had continued to fly in Episodes 5 and 6, rather than simply command others from afar, the Empire would have triumphed against the Rebellion.
Future of Star Wars
With new skilled pilots, like Poe Dameron, debuting in the third Star Wars trilogy, we can expect more exciting space battles from the galaxy far far away. Stay on the lookout for more space battles in non-movie media like the Star Wars Rebels show or the Expanded Universe novels. As we eagerly await the future of Star Wars, vote for your favorite pilot and I'll see you at our next galactic countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: Where would General Grievous fall on the list of Top 5 Pilots in Star Wars?
Answer: At the bottom; he's better in close-quarters combat.
Question: Where would Poe Dameron fall on this list of Star Wars pilots?
Answer: He would probably be above Boba, but below Luke.
Poe's piloting abilities are unquestionable, but as his role in The Last Jedi shows, he's not always the best strategist. Without that factored in, he might even rank higher than Luke and Wedge.
© 2015 Jeremy Gill