Who are the best Star Wars characters? A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away – well, a Tunisian desert in 1976 – George Lucas started work on a science fiction movie that would change pop culture forever. Since then, we’ve had 11 Star Wars movies, a growing number of Star Wars series, and umpteen characters to fascinate ourselves with.
Befitting any epic saga, the Star Wars villains and heroes vary wildly in motivation and origin. Some are driven by a higher purpose; some are just looking for their next payment. Some want to burn everything to the ground, and some are dedicated to upholding rigid, outdated systems.
We’ve been through them all to list the best Star Wars characters from across films and television. Yes, that means that the expanded canon of books and videogames has been left out, but there’s already so much to consider as is. You’ll no doubt find that we’ve glossed over some obvious picks and there’ll be a few notable Glup Shitto absentees, but not every good reputation is deserved, and only the cream of the Bantha Milk can find a spot.
Who are the best Star Wars characters?
- General Grievous
- Din Djarin
- Kylo Ren
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Ahsoka Tano
- Princess Leia
- Darth Vader
- Han Solo
- Darth Maul
There are many questionable ideas in the Star Wars prequels. The Star Wars droid army being led by this multi-armed killing machine that trained himself in lightsaber fighting expressly to kill Jedi is not one of them. General Grievous is one of the most threatening villains in the entire franchise, a relentless, unflinching murderbot whose talents for bloodshed are only matched by his strategic prowess.
In the animated series The Clone Wars, it’s firmly established that if he backs anyone into a corner, they’d be lucky to escape. In Revenge of the Sith, he captures Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, and implies his Jedi-killing prowess. He’s the kind of baddie that gives you a sinking feeling because someone good is very likely to die if he’s around. And he just looks awesome.
Baby Yoda might be the star of The Mandalorian, but there’s something about the stoic, silent Mando (aka Din Djarin) that we just can’t help but love. Maybe it’s how he ended up softening and becoming something of a father figure to Baby Yoda, or perhaps it’s the fact that underneath the steely exterior (literally too), he seems to have a genuine sense of justice and desire to do good. We love a brooding bad boy with a sad story, and personally, I think I could fix him.
Adam Driver gave us topless, thicc Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi, and some people still hated it. Star Wars fans are why we can’t have nice things. Born the crown prince of the saga’s original power couple, there was little chance he wouldn’t become a broody edgelord. However, his miscreancy goes way beyond garish music and dodgy fashion sense, following in grandfather Darth Vader‘s footsteps more than he could ever understand.
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Framed as a mysterious try-hard, the cool costume and DIY lightsaber are a mere cover for a wounded child failed by those who claimed to love him. Mixing with the wrong crowd is a weak excuse for all the space fascists, but his desire to alter the broken paradigm of The Force grants him some redemption. A truly Shakespearian anti-villain.
One of the first protagonists we meet, and one of two to witness the entire Skywalker story unfold, alongside companion C-3PO. R2-D2 has seen it all, often been directly involved, and they’ve helped lighten the mood and keep us laughing throughout. From co-piloting X-Wings to hacking Galactic Empire technology, this R2 unit is a near-boundless resource for the Rebellion, so long as they’re kept upright.
More than useful in a pinch, they’ve superb comic timing that makes them invaluable for morale and camaraderie. When things look bleak, like, say, one hero getting frozen in carbonite and the other badly beaten in a lightsaber duel, R2-D2 is still on hand with a good beep-blorp. BB-8 might be the new cuteness, but some icons will never fade.
Rey’s arc as Galactic Civil War obsessive who becomes crucial to the Resistance against the First Order is every Star Wars fan’s dream. One day she’s poring through the dusty ruins of battles gone, the next, she’s helping pilot the Millennium Falcon and staring down a would-be Sith.
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Trepidatious, she dives head-first into it all, and even when she finds the reality more complicated than her understanding, she dedicates herself to making it better. Rey is the hero the galaxy needs: compassionate, confident, and optimistic, even when obviously shaken. Foibles over her lineage aside, there’s nobody better to bring balance to The Force than a fan who knows we can’t keep reliving the past.
Hello there! From the charismatic general of the Clone Wars, to Luke’s sagely guardian on Tatooine, Obi-Wan Kenobi manages to make being a Jedi seem like a worthwhile aspiration where you’ll travel and learn to do awesome flips and force push your enemies a lot.
Between Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor, he’s perhaps the most well-performed Star Wars character, contributing to his beloved status within the community at large. A New Hope has him as the sage guide to this wondrous galaxy, whereas the prequels show the difficult path there, full of defeat and heartache. Still, he looks out for what’s good, even when all else seems lost.
The rebel who rejected both Jedi and Sith to forge her own path, Ahsoka Tano is proof positive that being Force-sensitive does not require one to pick a side in the ongoing, cyclical conflict. After she’s put on trial for a crime she didn’t commit; she walks away from her Jedi training in order to find a different calling. Still a hero at heart, the Togruta warrior becomes a protector of the weak, intervening in places where the Empire’s muscle goes unchallenged.
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Between her double lightsaber and robes, she’s easily misconstrued as a Jedi, and her interests often align against whatever baddie’s around. But her choices are bound by no creed, leaving her open to assist Sabine Wren, or give a helping hand translating Grogu in The Mandalorian. Not all who wander are lost, and Ahsoka Tano is guided only by her own footsteps.
A First Order deserter who goes on to wield a lightsaber against Kylo Ren, sneak behind enemy lines to sabotage their technology, and stand on the frontlines in the last stand against Emperor Palpatine. Finn has quite the journey in the sequel trilogy, a Resistance fighter who knows exactly the level of despicable villainy they’re up against.
Kidnapped as a child and grown to serve the revived Empire without question or hesitation, Finn’s story is one of the most thematically resonant. Those stormtrooper masks hold real people behind them, many of whom were stripped from families by these disgusting authoritarians. Finn is the rare trooper that manages to step away, and rarer still, the one who gets to stick it to his commanding officer in service of something greater. Powerful.
It is the greatest pity this franchise never got a proper Princess Leia movie while Carrie Fisher was alive. The rambunctious, Hutt-killing leader isn’t shy of speaking her mind or taking action, both of which prove crucial to maximising the Rebellion and keeping its spark alive.
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She’s the unsung hero of the galaxy. While Luke gets to fight Vader and Han Solo gets all the attention, she’s putting in the work, organising espionage missions, gathering information, being a general thorn in the side of her enemies. Her presence in The Force Awakens as General Leia perfectly underlines her warm, calming nature. Star Wars was extremely lucky to have Fisher’s depiction of her.
Darth Vader’s walk through the smoke in the opening siege of A New Hope is an all-time cinematic entrance. Terrifying, menacing, foreboding, ominous, you can use a dozen descriptors and still not capture the kind of fear the Sith Lord commands. He can choke people without touching them, and doesn’t care for anyone not on his wavelength – oh dear!
The mystery is what makes the villain here, clad in jet black, hiding every inch of skin. His first time using a lightsaber, he kills Obi-Wan, making that encounter with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back a real lump in the throat affair. Failed by the Jedi and taken in by the Sith, you can start Anakin and Darth’s story from anywhere, and he’s still top-tier Star Wars, a grand case study in the anatomy of falling from grace only to be redeemed in death.
Did you really think this list wouldn’t have Han in it? Just about every kid who watches these movies for the first time wants to be Han Solo. He’s a maverick, a rogue, a nerf herder – and he’s completely, indefatigably loveable in every instance.
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Neither from royalty nor with higher aspirations in mind, Han becomes part of the Skywalker saga through sheer happenstance. Once he gets a taste of putting the Empire in their place, though, he’s here to stay, even if he’d never admit to caring so much. No disrespect to the MCU, but Han and Chewbacca piloting the Millennium Falcon is the epitome of rollercoaster filmmaking, and we mean that as a compliment in the highest sense. It helps to have Harrison Ford’s smirk, too.
Sure, he was only in one film, but what an impression this Sith apprentice made. The mysterious understudy of Darth Sidious is pivotal to Anakin’s journey from Force-sensitive child to scourge of the galaxy.
Less is more. Maul’s menace stays in the mind because we barely see him. And when we do, bad stuff happens. His one proper duel kills Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master. Being honest, we know something was going to happen as soon as that double-lightsaber was activated.
That’s our list. We know, we know, comprehensive and fully correct, right (sorry, Yoda) If you need more Star Wars content, check out our list of the best Star Wars cameos you may have missed or dive into our guide on the Star Wars cast and the Andor season 2 release date.