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 cinema – and our lives – forever. Since then, we’ve had 11 Star Wars movies, a growing number of series, and umpteen characters to obsess over.
It’s these characters who have brought Star Wars to life, driving forward the best movies in the franchise (and the worst) as well as the recent Star Wars series from Disney Plus, and they’re a varied bunch. 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 Some want to burn everything to the ground, and some are dedicated to upholding rigid, outdated systems.
To celebrate the best of them all, we’ve picked our favorite Star Wars characters from across the long timeline. Yes, that means we’ve been back and re-watched the Star Wars movies in order — and all the rest — to guide us on this mission. It might not be as important as stealing the Death Star plans, but it’s a lot more fun.
24. Bo-Katan Kryze
The thing about Bo-Katan is that she’s just extremely cool. From her standoffish attitude to her armor and ‘get shit done’ approach to the world, she’s who we would call if we needed a bury buried. Given the right justification and motivation, she would do it, and do it flawlessly.
And yeah, when she showed up (and showed out) in live-action, there was a slight ‘we can’t fully trust her’ vibe, but season 3’s developments proved she just takes some time to warm up to you — less if you have a green fuzzy lil’ guy at your side.
She’s straightforward in a refreshing way, picking and choosing which archaic rules she feels like following on any given day. If we’re wanting for anything, it’s for her role to expand outside of interactions with Mando.
23. Padmé Amidala
When we think of the former Queen of Naboo, it’s difficult not to immediately be met with one of the most striking images from Revenge of the Sith: the mother, wife, and soldier at rest, clutching onto the carved necklace given to her by Anakin years prior. Revenge of the Sith, the emo space opera that it is, doesn’t work without Padme being worth saving — without her kind nature, stubborn head, and political prowess.
Sure, there’s some not-so-great stuff in the way she’s written, particularly when it comes to the romance, but none of it is enough to outweigh how likable, capable, and good she is. As one of the only characters in the universe without affiliation to a concrete ‘side’, she wants to do what’s right but is often smart enough to discern when that won’t be enough. Her rejecting Anakin instead of joining him during his transition to Vader is one of our favorite moments in the franchise.
C-3PO is one of the first characters we met in the franchise, and quite frankly, he’s iconic for it. When you think of Star Wars, you’ll no doubt picture many things, but we can guarantee that bright gold visage and wide yellow eyes are among them. With the body of a robot but the personality of a stuttering, nervous gentleman, he’s one of the most unusual characters on his list.
Initially, C-3PO is frantic, and usually quite rude when he’s frightened. But as time goes on, he becomes a more valuable asset to the Rebellion and ends up playing a major role in the legacy of the series. Plus, he also provides a lot of the comic relief in the original movies, so we’ve got to love him for that.
21. Qui-Gon Jinn
Okay, we know he singlehandedly set the galaxy on the path to destruction by insisting Anakin Skywalker would be a good fit for the Jedi cause, but Qui-Gon Jinn had the best intentions when he rescued that little boy from a life of slavery.
While he wasn’t always the best at following orders (the most likable characters never are), Liam Neeson brought a wiseness to Qui-Gon that made Episode I feel safe… until it wasn’t.
We can forgive his obsession with Midichlorians, too, because this Jedi Master plays a huge part in one of the finest lightsaber duels the franchise has ever seen. It’s just a shame it ends with him being sliced in half by Darth Maul, but you can’t win ’em all.
20. Lando Calrissian
While his old friend Han Solo may be a little bit cooler, we would wager Lando Calrissian is the second coolest guy in the whole galaxy. And, we’re pretty sure he would take that bet, too. Lando loves to gamble, has a penchant for impressive aircraft, and a wardrobe that anyone would envy.
He did betray his buddy in The Empire Strikes Back, but he quickly makes amends for that, so we will let him off. And, as though one version of this cool cat wasn’t enough, we also got to see Donald Glover don the iconic cape and play Lando in Solo, too.
19. Mon Mothma
From the moment she delivered the meme-worthy declaration that “many Bothans died to bring us this information” in Return of the Jedi, Mon Mothma became an icon of the Rebellion. She’s the epitome of the political side of the Rebel Alliance, rather than the people flying the planes and swinging the sabers.
In recent years, Genevieve O’Reilly has stepped into the role originally played in Jedi by Caroline Blakiston. One of the highlights of Andor was the room it gave O’Reilly to add depth to the senator who became a rebel leader. Her dramatic chops bring a heft to the proceedings that has often been missing from recent projects. We wouldn’t mind seeing her in a new Star Wars movie, either.
18. Poe Dameron
Before Pedro Pascal was officially anointed as the internet’s boyfriend, Oscar Isaac had the world’s hearts. A lot of this is down to his work as the suave, dashing pilot Poe Dameron in the Sequel Trilogy. A Republic pilot who joined the Resistance against the First Order, he became one of Leia Organa’s most trusted military men.
Poe is an ambitious and determined fighter, but also one perhaps ill-suited to lead, as we learned during the movies when he had to be taken down a few pegs. He’s got the charm, he’s got the skill, and he’s got the flaws. We have no choice but to stan.
17. Luke Skywalker
The farm boy who gazed up at the twin suns of Tatooine way back in 1977’s original Star Wars movie would become one of the most legendary heroes in the history of the galaxy. Luke Skywalker started off whining about power converters but ended up helping his dad bring balance to the Force.
Mark Hamill has played every facet of Luke across the last 50 years, including his divisive work in The Last Jedi. For our money, though, there’s a lot to enjoy about every version of this particularly important member of the Skywalker family tree.
Wise, powerful, and brave, Yoda was the Grandmaster of the Jedi Order who trained countless Jedi Knights over centuries. He’s basically the ultimate mentor figure who exists to remind us that size isn’t important when it comes to the Force.
Still, while some fans will no doubt remember Yoda as a murderous Beyblade who pushed Cout Dooku and Palpatine to their limits, that’s not the character we fell in love with. To us, Yoda is the mischievous scamp who rifled through Luke’s stuff when he landed on Dagobah and taught the young Jedi that there’s sometimes value in putting down your lightsaber.
15. Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Some villains have complex and tragic backstories that explain exactly why they turned from the light, and others are just bastards. Emperor Palpatine falls into the latter camp; he’s evil seemingly for the sake of being evil, and he takes incredible joy in being a complete and utter cad.
Unsurprisingly, this theatricality and over-the-top villainry have made Palps (Or Sheev, to use his real name) a fan favorite, and he’s definitely a highlight in the Prequel Trilogy. However, the less said about his return in Rise of Skywalker, though, the better.
14. General Grievous
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 murder bot 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.
13. Din Djarin
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.
12. Luthen Rael
Andor is one of the best things to come from Star Wars since the end of the original trilogy. Yes, really. It’s stunningly good, expanding the Star Wars universe far beyond the story of the Jedi and the Sith.
The Andor cast includes some of the best characters from the franchise in recent memory, and Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthen Rael is the jewel in the crown. He gets an awesome monologue, and in a franchise that is so dedicated to moral certitude, he provides some distinct uncertainty. He’s vicious in pursuit of his aims, believing that the ends justify the means. Luthen Rael stands out, and that’s what makes him brilliant.
11. Kylo Ren
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 edge lord.
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.
Framed as a mysterious try-hard, the cool costume and DIY lightsaber is 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 Shakespearean 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 a 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.
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.
It wouldn’t be fair to have Han Solo on this list and not include his loyal sidekick, now would it? A warrior and pilot, Chewbacca was freed from enslavement when he met Han, and thereby joined him on his roguish quests around the galaxy. Although we don’t always understand what Chewie’s saying, that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the funniest and most memorable characters of the bunch.
Plus, despite his animalistic appearance and lack of ability to speak English, he’s part of the original crew and always will be. We see this in his interactions in the rebooted trilogy, as well as the original series. Plus, we got to know a lot more about him in the Solo movie, and that only added to our affection for this hairy beast.
7. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Hello there! From the charismatic general of the Clone Wars to Luke’s sage 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.
6. Ahsoka Tano
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.
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 their families by these disgusting authoritarians. Finn is the rare trooper who manages to step away, and rarer still, the one who gets to stick it to his commanding officer in service of something greater. Powerful.
4. Princess Leia
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 maximizing the Rebellion and keeping its spark alive.
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, organizing espionage missions, gathering information, and 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.
3. Darth Vader
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. The first time we see him 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.
2. Han Solo
Did you really think this list wouldn’t have Han in it? Just about every kid who watches the Star Wars movies for the first time wants to be Han Solo. He’s a maverick, a rogue, a nerf herder – and he’s completely, indefatigably lovable in every instance.
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 charming smile and endearing energy as part of the Star Wars cast, too.
1. Darth Maul
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 — which is one of the best Star Wars scenes of all time, by the way — sees him kill Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master. To be honest, we knew something was going to happen as soon as that double-lightsaber was activated.
As if that wasn’t enough, he’s a deadly and terrifying threat in the Star Wars animated series too. The fact he got bisected by a Jedi did nothing to stop him. What a guy.
That’s our current list of the best Star Wars characters, but things could change in the future. For more on the franchise, see our picks for the best Star Wars villains, best Star Wars bounty hunters, and best Star Wars aliens.
Or, check out our feature on the greatest Star Wars movie you’ve never seen, and learn all about the Ahsoka release schedule and the Andor season 2 release date. We’ve also explored the sad way Ahsoka escaped Order 66. Finally, you can keep up to date with the progress on the other new movies coming out this year.