The startling sacrifice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars, 1977’s A New Hope, established early on that no character in the space opera was safe. From the slicing and dicing of Qui-Gon in The Phantom Menace to the murder of Han Solo in The Force Awakens, fans have come to realize that their heroes don’t always have happy endings. The Last Jedi ratchets up the body count in new and stunning ways. In a movie loaded with whoa! moments, here’s our ranking of the five demises that truly left us gobsmacked.
Consider this your obligatory spoiler warning: Continue reading at your jeopardy.
5. Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Holdo, we hardly knew ya. Laura Dern’s stay in the Star Wars galaxy was short-lived, as her selfless Resistance leader didn’t even make it to the third act alive. But boy did she get a kickass sendoff, not only going down with her ship, but also gutting the First Order fleet with an incredible hyperspace kamikaze that has elicited a huge ovation at every screening we’ve attended.
4. Captain Phasma
The First Order’s imposing chromed-out trooper suffered an ignominious blow in The Force Awakens, dumped into Starkiller Base’s trash compactor after shutting down the shields that allowed the Resistance to take out the weaponized planet, leaving her fate in doubt. But she managed to escape (as outlined in a recent Marvel Comics miniseries), rejoin her comrades, and in The Last Jedi go mano a mano with her treacherous former underling Finn, né FN-2187. Their combat is one of the film’s key moments, and Finn (with a little help from his friends) wins the day. Her helmet shattered, Phasma tries to rally, but this time there’s no escape, as she plummets into a fiery abyss. Like Boba Fett before her, Phasma was a Star Wars character whose killer costume outshone her onscreen exploits, but her presence will be missed in Episode IX.
3. Supreme Leader Snoke
After being glimpsed in holograph form in The Force Awakens, Snoke appears in the terrifying (digital) flesh in The Last Jedi, aboard his Star Destroyer Supremacy, in a spartan throne room surrounded by his scarlet-armored Praetorian guard, draped in golden robes. The towering Snoke is a formidable, if one-note villain, spitting the usual malarkey about ruling the galaxy while blind to Kylo Ren’s betrayal. While no one is sorry to see Snoke go, he gets a satisfying death by lightsaber, which in turn sets off an even better fight, where Kylo and Rey partner to take out his forces.
2. Admiral Gial Ackbar
Writer-director Rian Johnson fakes out the audience early on, as the Resistance command ship leads the evacuation from D’Qar and takes a direct hit on the bridge. The camera follows General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) as she gets sucked into space. And for an exasperating moment, we believe her end has come. But Leia taps into her innate Force powers and surges back to the ship. While Leia lives, another cherished Star Wars fan favorite perished offscreen, his death remarked in comments to the surviving crew: Admiral Gial Ackbar.
While he doesn’t get a showcase moment like the others on this list, his death is one of the most gut-wrenching, considering his long service onscreen and in the books and comics. Introduced in Return of the Jedi, the fish-eyed Mon Calamari officer and hero of the Rebellion, who uttered one of the classic all-time lines (“It’s a trap!”), was coaxed out of retirement by Leia to serve in the Resistance and was a key architect of the destruction of Starkiller Base. R.I.P., good sir.
1. Luke Skywalker
Han Solo’s death at the hands of his son, Ben, was a game changer, making it clear that none of the three major heroes from the original trilogy would be safe in the new series. With Carrie Fisher’s passing and Lucasfilm announcing that it would not recast or digitally recreate her Leia, we knew the princess/general’s future was limited, which is why we thought she might not escape being sucked into space. Ultimately, though, it was Luke Skywalker, decades removed from his farmboy days on Tatooine, who didn’t escape Last Jedi alive.
After using heretofore unseen powers of Force projection, Luke engages in a massive, samurai-style battle, taking on the entire First Order, including a line of assault walkers, to buy time for the Resistance to flee. Following the battle, we see Luke sitting cross-legged back on Ahch-To. He looks up at the setting sun and, for a moment, sees the dual stars of Tatooine one last time. He is at peace. And then he’s gone, vanishing into the Force, leaving only his robes behind. Perhaps he’ll return as a Force ghost, but that doesn’t make his loss any less shattering.
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