I had fun writing about Obi-Wan’s five best moments, so I thought I’d continue on that theme and do the same with Luke Skywalker. He’s got plenty of great moments too, but these stand out as THE best to me:
- Trench run on Death Star 1.
This is Luke’s shining moment in A New Hope. He’s young, idealistic, and ready to do his part to strike a blow against the Empire. His compatriots are shot down (and he loses his friend, Biggs Darklighter) and it’s up to him to drop the torpedo into the tiny little opening of the shaft that leads to the reactor (but that’s okay, he used to target womp rats back home and they’re not more than two meters). He’s supposed to use a targeting computer to make the shot, but then he hears Ben Kenobi’s voice: “Use the Force, Luke.” And so he turns the computer off, which is a HUGE leap of faith, because he basically just learned about the Force like, two days ago, and only got a glimmering of it against a remote on the Falcon. But Ben had faith in him, and so he has faith in Ben’s belief that he can do this. And he does. Han Solo gets the TIES off his back, Luke gets the torpedo into the shaft, the thing blows, and they have a big celebration. He’s not a Jedi yet, but he’s certainly now a hero of the Rebellion.
- Battle of Hoth
Not only is Luke a good pilot, but he’s also quite clever. The looming AT-ATs seem indestructible, so Luke comes up with a plan only a farmboy rustling some animals ( can come up with: they use cables to trip up their long, ungainly legs. This is his best moment in The Empire Strikes Back; the rest of the movie, he makes a series of mistakes and bad decisions that almost get him killed. The Empire truly does strike back in this one–but they lose a few AT-ATs on the way!
- Saving Han Solo on Tatooine.
Black-clad Luke in Return of the Jedi is a thing to behold: after the debacles, revelations, and pain and loss in Empire, Luke has lost some of his naivete and innocence and has learned patience, planning, and determination. His rescue of Han at Jabba’s Palace on Tatooine (with a little help from his friends) is brilliant and thrilling. He’s calm, confident, and impressive. Even Han doesn’t believe Luke is capable of pulling off the rescue, but lucky for him he’s very wrong on this point. Leia strangles Jabba, Boba Fett is sent falling into the Sarlacc (but not, as we now know, killed), the barge is blown up, and they pick up the droids from the sand on the way out. Easy peasy. The hard stuff is yet to come.
- Vader’s Redemption.
This is obviously the zenith of Luke’s character arc, and his very best moment (apart from his role at Crait, in my opinion, see below). Yoda himself said before he died that Luke must face Vader. I’m pretty sure he meant that Luke had to defeat him in order to become a Jedi. Even Obi-Wan, in his ghostly visitation on Dagobah, expected Luke to kill Vader. Obi-Wan, one of the most compassionate Jedi ever! But Luke insisted he would not kill his own father. “Then the Emperor has already won,” Obi-Wan replies. So defeatist. And short-sighted, one of the very few things that is disappointing about Obi-Wan, at least in this trilogy. Both he and Yoda had given up on Anakin a long time ago, and I understand that, after what they went through. But Luke isn’t ready to give up on him. Like the mother he never knew, he believes there’s still good in him. I’m not sure where this belief comes from, whether it’s wishful thinking, or that he senses it in the Force, or maybe because Vader didn’t want to kill him in Empire but join with him (on the dark side, but even so).
Whatever the reason, Luke goes willingly to Vader and the Emperor on Endor with the intention of trying to turn him back to the light, as he explained to Leia. He keeps his poop together for a while, until the Emperor reveals the trap which endangers his friends; he gets scared and desperate for them. And then, when Vader threatens to turn Leia to the dark side, he loses said poop and gets really angry. He gets mighty close to falling to the dark as he nearly kills Vader, although he realizes it before it’s too late. That’s when his best moment in the trilogy comes: he throws his lightsaber away and declares he’ll never turn. He’s willing to lose his friends, his father and his life at this point; but he will not turn. We all know what happens next: the Emperor nearly kills Luke with his Force lightning, causing Vader to rethink his life choices. He decides to save his son and throws the Emperor down the shaft, sacrificing his own life. A great, possibly the greatest, Star Wars moment.
- Battle of Crait.
So Luke Skywalker becomes a legend and a hero, and tries to live up to that over the decades that follow. Unfortunately, he’s a human being who makes mistakes. He loses Ben Solo to the dark side and blames himself (and probably deserves a little bit of blame, among a lot of blame that could be passed around). But instead of dealing with the mistake, he isolates himself. I do believe he thinks he’s helping his friends this way rather than hurting them–after all, look at the damage he did, is probably what he was thinking. He even cuts himself off from the Force, he’s so upset about it. He comes to believe that the Jedi must die, that their arrogance (his included) caused more problems than solved them. Rey doesn’t understand any of this when she comes to Ach-To; she’s still young and idealistic. She believes in the myth. Luke has become–let’s face it–cynical. It’s only after he opens up to the Force again to touch Leia’s consciousness that he decides to do something.
And what a something! He Force-projects himself to Crait to face Kylo and the First Order. Not to save Ben–he knows it’s too late for that, at least for him. But to distract the enemy long enough for the Resistance to get away. And he does it without harming a hair on anyone–except his own. It’s his atonement, as much as anything. And a very Jedi thing to do, in the truest sense. That wink to Threepio, the dusting off his shoulder after “surviving” the bombardment of the First Order, his “See ya around, kid,” to Kylo–I loved it all so much. It doesn’t quite reach the heroic and emotional heights of Anakin’s redemption, but it’s one of the best Luke Skywalker scenes, in my opinion.
Coming to get Grogu.
I can’t have a list of best Luke Skywalker moments without this scene from The Mandalorian (Season 2, Episode 8). It was so unexpected, but so welcome and exciting, most of us were laughing/crying on our couches. When Grogu reached out with the Force at the Jedi Temple, we had guesses and hopes about who might answer. The fact that it was Luke freaking Skywalker himself was just so satisfying and made our Star Wars hearts so happy. As soon as we saw that single X-Wing swing around and saw the other clues, our hearts skipped a beat. CGI Luke was a bit weird, as most CGI characters are, but who cares? He cut through those dark troopers like a hot knife through butter, and we cheered. But that Force crush he used for the last dark trooper is a bit…concerning. I do believe it’s considered, along with the Force choke, a darkside power. He could have just cut it down with his lightsaber, as he did the others, easily. But he chose to do the crush. Why? Hmmm….care to chime in with your ideas, dear readers?
So those are my (again, probably obvious) best Luke Skywalker moments. What are your favorites?