One of the main themes played out in Star Wars is sacrifice, which is often tied to redemption, but not always. Saw Gerrera pays a lot of lip service to “sacrificing for the greater good,” but we rarely see him put that idea into practice himself. But there are other, far more noble characters who do (Can you tell he’s not my favorite person right now? Lol.) With the recent sacrifices made by characters in both The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch, I thought I’d explore characters in Star Wars who truly sacrificed themselves for the greater good.
For the purposes of this post, “sacrifice” denotes a character making a clear decision to give their lives for a higher purpose, as opposed to those “making the ultimate sacrifice” in war, like the clones, for example, or just regular soldiers dying in war (and I’m sure there are examples of soldiers making a clear decision to die to save their comrades, as well). I’m also not including any from books or comics, just to make it simpler.
Anyway, these are the main characters off the top of my head, though I’m sure there are more:
Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope
The sacrifice: Obi-Wan allows Darth Vader to cut him down in a lightsaber battle on the first Death Star.
Obi-Wan clearly stops fighting, raises his lightsaber and steps back, giving Vader the opening to strike him down. This was mostly to allow Luke and his friends to escape. From a story standpoint, Obi-Wan was the wise mentor that had to be removed from the equation to allow Luke to overcome obstacles on his own. And perhaps Obi-Wan felt it appropriate for his “failure” with Anakin, though he had long accepted and let go of Anakin’s turn to the dark side. Plus, he knew he would become a cool Force ghost, and perhaps help Luke better that way.
Pain scale: 5 out of 10. When I first entered the Star Wars universe, I saw The Empire Strikes Back first, so Obi-Wan was already a ghost. When I went back and watched ANH, the death scene was expected. If I had watched SW in chronological order, with prequels first, and the Clone Wars series, I would have been much more attached to him by the time I got to his death, and the score would be higher. He’s now one of my favorite characters, but his death was there from the very beginning.
Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi
The sacrifice: Vader picks up Palpatine, who was electrocuting Luke at the time, and throws him down an air shaft, thereby saving Luke but destroying the life support system of his helmet and chest plate.
Vader sacrificed himself for the life of his son. After years of being a slave to the dark at the Emperor’s side, he finally had enough. It took his son’s compassion for him to be reached, and Luke nearly died himself to save his father. This is one of the examples that involves redemption with the sacrifice. Is it complete redemption? I don’t know–after all the atrocities that Vader committed, what’s enough? Did he truly repent, or was he just focused on saving his son? Whatever the case, it was a very satisfying scene, and truly moving to see.
Pain scale: 5 out of 10. At the time I saw it, it was very shocking, and sad, but it didn’t pain me like some of the others here. Vader was a monster, after all. He was the villain (although a puppet of Palpatine, too, who was the real big bad) and was defeated, though in a very unexpected way. All I can say is that I hope Anakin has found peace in the Force.
Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi
The sacrifice: Luke Force-projects himself onto Crait from his location on Ach-To in order to distract the First Order so the Resistance can escape. The effort drains all of his Force energy, and he dies, disappearing into the Force.
Say what you will about Luke’s character in The Last Jedi, you gotta admit he made a very Jedi-like sacrifice in the film to save the ragged remnants of the Resistance–and his sister, of course. It was quite a clever ruse, and no one was hurt by his actions, proving it was a very Jedi move. Was there an element of redemption in there? Perhaps a little bit. Luke thought he was doing the right thing by staying out of it all, AND he was very grumpy doing it, lol. But he was wrong, by his own admission as a Force ghost in TROS. This sacrifice made up for it and more.
Pain scale: 7 out of 10. It was hard to see Luke, the main character of the originals, fade into the Force. But he went out on his own terms, and that’s satisfying.
Amilyn Holdo in The Last Jedi
The sacrifice: Holdo pilots an empty Rebel ship into a First Order Super-Star Destroyer by going into hyperspace, thereby destroying it by going through it at light speed.
Some people were frustrated with the character of Holdo, mostly because she wouldn’t tell Poe and the rest of her crew her plan to evacuate the Resistance to the planet Crait. While I do wonder why she couldn’t simply tell them the plan, I do think Poe was out of line to disobey her and mutiny. But that’s a debate for another post. She redeemed herself at least in Poe’s eyes by sacrificing herself so the Resistance could get away. A really cool way to go out, all told, and I bet she didn’t feel a thing, lol.
Pain scale: 4 out of 10. We’d just met Holdo in this film so it wasn’t a great wrench to lose her, though it’s always sad when the good guys die. I usually tear up a little bit when Leia says, “I can’t take anymore,” but that’s Leia’s pain I’m feeling, not mine.
Ben Solo in The Rise of Skywalker
The sacrifice: Ben Force-heals a near-dead Rey, draining what’s left of his own Force energy, and dies.
Ben Solo giving up his Kylo Ren persona and rushing to Exegol to help Rey was a very satisfying part of his character arc. We only got about ten minutes of Ben Solo, which saddens me. The fact that he had no dialogue (except “Ouch,” I guess) is telling–Kylo liked to shoot his mouth off a lot, but Ben’s actions spoke louder than words. Giving all his Force energy to Rey so she could live is a pretty big act of redemption. Almost makes up for him killing his father. Not really, but the scene of his memory of Han Solo goes a long way in helping us forgive him.
Pain scale: 8 out of 10. Even though I swore when I saw The Force Awakens that I’d never forgive him for killing Han, by the time of TROS it really hurt to see him die. Mostly because we had just met Ben Solo, and then he was gone within minutes. I would have liked to get to know him better.
Kanan Jarrus in Rebels
The sacrifice: Kanan uses the Force to keep the flames of an explosion from killing those he loves, and when he uses the Force to push them back out of the way, the flames overtake him.
I was a little late to the party with Rebels, so I already knew through various social media channels that Kanan was going to die. Did that make it any easier? Not by a long shot. In fact, because I knew it was coming, there was a horrible dread clinging to me as Season 4 got nearer. And the fact that he already made a sacrifice, though not willingly–his sight–made it all seem so unfair, even though the blindness endowed him with a deeper wisdom. I do like that he knew his death was coming (thanks to the Lothwolf), so he could prepare for it and say his goodbyes.
Pain scale: 9 out of 10, because I really, really liked this guy. The way the Force gave him back his sight at the last moment so he could see his family was a nice touch, and cranked up the tear factor.
Tech from The Bad Batch
The sacrifice: Hanging over a precipice from a malfunctioning rail car, Tech decides to sever the connection and fall to his death rather than bring the whole squad–his family–with him.
So this is one of the most recent losses, and it is still an open wound for me. It totally blindsided me and I’m still coming to terms with it. I cried about Tech’s death in this post here, if you want more of my grief. It hurts so much more because it didn’t have to happen at all, if it wasn’t for a CERTAIN SOMEONE insisting on blowing up the place with no discernable results at all. There’s a lot of debate about whether Tech is still alive or not, and I’m about 50/50 on it. But until Season 3 comes along and we learn otherwise, I’m in total mourning.
Pain scale: 10 out of 10. Probably because it’s so fresh, so unexpected, and he’s a sweet nerd boy who shouldn’t have died. But he’s a hero in my book.
The Rogue One Crew in Rogue One
The sacrifice: Virtually all the members of the Rogue One crew are killed on Scarif in their attempt to steal the Death Star plans.
So even though I said I didn’t want to include military sacrifices, this one is a bit different, in that the Rogue One crew were, well, rogue. They all made a clear decision to disobey orders, go to Scarif on their own to do what they could, without any expectation of back up. They didn’t necessarily choose to die in the moment–their lives were just taken from them–but they had a pretty good idea that they probably wouldn’t be coming back from this mission, or at least, that chances were low of coming out alive. But they chose to go anyway, and that’s why I’ve included it here.
Pain scale: 8 out of 10. I figured several of them wouldn’t make it out alive, but ALL of them??? I loved them all, but to see even Cassian and Jyn waiting for the blast of the Death Star to consume them….it hurt. Knowing they accomplished their mission and that cursed space station was doomed helped a little bit.
Leia in The Rise of Skywalker
Let’s not forget that Leia, still recovering from her unscheduled space-walk in TLJ, gave up the last of her life force to reach her son across the galaxy. I think it was more a personal need to try to reach her son one last time, rather than sacrifice her life to save anybody, but it turned out she did save Rey from Kylo Ren.
Pain scale: 6 out of 10.
Val from Solo: A Star Wars Story
Okay, so this one isn’t in service for a greater good. They were stealing coaxium from the Empire for Dryden Vos. But I was impressed how Val didn’t hesitate to press that button when her crew was in trouble. Unfortunately, the mission didn’t end well and she died for nothing.
Pain scale: 2 out of 10.
Paz Viszla in The Mandalorian
In the latest installment of The Mandalorian, Paz Viszla, a member of the Children of the Watch, sacrifices himself to try to save his people from Moff Gideon and the Imperials. It takes a whole squad of beskar-plated stormtroopers and three Praetorian Guards to kill him, the guy’s such a big brute. And perhaps there’s a bit of redemption in his sacrifice for the Viszla family, as Pre Viszla (from the Clone Wars, and maybe his father?) was the leader of Death Watch. I appreciate his sacrifice and am saddened, but his disposition didn’t go far to endear him to me, lol.
Pain scale: 3 out of 10.
Did I miss any obvious ones? I couldn’t think of any from the Prequels, what do you think? Whose sacrifice hurt you the most? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!