Throughout it’s life, Star Wars has wowed audiences over and over again. It pulled at heart strings and showed us thing never before seen in movie history. This latter category is what Star Wars did best. George Lucas pushed the envelope in every way possible when it came to shooting his movies. He pioneered cinematic visuals and the boundaries of story telling like no one before him. There are so many moments that stick out, I thought we could look at the Top 8 Jaw Dropping Moments from the entire Star Wars saga, and two moments that should have made it on the list but didn’t.

This list will be in chronological order as everyone will see importance differently. Let’s take a look first at the two big moments that should be on this list but didn’t quite make it.

(If you’re reading this and haven’t watched the Star Wars Saga, shame on you, go do it, and then come back, because Spoilers Be Ahead)

The Honorable Jaw-Dropping Mentions

#1 – Death of Qui-Gonn Jinn

the death of Qui-Gonn
A Secret Poorly Kept

In every way imaginable this moment should have made the list. When George Lucas first announced his return to Star Wars with The Phantom Menace, one of the biggest announcements came from the new Liam Neeson would play a Jedi Master. Even back then Liam Neeson was not only a name, but carried a screen presence that made fans salivate with delight. Since then the character of Qui-Gonn sits as one of the key figures in not only Anakin’s life but the evolution of the Jedi. Qui-Gonn not only finds Anakin and introduces him to the galaxy, but he achieves the first cross over from the netherworld of the Force.

So why was his death not on this list? Quite simply, someone in marketing screwed up. In the pre-release hype of merchandise and the corporate need to flood the market, someone forgot to proof read the soundtrack list. One of the tracks was titled ‘Qui-Gonn’s Noble End’. Before the movie even hit theaters, we knew Qui-Gonn’s fate. Hence today’s practice of not releasing books and soundtracks until several weeks after opening night.

#2 – Death of Han Solo

Han Solo dies
Telegraphing the blow

Han Solo’s exploits and adventures fed the Star Wars fandom for 37 years. Fans love him and his scoundrel ways as much as anyone in the Star Wars universe, so why would his murder at the hands of his son not make a jaw dropping moments list? Harrison Ford.

I am not talking emotions, although a couple moments on the list are emotional. This event for many was an event telegraphed over 35 years ago. For those who do not know the story, the events leading to Han Solo’s carbonization in Empire Strikes Back had nothing to do with great story telling. George Lucas could not guarantee Ford’s return for RotJ. Harrison adamantly wanted to walk away from Star Wars. He thought Han’s story needed to end and he wanted to be killed off. Han being frozen allowed Lucas to go either way with his next movie.

Harrison wanting to be killed and wanting nothing to do with Star Wars for the better part of 30 years led many to speculate one thing. There was no way Harrison would return for Episode VII without being killed off once and for all. Han Solo’s death was all but locked up, taking away most of the impact of the scene. Instead of wondering what would happen, most fans were going ‘This is it. This is it.”

Now, on to the list.

Top 8 Jaw Dropping Moments

Jaw Dropping Moment #1 – Out of the Mists

Mists of Naboo
From the mists, CGI Greatness

George stopped Star Wars after Return of the Jedi for one major reason. As incredible and ground breaking as the special effects were, they were still not where George wanted them to continue his story. When Jurassic Park released he knew it was time. CGI gave George the tools he wanted.

To understand why this moment of all moments made the list is because it had never been done before. When that first teaser trailer dropped, this shot became the first shot of a Star Wars film since 1983. Gungans riding Eopies out of the mist broke visual effects ground. At the time there was no cooler shot in all of cinematic history! While it looks like nothing in today’s world, it opened the door to the cinematic breakthroughs for years to come.

Jaw Dropping Moment #2 – An Explosion of Silence

seismic blast
Guitar chord of destruction

Attack of the Clones may be at the bottom of nearly everyone’s worst Star Wars movies, but again it pushed visual boundaries beyond known achievements. We watched space fights in Star Wars before, and each space fight grew larger than the last. Why would two ships zipping through an asteroid field be note worthy? After all we saw a similar scene take place back in 1980. Thanks to some ingenious editing and sound editing we experienced one hell of a scene.

Jango releases a seismic charge. Okay, its a bomb. We have seen those before so this should be no big deal, but not so fast. Instead of a boom and an explosion, we see an explosion followed by a second of silence. Then a sound like a guitar chord blasts through the theater speakers. The combination of silence and unique sound gave us one of the most memorable explosions in all of Star Wars.

Jaw Dropping Moment #3 – Yoda Drops a Stick

Yoda fights back
The Master Returns

AotC gave us not only a memorable explosion, but a first fans had been waiting 22 years to see. Keep in mind this too was a visual effects first at the time.

In 1980 we met an aged and wizened Jedi Master who walked the galaxy for almost 900 years. Through outside lore we learned Yoda was once the greatest of Jedi Masters, but as magnificent as Frank Oz’s performance made the little puppet, we could never see him fight – until now. Word leaked during production that Yoda would take on a CGI form for AotC. Fans interest peaked at hearing this, but then the rumor slipped out that we would see the great Jedi Master in action.

No one thought this possible, and we could scarcely believe it, but I will NEVER forget this scene as it played out on the big screen for the first time. Yoda and Dooku engage in a little contest of the force. The battle looked cool enough, but then it happened. The theater goes deathly quiet because they know whats coming. Yoda pulls aside his cloak like a gunslinger and out flies his lightsaber. As the green blade snapped to life the entire theater erupted into the largest round of cheering and applause I had ever heard (save maybe the opening credits of The Phantom Menace). The likes of Yoda fighting against a live human had never been done before that moment.

Jaw Dropping Moment #4 – Vader Says Hello

Vader attacks
Embodiment of Fear

Rogue One suffered many reports of disarray and disorganization before its release would prove its excellence, but one rumor received a lot of bashing before it too proved its greatness.

During the production of Rogue One, many fans talked about how this film would be the first Star Wars film to not have Jedi or lightsabers. Then rumor leaked that Darth Vader would surface in the film. Many boo’d the choice, seeing it as an act of desperation to make the film relevant. Creators simply wanted garner fan support after all the bad press it received.

Instead, fans watched rebel troopers turn from a stuck hatch and prepare to fight whatever just boarded them. Mechanical breathing and then a beam of red light illuminates fear incarnate. The blood bath and absolute slaughter that ensues made fans skin crawl in both amazement and adoration. Never before had such brutality taken place in Star Wars. Never before had Star Wars fans been so ecstatic.

Jaw Dropping Moment #5 – A Father Falls

Ben makes a choice
A decision

In 1977 George Lucas released a disaster of a film. The creatures in it were incomplete. Special effect overran their budget and fell way behind schedule and the film itself did not see a final edit until the last possible moment. This train wreck of a film went on to do what had never been done before and showed movie goers sights from only the deepest depths of the imagination, but above all it spun a tale of ancient folklore and myth.

We follow an orphaned boy as he brutally loses his aunt and uncle. Luke quickly latches onto Ben as both a teacher and father figure. As Luke takes his place in this larger galaxy, we all believe he will grow strong in the force and win the day because of his wise father/mentor. Then it happens. Ben engages his old student in our first lightsaber fight. As our heroes dash for the Falcon, Ben does the unthinkable. With a squad of stormtroopers between him and the ship and still engaged with Vader, he knew his path was blocked. With an all-knowing smirk the unthinkable happens. Ben lets Vader cut him down!

In today’s world it no big deal. We have Game of Thrones after all, but this was pre-1980’s. Optimus Prime hadn’t died. Artax still roamed the grassy plains running after the purple buffalo. Family films did not kill main characters like this (Old Yeller doesn’t count). The shock Luke felt watching his father figure and mentor die before him echoed through the audience.

Jaw Dropping Moments #6 – What’s on the North Ridge?!

AT-ATs close in
We’ve spotted Imperial Walkers

Fans reeled from the amazing experience A New Hope gave them, so how could Lucas possibly top it? The answer was quite simple. The Empire approaches Echo Base when the call goes out – Imperial Walkers on the North Ridge. What comes next really only compared to two other movie at the time.

For those of you who grew up post-OT, go back and look up how creator Phil Tippet and his crew created the giant walkers, and keep in mind this all happened pre-CGI. Stop motion filming came about in the 1850’s, but rarely did filmmakers use it directly with Live action. The only notable film to pioneer this process was the 1933 King Kong with Fey Wray. Clash of the Titans in 1981 followed in Empire’s path. The plate work and tricks used to shoot the Imperial Walker scenes blew movie goers minds.

Jaw Dropping Moment #7 – Obi-Wan Killed Your Father!

Vader tells a secret
Join me…

George scoured legend, myth and fable to create the Star Wars mythos. What he created inspired story teller for generations, and gave plenty for philosophers like Joseph Campbell plenty to digest. What Lucas did in Empire defined story telling and the art of the ‘surprise plot twist’ forever.

As the story goes the line used on set was Obi-Wan killed your father, but what movie goers experienced was a secret only four people knew – George Lucas, Irvin Kirshner, Mark Hamill and James Earl Jones. With the absence of the internet, the secret stayed hidden until release, and even then people were hesitant to spoil it for others. I remember leaving the theater as a boy in tears because, as Luke said “That’s not true. That’s impossible!” While most of the jaw dropping moments have involved visual effects, there is no way this revelation could be left off the list.

Jaw Dropping Moment #8 – Hope From Hopelessness

Holdo maneuver
First we crack the shell…

The problems with the sequel trilogy are long and distinguished (fill in the rest Top Gun fans), and while the problems abound, one jaw dropping moment did come from them. Not only that but it comes from everyone’s most beloved director – Rian Johnson. Of course the moment I speak of becomes known as ‘The Holdo Maneuver’.

As our heroes race for the surface of Crait, the First Order fleet picks off the shuttles one by one. Holdo watches in despair as they vanish over and over. She controls a Mon Cal Cruiser Raddus at her command, but what could one cruiser do against the First Order fleet? The answer not only showed extremely creative thinking, but once again showed a magnificence of editing and sound use.

The camera jumps between scenes as Holdo turns the ship. Through each scene we hear the whine of the engines spooling up for the jump, and then Holdo pulls back the hyperdrive lever. We see the Raddus jump to lightspeed, and then, in total silence a bright light rips through the First Order fleet, destruction spreading out in a cone. It’s not until the camera pulls back that we hear the explosions. The scene mirrors the seismic charges from AotC, but on a much larger scale. The move and its effects left audiences jaws on the floor.

There we have the top 8 jaw dropping moments throughout the Star Wars story (plus 2 almosts). What moments that weren’t mentioned made your jaws drop?