13 Saddest Star Wars Deaths, Ranked
All living beings must go to the Cosmic Force. Since childhood, Jedi carried the mantra of “There is no death, there is the Force.” Although Jedi Master Yoda once preached that someone passing on is a cause for rejoicing, he’s still no match for the floodgates of sorrow. Death may be a natural part of a life cycle, but that doesn’t make it fair, especially premature ones brought by galactic injustices.
Because a space fantasy must have stakes and heartbreak, “Star Wars” is rife with despair and an incalculable body count. With plenty of tissues handy, /Film takes some pain to document the saddest onscreen “Star Wars” deaths, examining the weight of the characters’ lives and sacrifices, and the aftermath of their demise. This collection contains a mountain of emotional losses across several eons, from the prequel to the sequel trilogy, from live-action to animation. May the Force be with them.
Leia Organa — The Rise Of Skywalker
With no other option, “The Rise of Skywalker” has General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) stagger off to die in her sleep, toward Force ghost immortality, to reach her fallen son, Ben Solo (Adam Driver). I designate it at the bottom because while it’s meaningful enough, the circumstances can’t do justice for our princess-slash-general. If Leia suddenly embracing her mortality with a tacked-on motive (to save Kylo Ren) feels rushed, reductive, and underdeveloped in a crowded “The Rise of Skywalker,” you arguably would be right.
Sadly, this expedited closure for Leia has to do with Fisher’s tragic untimely passing in 2016, thus scrapping her future Jedi role. This left the final product to insert General Organa’s image from unreleased “The Force Awakens” footage. Leia’s entrance into the Cosmic Force sends ripples of grief among her Resistance, who promise to carry her torch. Leia’s sacrifice can be appreciated, just as it makes us pine for what could have been. We lost the chance to give Fisher more of the stars.
Clone 99 — The Clone Wars (Season 3, Episode 2)
Bred on Kamino alongside thousands of clone brothers, the Kaminoans deemed Clone 99 (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) defective and cast him aside as a janitor. He yearned for a battlefield assignment since it’s the biggest indicator of purpose and status for clone soldiers, so he lived a life with more social limitations than others. One of his few joys is rooting on the sidelines for the underdog Domino Squad to graduate. He also teaches Hevy to be grateful for his squadmates.
Although 99 may have been resigned to his fate, it ended up being an advantage against the Separatist attacks on Tipoca City. He assumes the important role of guiding young clones to safety and passing weaponry to the defense. Before the droids shoot him down, he can reassure himself, “This is what I was bred for.” To him, running into gunfire grants him a long-overdue purpose, giving weight to his sacrifice. He dies doing his best for the clones. Later, “The Bad Batch” Season 2 finale “Plan 99” signifies that a sacrifice must be made for the good of the soldiers, even if it breaks their hearts.
If 99 had survived the Clone Wars and seen the Empire’s era, he may have had the privilege of asking the harder question: Does he even want to be a soldier?
Tech — The Bad Batch (Season 2, Episode 16)
As the brains of the mutated Clone Force 99, Tech (voiced by Baker) also did not know a life with options. If he’s given a directive, he just follows it. While bred with intellectual enhancements, he had a difficult time with social interactions. While rather minor in the first season, Season 2 saw him mature in his understanding of the galaxy, his parenthood with the younger Omega (Michelle Ang), and the thrill of podracing. For a clone soldier who has only known war, his possibilities could only grow from there.
But the Season 2 finale gives him a cruel fate — on a dangerous mission, he dangles from an air-cable transport. The sequence proves horrible through the eyes of his siblings: Wrecker steps forward, but the transport groans beneath his weight, while Omega screams for him. Tech knows that rescue is out of the equation. As he cuts the line, he delivers his final words, “When have we ever followed orders?”
Fans have cooked up fresh theories about Tech’s hypothetical survival. But there is such a slim margin of possibility that this can be considered a death, plus it’s a solid story decision to raise the stakes for his Bad Batch siblings. Heartbreaking enough it flew onto this list.
Kuiil — The Mandalorian (Season 1, Episode 7)
“The Mandalorian” ensures our attachment to the ugnaught Kuiil (Nick Nolte), since he is one of the first unambiguously kind faces to the eponymous gruff Mandalorian in Season 1. On Arvala-7, he helps the armored Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) ride a blurgg, teaches the bounty hunter to communicate with Jawas, and repairs his ship.
The series fleshed out his interiorities as a survivor of war who works for his own peace and comfort. Although a man of practical transactions, Kuiil takes hospitality seriously and performs goodness for no profit. He sees Grogu’s safety as paramount to his values because he does not want anyone else to go through Imperial servitude. “The Reckoning” ends on a rude suspenseful note when the Imperials shoot him down. While the Season 1 finale had to rapidly move on from mourning him, Kuiil’s cliffhanger death hit hard because he was a kind helper who contrasted with the typical aggressions in Mando’s professional world. Kuiil deserved to continue his retirement, but we understand he was glad to give his life for Grogu. What makes Kuiil’s legacy count is that Djarin inherited a sense of sociability from Kuiil, which proves meaningful when Djarin interacts with ugnaughts in Season 3.
Kanan Jarrus — Rebels (Season 4, Episode 10)
Across four seasons of “Star Wars Rebels,” Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) was an insecure Padawan raising a Padawan, Ezra Bridger (voiced by Taylor Grey). He also was the Spectre-1 to Spectre-2 Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall), the Twi’lek pilot he loved. What made him appealing was that his professional confidence also belied his anxieties. Because Order 66 stole his temple home and his master, Depa Bilalba, his Jedi education to knighthood was unfinished.
When Kanan receives a Force-vision that the Lothal cause may involve his own sacrifice, he faces it with dignity. He cuts his hair to embrace his Jedi heritage as Caleb Dume, his original name. Then, he saves Hera from the Imperials. After their final kiss, he unleashes his powers to delay a cataclysmic explosion so the Ghost can escape on time. The grandiosity of his gesture lands his sacrifice as one of the most gutwrenching demises.
The staging also throws in a heartbreaking close-up of Hera gazing into his teal eyes. His sacrifice demonstrates that the grieving process bleeds like a lasting wound since it took a few episodes for Ezra to move on. Kanan’s legacy (and eyes) lives on in his progeny, Jacen Syndulla.
Han Solo — The Force Awakens
Harrison Ford has long begged for Han Solo, his iconic smuggler character, to be killed off. Almost thrashed by a Wookiee, sucked into the maelstrom of the Kessel Run, and then frozen in carbonate in Jabba’s palace, Han made it his living to dodge death (and debtors) his entire life. Ford got his wish in the sequel trilogy when Solo became the first of the original cast members to go in “The Force Awakens.’
The betrayal was inflicted by Han’s own legacy, Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren. When he confronts his son, it’s staged in a way that grants both Han and the audience false hope. Kylo appears to surrender his lightsaber to his father’s grip, only to seem to change his mind and literally ignite it through Han’s broken heart. The first part of their confrontation is executed with none of John Williams’ score, setting the dread ahead. Even if you can predict the tragic outcome of a failed reconciliation, the heartache is no less painful. If you unpack Ford’s anguish, Han spends his last seconds holding his son’s face, as if to say, “Still worth it.”
Paige Tico — The Last Jedi
Luke Skywalker is not the only rebel who pulled off a one-in-a-million act. A Resistance bomber, Paige Tico (Veronica Ngo) had the odds stacked against her. Only, she didn’t get to live beyond it. She lived onscreen for less than 5 minutes, yet her loss is no less devastating because director Rian Johnson’s screenplay chooses to emphasize her smallness. The short amount of time spent with her underscores the tragedy of other anonymous rebels who gave their lives for freedom, and we learn about her posthumously through her surviving sister, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran).
The scenario does not gloss over the high pressures of her final mission. First, her ship becomes the last remaining bomber. She nearly plummets to her death before harnessing her final energy to kick metal beams in the mere hope that the detonator remote can fall toward her. The slow motion underscores how she was inches away from missing it. “The Last Jedi” captures her anxiety and then her peaceful expression as the explosion swallows her. When she clutches her crescent moon necklace to pray, we realize that she carried an untold history. Just as Fives might symbolize all the unnamed clones, Paige stands ins for all the unknown rebels who gave their lives.
Fives — The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 4)
Any clone’s death must be accounted for, but this one is a particular case because he seems to symbolize every expendable soldier (including the ones above). Fives (voiced by Baker) is someone that the Republic would easily underestimate. Yet, he’s willing to go all out to save his friend Tup from a mysterious brain disease that drove him to shoot the Jedi. The result is that Fives nearly uncovers the Order 66 directive, and his efforts ripple out to save the lives of his brothers. Tragically, not all of them.
Palpatine made sure to manipulate Fives by drugging him and admitting everything in private. By the time Fives is screaming out the truth, his fellow clones and Jedi disbelieve him and question his sanity. But if anything, his anxiety is a rational reaction to the outrageous facts. Composer Kevin Kiner sets Fives’ death to a tragic chorus as an ironic sendoff, underscoring Fives’ horror at the conspiracy and the peace of him not living to lose his will entirely to the brain chip (“The nightmares … they’re finally over,” he mutters as he dies). All the more heartless, his arc bookends with Palpatine spinning a lie about Fives’ madness. By bearing witness to Fives’ truth and the deception of his oppressor, he underlines how the galaxy-wide narrative erased clone soldiers’ hardships.
Rogue One — Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Luke couldn’t have shot down the Death Star without Rogue One. These six scrappy rebels deserve to be honored as a sextet. Named for an improvised call sign, Rogue One is made of ragtag rebels: the reluctant Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a hardened Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), the easygoing warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), mercenary Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and Andor’s snarky ex-Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk).
Unlike the cleaner unity witnessed in the original trilogy, Rogue One comprises a complex spectrum of heroes with varying degrees of self-interest and selflessness. Jyn’s desire to do right by her captive father clashes with Andor’s morally gray directive to assassinate him. Baze only tags along to protect his friend. As for Bodhi, he seems a little surprised with himself when he’s useful to the Rebellion. K-2SO is here only because Andor told him to. To denote the harshness of war, Bodhi’s and K-2SO’s respective demises are quick and lonely. The remaining four are lucky not to die alone. Chirrut and Baze perish close to each other. As for Jyn and Cassian, they get to watch a final sunset together.
Rogue One’s sacrifice aligns with the proverb, “Blessed is he who plants trees under whose shade he will never sit.” If they ensure that someone else in the galaxy will live to see another sunset, so be it.
Maul — Rebels (Season 3, Episode 20)
Maul is a notorious cockroach. You can’t kill the Sith apprentice. Not even when Obi-Wan Kenobi bisects his body (played by Ray Park) and then the torso falls into a deep pit. Yet, the power of his hatred and Dathomir Force-magick kept him alive in the animated series “The Clone Wars.” Not only is the Zabrak metal as Hell, but he’s also a walking tragedy who has been manipulated and betrayed by his master, Darth Sidious. Because of Sam Witwer’s chilly and pained voice performance as the animated Maul, you can’t help but pity his motives because he doesn’t know any better. Perhaps a better upbringing would have guided Maul on a different path. That poignancy places it high on the list.
So when Maul meets his end by Kenobi’s blade in “Rebels” Season 3, the exiled Jedi gives the fallen Sith something he didn’t think he needed: hope. When Kenobi says he was guarding the possible Chosen One to defeat Darth Sidious, Maul accepts that as the last possibility of justice for his suffering, murmuring, “He will avenge us.” Us is such a key word, perhaps referencing Maul’s grief for his brother Savage Opress, but also extending to Kenobi. This death is a profound addition to this ranking because we aren’t given the fancy and gnarly flashes of lightsabers in “The Phantom Menace.” We just see a flicker of understanding between two adversaries.
Anakin Skywalker — Return Of The Jedi
Creator George Lucas spent three films understanding that Anakin Skywalker’s corruption into the dark side was driven by a relatable fear of loss. In turn, his actions created incalculable grief throughout the stars.
His expression weary and free of his weighty Sith mask, Anakin’s (Sebastian Shaw as Vader unmasked) death closes out the original trilogy on a poignant note for the character and Luke Skywalker. Anakin does not die as Darth Vader, but as himself and a dutiful Jedi, thus living up to the “Return of the Jedi” title. Seeing his son reject the dark side and be at Darth Sidious’ mercy was too much for the father. He finally re-accessed the good that dwelled inside of him. Although Vader may have claimed to have killed Anakin, Anakin had finally conquered him.
It would be the first and last time father and son made proper eye contact. Luke’s reconciliation with him and a funeral pyre gave his bones and spirits some closure. Harsher hindsight did follow Anakin’s ghost. In Claudia Gray’s “Bloodline” novel, his daughter, Leia Organa, felt deep conflict about his war crimes and his possible good intentions. Much of his legacy remains unamendable.
Luke Skywalker — The Last Jedi
Inflaming controversy within the “Star Wars” fandom, the once-optimistic Luke Skywalker did not age gracefully as he sprouted the Kenobi-style silver beard in “The Last Jedi.” He did not grow into the paragon of a wise mentor or an awesome Jedi. Sequestered on Ahch-To, he is so broken, resentful, and disillusioned that young trainee Rey (Daisy Ridley) is unimpressed by his self-loathing. He effectively drained out his idealism to mope over his mistakes.
But director Rian Johnson was aware this would only sweeten the impact of Luke’s sacrifice and revival of his Jedi duties. When he finally accepts that he can move on from past screw-ups, Luke conjures up a dazzling trick of Force projection to save the remaining Resistance and his sister Leia. His face blotchy and weathered, he savors the sight of the twin suns, bookending his journey in the mortal realm. The long shot observing his body’s disappearance suggested that he became one with the light. It’s a poignant sendoff for an icon, a Jedi and human being who had to learn to feel worthy of the sunlight again.
Maarva — Andor (Season 1, Episode 11)
The widowed adoptive mother of Cassian Andor, Maarva (Fiona Shaw) made the most of her final moments to leave behind a beacon for Ferrix. She knows the planet has sunk into despondency as the Imperials march down their streets. Later, her ultimate choice to stay on Ferrix (turning away Andor’s newfound windfall) is a defiance of complacency.
This list has honored extraordinary battlefield sacrifices, but Maarva’s choice to grow old and die on Ferrix is such an understated loss. The camera respectfully avoids showing us Maarva’s final death throes, and “Andor” focuses on her passing through the eyes of her loved ones. In a bit of unorthodox camerawork, we’re first taken into the point-of-view of her droid, eavesdropping on bereaved neighbors. Inconsolable, the droid quakes, as if Ferrix is thundering with seismic shifts that foreshadow its awakening. Her final holo message, glowing like a proud ghost, rouses her people to fight the Empire. A Daughter of Ferrix, she’s no princess, no admiral, no Jedi. She’s simply an ordinary community elder who looked out for her people. As she relays in her will, the dead will lift you.
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