If you’re like us, then you’ve watched the Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A lot. So many times in fact that you can probably now recite the exact degree of gruffness that Harrison Ford sprinkles into his reluctant confession: it’s true, all of it. The Dark Side, the Jedi, they’re real.
Yet the implication of this scruffy-looking scoundrel’s earnestness is even more grave: “Bow down kiddies and worship Old Man Solo, because this Mr. Fancy Pants has saved the galaxy a half dozen times over!” And indeed he has. But we’re not here to honor Han, Luke, or Princess Leia. They’ve already gotten their medals and promotions to the top brass.
No, it’s time to focus on the Star Wars heroes who don’t get enough love. The ones who saved the galaxy and made the difference in inches to put Han, Luke, and Leia’s battle in the “W” column, but didn’t receive any sniveling, Olympic ceremony/prize pack for their troubles. This list is about those underdogs who’ve gone unsung for far too long—and who perhaps also deserve to have a reformed Stormtrooper and a starry-eyed scavenger asking them about their glory days as big damn heroes. Because they’re just that!
***Special Note: Like Disney, we’re only counting if it happens in the movies. These are the heroes who proved their worth on the indisputably canonical big screen and got stiffed for the effort.
This Rebel Alliance working stiff doesn’t ever get any respect. Oh sure, he became Rogue Leader by the time of Return of the Jedi, but at that point, nobody even cared enough about Rogue Squadron to let him do his thing without middle management peering over his shoulder. In the third part of the Original Star Wars Trilogy, Wedge constantly has Admiral Ackbar (who we’ll get to in a minute) in his ear. While the Rebels shrugged when Luke Skywalker turned off his targeting computer in Star Wars, Wedge got zero autonomy and even less praise for destroying the second Death Star’s exhaust port thingy.
Also, I’m aware that Wedge is a major character in the literature and video game Expanded Universe, but Disney wiped all that away when they bought Lucasfilm for a reason—if it doesn’t happen in a movie, it doesn’t count. And thus Wedge is always destined to have a cinematic legacy of pure apathy…even though he saved Luke Skywalker’s bacon in Star Wars when he got that TIE fighter off his back and then actually brought down an AT-AT without getting his snowspeeder shot down like that Skywalker putz did in The Empire Strikes Back.
Are we sure that Luke is the one who uses the Force?
Another X-Wing pilot who never amounted to more than stardust-fodder to his compatriots is Biggs Darklighter. Unlike Luke Skywalker who had the whole “Rescue the Princess” quest dropped into his lap, Biggs chose his fight. Oh sure, after Stormtroopers gunned down his aunt and uncle, Luke got in on the battle, but essentially it was only by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s guidance and the political disposition of R2-D2 that Luke ended up joining the good fight. If Vader had landed on that planetary-sized sand trap called Tatooine first, chances are that Luke would now have lightning coming out of his fingertips.
But Biggs? Here is a guy who, like Luke Skywalker, grew up in a hellhole and dreamed of joining the Academy. But unlike his crybaby buddy, he actually did it without whining to his uncle about wanting to waste time at Tosche Station. He just up and went to the Academy. And you know what? He discovered this overrated Imperial flight school was bad stuff all on his own and became political due to realizing the partisan virtues of the Rebels’ galactic platform, and not because the first pretty girl who may or may not be his sister batted her eyes at him on an R2 unit’s holographic drive.
So Biggs became a Rebel all on his own and gave his life to save Luke during the Battle of Yavin. And after the hard-earned victory what does his childhood friend do to honor Biggs’ noble sacrifice and memory? Not give a single damn while giggling like a schoolboy with Han and Leia. Of course he does.
The man who was destined to miss. Dreis is like Steven Seagal in Executive Decision. He’s the leader of an elite group of soldiers (pilots, in this case), the most experienced, the man everyone hopes will get the job done. So what does he do? Miss the Death Star exhaust port completely, after minutes of telling us “he’s almost there,” as if taunting the Empire. The most heroic thing he did during the Battle of Yavin is get shot down so that Luke could get a turn.
He’s the Rebel gunner who thought he could take on the whole Empire himself at the Battle of Hoth, words he paid dearly for about 10 minutes later. We honor him for his bravery and his foresight.
[No Bothans pictured above.]
Probably the most overlooked species in all of Star Wars, the Bothans made the ultimate sacrifice, according to Mon Mothma, in order to secure the plans to the Death Star II. They’re only mentioned once in all of Return of the Jedi and are never celebrated or honored. We don’t even know what they look like…
They are fleshed out a bit in Legends canon, of course, and a Bothan even becomes Chief of State of the New Republic at one point. What do we learn about Bothans in the EU? That they’ve turned out to be a bunch of dicks.
Does this guy have a name? Does it matter? He’s Green Leader and he kamikazed his A-Wing right into the bridge, and down the throat of the Empire’s flagship Star Destroyer. The Rebels should have space roads and schools named after him! [John: His name is Arvel Crynyd, David. I’m going to go cry in a corner because I know that.]
Most famous for shouting gibberish at Lando Calrissian during the Battle of Endor, this Sullustan helped the General pilot the Millennium Falcon through a fleet of Star Destroyers and the Death Star II. And he returned in The Force Awakens as a Resistance pilot.
Sigh. This little Ewok helped introduce more Ewoks to Return of the Jedi. These Ewoks then joined the Rebellion and took down the mighty Empire by pelting Stormtroopers with rocks and crushing AT-STs with logs. And then they had the most exclusive Rebel party in the galaxy.
Now, so as to round out the overlooked heroes of the Rebel Alliance, it is high time that Admiral Ackbar gets his overdue salute. Of course, this was a two-way street since he never seemed to praise the resourcefulness of Wedge or Lando Calrissian. Nevertheless, Admiral Ackbar had enough foresight to realize in Return of the Jedi that their still nascent assault on the second Death Star was tactically unsound—or rather that IT’S A TRAP!
Despite facing almost certain suicide, Ackbar both realized the Empire’s scheme without having it spelled out to him by the Emperor (right, Luke?) and still led his starfleet to victory in the battle that decided the Galactic Civil War. Still, you don’t see Han or Leia giving him the time of day in the final Ewok celebration. Maybe if he looked more like a cuddly teddy bear, they wouldn’t treat him like Bantha fodder.
Throughout the entirety of the Star Wars prequels, much and more is made out of how special Queen Padmé Amidala tended to be. And while there is no denying that Padmé has the coolest (and most extravagant) wardrobe in the galaxy (huzzah for space Geishas!), she really does little more to progress the saga than proving to have a terrible choice in men and then subsequently disappointingly dying of “a broken heart.”
In fact, Padmé’s first decoy probably would have been a better queen altogether for Naboo. After all, this planet’s constitution has some twisted logic where all queens are elected teenage girls. Likely due to that very inexperience, Padmé gets played by her manipulative Senator Palpatine with great ease. In contrast, her handmaiden Sabé—played by Natalie Portman doppelganger Keira Knightley—seems to make better command decisions than the actual queen.
Sabé is the one who realizes leaving with the Jedi is prudent (she just has to “ask” her handmaiden for the OK), and she is also the one who truly saves the day when she distracts some Trade Federation morons who managed to capture the real Queen Amidala without breaking a sweat during her not-so-covert palace attack.
Midway through The Phantom Menace, there is a scene where Sabé forces the real and disguised queen to clean up that damaged R2-D2 droid. Surely ordering her royal highness to get her hands greasy was Sabé’s passive aggressive display of genuine contempt (there must have been a handmaiden flogging that night!). But perhaps she thought it was worth the punishment to teach Padmé some common sense—for which we all know R2-D2 is a limitless resource of. Alas, the lesson did not stick given that she thought lil’ Annie’s “I killed them all!” routine was flirting.
Corde suffered a much worse fate than the rest of the handmaidens. She’s the one that got herself blown up during an assassination attempt on Padme’s life right at the beginning of Attack of the Clones. Poor Corde, died doing what she loved.
There are still many more do-gooders in the Prequel Trilogy that are never fully appreciated. Take Mace Windu, the coolest Jedi cat in all of the galaxy. He might be wearing white robes, but this keeper of the peace was as badass as they came, literally willing his lightsaber into the color purple both on and off the screen. And yet while he was Yoda’s most trusted comrade, nobody took him seriously when he saw through Anakin Skywalker’s petulant, sociopathic temper tantrums.
Yoda might have sensed much fear in young Skywalker, but Mace just saw a brat and high security risk that needed to be downsized ASAP. And he was proven right when he told the twerp to stay at the Jedi Temple in Revenge of the Sith while he personally took care of the secret Sith hidden within the senate, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Yep, the man who would be Emperor revealed himself before Mace Windu and cut through three of Mace’s underling Jedi like Jabba the Hutt at a Klatooine paddy frog buffet. But not Mace.
Windu proves once again there’s a reason that the bottom of his lightsaber has the inscription “BMF.” Don’t believe me? Samuel L. Jackson explains right here why George Lucas was super-fly T.N.T. and Guns of the Navarone serious about Mace Windu’s “Bad Motherf***er” bonafides. Which makes his death all the more painful. Mace Windu takes that purple lightsaber and whoops the Emperor’s ass three ways to Sunday, and still Palpatine wins only because Little Orphan Annie has to come and spoil things by thinking, “The evil dude who wants me to kill children is definitely the good guy in this situation! Yep, I’m going to sleep well tonight.”
Despite being the adoptive father of Princess Leia, we don’t actually get to spend a lot of time with Bail Organa. This father of the Rebellion, however, is one of the most underrated characters in all of Star Wars. Indeed, while his anti-Palpatine conspirator in Padmé “loses the will to live” after finding out Anakin met his inevitable douchebag destiny, Bail Organa didn’t. He even adopted one of Padmé’s children who she apparently couldn’t be bothered to persevere for.
Additionally, Organa also reacted aggressively to the rise of Palpatine. Unlike anyone else on all of Coruscant, Organa saw the Jedi Temple was on fire and showed up ready to help (unlike, I suppose, the Galactic Fire Department). He also smuggled Yoda off the planet while scheming future heroics that would eventually result in the destruction of his planet and people. In retrospect, why couldn’t the Prequels be about him?
I know what you are thinking right now: “Count Dooku was a Sith.” Technicalities! Count Dooku also was far more honest than Ben “What I Told You Was True from a Certain Point of View” Kenobi or the “Simple Hermit I Am” Yoda. In Attack of the Clones, Dooku straight up tells Obi-Wan that a Sith has infiltrated the Senate and plans to take over the galaxy. Additionally, Dooku plans to lead the Separatists in a war that will expose this Phantom Menace.
Granted, it was later revealed that Dooku was in cahoots with Palpatine all along, but that is just another meager flaw of George Lucas’ writing. It would have been so much more gratifying if the Jedi were simply on the wrong side of the war and didn’t realize that Dooku was right all along. Alas, Lucas had to simplify it by having Palpatine and Dooku playing both sides of a civil war like a fiddle… unless of course, Dooku was not working for Palpatine.
Consider for a moment that Dooku revealed the threat of the Phantom Menace to Obi-Wan by his own volition, and Obi-Wan just unwisely chose to ignore him. Next, realize that Dooku attempted to spare the lives of all the Jedi in the arena, but Mace Windu refused to surrender. Dooku also knew of Palpatine’s secret clone army and thus took an excruciatingly long time to “execute” Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padmé.
That’s because, in actuality, he was stalling until the clones could show up and save the heroes and Jedi. Perhaps Dooku was also telling the truth about wishing to overthrow Palpatine? That is why Palpatine convinced weak willed Anakin to kill his protégé. Eventually, Dooku would have killed the Sith and saved the day, but as per usual, Darth Pouty-Face had to screw things up. Again.
Undoubtedly, Lando Calrissian is the most prominent humanoid name featured on this list. But that does not mean he isn’t undervalued. Sure, he was a major character in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but this doesn’t mean he got his due.
Consider that despite getting to dance with the teddy bear army at the end of Return of the Jedi, Lando is the only character in that final parting shot not invited back for The Force Awakens. Next, please realize that everyone treated Lando like a Nerf Herder for doing his job.
As Administrator of Cloud City, Lando had major responsibilities to more than just an old friend who swindled him out of a pink slip to the Millennium Falcon. He was also entrusted with the safety and security of millions of residents who the Empire—fresh off blowing up a whole planet—would gladly incinerate in order to get their hands on Young Skywalker. So Lando might have made a deal with the devil, but he also saved the lives of millions in the process.
Of course, even after pulling Leia and Chewie out of Imperial custody, he gets thanked with two furry hands around his throat. And then after redeeming his treachery by saving Han’s life from Jabba’s Palace, he is still treated like a second class citizen next to Han, Luke, and Leia. Maybe if he made out with his sister, he’d be allowed to hang out with the cool kids full-time?
Oh, Chewie, Chewie, Chewie. Undoubtedly, there are some readers who would be quick to point out that Chewbacca is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe. He’s so respected in fact that he was brought back for a meaningless cameo in Revenge of the Sith and enjoyed a hearty role in The Force Awakens.
Yet, if Chewie is so valuable, where is his freaking medal? Despite being the one to convince Han Solo to turn his reluctant butt around and save the day in Star Wars, this trusted soldier of the Rebellion was only allowed to walk up the steps with Luke and Han, and then passively look on as they took turns winking at the princess. Chewbacca was just as integral in flying the Millennium Falcon back in time to save Skywalker as Captain Solo, and he is treated as little more than a glorified pet.
Chewie isn’t yelling for the audience to applaud this disgrace. He’s shouting, “This is Bantha fodder!” No medal, no representation.
Of course, this was later retconned in Marvel’s Chewbacca miniseries. It was revealed that he HAD been given a medal after all. Perhaps behind the scenes when no one was looking. But it was too little too late. Chewie gave his medal away at the end of Chewbacca!
So who did we leave out in our ranking of the most underappreciated Star Wars heroes from the film series? Tell us in the comments.
John Saavedra and David Crow, also known as the Wachowskis of bad Star Wars jokes, are associate editors at Den of Geek US.