Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is unlike any other movie in the franchise. It’s meant to be a gritty war film about the men and women on the battlefield, the Rebel heroes who have to rely on their combat skills, courage, wit, and a bit of luck to defeat the evil Empire. In Rogue One, protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her squad of mercenaries go up against the overwhelming Imperial war machine in order to steal the Death Star plans that will prove to be instrumental in the Rebellion’s first major victory in the Galactic Civil War. It still remains to be seen whether they’ll all live to tell the tale.
Of course, Jyn and her team don’t make up the bulk of the Rebel Alliance. There are plenty of other soldiers, pilots, and leaders fighting to free the galaxy from the Empire, and we meet many of them in the Original Trilogy movies, the books, and the comics.
While Rogue One opened up a new view into the Rebellion, we’ve got a who’s who of the rebel heroes that made Star Wars a saga for the ages. We’re only covering the canon Rebel characters in this list:
The “Big Three” of Star Wars are household names for a reason. Luke grew from a humble farm boy to a powerful and compassionate Jedi. His story has become so well-known that it seems cliche, but not everyone remembers the things that make it special. Luke was driven by his call to adventure – he wanted to get to space, and was determined to join the Imperial Academy, not the Rebellion, in order to do it. When he found himself thrown into the Rebellion, though, Luke’s principles guided him. He values his friends more than he values himself or his own ambitions, and while his role as a military pilot and Jedi are invaluable to the Rebellion, he’s also the principled heart of the movement.
If Luke is the heart of the Rebellion, Leia is the strong hand. Raised by royalty, Leia was more interested in hand-to-hand combat than in learning to govern. Her take-charge attitude carried her through the Galactic Civil War. Even before she ended up on the front lines after acquiring the Death Star plans, her take-charge, strong-headed attitude came to the fore when she worked on delivering Rebel starships to Lothal. Leia was instrumental in escaping the Death Star and bringing the battle station plans to the Rebellion, as well as coordinating the attack that destroyed the superweapon. Leia finally got to use her diplomacy – of a sort – when it came to making peace with the Ewoks, and when she inspired the survivors of Alderaan to band together after the planet’s destruction in her solo comic.
Of all of the heroes of the Rebellion, Han was one of the most unexpected, to both himself and the people around him. Han made his own way in life after the rise of the Empire. He ducked under the eye of the regime, both because he saw a profit in delivering contraband and because of his own history with the fascist government. Rescuing Chewbacca, a hero in his own right, put Han on the track that led him to the Rebellion. Han brought an essential humor and rough charm to the Original Trilogy, and will continue to do so in his upcoming Star Wars solo film.
Where Han Solo goes, Chewbacca goes. There’s no doubt that Chewie is the greatest Wookie hero in the galaxy, in no small part due to his courage, his skill in battle, and the powerful bowcaster that he uses to mow down stormtroopers. Chewbacca was a formidable warrior even before he joined the Rebellion. The Wookie first fought alongside Yoda and the Clone Army when the Separatists invaded his homeworld of Kashyyyk. While there’s no doubt that this lovable Wookie is fierce in a fight, for a long time, it seemed as if Chewbacca had been snubbed from the recognition he deserved as a Rebel hero, especially after it looked like he didn’t get a medal after the Battle of Yavin. Of course, it was later revealed in his solo comic from Marvel that Chewbacca did indeed receive a medal.
Although Lando’s introduction to the Rebellion was full of surprises and altered deals, he became a critical member of the Rebellion’s military arm. Before heading the charge in the attack on the second Death Star, Lando tried to keep his business on Cloud City standing while doing deals with the Empire. When Darth Vader used Lando’s facility to torture Han and trap Luke and Leia, Lando took matters into his own hands and helped rescue Luke and Leia. For his courage on Cloud City, Lando was awarded the rank of general in the Rebel Alliance. In the recent Marvel comics series, we got to se Lando pull off an ambitious heist and run into some mind-controlling Sith artifacts.
The galaxy’s newest hero is also one of the most important. The down-to-earth Jyn Erso will be introduced to us in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Although she didn’t originally plan on joining the Rebellion, Jyn found her way much in the same way Luke did. Mon Mothma brought Jyn into the Rebellion not because Jyn was a hero, but because of her history: Jyn had a criminal record and a connection to Galen Erso, her father and the lead scientist on the Death Star super laser plan. We don’t know much about Jyn yet, but it looks like she has both practical skills and a belief that hope will win the day.
Wedge Antilles has always gone under the radar – and that’s not some kind of X-wing pun. While he was one of the pilots in Luke’s Red squadron during the Battle of Yavin and later fought at Hoth and Endor, Wedge isn’t one of the more well-known Rebel heroes. But he’s definitely one of the most important. He’s one of the best pilots in the Rebel Alliance and the leader of Rogue Squadron, the faction’s elite fighter wing. Wedge was even there when the Millennium Falcon landed the killing blow on the second Death Star. Wedge also had a string of great Legends (out-of-continuity) adventures in the X-Wing series of books and comics by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston in case you want to read more about him.
While she is best known for being Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice during the Clone Wars, there’s no doubt that former Jedi padawan Ahsoka Tano was vital to the early days of the Rebellion. Operating as the anonymous informant Fulcrum, Ahsoka helped a small band of Rebels sabotage the Empire at every turn in the days before the Rebel Alliance was officially organized. Although she left the Jedi Order before the rise of the Empire, Ahsoka still relied on her Force abilities and lightsaber training to get the job done while on the ground.
The critical leader of the Rebellion’s political arm was fighting the Empire from the very beginning. After attempting to fight Palpatine using the laws of the Senate, Mon Mothma also became an active member of the rebel military. As well as recruiting Jyn Erso in the early days of the Rebellion, Mon Mothma helped organize the Battle of Yavin, and later became the chancellor of the New Republic. Her strategy for the new government involved an aggressive decrease in military forces, which might explain why the First Order was eventually able to decimate the fledgling government during The Force Awakens.
Like Mon Mothma, Bail Organa was part of the Rebellion from the very beginning. After witnessing the horror of Order 66 for himself, he and his wife Breha became entwined with the Skywalker legacy when they adopted Leia. Bail’s role in the Star Wars saga was as short as Alderaan’s screen time in the Original Trilogy, but he appears to play a role in Rogue One. Bail’s presence helps tie the Star Wars movies together. It makes perfect sense that Bail would be part of Jyn and company’s story, because he was instrumental in developing the Rebellion as it was before the Battle of Yavin: mostly underground.
As an ace pilot and leader, Hera’s role as captain of the Ghost and leader of Phoenix Squadron made her an important part of the Rebellion many years before the Death Star was complete. Both before and after she met Jedi Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger, Hera foiled Imperial plans, recruited new members into the Rebellion. She also many found important resources for the Rebel Alliance, including the first Blade Wing fighter. Of all of the Rebels on board the Ghost, Hera is the most organized. She’s also the most secretive, and for good reason: her fate has hinged on keeping her family’s secrets safe since the Resistance on Ryloth.
Kanan Jarrus, formerly Caleb Dume in the days before the Jedi Purge, saw the horror of Order 66 firsthand when his master Depa Billaba was murdered by clone troopers on the planet Kaller. He was forced to go into hiding while the Emperor waged his war against the Jedi until he resurfaced many years later as a member of the Rebellion. Although he was able to keep his secret from the Empire at first, he eventually revealed his identity as a Jedi and became the prey of several Inquisitors and Darth Vader himself.
One of the most notable Rebels in the Expanded Universe was also one of its youngest. Zare Leonis, once a promising grav-ball player on Lothal, rose through the ranks of the Imperial Academy until he was able to access the most secret – and darkest – parts of the Empire’s recruitment of children out of school. He infiltrated Brendol Hux’s ruthless stormtrooper program, discovering the brainwashing and indoctrination that later influence the First Order’s style of recruitment. He also rescued his sister, a Force-sensitive girl captured by the Imperial Grand Inquisitor.
Thane is just one half of a story that spans from the early days of the Empire to after its fall in the novel Lost Stars. He and his girlfriend, Ciena Ree, ended up on opposite sides of the war, with Ciena working for what she thought was the greater good in the ranks of the Empire. Although Thane had enrolled in the Imperial Academy and was on track to become an officer, he eventually defected, horrified by the cruelty of the army he had been so determined to join. In the Rebellion, Thane was able to use his knowledge of Imperial equipment to aid his fellow soldiers in battle. He served as a Rebel pilot during most of the major battles of the Galactic Civil War, while still having feelings for Ciena. Although Thane and Ciena were small cogs in the bigger wheel of the war, they were both also instrumental in the Battle of Jakku, in which the Rebellion dealt the final blow to the Empire.
Many years before Poe Dameron zoomed through the skies in his X-wing, his mother, Shara Bey, took down TIE fighters in her A-wing. Shara was instrumental in the victory at the Battle of Endor and continued to fight for the Rebellion in the aftermath, helping Leia defend Naboo during the late Emperor’s Operation: Cinder and Luke retrieve a Force-sensitive tree from the Empire.
Megan Crouse is a staff writer.