While the saga can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages, George Lucas’s Star Wars series gave a generation of children a collection of intergalactic fairy tales to grow up with. The films are fantastical and enjoyable to everyone, and for the most part the franchise tends to keep things lighthearted.
But Lucas didn’t shy away from taking the characters to darker, scarier, more ominous places if the story called for it either. There some moments in the Skywalker saga that are heartbreaking, hard to watch, or downright horrific.
10 Anakin Decapitates Count Dooku (Revenge Of The Sith)
In the opening set piece of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin and Obi-Wan infiltrate a Separatist ship to liberate the supposedly kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine. They end up in a lightsaber duel with Count Dooku, who Anakin manages to overpower.
Palpatine encourages Anakin to kill Dooku, which horrifies Dooku, who thought he was being primed to co-run the Empire as Palpatine’s one and only apprentice. Anakin decapitates Dooku in one of the most shocking villain deaths in the Skywalker saga, breaking the Jedi code and beginning his tragic journey to the dark side.
9 Kylo Ren Kills Han Solo (The Force Awakens)
In the final act of The Force Awakens, Han Solo accompanies Finn to Starkiller Base in the hopes of bringing his son Ben back to the light side. He confronts Kylo Ren on a bridge and tries to appeal to his humanity.
For a second, it seems like Ben is about to lay down his weapon and go home with his father. But instead, he doubles down on his wannabe Vader persona and plunges his lightsaber into Han’s torso.
8 Luke Is Tempted By The Dark Side (Return Of The Jedi)
After Luke Skywalker was introduced as a bright-eyed hero with the unwavering drive to do the right thing, Empire’s iconic “I am your father” twist significantly raised the stakes by suggesting that Luke was susceptible to falling to the dark side as Anakin did.
In Return of the Jedi, he initially refuses to fight Vader, but the Emperor manages to goad him into taking up his lightsaber. Luke aggressively attacks Vader and cuts off his hand, then realizes that, even for a brief moment, he was tempted by the dark side just like his father Anakin.
7 Han Is Frozen In Carbonite (The Empire Strikes Back)
The Empire Strikes Back is home to some of the darkest scenes in any Star Wars movie. Unlike most big-budget blockbusters, Empire doesn’t have a happy ending. Luke loses a hand, the Empire is stronger than ever, and Han is frozen in carbonite.
The latter is a particularly grim conclusion, because it’s arguably a fate worse than death. Han is kept alive, but frozen in place to be turned into little more than a piece of wall art.
6 The Great Jedi Purge (Revenge Of The Sith)
The fact that Obi-Wan and Yoda are the only two surviving Jedi at the height of the Galactic Civil War in the original trilogy suggested that something terrible would happen to the thriving Jedi Order by the end of the prequels. That tragedy reared its head in Revenge of the Sith when Emperor Palpatine took over the Republic and told his clones to “execute Order 66.”
This is followed by a harrowing montage of Clone Wars conflicts across the galaxy in which the clones assigned to protect Jedi Knights all stop in their tracks and kill their unsuspecting Jedi companions.
5 Luke Finds Uncle Owen And Aunt Beru’s Charred Remains (Star Wars)
After learning that the Empire has arrived on Tatooine in search of his new droids, Luke fears that the Stormtroopers will end up on Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s moisture farm, so he races home in his landspeeder to make sure they’re okay.
However, when he gets there, the Stormtroopers have already gotten to them. The charred, smoking remains of his aunt and uncle are strewn over the front doorstep.
4 Anakin Slaughters The Tusken Raiders (Attack Of The Clones)
When Anakin senses that his mother is in danger, he defies Obi-Wan’s order to stay on Naboo and heads to Tatooine, where he tracks her down to the campsite of the Tusken Raiders that abducted her.
Anakin’s mother dies in his arms, prompting him to slaughter all the Sandpeople there. And not just the men, but the women, and the children, too. This was one of Anakin’s first steps toward the dark side.
3 Luke’s Force Vision (The Empire Strikes Back)
For the most part, Luke’s Jedi training on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back is used for slapstick comedy, pulpy visuals, and awe-inspiring moments like Yoda lifting the X-wing from the swamp.
But there’s one super dark moment when Luke feels a cave calling to him. In the cave, he has a Force vision of Darth Vader, briefly battles him with his lightsaber, and finds his own face under the mask. This disturbing sequence masterfully foreshadows the paternal twist.
2 The Destruction Of Alderaan (Star Wars)
Audiences were first introduced to the awesome power of the Death Star when Grand Moff Tarkin forced Leia to reveal the location of the secret Rebel base by threatening to destroy her home planet of Alderaan.
After Leia gives up the location, Tarkin blows up Alderaan anyway. Leia watches helplessly as nearly everybody she loves – and a couple of billion others – are wiped out in one fell swoop.
1 Anakin Is Burned Alive (Revenge Of The Sith)
The events of the original trilogy prepared Star Wars fans for the prequels to end with Anakin turning to the dark side and engaging in an intense lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan. But no one anticipated just how brutal Lucas would make the climactic set piece in Revenge of the Sith.
The volcanic backdrop of Mustafar is perfectly matched with Anakin and Obi-Wan’s explosive emotions. When Obi-Wan takes the high ground, he’s able to lop off all but one of Anakin’s limbs. As Anakin is burned alive in the molten riverbank, a heartbroken Obi-Wan leaves him to die.
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