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5 best and 5 worst Star Wars characters

There are countless reasons to love Star Wars. The overarching mythology of the series is among the most fascinating in modern fiction. But there's one thing that keeps fans coming back year after year, and one thing that truly makes the franchise what it is: Star Wars is full of some of the most memorable movie characters of all time. 

Without those scoundrels, Jedi knights, and bizarre creatures to wield those lightsabers and drop those one-liners, every moment of the saga would fall flat. With multiple trilogies, an assortment of TV series and specials, and countless comics and graphic novels to expand the universe of Star Wars, narrowing down the best of the best characters is tough. It's equally tricky to pin down the worst, as the franchise has definitely had its share of ill-advised moments. But after taking a long, hard look at that galaxy far, far away, here are our picks for the five best and five worst Star Wars characters.

Best: Leia Organa

In Leia's first scene in Star Warsshe mouths off to one of the scariest villains in the galaxy, completely devoid of fear or intimidation and honestly sounding a little annoyed about having to dignify him with her presence to begin with. She witheringly rebuffs Han Solo when he attempts to seduce her, only finally allowing herself to fall for him on her own terms. When he's kidnapped by Boba Fett and taken to Jabba the Hutt, she's not content to wait around for anyone to rescue him; instead, she joins the mission. And when that ends in her being dressed in a metal bikini for the pleasure of a giant talking slug, she kills him herself.

Leia is a legend, and her arc in the third trilogy only serves to make her all the more unforgettable. In the wake of the rise of the First Order and Ben Solo taking up the mantle of Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker becomes a hermit and Han leaves the Resistance, going back to his old ways. Leia, however, remains. She doesn't flinch through the heartbreak of losing her son, her brother, or her husband. Instead she soldiers on, rising to the rank of general and leading the Resistance in its fight against evil. Leia is the fearless, unbreakable linchpin of the Star Wars story. 

Worst: Watto

There really isn't a single redeeming quality to Watto. His name isn't even fun to say. It rolls from the back of your throat like an involuntary gargle. The machine shop owner we meet in The Phantom Menace who owns Anakin and his mother Shmi is despicable right from the start. In fact, that should be enough to include him among the worst Star Wars characters: he's a slave owner and actively forces the split between Anakin and his mother in the film, refusing to let Shmi go free with Anakin. Even setting aside the obvious racial stereotypes that make up the character, he's the wrong kind of despicable for a Star Wars antagonist. He's too cartoonish to be believable as a villain, but not actually all that funny. He's just a grating screen presence who ultimately serves as nothing more than a plot device, and an offensive one at that.

Best: Darth Maul

Star Wars has a long history of taking briefly seen characters and making the most of them offscreen. Boba Fett, Captain Phasma, and Maul — to name just a few — are so striking from a physical standpoint that their minimal character development is more of an advantage. We know very little about Maul in The Phantom Menace, and that's why he's so magnetic. He's a red and black horned Sith warrior with a double-ended lightsaber and acrobatic skills like we'd never seen in the world of Star Wars. His lack of a backstory preserved his mysterious air and helped make for an unforgettable villain.

Maul is made even greater by the ways he's utilized in the television shows The Clone Wars and Rebels. The mysterious villain, back from the dead after being defeated by Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace, is given a stunning depth in these series that elevates our understanding of who he is and where he comes from. It also depicts his riveting rivalry with Obi-Wan Kenobi, one that runs throughout both shows and redefines both characters. With his reemergence in Solo: A Star Wars Story it seems we still haven't seen the last of him. Maul is the best of both worlds: a mysterious antagonist with unforgettable menace, and then a compelling, fleshed-out villain, as tragic as he is frightening.

Worst: Cassian Andor

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is carried by some truly unique and memorable characters. From the deeply caustic droid K2-SO to the blind monk Chirrut Imwe, the film gives us characters the likes of which we'd yet to encounter in the film saga's vast universe. Unfortunately, one of the protagonists is Cassian Andor, a character who is virtually a void in every possible way.

Andor simply exists throughout Rogue One. He's thinly fleshed out at best, but even the small details we get along the way feel cribbed from more interesting stories and characters. All we really know is that he's lost friends and made sacrifices, but we never know who or what they really are. Actor Diego Luna isn't to blame for that thin characterization, but he doesn't really help, delivering most of Andor's dialogue in a monotone that lends little gravity to the few character-building moments. Some Star Wars characters fall flat due to being poorly conceived. Andor's problem is worse: wasted potential.

Best: Han Solo

Han Solo is cooler than a Tauntaun's toenails and infinitely quotable. But beneath the quips, beneath the smolder, there's a flawed, complex character.

Han is so firmly ingrained into the fabric of pop culture that it's sometimes jarring to watch his first appearance in A New Hope. When you step back from the legend and see him for what he is, this early version of Han is a pessimistic rogue who doesn't seem to care about anybody but himself. He's dismissive of the Rebellion and dismissive of the ways of the Jedi. As his story progresses, he not only becomes a true believer in the cause but a better man, one who realizes the immaturity of his refusal to commit to anything bigger. He discovers his sense of hope through fighting the Empire with his friends. It is, all in all, a perfect character arc. It only makes sense — Han Solo is, after all, a perfect character.

Worst: Young Anakin Skywalker

It's rare that a performance is so bad that it tanks an actor's career — and even rarer when that career has only just begun. Jake Lloyd's performance as Anakin Skywalker was so critically reviled — and Star Wars fans were so relentlessly cruel to him for it — that he left acting altogether. To be clear, though, Young Anakin is an awful character, and it really isn't all because of the way Lloyd played him.

Anchoring a story around a young child is tricky — you've got to make sure the actor is charismatic and talented enough to carry the film. Lloyd is clearly reciting lines rather than acting, but while his performance has its flaws, it isn't like he was working with a great script. Anakin's dialogue is filled with dreadful lines like "I'm a person and my name is Anakin!" and "Are you an angel?" Lloyd absolutely didn't deserve the abuse he suffered in the wake of the film, but that doesn't mean young Anakin isn't one of the worst Star Wars characters ever.

Best: Darth Vader

To this day, all it takes is the sound of his breathing, a simple inhale and exhale, to send chills down your spine. Darth Vader is unforgettable — one of the most iconic villains in the history of cinema. From his all-black visage and red lightsaber to his terrible connection to the Force, everything about the man formerly known as Anakin Skywalker is thrilling, terrifying, and magnetic all at once. He's the perfect villain, both because of how frightening and how deeply human he is.

The prequel trilogy ultimately gets its most important job done by showing us the person Vader is before his fall from grace as well as what leads to it. Anakin is painted as a terribly tragic figure in these films, lending more weight to his villainous reign in the original trilogy. He's a victim to an extent, a puppet of the same evil that grows to loom over the rest of the galaxy. It also makes his eventual redemption in Return of the Jedi all the more cathartic. Anakin Skywalker may never have been the great hero the Jedi hoped he'd be, but Darth Vader rises to the occasion when it matters most.

Worst: Nute Gunray

Star Wars fans love lightsaber duels, laser pistols, and the occasional spaceship chase. You know what we don't love quite as much? Hearing about the logistics of intergalactic trade. Apparently nobody told George Lucas when he was writing The Phantom Menace, because much of the film's plot (and the ensuing conflict of the prequel trilogy) revolves around the dull-beyond-belief Trade Federation, headed up by Nute Gunray.

Credit where it's due: Nute Gunray is a great name for a Star Wars character, but maybe Lucas should have saved it for a cool bounty hunter and not wasted it on a dull bureaucrat. Gunray is the Viceroy of the Trade Federation and a key political figure in the Separatist movement, a role that would perhaps be more interesting in a political thriller. He's relentlessly boring and clearly out of place in the story, appearing in three movies as well as The Clone Wars and providing exactly one memorable moment, that being his death at the hands of Anakin Skywalker. He's also another clear-cut instance of racial stereotyping in the prequel trilogy. You could remove Gunray from the prequels altogether and nobody would notice. In fact, the movies would be better for it.

Best: Kylo Ren

The third trilogy of Star Wars films brought fans a myriad of wonderful new characters — Rey, Finn, Poe, and many others have elevated the saga through their presence. However, there's an easy standout among those new additions: Kylo Ren.

Even if you don't agree with his point of view, it's hard to not be fascinated with the former Ben Solo. He's an immensely complex character with a gutting arc. Being the grandson of Anakin Skywalker and nephew of Luke has him pegged for greatness, and perhaps he is  until he's corrupted by Supreme Leader Snoke, who stokes the fire of entitlement burning within him and convinces him that his destiny is to finish what Darth Vader started.

It's made all the more complicated in The Last Jedi when we discover that the last straw that pushed him to the dark side was Luke momentarily considering turning on his nephew after sensing darkness within him. His arc is now tinged with a tragedy born of simple error. By the end of The Last Jedi he's ascended to the head of the First Order, now seemingly ready to carry on — and supersede — Vader's legacy. Where his story ends is anybody's guess, but here's hoping that whatever good remains in Kylo Ren wins out in the end.

Worst: Jar Jar Binks

There are poorly written Star Wars characters, dull Star Wars characters, and poorly performed Star Wars characters. And then there's Jar Jar Binks. 

Jar Jar is hands down the worst Star Wars character of all time. He's obnoxious and juvenile, with speech patterns that would be offensive even if the stuff coming out of his mouth didn't rank among the dumbest dialogue in the franchise. He feels woefully out of place and poorly conceived on every level.

It doesn't stop there, either. Aside from being a general annoyance, Jar Jar also plays a crucial role in Revenge of the Sith. Somehow failing upwards into the position of Senator, he casts the deciding vote that grants emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine, effectively cementing the dark lord's victory. Everything that happens in the following films at the hand of Palpatine is the direct result of Jar Jar's deciding vote. Looking back, it's hard to blame Boss Nass for wanting him exiled.