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The Least Popular Star Wars Movie Ending Might Surprise You

What makes a good ending? Is it best to leave the theater filled with the warm fuzzies, or on the edge of despair? Looking at the world with a whole new perspective, or wound tight with a tension that won't fully relax until the next installment is released in a couple of years? 

The many endings of the Skywalker Saga had very different jobs to do, so perhaps it makes sense that fan mileage will vary depending on preference. Episode IV: A New Hope had to provide satisfying closure in case it was the only movie that ever got made. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi had to cap its entire trilogy. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, had to both cap its trilogy and bridge the gap into the next one. It's a lot to ask. So which one did fans select as their least favorite? 

Before we get into this, let's make sure we're clear on exactly what the answer means. In a poll conducted by Looper, the question asked of respondents wasn't for them to select the worst or their least favorite Star Wars ending. Quite the opposite, in fact. It stated "Which Star Wars movie had the best ending?" So the least popular, in this case, was the one the fewest number of people selected to be their favorite, not the one the most people picked as their least favorite. Got it? Good.

Also, in this case, the choices were limited to the last seven movies in the series' timeline. No prequels, no Solo: A Star Wars Story. Thanks for reading the fine print. On with the show.

Audiences' least favorite Star Wars ending belonged to The Force Awakens

Of the seven films included, the one selected by the fewest number of respondents as the franchise's best ending was The Force Awakens. Just 7% of the 528 people to take the survey picked that film's conclusion, which sees Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally come face-to-face with the Jedi Master-in-exile Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) high atop a cliff face on a rocky isle on the oceanic planet Ahch-To, where she attempts to give him the lightsaber that once belonged both to him and to his father, which he lost in their duel on Bespin.

It's worth wondering whether The Force Awakens would have scored higher had the question been asked in 2016, before audiences had a chance to see the second half of the scene play out, when Luke's now-famous dismissal of Rey thoroughly subverted fan expectations, and sparked frustration among some parts of the fanbase.

But it's also possible that people were simply frustrated by the way the film dropped the curtain just as it reached the part they were most eager to see: Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master. Hamill started making fun of his wordless cameo in the franchise that made him a star almost as soon as audiences got to see the movie. His nod of curiosity, of recognition; the setting of the jaw, Rey's pleading look; his opening his mouth to speak, all of it building up to a helicopter shot and a John Williams cue and a two-year wait for answers.

How the rest of the franchise faired

The second-least popular choice of ending was the franchise's own ending, The Rise of Skywalker, which received 8% of the vote for the revelation of Rey adopting the Skywalker name as her own. The penultimate film in the saga, The Last Jedi, which saw the birth of a new, scrappy Rebellion, received 9% of the vote for favorite franchise ending.

Fourth place, right in the middle, was the only other modern-era film among the options: Rogue One, which received 10% of the vote. That seems low for a movie whose single best scene –– Darth Vader's decimation of a squad of Rebel Alliance troopers –– occurs within its final two minutes, but it couldn't compete with the two big favorites. 

It did nearly eclipse the franchise's first film though. A New Hope also received 10% of the vote, beating the film that runs directly into it by mere fractions of a point. Perhaps it finished so far behind its sequels because it didn't show Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) getting his medal from Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), or because people who wanted to go the "giant public celebration" route had another option to select.

So what is the most popular Star Wars ending?

The top two vote-getters finished leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the pack. Coming in second, with 25% of the vote, was Return of the Jedi, which is interesting since of all the films, it's the one whose ending was most affected by Lucas' penchant for tinkering with the films after release. In the Special Edition, the original celebration on Endor was preceded by shots of other planets celebrating the demise of the Emperor, while the Ewoks' folksy "Ewok Celebration" –– you likely know it as the "Yub Nub" song –– was replaced with a new Williams orchestral piece, "Victory Celebration," that sounds like it was meant to capture a grander scale of the occasion.

That leaves The Empire Strikes Back as the people's favorite Star Wars ending, earning 26% of the vote for the way it tips the defeat of the heroes and the shocking revelation about Luke's parentage back into something resembling hope. Luke's hand is replaced with a high-tech prosthetic. He and Leia watch as Chewie and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) depart in the Millennium Falcon in search of Han Solo (Harrison Ford). It's a downer ending, for sure. The good guys don't win. But hope springs eternal, and that's why it's the favorite.