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The Most Pause-Worthy Moments In The Original Star Wars Trilogy

In a galaxy far, far away... interstellar war, ancient religions, and a collection of rag-tag rebellious heroes stole the minds and hearts of cinema-loving fans young and old. "Star Wars" is a spectacle that every living person should experience at least once in a lifetime. George Lucas's space opera masterpiece takes viewers on an adventure across the stars in an epic fight for the soul of a galaxy. It's good versus evil at its finest, and the filmmakers spared no expense bringing to life a fantasy world rife with imaginative alien species and artifacts.

While the original trilogy's central premise is a political and moral struggle for the freedoms of the galaxy's residents from tyranny, the films also manage to spark our imaginations. There's a sense of adventure and exploration that the world of "Star Wars" inspires in fans. Lucas and company created a film series for the ages, one that will surely stand the test of time, as it already has for decades. The original "Star Wars" trilogy excelled at world-building causing viewers to continuously take pause at the character-rich environments the filmmakers have constructed. Let's take look at some of the moments in the original "Star Wars" trilogy that caused us to tap the pause button or rewind for a second confirming view of what we had just witnessed on screen.

Admiring the denizens of the Cantina in Mos Eisley

There's no place like home, except one that is identified as a "wretched hive of scum and villainy" by a heroic figure such as Obi-Wan Kenobi. While Mos Eisley is surely a city made for scoundrels, it's safe to say that the entire planet of Tatooine isn't much better. Luke's home was always one that was fraught with danger. However, he sees an even seedier side of his home planet the moment he enters the famous cantina of Mos Eisley at old Ben Kenobi's side.

For first-time viewers, this is the earliest chance to see a collection of some of the gnarliest, most inventive, and most repugnant alien creatures this side of the galaxy. As Luke enters through the front door, he also needs a moment to simply take it all in. In an age where CGI was non-existent, the production team had to create a diverse group of alien characters practically. It's hard not to appreciate the make-up and practical effects work that went into creating this scene. Many of the alien species seen here would later return to the screen throughout the entire "Star Wars" saga. But it's here that most of these species received their start in the "Star Wars" universe. After the advent of the 90s special edition of the original trilogy, Lucas added CGI and other updates to the films. Most notably, viewers can see giant lizards being ridden by stormtroopers outside of the cantina fully created through CGI animation.

Seeing Dash Rendar's Outrider cameo in the special edition

"Star Wars" isn't simply an enduring film franchise. The movies inspired countless novels, comic book series, and video games over the years. One such novel that was simultaneously adapted into a video game for the Nintendo 64 was "Shadows of the Empire." This was Lucasfilm's multi-pronged approach to reinvigorating interest in the "Star Wars" brand ahead of the original trilogy's re-release in theaters with the new updates. The "Shadows of the Empire" story focused on the character Dash Rendar — a rebel pilot who fought during the Battle of Hoth in "The Empire Strikes Back." The story mostly occurs between the events of "Empire" and "Return of the Jedi." Dash is tasked by Princess Leia to track down Boba Fett who is on his way back to the Outer Rim with a frozen Han Solo in tow. The bounty hunter still manages to escape despite a clash with the rebel.

Later, Dash helps Luke and the rebels engage a powerful figure within the Black Sun crime syndicate known as Prince Xizor. During the operation, Dash pilots his own ship, a Correllian freighter similar to the Millenium Falcon. Dash's ship is called the Outrider. After Disney took ownership of the "Star Wars" franchise, all expanded universe media outside of the films were de-canonized which would effectively render "Shadows of the Empire" as non-canon. However, eagle-eyed viewers of the special edition of "A New Hope," can see the Outrider leaving Mos Eisley in a brief scene. The ship was inserted in the special edition as a nod to "Shadows." Whether Dash is piloting the ship or if the character will ever be deemed as canon by Disney once again is unknown.

Storm trooper banging his head in a doorway

Most would be mistaken if they thought George Lucas was ready for a ground-breaking, box-office-defying franchise when he filmed the original "Star Wars" film. In fact, Lucas believed that "Star Wars" would fail and become a major box-office flop. Imagine his surprise when he learned the exact opposite was true. In fact, the series went on to become one of the most valuable film properties of all time. However, because of his dour outlook, the film had a few rough edges, and some on-screen errors made it through to the final production.

One such error involves the infamous scene where a stormtrooper is seen banging his head on a doorway entrance. In the film, Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie are all stuck in a trash compactor. Much to their dismay, the walls begin closing in on them. Luke hurriedly calls C-3PO in an effort to have the droid shut down the compactor. However, 3PO is hiding from stormtroopers who enter the room. One of the stormtroopers manages to collide with the top of the entranceway and an audible thud can be heard as his helmet makes contact. It's a humorous moment that was never intended to be a part of the finished product. However, film gaffes that endure past the editing process are some of the most fun moments to spot as an avid film viewer.

The explosion of the first Death Star

"A New Hope" ends in a climactic showdown on top of the ominous space station known as the Death Star. Rebel pilots are combatting tie fighters in a harrowing attempt to destroy the station before it is capable of firing upon the rebel base. Some of the film's most quotable lines come from this sequence as the dog fighting persists and Darth Vader eventually enters the fray. At one point, Luke dives into a trench in the space station in an attempt to fire missiles into an open port to destroy an entire station the size of a moon — a key design flaw that was the butt of many jokes for several years until the release of "Rogue One" explained its existence.

Han Solo returns and shows that he isn't the scoundrel everyone thought he was, aiding the fight so that Luke can do his job. After the missiles enter the open vent, the duo flees to the backdrop of an exploding Death Star. The climactic moment only becomes all the more powerful when one sits and ponders the amount of life that was lost aboard the Death Star. The victory was positioned as a happy moment for the rebels even though Luke unwittingly took second place for causing the highest death count in a single act just below Grand Moff Tarkin's destruction of Alderaan. The explosion of the Death Star is only underscored by this realization. Furthermore, it's difficult not to admire the simplicity of the explosion effects from the 70s. While the impact is real, it felt akin to the finale of a firework show.

The wampa attack

The intro to "Empire Strikes Back" trades the dusty, heated desert of Tatooine for the blistering and frozen tundra of the planet Hoth. It is here that the rebels are regrouping and attempting to flee the retaliatory forces of the Empire. Positioned a few years after "A New Hope," the empire launches probe droids into the galaxy in an effort to track down the rebels. One of these droids lands on Hoth and Luke sets out to investigate. After the budding Jedi bundles up for the persistent blizzard beyond the base, he jumps on his tauntaun and heads out.

Just like any other remote planet in the galaxy, Hoth is teeming with its own hostile wildlife that is built to withstand the blistering temperatures. The ice planet of Hoth is home to the wampa, a yeti-like creature who lives in caves and snacks on any living thing it can get its furry mitts on. At one point, it sneak attacks Luke, rendering him unconscious, and drags him back to its cave. When Luke awakens, the beast is snacking on the hero's tauntaun. It's kind of a grisly and morbid scene, but Luke manages to free himself with a little help from his old pal, the force. Afterward, the wampa strikes again attempting to swipe at Luke with his big gnarly claws. This time, however, Luke is ready and disarms the creature – literally. It's a scene bound to be replayed by the uninitiated.

Cutting open the tauntaun

Once Luke escapes the clutches of the wampa, he must strike it out on his own without a tauntaun to do the heavy lifting. Unprepared for a worsening blizzard and still injured from the initial wampa attack, Luke collapses. Having developed a long-lasting relationship with the Correllian smuggler, Han Solo heads out into the dangerous environment to rescue his friend. In Luke's semi-conscious stupor, he has a vision of Obi-Wan who instructs Luke to find Master Yoda for training. Apparently, Obi-Wan knew Luke would survive the moment.

Han finds his pal in the nick of time, however, his tauntaun dies due to the extreme weather. Han then wields Luke's lightsaber to cut open his tauntaun and slide Luke into the carcass of the creature in order to keep him warm. Watching the entrails spill out of the creature is gut-churning. The concept is rather gross, but no one can really argue with a lifesaving maneuver no matter how icky it might be. Han then erects a shelter to protect the two of them through the night. One can't help but wonder why Luke didn't just make use of that cozy wampa cave until the storm passed.

Luke's freaky force vision of himself as Darth Vader

On the planet of Dagobah, Luke finds the legendary Jedi Master that Obi-Wan instructed him to seek out. Though, the pint-sized hermit Yoda would end up being wasn't exactly the warrior Luke had envisioned. However, looks are most certainly deceiving as we've all seen Master Yoda's Jedi prowess with the advent of the prequel trilogy. The old Jedi reluctantly trains Luke in the ways of the force, after giving him a little bit of grief in an effort to test his patience. Ultimately, Yoda and Obi-Wan both know and understand that Luke's ultimate foe, Darth Vader, is actually his father — a fact Luke isn't quite privy to yet. Therefore, the task of confronting the sith lord is a bit more complex than the young Jedi is prepared for.

Yoda ultimately coaxes Luke into a "force" vision where he confronts Vader just to test his limits and understand his greatest weaknesses. In an eerily slow-motion sequence, Vader emergences from the murky depths of the Dagobah wilderness. Luke then wields his saber and clashes with the dark figure. In a final fatal stroke, he decapitates the visage of Vader only to see that inside the helmet of Vader is Luke's dead face. It's rather creepy imagery, that evokes the profound notion that Luke also has a darkness within him that he must root out and overcome. There's more ambiguity in the confrontation that lies ahead than Luke simply battling pure evil, which Darth Vader was the representation of.

What exactly is the torture device Vader uses on Han Solo?

After escaping the clutches of the Empire, Princess Leia, Han, and Chewie flee to Cloud City. Here, Han finds an old friend, Lando Calrissian, who welcomes them to the city. The Empire, however, is one step ahead of the rebel crew and has already managed to infiltrate the city. Luke clearly senses their danger through the force. Eventually, Lando reveals his hidden partner, Darth Vader who he was mostly forced into compliance with much less a partnership.

After Vader reveals himself, the trio is taken as prisoners. Han is then tortured by Vader during an "interrogation." Though, it becomes clear that there was no interrogation as Han says that they never asked him any questions. It's implied that Vader was simply using Han's pain to reach out to Luke through the force and draw him to Cloud City in an effort to convert the young Jedi to the dark side. When looking at the torture device that was used on Han, it's hard to decipher what exactly was occurring with that machine. There are all kinds of electric coils and sharp objects. As he is leaning down into the machine, it begins to spark. A moment later, we can heal the smuggler wailing in agony. But there are never any physical scars on his body from the engagement and all he says when returned to his cell is a generic "I feel terrible." Therefore, the device is a bit of a mystery and leaves one to ponder its morbid purposes.

Luke gets a new hand

At the height of the climax in "Empire," Darth Vader severs Luke's hand and reveals the unthinkable, that he is actually Luke's father. Having lost his sparring hand, Luke is in no condition to engage Vader physically or emotionally. Vader gives his son the ultimatum as discussed with the emperor earlier in the film: join or die. Luke chooses a swift exit by the way of a ventilation chute where he is stranded at the bottom of the city among the clouds. Eventually, Leia uses the force to locate him and the two make their escape.

Later aboard a rebel ship, Luke is seen being treated by a medical droid for his injuries. Of course, he's not much use as a Jedi without a hand. But in a technologically advanced society, losing a limb isn't that big of a deal. After all, Darth Vader is "more machine now than man" as Obi-Wan later states in the follow-up film. Luke receives a robotic replacement that looks like the real deal. In the scene, his wrist covering is open and we can see what looks like a terminator endoskeleton underneath with pistons and moving machinery bits at work. It's an incredible practical effect that will delight cinema lovers.

The Rancor eating a Gamorrean guard

In the first act of "Return of the Jedi," both Leia and Luke attempt to free their long-lost frozen compadre, Han Solo, from the evil gangster Jabba the Hut. However, Jabba manages to outwit the two at first and Luke is dropped into a Rancor pit to meet his demise at the hands of a terrifying monster. One of Jabba's Gomorrean guards, who are basically green bipedal warthogs, falls into the pit with him, which distracts the monster for a short time.

It's like a train wreck in slow motion, but it's also hard not to watch as the rancor picks up the Gomorrean guard and begins chomping on him. The rancor is apparently one of the most feared and vicious hostile predators in the galaxy and Jabba regularly feeds the creature with individuals he seeks to punish, like his rebellious enslaved dancer Oola. One could say that this is simply the circle of life if it were to occur in the wild, but it's most certainly cruel and is a weapon of fear that Jabba wields over his subjects. Thankfully, Luke manages to outwit the monster and brings its life to an unceremonious end by crushing it with a massive door.

The sarlacc pit

The Great Pit of Carkoon is one of many sarlacc pits located throughout Tatooine. It's also another means of carrying out a death sentence for everyone's favorite alien space slug, Jabba the Hut. Apparently feeding his enemies to monsters is Jabba's favorite way to kill a person. Once Luke ended the rancor's reign of terror, Jabba decided to up the ante and toss Luke and Han in a sarlacc pit where living beings are eaten and digested in the sarlacc monster's belly for over a thousand years.

The pit is a sight to behold and has also received its own upgrades over the years thanks to George Lucas. Originally, the pit was simply a giant maw in the sand with spikes jutting from the edges of the hole and a few loose tentacles capable of grabbing nearby prey. After Lucas released the special edition, a CGI beak-like mouth was added to the pit that appears to be the actual monster within the pit that devours any unsuspecting prey. Of course, Boba Fett famously falls in the pit. While expanded universe stories have been told of the bounty hunter's escape they were no longer deemed canon with Disney's acquisition. Now, Boba Fett's escape story has been told in modern "Star Wars" canon in the Disney+ series "The Book of Boba Fett."

The speeder bike chase

Nothing ramps up the thrills of a "Star Wars" action sequence like speeding in an otherworldly craft through space or rugged terrain. "Return of the Jedi" doesn't disappoint with its speeder bike sequence on the forest moon of Endor. In the film, Luke, Leia, and Han are attempting to evade the Empire while they shut down a shield generator located on the moon that is protecting the new Death Star. In one sequence, the heroes get into a tangle with stormtroopers on speeder bikes.

The sequence takes the audience on a high-speed chase through the forest as Luke and Leia attempt to squash imperial soldiers so they don't reveal their location to the rest of the empire at large. Many of the most thrilling moments involve storm troopers careening into trees or spinning out of control. It might take a few quick pauses during the sequence to fully embrace the frenetic pacing of the action and enjoy the explosion effects at work. At the level of speed these bikes travel, it's a wonder that anyone wouldn't just crash into a tree in a jaunt through the forest.

Darth Vader's skull when being shocked by the Emperor

In "Return of the Jedi," Luke's final confrontation with Darth Vader is realized. But contrary to the teachings of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, Luke shows compassion and love toward his father which ultimately defeats the evil within him — something Jedi aren't known to do. Earlier in the film, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine colluded to turn Luke to the dark side because of his strong connection to the force. If he refused to turn, he'd be killed. Once Vader takes Luke before the Emperor, the evil tyrant attempts to manipulate Luke's emotions and commands him to eliminate Darth Vader and take his place.

Ultimately refusing to give in to his hate, Luke puts it all on the line for his father. He doesn't fight and leaves his fate up to Vader. As the Emperor uses his force lightning to zap Luke into submission, Vader finally makes the choice to abandon the dark side and save his son. He picks up the Emperor and tosses him down a well in a display of destruction that will most assuredly guarantee that the evil sith lord is finished for good never to be seen or heard from ever again... right? Regardless, the moment does highlight something interesting about Vader and his transformation since becoming a sith lord. If viewers pause the film during the moment Vader is taking some of the electric shocks from the Emperor's attacks, we can see an outline of his skull. Clearly, it is deformed. Even though he never took any cranial injuries that we know of, it's likely that the suit and effects of the dark side may have had a deteriorating impact on him. It's anybody's guess at this point.

The special edition's galaxy wide celebrations

The "Star Wars" galaxy is ever-expanding. Throughout the original trilogy, the heroes travel far and wide just to evade and ultimately destroy the Empire. The prequel series introduced viewers to so many more important destinations within the galaxy at large offering audiences a grand view of a heavily populated fantasy world. After the rebels claim victory of the empire once again destroying the Death Star and eliminating the Emperor, celebrations erupt across the galaxy. With George Lucas's continual updates to his original films, we can now see locales that were central to the prequel trilogy as well as the original trilogy like Naboo, Cloud City, Tatooine, and the massive metropolitan giant known as Coruscant. 

If viewers look closely, they can see ships that are iconic to these locations as well as alien races like the Gungans of Naboo. Also, those who look closely at the Coruscant scenery can spot the Jedi temple in the backdrop. Despite the drama in fandom surrounding George Lucas's consistent updates, this scene was a fun addition to the series that helped connect a large galaxy that fans from multiple generations have become fond of. Besides, who wouldn't want to join the Ewoks and the rest of the galaxy for a little victory dance?