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Six Moments in Star Wars That Are Strong With the Feels

The Star Wars Feels: I've got 'em.

Rey crying in The Force Awakens.

A couple of years ago, I had just finished setting up our Artist Alley table at a convention, and a life-size R2-D2 rolled up like he was going to make a purchase or something. He beeped and booped at me, and I froze. It was a remote controlled R2 unit made by someone with the 501st Legion of Star Wars fans, who concentrate on accurate cosplay and the creation of props from the movies. I knew that it wasn’t really R2. I knew that! The person was probably right around the corner with the remote control, but … he just seemed so real! He was making the noises, moving around, and his little grabby extender bits were out. I lost my damn mind, started crying, and couldn’t say much besides, “R2! It’s R2! He’s here!” My friends, after they were done laughing at me, were a little bit concerned that I might have actually lost some marbles. I got a picture with him but had a hard time stopping the tears. In fact, ever since then, every time I see one of these R2 replicas at a convention, I feel that weird surge of emotion, and my eyes fill with tears. I’m like Pavlov’s freaking dogs for R2-D2. It’s happy tears, I’m pretty sure, and it’s not been as dramatic as that first initial reaction, but it’s still there. Part of it, I think, was that I wasn’t aware that such detailed R2s existed prior to that experience.

Maybe it’s because it was such an embedded presence in my childhood and play (we had a second-hand Death Star play set that even had the Space Hole of Falling in it, for making action figures push other action figures into “oblivion.” It could also be that Star Wars was extremely influential in my serious consideration of Space Princess as a viable career option. Seriously, Leia was everything I wanted to be. She could lead, romance, shoot, and rock a variety of killer looks. She got to rescue her boyfriend and was as princess-y, diplomatic, and badass as I ever wanted to be. She fed both sides of my internal battle between action and fashion and helped baby-me reconcile that those urges don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Whatever the reason(s) behind it, Star Wars has consistently been one of my favorite sources of entertainment for most of my life. I even read (most) of the books that have since been changed to non-canon! I don’t think I understood just how much it had the power to move me until I was sitting behind a table at a convention in the vendor area, and R2 just rolled into my life.

It’s no secret that I love Space Opera and Space Westerns. I love swashbucklers, villains, daring plans, and all of the cool boots and vests that come with them. As much as I love a good hero, I also love a good smuggler/gambler type, and Han Solo fit the bill. (#i<3scruffylookingnerfherders) So basically, Star Wars kind of had everything that I didn’t yet know I was going to love forever and helped shape my preferences for the future. I love the original trio of movies the most, with The Force Awakens coming in next. Unlike many Star Wars fans, I don’t hate the prequel trilogy. I don’t like it as much as the others, but the whole thing was worth it to me for Qui-Gon Jinn and young Obi-Wan Kenobi.

So, without further crying (which there is none of in baseball), here are my top six times that Star Wars gave me a case of the feels! (There are others of course, but these are my top six!)

1.) The Death of Darth Vader in The Return of the Jedi

Darth Vader without his mask in Return of the Jedi

I had seen the original Star Wars trilogy before high school, many times over, but I remember distinctly the first time I watched it and understood everything. I was a junior in high school and was watching the movies in a pile of teenagers at my best friend’s house. The lights were low, everyone was quiet and watching intently, and when Darth Vader shoved the Emperor down the space chute to save Luke and then asked that his son remove the mask so he could look at him with his own eyes, I got really upset. Here was the quintessential villain, finally responding to that glimmer of light inside him and doing the right thing … and it was too late.

It wasn’t even that he was too injured to survive to get to know his son, but that even if he had survived, there was no place for his redemption in the world he had helped to create. What could he have possibly done? Hung out with the son he had pursued relentlessly across the galaxy? With the daughter he captured and had tortured? That final decision to do right is even sadder when you consider that Anakin knew all of this when he sacrificed himself for Luke—not to mention that moment in the soundtrack when the badass Imperial March is played on a sad little harp (at the 2.06 minute mark).

His request to see with his own eyes was basically double assurance that he would not survive, as the mask was necessary for him to breathe. It makes me wonder how many times he considered quitting the Empire, killing the Emperor, etc. before that point, and that … well, it gives me the feels, okay? Take a look at the scene where Vader decides to save Luke. At about the 1.10 minute mark, the music changes to the Force theme—the moment when Anakin drops the Vader persona and becomes himself again. The scene builds slowly; he watches for several minutes as the Emperor zaps Luke with Force lightning, and I believe this was his crossroads, where he was finally able to see the light again, while simultaneously being able to see a concrete path to destroying Palpatine. Long live the Space Hole of Falling!

2.) Sacrificial Obi-Wan and Young Obi-Wan Kenobi cast aside for Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace

Obi-Wan smiling at Darth Vader before he sacrifices himself

All criticism of the prequel trilogy aside, I enjoyed the heck out of seeing Obi-Wan Kenobi as a young man. I mean, it’s not like Ewan MacGregor is exactly hard to look at or listen to, and there he was, all Jedi-ed out! It also brought starkly to my mind exactly how this character meets his end. I mean, knowing that old Obi-Wan sacrificed himself in a lightsaber duel with his former apprentice is sad enough, but seeing him young and full of hope while knowing that he lived most of his older years as a reclusive, lonely old man on Tatooine … that gave me the feels.

Throughout the series, he sacrifices and is sacrificed for others: Qui-Gon Jinn was suddenly ready for him to graduate from Padawan status as soon as Anakin came into the picture and rushed him into taking the Trials, Obi-Wan immediately takes Anakin as his Padawan learner to continue his master’s legacy even though he had reservations about the situation, and he sacrifices any personal life he might have had to watch Luke from a distance on Tatooine until he eventually makes the ultimate sacrifice, allowing his former apprentice to strike him down. I wonder, having now seen all of the prequels and original trilogy, if it might have been some sort of residual guilt for what happened during Anakin and Obi-Wan’s duel on Mustafar that made him so willing to put himself at Anakin’s mercy.

As sad as Obi-Wan’s life was after a certain point, Duel of the Fates was some of the best music and lightsaber dueling in all of Star Wars! Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan working together against Darth Maul has stood the test of time and still looks amazing. The saddest part of Qui-Gon’s death was Obi-Wan’s distress, and well, that gives me the feels, too.

3.) Anakin and Obi-Wan’s Duel on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith

Anakin Skywalker burning alive

Okay, first of all, Mustafar—to absolute heck with this place anyway! Tired of freezing your tail off on Hoth? Come to Mustafar and warm your arms and legs off in our pools of burning magma! Ugh. Why would anyone ever go there, anyway? Yikes. At this point in the story, Anakin is already a mess and has done a number of unforgivable things. Obi-Wan has legit reasons to be really, really mad at him. This fight is between two people who once loved each other like brothers, who fought together, and who had been driven apart by lies and secrecy. The battle is intense (the floor is literally, actually made of lava), and even as Anakin tries to crawl away from the pool of lava, screaming that he hates Obi-Wan, the latter does not go for the kill or save him. He lets the lava do its work, assuming that he was leaving his former apprentice for dead. That’s a rough day right there—even rougher than Sokka’s girlfriend turning into the moon. Watch the fight between them, and at around the 3 minute mark, cry with me over Obi-Wan’s impassioned, “You were my brother and I loved you!” speech. *Sniff.* Pass me a Kleenex.

4.) The End of The Empire Strikes Back

Luke Skywalker learning that Darth Vader is his father

As “the sad one” of the original trilogy, Empire is where all of the things that can go wrong start to unravel for our heroes. When they stop in Cloud City, Han is absolutely certain that his old friend Lando can be trusted, but it turns out that the Empire arrived first and trapped Lando between a Sith and a Sarlacc (mostly metaphorically), forcing him to betray his friend to keep Cloud City and its citizens safe. Of course, Vader was lying, and when Lando realized that the deal has been reneged upon, he orders an evacuation and throws himself into helping the Rebels and trying to rescue Han. Personally, one of my biggest fears is being forced to choose between friends or finding myself in a situation where I have to betray a friend. Lando’s plight here gives me the feels because he was really left with no good choices, and when pressed and confronted with the truth, he made the right ones.

Of course, I cannot ignore the Leia and Han moment, with the iconic, “I love you,” “I know,” exchange. I was rooting for you guys from the moment she said, “nerfherder!” And you get together and everything seems great, and then you go and make a Kylo Ren and break up over it. Han Solo, you know enough about Space Holes of Falling to write the damn book, and you walked right out over that mess … I guess that speaks of the love he had for his kid, even a kid currently living in Super Villain Wanna-Be Mode. *Sob.* The Chewie freak-out where Han has to talk him down right before the big freeze, and the look on Leia’s face … this entire thing is just a huge case of the feels!

Meanwhile, back in Empire, Luke is busy having a super-awkward lightsaber duel with his father, who could have just taken him outside to play catch or something for crying out loud, but had to be an Anakin Skywalker-level drama queen about it and opt instead for the “No, I am your father!” lightsaber duel and ceremonial arm-chopping to boot. Seriously Anakin, how about dropping the dad-bomb over a nice meal aboard the Death Star? Show the boy around; let him see where you work and what you do. No? Okay, then go ahead and fight it out over yet another Space Hole of Falling.

Leia, Chewie, and Lando rescue Luke, but the movie ends on a sad note, with all of them knowing that the shit has hit the fan, their friend is in serious danger, and nothing will ever be the same again.

5.) Chewbacca’s Rage and Sadness at Kylo Ren’s Betrayal of his Father in The Force Awakens

Chewbacca and Han Solo from The Force Awakens

As sad as I was that Leia and Han kind of broke up and that their son was struggling with the Dark Side of the Force, I knew what was going to happen when Han stepped out on the bridge. He knew better; he did it out of love and hope, and he paid for it with his life. The part that really, really gets to me about that scene is Chewbacca’s desperation to save his friend from his own son. Chewie probably considered Ben Solo family. He probably carried him when he was little and was the coolest of cool uncles, and that sweet little kid he probably played with and helped to raise murdered his best friend in front of him. It says a lot that Chewbacca didn’t kill Ben, and I’m absolutely dying to find out how everything plays out in the subsequent films!

6.) Rey’s Desperation to Find Her Family in The Force Awakens

Rey and BB-8 walk into the sunset on Jakku in The Force Awakens

I don’t profess to know what the plan is for Rey’s parentage in The Force Awakens and beyond, but I feel like it can’t be a total red herring for there to be another woman with dark hair worn in an elaborate style in the Star Wars franchise. We have Amidala’s elaborate hairstyles, Leia’s trademark braids, and I just can’t think that there is no connection at all between these and Rey’s triple-bun style. I’ve heard other fans suggest that she always does her hair like this because that was the style she had as a child and she believes that it will make her more recognizable should her family return for her. And … that makes me feel for her character even more.

Leaving the craphole, sandy-ass planet of Jakku had to be really hard for her, and the part where even after her huge adventure with flying the Millennium Falcon around, she’s still determined  to return “home” in case her long-lost family should return was truly moving. Giving up on going back, even if it only turns out to be for a short time, was a huge step for her character. I really do think that at some point, Rey and Luke are going to have to talk about how much growing up on a desert planet sucks. I think the next movie should start out with Luke telling Rey, “… and then my Aunt Beru says that if I want a birthday cake, I’m going to have to farm the moisture for it myself! How unfair is that?”

Rey’s musical theme is interesting as well. You can actually hum the Imperial March over it, OR the Force Theme, which makes me wonder if that was a very purposeful choice that might speak to her future as a character—perhaps she will be tempted and have to choose between the Light and Dark sides of the Force? Whatever happens in future films, Rey has won herself a place in the heart of this die-hard, lifelong Star Wars fan, and I can’t wait to see what the subsequent films will bring to the space opera that introduced me to fandom in so many ways!

Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.

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