20 Reasons Why Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is The Best Film In The Saga So Far
The saga is over. With the release of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, the trilogy of trilogies started by George Lucas in 1977 has reached its long-awaited conclusion. As to whether it’s the ending all the fans have hoped for; well, that’s been the subject of feverish debate which we don’t see dying down anytime soon, as The Rise of Skywalker seems to be the most divisive blockbuster since – well – the previous episode in the Star Wars saga.
While we appreciate that 2017’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was intensely polarising and made choices that upset many longtime devotees, we’re frankly baffled by suggestions that it was somehow the anti-Star Wars. Quite the contrary; not only did The Last Jedi breathe new life into the universe, it’s also – in our opinion – genuinely the best Star Wars film yet.
Agree? Disagree? Consider the following points before you make your mind up – but beware of massive spoilers ahead.
20. It boldly breaks with series convention
2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first film in the new trilogy, was widely (and not unjustly) criticised for adhering so rigidly to the same essential plot beats as 1977’s original Star Wars: A New Hope.
Taking more than a little inspiration from George Lucas’ film, The Force Awakens presented Rey as a new Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren as a new Darth Vader and Starkiller Base as a new Death Star (there was even a new Tatooine in the form of Jakku).
It seems strange, then, that so much of the flak The Last Jedi attracted was down to the fact that it strayed so far from what was expected of Star Wars.
Even now, three years on from the film’s release, you’ll find Star Wars enthusiasts – some of them the same people who called The Force Awakens too familiar – claiming The Last Jedi is too different to truly be Star Wars.
It’s a legitimate argument to make, but then again, isn’t this exactly what so many of those same fans said they wanted some five years ago?
19. It questions how previous Star Wars films have defined bravery
Hand in hand with taking a different narrative approach, The Last Jedi makes a point of putting a different spin on many of the core philosophies underlying the Star Wars saga.
Take Poe Dameron; traditionally, flyboy rule-breakers like him and Han Solo have been celebrated as heroes in the Star Wars universe. Not so in The Last Jedi.
In Episode VIII we see the flipside: Poe’s reckless appetite for destruction finds the entire Resistance bomber fleet killed in the film’s opening scene.
Later, due to his arrogance, Poe very nearly derails Leia and Holdo’s plan to save the few Resistance fighters that are left.
Last Jedi’s decision to make an example of Poe wasn’t for everyone, but for those of us looking for something different from Star Wars, the interrogation of brash heroics was a breath of fresh air.
18. Grumpy old Luke Skywalker is an interesting and logical development of the character
Think about it: The Force Awakens told us that Luke has disappeared from the known galaxy and hidden somewhere no one could find him, all on his own. Would he really have done that if he was still much of a people person? And is it really surprising that Luke would be resentful of Rey coming to lure him back to the fight?
In The Last Jedi, Luke has gone from wide-eyed young student to world-weary (or should that be galaxy-weary?) old master. It’s not a choice everyone agreed with.
Still, when you consider Luke’s arguments for the dissolution of the Jedi, and the fact that he inadvertently created Kylo Ren, it’s not hard to see why Luke would be the way he is in Episode VIII.
It’s also not unlike Luke to be so deeply flawed and human: in A New Hope, Empire and to an extent Return of the Jedi, Luke is impulsive, impatient, sometimes cocky and occasionally given to mean-spiritedness and bursts of anger.
Not all Star Wars fans liked seeing Luke go the way he does in Last Jedi, but consider this: Luke becoming a grizzled, Obi Wan-like hermit was part of George Lucas’ original plan for a sequel trilogy long before Rian Johnson came on board.
17. The film frees Kylo Ren from being the ‘new Vader’
Of all the ways The Force Awakens imitates A New Hope, the similarity between the film’s main villains is perhaps the most glaringly obvious example.
Everything about Kylo Ren – his dress sense, his subservience to an enigmatic leader, his status as the lone Force-wielder amongst otherwise normal military commanders – established him as a successor to his grandfather Darth Vader, despite him clearly being a more conflicted, emotional man.
So angsty and complicated in The Force Awakens, Kylo really becomes his own character in Last Jedi.
From his first scenes, in which he smashes his Vader-like mask to pieces, hesitates over killing his mother and bonds with the similarly lonely Rey via the Force, Kylo is set apart as a villain unlike any Star Wars has ever seen.
Ultimately usurping Snoke to take command of the First Order himself, in The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren becomes a true leader, where Vader was never more than the power behind the throne.
16. The film delves more deeply into the nature of the Force than ever before
One thing that has helped Star Wars remain a source of such long-standing fascination worldwide is the underlying mysticism, largely courtesy of the elusive yet ever-present Force.
Taking it beyond some ‘hokey religion’, The Last Jedi explores the Force more meaningfully than any previous entry in the series.
Introducing new powers like Force projection and ‘Forcetime’, Last Jedi also offers us the franchise’s most clear-cut understanding of what the Force actually is.
At the beginning of her training with Luke, Rey envisions the Force as a balance between “Life. Death and decay, that feeds new life. Warmth. Cold. Peace. Violence.”
While Luke’s three lessons to Rey may evoke his own training with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, in Last Jedi the student and master enter into a much richer dialogue – and this time, the elder Jedi seems to have as much to learn as the Padawan.
15. It emphasises the use of brains over brawn
After Poe’s shoot-first-think-never approach backfires in Last Jedi’s opening scene, Finn and his new friend Rose Tico are forced to think outside the box.
To outsmart the Empire, in Last Jedi the Rebels come up with a plan of action slightly more nuanced than just blowing stuff up.
It takes breaking away from the fleet, flying to casino planet Canto Bight in search of a ‘master code breaker’ then improvising when trouble with local authorities occurs.
It takes sneaking into an Imperial ship with the intention of deactivating a tracking device so the Resistance fleet can slip away.
The plan may not succeed, but the point remains: prevailing in the face of adversity doesn’t necessarily mean using violence, but it’s always vital to use your brain.
14. It establishes that the Force is with everyone, not just the Skywalker bloodline
We’ve never quite understood why so many fans were obsessed with finding out who Rey’s parents are, but The Last Jedi would seem to give us a fairly clear answer: it doesn’t matter, and it never did.
In Last Jedi, Rey is strong with the Force because anyone can potentially be strong with the Force, like the so-called ‘Broom Boy’ seen in the film’s final scene.
It’s strange to us that fans found this development unsatisfying, especially considering it opens up the Star Wars universe to so many possibilities.
Of course, anyone who has seen Rise of Skywalker will know JJ Abrams has since attempted to retcon Last Jedi’s more inclusive message – but we don’t buy it.
Surely the idea that anyone can wield universe-changing power regardless of heritage is far more inspiring than the notion that such power only belongs to those of a specific lineage? Rey Palpatine doesn’t change a thing – Last Jedi still tells us anyone can be strong in the Force.
13. Porgs are quite possibly the cutest creatures in Star Wars history
Fascinating though the film is, it bears emphasising that The Last Jedi isn’t all long-winded philosophy and subverted expectation.
It still delivers all the vital ingredients of any Star Wars movie, and one key part of that is the presence of cute, kid-friendly creatures.
And if we’re talking cute, it’s doubtful that any Star Wars creation has ever been more adorable than the porgs, the feathery little critters that live on Luke’s adopted home of Ahch-To.
Invented by director Rian Johnson as a way of digitally covering up the numerous puffins found on location at Skellig Michael, porgs are a happy accident: half-seabird, half-chipmunk, all cute.
For some bonus cuteness, also see the glittering vulptex aka ‘crystal critters’ that live on the planet Crait.
12. The heartbreaking reunion of Luke and Leia
Seeing Luke and Leia together again after all those years was always going to be poignant for those of us who grew up watching Star Wars.
In The Last Jedi, brother and sister are finally reunited, after a big-screen break of 34 years, for only the briefest of moments.
Reintroducing himself just in time to save the day, Luke appears before Leia older but familiar, with Leia herself broken down following her near-death experience.
To watch that Last Jedi scene in the knowledge that Carrie Fisher is no longer with us pushes us right over the edge into full-blown blubbery tears.
Seriously, if you can hear Luke tell Leia “no one’s ever really gone” and not at least get a little bit choked, do you even have a soul?
11. It emphasises the power of hope against all odds
With the possible exceptions of The Empire Strikes Back and Rogue One, in so many ways, The Last Jedi is the bleakest Star Wars film.
Come the end of the film, the Resistance is almost completely wiped out, Kylo is leading the First Order, and Luke is dead… but despite it all, the spark of hope remains.
Even in the face of overwhelming odds, the Rebels and the one Jedi left alive in the galaxy continue to burn with optimism.
The Last Jedi is a film about failure, but the movie doesn’t dwell on defeat – rather, it teaches that failure can make us even stronger.
This is a hard but vital lesson for young and old alike, which has always been at the heart of Star Wars: no matter how dark things seem, we never lose as long as we keep hold of our hope.
10. It’s the most visually beautiful Star Wars film
It’s the one thing that both lovers and haters of Episode VIII seem to agree on: that The Last Jedi is probably the best-looking film in the Star Wars universe.
Perhaps tied with standalone story Rogue One, which boasts the franchise’s finest use of visual effects, The Last Jedi looks like every one of its some 300 million dollars was put up there on the screen.
It’s all thanks to cinematographer Steve Yedlin, director Rian Johnson’s collaborator through all five of his films including Last Jedi.
Handed virtually unlimited funds, each shot of Yedlin’s in The Last Jedi is lovingly framed and richly coloured, with splashes of slasher red painted over a palette of black, white and gold.
It’s pulpy science fiction as high art. Shot by shot, The Last Jedi looks good enough to mount on your wall at home.
9. It features some of the best acting in the series
If The Force Awakens was A New Hope, aka the fun, bouncy one, then The Last Jedi is the sequel trilogy’s Empire Strikes Back, aka the darker, deeper exploration of themes and character.
Like Empire, The Last Jedi is a film that forces the actors to go long on the characters they’re playing – and draws some of the best performances of the entire series as a result.
While John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are as reliably watchable as ever, others including a sneering Andy Serkis and a hilarious Domhnall Gleeson are allowed to come to the fore, with Academy-approved newcomers Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro brought in as support.
Daisy Ridley, meanwhile, is heartbreaking as Rey in her scenes alongside Mark Hamill, who’s also the best he’s ever been as a self-loathing, regretful Luke Skywalker.
The ace in the deck, of course, is Adam Driver, so layered as Kylo Ren in Episode VIII he might just make for the series’ greatest villain.
8. It’s genuinely surprising from beginning to end
Like it or not, no one would say The Last Jedi is a film you can easily predict; it’s probably the most shocking Star Wars film since Empire, in fact.
From beginning to end, there are surprises in store, from subverting expectations of Poe’s heroics to dismissing fan theories about characters in the bluntest fashion (you can forget about Rey Kenobi…).
Think Kylo is evil simply because Dark Side? Think again: he turned when his ‘hero’ uncle turned on him first.
Think Snoke is the trilogy’s big bad? Wrong again: Kylo kills the Emperor figure in The Last Jedi’s second act, making himself the new boss-level bad guy.
Think Luke is really on Crait, facing down the First Order by himself in the film’s finale? Not only is Luke not there, but he never even left his island retreat, the place where – come the end of the film – the legendary hero of this saga dies before the trilogy is out.
7. It’s the most romantic Star Wars movie
If there’s one thing missing from Star Wars as a whole, it’s much in the way of real romantic passion, something that The Last Jedi has in spades.
Consider the other ‘great’ Star Wars romances. Anakin and Padme? A pairing as dull as dishwater. Han and Leia? Cute, but relatively underdeveloped. And let’s not even get started on Luke and Leia…
The Last Jedi, on the other hand, is like one long seduction, as the seemingly incompatible Kylo Ren – the story’s villain – and Rey, the hero, slowly fall for one another over a series of private conversations.
Rey and Kylo’s scenes together – conducted largely using the Force, the two blocking out the whole universe but for each other’s voices – are so charged that The Last Jedi becomes the ostensible family series’ one legitimately sexy film.
Best of all, Last Jedi’s feature-length Reylo flirtation culminates in one of the most unabashedly passionate and strangely romantic scenes in Star Wars history.
6. The throne room scene
Capping off that Rey and Kylo romance is one of the most stunning scenes in Star Wars, period.
There’s a familiar confrontation – the villainous pupil brings the hero before his master – then expectations defied as the pupil kills his master and joins forces with the hero to fight off the deceased Leader’s elite guard.
A room bathed in red, then set on fire as hero and villain fight side by side, against a common enemy, in a superbly-choreographed fight to the death.
Hero and villain triumphant, the villain reveals that the tearful hero comes from “nothing”. He as lonely as she, he asks her to join him: “Please”, he whimpers, before she defiantly engages him in combat once more…
This moment is so powerful and visually impressive, even Last Jedi doubters can admit that the throne room scene is one of the very best in the Skywalker saga.
5. That opening sequence
Beginning where The Force Awakens left off, The Last Jedi opens in the middle of a life-or-death action sequence that feels like a mini-movie in itself.
After he takes out the cannons on the Imperial dreadnought, Poe signals for the Resistance bomber crew to move in – and The Last Jedi really begins.
One by one, the Rebel bombers are picked off by TIE fighters, leaving it up to just one to take down the Imperial starship that’s getting ready to destroy the Resistance fleet.
Paige Tico, a simple gunner and the last crewmember left alive on the bomber, manages to drop the payload on the dreadnought just in time – before she goes down with the ship a Resistance hero.
Confirming The Last Jedi’s central theme – that anybody can become somebody – from the off, the bomber sequence is nailbiting, emotionally-wrought real cinema.
4. The Holdo manoeuvre
Not everybody likes the Holdo manoeuvre, aka the scene in which Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo uses a Resistance cruiser to blow a hole through Supreme Leader Snoke’s flagship.
Blasting at the flagship at lightspeed and tearing it apart in the process, Holdo’s sacrificial move raises a few questions, such as: what is to stop everyone from pulling the same trick, and why has no one in the series tried it before?
Still, visually and emotionally, Holdo’s sacrifice makes for one of the most striking Star Wars scenes.
As Holdo makes the jump to lightspeed, smashing up the Imperial fleet, The Last Jedi turns completely silent, leaving us with only some indelible images of cosmic destruction.
Does the scene check out in terms of Star Wars’ logic? Maybe, maybe not – but it’s a hell of a scene all the same.
3. Luke justifies the existence of the prequels in two sentences
For all the claims that writer-director Rian Johnson killed Star Wars and/or never understood the franchise, The Last Jedi does a pretty neat job summing up much of the series lore.
There’s no better example of this than at the start of Luke’s second lesson with Rey, in which the grumpy old Jedi explicates the lessons learned from the Star Wars prequel trilogy in just two lines of dialogue.
In case you need reminding, the dialogue goes, “At the height of their powers, they [the Jedi] allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out. It was a Jedi Master who was responsible for the training and creation of Darth Vader.”
Considering just how many Star Wars fans would like to pretend the prequels never happened, it’s a pretty bold move to directly remind the audience of them in that way – and even, gasp, to suggest we might take something of value from them.
The Last Jedi may be the Star Wars film which tells us to “let the past die,” but that doesn’t mean we should forget; history has a habit of repeating itself if we don’t take heed of the mistakes made by those who came before us.
2. The Luke Skywalker/Kylo Ren showdown
Many Star Wars fans will be well aware that a key influence on George Lucas’s original vision was Akira Kurosawa, the iconic Japanese director famed for his samurai epics.
Both in terms of underlying philosophy, and to an extent fighting style, the samurai are a huge influence on the Jedi.
Surely no scene in Star Wars history so directly evokes the mood of a Kurosawa samurai showdown than when Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren face off against one another on Crait.
In these days when we’re accustomed to blockbuster movies only getting more frenetic in the final scenes, it’s so invigorating to see a final showdown that really takes its time, builds tension and emphasises character.
It’s beautifully framed and cut, and – though some fans may disagree – the ultimate revelation that Luke was never even really there only makes it a more powerful moment.
1. Rose Tico: the true spirit of Star Wars personified
The Force Awakens may have essentially given us variations on existing Star Wars archetypes, but with the introduction of Rose Tico, The Last Jedi brings us a genuinely new and different character.
For one, her introduction as a low-ranking engineer underlines The Last Jedi’s key theme that a person’s importance is not dictated by their family heritage (the death and subsequent ‘war hero’ status of Rose’s sister Paige notwithstanding).
Secondly, Rose is the closest approximation we’ve seen to a realistic Star Wars fan within the Star Wars universe: she’s nerdy, socially awkward, and visibly geeks out meeting Finn, especially when he says “may the Force be with you.” We daresay a whole lot of fans can relate.
Above all, though, Rose’s spirit encompasses the real message of the movie, and indeed the franchise: her emphasis on compassion over aggression, and her optimism that good can and will prevail, all summed up in her lines, “that’s how we’re going to win: not fighting what we hate; saving what we love.”
All of which only makes it hurt worse that Rose actress Kelly Marie Tran wound up the focus of a racist hate campaign from so-called fans, and that Lucasfilm saw fit to pander to these bullies by reducing Rose’s role in The Rise of Skywalker to 76 seconds of screen time. We suppose that’s one way to ‘unlearn what you have learned.’