The popularity of Star Wars is built on the impressive performances of the characters George Lucas created.
When Star Wars was released in 1977, no one could have guessed how popular it would become. A large part of its appeal is George Lucas’ ability to craft unique and compelling characters, but characters by themselves are only as memorable as the actors portraying them. What truly sets Star Wars apart are the ways the characters Lucas envisioned were brought to life by the actors he cast to play the roles. Though there are certainly some big names in Star Wars, many of them weren’t big names when they joined the Star Wars universe. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford are big names now, but their success and popularity were launched by their performances in Star Wars.
As more films have been added to the Star Wars franchise, the list of standout performances that have made Lucas’ story come to life has only grown. From the original trilogy, which told the story of Luke Skywalker becoming a Jedi and restoring order to the galaxy, to the prequel trilogy, which told the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side and transformation into Darth Vader, to the sequel trilogy, which told the story of a scavenger girl named Rey picking up the Skywalker mantle to end the Sith once and for all, Star Wars if full of stunning actor performances. Here are the top 15.
1. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Mark Hamill’s notoriety began with his performance of the ambitious farm boy Luke Skywalker in 1977’s A New Hope, and for the past 40 years, audiences have associated his face with the galaxy’s most famous Jedi. At the time of A New Hope’s release, Hamill was relatively unknown, and his youthful energy and boyish facial features defined Luke Skywalker as an immature yet eager hero. He carried this immaturity into The Empire Strikes Back with his training with Yoda, an impressive performance for Hamill considering he was performing opposite a puppet voiced by Frank Oz.
The highlight of Hamill’s performance as Luke Skywalker came during Return of the Jedi. From his first appearance in Jabba’s castle, Hamill brought a confidence to the role that demonstrated the maturity of the character. As the film progressed, Luke became the pattern of what it means to be a Jedi in the Star Wars universe. After all, outside of the brief appearances of Alec Guinness as aged Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Frank Oz’s performance as Yoda, Hamill’s Luke Skywalker was the first Jedi Star Wars fans encountered and rooted for. Hamill’s performance in Return of the Jedi took on a seriousness not seen in the first two films, and his conviction that Darth Vader could be turned to the light made audiences believe it too.