14. The cliffhangers
Game of Thrones had nearly a dozen episode- or season-ending cliffhangers that had fans shouting for more and reeling from the loss of a favorite character — fans also quickly learned to not get attached to any characters as they would inevitably be killed off.
From the thrilling, satisfying scene of Daenerys Targaryen’s fleet finally sailing to Westeros to the heartbreaking execution of Ned Stark and rage-filled assassination of Jon Snow, Game of Thrones delivered juicy cliffhangers in every season.
But Star Wars, specifically The Empire Strikes Back, delivered the greatest cliffhanger of all time — one that can be hard to appreciate because of the history and context provided in the prequel films.
The cliffhanger begins at the end of The Empire Strikes Back and shows Luke Skywalker learning of his true parentage when Darth Vader utters the phrase, “No, I am your father.” It’s a quote so ingrained in popular culture that it’s difficult to fathom the utter shock felt by fans back in 1980. This was the first time anyone outside the film’s crew learned that Luke Skywalker was the son of the terrifying Sith lord. There were no prequel films chronicling Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side or countless books describing Emperor Palpatine’s dark motivations.
Before this revelation, Star Wars was strictly “good vs. evil” — the Rebels vs. the Empire. But the hero of the Rebellion finding out he’s the son of the Empire’s deadliest member muddied the waters. And fans didn’t get more clarification or an end to Luke and Darth Vader’s journey until three years later with Return of the Jedi.
Even with that film, fans still didn’t fully grasp the complexities of Anakin and the Skywalker family until the prequel trilogy of films released in the 1990s. Since then, we’re still learning more and more about the galaxy’s most famous family through television shows, books and the saga-ending sequel films.