(A version of this article was shared with Laughing Place and published on October 1, 2023.)
Since 1977, the Star Wars galaxy has produced some of the most memorable movie moments of all time. With nine core saga films, two supporting films, several live-action television series, animated series, video games, and merchandise, Star Wars is literally an “Empire” of a franchise.
For over forty-five years, Star Wars has served up a healthy dose of iconic quotes. Some transcend the limits of the Star Wars galaxy and have become ingrained in pop culture. Others have remained more intimately meaningful within the Star Wars story, while also offering some wisdom applicable to life here on Earth.
As we prepare to wrap up Ahsoka, the latest (and possibly the greatest?) Star Wars television series to date, let’s take a look at 20 of the most memorable quotes from the Star Wars franchise. The sheer volume of stories could easily fill a book, so many popular quotes didn’t quite make the cut here. But hey, the debate over favorite quotes, and their popularity and meaning, is part of the fun!
The Original Trilogy
The original Star Wars films – later defined as episodes four through six, out of nine – contain many of the “best of the best” quotes. Many of the quotes listed here have carried on throughout the franchise, to other films and television.
“May the Force Be With You.”
First on our list, let’s acknowledge the Force-filled elephant in the room. No list of Star Wars quotes would be complete without the most iconic line in all the galaxy. This quote (or versions of it) has been said many, many times by many, many characters, but it had its genesis here in George Lucas’ original 1977 “space western.”
Somewhere in between “good luck” and “break a leg” – “May the Force Be With You” has come to represent universal encouragement between all well-meaning beings in the Star Wars galaxy. These words incorporate the advanced concepts of the Force – defined by Obi-Wan Kenobi as “an energy field created by all living things”, which “surrounds us and penetrates us” – but they also work on a simpler level that all beings can appreciate.
And of course, all Star Wars fans playfully twist this favorite quote every year on Star Wars Day – May the Fourth!
“Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re My Only Hope.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it doesn’t get much more desperate than Princess Leai putting all her hope into a simple astromech droid and jettisoning him (and his vociferous partner) into space. This simple recording set the stage for what would be one of the comebacks in galactic history (not to mention one of the largest revolutions in cinematic history). With our first introduction to Leia in Episode IV: A New Hope being this grainy, glowing pint-sized projection, we better appreciate her all the more when we see her fully just a short time later.
“I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This.”
This often-uttered quote has become a gag line of sorts throughout the Star Wars franchise. The genesis of the phrase is in Episode IV: A New Hope, when Han, Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids get caught in a tractor beam projected from that “small moon.” Since then, it is almost easier to identify those who haven’t said this phrase, than to list those who have. It has come to represent something of a negative outlook which usually turns out ok in the end. But in a galaxy where the Force is ever-present, and instincts often prove true, this quote usually represents a justified concern.
“I Am Your Father.”
Perhaps the biggest plot twist in the history of American cinema came from the voice box of Darth Vader, delivering the horrific news to his son Luke in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. In order to keep this revelation top secret, George Lucas and very few others involved with the film actually scripted the line “Obi-Wan killed your father” to keep most people from knowing the truth. Actor Mark Hamill, being a critical part of the scene, was one of only a handful of people who knew the real line. The story was never meant to paint Obi-Wan in a bad light. The line was simply written as a red herring to mislead everyone involved in the filming in a different direction, to guard against potential spoilers.
“Do, or Do Not. There Is No Try.”
Uncertainty and doubt can be a Jedi’s biggest downfall. When trying to achieve what most view as impossible, confidence and self-belief are critical. This is what Master Yoda was trying to teach a young, impatient, and distracted Luke Skywalker in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. But sometimes words aren’t enough, and you need to magically lift a sunken space ship out of a swamp to demonstrate the lesson. When Luke exclaims “I don’t believe it”, Yoda elegantly makes his point by simply saying “That is why you failed.” Class dismissed!
C-3PO is not known for his optimism. If I had a quarter for every time he worried about something…(well, a quarter isn’t worth so much nowadays, but you get the point). If he’s not complaining about his “lot in life” or trying to tell Han Solo “the odds” then he’s lamenting the certainty of his woeful future. One of the distressed droid’s more famous frets is “We’re doomed.” Threepio first vocalizes his dreadful fate at the beginning of Episode IV: A New Hope, but he reprised his concern again in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, when faced with the prospect of entering Jabba’s Palace with only R2-D2 by his side. Amazingly, Threepio always comes out alive (and usually in one piece).
“It’s a Trap!”
The internet is a wonderful thing. In these days where memes are king, Admiral Ackbar’s simple, yet dramatically pointed, revelation at the Battle of Endor in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi has since become the punchline of many “dumb guy” situational memes and scenarios. The pop culture popularity of Ackbar’s line has given this relatively minor character a huge lasting impact on the Star Wars galaxy.
The Prequel Trilogy
After a sixteen-year hiatus, the “prequel trilogy” essentially rebooted the Star Wars franchise to the days before Darth Vader was…well…Darth Vader. The prequels sought to add background and lore to the stories we had come to love. While the prequels didn’t agree with everyone, one of the brighter sides of the prequels was a healthy dose of fan-favorite Jedi Master Yoda, who offered two of the quotes listed below.
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Yoda’s famed “path to the dark side” is spelled out crystal clear in this quote from Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But for as much as he hammers the point home, in the end Anakin Skywalker’s path felt inevitable. And let’s be honest – it’s hard to blame Anakin to a certain degree. The kid was born a slave, and his mother remained a slave until she was ruthlessly held captive by Tusken Raiders. Anakin had his chance to train as a great Jedi, but he couldn’t handle the separation of Jedi from societal norms (namely, the ability to pursue a romantic relationship). His most trusted mentor (other than Obi-Wan) was playing him – and the entire Republic – like a fiddle throughout the Clone Wars. Anakin let his fears overcome him, and from there his path was clear, though tragic.
“Always two, there are. No more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”
The “Rule of Two” is a long standing principle in circles of the Force. In Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Yoda uses this quote to describe the order of the Sith, whereby only two Sith Lords were allowed to exist at any given time; a master and an apprentice. The Rule (as written in Wookiepedia) stipulated that after learning everything the master had to teach, the apprentice would attempt to kill the master and take an apprentice of their own, thereby ensuring that the order would continuously get stronger. Yoda noted Darth Sidious and his apprentice Darth Maul as the current Sith pair in The Phantom Menace. Other notable Sith pairs include Sidious and Count Dooku, Sidious and Anakin/Darth Vader, and Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren.
A similar tenet often applies to Jedi as well, with Qui-Gon Jinn training Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan training Anakin, Anakin training Ahsoka Tano, Yoda training Luke, Luke training Leia and Rey (at different times), and on it goes. Of course, the Jedi deviate somewhat from the Rule of Two, founding training academies and other team-based relationships.
Let’s call this what it is – Obi-Wan Kenobi’s catch phrase. The popular Jedi uses his signature greeting so casually, regardless of the moment. We first hear him gently greet R2-D2 with the phrase in Episode IV: A New Hope. But in the prequel film Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a younger, more confident Obi-Wan dropped the phrase when surprising his enemy General Grievous in a showdown. Obi-Wan has gone on to use the phrase in multiple episodes of The Clone Wars, as well as at the end of the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. In fact, many other characters have used the phrase in Star Wars television, cementing its status as an epic Star Wars quote.
The Sequel Trilogy
Another decade passed after the completion of the prequel trilogy, until the now-Disney-owned Lucasfilm released the first film in the “sequel trilogy.” If I’m being perfectly honest, memorable quotes from the sequel trilogy are few and far between, but they did contain a few gems.
“Chewie, We’re Home.”
When Han Solo gleefully speaks these words to Chewie in Episode VII: The Force Awakens, he’s not just speaking about being back home in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. He’s also speaking to Star Wars fans around the world, happily back in a galaxy far, far away after a decade-long hiatus without a single Star Wars feature. In a film that felt like a reunion with old friends, Han and Chewie were perhaps the attendees of honor.
“The greatest teacher, failure is.”
Even in the afterlife, Yoda continues to teach with his endless words of wisdom. And every time he makes a point, I sit there and go “Huh, that’s true.” Here in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Force ghost Yoda is still guiding a now much older Luke on the ways of life. Luke made a huge mistake when he fled the galaxy and abandoned his Jedi academy in the face of adversity. But Yoda is here to help him step out from his self-imposed hiding and make one last contribution to the benefit of the galaxy. Failure is only a true loss if nothing is learned from it, but when approached productively, failure can directly lead to success.
“We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.”
As the quote suggests, the Jedi Order goes back a long, long time. A thousand generations of teaching and learning, failure and success, and war and peace. Throughout Star Wars history, a remarkable amount of knowledge and wisdom has been accumulated among the Jedi. But, as Luke warns Rey in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, it is up to her to take that knowledge and use it to steer the galaxy back to a peaceful place. When Rey faces a final showdown with the never-say-die Emperor Palpatine, she truly feels the generations of Jedi guiding her. Of course, she also gets by with a little help from her friend Kylo Ren.
Outside the nine-part “Skywalker Saga”, the Star Wars galaxy has expanded to fill in some gaps between the stories. One of the films – Rogue One – was met with critical and audience praise. The other – Solo – not so much.
“Rebellions are built on hope.”
In 2016, Rogue One burst onto the scene as the only Star Wars film to that point which was not part of the official Skywalker saga. The entire film (which may be considered by some to be the single best in the franchise) revolves around the Rebellion’s desperate attempt to obtain the plans to the Empire’s dreaded Death Star, in hopes of exploiting a weakness to destroy it. This singular hope fueled the Rebellion, and Jyn Erso’s declaration sparked those involved in the mission to take the chance of a lifetime, for the betterment of the galaxy.
“I Am One With the Force, and the Force Is With Me.”
We have established that the Force is universally present, though some are more intuitive in their ability to learn and wield it than others. In Rogue One, Chirrut Îmwe possessed only a limited ability to use the Force, yet he had enough appreciation and respect for the Force to be able to trust in its guidance. Chirrut’s clever employment of his limited Force abilities guided him through intense battle scenes, and his willingness to fight the good fight at all costs earned him a hero’s place in Star Wars history.
Off the big screen, Lucasfilm has produced a handful of live-action and animated television series which have continued to thicken the lore of Star Wars. A few quotes from live-action television are here for your enjoyment.
“This Is the Way.”
Instantly sensational, instantly popular, and instantly iconic. That was The Mandalorian in 2019. As arguably the most anticipated series to air on the fledgling Disney+ streaming service, The Mandalorian brought great expectations, and it delivered. The adventures of Din Djarin and his foundling (aka The Child, aka, Baby Yoda, aka Grogu) have been nothing short of a joyride through the Star Wars galaxy.
Getting introduced to a deeper level of the Mandalorian community, we quickly learned of the almost religious-like quality of their society. To Mandalorians, “This is the way” is part religious manta, part code of ethics, and sometimes part personal assertion. No matter how you slice it, it is a proverb held deeply, and with high regard, by Mandalorians across the galaxy. The words have even seeped beyond the Star Wars galaxy and into pop culture. This is the way!
“I Have Spoken.”
Even before we meet Grogu – the breakout star of The Mandalorian, we first cross paths with Quiil, an Ugnaught (those little guys working for Lando Calrissian in Cloud City) living on the planet Arvala-7. Quiil, and other members of the Ugnaught race, take their communication and diction very seriously (in fact, they take EVERYTHING very seriously). When Quiil has a statement to make, he makes it very bluntly, and finishes with “I have spoken.” In other words – “don’t even bother arguing the point with me.”
Din Djarin (Mando) quickly adapted to Quiil’s communication, and his humility allowed him to connect with and learn from the Ugnaught. Later, in season three of The Mandalorian, Mando was able to use what he learned from Quiil and effectively communicate with another group of Ugnaughts, where fellow Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze fell short.
“I Am What You Made Me.”
Repeat those words using Darth Vader’s voice…the result is bone-chilling. Perhaps the most monumental moment in all of Star Wars storytelling is the epic battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, resulting in Anakin’s physical transformation to Darth Vader. In Obi-Wan Kenobi (the series) we get to follow the paths of both characters in the aftermath of that clash, and as a result we witness first-hand some of the horrors of being Darth Vader.
“I’d rather die trying to take them down than die giving them what they want.”
The grossly underappreciated Star Wars show Andor hit high points on so many levels of storytelling. The twelve-episode series showed the plight of galactic citizens under the ruthless Empire in a new (and sometimes gruesome) light. It also shed some light on the inner workings of the Rebellion – all without igniting a single lightsaber. One of the arcs of the show follows Cassian Andor as he is having to conform to Imperial prison standards, while still trying to figure out how to fight back. In a situation that looks truly hopeless, Andor declares this quote and ignites a spark, which gave me absolute chills.