The neverending Star Wars saga is paradoxically often quite good at endings. Following great battles and heightened stakes, the movies typically provide endings that are somewhat quieter by comparison. A Star Wars ending also needs to provide a moment that makes the audience feel something before John Williams’s ending fanfare crashes in to release whatever tension was just built to.
Star Wars movies have ended with notes from the celebratory to the sad, often working to both close one chapter and set up the next. Most of these endings are distinct and instantly recognizable to fans, with sounds and imagery that have become iconic since the initial release of these films.
11. The Rise of Skywalker
The Rise of Skywalker does everything it can to make Rey (Daisy Ridley) a vessel for fanboy nostalgia. After two movies on her own journey and one scattered mess, Rey’s story ends with her going to the home planet of her mentor, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). It’s on Tatooine that she buries the saber that called to her in the woods, along with one that belonged to Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
For context, this burial takes place on the planet Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) hated, close to where he buried his mother, where Luke’s aunt and uncle were brutally murdered by stormtroopers, and also on the same planet where Leia was briefly captured and made to be a giant slug’s sex slave.
To top it all off, the last shot of the movie copies and pastes a flipped image of Rey from earlier in the movie over an uglier version of the iconic twin suns, which have absolutely zero meaning for Rey. This scene also features one of the most groan-inducing (and heavily meme-d) moments of any Star Wars movie. Rey somehow meets yet another person with an odd fixation on last names, and declares that she is “Rey Skywalker.” Sure.
As for the positives, John Williams writes a gorgeous score for this scene that it does not deserve, and Rey finally shows off her new lightsaber, made from pieces of the staff she’s carried with her for three movies.
10. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) tracks down young Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) for the Sabacc rematch that wins him the Millenium Falcon. Both Ehrenreich and Glover give good performances that capture the spirit of their predecessors while avoiding slipping too much into impression territory. Just as importantly, the two actors share a chemistry that fits what audiences already know about the long-standing complicated friendship between Han and Lando.
After winning the game, Han and Chewie hop into the Falcon and head off to do a job. The script teases the audience with a mention of a gangster, most likely Jabba the Hutt. It’s all very fan-servicey, but charming enough to be mostly enjoyable.
9. The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace ends with a celebration after the Republic has triumphed in the Battle of Naboo. Young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) stands with his newly massacred hair alongside a young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), and Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
While there certainly isn’t anything wrong with the ending of The Phantom Menace, it just doesn’t stand out as much as some of the more memorable Star Wars movie finales. When it was released, it was the third ending to feature a victory celebration, and despite some highlights (Padme’s jubilee dress, for one), it didn’t quite live up to those that came before.
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Yes, the Vader scene rules, and yes, it is essentially meaningless fanservice. Every once in a while both of these things can be true. After boldly killing off all of its main characters, Rogue One retreats into safer territory, easing audiences back into what they already know. This ending basically works to get everything in place for an immediate viewing of A New Hope. It’s cool and exciting, bolstered by Michael Giacchino’s excellent score, but not quite as meaningful as the scene just prior at Scarif. Also, CGI Leia looks super, super weird.
7. A New Hope
After successfully destroying the Death Star, Luke and Han (Harrison Ford) are given ceremonial medals by Leia. A triumphant score swells over the two new heroes (and Chewbacca) as they stride toward the princess. A fitting, feel-good end to a movie that didn’t need a sequel, but we’re so glad it got one.
6. Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones ends with the secret wedding of Anakin and Padme. Their Naboo wedding is cut to right after the first clone army is deployed under the command of the Republic. Both events are thought to be positive by the people involved but share a foreboding undercurrent. Of course, neither part of this story has a happy ending; the clone army is used to kill the Jedi, and Anakin’s love for Padme is manipulated and used by Palpatine to turn him to the dark side.
However, it’s lovely while it lasts: “Across the Stars” plays over the image of Anakin and Padme (wearing a gorgeous wedding dress and veil) sharing their first kiss as a newlywed couple in a shot that mirrors the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
5. The Force Awakens
Rey’s journey in The Force Awakens takes her from a lonely outsider and puts her on the path towards her own journey to figuring out who she wants to be. This culminates in her being the one sent to talk to Luke Skywalker in his self-imposed exile.
After R2D2 chooses the most convenient moment on record to wake up from a nap, the map everyone spent the movie searching for is finally complete. With these coordinates, Rey and Chewie board the Falcon and head to Ahch-To. Rey makes the journey to the top of the island alone and finds Luke in his full Jedi attire, standing alone. Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill do great work as Rey silently extends her hand, containing the lightsaber that belonged to Luke and Anakin. The movie ends with one of the biggest cliffhangers in Star Wars history.
4. Revenge of the Sith
After Padme’s death and the fall of the Republic, Obi-Wan takes a newborn Luke to be raised on Tatooine by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. The ending of Revenge of the Sith gets everything in place for the twenty years that take place between the events Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
As a rule, Star Wars typically follows heartbreak with the promise of hope. The tragic end of Rogue One is followed by the Rebels receiving the Death Star plans that saved the galaxy, and Han’s fate in The Empire Strikes Back is followed by Lando promising Leia that they’ll find and rescue him. Revenge of the Sith contains probably the saddest ending of all but leaves the audience with the image of a baby Luke in a place where he’ll be raised safely until he can one day save the galaxy.
3. The Empire Strikes Back
As Luke gets his mechanical hand installed, Lando ensures him and Leia that he and Chewbacca will find Han. The trio has taken heavy losses, what with Leia losing Han and Luke losing his hand. The Empire is as powerful as ever, and Luke’s just found out that his greatest enemy is his dad. Despite things looking dark, he and Leia have each other, and the movie ends on a hopeful note for the Rebels.
2. Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi gives the whole gang (and the whole galaxy, really) a happy ending. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO, and a rhythm-less Lando stand together, celebrating the fall of the Empire and the end of the war. Luke has succeeded in bringing his father back to the light, while Leia, Han, and Lando did their part to beat the Imperial forces on the ground and in the Death Star.
The official ending of the war calls for celebration. An Ewok celebration, including drums made from the helmets of their dead enemies. These little bears are brutal. Throw in a few Force ghosts and a whole lot of hugging and you have yourself a genuine, completely uncynical happy ending.
1. The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi’s ending encapsulates what Star Wars is all about. A group of impoverished and abused children sits around retelling the legend of Luke Skywalker, and how he came out of exile to face down the entire First Order and save the Resistance.
When their storytelling session is broken up, the nameless boy who appeared earlier in the movie runs outside and grabs a broom to get back to work. As he does, he takes a moment to look up at the sky. Among the stars, a ship can be seen jumping to lightspeed. The boy grips the broom handle tighter in the hand bearing a ring with a Resistance insignia. From behind, the boy looks like he could be holding a lightsaber, gazing up at the stars.