Played by Mark Hamill
A courageous, orphaned young farm boy who is eager for adventure and for the chance to prove himself a hero. The chief protagonist of Star Wars episodes IV–VI, Luke must learn to control his emotions and desires in order to master the powers of a Jedi Knight, powers that flow from a mystic connection to the Force, an energy field created by life itself. Luke is tutored in the ways of the Force first by Obi-Wan Kenobi and later by Yoda, Kenobi’s own master. Soon, however, Luke learns that Yoda and Obi-Wan have concealed from Luke his intimate connection to his greatest enemy, Darth Vader. Vader is in fact Luke’s father and a servant of the dark side of the Force. Luke resolves to redeem his father from the evil that controls him, and this fateful decision determines both his own and Vader’s fates, as well as that of the evil Galactic Empire.
Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker)
Played by David Prowse (Vader’s body) and James Earl Jones (Vader’s voice)
A fallen Jedi Knight, now Dark Lord of the Sith and a fearsome evil presence. Darth Vader is the apprentice to the Sith Master, Emperor Palpatine, and serves as his chief enforcer, the iron fist with which the Emperor rules the galaxy. Vader pursues Luke and his friends relentlessly throughout the trilogy, ostensibly in order to crush the Rebellion of which they are a part. Vader’s deeper motive, however, is to bring Luke, his long-hidden son, into the Emperor’s orbit and to turn him to the dark side of the Force. In the end, Luke succeeds in awakening the good that is dormant within Vader, and Vader turns on his master, becoming, at the very end of his life, Anakin Skywalker once more.
Princess Leia Organa
Played by Carrie Fisher
A member of the Imperial Senate and, secretly, one of the leaders of the Rebel Alliance. Leia meets Luke Skywalker and Han Solo when they rescue her from the Death Star and soon becomes close to them both. Courageous, level headed, and sharp tongued, Leia’s intense focus on the cause of overthrowing the Empire prevents her from acknowledging her growing attraction to Han Solo until it is almost too late. Early in the trilogy, Leia loses the only home she has ever known, when the planet Alderaan is destroyed by Grand Moff Tarkin via the Death Star, only to find a new family when she learns that Luke is actually her twin brother and, more disturbingly, that Darth Vader is her true father.
Played by Harrison Ford
A brash, roguish smuggler who becomes a hero despite his cynicism and his instinct for self-preservation. Solo is captain of the Millennium Falcon, a battered hotrod of a starship that, like its pilot, masks a valiant heart in an unprepossessing exterior. Initially Solo joins Luke and Obi-Wan on their quest purely for the money he is promised, but, moved by Obi-Wan’s sacrifice and by the courage of his young friend, Solo ends up joining their cause and becoming a leader of the Rebel Alliance. Solo, always careful to preserve his independence, falls in love with Princess Leia but enjoys sparring with her far too much to make his true feelings known. All that changes when Solo is captured by Jabba the Hutt, a gangster to whom Solo owes a small fortune. Luke and Leia lead an elaborate rescue of Solo, after which Solo is more honest about his devotion both to Leia and to the Rebellion they both serve.
Read an in-depth analysis of Han Solo.
Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi
Played by Alec Guinness
One of the last of the Jedi Knights and Luke’s first mentor. Obi-Wan is a steady, wise, reassuring figure who, though old, is still a Jedi, with a Jedi’s deadly skill and uncanny powers. Obi-Wan reveals to Luke that his father was once a Jedi Knight and that Luke is meant to follow in his footsteps, but he doesn’t reveal the full truth: that Luke’s father Anakin is not dead but has become the evil Darth Vader. Obi-Wan also neglects to mention that Princess Leia is Luke’s twin sister, in an attempt to preserve her safety. Obi-Wan begins training Luke in the ways of the Force and continues to advise him even after Darth Vader strikes Obi-Wan down in a lightsaber duel. Far from being killed in the duel, Obi-Wan merges with the Force, preserving his consciousness even as he transcends the limits of the flesh.
Played by Kenny Baker
A spunky, trashcan-shaped “astromech droid.” R2, along with his friend C-3PO, is swept up into the epic battle for the fate of the galaxy when Princess Leia hides the stolen plans for the Death Star inside his databanks. R2-D2 becomes Luke’s robotic copilot and all-around mechanical assistant and always seems to find himself in the thick of the action. Unswervingly loyal, brave, and feisty, R2-D2 is one of the films’ most popular characters, as well as a main source of comic relief, all the while communicating only in a series of electronic whistles, beeps, and chirps.
Played by Anthony Daniels
A golden, humanoid protocol droid. C-3PO is best friends with R2-D2, though the two often quarrel. Unlike R2-D2, C-3PO has little taste for adventure and is mostly an unwilling participant in the action, convinced all along that he and his friends are “doomed.” Though more a diplomat than a fighter, C-3PO always comes through, proving his worth time and again as a translator, a computer hacker (with R2), and a surprisingly quick thinker in a tight spot. Despite all his worries and complaints, C-3PO’s saving grace is his strong loyalty to “Master Luke” and his great affection for R2-D2.
Voiced and performed by puppeteer Frank Oz
The greatest Jedi master and Luke’s teacher. At first, Yoda is reluctant to take Luke on as a student, fearing that he is too much like his father, driven by ambition, anger, and a love of adventure. Yoda’s fears seem well-grounded when Luke rushes off to face Vader before his training is complete, a reckless decision that nearly costs Luke his life. Later, however, when a more humble, controlled Luke returns to complete his training, Yoda send him back to face Vader again, telling Luke that he must confront his father to become a true Jedi. Despite his elliptical way of speaking, Yoda is the most eloquent spokesman for the wisdom of the Force in the trilogy and represents the moral center of the films. Yoda, then, is the polar opposite of Emperor Palpatine, and it is by staying true to Yoda’s teachings that Luke is able to triumph.
Played by Billy Dee Williams
A gambler, card player, and all-around scoundrel turned semirespectable businessman. An old friend of Han Solo’s, and the previous owner of the Millennium Falcon, Lando is the administrator of a floating mining colony (Cloud City) on the planet Bespin. When Han and Leia turn to Lando for help in their flight from the Empire, Lando welcomes them warmly, only to betray them to Darth Vader soon after. Although Lando justifies his betrayal by claiming that he has no choice—he is trying to preserve the independence of the mining colony—he quickly realizes that any deal struck with the Empire is worthless. Lando evacuates the city and has his guards free Leia and Chewbacca, but not in time to prevent Han being taken captive by Boba Fett. After helping rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt, Lando, now thoroughly respectable, joins the Rebellion and leads the direct assault on the new Death Star.
Played by Peter Mayhew
Han Solo’s friend and copilot of the Millennium Falcon. Chewbacca is a seven-feet-tall Wookie, a creature resembling a cross between a gorilla and an English sheepdog. Despite his intimidating appearance, “Chewie” is something of a softy, affectionate and loyal to his friends. When provoked, however, Chewbacca is truly ferocious, capable of tossing grown men around like rag dolls. A crack shot, skilled mechanic, and daring pilot, Chewbacca is always at Solo’s side, deferring to the human’s leadership, though the origin of their friendship remains mysterious.
Jabba the Hutt
Operated by puppeteers Tony Philpott, David Barclay, and Mike Edmonds
A gangster based on Luke’s home planet of Tatooine who places a huge bounty on Han Solo, who owes him for a lost shipment. Jabba is an enormous, sluglike creature, operated by puppeteers and enhanced by digital technology. He delights in his own cruelty and grossness but is strong enough mentally to resist Luke’s Jedi mind-control. Jabba manages to capture Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO, as well as the frozen Han Solo, or so he thinks. In truth, Luke has stage-managed the entire captivity in order to get close enough to Jabba to strike him down and free Han. In the resulting struggle, Han is freed, Jabba’s henchmen are destroyed, and Jabba himself gets his comeuppance at the hands of Princess Leia.
Played by Ian McDiarmid and briefly voiced by Clive Revill
The Sith Lord, ruler of the Galactic Empire, and the motivating force behind Darth Vader. Hideously scarred and twisted, the Emperor’s own body seems to revolt against the evil it is forced to contain. The living embodiment of the dark side of the Force, the Emperor is driven purely by hatred, anger, and lust for power, and he desires to draw others to the dark side by bringing out these qualities in them as well. The primary focus of his attention is his apprentice, Darth Vader, and Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker. The Emperor tries to pit father against son in a fight to the death, in the hope that Luke will destroy Vader and become the Emperor’s new apprentice. The Emperor’s twisted desire is thwarted, however, when Luke resists the lure of fear, anger, and hatred, becoming at last a true Jedi. Vader’s love for his son is awakened by the Emperor’s deadly attack on Luke, and he kills the Emperor, though not before sustaining a fatal wound himself.
Grand Moff Tarkin
Played by Peter Cushing
An Imperial governor in A New Hope. Tarkin is extremely powerful, unafraid of Darth Vader himself, supremely confident and cold. Tarkin orders the destruction of Princess Leia’s home planet, Alderaan, merely to demonstrate the power of the Death Star. Tarkin is destroyed himself, along with the first Death Star, by Luke Skywalker.
Played by Tim Rose
A fish-headed alien who is the leader of the Rebel fleet that attacks the rebuilt Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Lando convinces Ackbar to press the attack, trusting that Han Solo will be able to destroy the shield generator protecting the Death Star.
Played by Kenneth Colley
An Imperial commander who rises through the ranks as Darth Vader kills off his superiors as they disappoint him. Piett dies in Return of the Jedi when his Super Star Destroyer is brought down by Admiral Ackbar’s fleet.
Played by Jeremy Bulloch
A deadly bounty hunter working for Jabba the Hutt and the Empire. Boba Fett shows great skill in tracking and capturing Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, but he dies ignominiously in the maw of the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi.
Played by Paul Blake
One of Jabba’s flunkies. In A New Hope, Greedo corners Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina but can’t resist gloating, which allows Han to get the drop on him and blast his way out of trouble.
Played by Michael Sheard
An Imperial commander. Ozzel angers Darth Vader through his ineptitude one too many times, and Vader uses the Force to strangle him to death on the bridge of his own ship in The Empire Strikes Back.
Played by Phil Brown
Luke’s uncle. A stern but loving man, Uncle Owen tries to keep Luke close to home but can’t stop him from dreaming of adventure and excitement. Owen worries, with good reason, that Luke is very much like his father. Owen is killed by Imperial stormtroopers seeking R2-D2 and C-3PO in A New Hope.
Played by Shelagh Fraser
Luke’s aunt. Beru is a kind woman and sees that Luke is not meant to be a farmer. Beru tells Owen that they will have to let Luke go someday. She is killed by Imperial stormtroopers seeking the droids in A New Hope.
Played by Warwick Davis
A fuzzy, forest-dwelling Ewok who befriends Leia in Return of the Jedi. Wicket is skittish at first but helps convince his tribe to assist the Rebel commandos led by Han and Leia when they assault the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor.
Played by Denis Lawson
A Rebel fighter pilot. Wedge is one of the best pilots in the Rebel fleet, surviving the battle on Hoth and the assaults on both of the Death Stars.
Played by Garrick Hagon
A Rebel fighter pilot and one of Luke’s childhood friends. Biggs is shot down by Darth Vader in the attack on the Death Star in A New Hope.
Take a Study Break
Every Shakespeare Play Summed Up in a Quote from The Office
Every Book on Your English Syllabus, Summed Up in Marvel Quotes
A Roundup of the Funniest Great Gatsby Memes You'll Ever See
QUIZ: How Many of These Literary Jeopardy! Questions Can You Answer Correctly?
7 "Crazy" Women in Literature Who Were Actually Being Totally Reasonable
Honest Names for All the Books on Your English Syllabus
QUIZ: Are You a Hero, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero?