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STAR WARS: A New Hope (Episode IV) – The Chills Scenes

January 28, 2020

Star Wars A New Hope Medal Scene

UPDATE: We initially ran this back in 2015 before the release of The Force Awakens. With perspective on the full Skywalker saga, now seems like a good time to revisit it. The original has been updated with a more extensive appreciation of the film plus more (and higher quality) screenshots. Enjoy!

The original Star Wars trilogy; New Hollywood’s Holy Triumvirate. What is there really left to say about it? Probably not a whole lot, but that won’t stop us from trying. However, in lieu of a traditional write-up for these movies, this will be a space to single out the key moments from the films that helped make them the phenomena they are. These moments might be considered the greatest moments in the trilogy—the chill-inducing cinematic moments that will never get old. Without further ado…

The 11 best moments from Star Wars (a.k.a. Episode IV: A New Hope)

1. The Opening Crawl and First Shot

The opening crawl and the first shot of Star Wars will always take the cake. This is the first time you hear John Williams’ immortal fanfare, followed closely thereafter by a shot of a serene spatial expanse, with a large planetoid consuming the lower portion of the frame and another looming in the distance. A space ship races into the picture from the top of the frame. This is exciting, but it’s what comes next that really sets the whole thing off. The pointed nose of a second ship follows the first into the screen. It takes a moment to register, but the frame’s sense of scale quickly alerts us to just how much larger this ship is than the first one. The ships are firing lasers back and forth at one another. They must not like each other. The game is afoot!

A New Hope Opening Shot

If you’re not completely jazzed by the time you meet Darth Vader a few moments later, then you are doing it wrong. Dropping the audience right into the action with hardly any buildup (or opening credits) was fairly novel at the time, and remains a bravura opening salvo to this day.

A New Hope Darth Vader

2. The Binary Sunset

Binary Sunset A New Hope

The plot is in motion right from the first shot, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a detour. Said detour takes us to Tatooine, where we meet an obnoxious Luke Skywalker. He may be whiney, but boy, does he ever brood in style. There’s nothing like a binary sunset to strike just the right mood. On paper, there’s nothing too interesting about this scene. It’s just Luke staring off into the distance. Pure characterization. Then Williams’s Force Theme kicks in. With the music, the rich purples in the sky, and that look in Luke’s face… forget about it.

3. “An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”

It doesn’t take long for Luke and his new droid friends to run into Obi-Wan Kenobi. Old Ben saves them from an unpleasant fate, and then invites them into his home. Kenobi proceeds to regale Luke with tales of his father, and bestows upon him his father’s Jedi weapon. Luke isn’t a dexterous swordsman, but he does fire up that lightsaber and give it a few elegant waves through the air. If, by chance, you haven’t heard the lightsaber “hum” sound-effect in a while, it really clears your sinuses out.

Luke Lightsaber A New Hope

4. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

This is a pure worldbuilding scene, and sticks out from the hero’s journey/fantasy mashup of the rest of the film. On paper it seems like a boring expository scene; it’s all telling and no showing. But what we actually get is artful and laced with characterization for Darth Vader. Everything about this scene is great; the bickering officers, and then their telling silence when Vader and Tarkin enter the room. The ominous comments about destroying whole planets, and the equally ominous hints about a mysterious Force that only Vader seems to possess.

Death Star War RoomDeath Star War Room 2Darth Vader Force Choke

5. “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

Leia Hologram

The holographic message from Princess Leia is among Star Wars’ most potent iconography. A shorter version of the message appeared earlier in the movie, but this is the first time we hear Leia’s plea in full and it has a greater impact when paired with this look on Obi-Wan’s face as he realizes that his past has caught up with him. That combination broadens the scope of the story, doing so in a primarily visual way.

Obi Wan Kenobi A New Hope

6. “You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”

When Luke, Obi-Wan, C-3PO, and R2-D2 roll up on Mos Eisley Space Port (you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy), you know something great is about to happen. More specifically, this guy:

Han Solo A New Hope

Han Solo’s introductory scene is one of the great moments in this film. Harrison Ford had a few small roles under his belt by the mid-70s, but he was not a movie star yet. In Star Wars, Ford was not yet a fully-formed persona — but if Han is any evidence, then he was pretty close. As you can see by his lax posture and devil-may-care expression, Solo was Ford’s launch pad. After the sequence of him bragging about how fast his Falcon can fly, mocking Luke, and shooting the bull with Greedo, his screen legend was all but cemented. Oh, and these guys vibing in the background the whole time really set the scene off:

Mos Eisley Cantina Band

7. “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy!”

When Obi-Wan & Co. commission Han Solo’s services, there’s no way of knowing that he’s not just a loud-mouthed schmuck. But soon enough, Han proves his mettle by successfully extracting his highly-sought-after passengers from a shootout and evading a star destroyer (remember the big ship that captured the little ship in the first scene?). Also, hyperspace is rad.

Millennium Falcon Hyperspace

8. Rescuing Princess Leia

Tarkin Leia Vader

Leia was taken prisoner in the opening sequence of the film and has since seen her home planet, Alderaan, obliterated by the Death Star. Shortly after that demonstration of firepower, the Millennium Falcon shows up and is brought aboard the Death Star. Luke, Obi-Wan, Han, Chewbacca, R2 and C-3PO discover that Princess Leia is also on-board and they improvise a covert plan to rescue her and whisk her away to the nearest Rebellion stronghold.

A New Hope Compacter R2-D2 A New Hope

It’s hard for things to go to according to plan when you’re making things up as you go, but after R2-D2 gets them out of a jam the crew manages to get back to the Falcon, while Obi-Wan succeeds in deactivating the Death Star‘s tractor beam. About Obi-Wan…

9. Obi-Wan’s Sacrifice

When Obi-Wan and Vader commence their geriatric lightsaber duel, we still don’t know much about the Force. We know it can be used to choke people from across a room, and that it can be used as basically a Marx Brothers gag to fool people. Obi-Wan lets Vader run him through, but only after portending, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” This comment, in addition to Obi-Wan vanishing into thin air, gives us our first evidence that this Force thing may have some pretty grand implications.

Darth Vader Obi Wan Duel A New Hope

10. The Trench Run

So much action is packed into this sequence that, even on re-watch, it’s amazing how lean it actually is. The Rebel pilots blast of from their no-longer-hidden base on Yavin IV hoping to take advantage of a minuscule weakness in the Death Star‘s design. It’s a well-staged sequence that was modeled after historical footage of WW2 aerial dogfights. As nervous spectators on both sides wait for things to play out, several rebel pilots make their runs at the Death Star only to get shot down. Then, it’s Luke’s turn.

Imperial Fighters Heading Your Way Yavin 4 War Room Grand Moff Tarkin

11. “You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home!”

As he’s barreling down that trench toward pay-dirt in his X-Wing, Luke has the rebel command in his ear, Obi-Wan in his heart, and Darth Vader on his tail. Then, out of nowhere, Han swoops in and chases off Vader’s TIE fighter. Now Luke has all kinds of time. He feels the Force, switches off his targeting computer, and bulls-eyes that 2-meters-wide thermal exhaust port. No big deal.

Han Solo Death StarLuke Death Star A New Hope

If only they gave Chewie the medal he so richly deserved…

Looking for more Star Wars? Read our breakdowns of all the chills scenes from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

From → Lists, Star Wars

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