Skip to content

STAR WARS: Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) – The Chills Scenes

April 28, 2020


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 10 best moments from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

1. Doubling Efforts

This is one of the great scenes that tends to get lost when fans geek out. This is the first scene of Return of the Jedi, the one where Darth Vader arrives aboard the still-under-construction Death Star II, and gently prompts the command that they ought to finish up before the Emperor gets there. This scene is a great setup for the Emperor by demonstrating that even Vader must do someone’s bidding, and that someone is about to come for a visit. Oh, and by the way, there’s a second Death Star and it’s almost finished. The rebellion has its work cut out for it once more.

2. “Someone who loves you.”

After rendezvousing with everybody’s favorite dark father, we take another trip to Tatooine to see how the mission to rescue Han Solo is proceeding. Jabba’s palace makes for another quintessential Star Wars environment. A colorful cast of alien fauna populates the subterranean dungeon-chic interior. There, hanging on the wall is Solo in his block of carbonite, as an unsavory crowd vibes out to the musical stylings of Max Rebo. Then, one evening, a mysterious bounty hunter releases him from his prison. The shrouded figure removes her helmet… and it’s Leia! If you’ve seen it dozens of times then the tension might not really be there anymore, but her reveal is a cathartic moment.

3. The Rancor


The Rancor is the beast who lives under Jabba’s throne room — perhaps a prisoner as much Han or Leia is — and lives a life of eating people for Jabba’s entertainment. The Rancor is a triumph of creature design, and it’s genuinely touching to see how broken up the Rancor handler gets after Luke dispatches it.

4. “Free us or die.”

Eventually, as the absurdity and complexity of the rescue plan escalates, the whole gang is reunited at Jabba’s palace. The extraction has not panned out so far, as our heroes have been sentenced to slow Sarlaac digestion, but Luke and R2 have one last gambit up their sleeves. This brazen last-ditch effort is one of the saga’s best set pieces. The theater on display is delightful.

Luke Sarlaac Return of the Jedi Jabba's Sail Barge Luke Boba Fett

5. “Fly casual.”

Mon Mothma Admiral Ackbar

For a rag-tag team, the rebellion seems to have some pretty cool toys. This briefing scene is wonderful and is a big step up compared to the corresponding scene in the original Star Wars. The staging around the holographic projection makes a memorable set piece out of what would have been pure exposition in a more modest movie.

Return of the Jedi Rebel Hangar

It’s not just the briefing, but the ensuing sequence where Han conditionally lends the Millennium Falcon to Lando, and Han’s immortal line to Chewie as our heroes covertly approach Endor right under the nose of the Empire. This entire run-up to battle consists entirely of memorable bits.

Lando Han Millennium Falcon Han Chewie Fly Casual

6. Speeder Bikes

Speeder bikes. Fun to say. Fun to do. How anyone can drive something so fast in such a dense forest I’ll never know. It’s a thrill to watch. While not really a pivotal scene, this speeder bike chase is one of the ultimate Star Wars touchstones and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other touchstones including, “trash compactor,” and “Battle of Hoth,” and “carbonite.”

Luke Leia Speederbike Luke Leia Scout Trooper Speederbike Scout Trooper Speederbike Luke Scout Trooper Speederbike

7. Meet the Ewoks

Wicket Ewok Return of the Jedi

Ewoks might be the most divisive part of Return of the Jedi. While there are some Ewok moments that make Jedi feel tonally at odds with its forebears, this never really bugged me. Surely they aren’t in Jar Jar Binks territory, are they? And even more surely, they aren’t as horrendous as some of the “special edition” changes made to this film over the past decade. Whether Ewoks are silly or not (debatable), they are hardly a transgression. The scene in which Leia meets Wicket is memorable, and it prepares us for that very dope scene later on when C-3PO tells the Ewoks of everything the rebels have gone through prior to arriving on Endor.

C-3PO Ewoks Bright Tree Village Rebels

8. “It’s a trap!” (and the Ensuing Space Battle)

Admiral Ackbar It's A Trap

Admiral Akbar steals the show during the battle over Endor, and this is saying something because that is a very cool space battle. Like the glimpses we get into the bureaucratic side of the Empire, Akbar only has a few scenes in the movie, and yet his worldbuilding quitient is so great. Who is this squid man with cool ship who seems to have quickly? What should I know about his people, the deliciously named Mon Calamari? I know there are answers to these questions, but the existence of the answers merely proves that Akbar was able to capture lightning in a bottle with limited screen time.

Endor Space Battle Return of the Jedi Space Battle of Endor

9. Like Son, Like Father

Luke Vader Battle Return of the JediLuke Return of the Jedi

After an emotional lightsaber duel with his son, there was a moment in which Darth Vader seemed content to let the Emperor dispose of Luke. As Luke laid there, in the Emperor’s chamber of the second Death Star, writhing in a tortuous lightning bath, something in Vader changed. The moment when he intervenes on the Emperor’s sadism is the emotional climax of the original trilogy.

Vader Reactor Shaft Return of the Jedi

10. The Funeral Pyre

Vader Pyre Return of the Jedi Luke Vader Funeral Pyre

This is the emotional denouement following the Skywalker reunion. How does one put to rest a man who had a hand in killing most of the people who ever meant anything to him? A Viking funeral, obviously. Well-told redemption stories are complicated, but always satisfying. And Pagan imagery is fun.

Did you enjoy this? What are your favorite “chills scenes?” Find our other Star Wars coverage below and stay tuned for more Chills Scenes entries.

Lando Calrissian Return of the Jedi

Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope)

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back


From → Lists, Star Wars

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: