The Most Brutal Moments In The Star Wars Franchise, Ranked

In 1977, George Lucas brought "Star Wars" to life. The family-friendly franchise colored its worldbuilding with space western elements and a galaxy of simple good and evil. But a grayer nuance began creeping in by the close of "Return of the Jedi," asking if evil could be redeemed and if scoundrels could be heroes. Lucas seldom lost sight of his intended audience of younger viewers, and these big questions were softened by creatures like the Ewoks and the too cuddly to ever be scary Chewbacca.

Yet, years later, that good intention has sometimes gone sideways. "Star Wars" remains a fun franchise, but it also doesn't shy away from the dark side of war. Even the most kid-friendly spinoffs, such as "The Clone Wars" and "Rebels," can hold some truly disturbing scenes. These are 15 of the most brutal moments in "Star Wars," with a little honorable mention for the galaxy beyond the camera.

16. Star Wars goes hard

Comics, games, and tie-in novels aren't safe places in this galaxy, either. A number of terrifying moments await, like the violence coming off the pages of "Vader Down" by Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron. It's the moment Vader is on his own, surrounded by Rebel forces. "All I am surrounded by is fear. And dead men," is a promise Vader fulfills. Additionally, gamers familiar with "The Force Unleashed II" might imagine Vader's assault the easiest, since it's the only game thus far to let players hack Stormtroopers into pieces with their lightsaber.

Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker's every encounter with Darth Caedus (his nephew, Jacen Solo, who turned to the Dark Side) in "The Legacy of the Force" turns into an agonizing brawl. Caedus himself accidentally awakens an actual Lovecraftian horror in Abeloth, the original Mother to the Mortis trio that re-entered canon in "The Clone Wars." Sadly, "Vector Prime" by R. A. Salvatore is the first time "Star Wars" fans see an original character die when Chewbacca sacrifices himself. And darkest yet could be Joe Schreiber's "Death Troopers," a zombie horror novel that's only softened by the arrival of two plot-armored faves.

15. Fives' failure (The Clone Wars)

Late in "The Clone Wars," Clone Arc Trooper Fives is watching over Tup, who went rogue and killed the Jedi he was serving with. Lost in a fugue and muttering the phrase "good soldiers follow orders," Tup does regain himself after being hijacked by Separatists, but only for moments before dying on Kamino. Yet something about all this doesn't feel right to Fives, who comes dangerously close to understanding what's behind the "tumor" the Kaminoans are blaming Tup's actions on, and Sidious himself steps in.

Fives pieces together nearly the entire conspiracy behind Order 66 during his four-episode arc in Season 6. Unfortunately, viewers know that Fives is doomed to fail in his efforts to stop it. Palpatine's manipulations are too much for Fives, and the trooper is brought down by his fellow troops. The only comfort in this wrenching arc is that Fives' tragedy is the key to saving Rex's life, and those of the Bad Batch, after the horror of Order 66 is in full swing.

14. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru die (A New Hope)

Think back to the first time you watched "A New Hope." The boyish pluck of Luke, the scary encounter with the Tuskens, weird old Ben. Then, as the hero's journey spins into action, Luke wants to make sure his aunt and uncle will be okay while he goes off with the former Jedi. And they're not.

It's a brief but heart-rending scene. The setting suns of Tatooine gleaming over the smoldering corpses of Owen and Beru, in front of his childhood home, as Luke freezes in agony. As shocking as it was then, it's even more poignant now. This grumpy, loving pair almost certainly went down fighting the stormtroopers with just as much grit as they showed Reva in "Obi-Wan Kenobi." And for the same reason, to protect a young man with a big future ahead of him. It's the moment Luke knows he can't turn back.

13. The destruction of Alderaan (A New Hope)

Alderaan was a noun at first, a blend of vowels that elicited the idea of some exotic new world at the end of Luke's journey with Ben Kenobi and Han Solo. To Princess Leia, it meant home, and she'd done what she could to try and save it. But the Death Star ran its test, and for decades, all fans ever saw of Alderaan was the jumble of space debris left behind.

Today we know what Alderaan meant to the galaxy. It was a lush, metropolitan world, a place where diplomacy could still work in the favor of ordinary people. The Organa family stood strong throughout the rise of the Empire, known for its ties to the Rebellion, untouchable by virtue of political mastery. Bail was a good man who loved his adopted princess more than anything. Now, when you watch the destruction of Alderaan, it's easier to understand what Leia felt on the Death Star, trying her best to save her family. But like Luke, all she has left are the ashes.

12. Han Solo's death (The Force Awakens)

It's long been known that Harrison Ford isn't as attached to Han Solo as the rest of the fandom. As he explained in 2016, he favored a potential redemption equals death arc for the lovable rogue pilot, with Solo's embrace of the Rebellion leading to his exit by the end of "Return of the Jedi." In Ford's words, "His sacrifice for the other characters would lend gravitas and emotional weight." Beyond that, it's harder to tell how true the stories are that he "hates" Han. Regardless, it was a selling point for Ford that Solo wasn't going to make it out of "The Force Awakens" alive.

Han Solo's death provides the weight Ford wanted. Fans can debate the merits of the sequels all they want, but the sight of Han's pained face as he dies by his son's lightsaber is awful. It works in the context of the story being told, but it's no fun for the audience, whose last memorable sight of Solo is with his face lit blood-red. While spoiling this dark twist for others was a common "gag," it didn't lessen the impact of watching this iconic character die.

11. The Trandoshan hunt (The Clone Wars, Padawan Lost)

A motley group with martial skills and training find themselves dropped on an unknown jungle world, where they quickly figure out they're being hunted for bloodsport. No, it's not 2010's hard-R joyride "Predators," it's an episode of a kid's show. Ahsoka and a troupe of Jedi younglings are the prey in this Season 3 episode of "The Clone Wars," and the predators here are the Trandoshans. You know, the aliens with yellow Godzilla heads and a tendency to get into the bounty hunting business.

The Trandoshan Garnac has established a game preserve, and he has fresh targets dropped off regularly. As brutal as it sounds on its face, it gets even worse as one of the Jedi younglings, Kalifa, is fatally shot on-screen. She doesn't die instantly, getting enough time to beg Ahsoka to promise to watch over the other survivors. Then she dies as Ahsoka has to flee from the Trandoshan advance, and the episode ends with the future of the rest of the younglings still in doubt. Fun!

10. Din Djarin's Darksaber bounty (The Book of Boba Fett, The Mandalorian Returns)

Din Djarin didn't ask to have the Darksaber dropped in his lap, but he's stuck with it. As he makes his big appearance in the middle of Boba Fett's story, Din is running bounties to bribe his way back towards what remains of his covert. Din rolls up on a Klatoonian crime boss lurking in the back of a butcher's warehouse, and he makes it clear his mark will be leaving with him.

The crime boss makes his choice, and the fight is brief but brutal. Din breaks out the Darksaber, and he's not great with it. Just like Hell in a Cell '98, the mob boss is broken in half by the might of the black lightsaber, along with the table under him. Part of Din Djarin's leg also takes some damage, now looking like something that the butcher's shop would slice for hoagies. The man needs some expert saber training. But first, that was hard — yet awesome — to watch.

9. The purge of the Tuskens (Attack of the Clones)

Not sure Anakin's problems could have been solved with therapy, but he could have at least tried. Instead, Anakin doesn't take well to the news that his mother is taken by the Tuskens, nor is he thrilled to find her on the edge of death. Shmi takes comfort in her final chance to see Anakin, but Anakin goes feral and wipes out every Tusken in his reach. Yes, that includes the women and the children, too.

It's not hard to be sympathetic to Anakin's rage, but this isn't something a Jedi should do. Fans already knew his fate to come, and it's clear in the vicious satisfaction he feels that Darth Vader is on the cusp of manifesting. What's also ugly knowledge is that, while there's no excuse for what the Tuskens do to their prisoners, it's also a fact that they're a marginalized indigenous culture. Their violence makes at least as much sense to them as Anakin's does to him, a reckoning of justice. But neither heals anything.

8. The taking of Grogu (The Mandalorian, The Tragedy)

Conservatively guessing, about 90% of this late Season 2 episode of a man and his perfect green baby is a soul-killer. The cybernetic third-generation Dark Troopers are now back in canon after their menacing Legends appearances, relentlessly set on grabbing up Grogu for Moff Gideon. Din watches his Razor Crest get blown up just weeks after LEGO fans got their hands on its bricky counterpart. Moff proceeds to personally intimidate the hell out of Grogu, leaving him in the galaxy's tiniest handcuffs.

One of the most feel-bad episodes of "Star Wars" so far, at least it had a few hopeful moments. Boba Fett got to show off his own brutal moves, with Fennec Shand at his side. The audience knows full well that Din is going to go after the kid as soon as he can. But first, the camera has to linger on Grogu, prone and alone and scared, in an Imperial holding cell.

7. The death of Kanan Jarrus (Star Wars: Rebels, Jedi Night)

"Rebels" is no stranger to tough moments. Lothal spends its time under siege, and it's the series that helps Thrawn back to canon. However, it's a different twist of fate that changes the tone of the series. Kanan has been blinded by Darth Maul, but the Force still guides his steps. Unfortunately for Hera and the rest, that guidance led to the moment Kanan knew he'd have to give his life to save theirs. He does it willingly, able to look the love of his life in her eyes one last time as the Living Force claims his soul, and his body disintegrates.

The tragedy of Kanan's loss is nearly insurmountable for the crew of the Ghost. Kanan's sacrifice saves them from Governor Pryce's destructive attempt to end the rebels, but it also strains Ezra Bridger nearly to breaking. It takes Ahsoka Tano, and a white Loth-wolf that seemed to carry Kanan's will inside it, to keep Ezra on his own fateful course towards liberating Lothal.

6. The death of Duchess Satine (The Clone Wars, The Lawless)

Fridging, as a trope, has existed for a long time. Codified by comics writer Gail Simone ("Deadpool"), it's when someone, usually female, gets killed off so audiences can watch a man agonize over it. Like all tropes, it can be badly used, but when done right, the audience learns a lot about the characters involved. When Duchess Satine is killed by Darth Maul during this late Season 5 episode, Satine's love, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is forced to watch.

Maul isn't a merciful guy. He starts by Force-choking the Duchess in an attempt to turn Kenobi to the Dark Side. When that doesn't work, he slowly impales the deposed ruler of Mandalore on the Darksaber. Obi-Wan doesn't break his Jedi oaths, but he's still stricken by emotion as he cradles the dying woman who loved him. It's an effective, heart-wrenching way of showing Kenobi's power, and what it costs him. Years later, when Kenobi executes Maul on the sands of Tatooine, it's with that same Jedi code, and with the mercy Maul never showed.

5. The burning of Anakin (Revenge of the Sith)

In terms of pacing, the prequels are a mess punctuated by stunning sequences and an anthological plot. Somewhere in there is a good story about how the rise of darkness starts in well-meaning hearts. There's a tragedy in the fall of Anakin, and most of it is reflected in the anguish on Obi-Wan's face as he realizes his Padawan has to be stopped by any means necessary.

As the climax of "Revenge of the Sith" hits a crescendo, that realization is literal. Obi-Wan and Anakin are locked in a far-ranging duel across Mustafar's molten lava, fueled by Anakin's rage and Obi-Wan's desperation. In the end, the master wins, but victory means the rarely flappable Kenobi leaving his former apprentice in screaming agony, his limbs burned away, death imminent. Obi-Wan can't bring himself to strike the killing blow, and it's a mistake that will torment both of them for decades. "Obi-Wan Kenobi" showed fans how literal that torment is.

4. The destruction of Scarif (Rogue One)

It's not an urban legend, it's true: "Rogue One" director Gareth Edwards was prepared to give this ground-level war epic "Star Wars" tale a happier ending. Then, Kathleen Kennedy herself asked why shouldn't everyone die by the end? When most of Scarif's tropical surface is boiled away by the Death Star's laser, that includes our remaining protagonists.

There aren't many left by then. "Rogue One" is mostly the tale of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a reluctant rebel, but Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and even the nervous Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) have taken over viewers' hearts. As this rag-tag bunch draws closer to finding the Death Star plans and the weakness they hide, they fall, one by one, until it's only Jyn and Andor holding each other, waiting for the end. Technically, Scarif isn't destroyed by the Death Star. Still, with its oceans gone and its surface blasted open, no one could come back from Scarif alive.

3. The youngling slaughter (Revenge of the Sith)

The "fun" thing about how traumatizing it is to watch Anakin Skywalker succumb utterly to the Dark Side and start killing little kids like he's getting a volume discount is the way the franchise gives fans new angles of the mayhem of Order 66 every few years. Not much beats the implication of Anakin, on the cusp of becoming Darth Vader, firing up his lightsaber in front of a round-faced child, though. A harsh contender is Reva's memories, explored during "Obi-Wan Kenobi." They came close enough to create pain for a country shadowed by a grade school massacre, necessitating a warning.

"The Clone Wars" episode "Ghosts of Mortis" showed Anakin a glimpse of his fate, raising his lightsaber at a child. That wouldn't be enough to alter the future, nor Yoda's own premonitions in "Voices" later. Anakin can't change his destiny, creating a tragic nexus event that warped the lives of survivors all across the galaxy. It's necessary, in a sense, but it's almost too awful for its galaxy to bear.

2. The execution of the Black Sun (The Clone Wars, Eminence)

Darth Maul's obsession with Obi-Wan nearly rivals Vader's own passion for revenge. It's his motivation throughout the entirety of his animated appearances, and his murder of Duchess Satine is as close as he can get to tearing out Kenobi's heart. That's not the only savagery Maul commits on the way to his goal, though. In order to raise enough troops, Maul is willing to execute an entire crime syndicate. It's one of the few scenes to be censored during broadcast because heads literally roll.

Maul wants the power of the Black Sun syndicate behind him as he forges his Shadow Collective, the organization that includes Crimson Dawn and the Mandalorian Death Watch. He and his brother, Savage Oppress, meet with the Black Sun's representatives on Mustafar, and when they hesitate to join, Savage snaps the neck of one soldier, then spins his lightsaber across the table, decapitating them all. Save for Zitan Moj, who bends to Maul's will. The scene is uncut on home release and fulfills the implication left in the aired version.

1. Darth Vader's village rampage (Obi-Wan Kenobi)

It's hard to overemphasize how scary Darth Vader was back when "A New Hope" was released. He's a looming figure with a sepulchral voice, storming through the halls of a Rebel ship, capable of killing without a touch. It doesn't get better until later, when the person he once was is revealed in his final, redemptive hour. Eventually, fans met his human side, the young and impulsive Anakin, and it gave audiences maybe too much empathy for the dark lord.

"Rogue One" was the first reminder of what Vader could be, but it was "Obi-Wan Kenobi" that showed Vader's burning rage, and reminded fans of what it felt like when he was a demonic cipher. This is a Vader spilling over with pain from his burns, easing it by inflicting it on whoever's in his way. A small town can't possibly withstand him. Instead, they watch their loved ones choked out by the Force and dragged like garbage through the streets. It's shorter than Vader's original 1977 introduction, but it's much worse now because the violence in him feels so primal.