Debating the best moment in every Star Wars film

·6 min read

It started with a theory. And the theory came from Marc Bernardin. A former EW editor, Bernardin has written for TV shows like Picard and Castle Rock, hosts the Fatman Beyond podcast with Kevin Smith, and was recently a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers to promote his graphic novel Adora and the Distance.

But Bernardin is also a huge Star Wars fan — a fan who came to a realization about one of his favorite franchises. And he discussed that realization on the latest episode of EW's Dagobah Dispatch podcast. "Most Star Wars, it turns out, if you add up the minutes of it, it is not as good as we think it is," Bernardin says. "In fact, more of it is bad than it is good."

Ouch! But before you accuse him of chugging a gallon of lemon-lime Haterade, hear him out, because that's only half of it. "But even the worst of Star Wars has moments that are indelible," Bernardin says. "Because those are the things that we remember — the things that conjure us back and harken to our childhood when we first watched and we saw that thing that made our jaws drop. And if you can summon one of those in a Star Wars thing, then that Star Wars thing has an element of success… I don't need it to be good. I just need it to be Star Wars."

'Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi'
'Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi'

Lucasfilm 'Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi'

It's an interesting argument. Do we love every Star Wars project, or do we just love certain moments and elements that elevate otherwise inferior projects? Of course the answer is subjective, but it got us thinking: If Bernardin's theory is that Star Was is all about specific moments, then what are the best moments from every Star Wars film? And that is exactly what we then set out to determine.

Bernardin joined EW's Devan Coggan, Lauren Morgan and yours truly to pick out the greatest moments from every Star Wars film and you can hear the (sometimes heated) debate and discussion on the newest episode of Dagobah Dispatch. A few highlights:

* Bernadin explains why the "Duel of the Fates" lightsaber battle pitting Darth Maul against Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace is so exhilarating: "We had wanted for decades to know what Jedis were actually like, because all we had ever seen were a kid who never got trained right, a retiree, and an asthmatic dude with lots of mechanical help. We had never seen a Jedi in their prime. We had never seen what that could look like. And that moment when you finally get to see when Obi-Wan Kenobi gets angry. It's phenomenal."

He continues: "It's the only reason to ever look at any of that movie ever again. And that great John Williams score and all of it. That's the moment for me where that movie earns its place in the canon. I do wish that we had just gotten to see that scene and not cut between four different battles happening at the same time, as would become a Star Wars motif I've never been overly thrilled by where, like, everything has to be happening at once. That's how you know it's the end. It's like, 'Yeah, but my emotional investment is here. This is where I want to be. Show me the thing that I care about.' And that is a problem that has retained and continued, even through [Obi-Wan Kenobi]."

'Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace'
'Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace'

Lucasfilm 'Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace'

* While our panel had other picks as the top Revenge of the Sith moment (like the funky space opera scene and the limbless aftermath of the Mustafar battle), Bernardin selected Anakin's dark side march to the Jedi temple to carry out his part of Order 66. "The balls it takes to not just make your protagonist a villain, and not just make him a bad guy, but to make the vehicle for his villainy the murder of children? And to stick to those guns… That level of commitment to the bit that is Darth Vader is so incredibly impressive," he says. "It's the fact that they went that dark."

* As Bernardin notes, The Force Awakens serves as "an exercise in nostalgia." And where that exercise worked best for him was not with the reintroduction of a classic character, but rather the ship that flies them around. "So much of Star Wars for me is sensual, in that I am triggered by the sounds of Star Wars — by TIE fighters streaking places, by Millennium Falcons, by hyperspace, by lightsaber sparks, and by laser beams. Suddenly I'm like, 'Oh! It's the thing that I love so much.' And those are the Pavlovian prompts to that. And so that first scene where the Falcon is doing Falcony stuff again… as an exercise in shifting me back Quantum Leap-style to my 8-year-old self, that's the one that does it."

* Apparently everyone else on the podcast is insane, because I was the only one who had Vader's slash-and-burn final scene in Rogue One (which firmly reestablished the Dark Lord of the Sith as a full-on badass after a few movies worth of yelling "Yippee!" and talking about how much he was bummed out by sand) as the film's best moment. What did Marc, Devan, and Lauren argue was better? Listen in and see if you agree. (I don't.)

'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'

Lucasfilm 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'

* While discussing The Last Jedi, Bernardin explains why Holdo's big peace-out maneuver "took my breath away in the movie when she puts down the hammer and jumps into light speed and shatters the First Order fleet. It was just this breathtaking move… It is the ballsiest move in Star Wars I've seen in a long time." Yet he does have one complaint about it, which is why it is not his top moment from the film.

* A best moment from Solo? Yes, Bernardin has one! "I feel like this is a movie that falls into the trap of answering questions that nobody actually wanted answered," he says. "I did not need to know so many of the things that they felt so insistent on informing me about. And to the point where giving me those answers makes the thing less cool than they had been if it was just the thing that I had imagined. I did not need to see the Kessel Run. I did not need to know how he got his last name. The thing that I did need to know, however, is: How many capes does Lando Calrissian have? All of the capes. You take me into that dude's walk-in room on the Falcon just filled with capes? I was here for Donald Glover's whole performance, but that moment where the capeosexual that is Lando Calrissian reveals the wonders of his closest is the moment I was like, 'Oh, I am here for this.'"

To hear the entire debate and discussion for every single Star Wars film — including the Rise of Skywalker moment that one of us started to love before coming to hate, check out the latest episode of Dagobah Dispatch.

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