The Scariest Scenes in Star Wars

Yes. Star Wars can be scary.
Yes. Star Wars can be scary.
Photo: Lucasfilm

Fear may be a path to the Dark Side but it’s not something most people associate with Star Wars. When you think Star Wars you think sweeping sci-fi adventure or maybe even laid back Western swagger. You rarely think of nail-biting dread or shocking jump scares. They’re in there though and this Halloween, we’ve gone ahead and picked our favorite scary scenes in Star Wars, in chronological order.

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Illustration for article titled The Scariest Scenes in iStar Wars/i
Image: Lucasfilm

Geonosian zombies: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 2 “Legacy of Terror”

One of the coolest things The Clone Wars did was take tried-and-true horror tropes and adapt them to Star Wars. In this case, Anakin and Obi-Wan return to Geonosis looking for Luminara Unduli—but when they find her she’s been captured by dozens of undead Geonosians who can’t be killed by sabers or blaster. They’re basically Star Wars zombies which the Jedi thankfully escape by the skin of their teeth. If The Walking Dead had a Star Wars episode, this would be it.

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Illustration for article titled The Scariest Scenes in iStar Wars/i
Image: Lucasfilm

Geonosian brain worms: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 2 “Brain Invaders”

The very next episode of The Clone Wars after “Legacy of Terror” is basically the Star Wars equivalent of Alien meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We find out those zombies were actually the result of creepy brain worms that infect and take over a person. Which they do to a bunch of clones isolated on Ahsoka and Bariss Offee’s ship, who get picked off one by one.

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Image: Lucasfilm

Ventress’ kiss: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 3 “ARC Troopers”

Clone Troopers are no match for the deadly lightsabers of Sith assassins like Asajj Ventress. That much you see in almost every episode of Clone Wars. In this particular episode, though, Ventress takes things a step further. She murders Commander Colt with such delight, it’s truly terrifying. She tosses him around like a rag doll, impales him with her lightsaber and then...kisses the dead trooper on his lips. It’s absolutely shocking and horrifying, which is why it was edited to be less so in early viewings of the show.

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Ahsoka possessed: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 3 “Alter of Mortis”

It’s never easy to see your favorite characters breaking bad, but that’s exactly what happens to Ahsoka Tano thanks to the Son of Mortis. In an attempt to convince Anakin to turn to the Dark Side, the sinisiter Son possesses Ahsoka and sets her against her master. She becomes the horror movie version of herself, loopy and creepy, as if she’s been possessed by a demon. Which, basically, she has been!

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Spider Maul: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 4 “Brothers”

Freddy, Jason, Michael, all the best villains are never really dead. So when Savage Opress sets out to find his long lost brother Maul, the fact that he’s alive at all is very much akin to a slasher movie. That he’s revealed as a half-zabrak, half-giant-spider, fueled-by-hate monstrosity who stalks his brother through dark caves only adds to the dread.

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Image: Lucasfilm

Anakin Skywalker’s defeat: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

In terms of pure body horror in Star Wars, you can’t beat the ending of Revenge of the Sith. We needed to see how this able-bodied Jedi would require such an extensive reconstruction to become more machine than man, and George Lucas did not disappoint. We get the slicing of his limbs, the burning of his body, and then the horrifying vision of both of those things as Anakin curdles with anger. It would be gruesome in any context but, in a Star Wars movie, it’s somehow even worse.

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The Krykna: Star Wars Rebels, Season 2 “The Mystery of Chopper Base”

Spiders. Why’d it have to be spiders? That’s what the Ghost crew says in this Rebels episode where they’re forced to face an army of giant spider-like creatures called the krykna. Do we really need to say anything more than that?

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The red lightsaber: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

There’s a fine line between fear and excitement, and Rogue One tip-toes on that line beautifully at its conclusion. As Darth Vader arrives on the Rebel ship hoping to grab the stolen plans, we first see him not in his full armor, but just in smoke, with the spark of his red lightsaber. Instantly we know this is very, very bad for the Rebels as he goes on an absolutely chilling murder spree. It’s cool to see Vader like this—but also kind of a revelation. This is why he’s the baddest man in the galaxy.

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The trash compactor: Star Wars: A New Hope

Was George Lucas really going to kill the four main character of his film in the middle of the story? Of course not. But the way Lucas edits the scene where Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca are slowly about to be crushed in a trash compactor, crosscutting with their would-be savior C-3PO not answering his com link, builds that kind of scary tension that maybe, just maybe, it’s curtains for our heroes. And that’s even after the whole bit where Luke nearly gets drowned!

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The Wampa attack: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back has a few very unexpected jump scares. The first of them is when Luke, just riding around on his Tauntaun, encounters a massive white creature which jumps into frame and slashes him up. The Special Edition added some more gore to the subsequent scene, but the shock of the Wampa filling up the frame remains super jarring.

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Mynock: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

The other great jump scare in The Empire Strikes Back is when the mynock inside the space slug suddenly shoves his gross tail onto the cockpit glass. You can’t help but jump, just like Leia does.

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The Cave on Dagobah: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

This is basically the quintessential “scary” Star Wars scene, and it works for a few reasons. First is the mystery—we don’t know what Luke is going to find in the cave. Then there’s the setting, which is so smoky and uninviting. Then there’s reveal: it’s Darth Vader, followed by the realization Luke isn’t ready for this test. He’s surely done for! The reveal of it being more a dream ultimately subverts some of that, but the scene on its own is just creepy...especially as we’re left to linger as Luke stares back at his own severed head beneath the mask of a Dark Lord.

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Han’s interrogation: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

You could argue that Leia’s interrogation in A New Hope is scarier than Han’s, because in that film, you get a great, creepy shot of the needle approaching Leia and the camera. However, I was always more scared of Han being interrogated by Darth Vader. The sparks, the pains, and ultimately his off-camera screams leave so much more to the imagination.

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Illustration for article titled The Scariest Scenes in iStar Wars/i
Image: Lucasfilm

The Rancor’s entrance: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

After only hearing what happens when the dancer, Oola, falls below Jabba’s floor, we are filled with dread when Luke finds himself in the same position. The sounds of thumping and chains dragging soon reveal a creature that’s so much more menacing and large that mostly we’ve seen in the saga, and Luke’s reaction says everything. He’s terrified, and so are we. There’s no way Luke can defeat this creature. Until, of course, he does—with the help of a very important skull, that is.

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Of course, those are just our picks. Tell us what we missed, or what Star Wars moments fill you with dread the most, in the comments below.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

1. Han wasn’t being interrogated, remember? IIRC, he told Chewie they didn’t ask any questions. Vader’s point was to create suffering that draws Luke in.

2. You include the Clone Wars but leave out the dead Nightsisters of Dathomir being roused for combat? An army of mummified zombies?