Top 10 Best Moments in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Screw the big red jolly guy because we all know what the real gift this December: the triumphant return of the Star Wars franchise and the truly magical viewing experience that was The Force Awakens. At time of this writing, I’ve already seen it 3 times, and that’ll probably be higher by the time you’re reading it. Even if, when being fair, you can’t quietly call it the best film of the year for some notable flaws, The Force Awakens still makes for a very special level of cinematic pleasure and a feeling of pure joy that stays with you long after departing. It was a film filled with spectacular moments, and now that more time has passed, it seems the right point to talk about them in more detail rather than the honourable code of geek secrecy we’ve sworn ourselves to. So just to be clear...

THIS CONTAINS STAR WARS SPOILERS

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If you haven’t seen the film yet please go no further (or check out our spoiler free-review if you wish) and get yourself in the cinema as soon as possible....... are they gone?.... Ok, everyone else, let's get specific, and look at the particular moments that really made The Force Awakens so wonderful. Getting it down to 10 was no easy task. After watching the film specifically with this article in mind, I had a 25 strong short list that somehow had to whittle down. Many great moments just couldn’t make it. Also, please note that as the film is so recent, images of every listed moment were not available so in cases, the images used is from a different part of the film with a similar reflection (it'll make sense... hopefully). So with that in mind, keep your blasters on stun if your favorite isn’t there, but here are my Top 10 moments from The Force Awakens.

  1. Opening titles & crawl

    In many ways, this is a token opening entry but one that simply cannot be overlooked. In the same way that a generation ago seeing the immortal words of “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” at the beginning of The Phantom Menace immediately sent fans hearts racing before the music and titles thundered in (in every showing I’ve been to, at least 1 person has gasped with shock as “STAR WARS” comes up). The simple and effective storytelling tool of “The crawl” written introduction even immediately answered the great question of “Where’s Luke?”, and it turns out that was the whole idea all along: that Luke’s missing and everyone is trying to find him. More than any other film franchise in any genre, the Star Wars titles create an instantaneous state of immersion and escapism and for many, to experience that for the first time in 10 years was worth the price of admission alone.

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  2. Storm trooper PTSD

    We all knew going into the film that Finn/FN2187 would start out as a Stormtrooper but the early manner of his transition was something we’ve never seen from Star Wars before: the realization of truth from a typically evil viewed character. The masked personas of Stormtroopers, new and old, encourage us to view them as objects or tools of the greater villain character rather than actual people. Yet in this stunning early sequence, we see Finn in what turns out to be his first combat deployment, getting a baptism of fire, not just into the realities of warfare but the atrocities of The First Order he’s been programmed to follow as he’s asked to murder the innocent villagers. John Boyega is outstanding in carrying us through his emotional journey via his physical acting. We don’t see his face or hear him speak a word, but we don’t have a moment’s trouble or hesitation picturing him under that helmet or understanding what he’s going through. Like several points of the film, it superbly managed to show us what characters are going through rather than simply making them talk to us about it (the favoured approach of the prequels).

  3. One hell of a pilot

    In the same spirit of showing rather than telling in previous entry, this brief bit of flying acrobatics instantly confirmed the character establishment of Poe Dameron being the best pilot in the Galaxy as he takes out scores of tie fighters and troopers in a few loops and twists through a single tracking camera shot. We watch the whole thing from Finn’s perspective, and it gets compounded with his elated whoop and cry of “that’s one hell of a pilot!”. The pacing of the shot is perfect. Like much of the ship-to-ship combat in the film, J.J. Abrams thankfully resisted the urge to crank things up to more modern rapid and blurry pace. Instead, we get to more sedate cruising and slower banking X-Wings of familiar decades past, which in many ways makes it more real for us despite switching from model work effects to CG. The battle on Takodana was by far the best example of this with this moment of flying showcase/”Poe”case at the center of it.

  4. Rey resists Kylo Ren

    There were several great moments between these two characters across the film but one of the best (unsubtle hint that there’s more to come) was their interrogation confrontation as Kylo Ren tries to Force-extract Rey’s memories of Luke’s map section. It has so many things going for it. It’s the first time in the film that we see Adam Driver underneath the black mask, and the depth of his character starts coming to the surface, that underneath his harsh and imposing exterior he’s weaker and more vulnerable than he’d like  to be as he finds out first hand when his mental attacks trigger Rey’s own force abilities. If you think of Kylo Ren’s position in this new Universe, with Luke Skywalker going into exile, he has been completely unchallenged as a force user for a long period of time; he’s grown accustomed to being unthreatened and imposing his will on whoever he desires. He’s like a good sports team in a weak division; after a regular season of easy wins he gets shocked in the playoffs when confronted with the kind of stronger opposition he hasn’t faced all season. Driver’s face as Rey resists him and probes his own mind is incredible; the little tremors and twitches like he’s desperately trying to keep his terror the surface. It sees Rey throw his greatest fear at him,”That you will never be as strong as Darth Vader”. After some earlier speculation with her light sabre visions this also confirmed Rey as being strong with the force and a Jedi in the making as we see her slowing growing in confidence with her powers.

  5. Flying with Finn & Poe

    One of the best things I loved about The Force Awakens was just how quickly the cast performances and Michael Arndt’s script not only created chemistry between the characters but, especially with the new bunch, gave us immediate emotion and believability to their relationships. This wasn’t the declation of brotherhood between Obi-wan and Anakin, we witness them bonding through exceptional circumstances and events, seeing their friendships forming rather than catching up later. Although this was also done well with Finn & Rey’s first meeting, it was the “BFF's in 4 minutes” sequence of Poe and Finn escaping the Star Destroyer that really shone out in demonstrating this. We get Poe’s coolness under pressure while Finn finds himself quickly over his head getting a crash course in being a TIE Fighter gunner. The explosive energy in their success of Finn booming out “Did you see that?... DID YOU SEE THAT!”. The pair could have been sitting in the back of a pickup truck in a country road for all we cared. In that moment, we could have watched them do anything as long as their together which left us gagging for much of the film, waiting for their reunion. Yet that fact that this does have a backdrop of frantic space action only makes it all the sweeter and Poe even finds time to christen Finn.

  6. At home with Rey

    For all the bigger moments, this was simply a wonderful brief sequence of visual storytelling into Rey’s character as we join her back at her crashed AT-AT home. From the little details like her homemade rebel pilot doll on the shelf and her other small decorations to the reveals of her wall filling day count tally, telling us she’s been waiting for a long time. It continues by taking her outside, staring off into the desert in a fashion reminiscent on Luke on Tatooine before watching a ship take off in the distance to signify her secret longing to leave Jakku and see more of the Galaxy. Then to top it all up, we even get a great little childlike indulgence as she puts on her scavenged Rebel pilot helmet for no other reason than the fun of it. In this unspoken 30 seconds of footage (with lovingly tender scoring). we learn more about Rey than 10 minutes of Googling her character bio. That is exceptionally good storytelling, and it really showed just how much Abrams understood and cared for his characters in the way he pauses to ensure that understand her.

  7. Ren stops a blaster bolt

    Okay, this one was just outright cool. It may sparked a few online troll debates about the inconsistency of Kylo Ren’s powers (“If he can do that... then why not this?”), but it looks so bloody awesome that we have to just let some things slide. As stated for several above entries, it was another example of showing rather than telling as after seeing something we’ve never even seen Vader or Palpatine do, we immediately understand that Kylo Ren is not someone to be messed with. The camera plays with it wonderfully as it passes right in front of the fixed bolt while Poe looks across in bewilderment, and that it stays there for the entire following scene! To the extent that we even forget it’s there before the final downward shot of Ren locking eyes/masks with the pre-Finn FN2187 before releasing the bolt as it impacts its original trajectory. Although we’ve had bigger uses of the force (like Yoda levitating the ship), this was by far the coolest use of it in any film to date, beating the previous champion of Darth Maul flinging a droid part at a door panel switch.

  8. Han reunites with Leia

    Harrison Ford had some amazing moments in his return to playing the great scruffy-looking nerfherder. Some lost a bit of impact for being featured in the trailers like his “Chewie, we’re home” return to the Millennium Falcon or his map illuminated speech about “it all being true”. Thankfully though, this moment, his long and unexpected reunion with Princess/General Leia was not featured and felt nothing short of magnificent. Talk about saying so much with so little. From the second they lock eyes, they instantly feel like a couple with decades of history behind them, only to just as quickly turn into comedy gold as C3-PO manages to kill the moment dead. Their minimal dialogue quickly pieces their separation together in that their son, Ben’s turn to the dark side, drove them both into isolated paths of remorse. The scene is powered by just how much we as fans care about the pair, and we want to see them be “just like old times” again. In a few minutes and a few scenes, Han and Leia have us more emotion and more believability than Anakin and Padme could across their entire love story.

  9. Escape from Jakku

    This single sequence somehow managed to cram in everything that made The Force Awakens work into a few minutes. A familiar yet new twist action sequence fueled by character chemistry, comedy, gorgeous visuals and utterly smothered in nostalgia like a well marinated bantha steak. Starting at the beginning, where the Millennium Falcon gets the best re-introduction of the entire film as the “junk ship”, Finn, Rey, and BB-8 reluctantly escape in. Then, there’s the wondrous feel of winging it/improvisation to their escape as Rey pilots the ship for the first time and Finn attempts to figure out the gun controls, all while BB-8 rolls all over the place inside. We’ve seen the Falcon escaping TIE Fighters many times before but this simple changeup of witnessing these newbies learning on the job gave it a superb sense of drama and desperation, all while keeping things fun and entertaining. The narrow flying through the Star Destroyer wreckage keeps you on the edge of your seat, and even makes some great visual nods to Return of the Jedi’s flight into the Death Star superstructure. Then, for the icing on the cake, we have Rey showing she also knows “a few maneuvers” with her hand brake turn setup for Finn’s shot and both of them finishing by excitedly ranting to each about everything that just happened. Over its whole duration, it’s the best sequence of the film and very nearly the best moment, save for our final entry.

  10. Rey lights up

    This was a moment that sent shivers up my spine from first time of watching to the last as The Force Awakens tells us in its own spectacular jaw-dropping way that, “Now... it’s on”. With Finn defeated and for all we know, mortally-wounded in the snow, and his lightsaber flung off far away, Kylo Ren reaches out to force-pull it towards him. A moment or two of slight movement and hesitation, making us think that maybe something isn’t right here before ut suddenly hurtles towards him, flies straight past his face, and into Rey’s hands. The mighty sounds of John Williams rise to a crescendo as she raises it up and lights the saber with everyone in the audience is screaming “Oh my God!!!” inside their heads (or in some cases out loud). The look on Kylo Ren’s face echoing back to their interrogation scene as he suddenly gets the unfamiliar feeling of being threatened. For the first time since slaughtering Luke’s disciples, he actually has a rival, and this will be a challenge. That brief 10 seconds itself is incredible enough to be the film’s best moment, but a mention must go out to the lightsaber fight that follows, and “fight” is the key word. There’s no elaborate and elegant choreography. This is not a duel but an all out fight for survival as the pair dart among the trees, slicing branches as they go and culminate in Rey getting the win by finally letting the Force in. This was Star Wars doing what it was meant to do, what it was born to do. To defy our expectations, to give us these incredible, unforgettable moments that we’ll spend introducing to our kids, and their kids as well if we’re lucky. The Force Awakens gave us many incredible moments, but this was without doubt, the greatest.

    On a final note, before anyone starts screaming about why Han’s death scene isn’t on here, the honest truth is that despite that impact of his loss, I felt the scene itself was sadly one of the more poorly-handled moments of the film. The build-up father-and-son talk section was good and nearly made the Top 10 but the death itself felt far too predictable and almost throwaway as Han’s body fell beyond recovery. You’re welcome to disagree with me now about this or any point on the list because the simple fact is this: it doesn’t matter how or why you love Star Wars, it only matters that you do. Let’s hope that Rogue One and Episode VIII will give us countless more amazing Star Wars moments as the years progress but for now, may the Force be with you, and have a great Christmas!