Star Wars isn’t lacking in the character department. We’ve got decades of live-action movies to sort through, and that’s not counting the video games, the animated series, the animated film, or the various novels—which all work to expand upon its mythos to the point of being overbearing. Today, I’m going to talk about my favorite supporting characters in the live-action films of this behemoth of a franchise, trying to keep both recency bias and nostalgia in check.
Supporting characters tend to get overlooked, but some of them make a great enough impact on audiences to deserve special praise.
While not a particularly large fan of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, one of the aspects of the film that stands out and is very enjoyable is the droid K-2SO. Robot sidekicks are almost always valuable within the Star Wars franchise, and while that remains true of K-2SO, its greatest value is in its dialogue. Its dry wit and stellar comedic timing brightens up even the dullest of moments. The back-and-forth between K-2SO and the various characters—particularly Jyn Erso—is wonderful and goes a long way toward keeping the movie’s pulse alive.
For those who haven’t seen Rogue One, K-2SO is a former Imperial droid who was reprogrammed by Cassian Andor to help the Rebellion. It eventually serves a crucial role in the final section of the movie, but to say exactly what would be a spoiler. Suffice to say that the wisecracking droid did more than crack jokes.
There aren’t really a lot of Star Wars memes on the internet. For a such an established franchise, it’s more or less managed to escape that treatment. The most prevalent one, though, comes courtesy of Admiral Ackbar. He’s an alien, a military commander of the Rebel Alliance, and in Return of the Jedi uttered the line that will forever live in infamy: “It’s a trap!”
In the movies, we don’t find out a lot about Ackbar. There are books that better explain what his deal is, and further cement the character in the lore, but as far as I’m concerned, becoming the most prominent meme in a franchise as large as this is enough.
Greedo is not a major character in Star Wars. He appears in, what, a couple of scenes over the course of the movies? And yet, the bounty hunter has become engraved in our memories. Why? Well, it all started when George Lucas, creator of Star Wars (if you somehow weren’t aware), decided to make an alteration to the Han-Greedo scene in the first movie. For the 1997 home video release, he changed the scene so that Greedo shoots first, misses, and Han shoots him dead. In 2004, it was changed further so that the shots are almost made parallel to one another.
If you’ve been on the internet, you’ve probably heard of “Han shot first,” which has become the title of the argument as to whether or not these changes are canon or if fans should instead only accept what happened in the initial cut of the film. This also becomes part of a larger argument about Lucas’ tinkering with the movies decades after they’ve been released.
For my money? Han didn’t shoot first because if there’s a first there must also be a second. Han shot. Period.
A mysterious character whose mystery seems to be about half of the reason that fans love him, Boba Fett is a bounty hunter. He shows up a few times, doesn’t do a great deal over the course of the movies—he tracks the Millennium Falcon and later makes an appearance at Jabba the Hutt’s palace—and fans love him.
The mystery helps, I’m sure. We don’t initially know much about him, but he shows up like the baddest guy in the room. He carries himself with that kind of confidence. He’s more ethically complex than most of the Star Wars characters—largely due to a lack of information, I wager—and he has a fantastic look. The prequels eventually explain more about him, but he became a beloved individual without that.
The recent movies tried to create a new Boba Fett with Captain Phasma, and that has, unfortunately, not worked out as well. She’s got similar traits but feels more like a wasted opportunity than anything else.
The white and orange rolling ball droid that first appeared in The Force Awakens, BB-8 not only proved very useful to our heroes but also provided audiences with several funny or touching moments. Belonging to Poe Dameron, BB-8 is trusted with an important map that needs to be brought to the Resistance. After Poe is captured, it locates Rey, and along with the rest of the main cast of that movie goes about trying to do exactly that.
BB-8’s design stands out the most to me. It’s a head on top of a ball, and when the ball rolls the head stays relatively stationary. It looks awesome, and was created for the movies without much CGI. When we saw the teaser for The Force Awakens, one of the things we were all sure of was how the little robot was CGI. And it isn’t! BB-8 also comes equipped with a bunch of tools, and a bit of a sense of humor. It’s hard not to become attached to it.
Darth. Maul. Has. A. Double. Bladed. Lightsaber.
That, right tere, should be enough. That’s one of the coolest parts of Star Wars and probably the best thing to come out of the prequels. He shows up as a villain in The Phantom Menace and he immediately makes an impact on the viewers because of how he looks. His face is fully tattooed with red and black. He’s got horns. And he’s got this awesome double-bladed lightsaber. He fights two people at once!
This is a character that gets by on looks and pretty much looks alone. Despite only showing up in one movie—and some TV shows, but I’m focusing on the movies—he’s one of the top characters I think of when I think about Star Wars. His lightsaber fight with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi is great. Part of me wishes he was in more movies; the other part of me is just glad we got what we got, and that that legacy can’t be ruined (as far as we know).
C-3PO and R2-D2
Fluent in over six million forms of communication, C-3PO is the most prim and proper of all the droids. It is so very well behaved and polite that it is, at times, unbelievable. Its personality beyond that is one of anxiety and obliviousness; despite this, C-3PO does frequently get involved in perilous situations and isn’t altogether useless during these moments. Its prime purpose, though, is as comedic relief—and has unfortunately seen its role diminish as the series has gone on.
C-3PO is also one of the most prominently featured characters in the series, at least in terms of number of appearances. C-3PO has appeared in each “Episode” film, and each time has been played by the same actor, Anthony Daniels. That’s a pretty incredible feat. Other actors from the original film may still be playing that same character, but none of them have made as many appearances.
While C-3PO may be the more vocal droid, R2-D2 has arguably made more of an impact on the audience. The short, voiceless robot showcased its personality through actions and various beeping, but managed to become friends with several of the protagonists over the course of the films, and showed more heart than its taller partner.
Of course, R2-D2 also serves a more important plot purpose, especially in the first film. It is the droid that contains Princess Leia’s message about the Death Star. Without R2-D2, the movies don’t happen—or certainly don’t play out the way that they do.
Chewbacca looks like a cross between a Sasquatch and a dog. He’s a Wookiee, a tall, hairy, smart humanoid creature, and serves as Han Solo’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. He’s one of the few characters in the franchise to get a nickname—”Chewie”—and despite only being able to communicate in growls and moans, we somehow are always able to understand what he says.
Chewbacca is this big, intimidating figure. He’s loyal to a fault—like a smarter dog. He acts as Han’s conscience, at times, and he’s got one of the biggest hearts in the series. But because of his size and strength, he’s also very useful in a fight—and he doesn’t shy away from them, either.
Yoda has served as a Member of the High Jedi Council and as Grand Master of the Jedi Order. He’s a mentor, a sage, and in an earlier age a very powerful warrior. He trains Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, sees and understands the Force greater than seemingly anyone else in the franchise, and provides more insight than we can understand.
And talk like this he does. I sometimes wonder if Yoda would be as memorable a character if he phrased his sentences like a normal English speaker. Probably not. That quirk makes him stand out. It might also make some of his platitudes seem smarter than they are. Alas, Yoda is great, although the less CGI and more puppetry used to create him the better.