Top 10 Star Wars Moments that Made Us Cry

We all know fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. But you know what else leads to suffering? Loving Star Wars.

Through an ever-expanding roster of Star Wars feature films, TV shows, novels, comics, anthologies, and more, we get attached to the characters we meet in a galaxy far, far away. And when they're sad, we are too. (After all, fiction builds empathy!) But no matter how many rewatches we've done, we still need to break out the tissues and call a friend to handle the emotional fallout of these scenes. Ugly criers unite; here are ten moments in Star Wars that’ll fill a star destroyer with our tears.


1. Kanan’s Death (Star Wars Rebels)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

No Star Wars fan is the same after watching “Jedi Night,” the tenth episode of the fourth season of Rebels.

There's not a death in Star Wars more affecting. Prompted by the Force to prepare for the end, Kanan Jarrus, Jedi Knight, demonstrates in the truest sense what makes a Jedi great: not by rejecting love, but by embracing it to the point of sacrificing himself for his family. It's a devastating departure, and the ripple effects carry us through the emotionally explosive finale of the show.

Kanan's unforgettable final moments deepen the tragedy. He finally hears Hera declare her love, shows true mastery of the Force as he keeps the explosion at bay, and miraculously recovers his vision in time to keep his promise to Hera (“we will see each other again”). And unlike other deaths in Star Wars, we get time to mourn alongside the Ghost crew as they work their way through the stages of grief. Add Kevin Kiner's heartbreaking score into the mix, and you're in for an ugly-cry marathon.

2. Anakin Burns (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

I was eleven when I saw Revenge of the Sith in theaters and sobbed into my mom's shoulder as Anakin Skywalker burst into flames. I'm almost thirty now, and while I can resist the urge to call my mom during a rewatch, the scene hasn't gotten any less tragic.

Despite the atrocities we've seen him commit, there's something about Anakin's gruesome defeat on Mustafar that makes it clear there's no going back: Vader is here to stay, and the kindhearted boy from Tatooine is gone. Plus, Anakin and Obi-Wan's character development through seven seasons of The Clone Wars and novels like Brotherhood gives this dramatic battle between brothers a new level of emotional stakes. I'm suspicious of any dry eye I spy when the stoic Obi-Wan tearfully cries out that he loved him, knowing it is far, far too late.

3. Ahsoka Leaves (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Ahsoka Tano walking into the sunset of Coruscant, leaving Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi Order behind, quickly became one of the most evocative images of The Clone Wars era. Betrayed, confused, and questioning everything she ever knew, our favorite Padawan's choice to leave her beloved master was a Dave Filoni masterstroke many of us will never recover from.

It's hard to know what made us cry harder: her slumped shoulders as she walked away, or the look on Anakin's face as he watched her go, the darkness deepening around him. Knowing what's in store for him and the Jedi gives the scene a fateful edge of not only lost innocence but lost hope. 10/10 on the emotional wreckage scale.

4. Mando Removes His Helmet for Grogu (The Mandalorian)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Din's choice to remove his helmet so Grogu could see his face is without question one of the tenderest scenes we've ever gotten in any Star Wars medium.

As a Child of the Watch, Din Djarin's religion and culture mean everything to him. Removing his helmet means sacrificing all of it. Besides, it was one thing to take it off under duress a few episodes earlier on Morak; it is quite another to voluntarily show his face as an act of love and trust. A fearsome hunter willing to be his most vulnerable self for the sake of a child? Take our money. Plus, when will Grogu's tiny hand on Din's cheek NOT send us diving into our tissue boxes? Never. The answer is never.

5. Leia’s Death (Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

The death of Leia Organa would have been a sucker punch no matter how it happened, but after “Space Mom” Carrie Fisher's passing a few years earlier, the onscreen moment became even more significant. The outpouring of grief for her – R2-D2's mournful beeps, Poe's disbelief, Rey's tears, and Chewie's wail of lamentation – echoed our own.

Beloved from the moment she first appeared on a doomed starship with a white dress and space buns, Leia meant so much to her galaxy and ours. She was the last of the original trio to become one with the Force, and her death was both the end of an era and a beautiful full-circle moment for the saga. It was an act of faith that sent her calling for Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope, and it was an act of faith that sent her calling her son back to the light in The Rise of Skywalker, knowing she would not survive the attempt. Even if we knew it was coming, none of us were ready to say goodbye.

6. Burying the Clones (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

After seven seasons of getting to know the clones as individuals, soldiers, comrades, and brothers, seeing the 501st Legion reduced to a vast expanse of identical graves took my breath away. Ahsoka and Rex's silent vigil seems hollow and inadequate in the face of such loss.

With no dialogue and little music, the moment is as haunting as it is tragic—a fitting end to a landmark series that humanized the Star Wars universe to an unprecedented degree.

7. Obi-Wan Apologizes to Vader (Obi-Wan Kenobi)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

If you thought “You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!” was bad, you probably got knocked flat by the season finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi. In a stunning throwback (or foreshadowing) to Ahsoka’s showdown with Vader in Season 2 of Rebels, Obi-Wan apologizes to the exposed left side of Vader's face, burn scars glowing alternately blue and red. “For all of it,” he croaks out through tears.

Ten years of regret, remorse, and grief have brought Obi-Wan to this moment of apology. Ewan McGregor's remarkable performance ensures that we feel every bit of that heartache with him. And shoutout to showrunner Deborah Chow for making us believe for a second that maybe, just maybe, his former apprentice will forgive him.

8. Han Appears to Ben Solo (Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

I was too shocked to cry at Han's death in The Force Awakens. I was in so much denial that I even waited for an end-credit scene to bring him back before remembering this wasn’t Marvel. But I'd accepted it by the time The Rise of Skywalker came out, which made Han Solo's appearance to his son an immediate tearjerker.

Is it the Force? Is it a hallucination? Is it simply a manifestation of what Ben Solo most needs to hear? Who knows. But seeing our favorite scoundrel show up as a father, even from beyond the grave, was poignant and meaningful. With his signature catchphrase (“I know”), Han assures Ben of his unconditional love the same way he (sort of) assured Ben's mother on Bespin so many years before. It's a worthy end for Han Solo and a beautiful reconciliation scene for two characters with a history of avoiding connection.

9. Nanta’s Death (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi)

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

You know who I'm talking about: the adorable Ewok who doesn't make it through the Battle of Endor. Seeing a fuzzy teddy bear get killed by an Imperial Walker was one of my first onscreen heartbreaks. It was a wake-up call to the brutality of war, the cruelty of imperialism, and the fact that even the cutest creatures don't get a pass on the battlefield. Plus, his companion Romba's gradual realization that his friend is dead is almost too much to bear.

Honestly, it's on par with Simba realizing Mufasa isn't going to wake up. And I'm not above fast-forwarding through it if I don't think my heart can take it that day.

10. Order 66 (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith; Star Wars: The Clone Wars; The Bad Batch; Obi-Wan Kenobi)

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Every time we see Order 66 in a new Star Wars story, the magnitude of the massacre gets more real. The original montage of clone troopers assassinating Jedi after Jedi in Revenge of the Sith was tragic in its own right.

But the chaos, carnage, and betrayal intensify with the 501st Legion turning against Ahsoka in The Clone Wars, the murder of Depa Billaba in The Bad Batch, and the sack of the Jedi Temple in Obi-Wan Kenobi. These individuals we've come to love, sometimes young children, are attacked by their own friends. It doesn't get much darker than that.

Honorable Mentions

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Image courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.
  • Fives's death (Star Wars: The Clone Wars): The extent to which the clones have been manipulated and exploited becomes unmistakably clear as Fives dies in Rex's arms, killed by his own comrade.
  • Shmi's death (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): After a life of enslavement and separation from her son, Shmi Skywalker deserved so much better.
  • Qui-Gon's death (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): Anakin's one chance at a father figure dies in young Obi-Wan's arms, and I die a little bit, too.
  • Massacre of the Tuskens (The Book of Boba Fett): I couldn't believe the vibrant community that gave Boba Fett new life met such a sudden, terrible end.
  • Ezra bids farewell to his parents (Star Wars Rebels): After losing his master, Ezra rejects the Emperor's temptation to reunite with his parents, another cruel loss in the orphan's life.
  • Luke and Leia's final meeting (Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi): Seeing the Skywalker twins reunite – and knowing they will never do so again, onscreen or off – brings on the sniffles like Jawas to a parked Razor Crest.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Jennifer Vosters is a writer, theatre artist, and geek currently based in Chicago. Check her out on Twitter at @JAVosters or Instagram at @vostersjennifer.