Ask anyone who the best Star Wars characters are and you’ll inevitably hear names like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Rey, Darth Vader, and more. These are icons, both new and old, who transcend the screen and become an enduring part of pop culture.
These characters are the mythical heroes and villains of the modern era. It’s almost impossible not to love them, but what most people don’t know is that they only scratch the surface of those who fill the pantheon of great and legendary Star Wars heroes and villains. Beyond the films, there’s a whole canon of television shows, books, and comics that enrich the Star Wars mythology through their own characters.
Superfans, myself included, are fortunate enough (okay, fine—nerdy enough!) to to know who these characters are. But mainstream audiences are only familiar with the seven films, and even film knowledge varies from person to person. These characters fill vital roles in the saga, and the characters hare are the ones who I think are the most important of them all.
5. Fives, Clone Martyr
In the sixth and final season of the television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a clone trooper named Tup suddenly lost his mind and killed Jedi Master Tiplar in the middle of a battle. He had no control over his own actions, and muttered about how the Jedi were the enemy and how good soldiers follow orders. If you were watching Star Wars in chronological order, you might not know what this means—but the shadow of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith loomed large over this battle. We knew that it was a premature activation of Order 66, the command that Chancellor Palpatine gave to the clone army in Revenge of the Sith so they would destroy the Jedi.
As the Jedi investigated why Tup would kill one of their own, his friend and fellow clone trooper, Fives, also started looking into his friend’s unexplainable actions. Through his investigation, we learned the true nature of Order 66, which was never explained in Revenge of the Sith. The command, Clone Protocol 66, was implanted into all clone troopers upon their creation through the use of a bio-chip on their brains. They had no choice but to comply with the order once it was triggered. Fives ultimately discovered the very heart of the conspiracy: Chancellor Palpatine himself. He confronted the chancellor, but Palpatine manipulated the situation to make it appear like Fives tried to assassinate him. Fives was made to look like a deranged conspiracy theorist and would-be assassin, and ultimately he paid for it with his life. He died in the arms of his fellow soldier, Captain Rex, the series’ main clone character. The truth, ultimately, died with him.
Through Fives, we learned that the story of the clone troopers was one of tragedy. They weren’t given much characterization or screentime in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but The Clone Wars put the spotlight on them and made us fall in love with these characters who, despite being created in a lab, longed to prove that they were each unique individuals with something to contribute to the galaxy. That’s why their story is such a tragedy—after working so hard to be individuals, Palpatine took away all of that individuality with three simple words: “Execute Order 66.” Their friends and fellow soldiers, the Jedi, were killed as a result.
Not all clones complied with the order, however. Rex remembered what Fives told him and removed his control chip, as did Clone Commanders Gregor and Wolffe. Those clones eventually met the early rebellion against the Galactic Empire, and Rex joined their cause. Without Fives, that would not have been possible and the early days of the Rebel Alliance would have never been the same.
4. Clone Captain Rex
With The Clone Wars putting the spotlight on the clone troopers, fans were introduced to Captain Rex as the main clone character of the series. Along with Ahsoka Tano (who I talk about later), Rex was one of the two new main characters in a series otherwise filled with film characters. You never knew what was going to happen to him. Would he survive the war? Where was he during the events of Revenge of the Sith? The stakes were raised around Rex; he never appeared in the films, so his fate was up for grabs.
Through Rex, we learned how much clones valued duty. Through the many battles he fought in, from the Battle of Christophsis to the Siege of Mandalore, Rex was always one to follow orders and to serve the Jedi and the Republic—though his experiences did end up teaching him that, much like Anakin Skywalker believed, doing the right thing sometimes meant disobeying an order. Rex considered the Jedi his friends, especially Ahsoka and Anakin. This always put an ominous atmosphere around him. Would he execute Order 66? Was he fated to be a Jedi killer and serve the Empire? Fans loved Rex, so there was always a risk of heartbreak involved in the future of his storyline.
He was so popular that, after The Clone Wars ended, he went on to appear in Star Wars Rebels. That’s when fans got the answers to their questions. Not only did he survive the war, but he also never executed Order 66 because he learned about the control chip from Fives. He joined the early rebel movement against the Empire, making him an instrumental force in the rise of the Rebel Alliance. There’s even a fan theory out there suggesting that the old, white-haired bearded Rebel soldier on Endor is none other than Captain Rex—a theory that became so popular that Dave Filoni, the showrunner on both The Clone Wars and Rebels, said he loved the idea!
3. Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore
Satine Kryze was the Duchess of Mandalore. She was a pacifist, and she led Mandalore out of the ashes of its old wars and into a new era of peace. That peace was hard-fought. When she was young, she had to go on the run when her enemies tried to assassinate her. She was aided by two Jedi: Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Satine and Obi-Wan were around the same age, and the two fell in love with one another. They went their separate ways once the war on Mandalore came to an end, but Obi-Wan would have left the Jedi Order if she had asked him to. For a Jedi so committed to the ideals of the Order, that was a major revelation fans learned in The Clone Wars.
Though Satine led her people to an era of peace, that peace unraveled in the Clone Wars. She declared her planet’s neutrality during the war, but a splinter group known as Death Watch hoped to restore Mandalore’s warrior past and allied themselves with Count Dooku to achieve their goals. Though their first attempt to takeover Mandalore failed, they eventually aligned with Darth Maul (he survived Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, really!) and took over Mandalore, ending Satine’s rule over the planet and bringing an end to the pacifist government. Obi-Wan traveled to Mandalore to try to help his old friend, but Maul murdered her in front of Obi-Wan as part of his revenge against the Jedi who had defeated him. Satine died in Obi-Wan’s arms, and her final words were that she always loved him.
Satine’s death showed that Obi-Wan had become a true Jedi. Though he could have easily given in to the dark side and lashed out at Maul, he kept his calm. He remained focused. He honored Satine by being the best Jedi he could be, even when the Republic fell apart and Obi-Wan went into exile on Tatooine. His love for her also showed that Obi-Wan was a more complicated figure than we originally thought. It lets us pose questions about what he knew of Anakin’s secret relationship with Padmé Amidala, and whether he allowed it to happen despite being in violation of the Jedi Code. After all, Obi-Wan was never able to have the relationship he would have wanted. Perhaps he couldn’t bring himself to deprive his best friends of that?
Fun fact! The model of blaster pistol that Princess Leia uses at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope to fight stormtroopers is called Satine’s Lament, named after none other than the duchess herself.
2. The Ghost crew, the First Rebels
Prior to the premiere of Star Wars Rebels in 2014, one of the most important unexplored eras in the Star Wars canon was the early days of the Rebel Alliance. We didn’t see anything about their formation in the prequel trilogy (though there were deleted scenes from Revenge of the Sith that touched on this), and by the time of A New Hope the Rebel Alliance was already up and running. How did the Alliance come to be? Enter the crew of the Ghost, a band of rebels that started off operating on the Outer Rim planet of Lothal. Led by ace pilot Hera Syndulla and ex-Jedi Kanan Jarrus, these rebels decided to stick it to the Empire and help the people of Lothal. Their attacks became bigger and more noticeable, attracting the attention of iconic heroes and villains alike. Eventually, they became part of a wider rebel movement and faced off against none other than Darth Vader himself. Although their story is still ongoing—the third season of Star Wars Rebels begins this fall—we know one thing for certain: these rebels are the pioneers of what became the Rebel Alliance.
Also in the crew are Padawan Ezra Bridger, a street orphan from Lothal who joins the crew after realizing he has the power of the Force; Sabine Wren, a Mandalorian warrior and artist who uses her art to inspire the people of the galaxy against the Empire; Zeb Orrelios, a gruff Lasat warrior who is one of the few survivors of the Empire’s genocide against his people; and Chopper, a cantankerous astromech droid who, let’s be honest, is pretty much a psychopath. They’ve gained many allies throughout their adventures, including Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan (one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance, and Princess Leia’s adoptive father), Clone Captain Rex, and, last but not least, the single most important character you’ve never heard of…
1. Ahsoka Tano, Padawan and Rebel Hero
When Ahsoka Tano was introduced in The Clone Wars, she sent shockwaves through the Star Wars saga. Her introduction showed us that Anakin Skywalker, the central character of the prequel trilogy, trained an apprentice during the Clone Wars. We never heard about her in Revenge of the Sith, so how could Anakin have an apprentice? How would everything line up with the films? What would happen to Ahsoka at the end of the show? Fans had a lot of questions, and they were naturally skeptical, but over five seasons Ahsoka proved to be one of the best characters that Star Wars has to offer.
Through Ahsoka, we learned a lot more about Anakin. We saw what he was like as a teacher. We explored his issues with attachment—Yoda assigned Ahsoka as Anakin’s apprentice specifically to test the Jedi Knight on whether he could let go of his student when the time was right. Ahsoka and Anakin were very much alike, both valuing independence, being loyal to their friends, and doing what was right no matter what. In the end, Ahsoka felt forced to walk away from the Jedi Order when she was falsely accused of bombing the Jedi Temple. The Jedi Council turned their back on her, and, even though she was exonerated, she no longer had faith in the Order that had proven it had no faith in her. She walked away from the Jedi Temple and from Anakin himself, a key moment in his inevitable turn to the dark side.
That was Ahsoka’s last appearance in The Clone Wars. All of those questions about whether she survived the war remained unanswered, until she re-appeared in Star Wars Rebels as a contact for the Ghost crew in the wider rebellion. When she learned about Darth Vader, she came to suspect that he was none other than her former master. Her journey in the show’s second season led her to discovering that horrible truth and that his turn to the dark side was, in part, because he felt abandoned by her. After losing his mother and then Ahsoka, he couldn’t handle losing Padmé in Revenge of the Sith, so he finally snapped. In the end, she confronted her old master in a climactic lightsaber duel. Her fate is still unknown, but her story will likely continue.
Ahsoka proved that you don’t have to follow the will of the Jedi Council to be a true Jedi, or even a Jedi at all. Much like Luke in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, she found her true path by bucking the will of her masters and doing what she thought was right. How her story will play out remains a mystery, but it’s clear that Ahsoka Tano will continue to play a vital role in the ever-expanding story of the Star Wars saga.
Who do you think are the most important Star Wars characters that people might not know about? Do you think I missed anyone? Tweet at me and let me know!