Perhaps the most iconic franchise in the history of cinema, Star Wars spans 8 canon movies, 2 spin-off movies, several animated series, dozens of books and as many video-games. That’s a lot of characters requiring a lot of actors and George Lucas would make some inspired (and some considerably less-so) decisions when it came to casting – some would arrive as complete unknowns and be projected to stardom, often fleeting as they would come crashing down to earth once the dust settled around the latest movie. Others, in rare instances, would be accomplished film and theatre actors that Lucas would criminally under-use or miscast in his various productions (although we have Disney to blame for any future instances of that). Here we take a look at some of the more well-known faces from across the entire movie saga and rather than try to judge them on pure acting ability, or the character’s intended persona, we look at how suitable these people were for their roles and how their roles enabled them (or didn’t) to give memorable performances. In many cases of actors being less-than-perfect matches to their sci-fi counterparts, a lot of the blame lies with boring dialogue and wooden direction as much as it does with poor acting (this is not always the case though). See if you can guess who was a perfect fit… and who wasn’t! While some of these labels may seem obvious, others are a little more subjective and you will have to read carefully to understand why they were or weren’t a good choice. May the force be with you.
20 Harrison Ford is PERFECT as Han Solo
With the recent release of the Han Solo spin-off movie, there is no better time to point out that Harrison Ford will always be the best Han Solo. There was no other actor at the time that could have brought the devil-may-care attitudeThe character was effectively Indiana Jones in space – with even more enemies and even fewer moral quibbles, and Lucas’ decisions to use Harrison in both franchises speaks volumes as to how Lucas saw Ford not just as an actor but as a leading man. Ford’s Han just oozes charisma, and has a touchingly natural and believable relationship with his hairy companion that have the pair almost as immediately recognisable over the past few decades as the Jedi and their lightsabers – something incredibly rare in the industry. To be fair to Alden Ehrenreich, Ford has given nothing but praise to the new movie and its leading man, but then Ford has always been a demure and diplomatic man in the flesh – despite the exuberant and cavalier personalities of his roles. I wonder what Han Solo would have to say about the new Han Solo movie? Prime bounty? Or bantha fodder? While you’re there, ask him who shot first….
19 Hayden Christensen is BAD as Anakin Skywalker
Without wanting to flog a dead horse, it bears repeating that Hayden’s almost cringe-worthy portrayal of the most dangerous and powerful man in the galaxy, was monumentally bad. After the towering physique of David Prowse and the booming voice of James Earl Jones gave us what we know as Darth Vader in the 70s and 80s, it was never going to be easy to find one man in his twenties who could both look and sound the part – but unfortunately, Hayden did neither. His wooden presence on-screen coupled with a dull, emotionless voice give more the impression he’s trying to remember his lines rather than give any kind of emotional impetus to the events around him. To be fair to Hayden, this is one of those instances where soulless dialogue and bad direction probably had a part to play – but to be even MORE fair to some of the other actors on this list, Hayden didn’t have it the worst (he was playing one of the most important characters in the franchise and got to play husband to Nathalie Portman) as he could have been cast as Jar Jar Binks instead… Ultimately I feel like there was a lot of wasted potential all around when it came to casting Anakin Skywalker but at least Hayden’s next (unrelated) movie endeavours were more flattering to him as an actor.
18 James Earl Jones is PERFECT as the voice of Darth Vader
Mr. Jones is one of those men that just has a voice made for acting. Whether it be live-action or voice-over acting, his basso profondo is one of the most recognisable voices in the world. You may remember his voice as that of Mufasa in the Lion King, or seeing him as the King of Zamunda in Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America”, but chances are, if you know his voice from anywhere it’s from a line like “I find your lack of faith …..disturbing” or of course “No. I am your father”. As an almost robotic, grotesque, unflinching black knight who appears physically unable to run (not that Darth Vader needs to run for anybody…) the vast majority of the character’s personality and even some of it’s presence is put forward by the inimitable chords of Mr. Jones. A true testament to the sheer power of speech is the enduring popularity of Darth Vader throughout popular culture – a more terrifying and imposing figure there has never been. There is no question that a consummate professional like Jones lent some hefty credibility to the first Star Wars movie (Jones had already recieved an oscar nomination in 1967 for The Great White Hope) that no doubt encouraged other industry veterans to climb on board for later instalments, yet unlike some of his equally-qualified peers Jones has refrained from trash-talking the franchise over the years and still gives a little nod to his days with the dark side every now and again.
17 John Boyega is WASTED as Finn
Finn is one of the strangest characters on this list, and one of the hardest to judge, but ultimately it’s a case of the character having its role switched around when it didn’t really have a proper one to begin with. A lot of the scenes involving Finn just don’t make sense – period. This is a shame because to a lot of people, Finn is one of their favourite characters and John Boyega’s casting in the Episode 7 series reboot means something to them. This leaves Finn in a place where his character is more important than what he actually does in the movies. Logically, the character of Finn would never have found himself teaming up with the rebels on so many occasions. Logically the character wouldn’t have even been in Episode 8, and if it were, it should have died there… but so far it seems like the writers will continue to shoe-horn him into various scenarios because fans demand it. This is good news for fans and for Boyega, but maybe not such good news for the continuity and the logic of the story writing. Perhaps far enough down the line, Finn will get his own spin-off movie, and there will be some revelations as to why he makes some of the choices he does. Until then, you can see John Boyega’s natural charm shine through in Attack the Block – a great turn that inspired casters to pick him up for Finn’s role in the first place.
16 David Prowse is PERFECT as the body of Darth Vader
While it’s no contest that the true spirit of Darth Vader comes from the voicing by James Earl Jones, the character just would not be complete without this 6 ft 6 giant of a man wearing the iconic black armour – even if George Lucas didn’t seem to think so. While James Earl Jones went on to complete many more projects after Star Wars, Prowse seemed a little “stuck” on his turn as Darth Vader, and perhaps a little resentful for what he saw as Lucasfilm consistently sidelining him. The director on “Return of the Jedi” had used a different body for the lightsaber fight-scenes as Prowse was apparently too heavy-handed and kept breaking the prop sabers. However, the fencing coach who was used in the fights was too weak to lift up the Emperor at the end of the movie and it took a week of failed takes before the director would give in to Prowse – who as a lifelong bodybuilder clearly had no issue lifting an old man above his head and throwing him down a bottomless space-pit. Prowse was also accused of giving away the major twist for “Empire” by implying at a UC Berkeley interview in 1978 that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. As correct as this is, an executive producer for the film later noted that this was 2 years before the movie came out – the script had not yet been written and the twist was not in the storyline yet. He said it was “just a good, educated guess”. Despite this, growing resentment between Prowse and Lucas over the years eventually led to Lucas banning him from official conventions as “punishment”. Regardless, Darth Vader and Star Wars in general wouldn’t have been the same without him.
15 Kelly Marie Tran feels FORCED as Rose
Like Finn above, the case of Rose is more a case of “Why this character?” than “Why this actor?”. Rose seems out of place in almost every scene, and only seems to mesh in situations that themselves seem out of place in the movie (casino scene anyone?). She also obviously serves as a romantic interest for Finn – but when you consider the flimsy basis for Finn’s character even still being with the rebels at this point, you get a sort of house-of-cards of forced plot-points, all holding each-other up. Much of Rose’s attitude and dialogue also seems strange and rather at odds with the Star Wars atmosphere, which really is a shame because clearly a lot of effort went into fleshing her out emotionally. The problem is that in classic Star Wars fashion, many of the evil bosses and saintly Jedi are almost devoid of regular emotion. Even Kylo Ren, who borders on the unstable, is consumed by specific negative emotions to the point of being a cliché villain rather than having a truly believable personality. It’s clear that Finn and Rose were added to the story to give some more human character-development – the kind of emotional development that was completely absent from the prequel movies. Unfortunately the bridging of soap-opera and space-opera is still a little wonky on this one.
14 Adam Driver is PERFECT as Kylo Ren
Kylo Ren is one of those things about the new Star Wars movies you either loved or hated the second you saw him. Let’s be clear – he’s not Darth Vader, but he’s not supposed to be. Ren is angst-ridden, emotionally unstable, cowardly and vengeful – but he still makes sense as a character and his embrace of the dark side is both inevitable and logical. Adam Driver portrays this seriously flawed villain fantastically, making him someone you love to hate – which is ultimately what makes a great movie villain. Ren’s feelings of abandonment as a child were later exploited by Snoke to turn him to the dark side and slaughter his fellow Jedi pupils. Such evil and treacherous acts make for conflicting feelings regarding a person who is both dangerous and somewhat pathetic. This is truer than ever in the final moments of “Last Jedi” with Ren’s victory over his master followed by his misguided offer to Rey. Kylo Ren will probably never be as popular as Darth Vader – he’s just not as likeable (that’s saying something) and is a genuinely conflicted character, but he remains a great movie villain played to a tee. Let’s hope Adam Driver continues to get praise for a worthy portrayal and not be confused with his character!
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13 Forest Whitaker is BIZARRE as Saw Gerrera
Everybody’s heard of “Forest Whitaker eye”. Apparently the studio at Disney had, so they got him to play the grizzled and traumatised old guerilla warlord Saw Gerrera. Unfortunately, that’s all they gave him to go on. If you happen to read any of the books or comics, you’ll see Saw has a lot of history with Jyn Erso which is only hinted at in the “Rogue One” movie. In fact, not enough is done at all to really tell us who Saw Gerrera is and why they needed such a phenomenal actor to give us 5 minutes of incoherent monologuing before getting killed by a massive sandblast along with everything else in his catacomb base. The acting feels all over the place, and it’s hard to see why Forest was required to play a character who ultimately had little impact on the story in that movie but had a deep and rich past of his own that had been detailed elsewhere in the Star Wars universe. Perhaps the studio thought that Forest’s always-excellent acting would make up for the fact they were trying to squeeze decades of history and feeling into just a few asthmatic sentences of speech. Trying to figure out what was going on with this character in “Rogue One” gave me Forest Whitaker eye.
12 Daisy Ridley is PERFECT as Rey
Rey is by far the biggest star in this war. While Kylo Ren is more of a mixed-bag as far as how you feel about him, Rey is impossible to hate. She is everything you could want in a heroine and Daisy Ridley gives us all of it. While likened by some to the Hollywood trope of a “Mary-Sue” – a lazily-written character who conveniently always succeeds and gets everything they want from everyone – Rey really isn’t like that when you look past her apparent ease with regards to gaining force powers. What Rey is however, is a plucky and principled girl who is realising more and more the kind of power that lies dormant within her. Her strength-of-will is displayed admirably by Ridley after Rey’s capture by Snoke and subsequent proposal from Kylo Ren. Ridley has stated herself in interviews that she doesn’t think Rey has any weaknesses – not because she is overpowered or invulnerable, but because Rey’s outlook is always positive, and that her flaws actually make her stronger. Now that’s a philosophy we could all use! It’s that kind of strength and example that makes us love Rey. Sadly Ridley has also gone on to say elsewhere that she will probably call it a day for Rey once her 3-film-contract is over, with Episode 9 being her last one. Nothing is set in stone and Daisy probably just wants to explore other horizons so who knows – maybe we will see Rey back sooner than we think.
11 Brian Blessed is BAFFLING as Boss Nass
This one always cracks me up. How they ever even convinced the legendary Brian Blessed to play a bumbling toad-like CGI creature in a Star Wars movie will forever be a mystery to me, but there is something to be said for his raspberry-blowing and incoherent pidgin-like babbling having a somewhat endearing and comical nature to them. Unfortunately this is supposed to be a huge war with the lives of several different species on the line, and this toad-man is the supreme leader of one of these species. And it’s not like Brian Blessed couldn’t give them a booming and regal voice-over if they wanted one – his impressive and instantly recognisable voice rivals that of Star Wars alumnus James Earl Jones and his voicing of Darth Vader. In fact, one of the only saving graces for this character is that he isn’t JarJar Binks. The awkward and ridiculous nature of the Gungan vernacular really stops Blessed from giving any career-defining performance here which is a shame because I always love hearing his voice booming bloody hell at me from a screen. For anyone else needing more Brian Blessed shouting at you in thespian glory, as of 2010 you can get him as the voice of your TomTom GPS for your car.
10 Alan Tudyk is PERFECT as K-2SO
One of the highlights of “Rogue One” for me was having a comic-relief side-kick whose face I didn’t want to burn off slowly with a lightsaber. In fact, K-2SO was actually funny – in a Star Wars movie! It came as no surprise to me later to find out that Alan Tudyk was the man responsible. Alan is an overly modest man who almost never receives the credit he deserves. Fond memories of Steve the Pirate from “Dodgeball” coupled with his great run as Wash the pilot in “Firefly/Serenity” mean there are already reasons to like Tudyk but he gives us one more with K-2SO. Aside from the great comical inflection Tudyk brings to the droid’s sarcastic British accent, he also had to act the droid while wearing foot-long stilts and a full mo-cap suit. What’s even more impressive and fascinating is the team behind the droid’s rendering – Industrial Light & Magic is a SFX company founded by George Lucas and acquired by Disney during their buyout of Lucasfilm. In this instance, they had the droid pre-rendered in the Unreal 4 Engine and then rendered into the filming in real-time! This was the first time that filmmakers would have been able to see the actual CGI character alongside the other actors while they are filming the scene. Impressive stuff indeed, but not always as simple for Tudyk, who had to both stand up straight yet inject emotion and personality into his movements, all while walking on stilts. Easy, right?
9 Temuera Morrison is NOT SCARY as Jango Fett
Let’s get one thing straight – Jango Fett is the “father” and biological clone of legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett. Not only is he the base for cloning a legendary bounty hunter but he’s also the base for cloning an entire army of elite Republic soldiers. Blame it on poor script and direction (again) if you like, but Temuera does little himself to bring anything more to the character than his obligatory Kiwi acccent, and never feels like a scary or dangerous man at all. He is far more believable as Commander Cody the Republic clone soldier in “Revenge of the Sith” than as Jango which is ironic considering they are clones of each-other, but his lack of expression is more suited to a mindless clone soldier than a grizzled mercenary. Couple this mediocre turn with showing us baby Boba, a 3-foot child with all the menace of Spongebob Squarepants, and the Fett legacy of being hardened, un-killable bad-asses starts to fade very quickly. It’s truly unfortunate that neither of the Fetts ever get to really show us what they can do, with their plans seeming to always go wrong in some unforeseeable way. Hopefully Boba Fett will be brought back in a future flick, giving all his fans the kick-ass Mandalorian they keep longing for.
8 Diego Luna is PERFECT as Cassian Andor
Forget “poor man’s Han Solo” – Cassian was something else entirely, and a very believable archetype of the resistance fighter. Throughout “Rogue One” we see Cassian make some far more human and tough decisions than any of the romanticised dilemmas that ever faced the cavalier Solo. Seeing him torn between his morals and his dedication to doing whatever is necessary for the resistance is gut-wrenching, even more so when we all know how the story ends. Diego does a stellar job of presenting a good but troubled man, who is far from superhuman but in way over his head and relying on pure grit and luck to see himself through. Cassian’s character required someone who isn’t 6 ft tall with bulging muscles, nor possessing a presence worthy of fantastical force powers. While Diego may be easy on the eyes, he’s no bodybuilder and neither is his character and what we get is a much more believable and relatable hero that marks new territory for Star Wars (if you hadn’t noticed, the prequels weren’t much into relatable heroes……. or believable ones). The only shame here is that we know we won’t be seeing any more of Cassian Andor in future Star Wars films – and yet we will keep having to see more of Finn and Rose. The fictional history of alternate galaxies just ain’t faire, huh?
7 Ahmed Best is INFURIATING as Jar Jar Binks
While the character most certainly needs no introduction, the actor might. Ahmed Best was a fairly successful jazz musician before joining the famous touring dance-group Stomp. It was while touring with Stomp that the casting director for “Phantom Menace” noticed his moves and signed him on for a role that he – and the world – would never forget. A role that still gives some people nightmares to this day. No one at Lucasfilm could possibly have predicted the bandwagon of hatred that their CGI alien-Goofy would provoke – intended to provide comic relief, all he provided instead were migraines while on-screen and incessant derogatory remarks about him while off-screen. While it could be argued that his purpose in the film was to appeal to children, there were no deep or complicated themes in the rest of the movie at all and his presence served only to antagonise as he was far too present throughout the film for viewers to just ignore him. None of this, of course, is Ahmed’s fault. Lucas even originally considered him wrong for the role after seeing him perform flips and martial arts at his audition when Lucas was seeking more of a slapstick, “Buster Keaton” sort of actor. Since the world-wide vilification of Jar Jar, Ahmed has been a good sport, even reprising the voice of Jar Jar in the “Robot Chicken” parodies of Star Wars on Comedy Central.
6 Ewan McGregor is PERFECT as Obi Wan Kenobi
One of the 2 major redeeming casting decisions of the prequel movies was Ewan McGregor. Having already proven himself as a fantastic and emotional actor in Trainspotting, Ewan was an interesting and ultimately inspired choice to play Obi Wan Kenobi. It really feels as if the character of Obi Wan matures and develops at precisely the right rate over the course of the 3 movies – both visually and emotionally. Starting off as a neophyte apprentice making questionable decisions, his wisdom surpasses that of his late master by the third film and it’s not much of a stretch to see McGregor’s Kenobi grow into the Ben Kenobi played by Sir Alec McGuiness in “New Hope”. While Sir Alec may have phoned n his performance slightly, Ewan does no such thing and he manages to rise above the often dire and uninspired dialogue he is given by the production. Add to that his moves in the final fight against Darth Maul to give us one of the most complete and professional all-round performances of the entire prequel trilogy. Once again however, we are saddened by knowing the future and that we won’t be seeing Ewan reprise his role as Obi Wan any longer. It would take some serious Dynasty-esque turn-around to raise this Jedi Knight from the dead, and when you consider how old he would be canonically, Ewan would need enough makeup that he’d look more like Yoda by the time he was done.
5 Liam Neeson is DISAPPOINTING as Qui-Gon Jinn
This was one of the most painful for me, as I love Liam Neeson, but his performance here can best be described as stoic and emotionless. This may seem fairly typical of the Jedi mantra but Qui-Gon is supposed to be a rebellious Jedi knight who doesn’t care for the Council’s decision-making. His apprentice Obi Wan does a better job at portraying the rebellious streak leaving Qui-Gon playing dad to a couple of Jedi kids. All of Neeson’s dialogue throughout the movie serves to advance the plot and little insight is ever given into the mind and actions of the rebel knight. Movies like “Taken” give us a much better example of Neeson when he means business rather than the boring dad arguing with teachers to get his kid into school that we see here. It may be unfortunate, but perhaps it is fitting that he would fall to a more lively opponent such as Darth Maul – after all, that moment gives us the first true challenge to Obi Wan’s emotions, and it is his unlocked anger that allows him to defeat Darth Maul in combat. While Qui-Gon may be an important character in the identification and eventual rise to power of Anakin Skywalker, his depiction in the movie is less than gripping.
4 Ray Park is PERFECT as Darth Maul
Now I know what you’re thinking – Darth Maul?? But despite the character’s shortcomings in the character and dialogue departments, he serves his purpose flawlessly throughout the movie. That purpose is being a silent, pursuing assassin who presents a constant threat to Qui-Gon and his party. As a career stunt-actor with martial arts experience, Ray Parks was a smart choice for this role. I can say without a doubt that the highlights of “Phantom Menace” for me were the (far too few) lightsaber duels between Darth Maul and the two Jedi protagonists. Having an accomplished fight-actor like Parks to perform the numerous cartwheels and wield the flashy double-bladed lightsaber to perfection was essential to lending credibility to these scenes. It’s his aggression balanced with precision that make the scenes almost more believable than a traditional sword-fight scene and those fights remain some of the best lightsaber duels in the entire movie saga. Interestingly enough, and as a habit of George Lucas’, despite only having 2 lines in the entire movie Lucas saw fit to have his speech dubbed over with that of British actor Peter Serafinowicz. Ray shouldn’t feel too bad about it though, unlike Darth Vader it’s definitely the moves of Darth Maul that steal the show here.
3 Natalie Portman is DECORATION as Padme
Rather like her co-star Hayden Christensen it’s become somewhat fashionable to rip on Natalie Portman for her performance in the prequels – but with good reason. Having shown us before and since that she is capable of much more than what we got here, one must think that Lucas forbade them both from showing any actual emotion or acting throughout the three movies. Other than looking pretty and doing a great job of crying (as is Portman’s specialty) there’s not much going on here, and there are none of the “sparks” we saw with Leia and Han. In fact, I think Finn and Rose is a better love story than Padme and Anakin. While the role of Queen Amidala is a solemn and stoic one, Padme had some opportunities to show real emotion – some kind of twinkle in her eye, but consistently failed to invoke any feelings at all other than “gosh isn’t she pretty”. There are Disney princesses with more depth of character than Padme. Perhaps it’s because they were young and not so self-assured, perhaps it’s because Lucas’ famously restrictive directing was aimed more at them than any of the other cast, but it’s clear that other cast members were able to rise to the challenge of injecting personality into their roles where Portman and Christensen failed. So that we end on a positive note; she’s much better in Black Swan so if you’re looking for something to take the bad taste away, go see her in that instead.
2 Ian McDiarmid is PERFECT as Senator Palpatine
If there is one face that consistently remained a joy to see throughout the prequels, despite his evil machinations, it was Ian McDiarmid’s. He is one of the only two actors who truly shined throughout their turn in the three movies, alongside Ewan McGregor. A truly accomplished and skilled character actor, McDiarmid has appeared in over 45 movies in 40 years, lending some much-needed professional clout to the main line-up of the prequel movies. Obviously Palpatine is a character that cannot get by on stoic mantra, cool-looking armour and flashy lightsaber moves. He embodies the highly-intelligent political manipulator, playing the long game to see all his plans come together. Ian McDiarmid is a master of wry smiles and meaningful glances, lending an incredible amount of depth to an otherwise convoluted-yet-basic story-line as the proverbial puppet-master. As the viewer knows who he is and what he will do to the galaxy, watching him patiently and charismatically play his “game of thrones” with the Galactic Senate is the closest to nail-biting the movies get outside of a lightsaber fight. Simply knowing the hidden power and authority of Palpatine makes him as terrifying and dangerous as Darth Vader ever was. A fitting actor for a role that ties an entire story together.
1 Mark Hamill is TIRED as Luke Skywalker
What’s that? How can I possibly say Mark Hamill wasn’t perfect for Luke Skywalker? Well take a step back and think about it – I still can’t see anyone else other than Harrison Ford as Han Solo yet they already replaced him, but when it comes to Luke I feel like any fresh-faced blue-eyed young guy would have been fine for the job back in the 1970’s. Don’t get me wrong – Hamill isn’t terrible as Luke, but he’s not unforgettable either. When I really think about it, Luke was one of the least interesting characters from the original movie, overshadowed by Darth Vader and Han Solo. Hamill grew into the character as the series went on, showing a little more confidence in “Return of the Jedi” and was probably sad it stopped there. For a second at least – now he probably wishes it HAD stopped there, for the main reason poor Mark is on this list is because of his simply bizarre turn in “Last Jedi”. I realise that a lot has happened between the end of Episode 6 and the start of Episode 7, but for the great Jedi Master who defeated the Sith once and for all to be found 30 years later squatting in a cave sucking milk from a walrus/giraffe crossbreed’s teat (what was up with that scene, anyway?) is just a little too much for many fans – and indeed for Hamill himself. Any excitement he may have had about reprising his role as Luke soon dissipated when he started filming. Indeed, both during and since production on “Last Jedi”, Hamill has not held back when slamming the new film in public and is quite visibly unhappy with the direction that’s been taken. In any case it’s highly unlikely we will see much more of Mark in the Star Wars franchise. The page has turned…
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