Top Ten Actors in Star Wars

Who are your top 10 actors in Star Wars?

Star Wars has featured some truly memorable acting performances. Forget the fact that the Oscars hardly ever hands out an award for an Oscar in sci-fis. Sci-fi actors are damn talented people.

It’s funny that the Oscars are so biased towards drama. It’s true that it takes a lot of talent to act in a straight drama. The subtlety and range of emotion requires a genuine talent. But so does acting in sci-fi and fantasy.

It’s total bullshit that the Oscars and other critics tell us that drama is the true calling for actors. Any actor worth their clout knows that more theatrical performances like those required by sci-fi and fantasy are equally challenging.

As an actor myself I’ve played in a crazy range of rolls. They range from playing Shakespearean characters (Coriolanus) to playing serious modern roles (Chance Wayne in Sweet Bird Of Youth, for instance), to playing some seriously silly roles. I even played all the Gummi Bears singlehandedly for a pantomime once. Which took the most talent? They all required equal but different skill. And it’s the same for the A-listers. A damn good sci-fi or fantasy role requires every bit as much talent as a damn good drama role. And Daisy Ridley should have won that Oscar.

Because the Oscars and other critics downplay the importance of actors in sci-fis, we tend to respect the special effects in Star Wars more than the actors. That’s a mistake.

Many brilliant actors have appeared in Star Wars. But who, oh who, who, who, is the best?

Video Version

The Top 10 Actors In Star Wars

This list is based solely on the actors performance in Star Wars and not on their other work.

  1. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)

star wars mark hamill

Yes. We’re kicking off with the actor who starred in the original trilogy. As the star in the best movies of all time (okay, I’m biased but damn I love Star Wars) you would think Mark Hamill would be higher on this list.

Mark Hamill does put in a good performance in Star Wars. I mean, you and I both remember about every line he says in the movies, right? So clearly he did a good job. And he has several truly stand out moments. When he finds out about his father his reaction is memorable (“No. That can’t be true. That’s impossible. No…). Sure, it’s a little over the top. But it catches your breath the first time you see it. And he has the absolute perfect face for Luke (though Richard Thomas from The Walton also looked perfect for the role).

Luke Skywalker required an innocent naivety in the first movie, followed by a painful emotional moments in Empire and concluded with a sort of angel-like performance in Return of the Jedi. And Mark Hamill pulled off those three performances believably.

Plus he’s Luke Skywalker, so, I mean, show the man some god damn respect ya know?

 

Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia)

 

carrie fisher star wars

Carrie Fisher’s acting has been sidelined by the fact that she can’t stop sipping liquor. But when she wasn’t completely inebriated, Carrie Fisher put in some great performances. Remember, this is the actress that was in The Blues Brothers, Star Wars, the Burbs, and Hook, so, I mean, she’s been in some damn good movies.

In Star Wars Carrie Fisher puts in a solid performance as Leia, the unconventional princess who has far more ass-kicker to her than your average princess. And though she’s now famous for that bikini, she did put in some great scenes.

What’s Carrie Fisher’s best Star Wars scene in your opinion? Do you like the scene where she’s with Luke on Endor in Jedi and she finds out that they’re siblings?  That took a lot of subtlety, and Leia’s eyes are so full of depth in that scene it’s truly beautiful.

What about her argument with Han in Empire? Or the way she let’s all that strength go when she’s around Han, when she’s unable to face her feelings?

There’s a range of emotion in Leia that is truly impressive. In Star Wars, Carrie Fisher found her best role.

 

 

John Boyega

 

star wars john boyega finn

Before The Force Awakens, John Boyega was modeling for online stock photography. Some people think that’s lame. Not me. As an actor you take the work you can get until you make it to the big leagues. And make it he did. You don’t get much bigger than The Force Awakens.

As an actor part of me is jealous of John Boyega. Damn would I have loved to act in Star Wars. But I have to hand it to the lad. He totally deserves it, doesn’t he? Just look at the performances he put in as Finn in The Force Awakens.

Finn goes through one hell of a character development in The Force Awakens (which I will soon write more about. Like us on Facebook  if you want an update  on that). As you obviously know, Finn starts off as a Stormtrooper, becomes a vagabond, then a vigilante, has a lightsaber dual with a Sithlord and finally gets crippled at the end. That’s one hell of a character development.

Because Finn goes through such a development in The Force Awakens, john Boyegga had his work cut out for him. He puts in such a range of emotions, from joy to fear to hope to loss. And he is completely believable through all of it.

Star Wars is John Boyega’s ride to fame. And if he continues to act as well as he did in The Force Awakens, the sky’s the limit for the lad.

 

 

Christopher Lee (Count Dooku)

star wars christopher lee count dooku

You remember that we agreed this list was about performance in Star Wars rather than the actors overall body of work, right? That’s important. Because if this were based on the actors overall, Christopher Lee would absolutely lay the smack down on everyone in this list. He’s been in over 250 movies. And he’s amazing in 90% of them (Drakula: Prince Of Darkness is a different story).

In Star Wars, Christopher Lee plays a type of role that’s very familiar to him. He’s strong-willed intellectual bad guy, Count Dooku. That’s pretty much Christopher Lee’s go-to role. So right from the outset Christopher Lee was not challenged with this role at all. He’d already performed similar roles more than 100 times previously.

Still, Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku in Attack Of The Clones is a great role and one of the most memorable character in Star Wars, period. His voice is just so darned powerful as it booms like a kettle drum. And who could ever forget his lightsaber duel with Yoda? My skin was tingling at the cinema throughout that entire fight. Absolutely mind-blowingly awesome.

 

 

Ian McDiarmid (Senator / Emperor Palpatine)

star wars ian mcdiarmid emperor palpatine

You know what some people say about Iam McDiarmid’s Emperoer Palpatine? They say he’s over the top.

And here we come to the crucial factor about sci fi and fantasy movies. Do you know why actors in sci-fi movies and fantasies don’t usually receive awards? Because they are “over the top” and not “realistic”.

Oscars, you can eat… my… scone.

Saying that actors in sci-fis and fantasies aren’t as good because they’re over the top is the single dumbest argument in the sodding world. Honestly.

Of course they’re over the top, you rich-ass muppets. It’s a sodding sci-fi fantasy. Characters in those genres are supposed to be larger than life. It’s part of the deal.

And if you want to make the argument that characters should be realistic, let me stuff my Complete Works Of Shakespeare in your face.

Shakespeare is the single greatest writer who ever lived. As a writer and novelist myself, when I read Shakespeare I have goosebumps down my spine because it’s like I’m reading the words of a god.

And guess what? Shakespeare’s characters were often over-the-top. You think most people in love act like Romeo and Juliet? You think characters like Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) are realistic? Let me guess, no one who has ever acted in a Shakespeare play would be good enough for an Oscar?

Writing and acting in sci-fi and fantasy requires every bit as much skill as drama. Seriously, the world needs to learn that. And Ian MCDiarmid is proof of it. Because yeah, in Star Wars Ian McDiarmid plays an over-the-top role. Emperor Palpatine is evil personified. But his performance is stunning. His face when he electrifies Luke in Return of the Jedi is pretty much the most evil face ever (sorry, Angry Cat, you don’t even come close).

Ian McDiramid makes this list because I’ll never forget that sinister look on his face. And Oscars, if you got an issue with that, you can “Let the hate flow through you”.

Liam Neeson (Qui Gonn Jinn)

liam neeson star wars qui gonn jinn

Long before Liam Neeson didn’t know who we are, or what we wanted, but had a very specific set of skills… he was playing the role of Qui Gonn Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Now let me tell you, acting seriously in The Phantom Menace must be one hell of a challenge. You’re hanging out with Jar Jar Binks himself and you’re being asked to play this super-serious, Jedi role with a straight face. For that alone Liam Neeson deserves respect, but he does so much more than that.

Now, lot’s of people dislike Liam Neeson in Star Wars. That’s mostly on account of his lines about The Force and the midi-chlorians. But let’s get this straight. It’s not Liam Neeson’s fault that he was handed a script full of holes that most Star Wars fans vomited in. Liam Neeson took the role George Lucas handed him and ran with it. And damn, what a good job.

For starters, Liam Neeson has the best death-face in any Star Wars movie. Those bulging eyes. Lovely. And his relationship with Obi Wan and Anakin are pretty much the only believable things about The Phantom Menace.

It’s a shame Liam Neeson isn’t in a better Star Wars movie. With a good script he would be amazing. Instead, he does his best with what he was given.

Samuel L Jackson (Mace Windu)

samuel l jackson mace windu star wars

So many people say that Samuel L Jackson is too gangster in Star Wars. And you can see their point. Samuel L Jackson definitely would bet the Jedi most likely to get in a gun fight. But is that really such a bad thing?

Jedis come in all shapes and sizes, from pint-size Anakin to green-Octopus man Kit Fisto to spiky-face Plo Kloon. Does it really matter if one Jedi happens to be slightly more gangster than the rest?

And really, the main reason people consider Samuel L Jackson in Star Wars too gangster is just because they remember him in Pulp Ficiton. Different movie, people. I mean, does Samuel L Jackson even do anything remotely gangster in Star Wars? It’s not like he goes all Tarantino on us and sets people on fire, is it?

In Star Wars, Samuel L Jackson plays a different kind of role than he’s used to. It’s a big stretch from Pulp Fiction to the Zen-like Jedi. But Samuel L Jackson pulls it off believably. And then he dies wonderfully with one of the best deaths in the series. “No… No… You will DIE!”

 

Alec Guinness (Obi Wan Kenobi)

star wars alec guiness obi wan kenobi

It’s a well-known story that Alec Guinness didn’t want to be in Star Wars at first. Geroge Lucas had to twist his arm. Because Alec Guiness thought Star Wars was just too darned silly. After all, here was one of England’s finest drama-actors.

But it turns out George Lucas knows the art of persuasion. Or he knows how to Jedi mind trick people. Because Alec Guiness changed his mind and gave us one of the best performances in any Star Wars.

Obi Wan Kenobi is without doubt the most believable of all the Jedi. Why? Because he plays it understated. He doesn’t fall for the trap of going all pantomime-esque on us. Instead, he plays Obi Wan like he would play a (uh-hmmm) ‘more serious role’ (pardon me).

Even while Alec Guinness is playing a fantastical hero character he’s keeping his performance as real as he would the most serious theatre role. And because of that he comes across completely believable, so much so that when he dies it takes our breath away.

Harrison Ford (Han Solo)

han solo harrison ford star wars

When I was writing this list, I sat there staring at my top two choices. Honestly, how the hell was I supposed to choose between Harrison Ford and the person at number one? I couldn’t. And so I quiet blatantly was biased and put my crush at number one. Sigh.

And so Harrison Ford takes the number two spot. Even though in Star Wars Harrison Ford is a flipping genius. Han Solo is one of the strongest movie characters of all time. And the coolest. Some people say James Bond is the coolest character ever. Ha ha. You’re joking? Am I going to have to shoot you like han Solo shot Greedo (first)?

In Star Wars Harrison Ford finds one of his greatest roles ever. He’s just so damn cool. True, there are not many scenes that truly push him in an emotional way. Getting put in Carbonite is pretty much the peak of his emotional range in this movie. But it doesn’t matter. Because throughout Star Wars Harrison Fod has you hooked.

Honestly, put your hands up if you can remember every one of Han Solo’s lines in Star Wars… right so… that’s…everyone then. Now keep your hands up if you secretly wish you could actually be Han Solo… yup.

Sure, Harrison Ford has been in arguably better roles (Witness is one of the best screenplays of all time and a damn good performance). But his most iconic role is Han Solo. And when it’s all said and done, we will remember Harrison Ford for Han Solo more than any other role he played (yes, even Indianna Jones).

Daisy Ridley (Rey)

star wars daisy ridley rey

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Paul, you put Daisy Ridley at number one because you are absolutely in love with her”.

That’s half true. Technically I’m in love with Rey, the character, rather than the actress. But I digress.

Rey is the most well developed character in any Star Wars story. Her character development is deeper than any other character. So, she I the best written, in my humble opinion.

What does that have to do with acting?

Acting and writing go hand in hand (which is why I do both). Good writing demands good acting. And Rey is the best written character in any Star Wars movie, so she therefore demands that best acting. And she gets it.

Whether it’s the longing in her eyes when she sits on the sandy floor of Jakoo staring up at the stars. Or the fear in her expression the first time she faces Kylo Ren. Or the anger the second time. Daisy Ridley pulls it all off effortlessly. She is a very natural actress and a true talent. And, for my money, she is the best actor in any Star Wars (at least, she put in the best Star Wars performance, even if she is several miles off of matching the likes of Christopher Lee or Samuel L Jackson for overall breadth of work).

We all prayed that The Force Awakens would be as good as the originals. It is. And it some ways it’s better. But the absolute best thing about it is Daisy Ridley’s performance. Here is the Jedi that you will believe in every step of the way. The subtlety and range of her emotion sis breathtaking. And also, her vocal skills deserve a shout out. Her enunciation is always meticulous. I know that sounds trivial. But enunciation is vital in acting, and it isn’t always easy to get it perfect when you’re in the throes of an emotional scene. But Daisy Ridley pulls it off brilliantly.

Daisy Ridley. I put you number on this list. Now return my calls, please. No, I don’t care about your boyfriend. Thanks.

 

Honourable Mention

As a Star Wars fans, I feel guilty for not being able to fit the following actors in this top-ten list. But don’t worry, I sorted myself out. I hit myself in the head repeatedly with my life-size Jar Jar Binks replica. That’ll teach me.

Here are the honourable mentions…

Adam Driver

Natalie Portman

Peter Cushing

Ewan McGregor

 

Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.

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