Princess Leia was the first heroine I saw as a child that I really, really liked. She changed the perception of what I thought a princess was and she simply was very cool. Now, in my adulthood, I can look back at all of the times I watched the original trilogy and see her story with new, fresh eyes thanks to these new Star Wars films that have come out. And so today, on this segment of The Defining Moments I’m celebrating all of the incredible moments that have propelled her legend even to this day.
Be warned. Leia’s life has been very extensive and so this post is a longread. I thank you for heeding this warning. Enjoy!
1. Giving R2-D2 the Death Star Codes
I still remember the feeling of mystique that surrounded Princess Leia when I saw her for the first time in A New Hope. I had to have been about eight or nine years old and it was amazing seeing her down that hallway with the white hooded dress hiding her appearance. When she removed her hood, revealing her face for the first time, it was an immensely magical moment.
Not only was this moment magical for that reason but it also immediately highlighted who she was as a character. She could’ve easily escaped with the droids but she chose to stay behind and face Vader and his minions. This instantly showcased her bravery in the face of evil and that incredible quality is what made her so special to her very last scene in The Last Jedi.
2. Mocking Governor Tarkin
Leia was no joke. If she didn’t like you she didn’t shrug away from letting you know that and that’s exactly what she did to Grand Moff Tarkin. She was a captive in the Death Star, she was being led around the scariest bad guy in the universe, Darth Vader, and she was being led to have a talk with Tarkin and yet she didn’t quake in the slightest. She was the smallest person in the dark, forbidding room but her brave persona shone as brightly as her white dress. I love that about Leia and it’s why she’s one of the greatest heroines of all time.
Rarely do you see a woman as strong and resolute as Leia Organa and every scene that she participated in highlighted how strong of a character she was. Unfortunately, despite her mocking of the Grand Moff’s stench, she still had to watch as her home planet, Alderaan, was blown to smithereens. That was a devastating blow for her but did she let it show? While she was clearly in anguish on the inside she rarely let her pain be seen on the outside because she’s that off the chain.
Leia was unknowingly about to be executed but luckily two men and one very large and very hairy alien had come to rescue her. This scene was one of the most important moments of her life, for it was the first time she met Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. To her rescuers they thought they had performed a perfect plan for her escape but to her she knew the reality. They had only prolonged her execution.
Because she is just that awesome she took charge, helping them escape the oncoming stormtroopers by taking them down the garbage chute. While it wasn’t the most flattering of escape plans it was necessary for them to survive and it’s the first time you see Leia as the natural leader that she is.
4. Closing the Hoth Base
Luke Skywalker and Han Solo had become Leia’s best friends, she couldn’t imagine her life without them, and so when they were both lost in the inhospitable wilderness of Hoth with the high chances of possibly not surviving words couldn’t express how she was feeling. She desperately waited, holding out hope that they would return, but as nightfall approached the chances of their survival was growing slimmer and slimmer.
As she watched the massive doors of the base slowly closing it’s one of the few times you can actually see horror on her face. She was hoping she would see them appear out of the snow, screaming for the rebels to let them in before the doors closed, but when the doors shut with a resounding bang it seemed like all hope was lost and the friends that she loved would be gone forever. It was as if she was reliving the devastation of Alderaan as she lost something she deeply cared about all over again. Thankfully, Luke and Han weren’t ordinary individuals and they managed to survive a treacherous night in Hoth.
While Leia was immensely fond of Luke since he rescued her on the Death Star she always had a rocky relationship with the scoundrel, Han Solo. Han was a flirt, a narcissistic man who was overly confident in his own persona, and Leia couldn’t stand everything about him. He was everything she wasn’t and yet…she couldn’t ignore him. She didn’t want to admit it to herself but she was deeply attracted to the dashing smuggler.
When he managed to trap her in that room aboard the Millenium Falcon did she stomp on his foot to make him leave her alone? No. Did she slap him and call him all of the foul names she could think of? No. She just stood there, petrified and frozen as her deepest desires were threatened to be realized.
The Millenium Falcon was puttering across the galaxy just a second away from croaking and Han, knowing this, took them to the nearest system, the beautiful Cloud City, where a supposed friend of his resided. While Han had complete trust in his old friend, Lando Calrissean, Leia was immediately distrustful of the smooth talking man. She could practically smell deceit all over him.
This sequence of The Empire Strikes Back highlighted her intuitiveness, a trait that helped make her such a good politician. She could read people faster than most, another sign that she was Force-sensitive, and maybe is she could’ve fully conveyed her lack of trust in Lando to Han what happened next might not have taken place.
7. Han Gets Frozen In Carbonite
Leia was reliving the nightmare of being captured by the Empire all over again, only this time she was not alone. When she found out their capture was just an elaborate plot for Darth Vader to capture Luke, her best friend, the nightmare was worsened. Things couldn’t possibly get worse, could they? Then Han was set to be frozen in carbonite.
This couldn’t be happening. The man that she had just fallen in love with was about to possibly die and she couldn’t do anything about it. She could only stare helplessly, under the cold watchful eye of Darth Vader, as he was slowly lowered into the freezing chamber. Imagine the horror she felt when she saw Han frozen into a block of carbon, an expression of pure agony upon his face. It was the closest she had ever come to breaking down in front of people, showing just how much she loved him.
8. Sensing Luke
Han was gone at the hands of the notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett and while Leia was able to escape the Imperials, with the unexpected help of Lando, she was still sorrowful, for she had no idea if Luke was safe or not. When they were getting ready to leave the system she felt him calling her through the power of the Force. This is first time that you realize Leia has the Force and it is one of the most powerful moments in her story.
She doesn’t even exactly understand the concept of the Force or how it works but she has it nonetheless and her link with Luke was strong enough that her ability with the Force was revealed.
9. Rescuing Han
Leia is an awesome heroine, the first two films she graced already established that, but the way she appeared in Return of the Jedi solidified that. I mean she was determined to get Han back, no matter the consequences. She snuck into the crime lord’s palace under the disguise of a bounty hunter and that very same night she released Han from his carbon prison. That’s pretty off the chain. She could’ve gotten captured, which she did, but she was willing to risk that to save him. Yeah, Leia is definitely no joke.
10. Killing Jabba the Hutt
Leia was forced to be Jabba’s slave and she hated every bit of the revolting humiliation she had to endure during that time. I mean think about it, she had to sit at the feet, or tail, of that disgusting slime ball half-naked with dozens of eyes always lingering on her revealed form. It was undoubtedly one of the darkest times in her life.
When she got the oppurtunity to escape Jabba she didn’t just leave him sitting upon his dais screaming in anger with his gurgling cry. No, she made sure to kill him so no other unfortunate woman would ever have to suffer under his disgusting rule. It’s not only one of my favorite Leia moments but it also once again reveals how strong of a character she is. She was his slave for less than a day and looked what happened to him. He ended up dead. Go Leia!
11. Shocking Reveals
Leia’s fondness for Luke was nearly immediate since they first met all those years ago on the first Death Star and even after she fell in love with Han she still possessed a deep reservoir of love for Luke that she couldn’t quite understand. So imagine her shock when she discovered that they were siblings. All of her emotions towards him suddenly made sense. He was her brother! Of course he was her brother! But this wasn’t the only thing that was revealed to her. That also meant that Darth Vader, that scary man in black who she had been in the presence of far too many times for her liking, was her real father as well. She felt heartbreak and elation at the same time.
Luke was her brother, a sibling she didn’t even know she had and yet she could somehow sense they were blood without even realizing it. And then Darth Vader, this monster who hurt people without a care in the world, was also her blood as well. It was a haunting realization and one that wasn’t easy to take. And then, behind all of that, she realized she had the Force as well!
This scene displayed a lot of things to her but most importantly it helped her understand who she is. She understood that she had wells of darkness and hatred within her, it was why she was able to kill Jabba the Hutt so easily and relish in his death, but she also knew she had a benevolent side to her as well. That light within her allowed her to befriend people and care for individuals, such as the Ewok, Wicket. While it was hard news to take it helped Leia grow into the incredible general that she ended up becoming, making this one of her greatest defining moments.
12. Believing in Ben Solo
It’s thirty years later and the galaxy is in no less turmoil than it was at the end of the war against the Empire. In fact, things are worse. The First Order had wiped out the New Republic with their superweapon, Leia and Han are no longer together after their son, Ben Solo, turned to the Dark Side, and the galaxy is desperately in need of a savior in the form of Luke Skywalker and yet he is nowhere to be found. This is where we find Leia in The Force Awakens and it is a heartbreaking realization that the battle they desperately fought all those years ago ended up being for nought, for it only eventually led to more suffering.
Does Leia look broken and defeated when we see her again? No. She is still as strong and confident as ever. When she reunites with Han again she is thrown a devastating blow again as he tells her that he has seen their son. The nightmare that is the story of their Ben Solo is refreshed in her mind. But does she give up hope? No. She tells Han that there is still good in him. That belief that there was still good in the galaxy is what helped her believe in the Rebellion thirty years ago and it’s what was still spurring her forward to this day. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before her belief in Ben Solo would be squashed again.
13. Sensing Han’s Death
Leia’s last words to Han was for him bring their son home so imagine the grief she felt when she sensed not only Han’s death but that it was her son who inflicted the final blow. She was dealt a double whammy. The emotion on her face tells it all. I mean she felt such sorrow that she couldn’t even stand. She had endured a lot of heartbreaking moments in her life but this one, this was the moment would end up becoming the most devastating of them all.
Leia wanted to believe that she was wrong. She wanted the ramp of the Millenium Falcon to lower and there would be her husband standing there with that self-assured cockiness and that crooked grin. This, however, was not to be. First out of the ship came the grievously injured stormtrooper, Finn, in the arms of Chewbacca. And then behind him was the girl, Rey.
Leia immediately sensed the Force strong within her as well as the immense sorrow she was feeling. Leia approached her understandingly and as they embraced she knew, at that moment, that Han was truly gone.
15. Sending Rey Off
While there were some serious losses the Resistance had ultimately won their first major battle against the First Order and now, with the awakening of Luke’s droid, R2-D2, it was time for Rey to find Luke. As Leia watched her leave she felt a sense of hope again. The war was far from over but with people like Rey in the galaxy anything was possible.
In the time that Ben Solo turned to the Dark Side Leia found herself with another son in all but blood, the hotshot pilot Poe Dameron. In her eyes she knew he could become one of the greatest leaders ever there was to be in the galaxy but he was, at times, brash and overly confident in his abilities. When he disobeyed her orders and led an assault on a First Order Dreadnought that ended up getting dozens of people killed she was furious. She was fashioning him to becoming a smart enough leader to take her place one day and yet he still wasn’t understanding the complexities of leadership. In her anger she demoted him to Captain, further sending him a lesson and reminding him who the boss still was.
17. Mother and Son
In a surprise attack Leia sensed her son through the Force. It’s one of my favorite moments in The Last Jedi as the two sensed eached other, the camera moving back and forth between their emotional faces. The question is, what was she feeling at that moment? Sadness? Anger? Or was she just stunned to have contact with her son after so many years? We’ll never truly know as the moment was interrupted after the bridge was blown up and she was sucked out into space.
18. Using the Force
Leia was supposedly a goner but this scene displayed how unknowingly powerful Leia was with the Force. In her unconsciousness she used the Force to pull herself back to one of the Resistance ships, saving herself from death. We finally got to see Leia use the mystical power and it was definitely one of her most powerful and undoubtedly memorable moments.
19. Saving the Resistance
Poe was out of hand as he led a mutiny to supposedly save the Resistance from doom. Leia had to once again, however, show who was boss. As she woke from her coma she managed to infiltrate Poe’s position and stunned the rogue Captain. This scene showed how strong she was yet again and how fantastic she is as a leader. That action helped save the Resistance, if only briefly, and it helped bring Poe down a notch. Leia is pretty awesome!
20. Passing the Torch
Leia’s last definining moment is when the Resistance had to escape Crait from the First Order. The Resistance had been reduced to a group of individuals so small they couldn’t even fill the Millenium Falcon! but she still had hope, for the character of the Resistance was strong, resourceful, and they were survivors. As Poe comes up with a plan for the Resistance to escape he looks to her for guidance.
It’s at this moment that Leia officially passes on the torch. As the rebels look to her for her aprooval she says, “Don’t look at me. Follow him.” She then watches Poe lead the Resistance with a proud smile on her face, for she knows her work is done.
The story of Leia’s life has been one of sacrifice, heartbreak, strength, but mostly hope. Hope was what spurred her on through the battle against the Empire, hope led her to believe that Luke would one day return, which he did, and her hope is the spark that the Resistance will use to (hopefully) defeat the First Order.
I have had a wonderful time recounting all twenty of Leia’s defining moments and I thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day and May the Force Be With You, Always.