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Most Exciting Third Acts From The Films, Ranked

The Star Wars franchise is known for its epic battles and heart-pounding action scenes that keep fans on the edges of their seats until the credits roll. In many ways, a good Star Wars film can be measured by just how exciting its finale is.

While every third act in the franchise is entertaining on some level, not every climactic sequence in the series is created equally. Over the course of nine films, the Skywalker Saga has delivered different levels of action-heavy finales, with some sticking the landing while others stumble to the finish line.


9 Attack Of The Clones

The finale of Attack of the Clones features a battle on multiple fronts, as several hundred Jedi arrive on Geonosis to free Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Padme Amidala from captivity. An arena battle quickly spills into the Battle of Geonosis, which marks the beginning of the Clone Wars, and a lightsaber battle between Count Dooku and several Jedi, in which Anakin Skywalker loses his hand.

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While the battle in the Geonosian coliseum is exhilarating, everything that comes thereafter cannot live up to the preceding conflict. The duel between Dooku and the Jedi fails to be as exciting as previous climactic lightsaber fights in the franchise and ultimately does not carry the same impact as other third acts in Star Wars.

8 The Force Awakens

Rey fights Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base in Star Wars The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens culminated in an epic space battle as Poe Dameron led Resistance forces against Starkiller Base before it could destroy its next batch of planets. Meanwhile, a secret operation on the ground sees Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Finn attempt to free the captive Rey from the clutches of the First Order, ending in Solo’s death and the first lightsaber duel between future rivals Rey and Kylo Ren.

Star Wars‘ sequel debates will go on forever, with many critiquing the first of this trilogy for its similarity to A New Hope. While the film certainly has its own strengths, its third act is the clearest copy of the original Star Wars film, making it somewhat lacking in originality. The iconic moment wherein Rey uses the Force to catch the lightsaber rather than Kylo Ren, however, will always be a cheer-worthy scene.

7 The Rise Of Skywalker

Rey wields lightsaber in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

In The Rise of Skywalker, the entire trilogy’s storyline culminates in a battle on the Sith planet Exegol. Resistance forces battle the Final Order, receiving reinforcements led by the Rebel hero Lando Calrissian. Meanwhile, Rey and Ben Solo confront the resurrected Darth Sidious, leading Rey to channel her Force abilities like never before to defeat her grandfather once and for all.

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While The Rise of Skywalker delivers on its promise to bring the trilogy to an exciting conclusion, it clearly takes cues from Avengers: Endgame in doing so, but without the proper setup to make such a strategy effective. Nevertheless, Rey’s communion with the deceased Jedi of ages past remains one of the greatest scenes in the sequel trilogy, making the film’s third act much more exciting by its inclusion.

6 The Phantom Menace

Darth Maul with double lightsaber in Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace

As the fourth Star Wars film ever released, The Phantom Menace featured a war on four different fronts, including a siege on the Naboo palace, a space battle wherein a young Anakin Skywalker destroys the Trade Federation blockade, the Gungan defense against the Droid Army, and, most memorably, the iconic lightsaber battle between Darth Maul and the two Jedi tasked with saving the day.

The Phantom Menace isn’t as bad as some say, with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s battle with Darth Maul often cited as one of the greatest scenes in the entire franchise. While this duel goes a long way in cementing the film’s finale in the memory of fans, the other three battles taking place simultaneously are dreadfully boring, with evidently little to add to the overall story of the film.

5 Return Of The Jedi

Emperor palpatin luke darth vader star wars return of the jedi

The original Star Wars trilogy culminates with Return of the Jedi, as Luke Skywalker allows himself to be captured by his father Darth Vader so that he can confront and defeat the Emperor. This leads to an emotional duel between the two Skywalkers while a space battle rages outside as the Rebels attempt to destroy the second Death Star.

The climactic battles in Return of the Jedi may not have the same scope caliber as others within the franchise, but it is wrought with genuine emotion. While the space battle in and around the Death Star II pales in comparison to the Battle of Yavin, the duel between Vader and Luke is heavily thematic and nuanced, as they fight not only for the fate of the galaxy but for the soul of the Skywalker family.

4 The Last Jedi

First Order AT-M6 walkers deploy on Crait in Star Wars The Last Jedi

The finale of The Last Jedi takes place on the salt planet of Crait, where the First Order has cornered what little is left of the Resistance in an old abandoned Rebel base from the Galactic Civil War. The Resistance mounts a hearty counterattack before Luke Skywalker appears to face off against his former apprentice, Kylo Ren, buying his friends enough time to escape and live to fight another day.

No other sequence in the entire Star Wars franchise is more cinematographically pleasing or as artistically colorful as in the Battle of Crait. While it doesn’t have the explosive action of other finales, the third act of this film keeps the audience at the edge of its seat, as the Resistance employs several desperate tactics in a bid to escape. By the time the credits roll, the audience is made to feel that both the First Order and the Resistance gave their all to the battle, proving that The Last Jedi is a far better film than audiences give it credit for.

3 The Empire Strikes Back

Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back includes one of the most well-known third acts in the franchise, featuring the iconic duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, who memorably reveals himself to be Luke’s father. As this occurs, Luke’s friends desperately attempt to escape Cloud City as they are pursued by Imperial troops.

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This film truly soars as a result of its finale, with Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke quickly becoming one of the most memorable and most quoted scenes in all of cinematic history. The duel between the two Skywalkers remains one of the most emotional and action-packed lightsaber fights in the franchise even over forty years after first hitting screens.

2 Revenge Of The Sith

Revenge of the Sith brings the prequel trilogy to a close as Anakin Skywalker betrays the Jedi and becomes Darth Vader. Beginning with the execution of Order 66, the film’s third act takes an emotional turn, as beloved characters meet their end, the Republic falls, and darkness spreads over the galaxy. The film finally ends with two climactic lightsaber duels that leave fans in awe.

Revenge of the Sith delivers on much of the prequel trilogy’s promise, which had not necessarily been the case with its two predecessors. Everything about the execution of Order 66 is terrifically emotional and tragic, lending itself to the explosive duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan, which remains one of the greatest lightsaber duels of all time.

1 A New Hope

Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing in Star Wars

A New Hope memorably draws the first Star Wars film to a close with one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history, as Luke Skywalker and the Rebels desperately attempt to destroy the Death Star before it obliterates Yavin 4 from existence. Luke proves his heroism in this fight, using the Force to guide his projectile into the Death Star’s one weakness, destroying the space station in the process.

Despite being forty-five years old, the Battle of Yavin holds up remarkably well to this day, thanks in part to George Lucas’s constant remastering of the film. Even without the groundbreaking effects employed to bring this scene to life, the battle over the Death Star is indicative of everything Star Wars should be, including a ragtag team of underdogs taking on an insurmountable task and proving victorious, heroic sacrifice for one’s noble cause, and an intimate spiritual connection that saves the day in the end.

NEXT: Every Main Star Wars Faction Ranked Worst To Best

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