Although it’s gotten better in recent years, the world of Star Wars has been traditionally dominated by men. Men have, for the most part, been the main characters of these stories, and, stereotypically at least, been the biggest fans of the franchise. All along, though, Star Wars has had compelling female characters that were well worth rooting for or vilifying.
While the full list of important female Star Wars characters is quite long, we’ve narrowed this list down to the nine who are the most pivotal in franchise history and ranked them.
9. Asajj Ventress
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Most of the women of Star Wars that have had the biggest impact have been heroes, but Asajj Ventress proves that Star Wars has also had a female baddie from time to time. What makes Ventress so interesting, though, is the way she defies the standard definitions of what a Sith Lord is supposed to be.
She rebels against the binary of master and apprentice and chooses instead to follow her own path to the dark side, one that still includes plenty of evil-doing and frequent brushes with Anakin and Obi-Wan.
8. Padmé Amidala
Although Padmé’s characterization can sometimes rely on some pretty outdated tropes, Natalie Portman anchors the performance throughout. Padmé gets her moments of action, too, and she’s also the one on hand to witness the true end of the Republic, and the dawn of the Empire. Whether you buy her love story with Anakin or not, it’s hard to deny that Padmé’s death is also the death of something far bigger, as well as the start of what would eventually become a grand rebellion.
7. Hera Syndulla
Hera is likely most familiar to fans of Star Wars from her central role in Rebelsbut she’s making the jump to live action right along Ahsoka Tano. What we’ve already seen from Hera has been great, though, as she proves time and time again that she’s got the heart of a rebel.
Hera’s central role as a general and leader during the years leading up to the Rebellion, and eventually in the Rebellion itself, prove that there’s room for many, many different female leaders in the world of Star Wars.
Bo-Katan has only become more well-known since she began appearing in The Mandalorianbut she’s always been one of the fiercest Mandalorians in the galaxy. Although she certainly has plenty of ambition, what makes Bo-Katan such an inspiring figure is the way she fights on behalf of her home world at all costs.
It’s thanks chiefly to her that Mandalore was reclaimed, and its people were able to start rebuilding on the planet that had been torn apart by war for decades.
5. Jyn Erso
For most Star Wars fan, Jyn Erso has suffered largely from limited screen time. But what time we’ve gotten with Jyn has proven beyond any doubt what she brings to Star Wars. Although she’s the daughter of the designer of the Death Star, but even more importantly, Jyn is someone with rebellion in her bones.
Rogue One is a story about people who sacrifice everything, believing that there’s something bigger worth laying it all on the line for. Jyn is the leader of that team, and that’s what makes her so compelling.
Rey’s reputation took something of a hit in the later parts of the Sequel Trilogy, but there’s no denying that the decision to put a female Jedi at the center of an entire trilogy was one of the main boons of these sequels.
Rey’s arc is, to put it mildly, confused, but Daisy Ridley remains a compelling center throughout as we come to understand Rey’s desire to see the good in other people, and eventually in herself. Rey Skywalker carries on the legacy of the Jedi that came before her, and that’s why she deserves her spot on this list.
3. Ahsoka Tano
Although Ahsoka has been historically underserved in the broader Star Wars universe, all that is about to change, and with good reason. Her relationship with Anakin in The Clone Warsand her later adventures in Rebelshave made Ahsoka a real fan favorite.
Her sense of moral rectitude, which is the main reason she decided to leave the Jedi Order behind, made her something of a canary in the coal mine for the Order’s broader problems. Ahsoka doesn’t like labels, but she does the right thing, and that’s what people love about her.
2. My Mothma
Although we don’t have the same level of history with Mon Mothma that we do with some of the other characters on this list, her recent appearance in Andor was more than enough to jump her way up this list. As we see in that series, Mothma is playing a dangerous game, attempting to maintain a public face of loyalty to the Empire, even as she funds the earliest days of the Rebellion. Without her, there would be no Rebellion at all, and it’s her willingness to push for change that ultimately sets this entire story in motion.
The first isn’t always the best, but that’s undeniably the case with Princess Leia. Carrie Fisher’s rogue Princess, who is working for the rebellion before we even meet her, is brash, tough, and unwilling to allow herself to simply be the damsel in distress.
Instead, Leia defined what women could be in Star Wars, and wound up inspiring entire generations of young women in the process. Of course, not every decision made around Leia is a good one, but it’s impossible to deny the groundwork she laid for those who came after.