Leia’s most powerful moments in the Star Wars franchise

Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) loads the plans for the Death Star battle station with a plea for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi into R2-D2 on the Rebel Blockade Runner.
Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) loads the plans for the Death Star battle station with a plea for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi into R2-D2 on the Rebel Blockade Runner. /

Leia Organa  – Princess of Alderaan, Imperial Senate member, and Resistance General – is undoubtedly one of the most important female characters to hit the silver screen, with her iconic image and powerful personality remaining prominent in pop culture spanning 45 years this year (the anniversary of 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).

Portrayed by the late Carrie Fisher across six movies, Leia has evolved from an apparent damsel in distress into “the feminist hero that she is today”.

In keeping with Hidden Remote’s Women’s History Month celebrations throughout March, here are some of Leia’s most powerful moments in the Star Wars franchise.

What are Leia’s greatest Star Wars moments?

Facing Grand Moff Tarkin

One of Leia’s first powerful moments comes in Episode IV: A New Hope when the captured princess is brought before Grand Moff Tarkin. As a suspected member of the Rebel Alliance against the notorious Galactic Empire, Leia has, at this point, already been briefly interrogated by the ominous Darth Vader and is taken to Tarkin to be threatened.

Beginning the interaction by saying “Governor Tarkin, I should’ve expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.” Leia establishes herself firmly as someone not to be messed with; a tough, brazen woman not to be bullied by men with power.

Even when Tarkin threatens to use the Death Star’s planet-destroying capabilities on Leia’s home planet Alderaan, she stands her ground despite clearly fearing the destruction. She refuses to name the true location of the Rebel Alliance’s base by instead offering the planet of Dantooine as the location, despite knowing it has already been abandoned by the rebels. Leia demonstrates immense bravery and loyalty to the Alliance at this moment.

Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie escape Detention Block AA-23

Although it is just a short moment in A New Hope, Leia acts powerfully immediately after her rescue by Luke Skywalker. The princess realizes that she, Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca are trapped in a hallway by armed stormtroopers and so demonstrates her autonomy and quick thinking skills.

Grabbing Luke’s blaster, Leia takes action by shooting a hole in a small vent, explaining “somebody has to save our skins” and heading down, despite not knowing what awaits them at the bottom. Regardless of the trash compactor that they actually find themselves in (inhabited by a troublesome Dianoga monster), Leia illustrates her abilities to lead, to find solutions, to make use of weaponry, and to fiercely take risks, no matter what, if it means saving lives.

Revenge on Jabba the Hutt

In Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Leia’s power manifests in a much darker, more physical manner. Having been enslaved by the grotesque Jabba the Hutt, forced into her infamous gold bikini, and bound in chains at his mercy, Leia takes her revenge during her escape.

Whilst controversial both in the murderous nature of the action and in the all-too-common sexualization of her situation/outfit (of which there is much discourse), the scene is powerful nonetheless, as explored by numerous writers in academia and journalism including in The Myth Awakens: Canon, Conservatism, and Fan Reception of Star Wars;

"She’s in that bikini for less than three of the 399 minutes that make up the original Star Wars trilogy […] it was forced on her as humiliation and punishment after being caught infiltrating Jabba the Hutt’s lair disguised as a bounty hunter and carrying a thermo-detonator (a.k.a: space grenade) in order to rescue Han Solo (again, might I add—to rescue Han Solo again); […] as her final act in Jabba’s clutches, she kills the universe’s greatest crime lord with the very chain he used to bind her. But sure, yeah: “Slave Leia.” (p.57)"

General Leia in Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Both Leia’s political power and importance in female representation are accentuated during the seventh installment in the main

Star Wars

franchise. She is highlighted as a decorated leader who has earned her position in the Resistance and (as stated by a fan in

Chris Klassen’s chapter in ‘The Myth Awakens: Canon, Conservatism, and Fan Reception of Star Wars’

) she presents an image of “a middle-aged mother who is just as powerful and important as she was as a nubile princess.”

Whilst her general (although sparse) presence in

The Force Awakens

is fairly empowering, one of Leia’s most powerful moments comes simply with her initial arrival. For many seasoned fans, this is powerful in that it is emotionally impactful to see the iconic face of Carrie Fisher as Leia, even after many years. In another way, it is powerful to see her immediate reconnection (and soon, sass) with Han Solo, her implied strength as she arrives on the scene after a First Order attack, and to see her named as ‘General’ Organa.

Star Wars, Han and Leia
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. via IMG Press /

Leia’s sacrifice

Even with intense divisiveness around the final two movies of the latest Star Wars trilogy, with accusations of too much catering to fans leading to inconsistent character narratives and poorly constructed plots, there is without a doubt a powerful moment in Leia’s sacrifice towards the end of Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Created from archive footage of Carrie Fisher, the sequence was posthumously constructed to close out Leia’s character in a way that tried to honor both Fisher and the general herself.

Consistent with her selfless, courageous nature, Leia uses the last of her energy to mentally call to Kylo Ren as he fights with Rey. In doing so, she distracts him long enough for Rey to deal a killing blow; this is a necessary move despite his position as Leia’s own son and despite it being fatal to her. This enables Leia’s character to be appropriately written out whilst allowing for a somber, emotionally powerful moment as Carrie Fisher is remembered and mourned.

There is much debate as to whether or not the last three movies of the Star Wars franchise were in keeping with the truly iconic nature of the originals, but what is not questioned is just how much of an impact Carrie Fisher’s Leia has had over close to 50 years on screens across the world. She is bold, she is daring, she is confident, and she lives in the hearts of many as an incredibly powerful woman.

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