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The first Star Wars film debuted in 1977, one year after Richard Dawkins first coined the word “meme” in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Even though most people at the time had no idea what a meme was, or for that matter what the internet was, every kid who went around saying “These are not the droids you are looking for” was unknowingly participating in what would come to be known as meme culture. With that, Star Wars memes were born.
With 40+ years of films, novels, TV shows, and comics to draw from, Star Wars now has more memes than lightsaber battles. Here are just a few of the best and most popular.
The Best Star Wars Memes
1) ‘Luke, I am your father’
This plot twist in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back became one of the most-quoted lines in cinema history. When Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader in Cloud City, he gets his not-quite-yet-a-Jedi ass handed to him. Not that he could hold it because Vader also chops his hand off. Not exactly the actions of a loving father, yet Vader claims that Luke is his son.
Here’s another plot twist for you: that’s not actually what Vader says.
Here’s the dialogue from the film:
Vader: “Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.”
Luke: “He told me enough! He told me you killed him!”
Vader: “No, I am your father.”
So many people remember the line as “Luke, I am your father” that the scene is often used as evidence of the “Mandela Effect”. The misremembered line has since become a staple of pop culture, and it continues to show up in TV shows and movies.
Zurg says it to Buzz Lightyear in one of the Toy Story films.
Penny says it to Leonard on The Big Bang Theory during some bizarre foreplay.
It’s the go-to line when you’re doing a Darth Vader impression, although there are plenty of other great options. More on that later.
2) These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For
The perfect line to reference when someone is trying to get away with an obvious lie. If you’re trying to hide something, you simply take out the word “droids” and substitute whatever it is you’re trying to conceal.
This line comes from the first film, Episode IV: A New Hope. When Obi-Wan Kenobi takes Luke to the port city of Mos Eisley to find a way off Tatooine, they are stopped and questioned by a group of Stormtroopers. This is the scene where we are introduced to the famous “Jedi mind trick”. Obi-Wan tells the lead Stormtrooper “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” and the trooper mindlessly repeats the phrase, letting our heroes pass with no problem.
When Luke wants to know how he pulled it off, the Jedi explains, “The force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”
The line and the accompanying hand gesture have been popular since the film’s debut back in the ’70s, and every now and again it will get another push back into the collective consciousness. For instance, Mitt Romney misquoted the line back in 2008 while on the campaign trail, saying “These droids aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” before being corrected by his press secretary. For what it’s worth, the press secretary got it wrong too. He told Romney the line was “These are not the droids you are looking for,” which is a common mistake. Obi-Wan actually used the contractions “aren’t” and “you’re”, but for whatever reason people seem to prefer the fancier sounding version.
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3) ‘Help Me Obi-Wan’
Another famous line from the first film. Princess Leia, on the run of the Empire, sends a holographic message to Obi-Wan via R2-D2. In the message, she pleads with the Jedi master for help ending the message with the line “Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” Keeping with the trend of people screwing up these quotes, the “Kenobi” is usually dropped from the line.
Leia’s famous message is now used any time people need a lighthearted way to ask for help.
It works for everything from Google.
4) ‘I Find your lack of faith disturbing’
Vader’s second most popular line takes place early on in A New Hope. When a group of Empire bigwigs meet aboard the Death Star to discuss their plans for crushing the rebellion, a certain Admiral Motti has the audacity to call Vader’s devotion to the Force “sad”. His speech is cut short, however, when the Sith Lord uses telekinesis to choke him from across the room. In a classic bit of understatement, Vander tells the Admiral “I find your lack of faith disturbing”. A line that, thankfully, people tend to get right.
The clip is worth rewatching, if for no other reason than to hear someone refer to Darth Vader as a “sorcerer”.
This is a great meme to trot out anytime someone doesn’t seem to believe in what you’re doing.
But it works equally well if you find a lack of anything disturbing.
5) Star Wars Kid
Before you read any further, watch this video again, or possible for the first time, and laugh your ass off, as it is undeniably hilarious.
But now prepare to be bummed right the hell out, as the story behind “Star Wars Kid” is nearly as tragic as Anakin Skywalker’s conversion to the Dark Side.
Ghyslain Raza was just a 14-year-old-kid living in Quebec, Canada. On November 2, 2002, he recorded an 8mm video of himself in a studio at his school. The video shows Raza swinging around a golf ball retriever like it’s a double-bladed saber, the kind wielded by Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.
He told the New York Times that he recorded the footage for a school project. He was planning to create a Star Wars parody video and was trying out moves he had in mind for the actors in his film. Unfortunately for him, he left the video at school and it was discovered by three of his classmates. On April 14, 2003, they posted it to Kazaa, a popular file-sharing network. Then on April 22, a game developer named Brian Dube posted a version that added CGI and sound effects, along with music.
One week later, a blogger named Andy Baio published both versions on his website and named the file “Star_Wars_Kid.wmv”. From there, it was spread all over the internet, with people creating multiple variations on the original video, including ones where Raza kayaks, fights off bad guys in the Matrix, and even fights a clone of himself.
Since it was first released, it’s estimated the original video has been viewed over one billion times, and that’s not even counting all the parodies and remixes. This is especially impressive considering that YouTube wouldn’t launch until over a year later.
Everyone was having a great time except for Raza himself. Looking back, it’s easy to think that he could have just spun his new found fame into money, but this was long before people knew you could say “Cash me outside” on Dr. Phil and become a millionaire. At the time, Raza was just embarrassed, and although some people applauded him for his enthusiasm and spirit, he was relentlessly bullied and harassed, both at this school and online. Multiple people told him he should kill himself, and he ended up finishing school in a psychiatric ward.
Some fans who felt bad raised $4,334.44 in donations and sent Raza an iPod and a gift certificate to a Canadian electronics store called Future Shop, but it wasn’t enough to counterbalance the shame and ridicule the teen was subjected to.
“No matter how hard I tried to ignore people telling me to commit suicide, I couldn’t help but feel worthless, like my life wasn’t worth living,” he told L’actualité magazine ten years later. That interview has since been published in English by Macleans.
Raza went on to graduate law school and is now an advocate for victims of cyberbullying. “You’ll survive. You’ll get through it,” he said in the L’actualité interview “And you’re not alone. You are surrounded by people who love you.”
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6) Han Shot First
In 1997, George Lucas released a 20th-anniversary edition of the original Star Wars trilogy, making several changes to the films. Most of these changes were fairly minor, but some fans took issue with a scene depicting Han Solo shooting the bounty hunter Greedo. You’d think if he was going to change something he’d rename the character anything other than Greedo, but instead, Lucas made a change that happens in the blink of an eye on film, but it totally reshapes Han’s character.
In the original version of the scene, Han is held at gunpoint by Greedo, and when he’s unable to talk his way out of the situation, he unholsters his blaster and shoots the bounty hunter under the table.
In the updated version, Greedo appears to fire first, narrowly missing Han—who fires back and kills him. Not only did fans feel that this ruined Han’s character development, they also felt it was highly unlikely that Greedo, a trained bounty hunter, would miss someone sitting right across the table from him.
“Han shot first” became something of a rallying cry for fans who felt that Lucas was destroying his own films, and things didn’t get any better when the largely panned Phantom Menace arrived in 1999. The meme is now used to refer to any problem fans have with the Star Wars franchise or, in a broader context, any later change that tampers with any beloved work of fiction.
7) ‘It’s a trap!’
When the Rebel Alliance begins their attack on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar realizes they’ve been duped by the Empire and exclaims “It’s a trap!”
Sometime in the early 2000’s an image of Ackbar, along with his famous phrase, was created on the humor site Something Awful, where it was used as a reaction meme anytime someone felt that a trick or prank was being pulled.
Since then, it’s become a common reaction meme on social media, although its use is somewhat tainted by transphobic users who employ it to bully transgender woman or crossdressers.
TBS recently embraced the meme in a commercial for it’s all day Star Wars marathon.
8) Jar Jar Binks the Sith Lord
Poor, poor Jar Jar. When he first appeared in The Phantom Menace as a bumbling Gungan from the planet Naboo, all the other characters seem to find him annoying, but that’s nothing compared to how the fans felt. Do a Google search for “most hated characters of all time” and Jar Jar almost always makes the top ten. Not only was he called a pointless addition to the film, he was also accused of being a racist stereotype.
While those criticisms are not without merit, a more bizarre fan theory suggests that Jar Jar is actually a Sith Lord, and has been from the beginning. On October 30, 2015 a Reddit user by the name of Lumpawarroo laid out a surprisingly convincing case for an evil Jar Jar, who he claimed outranked the Emperor himself. It sounds ludicrous, but check out the video below to see what just might have happened if George Lucas hadn’t sold the franchise to Disney.
There’s even a video of actor Ahmed Best, the man behind Jar Jar’s voice, demonstrating what the character might have sounded like as a Sith.
9) Disney Star Wars
After complaints about his changes to the original trilogy, and mixed to negative reviews of the three prequel movies, George Lucas decided to move on and sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney for $4 billion dollars in 2012. Fans who were already disappointed with pretty much everything that had happened since Return of the Jedi was released in 1984 (and let’s be honest not of them were thrilled with Ewoks) did not have high hopes for how a company best known for G-rated cartoons would handle the Star Wars universe.
Meme culture was in full swing by that point and people had a field day creating pictures showing what Disney might do with its new property.
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Most people were pleasantly surprised when The Force Awakens debuted in 2015. It received praise from both critics and fans alike. The film has a score of 93 percent fresh from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and an 87 percent approval rating from fans.
10) Rey Gives Luke a Piggyback Ride
Some Star Wars fans were a little peeved that Rey seems to have mastered so many Jedi skills so quickly. While Luke spent two movies training with two different teachers and still got his ass kicked by Vader in their first battle, Rey was able to defeat Kylo Ren the very first time she picked up a lightsaber. To some extent, this can be explained by the fact that Luke grew up as a moisture farmer with a loving aunt and uncle. Rey, on the other hand, grew up an orphan who became a scrapper, both literally and figuratively. She’s been fighting since she was a child so it makes sense that she’d be a total badass now.
Plus, let us not forget that in the first movie Luke, who had never flown an X-Wing in his life, ends up destroying the entire Death Star. The Force works in mysterious ways. Of course, if you don’t like that line of reasoning, actress Daisy Ridley has a simpler explanation for why her character beat Kylo Ren in their first battle. “Why is that so hard for people to get?” She said in an interview with Wired. “She’s super strong and he’s like so weak.”
Still, it would have been cool to see Rey doing handstands in a swamp and swinging around on vines, especially if she had to carry her master around on her back the way Luke did with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back.
Unfortunately, that never happened, but luckily fans had no problem creating some art to make it look like it did. On December 19, 2015, Redditor diregal created a Photoshopped version of Rey carrying Luke around like an adorable little backpack.
Soon, different versions of the joke began popping up all over the internet.
On April 10, 2016, actor Mark Hamill tweeted the photo along with the caption “A long time ago (last week I think) In a galaxy far, far way(@PinewoodStudios ) THIS happened! Happy Birthday Daisy!”
11) Ben Swolo/Buff Kylo Ren
Adam Driver apparently followed a pretty intense workout routine to get ready for The Last Jedi. This is especially apparent during a scene where we see a shirtless Kylo Ren in some very high-waisted pants. Fans were notably impressed and dubbed the buff bad boy Ben Swolo (playing off the character’s given name, Ben Solo). They used photoshop to shrink the actor’s head and make his body even wider.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Driver is an ex-marine.
12) It’s an Older Meme but it Checks Out
In Return of the Jedi, Han Solo pilots a stolen Empire ship carrying Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2, on a mission to Endor. There they plan to blow up a bunker that provides the shield protecting the Death Star. When an officer asks for their clearance code Han sends him a code he hopes will work. That’s when our old pal Darth Vader wanders by and asks where the ship is going and if they have a code clearance. “It’s an older code sir but it checks out” responds Admiral Piett, “I was about to clear them.” Vader, sensing Luke is on the ship lets them pass saying he will deal with them personally.
It’s not exactly the most riveting line of dialog, which is why no one paid it much heed at the time. Nearly thrity years later, in 2012, someone pulled it out on reddit. In the r/WTF subreddit user Stop_roid_rage had posted a picture of a man dressed as a mountain goat, prompting another user named erisdiscordia to comment “Perhaps he lieks mudkips.” which itself was a meme that was almost a decade old at the time. This, in turn, prompted a third user, named iwan_w
to reply “It’s an older meme sir, but it checks out.”
On July 28th of 2013 Imgur user Valkor posted a screen grab from the scene along with the caption “It’s an older meme sir, but it checks out.”
The meme rapidly spread all over the internet and is still employed whenever people use a meme, that while old, still works for the situation.
It's an older meme, but it checks out. pic.twitter.com/QyfZKWBz9m— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 26, 2014
And three years ago Reddit user pdmcmahon created a .gif version of the meme.
Now in .gif form from gifs
13) ‘From my point of view, the Jedi are evil’
In the climactic battle scene of Revenge of the Sith, Obi Wan confessing he has failed Anakin. Here’s the dialog from the film:
Obi Wan: I have failed you Anakin. I have failed you.
Anakin: I should have known the Jedi were plotting to take over.
Obi Wan: Anakin Chancellor Palpatine is evil!
Anakin: From my point of view the Jedi are evil.
While there are some rational arguments that the “Dark Side” are actually the good guys, you can’t really kill a bunch of kids, force choke your pregnant girlfriend, then and go around pointing fingers at people.
The “From my point of view…” meme is great way to react when someone tries defending an indefensible position. For instance, if there was a tragedy caused by neo-Nazis and the president of the United States said the fault was on “both sides” it might be a good time to drop in a “From my point of view the Jedi are evil” meme.
14) Your pal Friendpatine
There are a ton of Chancellor Palpatine memes out there. For instance, people love to relate his tale of “Darth Plaguies the Wise”
And, of course, if you’re going to say some baller ass shit like “I am the Senate!” obviously that has to become a meme.
But there’s no greater Palpatine meme than “Your pal Friendpatine”. This ridiculous play on words originated from a RiffTrax jokes made during Revenge of the Sith. When Obi Wan warns Anakin to “Be careful of your friend Palpatine.” one of the crew jokes “And your Pal Friendpatine.”
Now the joke shows up in various forms all over the Internet.
These are just a few of the countless examples of memes created by the Star Wars universe. Everything from the phrase “May the Force be with you” to the opening crawl has been turned into memes. The phrase “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…”—which appears in the first few seconds of the very first film—has become famous around the world, and has been rifted on for years.
Any phenomenon as long-lasting and impactful as Star Wars (and there are few things that could live up to it any either category) is bound to end up causing this kind of reaction. It’s like a gigantic ship passing through the ocean of culture, sending out waves of toys, comics, fan-art, and memes. With ten feature-length films out, and an eleventh on its way next year, there’s no sign that the franchise, or the memes, will be stopping any time soon.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.