In Star Wars, women rule the galaxy. Sometimes literally, like when Grand Admiral Sloane assumed control of the Empire after the death of Palpatine. Other times women rule more figuratively, as when Aphra played both the Rebels and Empire off each other in her long trail of backstabbery.
Regardless, no Star Wars story is complete without its women. And when it comes to the universe’s biggest heroes and villains, most of them are actually heroines and villainesses.
Below are some of the best and brightest on all sides of the conflict in the galaxy far, far away, selected from comics, books, animated shows, live-action TV series, and more.
“You know, you can trust me, but you shouldn’t.”
Chelli Lona Aphra made her debut in Marvel’s 2016 Darth Vader series to such acclaim that, after the Dark Lord thought he had killed her off, she returned for her own series.
Aphra is a cyber-archaeologist, often compared to Indiana Jones. Unlike the academic, however, Aphra is guided by a moral compass that points only to what she wants—notably credits, weapons, and girls.
Why is the rogue archaeologist at the top of our list? Aphra outplayed Vader, strode right up to the Emperor, and revealed the Dark Lord’s treachery. And when that got her sentenced to a personal execution, she lived. Later, she’d get her own payback, besting Vader one on one, disabling him and hijacking his computer parts. She even saves the rebellion as they escape to Hoth—but mostly as a favor to an ex.
“We persuade them to let us take them on one at a time.”
Commodore Faro is a main character in Timothy Zahn’s new, canonical Star Wars: Thrawn trilogy. Never far from the Grand Admiral’s ascendant stations in the Imperial Navy, Faro is Grand Admiral Thrawn’s hand picked protege. Though she didn’t realize it, Thrawn deftly maneuvered both of their ways up Imperial command before imparting her with her own station leading the Eleventh Fleet. Taking up her new post shortly before the events depicted in the series finale of Rebels, the potential for a future story centered on the Commodore herself is irresistible.
“Never get between a Mandalorian and a weapons package.”
Sabine does everything with a bang—literally. The expert weapons-maker and graffiti artist leaves a trail of smoke and color on her missions to sabotage Imperial forces, inspiring revolutionary spirit with her art on Lothal. An outcast Mandalorian, she was taken in by the nascent rebellion and would eventually return to Mandalore to wrest control of the planet away from proxy Imperial rule by reclaiming the legendary Darksaber.
“Move once, you won’t be moving again.”
Sana is a fiery fighter and close interlocutor to the galaxy’s most important heroes. Exes with Doctor Aphra and possibly Han Solo (though that sounds like it was more of a set up), the bounty hunter worked closely with the Rebels in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin. She’s saved Luke, Han, Leia, and even Hera numerous times, earning the trust of the Alliance.
As Sana continues to get roped into Aphra’s messes, her presence on the galactic stage will almost certainly grow across Star Wars’ various comic series.
“Everything I fought for is a lie.”
We’ve seen Imperial indoctrination play out multiple times throughout Star Wars films, TV series, and comics. But Ciena’s life growing up in the shadow of the Empire is the canon’s most compelling characterizations of the experience.
Known as LP888, Ciena was a top cadet on her lowly outer-rim home planet, and then at the Royal Imperial Academy on Coruscant. She loved piloting, but as a natural leader she quickly advanced up Imperial ranks in the aftermath of both Death Stars’ destructions. Thought dead after the Empire’s defeat at Jakku, she is remembered as a paragon of the Empire’s virtue—though the women living in the New Republic would certainly balk at the status.
“The queen is long dead, Tonra. And I was but her shadow, anyway.”
Sabé is best known as the nameless double of Princess Amidala in The Phantom Menace. Joining the handmaidens as a young girl, Sabé’s life was dedicated to the queen. After Padmé’s death, she pieced together the incomplete puzzle of what happened on Mustafar. Sabé helped form a rebel sect known as the Amidalans, leading Vader into several traps that nearly killed him. Haunted by her resemblance to Padmé, Vader ultimately spared her.
“Think of the billions who perished in the Clone Wars.”
Jude was born on Bespin and attended the Royal Imperial Academy on Coruscant. As her innocent love for science was pulled into the corrupt orbit of the Empire, she became an engineer on the Death Star. She’s the person who, in A New Hope, discovers the station’s vulnerability and the Rebel’s plan to destroy it. Hers is but a part of the Expanded Universe’s attempt to patch up the superweapon’s narratively convenient weakness. Though Galyn Erso never suspected an Imperial could discover his sabotage, Jude’s superiors did not act on her report, insisting on the superiority of the station.
“I am no Jedi.”
Ahsoka’s debut in Clone Wars once felt like a risk, reshaping a major part of the prequel trilogy’s main cast. But Ahsoka found her stride in Star Wars’ new canon. At times both a foil to and distillation of Anakin, she has taken on a life entirely of her own in the galaxy far, far away. As the original Fulcrum, alluring glimpses of Ahsoka during the Galactic Civil War draw excitement, speculation, and art as we continue to witness her life’s journey across the galaxy.
Most recently, Ahsoka appeared in The Madalorian, where she was played by Rosario Dawson. A new live-action TV series, Star Wars: Ahsoka, looks to expand further on her life after the fall of the Empire.
“I don’t serve the Emperor. I serve the Empire.”
Grand Admiral Sloane is the preeminent Imperial figure of the new canon. First appearing in A New Dawn, the debut novel for the new timeline, Sloane moved up Imperial ranks from cadet to captain to vice admiral at the battle of Endor. After the destruction of the second Death Star, Sloane was given the distinguished title of Grand Admiral and took on the public face of the Empire. Sloane took great strides to reform the empire, foiled by Palpatine’s secret Contingency Plan. Loyal to the Empire to the last, she fled to the Unknown Regions after the Battle of Jakku and helped establish the incipient First Order that would, eventually, topple the New Republic.
“I feel like because I can fight, I have to, for those who cannot.”
I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to make this list without Leia. The princess, senator, rebel, and general is among the most iconic strong female protagonists in American film. Engaging in political intrigue as a teenager and forming two paramilitary forces that she fought on the front lines of, Leia is quite simply a badass. Her impact on the Star Wars universe is one of the most important across both the series’ canon and its Expanded Universe, with her numerous tales worth a dedicated TV adaptation in their own right.