Ranking Star Wars Couples From Most to Least Dysfunctionalby Michelle Ehrhardt
Despite its futuristic technology, Star Wars sets itself apart by declaring itself a story about the past. Opening with the famous lines, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” the series almost has a fairy tale feeling to it, one that helped distinguish it from other ‘70s sci-fi by allowing it to easily incorporate elements of fantasy into its high-tech world. From knights in shining armor to cranky old wizards to an ominous black knight to roguish swashbucklers, plenty of romantic tropes are present throughout its nine feature films. That is, except for actual romance.
Even though most of Episode IV is spent rescuing a literal princess, Star Wars has a troubled history with affection. Most of its couples actually seem to spend the majority of their time trying to kill each other, or else have to hide their affection because of weird Jedi celibacy laws. Sometimes both! So, to celebrate Valentine’s Day (did you get your Star Wars gifts for your lover yet?) let’s count down the couples of Star Wars, from most to least dysfunctional.
6. Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker
To be fair to Anakin and Padmé, their relationship was always supposed to end in tragedy. Still, watching them awkwardly banter on-screen together, it’s hard to imagine their pairing wasn’t always kind of tragic. While Natalie Portman has proven herself a household name as an actress since the prequels came out, the supposedly cute quipping between her and Anakin takes up most of Episode II’s runtime, a movie which also just so happened to tank as the lowest-rated Star Wars movie on Metacritic until The Rise of Skywalker came out 17 years later. And with awkward flirting like “Now that I’m with you again, I’m in agony” and “Here, everything is soft, and smooth [not like sand],” it’s not hard to see why. Combined with their usually stilted delivery, these lines just make it seem like the two don’t like each other that much, and much as the movie tries, it’s hard to view them as anything other than the work acquaintances. Still, if a lack of chemistry were all that were working against them, they wouldn’t be at the bottom of this list.
When Padmé first meets Anakin in The Phantom Menace, she is 14, and he is 9. While he’s 19 and she’s 24 when they meet again in Attack of the Clones, the fandom has made much of the awkward, borderline creepy nature of their age gap. Though it’s only 5 years, 5 years when you’ve only lived a couple of decades mean more than when you’re middle-aged. Especially when both parties have known each other since one was a literal child.
The films even seems to acknowledge this, with one of Padmé’s first lines upon meeting Anakin again being “Ani, you’ll always be the little boy I knew on Tatooine.” Which, yeah, I agree. I, for one, can’t wrap my head around how Padmé goes from this:
…but if I knew Anakin when he was Jake Lloyd asking me if I were an angel and yelling about how spinning is a good trick, I’m not sure I could ever find him sexy. It’s just…like a babysitter falling for a former clients’ kid. Legal, but maybe not ethical.
Which, of course, brings us to Anakin’s side of the dysfunction. Sure, he’s kidnapped by the Jedi and quickly moved in on by his childhood crush as soon as he reaches legal age, but the dude…still totally Force chokes his pregnant wife. There’s no coming back from that.
One way or another, this romance was so bad it destroyed the galaxy. One could imagine a world where the couple didn’t have to hide their love, where Anakin could have been more open about his concerns for his wife’s health with the Jedi, where Palpatine couldn’t easily manipulate him into turning to the Dark Side to try to save her, but that’s not what we got. Maybe, though, we’ll see a romance born of a more accepting Jedi order further down this list.
5. Rey and Kylo Ren
Stan culture, forgive me, for I have sinned. I’m loathe to admit it, but…I just don’t like Reylo. I’ll admit that, unlike Padmé and Anakin, the two do have some semblance of chemistry on screen. Both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are great actors, and unlike in the prequels, their directors let them show it. But ultimately, this pairing reads for me as toxic and forced. It’s less a product of the characters working for each other, I think, and more a result of a culture that craves compulsory heterosexuality between the leading man and leading woman of whatever they’re watching.
When we first meet Kylo Ren, the man is a wreck. Despite coming from what is at that point the most powerful family in the Galaxy, both politically and physically, he’s always sad about his lot in life and feels unappreciated by his elders. He can’t take criticism, and throws random tantrums where he destroys both his things and the property of others. He worships Darth Vader on the surface level alone without bothering to learn what Anakin actually stood for in the end. In short, he is an entitled suburban teenage edgelord who assumes he has the whole world figured out based on the one small niche of knowledge he’s chosen to fixate on, and he doesn’t care if his misplaced aggression hurts those around him.
Rey, on the other hand, is impoverished, alone, and has actual problems when we first meet her, but she nonetheless tries her best to maintain a positive attitude, and very clearly sees the people around her as worthy of respect. She does, of course, carry angst as well, but she doesn’t take it out on the people around her, and her angst is certainly well-deserved.
So, it’s just painful to see her then put into the same room as Kylo and treated like it’s her responsibility to fix him, even though she’s clearly coming from the more troubled life. Granted, the film acknowledges this issue, especially in The Last Jedi, where it adds some ambiguous reasoning behind why Kylo feels so betrayed by his family. However, even that film seems to end up arguing that their connection isn’t healthy.
Towards the end of The Last Jedi, a movie where Kylo and Rey spend most of their time in a forced Space-Skype call, we see Rey start to sympathize for Kylo and travel to meet him, thinking she can turn him to the light side. Instead, all that happens is Kylo uses her to achieve his own ends, before calling her nothing and claiming that the only way she can be something is to get pulled even closer into his orbit. In caring more about his redemption than her own wellbeing, it turns out she has only enabled his behavior.
This culminates in the movie’s final act with Rey realizing that not coming from a legacy is something she can be proud of, something that Kylo in all his privilege couldn’t understand. Meanwhile, Luke’s final confrontation with Kylo is not built on trying to redeem him, but rather taking responsibility for letting him turn out that way, while he buys time for the people who are already on his side to escape.
This, to me, is the nature of their romantic chemistry. It’s about the temptation to save those who will only ever bite you, even if they hide behind smiles before they strike. It’s about standing up for yourself in the face of that, and avoiding manipulation. It’s about acknowledging the other innocent people who might get hurt if you excuse the toxic behavior of people like Kylo in your attempts to redeem them. Redemption arcs aren’t inherently toxic, but I feel like The Last Jedi wanted us to think about the harm that too much selflessness can inflict, and especially how the burden to be selfless is most consistently placed on those most likely to get abused by it rather than those in the power to change things.
While, granted, there is another movie after The Last Jedi that works to bring the characters together in other ways, I don’t think it really addresses these core themes in doing so. So, for me, Rey being pulled closer to Kylo will only ever seem like a threat.
To be honest? I just think she deserves better.
4. Lando and the Millennium Falcon
Let’s move on to something lighter. Now that we’ve examined two couples that tried to kill each other- one on multiple occasions- let’s look at one that’s love was just too ahead of its time.
So, in Solo…Lando was totally fucking that droid, right? For the uninitiated, when we first meet Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo origin movie Solo, he’s hanging out with L3-37 (ughhhhh), a custom navigation droid whose memory he never wipes and with whom he bickers like they’re an old married couple. He calls her “my Lady,” and at one point, she makes a veiled reference to him “doing that thing again later,” to which he gives a wry smile. By all measures of sentience, she seems like a fully-formed person, and though the two do carry on a semblance of surface-level quipping hostility, their relationship seems to go beyond even friendship when it counts most.
This is most obvious towards Solo’s climax, when L3 gets shot during a mission and Lando risks his life trying to save her. He then cries and carries her broken body back to the ship, and coos to her that “I’m here, it’s all right” as she dies in his arms. Even afterwards, he uploads her brain into the Millennium Falcon, meaning that she can live on in some form.
Of course, a tragic backstory isn’t what would make this couple dysfunctional. Instead, it’s the weird power dynamic that arises between Lando and L3’s respective social statuses. Being as sentient as she is, L3 is a big proponent for droid rights, something which Lando treats more as a personality quirk than a genuine concern. For instance, when L3 argues at a bar for her right to be served, Lando tells them they’re leaving and sneers “now” at her like a parent talking to a child. Also, even though he refers to himself as her captain rather than her admittedly jokey term for him- “human overlord”- we never do learn if he pays her or if he just…owns her. Yikes. You never get the sense that Lando is the type of guy who would normally lord his humanity over her, but he’s still willing to use it against her when he needs to, and even a “good master” is, er…
Nonetheless, on her end, she does seem to care about him as well, calling out his name while she dies. It’s a tragic end, and one that you get the sense could have been avoided if they lived in a galaxy that treated droids more like the people they genuinely seem to be than the things their masters would prefer them to be.
There’s also, of course, the extremely weird thought that L3 is living on inside the Millennium Falcon during the entirety of the the original and sequel trilogies, yet never somehow indicates to Lando or anyone else that she’s there. Here, her outward sentience is erased entirely, and despite whatever part of her might still be kicking around somewhere in the Falcon’s computers, she 100% becomes the property she didn’t want to be. Lando even uses her as collateral in a card game- where he loses her to Han.
Still, I would 100% believe he would fuck a droid.
3. Luke and Mara Jade
Moving into the extended universe, we come to Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. In true Star Wars fashion, when these two first meet, they hate each other. Or, at least, Mara hates Luke. Raised in the Empire and personally trained by Palpatine in the force to be an elite assassin, she at first despises Luke for causing the events that lead to the death of her Master, and is in fact ordered to kill him shortly after he dies. Yes, in the extended universe, the Empire lingers on after Palpatine’s death, albeit seriously inhibited with the loss of their leader and most powerful Force user. Still, after receiving her orders, she instead chooses to go rogue, not sure how to feel about an Empire without Palpatine.
Her hatred burns on, however, and while working as a smuggler under the influential Talon Kardde, she eventually gets a chance to act on it when Kardde’s group stumbles across Skywalker’s X-Wing dead in space after an encounter with the Empire. Well, maybe “stumbles” is too light a word- she might have led them there, even against Kardde’s wishes.
Here, her conflicting loyalties between Kardde and the Empire are put to the test. While Kardde would prefer Luke kept alive to maintain a friendly relationship with the New Republic, Jade would like to hand him over to the Imperials. Therefore, when the two are caught in the wild after Luke attempts a breakout during an Imperial invasion of Kardde’s base, she battles with herself over whether to work with Luke to return to Kardde’s side and help him, or just take advantage of the opportunity to turn Luke in right there and then.
Over the course of their odyssey, however, Jade can’t help but respect Luke’s combined Jedi and engineering skills, something that hits home to her as a Force-sensitive smuggler. The two banter about as frequently as Lando and L3-37, if not more, and when Jade finds herself disgusted by Thrawn’s actions, the first seeds of a budding romance are sewed.
Several books and story arcs later, Luke and Mara Jade would eventually marry, with the latter throwing away her Sith training to become a full-fledged Jedi Master. Honestly, it’s a pretty heartwarming relationship, if a bit Catwoman-y, and one that also gave Star Wars a much-needed strong female character not named Leia. It’s also a bit sad to look at it knowing what happened with Anakin and Padmé. Maybe if the old Jedi order were a little less Catholic about the whole marriage thing than the new Jedi order, then Anakin never would have fallen and Padmé never would have died. To be honest, the only thing landing the couple at third place on this list is the whole, you know, attempted murder thing.
2. Han and Leia
Han and Leia is a classic among nerdy fandoms. It’s kind of like what I imagine L3 and Lando’s relationship would be like if L3 were human. It’s got that same outward hostility backed by internal warmth, and it’s got even more banter and quips, all without the baggage that the whole…droid ownership…angle creates. It’s also responsible for giving us the classic exchange:
“I love you.”
An exchange which, I will note, I have actually used in real life. And folks…it works! …Please don’t cyberbully me.
It’s probably the healthiest major relationship we ever see on screen in Star Wars, and one that culminates in a child in the canon universe and three children in the extended universe. In this couple, both participants are willing and enthusiastic…eventually…and despite Leia hailing from royalty, both participants have a relatively equal level of power in society. Also, notably for Star Wars, neither ever tries to kill the other.
It’s that “eventually” that really raises the issue here. To be honest, while Han’s flirting might have been considered socially acceptable for an action movie franchise in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, some of it is just straight up sexual assault. For instance, during one scene where Leia falls into his arms after their ship experiences turbulence, he doesn’t let go of her until the third time she asks. In another scene, he grabs her hand without any kind of permission and doesn’t let go even when asked multiple times, before moving in for a kiss as Leia tells him she doesn’t like him.
All of this plays into societal ideas that accuse women of playing hard-to-get and then use that as an excuse to ignore their consent. Again, it’s unfortunately not anything unusual given Star Wars’ contemporaries at the time of release, and the idea we’re supposed to get is that both of these characters already love each other at this point. It’s just that Leia hasn’t given herself permission to love a criminal like Han yet. Therefore, when he moves in for the kiss, we’re supposed to read her as lowering her guard and giving in to her true desires, letting it read as consensual.
Unfortunately, this paternalistic idea that men know better about what women want than they do, even when the women verbalize the opposite, is still built on a sexist sense of infantilization and is frequently used in real life to justify far worse than what Han ever does in the films. It’s not as romantic as what it’s played as here.
If we decide to meet the movie on its own level rather than read into the implications of its gender politics, what we do get is wittier banter than any other couple on this list, and at least some success at building a family later down the line. Unfortunately, Han and Leia do eventually split up in canon, and in both canon and the extended universe, they do eventually raise a future Sith Lord. Oops.
They’re the closest to a “normal” couple on this list, in that their meetcute isn’t steeped in murder and that they usually talk to each other like normal people. But that doesn’t suddenly make their relationship healthy, as plenty of seemingly “normal” couples in real life could attest to.
Also, there’s the whole “kissing your brother” thing.
1. R2-D2 and C-3PO
The GOAT. These two gay robots are the odd couple to rule the galaxy. R2-D2 and C-3PO, quite simply, complete each other, and their gay bickering is entertaining enough that Episode IV chooses to spend most of its early runtime on it. Everyone else on this list could learn a thing or two from them.
They’re gay. They’re mine. I love them, and you can’t stop me.
Seriously, though, Star Wars does a great job with adventure, but when it comes to human emotions, it’s ironic that the healthiest relationship in the galaxy is between two droids.