"The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now, I am the master."
- The film's opening shot: after an opening text crawl and John Williams' legendary fanfare, we see a spaceship (the Tantive IV) fly past and over a planet, firing at something chasing it... and then a much bigger pursuing ship (a Star Destroyer) flies over the the camera and fires at it, and keeps getting closer and closer. 1977 moviegoers had never seen anything like this before (not even in Star Trek), and were witnessing the birth of a whole new kind of filmmaking right away.
- Vader's entrance onto the Tantive IV. The stormtroopers finish mopping up the rebels at the breach then stand respectfully to attention as a giant in midnight-black sci-fi samurai armour strides through the door, takes a few moments to dispassionately observe the slaughter, then sweeps ominously past. Next time we see him, he's holding the ship's captain up by the neck with one hand, the man's feet dangling level with Vader's knees. ABSOLUTELY not a villain to be trifled with.
- The first appearance of the lightsaber.
- Obi-Wan getting Papa Wolf on two drunkard thugs in the cantina trying to pick a fight with Luke. At first, he tries to cool the situation down but when the pair get violent, thinking this old man will be an easy fight for them, without breaking a sweat Obi-Wan draws his lightsaber and quickly reduces them to screaming wrecks, one (Dr. Cornelius Evazan) clutching a deep slash wound in his chest, the other (Ponda Baba) clawing at the stump of his right arm.
- What sells it is his "Yep, still got it" look.
- Han Solo's big Establishing Character Moment. A Bounty Hunter working for Jabba the Hutt has come to claim Han's debt at the cantina, with a blaster right at his face... but just before he can fire, Han pulls a gun under the table and kills him before he even knows what's coming. "Sorry about the mess."
- Commander Daine Jir criticizes Vader's decisions to his face and lives to tell the tale.
- Star Wars Legends explains that he was willing to be blunt and honest with Vader, but still carry out orders and do his job quite effectively, earning Vader's respect.
- In a Deleted Scene, General Moradmin Bast has no problem telling Vader that he considers Tarkin's plan to break Leia to be a foolish waste of time. And given that he doesn't object, Vader seems to agree with him.
- Vader during the Moff meeting aboard the Death Star. The only thing that we've seen him do so far is strangle a guy and yell at a young woman. After "the man in black" decries the Death Star's ability to destroy whole planets as "insignificant next to the power of the Force," Admiral Conan Antonio Motti decides to insult his beliefs. Vader merely lifts a hand and the guy starts choking, Vader saying that "I find your lack of faith disturbing." We see in this that despite first impressions, Vader is actually dangerous, not just Tarkin's lackey.
- Remember, this was the first use of the Force in film, after it was introduced, which made it all the more intimidating in the day. Obi-Wan calls it "an energy field" that surrounds people, binds the galaxy, and other pseudo-religious harmonious fluff, and the audience was like, "Oh okay, old guy, that's cool, let's get back to the space opera." Then an Imperial officer starts talking smack, and Vader suddenly introduces practical villainous applications of said energy field. Dark Side of the Force indeed.
- There's also Vader's body language, displaying only the most subtle of Tranquil Fury, combined with James Earl Jones' voice that make it indescribable unless you see it.
- And the story it's from is one of Sci-Fi's Big Three. Given that the other two members of that group's attitudes on religion were often condescending at best (and one of them might still be at times), this moment can feel curiously satisfying if you're religiously or spiritually inclined. Even in science fiction, religion and mysticism can still have a place in the world, and its practitioners can not only be justified in it (midi-chlorians debatably aside), but powerful by it as well.
- Tarkin's reaction: first a sort of intellectual curiosity at seeing Vader in action, then he decides enough is enough and yanks him back into line.
- Vader's reaction to Tarkin: the subtext being not that of an inferior responding to the order of a superior, but of grudging respect: "I would really just as soon choke Motti to death as look at him, but I have to work with you, so I'll honor your request to lay off."
- The old novelization heavily hints this was a set-up: according to the chain of command, the joint chiefs weren't under Tarkin's authority but his and Vader's peers and could have challenged their authority, so Vader went with his declarations about the Force to get an excuse to show that he was their superior because he could kill them without even touching them, and Tarkin was even higher because he was the only one who Vader would listen to if he was asked not to murder them. Needless to say, it worked.
- Tarkin had the balls to actually threaten Darth Vader, implying that something bad will happen if Vader's plan to let the Falcon to lead them to the Rebel base doesn't work. Vader counters (immediately shown in some versions, including the novelization) that everything is going according to plan.
Tarkin: Are they away?
Vader: They have just made the jump into hyperspace.
Tarkin: You're sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship? I'm taking an awful risk, Vader; this had better work.
Vader: This will be a day long remembered—it has seen the end of Kenobi, and it will soon see the end of the Rebellion.
- Also, the effort Richard LeParmentier, Motti's actor, put into making his being telekinetically choked look convincing. Especially when everyone thought this was a hokey flop in the making, that's dedication.
- Threepio's gotten a reputation as a bit of a Chew Toy, but he really shows a great deal of competence in this movie. Despite his constant complaining, when the chips are down he's able to pull it together and get him and his comrades out of danger. When meeting Uncle Owen and Luke Skywalker for the first time, Threepio calmly manages to not only get himself sold but also bring Artoo into the Skywalker household, all without resorting to hysterics. Then, on the Death Star, after being discovered by the Imperial Force, Threepio manages to perform a Bavarian Fire Drill which allows him and Artoo to escape once again. He may be a bit over emotional and frantic, but Threepio is still dependable when he needs to be.
- Leia is pretty gutsy right from the start. You get the sense she exits her cover in order to deliberately get captured in order to distract Vader and his entourage with a high-profile prisoner instead of focusing on a stray escape pod - and it works for long enough for R2-D2 and C-3PO to escape. In a non-action awesome moment, she doesn't flinch in the face of Vader and Tarkin, despite the low likelihood of escaping the Death Star. This is given extra weight when the events of Rogue One are explored, as Vader had seen her ship depart from Scarif, and thus Vader knew that she was lying to his face - but she did it anyway.
- The Falcon entering light speed.
- Leia shooting out a grate and snapping that "Somebody has to save our skins!".
- Then she steps out of cover, fires several blasts down the narrow hallway, throws the blaster back to Luke, and jumps down the garbage chute. In that one moment, she utterly demolishes the Damsel in Distress image in favor of being an Action Girl equally participating in her own rescue.
- "We, uh, ran into some old friends."
- Luke and Leia swinging across a bottomless pit. It's made more awesome when you remember that shot was real; they swung across a real ledge three stories up in the air. Then you learn that their harness was broken, and the stunt coordinator lied to them about it being perfectly safe.
- The duel between Vader and Obi-Wan.
Darth Vader: I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.
Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.
- The battle with the TIE Fighters after the Millennium Falcon escapes the Death Star. A masterwork of editing, acting, and pulse-pounding music makes for an exciting dog fight in space.
- What's more, every member of the core cast contributes to the fight; Luke and Han man the guns, Leia calls shots from the cockpit while Chewie pilots, and R2-D2 runs repairs like the pit crew at a NASCAR race. Only one who didn't help was C-3PO.
- Vader runs a successful Batman Gambit to reveal the location of the Rebel base, which involves allowing Luke and Han to stage Leia's rescue. Then he's the only one smart enough to realize the Rebels' attack might work. Then he personally gets into the dogfight in his customized TIE fighter and blows away enemy fighters right and left. The Empire would've crushed the Rebels if he was in charge.
- We know he's skilled with a lightsaber with his battle against Obi-Wan, but we then go out and see him in his personal TIE Advanced fighter and effortlessly destroy the fighters in Gold and Red Squadron, including the leader of the squads and Biggs, without breaking a sweat. Only Luke had the skill with the Force to avoid his blasts.
- Star Wars Legends sources like Shadows of the Empire state that destroying ace Rebel pilots is what he does for fun. Dogfighting is his way of relaxing, and he normally has a dozen kills under his belt once he's done.
- During the Death Star battle, Luke has an enemy on his tail. Does Wedge come up behind the bad guy and blow him up? No. He comes at them head on and weaves between Luke and the TIE fighter to take his shot.
- The dive toward the Death Star trench, done twice, and awesome both times.
- A Dying Moment of Awesome for Garven Dreis, aka, Red Leader. Just after his failed run Vader is closing in on him and Luke shouts that his flight can come help. Red Leader simply orders him to begin his attack run on the Death Star. Given how distinct Vader's TIE Advanced is and how it's well-established that he can slaughter entire squadrons by himself, Red Leader knew full well that he was doomed and decided to distract the Sith Lord as long as he could.
- Luke taking charge during the final trench run. Consider that his wingmates are Biggs (his best friend and a much more experienced pilot) and Wedge (described in Legends as being so badass that Imperial pilots have bed-wetting nightmares where he chases them), and the inexperienced farm-boy with no more experience than varmint-hunting manages to tell them what to do. Wedge even calls him "boss."
- "I have you now." (The Millennium Falcon intervenes a second later) "WHAT?!" "YEAHOOOOOO! You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home!" Welcome to the Rebel Alliance, Han Solo.
- The best part: up until he turned around, Han Solo saw all the rebels on that base as walking corpses and his last scene with Luke was a goodbye to a dead man. That Moment of Awesome was probably the first time Han had felt optimism in years.
- Marcia Lucas, who had edited the film, told George at the film's premiere screening that he'll know if the film ultimately works if the audience cheers when the Falcon dives in to the rescue at that moment. Sure enough, the audience howls with ecstasy at that critical moment at that screening.
- One word, two syllables: Kaboom. This was on Luke's official first day of joining the Rebel Alliance. "So, I took out a squadron of Stormtroopers on my first day. What did you do?" "Oh, nothing much. I just blew up the Death Star."
- Also, you might not realise it at first, but Luke was nineteen years old when he blew up the Death Star. NINETEEN YEARS OLD. The Death Star was blown up by a bunch of f**kin' teenagers!
- Just before the Death Star gets blown up, there's a very brief shot of Tarkin anxiously holding his hand to his mouth, as if he's just realized how utterly boned he is.
- The destruction of the Death Star is given extra gravitas after Rogue One as it means that Jyn, Cassian, Bodhi, Chirrut, Baze, K2 and all the rebels who died on the assault on Scarif did not die in vain.