Essays · Movies

Capes: A ‘Star Wars’ Story

The legacy of a garment in a galaxy far, far away.
Emilia Clarke In Solo
By  · Published on May 18th, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a movie full of capes. There are quips about capes, capes as plot devices, and even a scene that takes place in a closet full of capes.

Capes are the Skywalkers of garments: melodramatic, self-aggrandizing, and prone to causing complications, as Edna Mode of The Incredibles reminds us in her legendary “No Capes!” rant. As such, it is hardly surprising that capes—and their slightly less useless cousin, cloaks—are seemingly the Star Wars franchise’s favorite statement piece that isn’t a lightsaber.

Only certain types of people can rock a cape. It requires hefty doses of both confidence and attitude. Not enough confidence and you look like a kid wearing a blanket pretending to be Superman. Not enough attitude and the cape wears you. Regarding functionality, Edna Mode is correct in her assertion that capes are worse than useless. But, when applied correctly, it’s hard to argue that they don’t have a certain style.

So, in honor of Solo, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revisit 10 Star Wars scenes enriched by the presence of capes and cloaks.

1. Obi-Wan becomes one with the Force

Obiwan Death

The death of one of Star Wars’ most beloved and quotable mentors was a traumatic moment in many a childhood. Looking at it now as an adult, Obi-Wan’s last stand is clearly just an empty, propped-up cloak with a lightsaber. Nonetheless, the emotional scars remain.

2. Nearly every scene featuring Lando

The very first moment audiences meet Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in The Empire Strikes Back, he’s a small figure in the distance, distinguishable from the crowd by the majesty of his cape. The smuggler turned Baron Administrator of Cloud City turned general in the Rebel Alliance knows how to rock a cape, and as Solo indicates, this is a skill he developed at a young age. Lando is the type of person whose first concern after getting punched in the face is fixing his cape, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

3. Luke confronts Darth Vader in Cloud City

Screen Shot At Pm

“No, I am your father!”

Admittedly, this scene and its reveal of one of the most (in)famous plot twists in movie history would be legendary even without the most iconic part of Vader’s ensemble that isn’t his mask or lightsaber. But trying to imagine it without the presence of Vader’s billowing cape, you can’t deny the garment bestows a certain je ne sais quoi that makes everything just a touch more epic. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. 

4. Luke arrives at Jabba’s palace

Luke Rotj

When Luke (Mark Hamill) finally shows up in Return of the Jedi after being suspiciously absent for 20 minutes, it’s with a new look and a new attitude, both summed up by this sleek grey cape, which has never been seen before or since. After all, Luke’s new Jedi knight, too-cool-for-school persona quickly proves to be mostly for show as he proceeds to more or less walk straight into a trap. But mostly is not all, and Luke of Return of the Jedi is thankfully about 80% less whiny than Luke of previous installments. This is a particularly good thing because audiences will need all the patience saved by this improvement to deal with the Ewoks.

5. Padmé “blends in” in Tatooine


The prequel trilogy has its problems—bad writing being at least half of them—but admittedly the costumes are on fire. Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) in particular is never seen in the same outfit twice (or hairstyle, for that matter). While her intricate ensembles are always pretty to look at—and welcome distractions from the dialogue, especially in Attack of the Clones—they don’t always make all that much sense in the context of the narrative. From her elaborate and runway-ready “nightgowns” to her idea of blending in with the lay people of Tatooine, Padmé’s wardrobe somehow embodies both the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the prequel trilogy.

6. Obi-Wan and Anakin battle on Mustafar

Obiwancloakdrop Rots

Going into Revenge of the Sith, we all knew an epic battle was imminent. Darth Vader had to end up with that mask somehow, after all. When Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) finally confronts Anakin (Hayden Christensen) on Mustafar and tosses off his cloak, it’s like a starting gun at a track race—and what a race it is. Say what you will about the prequels, but the Anakin vs. Obi Wan battle on Mustafar is pretty damn excellent, even if it does go a bit heavy-handed with the mid-2000s CGI at times.

7. Phasma’s brief shining moment


While the sequel trilogy’s much-hyped introduction of the first female villain to the Star Wars film canon has ultimately proven to be a tragic waste of Gwendolyn Christie’s talents, at least she looks the part. Her off-the-shoulder cape bestows a sense of personal style and panache to what would otherwise be a somewhat generic chrome aesthetic. It’s easiest to appreciate in her first appearance early in The Force Awakens, when first-time viewers are not yet aware of the disappointing two minutes total screen time that awaits.

8. Luke Skywalker’s big reveal


“My father had it, I have it, my sister has it.” Luke may be talking about the Force in this quote, but he might as well be referring to a flair for the dramatic. Luke’s brief, non-speaking appearance in The Force Awakens may leave a lot of unanswered questions, but it does confirm one thing: he’s definitely still got it.

9. Meeting Orson Krennic

Rogueone Krennic

While casting Ben Mendelsohn is a pretty solid guarantee of quality wickedness, when he shows up in the first few minutes of Rogue One, his white cape flapping around him like wings of evil, it’s the ultimate indication that viewers can rest assured: this film’s villainy is in good hands.

10. Kylo Ren faces Luke on Crait

Kylorencloakgif Thisone

The epic final showdown in The Last Jedi between Luke Skywalker and his “naughty nephew” formerly known as Ben Solo begins with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) taking off his cape, the ultimate Star Wars signal for “shit is about to go down.”

However, Kylo Ren, being Kylo Ren, doesn’t even take his cape off like a normal person—he violently shrugs it off like the angriest of teenagers. Small gesture it may be, but it nonetheless encapsulates Ren’s entire character: volatile and aggressive to the point of ridiculousness with a taste for melodrama.

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Ciara Wardlow is a human being who writes about movies and other things. Sometimes she tries to be funny on Twitter.