If there is one moment, one single line of dialogue that the Star Wars universe both boils down to and revolves around, you know what it is:
“No…I am your father.”
Have you ever heard an entire culture gasp at once? Because that’s what happened in the summer of 1980 when Darth Vader uttered these fateful words to Luke Skywalker at the climax of The Empire Strikes Back. Never before had a film, let alone a franchise, hinged so much on a turn of phrase. Not “Rosebud,” not “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” not even “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The world of Star Wars before Vader’s line was not the world of Star Wars after it, as now a stronger sense of family had been injected into the drama.
Until this point, family had been a thing to avenge for Luke – his aunt and uncle dead on Tatooine, Uncle Ben at Vader’s hands, his father also killed by Vader, or so he thought – but now it became a thing for which he must atone. At the same time, family became a curse with this line. Luke had been cautioned all through his Jedi training with tales of the Force’s dark side and how it could corrupt good men, but now knowing that the most corrupt example was his own flesh and blood made him aware of his particular susceptibility to darkness, and suddenly that clean cut farmboy had himself some edge. Long story short, once this single line was spoken, we had ourselves a full-blown saga on our hands, and every stake in the franchise was catapulted to higher levels.
But the long story is the best part, and for that I turn you over to Jack’s Movie Reviews and this incredibly thorough analysis of the impact of Vader’s fateful line across the entire Star Wars spectrum, from A New Hope right up through The Force Awakens. JMR proves that not only is this the most important line to this franchise, it’s the most narratively-impactful and significant dialogue in all of movie history. As you prep for Rogue One which too has its strong family ties, take a moment to remember the moment when it all really started.