From Wookies to droids, we determine who is the best character to have around when it all goes down.
What makes a great sidekick? This is our question of the week. And since we’re embroiled in a week of celebrating a new Star Wars movie, the answer must come in the form of a Star Wars character. Below, you’ll see as our editors, contributors, and interns wrestle with the notion of the perfect sidekick. Is loyalty all that matters, or does a bit of autonomy make for a good trade with utility? Is it better to have a droid by your side or a Wookie? What about ships, do those count as sidekicks? And can a Jedi master also be someone’s sidekick?
All of this and more will be explained below. The only important instruction we gave to the team: don’t be afraid to get creative, as long as you can explain yourself. Let’s see how we did…
Matthew Monagle: Admiral Motti, A New Hope
Consider the first (fourth) Star Wars movie within the context of the entire franchise. When fans sat down for Star Wars the first time, Darth Vader was mostly an unknown quantity. Sure, he had a cool costume, and sure, he manages to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi with a laser sword towards the end of the film, but his powers as a fallen Jedi would not be established in full until the next two films. In this context, the scene where Admiral Motti openly taunts Vader doesn’t seem so out of place. He may be arrogant, but he is also defending his station and his commanding officer from an authority figure outside the proper military channels. It’s a bold move, but not necessarily a stupid one.
Go back and watch that scene after the release of the prequels, however, and you have to wonder if Admiral Motti was out of his goddamn mind. This is the same Darth Vader who stump-crawled his way out of a lava field after engaging in Jedi Jenocide; who defeated several of the highest-ranking members of the Jedi Council in one-on-one combat; who was singled out by the most dangerous man in the galaxy to serve as his right hand in the war against the Rebellion. In this context, Motti isn’t just flashing a little interagency competitiveness, he’s actively poking the Star Wars equivalent of a demigod with a stick. As the saying goes, Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white male.
Brad Gullickson: Ponda Baba
Everyone needs a great wingman. Mario has Luigi, Frodo has Sam, Wayne has Garth, Maverick has Goose. If you’re looking to make it through the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the Mos Eisley Cantina, than your wingman better be one confident yet ferocious thug, ready to back you up against unforgivable odds. He may not have taken up too much screen time, but Ponda Baba (aka Walrus Man to all my classic Kenner collectors out there) proved himself to be a loyal sidekick to his equally handsome cohort, Dr. Cornelius Evazan.
Bantha milk will only get you so far, and after you’ve kicked back some of the harder stuff at the bar, entertainment on the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe gets tricky, especially if you’re no longer welcome on Jabba’s sail barge. Simply looking to kill some time between smuggling runs, Ponda Baba picks an easy fight with pretty boy Luke Skywalker, and underestimates the old fossil in the dusty brown cloak. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are supposed to be no match for a good blaster, but Ben Kenobi makes sushi outta Ponda Baba and Evazan. So much for you death sentences on twelve systems.
Drunken alien creeps will never rank high on the galactic threat level, but the significance of this barroom non-brawl is how it reveals Kenobi to be a serious force (pun-intended) to be reckoned with. It’s a badass cowboy moment that sparks Luke’s wanderlust through a healthy amount of PG bloodshed, and plants him firmly aboard the Millennium Falcon. In a film chockfull of memorable close encounters, Ponda Baba’s failed attempt at barfly machismo is almost as equally notable as the Cantina itself. Of course Gareth Edwards couldn’t resist the fan service in Rogue One!
Siân Melton: Wicket Warrick
When tasked with this Star Wars sidekick challenge, my gut reaction was to go with a robot. After all, my second favourite genre of film is “quirky robots trying to make it in the world,” and whether or not there’s a robot in a film can be the difference of me wanting to see it. Obviously I’d go with BB-8. Partially because [June is still not entirely sure of his mission] but also because he rolls and that’s awesome.
I’m going to go with my heart, though. The first Star Wars film I remember watching was Return of the Jedi. Whether by accident or my father knew his stuffed animal loving daughter very well and tactfully chose it, I have no idea. But for a long time I referred to Star Wars as “the movie with the stuffed bears.” I loved them. I even watched that spinoff Ewok movie (Wilford Brimley forever). And so, I submit that Wicket Warrick is the best Star Wars sidekick. And not only because he looks like a stuffed bear ‐ okay, well, mostly because he looks like a stuffed bear. But what more could you want from a sidekick? He also befriends Princess Leia and helps her escape certain doom, appreciates snacks, and can set sneaky traps. Also I’m pretty sure that the Battle of Endor was a success solely because of him.
William Dass: The Millennium Falcon
80 years ago, the Lone Ranger saved a horse named Silver from an enraged buffalo and earned a companion for life in his struggle for justice. Just try thinking about the Lone Ranger without saying “High ho Silver, away!” You can’t do it. Silver is a full-fledged character. But, you say, he’s a horse. Well, our heroes have anthropomorphized their tools since Beowulf was given the sword Hrunting. Too academic? The Winchester boys have their Impala. Batman has his Batmobile. Krang has his Technodrome. And the Rebel Alliance has the Millennium Falcon. The Falcon may be Han’s ship, but how many different characters have teamed up with the Falcon to do heroes work? At one time or another, I’d say all of them.
The Millennium Falcon has been everywhere, man. She’s done everything for the Rebel Alliance. Without her, Luke never would have made it off Tatooine. Han doesn’t pick off Vader and help Luke destroy the Death Star without the Falcon. She straight up destroys the second Death Star. The pilot makes the ship, right? Wrong! All these different pilots, yet so much success? That’s the ship. The Millennium Falcon is a major player in the success of the Rebellion, which makes her capable of shaping the fate of the galaxy. Tell me you wouldn’t want her as your sidekick.
Chris Coffel: Chopper
Back in July I watched Star Wars Rebels for the first time. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it either. I had this preconceived notion that a Disney channel Star Wars cartoon couldn’t be anything more than terrible. After watching just the first episode I was immediately hooked and quickly binged through the first two seasons. Not only do I now love Star Wars Rebels, but it’s also some of my favorite storytelling in all of the Star Wars universe and best of all it introduced me to my favorite Star Wars sidekick, Chopper.
Chopper is a scrappy little droid and a crew member on Ghost. He’s kind of like the ship’s handyman, responsible for making sure all systems are operating as they should and making any necessary repairs when needed. Like most droids in the Star Wars universe, Chopper is much more than a mindless robot. He often defies orders and does things the way he wants to do them, and though this may upset his fellow crew members he always comes through in the end.
The design of Chopper is based of early concept art for R2-D2 by artist Ralph McQuarrie which gives him a very natural feel in Star Wars. That Chopper was birthed using the original plans for R2-D2 is quite fitting because as much as the two droids have in common they’re also opposites in many ways. Whereas R2-D2 makes his loyalty very clear, Chopper has more of a too cool for school attitude. Chopper cares but he doesn’t want you to know it. Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni described this by saying Chopper is the cat to R2-D2’s dog. And since I’m a cat person that makes Chopper the perfect sidekick for me.
Christopher Campbell: R2-D2
Typically I like to choose a less obvious answer for this sort of question. I’d go with Salacious Crumb, the rat-like Muppet inspired by Peter Lorre to Jabba the Hutt’s Sydney Greenstreet. I definitely loved him the most as a kid. But I’m just going to go with my genuine favorite Star Wars character: R2-D2. Yeah, not that exciting a pick. But here’s the thing, it’s not for the obvious reason. It’s not because he’s a wonderful partner to C-3PO. I don’t even think he’s the sidekick there, just because he’s the silent one. No, C-3PO is R2’s sidekick if anything. The little astromech droid is, however, a sidekick by trade for the purpose he serves on X-Wings and other ships. To Luke, little Anakin and more.
R2-D2 is a handyman of countless measure, repairing those ships from the inside and out while also playing the part of friendly companion and co-pilot. He’s a hacker, a fighter, a loyal pal, and a doer more than a server. The best sidekicks aren’t minions or toadies. Like the other obvious choice, Chewbacca, they are totally independent and only considered sidekicks because they’re not the clear central hero type. A lot of times they’ve got better morals, a lot of times they’ve got lesser morals, but they rarely stop to second-guess anything. R2-D2 is always going, always focused on his mission or job, helping others but he’s also be a fine solo act, too. He’s tough and dependable, as a sidekick should be.
Meg Shields: Salacious Crumb
Here is the hand you’re dealt: you’re trapped on a horrible desert planet, in the grotty jazz palace of a temperamental crime lord who routinely feeds his enemies _and staff_ to a monstrous, gooey basement dino. Also you’re two feet tall. Such is the lot of Salacious B Crumb (the B is for bandit because he stole my heart). Where the will of a lesser creature would break, Crumb thrives by virtue of his wit. By endearing himself to Jabba, the heroic little Crumb laughs in the face of adversity and lives to giggle another day.
Crumb wears his heart on his teeny tiny monkey-lizard sleeve. His priorities are Noble and Good: stay alive, and steal as much of Jabba’s food as possible. He mocks inmates, courtiers, and even Jabba himself; roasting everything that moves like his itty bitty life depend on it (it does). A sidekick shouldn’t kiss your butt, but mock it ruthlessly to your face. You can depend on Crumb for a good laugh, _and_ to peck the eyes out of that uptight pretentious translator bot (ps. Why were they built to feel pain?!). Sadly Crumb couldn’t joke his way out of the Khetanna exploding, but I think we can all take a cue from this little munchkin: amuse, support and steal food from your pals, and find humor even in the most trying of circumstances. OHOHOHOH indeed, Salacious B.
Jake Orthwein: Yoda
It’s difficult to imagine where the heroes of the Star Wars universe would find themselves without their trusty sidekicks. Chewbacca to Han. Han to Luke. Jar-Jar to Anakin. OK, scrap that last one, but you get the drift. One of these wingmen, though, always seems to get short shrift (no pun intended). I’m talking of course about Yoda, everyone’s favorite 900-year-old Jedi Grand Master. I can practically hear you shouting at the screen as you read this. “Yoda is not a sidekick! He’s a god damn mentor!” Hold your horses. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering, pal. Hear me out.
What’s the function of a good sidekick? To embolden the hero, to bring out the best in him or her, and to come through in the clutch when all seems lost. Let’s evaluate Yoda against these criteria. Luke doesn’t meet the tiny green sage until Empire, at which point he has already met a mentor in the form of Obi-Wan. In fact, it’s the Force ghost of Obi-Wan that tells Luke to go to Dagobah in the first place. AND Yoda only teaches Luke the ways of the Force because Obi-Wan tells him to. Then, when the training finally gets cooking, Yoda’s teaching takes on a very particular form (and I don’t mean that of backpack). He’s not there to transmit wisdom but to help Luke uncover his own powers. Yoda doesn’t so much teach Luke as help him to realize his true nature. Sounds like a sidekick to me.
So what about the final criterion? Does Yoda “come through in the clutch” like all great companions? You bet he does. In Attack of the Clones! By now, I’ve alienated all of you and reminded you of the Star Wars film you’d all rather forget. But damned if I didn’t cheer when Yoda ditched his cane for a lightsaber and confronted Count Dooku. Forget about CGI backflips, you must.
Neil Miller: Chewbacca
When we began this writing project, my instructions for the team were clear: (a) don’t be afraid to get creative and (b) not everyone can choose Chewbacca. Then no one chose Chewbacca. And as much as this delights me, as a sign of my power as boss around here, it’s also sad, because Chewbacca really is the ultimate Star Wars companion. I can promise that when you see Rogue One you’re going to like K-2SO a lot. And there are strong cases above for many other characters, some of whom are more powerful and have potentially more utility. But Chewie has in droves what all these other characters only have every once in a while: loyalty.
In the immortal words of Vin Diesel in the Fast & Furious movies, it’s about family. What began for Han and Chewie as the paying off of a life debt has morphed into a true brotherhood. Chewie is with Han to the end, constantly bailing him out of trouble, even when he’s out there shooting first. In The Force Awakens, we even see Chewie allow his dedicated sidekick role to be transferred to another kindred spirit after he loses his best friend in the world. For Rey, this will ultimately turn out to be a big win as the Saga moves forward. Because in the end, who wouldn’t want a seven and a half foot Wookie on their side? It’s enough to have you wishing everyone a Happy Life Day.
For more on Rogue One and Star Wars history, check out The Star Wars Story:
Related Topics: Culture, Star Wars