'Star Wars' Macabre: The most gruesome moments of the franchise so far
The "Star Wars" films may be designed for the broadest possible audience (unless you're under, say, seven years old), but for an ostensibly family-friendly franchise the first six films certainly have their gruesome moments. While the list of macabre, grotesque and frightening scenes I've compiled leans heavily in favor of "Episodes IV-VI" (no amount of CGI can beat that old-school practical effects work), I did include scattered bits from the prequels just to give a better overview of the franchise as a whole.
As we eagerly await "The Force Awakens," here are 11 of the series' most skin-crawling sights, from the fearsome Darth Maul to Jabba's pain and suffering-redefining Pit of Carkoon.
Darth Maul ("Episode I")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Not really a "moment," but here's a testament to Darth Maul's devilish red-and-black visage: horror maestro James Wan repurposed it (albeit unintentionally) for "Insidious" (an actual horror film). If you were younger than ten when you first watched "The Phantom Menace," the Sith Lord may have triggered a nightmare or two.
- Chris Eggertsen
The Geonosis arena battle ("Episode II")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
From the scorpion-like acklay with its stabbing lobster claws to the rodent-esque Nexu with its Cheshire cat grin, the "Attack of the Clones" effects team dreamed up some truly skin-crawling creatures for the film's most spirited sequence: Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme's escape from the Geonosis execution arena.
The creation of Darth Vader ("Episode III")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
After being dismembered by Obi-wan and burnt to a crisp by the lava on Mustafar in "Revenge of the Sith," a wailing Darth Vader (formerly Anakin) is fitted with cybernetic limbs and Vader's famous black metallic suit and mask in a truly gruesome, Frankenstonian operating-table scene. It's a pitch-black ending to a franchise ostensibly designed for families.
A Tusken raider catches Luke Skywalker off-guard ("Episode IV")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
In maybe the most legitimate jump scare of the franchise, Luke is caught completely by surprise when a Tusken raider leaps into view of his macrobinoculars and smashes him over the head with a shrill howl. The creature itself, with its ghoulish mask and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" aesthetic, is a ghastly sight.
The Mos Eisley Cantina ("Episode IV")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
The various alien creatures inhabiting the dark, smoky cantina are a gruesome bunch, from the Devil-faced creature whose unnerving grin wouldn't look out of place in a "Hellraiser" movie (pictured) to the werewolf-like alien with glowing red coals for eyes. And let's not forget that barside confrontation, where Obi-wan dismembers the pig-faced man who dares to pick a fight with Luke. Beat for beat, the Mos Eisley Cantina is probably the most macabre scene of the entire franchise.
The garbage compactor scene ("Episode IV")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
As if being stuck inside a giant garbage compactor wasn't terrible enough, Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie are forced to contend with a man-eating snake creature swimming through the muck. The beast's periscope-like eye poking out from the waste-water is a particularly memorable old-school effects moment.
Wampa attack ("Episode V")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
The Wampa -- a furry white creature not unlike the mythological Abominable Snowman -- not only provides a good jump scare near the beginning of "The Empire Strikes Back," it's also a truly fearsome-looking beast whose crooked rows of jagged yellow teeth and curved horns might even send Krampus running for the hills.
Luke's Darth Vader vision on Dagobah ("Episode V")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
While training with Yoda on the remote swamp planet, Luke encounters a vision of Vader and decapitates him during a lightsaber duel -- only to see his own bloody face staring up from inside the helmet. The slo-mo scene isn't just one of the most intriguing moments in "The Empire Strikes Back," it also contains one of its most grotesque images.
Han gets frozen ("Episode V")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Aside from the sight of the Rebel fighter's agonized expression encased in a solid block of carbonite, what makes this scene so harrowing is the grief-stricken howls emitted by Chewie as his best friend is forced into the freezing chamber.
The Pit of Carkoon ("Episode VI")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Though we don't see exactly what it's like inside Jabba the Hutt's fearsome Pit of Carkoon (a.k.a. the Sarlacc Pit), the description gives us more than enough to use the darkest areas of our imagination: "In [the Sarlacc's] belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a…thousand years," C-3PO translates. Nevermind that the outside of pit itself looks like a gaping...well, nevermind what it looks like.
Emperor Palpatine's sociopathic glee ("Episode VI")Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Darth Vader may be imposing in his shiny black armor, but his leader Palpatine (played by Ian McDiarmid) is more diabolically fearsome with his pale white skin, yellow eyes and rotting, Mephistophelian grin. His look of unfettered glee as he tortures Luke in "Return of the Jedi" is truly chilling.