10 Action Movie Tropes in the Star Wars Movies

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10 Action Movie Tropes in the Star Wars Movies

The Star Wars movie saga has become a staple of science fiction, complete with high-tech spaceships and advanced droids of all shapes and sizes. However, the Star Wars movies aren’t just sci-fi — they also had elements of fantasy, a Biblical epic, spaghetti Westerns, and most of all, action movies. Fans of action movies like Die Hard and The Matrix will find lots to love about Star Wars.



The action movie genre has plenty of familiar clichés and tropes that can appear in anything from crime thrillers and mercenary stories to Westerns and war films. Even if those clichés feel worn-out, action movie fans might appreciate how the Star Wars saga made use of them. These movies have plenty of action and mayhem, so some familiar clichés can help that sci-fi adventure feel a little more grounded.

RELATED: 10 Characters Who Lost a Limb in the Star Wars Saga

10 One-Liners

One-liners are an action movie staple. The hero usually says a few cool or witty words to make them more likable and/or provide comic relief. Lines such as the T-800’s “Hasta la vista, baby” in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Hudson’s “Game over, man. Game over!” from Aliens are always quoted, and many of the Star Wars movies had fun with this cliché, too.

During many action sequences in Star Wars, the heroes dispense all kinds of one-liners, such as Obi-Wan’s “Flying is for droids!” during the battle of Coruscant or Anakin’s “This is where the fun begins.” The original Star Wars trilogy did this, too. Han and Leia exchanged “I love you” and “I know” when Leia revealed a blaster pistol she was about to use on her stormtrooper opponents.

9 Explosions Everywhere

The second Death Star exploding in Star Wars

Fans watching action movies expect their screens to be full of destructive mayhem, from bullets to bone-splitting punches to fierce explosions. Action movies set in the real world tend to blow up cars and trucks by hitting their gas tanks, while the Star Wars movies scale up the action movie explosions with advanced tech.

The very first Star Wars movie, 1977’s A New Hope, treats fans to the Death Star’s enormous explosion, signaling the beginning of the end for the Empire’s reign of terror. Later Star Wars movies also see countless vehicles, space stations, and even entire planets blow up, from the second Death Star to Starkiller Base to Jedha City.

8 Grizzled Veteran Characters

Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera from Star Wars.

Plenty of action movies feature a grizzled veteran character, such as Robert McCall from Equalizer or Jack Reacher. These veterans tend to be scarred ex-cops, mercenaries, or soldiers who have seen and done it all on the battlefield. They steal scenes with their hard-won wisdom and unshakable confidence, and they might mentor a rookie cop or other ally, too.

Star Wars has a few such characters, such as Saw Gerrera in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He is a battle-hardened Rebel extremist who takes no chances. In the original trilogy, Han Solo also serves as an experienced action hero who must protect the young Luke from the Empire’s wrath.

RELATED: 10 Best Scenes in Star Wars: Rebels

7 A Hacker Character

Benicio Del Toro as DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Even the toughest action star needs a hacker or other skilled agent to support them, just like Keanu Reeves’ Neo in The Matrix. Computer hacker characters are stereotyped as shady rogues who can type into a custom-built laptop for a few minutes. They then usually say, “I’m in” as they shut down the enemy base’s security systems or view security monitor footage.

Star Wars has the charming droid R2-D2 to serve as the saga’s main hacker. Time and again, R2-D2 is seen interfacing with all kinds of computers to shut off trash compactors or open doors, and it saves the heroes’ lives many times. 2017’s The Last Jedi introduces a more traditional action movie hacker, the slippery DJ who can hack into anything and will betray anyone for cash.

6 Obvious Villains

Director Krennic with his thumb on his chin in Rogue One.

Action movie villains are the most clichéd when they telegraph their villainous nature through their appearance alone, such as carrying heavy weaponry and having facial scars, a cigar, or an eyepatch. The Star Wars movies embrace this action movie cliché with characters like Orson Krennic, General Hux, and even the legendary Darth Vader.

These Star Wars characters wear their villainy on their sleeves, often with crisp military outfits, polished boots, and billowing capes, like Krennic. High-ranking villain officers like Grand Moff Tarkin and General Armitage Hux wear their villainy on their faces, too, as they always have a sinister sneer or wicked eyes to remind fans that they’re bad to the bone.

RELATED: 10 Star Wars Characters With Memorable Endings

5 A Race Against The Clock

A fleet of X-wings in Star Wars

Racing against the clock will aggressively amp up the tension in any action movie, like when the action film’s heroes race to defuse a bomb before it blows up a city block. The Star Wars movies have several “race against the clock” sequences, most of which take place during space battles.

In A New Hope, protagonist Luke Skywalker and his fellows fly in their X-wings to destroy the Death Star before it can reach Yavin IV, and the Rebel leaders even watch the clock counting down. Something similar happens in 2015’s The Force Awakens with Starkiller Base. In 2017’s The Last Jedi, Rey and Finn are racing against the clock as Snoke’s fleet chases what remains of the Resistance’s own fleet.

4 “Now It’s Personal”

Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Action movies tend to focus on spectacle over the characters’ personal lives, which is what sets this genre apart from drama and romance. If action movies make things personal for the hero, it’s usually because of revenge. Action heroes tend to avenge a loved one’s death – like John Wick does – or protect them from a serious threat.

Jyn Erso is like that in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as she fights to save her scientist father Galen and avenge her mother’s death. For Luke Skywalker, it becomes personal when Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan in battle, and it becomes personal again in 1983’s Return of the Jedi when Vader threatens to turn Leia to the Dark Side, which infuriates Luke during their duel.

RELATED: 10 Star Wars Characters With the Highest Kill Counts

3 The Big Final Battle

Star Wars' Clone Troopers head into battle on Geonosis

A movie of any genre will crank up the stakes and up the ante at the very end, amplifying the genre’s inherent traits the entire time. In a romance movie, the two lovers must overcome their personal obstacles at last, and in horror movies, the heroes will fight the monster and either win or die.

In action movies, upping the ante simply means bigger and better action scenes, which the Star Wars movies deliver. Final battles, such as the space battle for Endor, the mega-battle on Exegol, and the Rebel battle for Scarif, are all standouts of this essential action movie cliché.

2 Third-Act Betrayals

Kylo Ren tries to stop Rey in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Action movies tend to have straightforward plots. To keep viewers engaged, these films tend to include shocking betrayals to give the characters an unexpected enemy to fight and create new stakes. For example, Vince betrays Dom Toretto’s team and tries to steal the computer chip in Fast Five, and Major Grant reveals he was working with the terrorists all along in Die Hard 2. The Star Wars movies are also no stranger to third-act betrayals.

In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren shocks everyone when he uses Luke’s lightsaber not to kill Rey, but to slice apart Supreme Leader Snoke where he sits. In 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, Lando Calrissian reluctantly betrays the heroes on Cloud City as a true action movie character, but he soon makes up for it, fortunately.

1 Villain Monologues

Emperor Palpatine smiling evilly in Star Wars

Villains in action movies don’t just let their weapons and fists do the talking — they also love explaining themselves and their plan to the hero. Often, these action movie antagonists will try to justify their actions, such as trying to tear down a corrupt society or get revenge for past wrongs. Sometimes, the antagonist just needs to get this off their chest or prove how smart they are, no matter what the hero says in return.

Star Wars villains also do this, especially Emperor Palpatine, who taunts Luke in Return of the Jedi and does the same in The Rise of Skywalker to Rey. Even Darth Vader has some villain monologues, such as in The Empire Strikes Back, during his duel with Luke. In that scene, Vader delivered his legendary “I am your father” line.

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