Princess Leia’s top 20 bravest moments

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Still from Return of the Jedi (1983). Image is a screengrab via 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

8. Leia’s brief stint in slavery

Because Jabba the Hutt is truly so totally disgusting, and because Carrie Fisher is truly a babe, we had to get this scene out of the way, right? It really drives home Jabba’s horrible nature, and nothing polarizes like slavery. Like everything else, she handles this incident with grace and poise, even as Jabba keeps tugging back on the chain leash around her neck.

When I first saw this scene as a kid, it was so jarring to see the virtuous Princess Leia suddenly so scantily clad and under such conditions. Over the years I’ve questioned the validity of the scene, because is it really necessary for any reason besides showing off Carrie Fisher’s hot bod?

Well, I’ve decided that the answer is, yes, it is an important scene. Up until this point in the original trilogy, we see Leia handle all sorts of different kinds of sexual discrimination, but not this level of exploitation. I think it would’ve been remiss to not put Leia in a situation like this, because it speaks to a universal kind of exploitation that all women deal with to some degree every day (been catcalled recently? Then you know what I’m saying).

We needed to see Leia’s strength through this very weak moment, and I think we do. In spite of her lot, we see her smiling and laughing as Luke defeats the rancor, and then we get the biggest payoff of all — we get to see Leia choke Jabba to death with her leash. Isn’t that amazing? Kind of makes the whole scene worthwhile — even more than the gold bikini.

Still from Return of the Jedi (1983). Image is a screengrab via 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

7. Her speeder bike skills get put to good use

The trip to the forest moon of Endor is my most favorite part of the trilogy. Partially because of their adorable indigenous species, the Ewoks, but mostly because Princess Leia gets to do the most fun and badass thing ever: ride a speeder bike through the forest!

With Luke on her back, she bobs and weaves in and out of trees against storm troopers in hot pursuit. Watching Leia do this feels like payoff after all that backseat driving she did in the Millennium Falcon. Finally, our girl’s got her hands on the wheel — er, handle bars. In addition we get to see more than her just running behind the boys — in this scene she’s out in front, taking charge. There’s something about her driving and Luke riding on the back that also speaks to role reversal. However, it feels perfectly natural to see the Princess take charge like this.

Even though the special effects are visibly dated, this forest scene visually holds up for me. Endor is such a welcome relief from the dry arid landscape of Tatooine, it’s all just soothing to look at all the trees racing past. And Leia’s Endor wardrobe is pretty dope.