I am not the first person to note that what separates Star Wars from the numerous space epics before and since is its sense of place. As Tegan O’Neil writes in her wonderful essay about the franchise, “The beauty of Star Wars is that so much care has been spent making the universe onscreen appear normal for the people who inhabit it … Everything feels real, carries authority that makes every frame seem like a portal into another world, perfectly plausible on its own terms.” But of all these immersive worlds, which one is the best? Well, that’s what we’re going to figure out.
To keep things manageable, we’re only ranking planets that have shown up in the nine live-action Star Wars films so far. We’ll use a fairly loose definition of planet — any sort of natural space object with an atmosphere counts; space stations do not, no matter how many people confuse them for moons. Rankings will be based primarily on how much I, a normal-ass human, would like to live there. Being inhabited helps (having company is fun), but can also hurt (if some of those inhabitants have a penchant for eating people). Points will also be assessed for conceptual brilliance, whether or not the planet eventually gets blown up by an Imperial superweapon, and climate.
30. Mustafar (Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One)
Not only is Mustafar a planet full of lava, its most famous inhabitant is Darth Vader, who seems likely to be the Galaxy’s least-inviting neighbor. (“I find your lack of lawn-care disturbing.”) What about the other inhabitants? Per Wookiepedia, “The planet’s native Mustafarian species lived in underground caves created by lava fleas as they ate through the planet’s crust, and made their armor from the heat-resistant shells of the creatures.” Oh.
29. Geonosis (Attack of the Clones)
Geonosis is kept from the bottom spot by a prospering industrial economy and some innovative arena design. But everything else is pretty unpleasant, especially the Geonesians, wretched bug creatures that you almost feel bad for when the Jedi (and eventually the Empire) start slaughtering them en masse.
28. Polis Massa (Revenge of the Sith)
Okay, yes, it’s technically a planetoid. But guess what, I googled it and apparently “the term planetoid has never been precisely defined.” So we’re counting it! This rocky space-crag holds the distinction of being the birthplace of Luke and Leia (as well as the death place of Padmé Amidala), and not much else.
27. Wobani (Rogue One)
This is the desolate prison planet Jyn Erso got rescued from at the beginning of Rogue One. We don’t see a whole lot of it, but you gotta figure when it came to building penal colonies, the Empire wasn’t exactly using the choicest planets.
26. Eadu (Rogue One)
Man, Rogue One had some crappy planets, didn’t it? This one’s great if you love rain, murder, scientists being held against their will, and cliffs. Its small native population is mostly comprised of nerf herders, who I’m sure do not appreciate being the subject of the Galaxy’s most popular classist insult.
25. Mygeeto (Revenge of the Sith)
Oh, yes, Mygeeto, the cold planet glimpsed briefly during the Order 66 montage when the Clone Troopers frag their Jedi commander, the phrenological phenomenon Ki Adi Mundi. The crystal-mining colony was originally occupied by a race of cute lemur creatures, who were quickly subjugated by the Galaxy’s financial elite and reduced to thralldom. Then it was the site of the longest battle of the Clone Wars, as Republican and Separatist armies became locked in a brutal urban stalemate. Altogether an unpleasant place.
24. Hosnian Prime (Force Awakens)
No planet encapsulates the world-building issues of the new Star Wars films like Hosnian Prime, the off-brand Coruscant we met shortly before its destruction in Force Awakens. Like Coruscant, it’s a planet-wide city located near the Galaxy’s Core. And, just like Coruscant was in the old EU, it’s the capital of the New Republic (though to find out why they switched it, you might have to read some of the new tie-in novels, and frankly I refuse). But before anyone can say, “Hey, is that Coruscant and also, what is the nature of the relationship between the Resistance and the New Republican?” it gets blown up. In other words, Hosnian Prime only exists because the people behind Force Awakens wanted a big mid-film moment, but didn’t want to waste one of the good planets.
23. Hoth (Empire Strikes Back)
It’s an inhospitable ice planet whose apex predator is the abominable snowman’s less-fuckable cousin, but it’s also home to tauntauns, the best Star Wars animal. I’d risk a lot to ride a tauntaun just once.
22. D’Qar (Force Awakens, Last Jedi)
Listen, I get that Hoth was uninhabited. Same with Crait. But I’m supposed to believe that this temperate planet, which strongly resembles the English countryside, didn’t have any people living on it before the Resistance showed up, just because it was far from the hyperspace lanes? This is a galaxy where people live on Mustafar, for goodness’ sake. Docked a spot for bad world-building, and another for being a pale retread of Yavin 4.
21. Jakku (Force Awakens)
It’s not Tatooine. Get that? It’s. Not. Tatooine. If anything, this desert planet seems to be even more remote a backwater than the original one, which at least had enough of an economy to support a thriving podrace circuit. Though if nothing else, at least Jakku gave us those awe-inspiring Star Destroyer wrecks, the first — and still most alluring — images of the new trilogy.
20. Cato Neimoidia (Revenge of the Sith)
Another planet glimpsed in the Order 66 montage, this is the one that Jedi Plo Koon pilots a starfighter through shortly before he’s shot down. As you can (briefly) see, Cato Neimodia is home to a fascinating strain of urban design in which its cities are suspended between colossal rock formations. Pretty cool, right? Except, uh-oh, it’s home to the Neimoidians, those terrible Orientalized aliens from the Trade Federation. Docked five or so spots for being inhabited by George Lucas’s worst racial stereotypes.
19. Dagobah (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi)
It’s perfectly safe for droids, but maybe not for humans. Still, you’ve got to admit, Dagobah’s got character — there has never been a movie swamp that’s swampier than this one. (It’s one of the great spooky forests ever created on a British soundstage, which have given us many great spooky forests.) And just listen to this list of indigenous species: “bogwings, dragonsnakes, butcherbugs, sleens, vine snakes, and swamp slugs” — pure gross-out poetry.
18. Felucia (Revenge of the Sith)
Hi, Felucia. This is the jungle planet that saw the death of Jedi Master Aayla Secura in the Order 66 montage, and early in the planning process for the new trilogy it was going to be the site of the new Resistance base before the filmmakers decided to go in a different direction. (D’Qar got the gig instead.) You can see why: It’s all very colorful and computer-generated in a way that screams “prequels.” The Felucians themselves seem nice, though.
17. Utapau (Revenge of the Sith)
The site of Obi Wan’s infamous duel with General Greivous is filled with skeleton-inspired architecture (or, you know, actual skeletons) and plenty of handy rock pools, should you happen to be betrayed by your own troops and fall from an unfortunate height. It was apparently a peaceful planet before Greivous showed up, but you don’t get a sense of that from the movie; it feels more like a video-game level than an actual place.
16. Kamino (Attack of the Clones)
It’s an unmapped planet that’s one big ocean, and the only habitation seems to be a freaky cloning facility. And yet, I’ve got a little bit of an affinity for Kamino. I think it’s the Kaminoans themselves. Look how polite they are when Obi-Wan visits: They send him straight to meet the prime minister! And they’re so proud of the new clone army they’ve created that the Jedi can’t bring himself to admit he has no idea what they’re talking about. George Lucas wanted Obi-Wan’s Episode II plotline to play as noir, but for one wonderful scene, it becomes something close to farce.
15. Jedha (Rogue One)
For my money, this is the new Star Wars planet (technically it’s a moon) that feels the Star Wars–iest. It’s basically an interstellar Tibet — a cold, mountainous place where holy men and galactic backpackers exist alongside an Imperial occupation. And if you like your planets to contain chilling reminders of the impermanence of earthly glory, Jeddah also has a few gargantuan Jedi statues crumpled across its landscape, “Ozymandias”-style. Docked a few spots for its most interesting city getting blown up.
14. Crait (Last Jedi)
Star Wars planets find inspiration from lots of places, but this is the first one that draws from high-end car commercials. Start with the pure white salt that covers the planet’s surface. Then consider the blood-red dust that gets kicked up any time anyone so much as walks on it. And we haven’t even gotten to the crystal foxes yet! Who designed this place, Tarsem?
13. Lah’mu (Rogue One)
Ah, the simple life. Nothing much seems to happen on Lah’mu, and that’s the way its inhabitants like it. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the Galactic Core, this Outer Rim colony is home to a few hundred farmers, who were drawn to its fertile soil, mild temperature, and general lack of all the terrible things you’ll find on other planets. It’s the perfect hideaway, as long as you’re not the finest engineer in the Galactic Empire. But what are the odds of that?
12. Alderaan (A New Hope, Revenge of the Sith)
With Alderaan, it’s all about the timing. As long as you die of old age shortly before the year 0BBY, well, you had a perfectly marvelous life in what Alderaan tourism board member Bail Organa once called “a planet of beauty,” with enough “nature, poetry, philosophy, art, couture, [and] cuisine” to shake a swagger stick at. But if you’re still kicking around during the events of A New Hope, well, I’m sorry. We’ll split the difference and put it at no. 12.
11. Takodana (Force Awakens)
Did you know this was filmed in the Lake District? I have a lovely mental image of William Wordsworth wandering around and stumbling upon Maz Kanata. (I’d ship them.) We never did figure out how Anakin’s old lightsaber got there.
10. Yavin 4 (A New Hope, Rogue One)
Another weirdly uninhabited moon, but at least this one has a backstory: The people who originally lived here were all massacred by the Sith thousands of years before the series takes place. There’s no denying the power of those temples turned hangers (shot at real Mayan ruins in Guatemala) which give the Rebellion an aesthetic heft to match the Empire’s. Bumped up a spot due to my lingering affection for the sadly no-longer-canon Young Jedi Knights series, which was mostly set here.
9. Scarif (Rogue One)
The climax of Rogue One gave us something we’d never seen before in the Star Wars universe: an island paradise! Don’t ask me why the Empire chose to set up their most top-secret military facility here when you’d think they would have been much better served using it for tourism, though who am I to second-guess the strategic thinking of a bunch of space-fascists. (Wookiepedia hand-waves some business about Scarif’s mantle being filled with “dense metals” that were ideal for spacecraft construction. Sure.) It probably ranks highly on the list of the Galaxy’s most Instagrammable vacation spots, as long as you avoid the part that got blown up.
8. Cantonica (Last Jedi)
Finally, some glamour. In the casino city of Canto Bight, you can take a break from the starrin’ and the warrin’ to hobnob with some of the Galaxy’s most stylish people (to say nothing of the Heptoonians). Many of them are arms dealers, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
7. Kashyyyk (Revenge of the Sith)
Star Wars fans know that, in the initial planning stages for Return of the Jedi, Chewbacca’s home world was the original choice for what later became the forest moon of Endor. For those fans inclined to look down on the Ewoks, the switch seemed a monumental blunder, and the news that the prequels would right the wrong by giving us the real Kashyyyk was greeted with jubilation. That version turned out to share the prequels’ characteristic CGI sheen, but what we saw was still pretty cool: There are plenty of tree houses, and it turns out the Wookies travel around in buglike helicopters. Plus, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Chewbacca? Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last: In both the new and old canons, Kashyyyk was environmentally devastated by the Imperial occupation, which sent the vast majority of its population into slavery.
6. Tatooine (A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith)
The first and most iconic Star Wars location. For what’s supposed to be the middle of nowhere, people in this series really can’t stop visiting, can they? I guess that’s just the Force at work (or a harried screenwriter, though often they amount to the same thing). The character of Tatooine would shift slightly over the course of the series; I think I prefer the version we got in A New Hope, which mixed relatable teenage boredom (the deleted scenes sell the American Graffiti–in–space vibe) with a real sense of mystery. Like the island from Lost, Tatooine lost its mystique the more we saw of it, as it turned out the planet was also home to a slug who was the most feared crime lord in the Galaxy, a big hole with teeth in it, a bunch of podracers, and, once upon a time, the child who would become Darth Vader. Still, we’ll always have that binary sunset and the Mos Eisley cantina, which told us all we needed to know about this strange new universe.
5. Bespin (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi Special Edition)
Would you live on a gas planet? I’m not so sure. I feel like it would be like living on a cruise ship; I’d need some solid ground beneath my feet eventually. But if you can manage it — and just as important, afford it — you’ll find charming hosts, magnificent views, and some of the nicest dining rooms in the Galaxy. Visit with your dad!
4. Ahch-To (Force Awakens, Last Jedi)
Speaking of dads, when I was 13 my father took me on a trip to the isolated Irish peninsula where he’d spent summer vacations as a child. I had a pretty bad time: My hearty relations took a wicked glee in subjecting themselves to all manner of unpleasant experiences, the appeal of which was baffling to me. (Also I was fat, which made getting in and out of a wetsuit a trial.) But over subsequent visits I slowly came to love the place, and now that I’m an adult I’ve found I enjoy even the terrible wind and the rain. This doesn’t really have anything to do with Star Wars, except that it means Ahch-To, which was filmed on Ireland’s southwest coast, had an elemental hold on me from the first time I saw it. And that was before I’d even met the judgmental fish-nuns!
3. Coruscant (Return of the Jedi Special Edition, Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith)
The Galaxy’s capital was another planet that had been built up for years in the old EU before we finally got a good look at it in the prequels. And boy, did we see a lot of it in the prequels. Coruscant doesn’t give us much that we didn’t get from earlier sci-fi megalopolises, but I appreciate the little glimpses of life outside the corridors of power — a diner and
an opera! This kind of futuristic city life isn’t for everyone (I imagine the rents are prohibitive), but at least the sanitation department seems to be doing a much better job than the one in Blade Runner.
2. Naboo (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith)
Yes, visiting Naboo means your risk of interacting with Jar Jar Binks increases exponentially. And the final battle takes place in a bit of country so featureless it might as well be the Windows XP background. If you can get past all that — as well as the locals’ weird habit of electing teen girls to rule them — you’ll find the most beautiful examples of Italianate architecture in all the galaxy. Plus, I’m told the lakes are to die for.
1. Endor (Return of the Jedi)
Make fun of Ewoks all you want — I would absolutely live on the forest moon of Endor. It combines the stunning natural beauty of Northern California, the cuddliness of a trip to Build-a-Bear Workshop, and tree houses straight out of a Dwell spread. The locals will either throw you on a kebab or hail you as a god, and honestly, I’ll take my chances.