A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… To this day, those seminal words still raise the arm hair of men, women, and children across the globe and lucky for us, come December 17th, the entire world will be thrust back into Star Wars pandemonium. Light sabers, adorable droids, and discussions of George Lucas’ dwindling importance to the story will all be discussed around the Christmas dinner table. Kids who might be completely unfamiliar with Anakin Skywalker or Master Yoda will become obsessed with the likes of Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron overnight. After being exposed to the prequel trilogy at a pivotal age, I feel I can say with some authority, right now is the best time to be a Star Wars fan in the past 30 years.
Looking back at the incredible spectrum of character we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe over the years, there is one trait that seems to lump certain heroes and villains into one herd, and this time it doesn’t have to do with the force: beards. Good, evil, old, or young (well, young-ish), a certain spectrum of Star Wars characters has taken to longer facial hair in past and present episodes of our favorite space fantasy epic. Sure, Han might’ve taken offense to Leia once calling him “scruffy looking,” but facial hair has been a key aspect for many Star Wars characters over the years, both for those we love and those we loathe.
Younger Obi-Wan Kenobi
He might not have been the original Obi-Wan, but Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of the younger jedi master was quite possibly the highlight of the entire prequel trilogy (except for possibly the podracing sequence, that was amazing). Although he appeared in Episode I fresh-faced and rat tail-clad, McGregor’s beard became increasingly prominent as he aged from Qui Gon-Jinn’s padawan into Anakin’s overseer. Bonus points to McGregor for pulling off the red beard and both blue and green light saber combo. Also, for slicing Darth Maul in half, that dude was over the top, even for a series that included a mob boss slug with a taste for brass bikinis.
Older Obi-Wan Kenobi
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Few people could utter this as their last set of lines in a film and get away with it, however, even fewer people were Sir Alec Guinness. The most famous and respected actor to sign up for the original Star Wars, Guinness brought much needed poise and wisdom to a story centered around an unknown cast that included a former sitcom actor, a girl whose accent we never quite got the story on, and a dude who just happened to be a good carpenter. The original Obi-Wan was smart, cunning, and always kept his cool, all while rocking a perfectly trimmed white beard.
Long before he became known the world over for his, uh, unusual set of skills, Liam Neeson was effectively setting in motion the entire storyline for the Star Wars universe by freeing a slave kid with weird stuff in his blood. Granted, he had more of the weird stuff than anyone had ever seen, but still, just weird blood stuff. Although Qui-Gon only appeared in Episode I, he took on a similar role to Sir Alec Guinness in Episode IV as the most established and respected cast member. Unfortunately, Neeson opted for more of a goatee than a full beard, but hey, we’ll always remember him as the guy that introduced the future overlord of the Empire to then-Senator Palpatine. Well done, Qui-Gon. Well done.
Older Luke Skywalker
Much like the jedis who came before him, it appears that Luke Skywalker has also adopted a beard as he’s aged within the Star Wars universe. Although there have been reported leaks of footage featuring Mark Hamill, only his robotic hand and cloaked silhouette have appeared in the trailers, but based on his recent public appearances, we can safely say that he’s looking scruffier than ever. Who knows what role he’ll have in the new trilogy, but hopefully John Boyega or Oscar Isaac can follow in his footsteps by letting their man manes breath a bit down the road.
Alright, did Count Dooku suck? Well, yes, basically. However, you know what didn’t suck: his epic battle with Yoda. You know, the one where Obi-Wan and Anakin try to take him on, but Anakin acts like a child and goes after Dooku solo and gets his hand cut off and then Yoda has to come in and save the day? Additionally, Christopher Lee, the man behind the beard, was also Saruman from Lord of the Rings, talk about an epic beard, and he also recorded a number of prog rock and metal albums before his passing last year. No seriously, check it. Cheers to you, Mr. Lee, for taking on all sorts of supernatural challenges, all while looking sharp as hell with your signature white beard.
Honorary Mention: Lando Calrissian
Okay, so it might just be a mustache, but Billy Dee Williams’ incredible performance as Lando Calrissian cannot go unrecognized. Mayor of Cloud City (or maybe city manager?), one-time smuggler, and fluent in at least seven space languages, including this shining moment, Lando was the perfect ying to Han’s yang and his mustache was almost able to steal the show from his epic cape. Really, if there’s one thing Star Wars needs, it’s more Lando Calrissian walking around intently while adorned in a golden-lined cape.
Double Honorable Mention: Chewbacca
Chewbacca is all of us. We are all Chewbacca. Cue roar and theme song.