Star Wars has been a staple of pop culture for over 40 years now and almost everyone knows the stories of the films. But what if there were Star Wars stories better than the films?
Ever since Star Wars was released in 1977, there have been a plethora of stories across different mediums spanning every genre you can imagine. There have been stories of romance, horror, war, espionage, and political intrigue. There’s a story for everyone. And here’s the crazy thing, there are stories present outside of the films that are better than the films themselves.
The films are near and dear to many people’s hearts, including my own, but there are plenty of stories within the Star Wars universe that people haven’t experienced simply because they aren’t films.
To give a little background on how these were chosen, only canon stories were chosen. However, there are plenty of Legends stories that are great so, to provide a few, you should check out the Thrawn Trilogy, the Darth Bane Trilogy, Darth Plagueis, Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison, Knights of the Old Republic, and The Old Republic: Revan.
As for the stories included on this list, there was an attempt to vary the medium of each story as to not simply give all TV, comics, or books. Also, The Mandalorian will not be included, as that story isn’t finished. So let’s get started.
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith
This 25-issue comic book run by Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli is an absolute masterpiece of a series. Beginning right after the moment Darth Vader first puts on his helmet, Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith is an incredibly entertaining read and boasts some absolutely gorgeous art. Take away all the story and lore elements from this series and you still get the most poignant dive into Darth Vader’s psyche that we’ve ever had. The final issue alone goes deeper into understanding Vader’s mindset after his transformation than anything else in Star Wars canon. So much of this story portrays him as a monster, as he is, but Soule and Camuncoli make sure you still understand there’s a man beneath the mask.
Coming back around to the story and lore elements though, both are just as great as the focus on character this series possesses. It starts out with Vader hunting down the Jedi that had survived Order 66 and goes to much crazier places that expand and explain the universe in satisfying ways. Those ways won’t be spoiled for you, as they are awesome, and everyone should experience them for a first time without being spoiled.
Dark Disciple was originally going to be an eight-episode arc in The Clone Wars before the series ended up being canceled. Thankfully though, this story lives on through Christie Golden’s outstanding novel, which adapts the scripts of the arc, which were originally written by Katie Lucas (George’s daughter), Dave Filoni, and Matt Michnovetz. This story, like the name implies, is honestly one of the darkest stories within the current Star Wars canon, and it dives deep into the characters of Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos.
On its face, this is a relatively simple story. Quinlan Vos is tasked with assassinating Count Dooku, something that few other Jedi are willing to go through with. In order to do so, he must get help from Dooku’s former apprentice, Asajj Ventress. It’s so much more than that, though. Above all else, it turns into a love story, and it’s the best — and most emotionally investing — love story in the entirety of Star Wars.
This novel takes Quinlan Vos, a two-dimensional character, and Asajj Ventress, a mostly two-dimensional character, and makes them into some of the most fleshed out, empathetic characters in the franchise. For that alone, this novel deserves to be read but, moreover, it’s one of the best stories in the franchise, period.
The Mortis Trilogy
Probably the most out-there entry on this list, the Mortis trilogy of episodes in The Clone Wars is one of the most intriguing looks into the Force in the entirety of Star Wars. Taking place on a mysterious plane of existence called Mortis, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka come into confrontation with three distinct entities named The Father, The Daughter, and The Son. On the whole, these three episodes may feel completely distinct from the rest of Star Wars, and they kind of are. However, they’re also the best way to view the struggle of balance that has persisted in Star Wars.
Each member of this trilogy of beings represents a different side of the Force. The Son is the dark. The Daughter is the light. The Father is the balance. It’s an intriguing dynamic that’s explored throughout these episodes, and it’s basically the primal version of the fight that persists in Star Wars. Because it’s honestly such an odd installment in the franchise, this is hard to talk about without spoiling but, simply put, this trilogy of episodes dives into the Force in ways rarely seen. If you’re at all interested in the Force, these are definitely episodes for you. Well, you should watch them even if you’re not.
Have you ever wanted a Romeo and Juliet story set in Star Wars? Then Lost Stars is the novel for you. All joking aside, Lost Stars is a fantastic love story that focuses on an Imperial and Rebel who have known each other since they were children. Once the war breaks out though, they end up on different sides, both for understandable reasons. Their love for each other never wains throughout the war in the galaxy, and they must fight for each moment together. It’s a beautifully written story that, yes, takes cues from Romeo and Juliet but, hey, if you’re going to steal, steal from Shakespeare.
Claudia Gray creates two immediately lovable characters in Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, making it impossible to not root for their love for each other. This is a joyful, heartbreaking, and hopeful novel that captures everything that many people love about Star Wars. From the beginning, it’s near impossible to not be invested in the story of these two and, because of that, the novel works on every level. Plenty have probably been turned off by this story, as it is technically a “young adult” novel, but it’s truly not. I’ve already gotten several people to read this novel, all of whom were turned off by the “young adult” genre presentation. They all loved it, and you probably will too.
Darkness on Umbara
The Clone Wars does a phenomenal job throughout its run of personalizing and giving motivations to each and every clone, but no other story does this better than the Umbara quadrilogy of episodes. With few Jedi present in this story, and only one present throughout most of it, the clones, specifically Captain Rex, are the focus of this story. Thus by having the clones be the focus of the arc, this story manages to really dive deep into who these characters are. They all have the same face, but none of them are the same person. This is something that is tackled consistently throughout The Clone Wars, but the Umbara quadrilogy is very much the culmination of that theme.
Not only that but this story tackles betrayal, loyalty, death, terror, and justice in ways that feel very reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. Yes, that’s right, I’m comparing an animated Star Wars arc to one of the greatest films of all time (and my personal, third favorite film). It’s not as good as Apocalypse Now obviously, but there are definite shades of it in this arc and the themes present here are executed excellently and thoughtfully. There are times where this arc even feels like it’s becoming a horror story, which only adds to the tension in a great way.