I’ve written before how R2-D2 is not just the best droid in the galaxy, but the all-around MVP of Star Wars. Of course, I’m not the only one that knows what’s up -- a few like-minded individuals have also championed for the underappreciated hero of the franchise. Clearly we all know greatness when we see it, and that it doesn’t always come in the obvious packaging.
Artoo is the Mariano Rivera of the Rebellion: No one is more clutch or has more success in a save situation. Of course, ranking the seemingly endless string of accomplishments of all the great ones is never easy. And as more movies are being developed we’re bound to have to revisit this list in the future. But until then, here are Artoo’s greatest saves in Star Wars saga, ranked.
12.R2 fixes the shield generator on the Naboo ship escaping the Trade Federation blockade, allowing Queen Amidala, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to get away.
There’s no solid rhyme or reason as to why Artoo was the only droid that avoided getting blasted, outside of his being Artoo. You can argue that had he not saved the queen, she wouldn’t have lived to give birth to Leia and Luke, thus making this a vital moment for the little droid that could. While that undoubtedly makes this seem like a far more pivotal moment in the franchise, in reality it plays more like a shoe-horned in moment that had to happen just so R2-D2 had a save in the movie. Artoo’s role in the original trilogy is bigger and more integral to the advancement of the overall storyline whereas in the prequels his saves seem like an easy out for lazy writing. I guess in that sense he saved the writers, too.
11. Artoo saves Padme inside the droid foundry on Geonosis.
Once again this plays as more of an obligatory “Artoo saves the day” scene. However, we do get to see the little dude fly which is always entertaining.
10. R2 zaps the Buzz Droid off Anakin’s starfighter
In a bit of foreshadowing ( or callback, depending on which order you view the movies), we see Artoo showing just how valuable he is to fighter pilots as well as the Skywalkers.
9. R2 distracts Grievous so Anakin and Obi-Wan can force-grab their lightsabers back from the General.
Typical Artoo fashion, he gives the underappreciated assist allowing the heroes to go be heroic, this time using his infamous squeal to throw off Grievous.
8. R2 wakes up at the exact right moment, having had the rest of the map needed to find Luke.
About halfway through Force Awakens, I knew the most important character in Star Wars wasn’t going to idly sit one out. It was a bit obvious that they were waiting for the right moment for Artoo to wake up, however it was kind of disappointing to sideline him for the whole movie. But I get it, that little showboat of a soccer ball newbie BB-8 needed the attention and, let’s be real, he’s definitely second fiddle when Artoo is around.
7. R2 finds that the Princess is being held on the detention level.
In one of the many displays of R2 being a hacker genius long before hacking became a thing, he locates Leia in her detention cell. This is like unlocking the best character in a video game: you were having fun playing before, but now things just got so awesome that everything else felt like warm up for the real game, because Leia is about to clean up the sh*tstorm Luke and Han got themselves into. Plus she delivers one of the most famous lines from the franchise: the short stormtrooper zing. Granted I think Leia and Artoo are the most competent and important characters in the entire franchise, so I may be a tad biased on this one. Probrably not, though.
6. Artoo and Threepio escape the Empire with the Death Star plans from Leia
Had Artoo not escaped, it’s hard to imagine how things would have panned out for the rebellion. Clearly, we wouldn’t have had the original trilogy. At least not the way it exists. Aside from this moment being the nucleus of the first three movies, it’s also a scene where the audience learns some defining traits about three of the franchises key players. We learn that Threepio is an uptight and worrisome droid that prefers to function within clearly defined rules, that Artoo seems to have a mind of his own and is incredibly determined, and that Leia is a shrewd and fearless rebel.
5. R2 shuts down the garbage mashers on the detention level.
Our heroes would have been pancakes were it not for R2’s quick thinking and expert hacking. While Threepio was having a galactic meltdown, Artoo was casually saving the lives of Han, Luke, and Leia like it was nothin' but a thang.
4. When the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive inevitably fails, R2 fixes it and they narrowly escape Vader.
Star Wars fans know some things are certain to happen. Han will always say or do something incredibly stupid, Leia will always be annoyed by said stupid thing Han says or does, and the hyperdrive on the Millenium Falcon will definitely be a problem. But just as we can depend on all of those things happening, we can also depend on Artoo to go about solving whatever problem has everyone else freaking out. This time he not only saved the crew from Vader, but he saved Lando from feeling the wrath of a very displeased Wookie.
3. R2 fixes the stabilizer, increasing the power on Luke’s X-Wing so he can continue the trench run and blow up the Death Star.
Sure Luke is The Chosen One, but without R2 he may have never pulled off at least half of his heroic accomplishments. The first time we see just how essential Artoo is to Luke the fighter pilot is during his attempt to blow up the Death Star. Vader is hot on Luke’s tail and TIE fighters are picking off the rebels one by one. Luke’s X-Wing takes a hit causing damage and loss of power. As he approaches the entrance to the target on the Death Star, it’s unsure if his fighter can even handle the remaining and fight off the Empire. But lo and behold, Artoo not only fixes his X-Wing, but he increases the power enabling Luke to deliver the one shot he has at victory.
2. R2 overrides the security systems to the docking bay door in Cloud City to help Leia, Lando and crew escape.
It’s an indisputable fact that Empire is the best movie in the Star Wars saga, and is widely hailed as one of the best movie sequels of all time. Empire is an emotional follow up to New Hope that not only contains the biggest reveal in cinematic history, but also does not end well for the good guys. In addition to Luke learning that his father basically just made him an amputee (nice parenting), and a frozen Han is en route to Jabba on Boba Fett’s ship, Leia and crew were almost goners at the hands of the Empire were it not for a certain little droid’s smooth maneuvering and quick hacking. Also had they not escaped, they would never had been able to save Luke as he barely hung on to a skimpy antenna beneath Cloud City.
1. R2 pulls off the ultimate assist above the Pit of Carkoon
There have been no shortage of amazing Artoo moments over the decades, but this one takes the cake. It’s not only one of the most entertaining Star Wars scenes in all of the movies - it has action, humor, and suspense - but it’s also a key defining moment for the little droid. Fans had already known Artoo as a spunky, fiercely loyal, and lovable troublemaker, but the events at the sarlacc pit truly emphasized how important he was to Luke. While Leia and Lando were enacting a plan to save Han, Artoo was the only one who knew that Luke had a plan of his own. He was Luke’s inside man, playing the essential role of an unassuming double agent to infiltrate Jabba’s base and get close enough to the gangster so that no matter what went down, he could assist Luke in rescuing his friends and ideally destroying Jabba. Artoo is a master of being in the right place at the right time, or maybe the wrong place at the right time, and by doing so enabling his friends to come out victorious. He had Luke’s lightsaber discreetly hidden on him the whole time, leaving the Jedi without his trusted weapon until they were reunited and the droid ejected it to him at the precise moment he needed it. He helped Leia break out of her chains after she slayed the hutt. And he hilariously pushed a frazzled Threepio off the deck of Jabba’s ship just in time to avoid getting blown to pieces.
Though designed to be a fighter pilot's trusted companion in the cockpit, R2-D2 has proved himself to be on equal footing with the Jedis every step of the way. It's no wonder many fans think the droid is force sensitive and even speculate that he's the true protagonist of the franchise.