The Star Wars universe is home to thousands of interesting looking races and species and distinctive humanoids. Through the six films, to say nothing of the main characters or speaking roles, fans have wanted to know more and more about these strange and unique characters that populate the frame, which has only been fueled by ancillary information and stories about them. We now basically know the names of all of them, thanks to toys and books and the like.
With The Force Awakens, we’ve already started to see figures for the next batch of fascinating maybe-important background characters, and to celebrate another chance to make up elaborate and convoluted backstories for each of them, let’s take a look back at eight of our favorite characters from the first two trilogies who are barely on screen but seared into our souls.
Here they are, in Episode I-VI order.
Aurra Sing – The Phantom Menace
Like most of the super minor characters in the Star Wars universe, the chances were good Aurra Sing, who appears only briefly as a spectator during the podrace scene, would be either a Jedi or a bounty hunter. In this case, it was the latter, and apparently she was one of the most feared in the galaxy, because nobody can be just-okay. They did expand her character exceedingly in The Clone Wars cartoon and it was she who took young Boba Fett under her wing.
Yarael Poof – All of the Prequels
The members of the Jedi council are noble and wise, and for the most part stoic, since usually only Yoda, Mace Windu, or Ki-Adi-Mundi speak. I could have chosen any of the other Jedi on the council, but I picked the one that always fascinated me. With his long neck and gawky appendages, it seemed strange to me that a Jedi such as this would have been an effective warrior. Also, his name’s “Poof.” Maybe he disappears in a cloud of smoke.
Aayla Secura – Attack of the Clones/Revenge of the Sith
A Jedi who never speaks? What are you, the most common thing? Well, despite not getting a whole lot of screen time in the films (more in Clone Wars, and lines and everything), Aayla Secura gets a great deal of importance heaped upon her because of how successful she was during the arena battle in Clones and how unceremoniously she’s murdered once Order 66 is launched in Revenge of the Sith. Sad, but she made an impression.
Momaw Nadon – A New Hope
One of the several dozen alien characters seen in the Mos Eisley Cantina, Momaw Nadon (or ‘Hammerhead’ as he was called in the early toy range) just sits there having a drink, but as one of the most distinctive looking images in the whole sequence, he’s intensely memorable. In the expanded universe, it’s explained that he was exiled from his planet, the peaceful and ecologically serene world of Ithor, for giving the secret of their greenhouse vegetation to the Empire. He only saved the whole planet in the process, but NOOOOO, his people ain’t hearing that. You drink up, Momaw. You earned it.
Labria – A New Hope
THE DEVIL, YOU GUYS. THIS GUY IS THE DEVIL. That’s what I always said when I was a kid. “Why is Old Scratch eating at the Cantina?” I’d say. I mean, I guess there’s also a werewolf there, so a devil isn’t all that weird, considering. Devaronian, the species is called. He only had that one shot in the movie, with all those nasty teethed bared in the most sinister of manners, but I read in my various books that this guy was apparently a war criminal with the highest bounty ever bestowed by the Rebel Alliance. Boba Fett ultimately collected the bounty, because of course he did. Not smiling now, are you, the Devil?
Major Bren Derlin – The Empire Strikes Back
Now, you’re probably thinking, why would just some guy in the Echo base of Hoth get to join this list? He only says one thing. He’s only glimpsed one time. Well, friends, he’s on the list because he’s portrayed by future Cheers star and habitual voice in Pixar movies, John Ratzenberger. I can imagine this guy going to sit down at the base cantina after a hard day of being in the snow and extolling the virtues of various brands of snowspeeders, or making snide comments about General Rieeken to the Rebel Alliance’s equivalent of Norm. I don’t know who that would be.
Ree-Yees – Return of the Jedi
Ree-Yees is one of the billion people seen in Jabba’s palace. Ree-Yees is a Gran who apparently was wanted for murder on his home planet and later agreed to assassinate Jabba for the Empire. He failed, of course. But none of that now-non-canonical backstory is why he’s memorable. People remember Ree-Yees because he has three eyes. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s only named Ree-Yees because it’s a derivation and misspelling of the phrase “Three Eyes.” Knowing how names are decided upon by Lucasfilm, such as the pack animal in the special editions being called a “Ronto” because it looks like a Brontosaurus, there’s no doubt in my mind that’s how the name came about. Also, dude is creepy looking.
Saelt-Marae – Return of the Jedi
This guy has a weird name, but in most toys, like Hammerhead, he was known simply as “Yak Face.” That isn’t nice, really; I certainly wouldn’t want to be called yak face, or anything having to do with a yak for that matter. And, really, he doesn’t look that much like a yak if we’re being truly zoologically sound. This character is apparently a confidence trickster of the highest order. I had a toy of him. I didn’t do much with him besides make him stand around Jabba the Hutt, which is kind of all he did in the movie before being ‘sploded in the sail barge incident. He conned me out of 10 credits, I say, so good riddance.
And that, good friends, is a list of eight background characters from the Star Wars movies. Which ones are your favorites? What was the most obscure one you had an action figure of (Yak Face for sure for me)? Let us know in the comments below!
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!