If there is one certainty in Star Wars, it is the existence of characters with helmets. Mandalorians, Bounty Hunters, and Darth Vader have all occupied this weird space of characters that we love but have never, or rarely, seen their faces. It is the combination of a great design with a commander voice that elevates some of the classic Star Wars helmet heads like Vader and Boba Fett (though we will be seeing more of Fett’s face in the future). But Stormtroopers have a special and solely unique place in Star Wars. They have appeared in different forms through most of the Star Wars timeline in some form, although none seem to be present in The High Republic yet. They are easy targets and victims which is why their faces are rarely shown (to spare our feelings though The Clone Wars does a great job at making you feel the loss of each trooper). They are constantly being reinvented with different designs and, most importantly, they are extremely popular. The High Republic excluded, every recent Star Wars project during the Disney era has introduced a new type of trooper to canon. But not all troopers are created equally: some end up being afterthoughts whose peak was during the marketing campaign and not in the actual film (First Order Executioner and Sith Troopers…I see you). However, many troopers have transcended their films, games, and TV series and rented space in our hearts. I’ve looked back at some of the most popular troopers and put together my top five Most Valuable Stormtroopers in Star Wars canon based on the impact they’ve made in pop culture, whether in a short amount of time or over decades.
5. The Doom Patrol: Purge Trooper
I’ve written about these guys before but the success of Jedi: Fallen Order has elevated Purge Troopers in a way rarely seen with gaming. The designs borrow from the Clone Paratrooper in the Battle of Utapau from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith so the look is familiar to hardcore Star Wars fans but new enough to not fall to “trooper with a new paint application” criticism. Unlike other troopers, they were designed for gameplay first so the accessories/weapons are also a part of their popularity. These secondary antagonists were put front and center during the marketing campaign, which you can read more about in my post Jedi: Fallen Order Campaign. The trooper used in most of the marketing is the Purge Trooper with Electrostaff, which serves as a block and counter against lightsabers in-game. They were also the character used most on merchandising licenses. Cal Kestis’s lightsaber recently won the fan vote of which legacy lightsaber they want to see for purchase at Galaxy’s Edge, beating out some heavyweights like Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jin, and Ezra Bridger so the world and characters of Fallen Order are still popular more than a year later. Per Electronic Art’s Q4 Report in 2020, Fallen Order has amassed 10M+ players. With the average game length being 14-18 hours (if you are playing through the story), that’s up to 180M possible hours spent battling these troopers and other foes within the game. The Purge Troopers are a rarity in-game debut trooper but, given the standing popularity and a sequel game coming, I imagine we will see them in some form, animated or live-action in the future.
4. The Loyal Soldiers: 501st / 332nd Trooper
The 501st has always been a popular Clone unit just for their proximity to Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith and the march to the Jedi temple scene in the third act. But it wasn’t until The Clone Wars TV series that people really started to appreciate the battalion, under the leadership of Commander Rex. They were the best of the best and we follow several clone troopers throughout their time during the war. Besides Rex, we meet a group of clone cadets early on dubbed The Domino Squad ( Hevy, Cutup, Droidbait, Fives, and Echo) who get stationed on an outpost close to Kamino. During a small battle defending the outpost, the survivors, Fives and Echo, are promoted to 501st. Several arcs revolved around them and their General, Anakin Skywalker, and many members (especially Rex) became series favorites. One could argue that Rex, with Ahsoka, was a lead character in the series. When The Clone Wars was announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2018 to be returning for the seventh and final season, a painted 501st helmet with Ahsoka’s colors was front and center on the promotional poster. The hashtag #CloneWarsSaved trended immediately on Twitter and the announcement was one of the highlights of the convention in the absence of a Marvel Studios panel.
After the final seasons aired, during which these 332nd troopers were part of the most emotional scenes of the final arc revolving around Ahsoka and Rex, more merchandise was released featuring both troopers. The 332nd was a part of the Walmart wave of Clone Wars figures released (along with Ahsoka, Mandalorian Loyalist, and Mandalorian Commando) that was one of the most sought-after waves in Black Series existence. The 332nd Trooper is still the most elusive figure from that wave and demands a hefty second market price. Hasbro also released a Hasbro PulseCon Exclusive 501st three-pack featuring Fives, Echo, and Jesse, all of whom were never released before even though all had been in The Clone Wars for most seasons. There are also rumors that Captain Rex could make an official live-action appearance at some point with Tameur Morrison returning as Boba Fett or continue in an animated adventure sometime between The Clone Wars and Rebels with the voice of Bradley Dee Baker. Either way, the popularity of this clone trooper shows no signs of slowing down.
3. The Lone Ranger: First Order Riot Trooper
This is really about one, specific Riot Trooper. One of the most competent troopers outside of The Clone Wars was a First Order Riot Trooper that appeared in The Force Awakens in a battle with Finn. It was one scene and one line “Traitor!” that became one of the most viral GIFs that year, the Internet dubbing him TR-8R (something that hasn’t happened since the arrival of the Internet’s name for Grogu, Baby Yoda).
The roughly 35-second scene became such a social media phenomenon that Lucasfilm assigned the Riot trooper a name (more a designation) officially in January 2016, T-2199 and he has a page in the Star Wars databanks. It was a slight retcon because the character appeared briefly in the anthology novel Before the Awakening as a fellow squad member of Finn. This is pure speculation but I doubt this character was ever intended to be given that name but, given the sudden popularity of “the trooper who cried traitor,” Lucasfilm created a backstory for him. A Riot Trooper was even added to a black series double pack with Poe Dameron (Finn had already released) and then re-released separately in 2019. And they both were sold as a Hot Toys set with promotional materials recreating that now Star Wars moment from the film. If Disney only knew how popular the T-2199 “Traitor” trooper would be, he might have lived to fight another day. As such, he is still iconized in pop culture history and is a part of one of the most memorable scenes from the Sequel trilogy.
2. The Comic Relief: Imperial Scout Trooper
When an Imperial Scout Trooper is around, great action and comedy are sure to be found. This trooper first appeared in Return of the Jedi in a great action sequence with Luke and Leia on speeder bikes. The design of the helmet and armor is perhaps the most unique design of all the troopers, most noticeably the helmet which includes a visor with macro binocular scopes. The body armor is made for movement and tactical missions. The addition of the speeder bike makes this trooper a popular figure on the retail shelf and has seen many releases with Hasbro (the Shadow Squadron and original Scout Trooper with Speeder Bike black series are particularly expensive if you are just now deciding you want to own them).
The Scout Trooper has also been revived in Jedi: Fallen Order and The Mandalorian, in both seasons. In Fallen Order, they appear without a speeder bike but with an electrostaff and fighting alongside the original Stormtrooper and Purge Trooper. In The Mandalorian, the Scout Troopers also get the most speaking time than any Imperial trooper due to some quirky writing from Favreau and great voice work from comedians Jason Sudekis and Adam Pally in Chapter 8: Redemption, giving some likeability to two Scout Troopers who just murdered a loved season one character and kidnapped Grogu. Still, the Internet loved (really loved to hate) the two doomed troopers. Since one punched Grugu, their fate was sealed but the attention they got the week of the season one finale release was probably worth it to Lucasfilm.
The Scout Trooper was even brought back for another thrilling action sequence in Chapter 12: The Siege where a group of them pursue Grief Karga, Cara Dune, and Mythrol through a canon by speeding off of a cliff on their bikes. Those Scout Troopers were also doomed but, if The Mandalorian wants to keep giving at least one memorable scene to Scout Troopers every season, that should make everyone happy.
1. The Original: Imperial Stormtrooper
Number one on this list really couldn’t have been anything other than the original, classic Stormtrooper (and I am including the Sandtrooper in this description as well). The Stormtrooper might be, over Darth Vader, the most iconic villain design in Star Wars and maybe even pop culture. Even if you have never watched a Star Wars film, TV show, or any other piece of content, you know what the Stormtrooper is from. There are few types of products that the Stormtrooper’s helmet has not graced and the popularity of the Imperial Stormtrooper and Sandtrooper spawned many more and they have become the one sure thing for action figure sales due to the concept of arming building with collectors.
The Stormtrooper is also the most common cosplay from Star Wars and is guaranteed to be seen at any Comic-Con or Celebration event. There is a group, the 501st legion (the name is NOT from the 501st Clone Troopers) that specializes in screen accurate costumes that were even called on to save the day during the filming of The Mandalorian season one when the production team found themselves short of Stormtroopers for a key scene.
And so, even though the films of the Sequel Trilogy and the First Order Troopers, fans still got their original Stormtrooper fix with Rebels and now The Mandalorian, both taking place during a post-Original Trilogy. Given that Star Wars storytelling jumps from different periods, there will always be some form of OT Stormtrooper on screen for us to watch easily get defeated by a Jedi, Bounty Hunter, or Rebel.
*Note: I have excluded TIE Pilots from this list because there is debate on whether TIE Pilots are even considered Stormtroopers (they seem to outrank them) but, if they were on this list, they would be #2 (though #1 in my heart).