'Star Wars' turns 40 on May 25
Lucasfilm Ltd. (11), Charles Morgan Smith—Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Kenneth Bachor for TIME

No science fiction franchise has been more influential than Star Wars. (Sorry, Star Trek fans!) Over the last 40 years, the space opera saga created by George Lucas has delivered 1,062 minutes of lightsaber duels, intergalactic dogfights and dynastic drama. Even non-fans are likely to immediately recognize iconic imagery like Darth Vader’s helmet, the Millennium Falcon, or Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Which begs the question: of the hundreds, maybe thousands, to choose from which Star Wars moments are the best?

The series, now owned by Disney, turns 40 on May 25. So TIME’s entertainment team and sundry Star Wars super fans on staff ranked the top 40 scenes. We included only moments from the original trilogy, the prequels, The Force Awakens and Rogue One. (The 1978 Holiday Special not so much.) This list was debated at length. What did we miss?

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com, Alex Fitzpatrick at alex.fitzpatrick@time.com and Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@timeinc.com.

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