The holidays are upon as, as are the memories of holidays past. Growing up during the height of Star Wars’ popularity in the early ’80s, I remember the feeling of restlessness as I tried to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, hoping to wake up to nothing but Star Wars toys under the tree. One Christmas, I was lucky enough to get an AT-AT and I’ll never forget the overwhelming joy as I tore the wrapping paper to reveal the massive Imperial Walker.
With that in mind, we’re taking a stroll down memory lane to countdown my Top 10 Vintage Star Wars Vehicles and Playsets as we approach both Christmas and the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We’re certain a new generation of fans will get to experience the same memories we wax on nostalgically this holiday so enjoy and feel free to share your favorite memories in the comments below. MTFBWY!
#10 – TIE Interceptor
Out of all the Imperial ships, Return of the Jedi’s TIE Interceptor has one of the coolest designs. Visually it comes across as an aggressive fighter that could take on an entire Rebel squadron. The TIE Interceptor’s cockpit fit a single pilot, it had electronic lights and sound, and featured blast off solar panels that ensured the Rebels would be victorious.
#9 – Land Speeder
If you were like me growing up, chances are you received a Land Speeder as a gift for your birthday or the holidays. It was the entry-level vehicle in the Star Wars line and I’ll never forget being the kid holding a tiny Land Speeder while Josh down the street had the giant AT-AT. Yes, it’s tiny but it packs a sentimental punch for me. The Land Speeder had a cool floating feature, that was really just wheels on springs, but it looked cool and it could transport Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids everywhere!
#8 – Imperial Shuttle
The Imperial Shuttle will always hold a special place in my heart. The Imperial March playing in Return Of The Jedi as the mysterious ship landed on the second Death Star and the even more mysterious Emperor deboarding to an army of Imperial troops is just chilling. I never had one as a kid, but I can’t imagine not having one in my collection today. The shuttle is a great display piece for the Emperor, flanked by Royal Guards, with the wings folded up with Darth Vader awaiting to greet his master.
#7 – Snowspeeder
The Empire Strikes Back introduced a bevy of new vehicles to the Star Wars line, with the Snowspeeder being among them. If you were like me growing up, you didn’t always get the big-box vehicles so the smaller ones like the Snowspeeder were a way you could get your Star Wars fix. Despite its somewhat diminutive size, I wouldn’t trade the memories of circling my Snowspeeder around the couch where my grandfather lay sleeping with an open-mouth, unknowingly becoming an AT-AT, as I repeated “cable detached!”
#6 – Scout Walker
Easily one of the most fun vehicles from Kenner’s line, the AT-St wasn’t too big or expensive and was versatile. You could drop it in any environment from a snowy backyard in the winter, to a sun-shaded tree canopy during the summer. The cockpit fit an AT-ST Driver that was ripe for the picking by Chewbacca and his Ewok buddies as your playtime battle came to a climax. Be warned; if you are a collector, it’s hard to stop at just one.
#5 – X-Wing Fighter
The X-Wing could give Kenner’s Millennium Falcon a run for its money as the number one all-time Star Wars vehicle. It was Luke’s go-to ship, it destroyed the first Death Star and when Kenner updated it for The Empire Strikes Back to include battle damage stickers it made it that much more realistic. I remember getting this for Christmas and still to this day, it ranks as one of the coolest gifts I ever received.
#4 – Ewok Village
Sure you may not love Ewoks, but you can’t deny this massive treehouse was among the best designed playsets of its time. I never had one as a kid, but it was on my Christmas wishlist and I’m sure I would have spent countless hours skewering Han on the barbecue pit, bringing Ewoks up and down the elevator, trapping our heroes with the net, and bowling over Imperial baddies with the boulder. A throne for C-3P0, the Ewok deity, is also included. It’s hard to believe this thing retailed for just $19.99! This is just one of the best playsets of the 1980’s. How good is it? Kenner reused it in their Robin Hood line in the ’90s.
#3 – Slave I
What I loved most about the Slave I was not the unique design, that it belonged to über cool Boba Fett or the significance of the ship in TESB. I loved that the Slave I came with a carbonite Han Solo accessory. The carbonite block was just a really cool item to have during play-time to re-enact the scenes from the escape scene in The Empire Strikes Back, as well as the scenes from Jabba’s palace in Return Of The Jedi. To this day, I still display the carbonite block by my Jabba the Hutt playset.
#2 – AT-AT
Would The Empire Strikes Back be as amazing during the Battle of Hoth without the AT-ATs stomping towards Echo Base? Would the toy line been as successful without that giant AT-AT sitting on the shelves at Toys R Us? I don’t know the answer, but I for one would not want to live in a word without a Kenner AT-AT. Is it a vehicle or a playset? Who cares? It is awesome and went toe-to-toe with the Falcon for my favorite Kenner Star Wars was toy. It was truly ahead of its time.
#1 – Millennium Falcon (1977)
When talking anything Star Wars, it’s difficult not to use words such as iconic or epic. However, when talking about the Millennium Falcon…this is by definition, the most epic Kenner Star Wars vehicle. The Falcon is right there on that very short list of iconic vehicles like the Batmobile. Needless to say, when the Falcon playset/vehicle was released, kids got their first introduction to holding and flying something massive through the yard.
Retractable landing gear, secret floors for smuggling or hiding, a cockpit taken right out the films that seats Han and Chewie, a holochess table for C-3PO and R2-D2, and even a rotating gunner station for Luke; the Falcon had it all. I am sure we have all heard the story of Lucas demanding the rights to the Star Wars toy line from the movie studio before the original film premiered and I can easily imagine how Lucas was already picturing this playset in his head while he counted the dollars.
Is the Falcon the safe bet or the easy choice for #1? Of course, but the reasons why it is can not be ignored. Hands down the best of both worlds for a toy; playset and vehicle all wrapped up in one.
We’d like to give a special acknowledgement to Kim Simmons, the Kenner photographer who created many of the images for the Star Wars action figure and toy packaging. Prints of Mr. Simmons’ original photographs are available for purchase at his website, TheManWhoShotLukeSkywalker.com