Star Wars has always been more on the softer side space fantasy sci-fi and, as such, the mechanical characters of the franchise have gotten a bit more license for personality than other androids or robots in other franchises. Droids in Star Wars have emotional responses and attachments, and flawed motivations just like their human counterparts.
While some droids may seem to bumble through Star Wars, many are actually a lot more interesting and useful than you realized! In fact droids are some of the most versatile and interesting characters that we meet in the movies and Expanded Universe. They come in all shapes, sizes and functions and are part of any noteworthy faction.
But which are the coolest and most useful? Which are the ones that the organic characters rely on the most and who garner the most esteem and respect? For this list, there’s bound to be at least one droid you are looking for because we’re counting down The 16 Most Useful Droids in Star Wars!
Protocol droids get a pretty raw deal in Star Wars. They are like the working laymen; without them the galaxy would grind to a halt but they usually get nothing more than cursory acknowledgement and plenty of abuse.
The same holds true for C-3PO. As shown in the prequels, Anakin originally built C-3PO to be a domestic servant for his mother. That was all he was ever meant for. Then, by the events of Attack Of The Clones, 3PO was getting dragged into heroic adventures. Well, for him, they were more like misadventures. In the droid factory on Geonosis, his head and his body got swapped with a battle droid.
C-3PO never fared much better or helped that much more in any of the other adventures. He had to be reminded by R2 to try to reach Luke on the commlink while Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie were getting crushed in the trash compactor, and it was only by total coincidence that 3PO got the Ewoks to help out in Return Of The Jedi, with some helpful suggestions from Luke at that.
15. LIGHTSABER TRAINING DROIDS
In the Expanded Universe, the Jedi and the Sith both employ several different types of droids to enhance the lightsaber training of their pupils. But perhaps the most basic yet most useful droid in the Force training arsenal was the hovering training droids used to practice blaster deflection.
Every Jedi youngling formally trained to use a lightsaber practiced with one of these. The droid would hover before the pupil and project weak blaster shots that the saber wielder would attempt to deflect. The training would usually employ the use of a blast shield over the head of the student to enhance their interaction with the Force. With the Force flowing through them, the Jedi’s lightsaber defense would be as instinctual and natural as possible.
14. MEDICAL DROIDS
It can get pretty gruesome for fighting men and women in the galaxy far, far away. With everything from blasters to lightsabers to blistering cold and scorching heat plaguing our flesh-and-blood characters, somebody has to do the less than glamorous work of patching them up. In addition to being able to perform numerous medical procedures with repeated precision, the droids could hold much more practical information about many different species at once.
The Skywalkers in particular grew familiar with the 2-1B series of medical droids throughout both the main Star Wars trilogies. A whole team of them worked on Anakin’s mutilated body when the Emperor recovered him from Mustafar. They were the ones who saved his life by installing him in the famous black suit. The Med droids also nursed Luke back to health in the bacta tank on Hoth, and another Med droid gave Luke his robotic hand after his devastating duel with Vader on Cloud City.
The Trade Federation built themselves a formidable private army of mechanized soldiers. Unlike the rank and file bipedal battle droids, the Droidekas were much more formidable.
If they look like bugs to you, that might be because they were designed and manufactured by a species of sentient insects called the Colicoids. Their Droidekas, tripod mounted small arms units, could switch between their mobile and deployed modes to rapidly terminate targets. While curled up, the Droidekas could roll up to 75 kilometers an hour. While deployed they could safely engage hostiles from within their personal shield generators. Even Qui-gon Jinn and Obi-wan Kenobi could not overcome a pair of Droidekas due to this combination of offensive and defensive features.
Throughout the Naboo Crisis and the Clone Wars, the Droidekas were a prized unit. The only things shown to have enough firepower to easily take out a Droideka were aircraft such as the Naboo Starfighter or the Republic Gunships.
12. HAILFIRE DROIDS
You’ve got to hand it to the Confederacy, they had some cool droids. One particularly fearsome model they deployed during the Clone Wars was the IG 227 Hailfire Droid. The Hailfire droid was a smart homing missile platform mounted on two gigantic wheels each 8.5 meters in diameter. They were specifically designed to bombard and eliminate armored targets.
Rolling quickly into battle, the Hailfire droid carried two racks of missile launchers each with fifteen missiles. Each missile was fast and powerful enough to take out a Republic gunship or AT-TE tank in one hit. Although one has to wonder what the droid would do once it ran out of missiles. It was also equipped with dual laser cannons for dealing with “soft targets,” but they were ordinary weapons compared to the volley of homing missiles. Their design was partially inspired by a real-world experimental Russian tank called the Tzar Tank, which used a tricycle system for locomotion.
11. POWER DROIDS
Power droids are a part of the originality of Star Wars, at least when the first trilogy came out. Most science fiction set in space up until that time was futuristic and squeaky clean. But in Star Wars, most of the intergalactic denizens lead mundane lives filled with frustrations and boredom, relying on whatever temperamental technology they have available to make a living for themselves.
Power Droids were a cornerstone of life for characters like the Jawas or the Lars family on Tattooine. Even though they were very slow, they were still a mobile source of power for small installations. They could be moved from one spot to another as needed on their own modest bipedal legs. These droids are also further proof that things get named based on the noises they make. Some of the variants of power droids, the GNK power droid, made sounds like a “GONK!” So of course, if you say “gonk droids” even average Star Wars fans may know what you are talking about.
10. VULTURE DROIDS
Adaptability was a main design goal for many droids in the waning days of the Republic, including for the Variable Geometry Self-Propelled Battle Droid, aka the Vulture droid. The Vulture droids were intelligent battle droids that could trot around the ground on four appendages or levitate themselves off into flight with a seamless transition. This allowed them to be effective front line combatants on the ground, in the air and in space.
The fact that each droid required no cockpit or life support system made them a much more efficient Starfighter force than any sentient squadron. A single droid control ship from the Trade Federation could carry as many as 1500 Vulture Droids, all coordinated and directed in their attacks and maneuvers. The Trade Federation and the Confederacy utilized and advanced the Vulture droids all throughout the Clone Wars, upgrading their intelligence and their armaments. Eventually they were even capable of talking and coordinating attacks among small groups of themselves as seen during the battle over Coruscant.
9. PROBE DROIDS
Surveillance was critical to the Empire’s mission to maintain order and peace in the galaxy. But if you’re hunting down an insurgent enemy like the Rebel Alliance, your big dumb pizza slice Star Destroyers and special snowflake Stormtroopers really stand out in a crowd. They’re not the best at avoiding attention or uncovering enemies in hiding.
That’s why Darth Vader relied on probe droids in his search for Luke Skywalker after the Battle of Yavin. Probe droids can survey an entire planet on their own without having to send whole fleets to manually search them. They are also equipped to scan for hidden life forms or technologies in their vicinities.
The probe droids were directly responsible for leading the Empire to the Rebel Base on Hoth. Vader personally reviewed the findings from the probe and determined it as the location. Because of the reconnaissance on Hoth, Vader was eventually able to carry out his plan to trap and confront Luke.
8. 0-0-0 AND BT-1
After the Battle of Yavin, Darth Vader helped Doctor Aphra recover an experimental and dangerous Triple Zero personality matrix. Once Dr. Aphra installed the matrix in a silver protocol droid, 0-0-0 was able to reactivate a dormant BT-1 assassin droid and the pair of droids became servants of Darth Vader. Though they appeared to be mere astromech and protocol droids, 0-0-0 and BT-1 were a devious and lethal team. Zero was one of the only known protocol droids at the time that was programmed to administer torture to organics, a function which it fulfilled happily in search of information that Vader sought. BT-1, meanwhile, had about as much munitions and weapons packed into its chassis as physically possible, and was able to scorch entire rooms of other droids and organics.
This cantankerous old astromech droid was in active service for many years before the events of Star Wars Rebels. C1-10P, as per his official designation, served in the Republic Navy as an astromech aboard a Republic Y-Wing during the Ryloth campaign. When his ship was shot down, that might have been the end of him. But the future rebel captain Hera Syndulla found him, repaired him and gave him the nickname Chopper.
Hera may be best at piloting the Ghost VCX light freighter but Chopper knows the ship’s systems and computer inside and out. He maintained the ship that served as the Lothal cell’s headquarters all by himself. Throughout the Ghost crews’ harrying adventures against the Empire, Chopper would provide disgruntled assistance and pretty vindictive methods for dealing with enemies for an astromech. However when the situation was dire, Chopper would come to his friends’ rescue, such as in the Lothal Imperial factory.
SPOILERS FOR ROGUE ONE!
Perhaps the Empire never really considered the full applications of these kinds of KX security droids. When Captain Cassian Andor with the Rebel Alliance reprogrammed K-2SO he obviously had a much bigger imagination for what droids are capable of.
K-2SO was primarily designed to offer strategic analysis. Cassian obviously decided that a deadpan wit would go just great with K2’s programming. Or he just grew to tolerate it.
During the adventures of the dissidents that would become known as the rebel cell Rogue One, K2 proved to be capable of much more than just delivering wry one-liners. His analytical precision helped him save Jyn and Cassian’s lives in the battles on Jedha and Scarif. He was able to pilot both Alliance and Imperial craft on multiple covert missions. In the end he was able to single-handedly hold off a charging garrison from the data core long enough for Jyn and Cassian to extract the Death Star plans.
At first glance, the BB unit droids don’t seem to offer much utility. After all, they look merely like a rolling metal ball with an optical module magnetically tracked to it. But thanks to The Force Awakens and the ingenuity of BB-8, these spherical little buddies have already reached a level of popularity and gadgetry previously reserved for Astromech droids.
BB-8 somehow managed to cross the perilous sands of Jakku without sinking or breaking before being picked up by Rey. He’s got an arch welder, a welding torch and plenty of other gadgets hidden in his chassis, including spring loaded grapple hooks that let him avoid getting tossed around like laundry while Rey piloted the Millennium Falcon. BB-8 also possessed the requisite holo-projector to fully display the coveted map to Luke Skywalker to the leaders of the Resistance. He was also programmed to serve as the onboard flight droid for Poe Dameron’s personalized X-wing.
The assassin droid that would eventually become known as IG-88 was one of several droids produced by Holowan Laboratories during Project Phlutdroid. IG-88’s full designation was IG-88B, since it was the second unit to receive full sentience programming. But to the wider galaxy, there was only one IG-88. It was armed with multiple types of grenades, blasters and specialized weapons for neutralizing a variety of targets. Perhaps thanks to its manufactured origins, it showed a modicum of concern for the wellbeing of other droids, including R2-D2, whom it once abducted to help escape capture by its mark.
For several years during the Rebellion era, IG-88 became one of the most famous and successful bounty hunters in the galaxy. Many considered him second only to Boba Fett. When Vader hand-picked a number of bounty hunters to track down the Millennium Falcon in Empire Strikes Back, IG-88 was the only droid present in the room.
Sometimes in Star Wars, the droids cross to the opposite side of the uncanny valley. In 7 BBY, Imperial researchers produced a female human replica droid specifically for Prince Xizor, the head of the Black Sun Crime Syndicate. It cost Xizor a pretty credit, but he got a unique, beautiful and deadly lieutenant in the so called Guri. Guri was constructed with sufficiently believable organic aesthetics to fool any naked eye and most scanning systems. But her body hid all manner of advanced sensors, stealth systems and artificial intelligence.
Guri was perhaps the only being in the galaxy that Xizor trusted completely. He dispatched her on numerous missions vital to Black Sun’s interests that frequently called for infiltration, seduction and assassination. She was such a convincing and capable partner that many came under the impression that Guri was the head of Black Sun At one point, Xizor even deployed Guri in an attempted abduction and assassination of Luke Skywalker.
There was never a more entertaining personal killing machine built in the whole Star Wars franchise than HK-47. After the wanton devastation at the battle of Malachor V and the end of the Mandalorian Wars, the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Revan wanted to focus on more selective methods of dealing with enemies that he felt were a threat to the galaxy.
Going off of Czerka Corp’s designs for assassin droids, Revan built and programmed HK-47. Though the droid turned out to be startlingly misanthropic and arrogant, HK-47 would obey his master’s commands to kill only his designated target. His advanced assassination techniques and robust chassis served Revan well, both while a Dark Lord of the Sith and as an amnesiac agent of the Jedi Council. Throughout the various Expanded Universe games and novels, HK-47 has survived to kill meatbags and droids for thousands of years with ruthless efficiency.
Where would any of our heroes be without R2-D2? Dead, multiple times over, no doubt. Who repaired the shields on the Queen’s cruiser to break through the Naboo blockade? R2. Who detached a cauldron about to be filled with lava so that Padme wouldn’t be melted? R2. Who survived a crash landing on Tattooine and getting abducted by Jawas to deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebellion? R2. Who finally repaired the Hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon and let the rebels escape? R2. Who catapulted Luke’s lightsaber to him as he was pushed to the edge of the sarlacc pit? R2!
This droid could finagle any mechanism he encounters, often getting into nooks and crannies he’s not supposed to. He was also equipped with grapple arms and jet propulsion. In Revenge of the Sith, R2-D2 even used his jets in conjunction with an oil slick to melt two super battle droids that had captured him. No other droid in Star Wars is more iconic, more heroic or more useful.
Were there any of your favorite droids that didn’t make the cut? Push them on us in the comments!