Luke Skywalker has done some amazing things, not the least of which being blowing up the Death Star. He also used the Force to lift a downed X-Wing fighter from a swamp, helped to bring down Jabba the Hutt, and managed to spend time around the Ewoks without slaughtering them all with his lightsaber. For a guy who has experienced lots of success, Luke has also endured more than his fair share of hardships. In fact, you might be a little surprised by just how much bad stuff has happened to him. We’re going to tell you all about it with this list of the worst things to ever befall this beloved character.
Many of these awful occurences take place over the course of the original trilogy, but we aren’t stopping there. Plenty of Star Wars novels exist — some canon, others not — and we’ve mined them for calamities as well. What’s amazing when you look at all these terrible events together is that, through it all, Luke maintained his core qualities of decency and optimism. It would be perfectly understandable if he’d become bitter and cynical, but he didn’t. His fundamental ability to persevere is doubtlessly a major part of his appeal. We think taking a look at the tragic events he’s endured will give you a deeper appreciation for the guy who went from Tatooine moisture farmer to one of the finest Jedi Knights ever.
These are the 15 Worst Things That Ever Happened To Luke Skywalker.
15. His aunt and uncle were killed by Stormtroopers
In any movie, there is some event that springs the hero into action, and that’s certainly true for Luke Skywalker. When we first meet him in the original Star Wars, he is an orphan living on Tatooine with his uncle Owen and his aunt Beru. They are moisture farmers, living a quiet, dutiful life that revolves around work. Then he comes into possession of R2-D2, sees Princess Leia’s message asking for help, and shows it to the mysterious Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Stormtroopers later come looking for the droid and his pal C-3PO, destroying the farm and killing Luke’s relatives in the process.
Luke has already experienced loss in his life, having grown up without his parents. (We all know his father isn’t really dead, but we’ll get to that later.) Losing Owen and Beru is like becoming an orphan all over again. While they get limited screen time in the film, it’s clear that they have become surrogate parents to Luke. With their deaths, he truly is a very young man alone in the world. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll soon have an all-new family of cohorts, one of whom will eventually be revealed as his sister. Still, that doesn’t take the sting out of the unexpected, violent loss of the aunt and uncle he loved.
14. Captured by a wampa/his stay inside a dead tauntaun
The Empire Strikes Back takes place a few years after A New Hope. The Rebels have set up their base on the icy planet of Hoth. Meanwhile, Vader and his minions search for them. Early in the film, Luke gets ambushed by a wampa, a predatory snow monster not unlike a yeti. Back in the wampa’s cave, he is hung upside down, presumably to be eaten later. Thanks to his Force skills, Luke is able to pull his lightsaber to him and unhook himself.
This unfortunate occurrence leads to another, grosser one. After getting out of the cave, he collapses from the cold and the strain of what he’s just been through. Han Solo finds him and, to keep him from freezing to death, places Luke inside the carcass of a recently deceased tauntaun.
According to some accounts, including one from Leia actress Carrie Fisher, the whole sequence was created to explain actor Mark Hamill’s slightly different appearance. (Between shooting A New Hope and Empire, the actor had been in a car accident and needed some reconstructive surgery on his face.) The wampa attack helped account for Luke looking a bit different.
13. Banished from the Jedi order
Fate of the Jedi: Outcast is a best-selling Star Wars novel from author Aaron Allston. Released in 2009, it is the first in a trilogy. Following a devastating civil war, politicians and other people of power attend a summit on Coruscant to brainstorm ways of repairing the damage done by Darth Caedus, the former Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance. The Jedi are being held responsible for not taking sufficient steps to prevent Caedus’ reign, which caused considerable destruction and death. As part of this, Luke is arrested for dereliction of duty.
Understandably not wanting to be incarcerated, he strikes a bargain. He will be set free, provided he exiles himself from the Jedi Order. This agreement means that he is no longer allowed to be part of any official Jedi business (not that he listens, although you’ll have to read the book for more on that). We all know how important being a Jedi is to Luke, as well as the struggles he faced in order to become one. Sacrificing all of that for his freedom is a momentous decision for the character, and significant repercussions accompany it.
12. His buddy Biggs died
Biggs Darklighter is a character played by Garrick Hagon in the original Star Wars film. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time after George Lucas left much of his work on the cutting room floor (some of which pops up in the 1997 Special Edition version). Nonetheless, Biggs makes an impression. For the uninformed, the gist of the character is that he also grew up on Tatooine, and he was a childhood chum of Luke’s. The two old friends are reunited for the Battle of Yavin, the mission designed to bring down the Death Star.
Luke and Biggs both fly X-Wing fighters, showing great skill at outmaneuvering the enemy TIE fighters. Together with Wedge Antilles, they approach the all-important reactor shaft, only to be attacked by Darth Vader, who is in his own spacecraft. Vader fires at them, shooting down Biggs and killing him. A joyous reunion with a lifelong friend that should have ended in triumph is instead cut short by tragedy. Incidentally, Biggs is the subject of a short documentary called Blast It Biggs, Where Are You? that attempts to fill in the gaps surrounding the character’s history.
11. He was almost squished in a trash compactor
There are lots of ways to die, or potentially die, in a Star Wars story, but getting crushed to death has to be one of the worst. After putting on Stormtrooper outfits and rescuing Princess Leia, Luke and Han Solo — together with their “prisoner” Chewbacca — get in a blaster battle with Vader’s minions. Trapped and needing to make a hasty exit, they jump through a hatch, not realizing that it leads to the Death Star’s trash compactor. Some sort of creature is in there with them, which becomes apparent when Luke gets pulled down into the muck.
Then, of course, things get much, much worse. The walls of the compactor begin to close in. The gang, realizing that they’re about to be flattened into deli meat, tries to brace the walls in an effort to keep them from meeting. While they do indeed survive thanks to the timely efforts of R2-D2, the event is awful because, for a few intense moments, Luke certainly realizes that their mission may be unsuccessful. Everything they’ve accomplished thus far might be rendered moot. That’s a sobering thought when you have the fate of the galaxy in your hands.
10. Witnessed the death of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi
Following the death of his aunt and uncle, Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes a valued surrogate family member to Luke, in addition to a trusted mentor. The elder Jedi helps him begin the process of becoming a Jedi himself. Together, they plan to follow up on Leia’s call for help, while also bringing down the individuals responsible for the slaughter of Owen and Beru on Tatooine. In every way, Obi-Wan is a vital person in Luke’s life, helping to shape its course.
After the Millenium Falcon is sucked into the Death Star with Luke and his cohorts aboard, Obi-Wan goes to turn off the tractor beam so that they can escape. Shortly thereafter, he is confronted by Darth Vader, his former padawan. The two engage in a lightsaber duel, during which Obi-Wan essentially sacrifices himself so that Luke and the others can get safely back to the Falcon and complete the mission. Luke watches his mentor fall, realizing in that second that he has not only lost a cherished friend, but also the one person in his life who always knows what to do in a dangerous situation. Once again, he’s on his own (or so he thinks).
9. When Abeloth used the form of Callista
Callista Masana (also known as Callista Ming) is a Jedi Knight introduced in the 1995 novel Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly. Her story arc carries over into several successive novels. Prior to the events of this one, Callista had tried to sabotage a fully automated Imperial ship. She succeeded in that mission, but something went wrong in the process, causing her spirit to depart her body and take up residence in the ship’s computer. Years later, when Luke comes aboard that ship, he establishes communication with her and they develop a close bond.
Cut to some time later. Abeloth, a figure from the Dark Side, assumes her identity and reaches out to Luke. He cruelly exploits Luke’s feelings for Callista in order to make him come running. Our Jedi hero does indeed answer the call, only to quickly realize that this is not his former friend at all, but rather an impostor with an evil agenda. The two meet again several more times. During one of these encounters, Callista is able to emerge enough to ask Luke for help. He pulls her spirit from its captor, destroying Abeloth and allowing Callista to merge with the Light Side of the Force. Unfortunately for our hero, Luke never really gets to know her in person.
8. His wife was killed by his nephew
In the hyper-popular Legacy of the Force book series, Luke and his wife Mara Jade experience some serious family conflict issues. Their nephew Jacen Solo (son of Han and Leia) begins embracing radical, potentially troubling uses of the Force. By all appearances, the Dark Side is calling him. That’s concerning enough, but he’s also the one training their son Ben, which makes matters worse.
Things come to a head in the Sacrifice installment. Mara confronts Jacen about trying to flip Ben to the Dark Side, and he murders her in response. He then goes full evil, taking the Sith name of Darth Caedus. The temptation to kill Jacen in return is strong, but Luke fears that either he or Ben will succumb to the pull of the Dark Side if they act out of vengeance. That means letting his wife’s killer go. For what it’s worth, Jacen is later slayed by his twin sister Jaina, so justice is served in the end.
7. His big screen nephew turned evil and killed his best friend
Man, Luke Skywalker sure did have trouble with his nephews, didn’t he? His cinematic nephew is Kylo Ren, the son of Leia and Han Solo. The villain of The Force Awakens, Kylo is a ruthless and terrifying figure who has fully embraced the Dark Side. He is additionally an influential member of the dreaded First Order, the group that sprang from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. His parents are none too happy about his decision to travel down the path of darkness, especially since they had fought so hard to bring peace and security to the galaxy. In the movie’s third act, Han confronts his son, referring to him by his birth name of Ben and making a desperate plea to halt his nefarious activities. An unmoved Kylo kills him in response.
The thing that makes this incident so gripping is that Luke doesn’t know his good friend Han is dead. He is, of course, in exile throughout The Force Awakens, seen only in the film’s final seconds. Presumably the next chapter, The Last Jedi, will feature him learning of his once-close friend’s death at the hands of the nephew who was clearly named after former mentor Ben Kenobi. It’ll be a real shock to him, and audiences will undoubtedly witness some compelling drama from the ordeal.
6. Had to fight his evil clone
This bad thing that happened to Luke Skywalker is also…kind of stupid. It involves the similarly-named Luuke Skywalker. And yes, that spelling is correct. Luuke. The story goes that, after their duel on Cloud City, Darth Vader retrieved Luke’s severed hand. A clone of him was made from it and dubbed…well, you know. That clone received formal training from a deranged Jedi named Joruus C’baoth, who had an evil plan to turn the real Luke and wife Mara Jade over to the Dark Side. When he couldn’t do that, he unleashed Luuke. Thus, our hero is forced to fight his own clone.
Right now, you might be wondering if someone lost their mind in coming up with such an asinine plot. The good news is that this is all part of an April Fool’s joke. Frequent Star Wars author Timothy Zahn penned a short story called “An Apology” for Suvudu, a genre website owned by Random House, in 2012. It was passed off as an epilogue to the Fate of the Jedi series, designed to get readers scratching their heads. Whether you think the gag is funny or not, it certainly proves that the Star Wars universe is capable of coming up with a character even more lame than Jar Jar Binks.
5. Found out Darth Vader was his father
The most important scene in The Empire Strikes Back finds Luke and Darth Vader confronting one another above Cloud City’s central air shaft. A lightsaber duel ensues. While Luke has gained some considerable Force powers in his time training with Master Yoda, he’s no match for his seasoned opponent. Eventually, Vader gets in a good swing, lopping off Luke’s hand. You doubtlessly know the expression “adding insult to injury.” Well, that was the injury. But the insult is an all-timer.
Vader drops the bombshell with four famous words: “I am your father.” Moreover, he wants his son to join him in ruling the galaxy. Because he’s hurt and in peril, Luke doesn’t have much time to comment on that revelation and its implications, other than to yell “Nooo!” But put yourself in his head. In that instant, he discovers that his arch-enemy – the tyrant he’s repeatedly risked his life to stop – is his dear old dad. He has a direct genetic connection to pure, galaxy-menacing evil. It’s the kind of discovery that would rock any hero’s world. The shock helps viewers to see the Star Wars saga in a whole new light, suggesting that good and evil really are two sides of the same coin. For Luke, it’s just a really crappy turn of events — albeit one that explains quite a bit.
4. His father died in his arms
There are some prominent father/son themes throughout the Star Wars movies, all of which revolve around Luke. In the beginning of Star Wars, he believes his father to be dead, a victim of the Clone Wars. In The Empire Strikes Back, he learns that his father isn’t dead at all — he’s actually Darth Vader. Return of the Jedi finds him briefly getting his father back, only to lose him for real this time in a heartbreaking twist.
The thrilling conclusion to the original trilogy finds the Emperor torturing Luke with painful Force lightning, pushing him to the brink of death. Vader kills the Emperor to save his son, but is gravely injured in the process. Still, it’s an act of benevolence, showing that he’s willing to step away from the Dark Side. Prior to shuffling off this mortal coil, he asks Luke to remove his mask. In that moment, Luke finally sees the face of Anakin Skywalker, his true father…and then Anakin promptly dies in his son’s arms. While it’s sad to think of Luke not having much time to reconnect with his dad, he at least gets a brief moment of reconciliation. It’s all he will have to hold on to.
3. He almost became the new Darth Vader
Here’s some fun trivia for you. One of the worst, weirdest things that ever happened to Luke Skywalker would have radically changed the way the world looks at this iconic character. According to the book The Making of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi by noted Star Wars historian J.W. Rinzler, George Lucas initially intended to turn Luke into a next-generation Darth Vader.
The conclusion of Return of the Jedi would have been mostly what we’ve all seen and are familiar with. Then the twist comes. In Lucas’s original conception, Luke would have put on Vader’s mask after taking it off Anakin. He would then say, “Now I am Vader,” before announcing an intention to kill the Rebel fleet and “rule the universe.” In the creator’s mind, it was the ultimate head game — villain moves to the good side, hero moves to the dark side. The twist was also intended to play off Vader’s invitation for Luke to join forces with him at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. What changed Lucas’s mind? Children. He decided that having his hero succumb to evil was too dark a concept for the saga’s young fans.
2. The death of Yoda
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda becomes a mentor to Luke, filling the void left by the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi. His grueling training helps Luke learn the Force powers that will be essential in his mission. Like all good mentors, Yoda often frustrates Luke, yet it’s for his own good. In Return of the Jedi, Luke makes his way back to Dagobah, where he gets confirmation that Leia is his sister. Not long after solidifying this fun little factoid that Luke probably wishes he’d known earlier, Yoda passes away.
What’s particularly tragic here is that Luke once again loses a father figure (albeit a weird one). This proves to be a recurring theme in the saga. Luke believes his father is dead in Star Wars. In that same film, two surrogates, Uncle Owen and Obi-Wan Kenobi, are both killed. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker has his Darth Vader helmet removed before perishing in his son’s arms. Yoda’s life ends in the same film, albeit not under violent circumstances. Time and time again, Luke sees the important parental figures in his life die. It helps to establish what might be the most crucial subtext in George Lucas’s sprawling story: that he must ultimately rely on himself, using what he’s learned from these important figures.
1. He kissed his own sister
George Lucas likes to claim that he had the original trilogy all mapped out before making the first Star Wars, but there’s plenty of evidence that this isn’t entirely true. Perhaps the worst thing to happen to Luke Skywalker is reflective of Lucas’ little white lie. The original film in the series features a moment in which Princess Leia tries to make Han Solo jealous by kissing Luke. Not an innocent peck on the cheek, mind you, but a full-on mouth kiss. Of course, we find out later that the two are actually brother and sister. Oops.
What’s a bit puzzling is that they never discuss what happened or acknowledge that some kind of icky screw-up happened between them. They simply brush it under the rug like it never happened. Han Solo does the same thing. He falls for Leia, yet never even asks about that time she locked lips with her own brother, just to make Han jealous. It has to weigh on his mind a bit, right?
Whatever their reasons for avoiding it, there’s something humorous about Luke getting innocently caught up in a mildly (?) incestuous act. Nobody’s perfect, not even the greatest hero to live a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Which of these terrible things that happened to Luke affects you the most? What other awful occurances have befallen our hero, and do any of them top the historically unsettling sister smooch? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments.