We all love Star Wars. Well, maybe not all of us, but I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of us do. Still, loving it doesn’t necessarily make it perfect. In fact, there are quite a few things in the original trilogy alone that make us scratch our heads. Star Wars spawned a massive universe the likes of which we’d never seen before, so this list is written with care.
Most of these don’t affect enjoyment of the film and are pointed out with love. Even more of these items can be explained by things that happened outside of the original trilogy, but for the purposes of this list, the original trilogy is all that matters. Sometimes, the confusing moments in Star Wars come from poor character decisions. Other times, things simply go unexplained.
None of these moments ruin the original Star Wars trilogy. These hugely influential movies still cast a long shadow over our lives. Even so, it’s fun to look back at some of the leaps in logic and genuinely confusing moments from the original trilogy. Here are 15 things from the original Star Wars trilogy that don’t make sense.
15. Luke Forgets the Force in Return of the Jedi
Luke doesn’t even believe in the force for much of the original Star Wars. By Return of the Jedi, though, he’s already a master. Given that fact, the moment when Luke asks a recently unfrozen Han to grab his lightsaber is a bit confusing. In The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke has a considerably smaller amount of training, he is able to force pull his lightsaber, even as all the blood in his body rushes to his head. You would think he could do the same during his battle with Jabba’s guards.
Instead, perhaps to heighten the dramatic tension, Luke seems momentarily unable to use the force. It doesn’t really hurt the film as a whole or interrupt the action. It’s the kind of thing you notice upon repeat viewings, which aren’t uncommon among the most Star Wars loving parts of our culture. Still, you have to wonder what Luke was thinking. Maybe the different colored lightsaber just threw him off.
14. Luke Slips Past a Blockade in The Empire Strikes Back
The rebel alliance has taken up residence on Hoth and the Empire knows where they are. They blockade the planet to prevent an escape by the rebel forces, and proceed to decimate the rebel base. When Luke escapes the planet after the blockade has been set, he doesn’t see a single ship. Now, one of two things is possible here. Either the Empire is not nearly as all-powerful as it may seem, or the blockade has already dissipated.
If the first is true, it severely weakens the sense of loss you’re meant to feel when the Hoth base is destroyed. If it’s the latter, the blockade disappeared at a rather rapid pace, especially considering how difficult escape was meant to sound. This one is really a continuity error, but it’s a tiny hiccup in what is otherwise an outstanding film. Surely that blockade just had somewhere else to be.
13. Imperial Officers Make a Critical Error in Star Wars
When Star Wars starts, one of its very first images is Princess Leia sending R2-D2 and C-3PO off to find Obi-Wan on Tatooine. After all, he is her only hope. As the escape pod exits the rebel ship, a pair of Imperial Officers watch it go, and determine that, because it has “no signs of life,” it doesn’t need to be destroyed. Does that strike any one else as incredibly poor logic?
Think about where these officers are. They’re on an enormous Imperial Star Destroyer, one filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of droids. In fact, droids are such a fixture in this world that detecting “no signs of life” is a pretty weak reason to decide against pursuing a ship. Now, obviously this decision was necessary for the plot to happen, but come on. The plans fly off on that ship, and it’s because of an easily avoidable mistake. Had they gone after it, the Empire would still be a thriving dictatorship to this day.
12. Star Wars Doesn’t Have Email
Through much of the first Star Wars, the goal for the rebel alliance is to get the plans for the Death Star to their base, the theory being that these plans will reveal some weakness that will allow them to take it down. Now, keep in mind that this is Star Wars. This galaxy has developed massive intergalactic space ships and has created a moon-sized space station that can destroy an entire planet. They have lasers, a mystical force, and tons of droids walking around everywhere. What they do not have, however, is email.
Imagine how much simpler Star Wars would be if, after Leia retrieved the plans for the Death Star from the Bothan spies, she simply emailed them to the rebel base on Yavin 4. The rebels would have gotten the plans much sooner, and Obi-Wan would still be happily looking after Luke on Tatooine. On the other hand, if Luke hadn’t gotten involved, things may have gone very poorly, so maybe it’s a good thing he was inconvenienced.
11. Boba Fett Shows Up First in The Empire Strikes Back
When Han, Leia, and the gang show up in Cloud City, everything feels a little off. We discover fairly quickly that the Empire anticipated their arrival and set a trap with the help of Han’s old friend Lando. Someone else joins them as well: a bounty hunter by the name of Boba Fett. He’s there looking for Han, as Jabba the Hutt has put a bounty on Mr. Solo. Fett follows the Millennium Falcon for a large chunk of the movie, and when they decide to go to Cloud City, he’s right on their tail.
But when Han and company arrive in Cloud City, he’s already there, which is remarkable considering the fact that he was following them. Now, of course it’s possible that Boba Fett’s ship is just faster. The Millennium Falcon is widely believed to be a hunk of junk, despite what Han may say. The bigger question is how Boba knew where they were going. Maybe he’d calculated it based on the ship’s bearing, but it all feels a little far-fetched. It’s a minor issue, but noteworthy all the same.
10. The Emperor Sets a Bad Trap in Return of the Jedi
The final act of Return of the Jedi reveals that the Emperor knows about the rebel’s plan to blow up the new Death Star. They have gotten their hands on the plans, and know exactly what they have to do to take the superpowered space station down. Meanwhile, Luke is doing battle with Darth Vader as the Emperor looks on approvingly. As viewers, we come to understand that the Emperor has created a trap.
What is never really explained, though, is why the Emperor gave the rebels the actual plans for the Death Star. Obviously giving them some plans would have been wise, but why not doctor the plans so that there is no chance the rebels will actually discover how to destroy the station? It seems like if the Emperor had added one extra step to his elaborate plan, he may still have had a Death Star. In the end, the Emperor only went halfway, and it ultimately cost him.
9. Luke Hatches a Terrible Rescue Plot in Return of the Jedi
Let’s just be honest. You don’t understand Luke’s plan to rescue Han, and neither do we. Return of the Jedi starts with C-3PO and R2-D2 making their way toward Jabba’s palace, where Han is currently being kept in his frozen form. Whatever the plan may be, C-3PO is clearly oblivious. They have been sent by Luke as offerings to Jabba, presumably to test the waters. Once they arrive, we discover that Lando is already there, undercover as a bounty hunter.
Later on, Leia and Chewbacca arrive, with Leia posing as a bounty hunter and handing over her prisoner, Chewbacca. This is, of course, redundant, considering that Lando was already undercover in the same capacity. Matters are made worse by the fact that Leia is caught, and forced to wear everyone’s favorite outfit. When Luke arrives for peace talks, he’s quickly forced into battle and only manages to free himself when faced with certain death. All that Luke really needed was his lightsaber, which R2-D2 provided. So what were Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando doing there? It’s tough to say, but whether this was all Luke’s plan or everyone was acting independently, the whole thing is really quite a mess. It worked in the end, but it seems like Luke could have eliminated a lot of extra pieces.
8. The Death Star Chooses to Spare Yavin in Star Wars
Remember how tense the last few minutes of Star Wars are? The Death Star has to get around Yavin, the gas giant, in order to blow up one of its moons where the rebel base is located. It takes several minutes to get a clean shot, and it gives the rebels just enough time to blow the ship up. Imagine how much time the Empire would have saved if they’d simply chosen to blow Yavin up. They’d already established that they weren’t above blowing up planets, so it’s easy to imagine the damage they could’ve caused to Yavin’s moons.
An exploding gas giant would certainly have destroyed the rebel base stationed on Yavin 4, one of the planet’s moons, and it would’ve saved the Empire time. This time is crucial, of course, because of the rebel attack that was happening on the Death Star at the same time. If the rebel teams had been given less time, the Death Star might not have been destroyed. Even if it had, at least the rebels would have gone with it.
7. Confusing Timelines in The Empire Strikes Back
When The Empire Strikes Back begins, Luke has had minimal training as a Jedi. In the film, he spends much of his time on Dagobah with everyone’s favorite tiny green man, Yoda. Luke decides to leave Dagobah before his training is complete to save his friends, who are under Vader’s thumb in Cloud City. All of this makes sense, even if it ends up being the wrong choice for Luke. He doesn’t complete his training, and he loses a hand for his trouble.
The problem is that the amount of time Luke spends on Dagobah doesn’t really line up with the amount of time Han and Leia spend at Cloud City. Han and Leia are in Cloud City for a few days while Luke’s training on Dagobah presumably takes several weeks or months. There are plenty of theories as to why this is the case, but the movies themselves never really explain it. In any case, Luke arrives in Cloud City in time to save his friends. Maybe he just trains very quickly.
6. Leia Leads the Empire to Yavin 4 in Star Wars
After Han, Leia, and Luke escape from the Death Star following Leia’s rescue, Han is flying pretty high. He’s outrun the Empire and has blown up a couple of TIE Fighters to boot. They’re not in the clear yet, though. We quickly discover that the Millennium Falcon is being tracked, and Leia knows this. She knows the Empire let them escape so that she could lead them to the rebel base, but she goes right there anyway.
Now, perhaps Leia was setting a trap. She lured the Death Star to Yavin 4 so that it could be easily destroyed. If that’s the case, it’s never made explicit, and it’s a risky plan. As it is, the attack on the Death Star goes down to the wire, and the rebel base is almost destroyed. All of this could have been easily avoided if Leia had simply ditched Han and the gang before she arrived at the rebel base. Instead, she led the Empire right to her own doorstep.
5. Vader Only Disables the Hyperdrive in The Empire Strikes Back
When Leia, Lando, and company are escaping Cloud City, they discover that their hyperdrive has been dismantled by Vader. Initially, this seems like a good idea. It’s a concrete way of ensuring that they’ll be trapped in Cloud City, or at least near by. The real question is, if Vader was smart enough to disable their hyperdrive, why wasn’t he smart enough to disable the whole ship? You would think it would be easier to detain them if the Millennium Falcon couldn’t even take off.
It’s possible to read this decision by Vader as the beginning of his redemptive arc, but the movies don’t make that clear. It’s clear by the end of the trilogy that there was always some good inside of Vader, and you could say that is what’s on display here when he gives Leia an avenue for escape. If he really wanted to leave them stranded, though, it seems like only disabling one part of the ship might have been a mistake. Maybe he just needed a hyperdrive.
4. Leia Spontaneously Remembers Her Real Mother in Return of the Jedi
Leia is adopted, and that’s pretty common knowledge. What is a little more surprising is the way in which, upon discovering that Luke is her twin brother, Leia instantly seems to remember her biological mother. It’s as if she knew all along that Luke was her brother, even though she clearly didn’t. If she did, this moment becomes even more horrifying than it already is.
Sudden realizations are something of a regular feature in Star Wars, and even when they are explained away by the Force, they are still rather jarring. The real explanation for this sudden memory, of course, is that the creative team was not exactly sure who Leia’s parents were in the early stages. These movies were developed one at a time, which helps to explain why these kind of contradictions emerge. Leia can’t remember her mother until the story tells us who she is. She also can’t remember it because she wasn’t written to until that moment.
3. The Emperor Suddenly Knows About Luke and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back
Darth Vader does not believe he has children. That’s pretty well established, at least within the original trilogy. When the Emperor reveals that he does have children, it understandably comes as a shock. The real shock, though, is how the Emperor came to acquire this information. You would think if he had known about it all along, he would have taken some action to make sure that the offspring of Anakin Skywalker didn’t ruin his whole plan.
Instead, he waits until Luke is already grown and a viable threat. It’s possible, of course, that the Emperor only sensed that Luke was Vader’s son after he emerged to destroy the Death Star, but it seems strange for him to have sensed that despite being nowhere near the Death Star at the time. When The Empire Strikes Back begins, he just seems to have the information. Where’d he get it? The world may never know.
2. Leia and Luke Forget to Grieve in Star Wars
Darth Vader blows up Alderaan. Stormtroopers kill Luke’s aunt and uncle. Both of these scenes are horrific in the moment, but they are quickly forgotten as Star Wars proceeds. Luke is much more torn up about the loss of Obi-Wan, who he has known for maybe a week at that point. You would think he’d care more about the people that raised him, but it doesn’t really seem to bother him much. Then again, we know what happens when George Lucas tries to make a death feel meaningful.
The same is true for Leia, who doesn’t just see her adoptive family die. Instead, she sees her entire planet bite the dust. She recovers incredibly quickly, and is back to bantering with Han and Luke only a few moments later. Luke and Leia lost their actual parents long ago, so maybe they are more immune to feelings of sadness. Still, it would be nice if they could muster some feelings of remorse. Really, even a single tear would suffice.
1. Obi-Wan Does Not Acknowledge that Leia Could be a Jedi in Return of the Jedi
Obi-Wan never tells Luke anything. That fact is firmly established when he dies without ever revealing that Luke is Vader’s son. Imagine how much heartbreak could have been avoided if he’d mentioned that. Still, he explains that away by suggesting that he never really lied. What he said was true, from a certain point of view. This isn’t Obi-Wan’s only mistake, though. He also forgets about Leia, and treats Luke like their only hope.
Yoda has to remind him that there’s another Skywalker, one that presumably has all of the same raw power and talent with the force that her brother does. Obi-Wan is either a sexist, or he’s incredibly forgetful. Leia was working to save the galaxy long before Luke, and it’s clear that she is strong with the force in some capacity. Obi-Wan doesn’t care. Luke is the chosen one, and he’s betting all his chips on the kid.