They’re arguably the most striking, enigmatic, and lethal group in the Star Wars universe. Since their official introduction in The Empire Strikes Back, the bounty hunters— immortalized by the now-iconic Boba Fett— have become totems of the dark, violent, spaghetti-western undercurrent that runs through the mythological DNA of Star Wars.
The bounty hunters are almost always presented as villains, but as the Star Wars universe continues to expand, its good vs evil dynamic gets more complicated, and the line between light and dark becomes more clouded.
What many casual fans may not know is that, for the bounty hunters, the Star Wars galaxy has always been a place of moral grey areas. They may be a dangerous bunch, but the bounty hunters have never fit the Star Wars villain mold completely.
Bounty hunters lead a violent life. Their trade tends to attract the baddest of the bad, but they’re also a far more diverse group than the Sith or the Empire. The bounty hunter profession is home to some of the most colorful characters and unlikely allies in the Star Wars universe, which is why they’ll always be fascinating to fans.
For a clearer picture of who they really are, here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Bounty Hunters.
16 Their fearsome reputation rivaled the Sith
It may seem ludicrous, at first, to suggest that any group would be more feared throughout the galaxy than the Sith, but the bounty hunters were so omnipresent throughout the galaxy that their fearsome reputation inevitably preceded them wherever they went.
The Sith were so rare for so long that they became a kind of boogeyman to most worlds. In contrast, the bounty hunters were a very real menace, carrying out clear, public acts of violence.
Other than the Stormtroopers in the days of the Empire, the bounty hunters were arguably the most direct point of contact for galactic citizens when it came to violence, death, and destruction.
Bounty hunting was a dangerous trade, and its victims were spread across virtually all walks of life. The Sith may carry with them a certain mystique and supernatural terror, but nothing as immediately identifiable as the fearsome reputation of the bounty hunters.
15 They don’t always work for the bad guys
Bounty hunters may live and operate in a morally questionable area, but that doesn’t mean they never work with the good guys. Though their talents are put to use much more commonly by the likes of the Sith, the Separatists, and the Empire, bounty hunters have been hired by folks on the light side of the force on several occasions.
In addition to training cadets during the Clone Wars, bounty hunters were hired by the Republic to hunt down wanted fugitives. They were also hired by Republic allies for protection from rival criminal gangs.
After the Battle of Endor, bounty hunters were hired by the New Republic on several occasions to carry out dangerous missions. Eventually, the New Republic cut all ties with the bounty hunters, but who knows when their special services will be needed again in the fight against the First Order?
14 They were hired by the republic to train clone troopers
During the Clone Wars, bounty hunters were actually hired by the Galactic Republic for special tasks, including the training of young clone troopers. El-Les and Bric were two bounty hunters hired to help train the clone army on Kamino. Both were under contract as well-regarded drill instructors to the Bravo and Domino cadet squads.
Not much is known about El-Les and Bric before their clone trooper training days, but based on their ruthless training tactics, it’s probably safe to assume that these guys were pretty brutal bounty hunters.
In the Clone Wars episodes “Clone Cadets” and “Fugitive”, both display a certain level of coldness when training their respective cadet troops, emulating the cutthroat mindset a bounty hunter must have to navigate the galaxy’s most violent arenas.
13 The Empire would hire them officially as “peace-keepers”
The reign of the Galactic Empire was a pretty good time for the bounty hunters. The Empire’s fear-based ruling tactics made the bounty hunters and mercenaries the perfect hire for particularly dirty captures and assassinations.
Much like real-world fascist regimes, the Empire was really good at working around laws, or simply inventing new ones out of whole cloth to better serve their purposes. One of the ways they successfully hired bounty hunters to carry out seedy tasks was to designate them as official imperial “peace keepers." Obviously, the Empire’s definition of “peace” could more accurately be defined as pure tyranny.
The bounty hunters are hardly fascists, but their propensity to carry out the violent wishes of their employers without question made them incredibly suitable “peace keepers” for the Empire.
12 They played a pivotal role in the war after the battle of Endor
As clearly shown in new Star Wars canon material, such as Shattered Empire and the Aftermath trilogy, the Galactic Civil War was far from over after the battle of Endor.
Taking down the Empire proved a trickier affair after the death of Emperor Palpatine, and some of the war’s most harrowing battles were fought well after the credits rolled in Return of the Jedi. Even the bounty hunters, a constant menacing presence in the galaxy, played crucial roles in the events following the battle of Endor.
Quickly after it was formed, the New Republic followed in the footsteps of the Empire and put out bounties on surviving Imperial figures like Admiral Rae Sloane and General Jylia Shale.
Bounty hunter Jas Emari tried to collect on these high-profile bounties, while other notable bounty hunters were recognized by the New Republic for their services during the Battle of Jakku.
11 They needed special permits to collect the highest bounties
To the unaffiliated, bounty hunters may seem a lot more disorganized than they actually are. Despite the brash “anything goes” nature of their profession, there is some method to the bounty hunters’ madness.
They may not be the most upstanding citizens of the galaxy, but they do have their own creeds, codes, and organizations to keep their kind in check (if only for appearances sake).
Most bounties in the Star Wars universe are either individual or open contracts, and many of the highest-paying bounties require a special permit. For most bounty hunters, working clean enough to acquire such a permit is probably out of the question.
However, there are those who keep their criminal records minimal so they can make big bucks off of officially sanctioned targets.
10 They’ll take on other jobs (for the right price)
The bounty hunter’s primary function is to capture and/or kill someone for a reward, but the monetary focus of their profession often leads them to take on other jobs. For the right price, most bounty hunters will take on a wide variety of dangerous tasks, especially if their skill set fits the job description.
Bounty hunters aren’t the only professionals known to diversify their portfolio. Smugglers, mercenaries, and even retired military officers have all been known to take on the the odd jobs in order to replenish their credit flow.
However, bounty hunters tend to wear the most hats over the course of their criminal careers, as their willingness to carry out the dirtiest of jobs is unparalleled among the outcasts and reprobates of the criminal underworld.
9 They were most often hired on an individual basis
Bounty hunters had a number of avenues through which they could acquire targets. Bounties were often acquired through guilds and other organizations. The Empire also frequently hired bounty hunters to hunt down rebels. Bounties were most commonly acquired, though, on an individual contract basis.
The work of a bounty hunter takes them all over the galaxy, and their transient nature makes direct, individual hires more convenient than seeking out targets through guilds or government contracts. Bounty hunting is also not the most respected profession, so it’s a lot easier to get hired when you’re moving comfortably through criminal circles.
Few bounty hunters would turn down a high-profile bounty, especially if it’s an exclusive contract from a powerful person. However, for the most part, they earn their keep from the targets they acquire under the table.
8 They often formed their own criminal gangs
A bounty hunter always looks out for his or her own interests above all else, but that doesn’t mean they never work well with others. Bounty hunters may be accustomed to working alone, but they’ve also been known to work in teams when they find a crew that works to each member’s individual benefit.
A number of famous bounty hunters have formed their own criminal gangs. In his early days, Boba Fett formed a bounty hunter syndicate that included Bossk, Dengar, and Asajj Ventress.
Cad Bane also operated within a criminal ensemble on several occasions, including one that helped Darth Maul kidnap a Jedi padawan. Bounty hunters are selfish creatures, so their gangs never last long. However, at their strongest, a bounty hunter coalition can be quite lucrative for everyone involved.
6 They had their own guild
It’s hard to imagine a group made up of criminals and assassins forming a union, but that’s just what the bounty hunters did at the height of their powers. Formed in ancient times, the Bounty Hunter’s Guild was typically led by a “guildmaster" who upheld the unwritten rules of the Bounty Hunter’s Creed.
The guild itself was always fairly ill-defined, as it was made up of several smaller guilds and criminal houses. Many bounty hunters broke the rules whenever it suited them, making the power of the guild over the entire trade even more ambiguous.
Though it lasted for centuries, the Bounty Hunter’s Guild was arguably never as powerful as the smaller guilds and organizations that it encapsulated. It attempted to govern a group of ungovernable loose canons and criminal geniuses who ultimately brought the whole enterprise down.
5 They have a longstanding rivalry with smugglers
Bounty hunters and smugglers tend to operate in the same criminal circles, and their respective lines of work often cause create conflict— so much so that the two trades have maintained a healthy rivalry throughout the history of the galaxy.
Smugglers have a propensity to gain the ire of powerful figures, both of the criminal and government variety. As a result, they frequently draw the fire of bounty hunters trying to collect on their corpses.
Most fans will recall the famous showdown between smuggler Han Solo and bounty hunter Greedo in Star Wars: A New Hope. Whether or not you feel (or even care) that Han shot first, the infamous lethal exchange between the two scruffy lookin’ nerf herders is indicative of the ongoing rivalry between smugglers and bounty hunters at large.
It seems that the galaxy just isn;t big enough for two equally distinct, yet undoubtedly similar, criminal trades.
4 Rogue droids often become bounty hunters
We tend to think of droids as subservient, artificial beings bound to the dictates of their programming, but several droids have demonstrated a dangerous aptitude for independence.
They may be few in number, but there are droids out there who have conquered their programming and become totally autonomous beings. A few of these droids have even utilized their military-centric design to become some of the most feared bounty hunters in the galaxy.
Arguably the most famous rogue droid-turned-bounty hunter was IG-88, one of the assassins hired by Darth Vader to track down Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. IG-88 was an experimental assassin droid who went rogue almost immediately after he was created, satisfying his need to kill through the bounty hunter profession.
During the reign of the Empire, those who remembered the Clone Wars harbored a deep fear of battle droids, and bounty hunters like IG-88 used this fear to their advantage.
3 Government sanctioned bounties were exclusive contracts
Bounty hunting was a competitive trade. Most often, bounties were open contracts, forcing bounty hunters into a race against each other to see who could get to a target first.
Though harder to get and usually frowned upon by bounty hunters with especially anarchistic sensibilities, government bounties were exclusive contracts that eliminated the competition aspect altogether.
Sometimes government officials hired multiple bounty hunters for the same task. Darth Vader invited a sizable group of bounty hunters to find Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, speeding up the process through healthy competition.
However, like the bounty hunters themselves, Vader usually preferred to work outside the law. Had the operation been carried out on an official imperial basis, it likely would have been offered as an exclusive contract to only one bounty hunter.
2 Hutts often kept bounty hunters on retainer
As the most prominent crime lords in the galaxy, it was common for the Hutts to keep hired guns near them at all times. Bounty hunters were often kept on retainer by the Hutts as either personal bodyguards or covert assassins.
Jabba the Hutt was known to keep several bounty hunters on retainer for long periods of time. Greedo and Boba Fett are both on Jabba’s payroll when we meet them in the original trilogy (which, unfortunately, didn’t work out well for either of them).
As seen in Return of the Jedi, Jabba’s palace is full of hired guns with the bounty hunter's usual “this ain’t my first rodeo” aura about them. If there’s anyone who understands the value of a bounty hunter’s fearsome reputation and unparalleled skills, it’s the Hutts.
1 They had their own civil war
Honor among thieves is hard to come by, even in the Star Wars universe. Given the competitive nature of their work and the cutthroat criminal underworld they inhabit, it should come as no surprise that the bounty hunters once waged an all-out war within their own ranks.
After his (non-canonical) escape from the sarlacc pit, Boba Fett joined the Bounty Hunter’s Guild and led a resistance movement against the guild elders who were reaping most of the profits.
This resistance eventually led to the Bounty Hunter Wars, and the eventual destruction of the guild altogether. The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy is no longer part of the Star Wars canon, but the novels are still worth checking out for anyone who enjoys the legend of Boba Fett and the bounty hunters' exploits.
Who are your favorite bounty hunters in Star Wars? Are there any other interesting facts that we missed? Let us know in the comments!