Stormtroopers have long had a bad reputation in Star Wars - the troops of the Galactic Empire are known for their inefficiency, failure, and terrible shooting. It seems that stormtroopers wouldn't be able to hit Luke Skywalker or Han Solo if they were standing directly in front of them (and sometimes, they are!). Some fans have even posited that the stormtroopers in A New Hope are missing the heroes on purpose on the Death Star (since the Empire tracks the heroes after they escape), because they miss at such a short range.
However, there are examples when stormtroopers are successful in their missions and deadly in their execution. The following examples are given in chronological order and include both Star Wars Legends (the Star Wars stories that predate the Disney Star Wars stories) and the new Star Wars canon. Clone troopers are technically not storm troopers, and so they are not included, but both stormtroopers from the Galactic Empire and the First Order are included.
Here are 15 Times Stormtroopers Were Frighteningly Effective:
In the opening sequence of Rogue One (2016), Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) lands on the planet Lah'mu in order to take the wayward Imperial scientist, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), into custody. Krennic is flanked by menacing "Death troopers", an elite kind of stormtrooper used for special misions. The Death troopers lived up to their names, known for being terrifyingly effective and carrying out deadly operations with little evidence left behind.
On Lah'mu, Galen's wife (and Jyn's mother) Lyra Erso (Valene Kane) attempts to stop the troopers from taking Galen, even threatening Krennic with a blaster. The troopers wait for Krennic's order, and then shoot Lyra down where she stands. As this is the opening sequence of Rogue One, it helps to solidify that the stormtroopers in this film will be deadly and precise... even if they couldn't find an eight year old who left a trail of toys behind her.
The Terror Troopers, who appear in The Force Unleashed II video game (set a few years before the Battle of Yavin), are an advanced team of stormtroopers tasked with hunting down the clone of Galen Marek (also known as Starkiller). Cybernetically enhanced, they had heightened physical abilities (including speed, dexterity, and strength) and stealthing capabilities.
Working alongside the bounty hunter Boba Fett, the Terror Troopers captured Captain Juno Eclipse and killed her entire crew aboard the Salvation. While the Terror Troopers were not able to defeat the Galen Marek, they were able to hold their own against the powerful Force user long enough to distract him while Boba Fett escaped with Captain Eclipse. One major advantage that Galen Marek had was that his Force abilities allowed him to see the Terror Troopers, even when they were cloaked. It appears that the Terror Trooper's superior reflexes and stealth meant that they could easily shred any opponent who was not Force sensitive.
The third act of Rogue One takes the audience through the critical moments that lead up to the opening sequence of A New Hope (1977). Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) leads the Rogue One team to the planet of Scarif; there, they begin a suicide mission in order to retrieve the Death Star plans. There are other times that stormtroopers seem unthreatening in Star Wars, especially when they are fighting against the main characters - has anyone ever really worried that a stormtrooper would shoot and kill Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? But on Scarif, the Imperial forces attack with deadly precision. They succeed in killing most of the Rebel forces on the planet's surface. This includes some major characters and key players from Rogue One, including Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). These high stakes are one of the reasons why Rogue One is so impressive. By the time Jyn and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) send the plans to the Rebel forces orbitting the planet, they appear to be the only Rebels alive on the planet.
Continuing from Rogue One into A New Hope, stormtroopers lead the assault on the Rebel ship Tantive IV where Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) has recently escaped from Scarif with the Death Star plans. These stormtroopers are incredibly effective; they easily subdue the Rebel forces that try to hold off their assault. Afterwards, they search the ship and recognize that Princess Leia is a target that should be brought in alive. They stun her and take her into Imperial custody. Leia has sent the plans to the surface of Tatooine in the care of R2-D2, meaning that the plans are still out of Imperial hands. However, despite this, the stormtroopers' mission is executed perfectly, and helps to set the tone of the Empire for the original trilogy. This is the moment that audiences saw stormtroopers (and the Empire) for the first time, and their deadly and unquestioning cruelty is showcased well in this opening scene.
The stormtroopers' merciless hunt for the droids with the Death Star plans continues on the planet of Tatooine. Not only do they kill all of the Jawas who happened upon the droids, but they also murder Luke's Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, burning their home to the ground. Additionally, they attempt to frame these deaths on Sand People in order to cover their tracks - as Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) observes to the heartbroken Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), it is only their precision that gives them away. Surveying the destroyed Jawa craft, Obi-Wan says, "These blast points... too accurate for Sand People. Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise." These stormtroopers will stop at nothing to retrieve the Death Star plans from the Rebel Alliance, and are willing to kill anyone who could be considered "loose ends". Only random chance made it so that Luke was away from his home; otherwise, he would have died along with his aunt and uncle on Tatooine.
In Star Wars Legends, there is a story that predates Rogue One and tells a different version of events leading up to A New Hope. In Star Wars: Dark Forces, Kyle Katarn is a mercenary and former stormtrooper who helps to secure the Death Star plans. After the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the first Death Star, Mon Mothma contacted Kyle Katarn to look into another Imperial threat, the Dark Trooper Project. The Dark Troopers had three "phases" or robotic designs, with the second and third phase capable of being used as either an autonomous droid or an exoskeleton for a humanoid. Phase I was a skeletal droid that used a vibroblade. Phase II had a jet pack and a heavy assault rifle. Phase III was the most deadly with an assault rifle, rocket launcher, and grenades. Its armor was so thick that it could even protect against lightsabers and other energy weapons. While the Dark Trooper project was meant to be the future of stormtrooper technology, Kyle Katarn successfully destroyed the prototypes, setting the Empire back.
The Task Force 99 or Special Commando Advanced Recon (SCAR) Squad was an elite group of stormtroopers featured in the new canon Star Wars comics. During the years between Episode IV and Episode V, the squad is led by Sergeant Kreel, going on high priority missions for the Empire. The SCAR Squad is perhaps the single most terrifying group of stormtroopers, easily killing any Rebel troops who cross their path. Sergeant Kreel even faces off and duels with Luke Skywalker. However, Kreel has been told that he cannot hurt or kill Luke Skywalker, and so Luke is able to escape.
While Kreel is the only stormtrooper that wields a lightsaber, the rest of the SCAR Squad also has special skills that they can offer to help the group. Misty is an expert sniper, Cav is a melee specialist, Mic is a hacker, Shrap specializes in heavy artillery, and Zuke utilizes explosives.
Shortly after the Battle of Yavin, five stormtroopers deserted the Empire after one of they refused to kill civilians. This led to a confrontation where one trooper, Daric LaRone, killed a commanding officer in self-defense. Realizing that he would be put to death, the five chose to abandon the Empire and work as mercenaries. The other four squad members who fought alongside Daric were Taxtro Grave, Saberan Marcross, Joak Quiller, and Korlo Brightwater. They crossed paths with Mara Jade, who was so impressed with their combat abilities that she covered for them and protected them from Darth Vader's wrath. She also later employed the Hand of Judgment as her own personal elite squad of fighters while completing a covert mission for the Emperor. Eventually, the Hand of Judgment would join with Grand Admiral Thrawn and become the founding members of the 501st Legion in his Empire of the Hand army.
At the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the stormtroopers play a key role in the planet-side assault of the Rebel base on the ice planet of Hoth. There are problems with the Imperial assault, although these problems are not related to stormtroopers themselves; the Rebels are able to destroy some AT-AT walkers as the Rebel ships evacuate the base. However, the battle also illustrates the sheer magnitude of the Imperial forces. The Rebel Alliance's only strategy against the Empire is running, because they cannot hope to win if they face off with the Empire in a one-on-one fight. The snowtroopers that are employed on Hoth take ground from the Rebels with efficiency and accuracy. Their numbers and their training allow them to quickly swarm the Rebel base and search for any survivors. It is confirmed that Darth Vader's personal stormtroopers, the 501st Legion, fought at the Battle of Hoth.
The stormtroopers in Cloud City arrive before the Millenium Falcon and quietly take over the city. Then, they are able to surprise, capture, and detain the Rebel leaders Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Han Solo. Not only do they capture the Rebels, however, but they maintain their incarceration for an extended period of time. It is not clear how much time passes, but the stormtroopers are able to effectively keep the heroes imprisoned and supply the necessary pressure so that Lando Calrissian's city floating above Bespin is under lockdown. While this is could be easily overlooked (and often is when discussing stormtrooper effectiveness), this is a longterm and large scale operation. Han, Leia, and Chewie are so constrained by the Imperial forces that they do not see any avenue for escape. They are trapped and living on the whim of the Empire, tortured in order to create a snare for Luke Skywalker.
Grand Admiral Thrawn's "shadow" Empire in the Unknown Regions of space was known as the Empire of the Hand. For his Empire, Thrawn established a fighting corps that was made up of both humans and non-human aliens. Members of the Hand of Judgment (who deserted the Galactic Empire) went on to help train Thrawn's elite legion of troops, named the 501st Legion after the group of clone troopers (and later stormtroopers) who personally fought with Darth Vader. Thrawn's 501st Legion outlived its Imperial counterpart in Star Wars Legends.
Perhaps the best known group from Thrawn's 501st Legion is Unit Aurek-Seven, a four trooper squad, which included human and non-human members, such as Su-mil "Grappler", a reptilian Eickarie soldier. While the Empire of the Hand and Thrawn's 501st Legion are currently Legends, Thrawn's reintroduction in Star Wars Rebels (2014) could mean that they could be reintroduced to Star Wars lore in the future.
Terex served as a stormtrooper (TK-603) for the Galactic Empire, fighting in the Battle of Jakku. He later served as an operative for the First Order and fought against the Resistance, serving as a major antagonist in the Poe Dameron comic books. Ruthless and cunning, Terex often references and reflects on his training as a stormtrooper; he learned many necessary skills during his time serving the Galactic Empire, but also recognizes that he became even more powerful after he embraced his personal ambitions and rejected the conformity that being a stormtrooper required. Terex helps to illustrate how one individual stormtrooper can grow and develop as a person - and how the rigorous training that a stormtrooper receives can cultivate deadly and dangerous fighters. While Terex no longer serves as a stormtrooper, he is still devoted to the idea of bringing the old Galactic Empire back and will stop at nothing to foil the Resistance.
The Force Awakens (2015) opens on the planet Jakku, years after the Battle of Jakku between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), along with First Order stormtroopers, attack and destroy the small village where Lor San Tekka lives. It is during this assault that Finn (John Boyega) begins to question his loyalties, after watching the stormtroopers ravage the village and murder unarmed civilians. With Kylo Ren's help, the stormtroopers also detain Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a top Resistance operative.
The audience sees the assault through Finn's eyes, which showcase the horrific results. These stormtroopers, however grizzly the outcome, are operating exactly as they are intended. They successfully and seamlessly take down any threats before destroying the village completely. Nothing and no one is able to stand in their way. Just as the stormtroopers at the beginning of A New Hope help to establish the Empire, the stormtroopers at the beginning of The Force Awakens introduce the First Order.
The First Order stormtroopers swarm down onto Takodana, destroying and overruning Maz's castle. After a brief fight, they easily suppress Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Finn. If not for the Resistance X-wings led by Poe Dameron that arrive to save the day, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Han Solo, Chewbacca, or Finn would have survived. While the stormtroopers appear to be taking them prisoner, it is likely that Kylo Ren, upon his return with the captured Rey, would have killed them all.
Takodana is also the site where TR-8R fights against the stormtrooper turncoat, Finn. TR-8R is popularly known for shouting, "Traitor!" at Finn and becoming a beloved meme. But, beyond the infinite recursions and repetitions he has generated online, he also shows the impressive hand-to-hand training that stormtroopers undergo and utilize in combat. He makes for a formidable and memorable, if short-lived, opponent.
The 501st Legion is the name of Darth Vader's personal unit, also sometimes known as "Vader's Fist"; originally Clone Troopers, the unit was later converted to non-clone stormtroopers. The 501st Legion appear both in Star Wars Legends and within Star Wars canon. In the canon comic Darth Vader #7, they fight alongside Darth Vader and are also present at the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. In Legends, it was known that Darth Vader would choose the absolute best recruits throughout the Empire for his personal unit, making the 501st Legion the greatest stormtrooper unit in the galaxy.
The 501st Legion in the galaxy far, far away actually gets its name from this galaxy, more specifically from the Star Wars costuming fan organization (founded in 1997) that has active chapters that contribute to charitable functions around the world. The group has more than 10,000 members around the world, many of whom dress in detailed stormtrooper uniform.
Do you think that stormtroopers have an unfair reputation? Did we forget your favorite stormtrooper moments? Tell us in the comments!