Star Wars has the clearest demarcation of hero and villain, even more so than The Transformers with Autobots and Decepticons or GI Joe and Cobra. In Star Wars, it's the dark side and the light. Well, clearly, the guys that dress in black and admittedly even call themselves users of the “dark side of the Force” are probably not the good guys. But they are, in theory. Why they would actually agree to being called the villains is a flaw in the franchise (if not just bad PR on their part).
The Jedi themselves aren’t exactly saints, despite being portrayed that way. We're not saying that the Jedi are the true villains and the Sith are misunderstood, but there are times that they really, really needed to stand back and consider how awful some of their actions made them look. There are minor things like lying for no real reason, and then there are things like launching a coup d'état and covering up mass murders. With Luke teasing that the Jedi need to end in the upcoming and aptly titled The Last Jedi, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why Luke might have to close the book on the warrior-monks. These are the 15 Worst Things The Jedi Ever Did.
15 Lying to Luke
This is more the fault of George Lucas’ poor planning than anything else, but in-universe, it’s all on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Both had ample opportunity to let Luke know that Darth Vader was his father and Leia was his sister. Instead, they left him ignorant, without the potential support of a Force-sensitive Leia and giving up the psychological edge to Vader, who knew the truth behind Luke’s paternity. Nobody would have been surprised if Luke had switched sides right then and there—at least Vader never lied to him.
The purpose of lying to Luke was never revealed. Were they afraid that the truth would instantly turn him heel? Wasn’t it the fact that the Jedi never wanted to deal with Anakin’s dangerous potential that got them into trouble in the first place? Considering that Obi-Wan and Yoda had all this information, they could have at the very least told Luke early-on that he shouldn’t try Lannistering his own sister.
14 Obi-Wan turns a bar fight into attempted murder
This one hurts. Obi-Wan Kenobi is a favorite of ours—and, hey, look, at this point, he was a crotchety old man who was forced to traverse the desert with a whiny, Leif Garrett-resembling teenager and his weirdo droids, so he was understandably in a lousy mood. Luke can’t even have a drink of whatever that was (laundry detergent? Kool Aid?) in a bar without two people trying to take his lunch money from him. You know the rest: Ponda Baba and Cornelius Evazan threaten Luke until Obi-Wan “Iron Chef” Kenobi slices and dices Baba’s arm.
Mind you, we’d just seen Obi-Wan, not ten minutes before, use a Jedi mind trick to keep a Stormtrooper from arresting them. Couldn't he just do it again? You can’t even really give the excuse about time or urgency. Neither of these guys were armed from what we could see, and all they were doing was pushing Luke around. And look at him. At that point, wouldn’t you want to as well?
13 The Jedi Mind Trick
Speaking of the plot convenience mind trick, it’s another unsettling usage of the Force that Jedi love to employ. Nothing quite says “good guys” like bending people to your will. Admittedly, any Force-sensitive person could potentially brainwash people; both Jedi and Sith have used it extensively, but it doesn’t make it any less unsettling.
Its capability goes beyond something as simple as an illusion to make a Stormtrooper wave you past a checkpoint. As we’ve seen in The Force Awakens and elsewhere, you can have someone essentially do your bidding and act almost perfectly normal during this. It’s a complete (if temporary) form of brainwashing that can easily lead to the exploitation of another. While the Jedi ostensibly believe that they're acting in the greater good, well, so did Anakin Skywalker. There’s a slippery slope when it comes to power, and the power over somebody’s mind and agency is too much for any one person to possess.
12 Philosophical Book Burning
There shouldn’t be a thing as “forbidden knowledge.” Everyone desires freedom of thought, speech, and exploration. The Jedi... not so much. They deemed certain aspects of emotion—passion, love, and anger, along with its influences on the Force—to be too dangerous. The practices and corresponding information were entirely banned. The Jedi preferred to shun dangerous things like passion and emotion for something more austere and monk-like.
There were two problems with that: once you say someone can’t have something, they’d want it even more, and, historically, many had found true balance in the Force by using pieces of both the Light and Dark side. Way back when the Jedi were called the Je’daii, both sides of the Force were used harmoniously. Correctly, the Je’daii eventually felt that too much emphasis on the Dark side was bad, but in their fear, they ending up banning all use and exploration of it.
11 The Jedi created the Sith...
Well, this isn’t a proud moment in Jedi history. The Jedi made their own mess. All the abnegation and censorship led those frustrated with the emotionless, colorless life of a Jedi Master unfun. When others flocked to the Dark side, they went crazy with it because it was new and exciting. Passion is fine, but when everything else that comes along with it is just as unknown and mysterious, you’re going to end up overdoing it. And the Sith overdid it.
The fallen Jedi-turned-Sith became power-hungry, evil megalomaniacs because they couldn’t handle the influx of “new” emotions and its corresponding Force manipulation. It was like becoming addicted to the good times. A crash was inevitable. When Dark side users went too far by killing people, creating empires and using their mind control powers to enforce slavery, the Jedi had to step in to clean up their own mess.
10 ...Then committed a Sith holocaust
And nothing says calm, passionless response quite like mass murder. In this ancient time, before the dark days, before the Empire, things were still pretty dark, actually. The Jedi and the Sith fought over Coruscant. Each side would erect a shrine that the other would destroy. After countless lost erections, the Sith gained but couldn’t hold the planet. The Liberation of Coruscant saw the Jedi take back the planet, though little else about the battle is known. Over the next year, infighting caused factions of the Sith to splinter, right in time for the heroes to swoop in and arrest these criminals and put them on trial hunt them to extinction.
By the time of the prequel films, the Jedi Council was certain that between the infighting and their own genocidal actions, the Sith were completely eradicated, which isn’t a term you would normally use when describing the actions of peaceful zen monks. Of course, poetic justice does make the Sith being destroyed by the same moral rot from the Jedi and within their own ranks very funny, but you could understand their distaste at being massacred.
9 Luminara Unduli doesn't care about her padawan
Luminara Unduli is a well-liked character in the fandom. She’s a powerful, loyal and capable Jedi. Like all important Jedi Masters, she was assigned a Padawan—a young Jedi in training, named Barriss Offee. The major problem Jedi have is their zen meditativeness, and general rejection of most feelings can lead to a sense of coldness, which can lead to a lack of compassion.
During the Second Battle of Geonosis, the Padawans of Anakin Skywalker and Unduli were missing and presumed captured or dead. Anakin reacts emotionally (always a good sign), worried about Ahsoka Tano’s safety. Unduli was more passive. “I too care for my apprentice,” she says, “but if their time has come…” As a rule, yes, we should deal with death on death’s terms, but dismissive apathy isn’t a great shade for the guys who claim they’re on the side of light.
8 How they obtain and train and treat their Padawans
Padawans are Force sensitive children that the Jedi collect. Showing their love and devotion for the common-folk, they’ll come to the home of parents to take the children away because of “their higher purpose.” The Padawans are trained over the course of a decade on how to use god-like powers and indoctrinate them into their belief system and moral code, which includes no love, marriage, or outward emotion. Yes, it is a glamorous life. But at least it’s also short. Padawans are like Star Trek’s Red Shirts: there are many of them, we rarely learn their names, and we know they will die quickly and painfully. However, the Padawans are often victims of the Jedi themselves.
Well before the infamous Anakin Skywalker incident, Masters of the Jedi Covenant murdered their young Padawans in the cleverly named “Padawan Massacre” after an esoteric vision from the Force suggested one of their students was a Sith who would eventually grow up to kill them. Their reaction was akin to “My house has a rodent infestation; napalm the city.” Led astray by the actual Sith, Haazen, the Jedi Council covered up the entire thing so the public would never find out.
7 Bariss Offee: a member of Space ISIS
When a religious or political group teach their followers to repress their emotions, there’s always going to be a consequential release. Add that to the inherent corruption of the Jedi Council with the long history of defectors to the dark side, and you have a recipe for terror.
Bariss Offee, talented Force healer and the hapless Padawan of the warm and charming Luminara Unduli, became disillusioned by the Jedi (big surprise). She noticed how militant the Jedi Order became during the Clone Wars and found it antithetical to the base teachings of peaceful zen monks. Having been taken in by the Jedi at infancy, this disillusionment turned to anger. She wasn't taught to handle these sorts of emotions, so she wasn’t exactly constructive in her criticism.
Rather than pull a Martin Luther and preach reform from within, she decided to go full ISIS by bombing a Jedi temple and framing her best friend for it. This is what happens when you foster repression and corruption: a time bomb of a person with a badass lightsaber.
6 Not Saving Shmi
Yes, she had the worst name in history, but that doesn’t mean she deserved to have her kid taken away. In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn attempted to make a deal with Gonzo’s cousin racist caricature “legitimate businessman” Watto. Qui-Gon won Anakin Skywalker by using the Force to cheat at a game of chance, but didn’t do the same for Shmi. The reason was that Padawans (and later, Jedis) are forced to have no emotional ties to anyone—part of their whole monk/repression shtick. This did not end up creating a balanced, stable individual, to the surprise of no one with half a brain.
Deciding not to help Shmi was immoral, as was the reasoning behind it. It’s just another example of a Jedi putting his beliefs ahead of the good of the common person.
5 Anakin loves mass murder—children, not so much
Well well well, that boy that was taken from his mother, radicalized, and trained in military tactics since the age of 10 wasn’t well-adjusted. Some years later, Anakin remembered he had a mom who was approaching middle age and still a slave on a desert planet. By then, she was the property of Tusken Raiders, who tortured and beat her. Unable to save her in time, Anakin murdered the Raiders and their young children. (Despite his confession, Padme decides to marry and have children with Anakin, which was great decision-making if we ever saw it.)
After turning to the dark side, Anakin killed a group of Younglings, which would be pretty horrific if not presented so hysterically. Come on, admit it: you laughed when you saw this scene for the first time. Wait, that really was just us? Yikes.
Anakin then aided and abetted the murder of nearly all the Jedi and helped establish the Galactic Empire which would hold the galaxy in terror for years to come.
During the Great Galactic War (the first Sith war), Zym was the Jedi Grand Master; he led the Jedi in every way, shape, and form. As far as Jedi leaders go, well, he’s pretty much par for the course. While at war with the Sith—who represent evil so openly they willingly call themselves “the dark side”—Darth Baras suggested a peace treaty to Zym who looked this Trojan gift horse right in the mouth. While they were busy setting up a fake treaty, Baras’ army attacked many Republic outposts and, as you could imagine, destroyed many erections. Since Zym didn’t feel a disturbance in the Force, he signed the treaty and apologized to Baras when an upset Jedi Knight attacked him. Beautiful.
Zym’s reign of terror ended perfectly: he was shot by someone trying to help him. It took two years for the Jedi to elect a new Grand Master, likely from being too busy celebrating the last one’s death.
3 Trusting anybody with the name "Skywalker"
Perhaps the only one more stupid than Zym is everyone else in the galaxy. Anakin Skywalker was a blight on the galaxy; a combination of Adolf Hitler and Benedict Arnold. Hell, even the Empire hates him for his last minute betrayal, so he’s Benedict Arnold to the second power.
Luke decides to channel his inner Jim Jones and restart the Jedi Cult Order when his nephew, Ben, burns the training facility down, restarts the Empire, and kills a whole bunch of people while Luke decides to climb some rocks. It’s even worse in the Expanded Universe (we’re not calling it Legends. It was canon for years! YEARS!) In the EU, Luke’s nephew Jacen Solo turns heel, kills Luke’s wife and tortures his son.
If you follow the bloodline after that, you’ll find even more Skywalkers repeating the same story of light and dark while millions suffer for it, to say nothing of the absolute morons who keep giving them a second chance by following their lead.
2 They attempted to overthrow the Senate
Don’t like your purchase? Return it! Don’t like a show? Change the channel! Don’t like the result of a legal election? Launch a coup d'état, attempt to assassinate the new leader, and replace it with your state until you decide the people have made a better decision!
By the time the Jedi have figured out that Palpatine is the Sith Lord they’ve been looking for, he has already taken power. Mace Windu and several extras immediately attack him. They do this rather than alerting the senate or anybody else. When Anakin confronts them, Mace is clear: “He has control of the senate and all the courts. He is too dangerous to be left alive!” Law and due process mean nothing when the Jedi’s cushy informal control over politics is threatened. J'accuse!
On a side note, do you realize how awful it is taking Anakin’s side on this? The guy who murdered children is the guy preaching for law and order. Jesus, it’s uncomfortable.
1 Creating Darth Vader
Darth Vader is such a villain that he’s used as an adjective to describe other villains. He’s used as part of a spectrum when measuring fictional evil characters. Take a look on any message board, and you’ll see him referred to as Space Hitler. And the Jedi created him.
Sure, the Jedi Council initially refused to train him, with Yoda sensing all the bad voodoo Anakin had inside him. Eventually, they just kinda decide to drop it and let Obi-Wan train the little creep, but wouldn’t let him become a Master. That’s the equivalent of giving a criminal unlimited access to a police armory, but not allow him to be called “Lieutenant.”
Instead of carefully watching him or expelling him over his “dangerous emotions,” the Jedi just kinda shrugged and walked into the slaughterhouse. Anakin Skywalker’s conversion to the dark side wasn’t just due to Palpatine’s temptation of power, but the Jedi just not being very good at making a guy feel welcome.
What other terrible acts and mistakes have the Jedi made? Let us know in the comments.