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Watching some remixed trailers featuring The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, I noticed that as time went by, the number of Star Destroyers shown on screen gradually increased.

For instance in A New Hope, we typically only see one. In Empire, we see a handful either crashing into each other or dodging asteroids. And in Return of the Jedi, we see what should be a fleet of them.

So my question is: What is the largest number of Star Destroyers shown on screen at one time in the original trilogy, and does each of them have a given name?

  • The question becomes even more relevant when you factor in that (according to Legends EU), the Empire had roughly 25 THOUSAND star destroyers in service around the time of Episode VI. The 40-50 we saw at the Battle of Endor was barely a drop in the bucket. – Omegacron Dec 24 '16 at 21:47
  • I count 44 – Valorum Dec 24 '16 at 22:14
  • @Omegacron There were 27 ISD's at the Battle of Endor according to the Star Wars wikia. starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Battle_of_Endor I'd like to get a more canon-based count of ISD's for my own question which is linked to this one. – RichS Jun 20 '17 at 18:48
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The basics.

Screen time? For Star Wars only two are ever seen on screen at a time and only for one brief shot.

For The Empire Strikes Back there are apparently four Star Destroyers accounted for which are a part of Darth Vader’s personal “Death Squadron” that are clearly mentioned in the storyline. But there is one brief shot in the film where six Star Destroyers are clearly seen in formation.

In the case of Return of the Jedi, there are six specific Star Destroyers accounted for as being present at the “Battle of Endor”, but looking at a screenshot of the final battle reveals there are many, many, many, many more than just six Star Destroyers involved in that battle.

So the largest number of Star Destroyers shown on screen at one time in the original trilogy is undeniably the 24+ seen in the final, climactic space battle at the end of Return of the Jedi. But since not all of the Star Destroyers are accounted for in the story itself, only about six specific ships can be actually be identified with a name.

More details.

Here’s a breakdown of the Star Destroyers presented on screen in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983):

Star Wars (1977): Two Star Destroyers Seen On Screen

While it’s clear that the first Star Wars film showed the least amount of Star Destroyers, I think it’s worth mentioning which Star Destroyers were present in that film since the Devastator appears in all three original trilogy films:

These two Star Destroyers can both be seen on the screen pursuing the Millennium Falcon which had just escaped from Mos Eisley spaceport in this screenshot:

Star Destroyers chasing the Millennium Falcon from Tatooine.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Six Star Destroyers Seen On Screen

According to the Wookieepedia, Darth Vader’s personal “Death Squadron” in this film consisted of four Star Destroyers; one Executor-class Star Dreadnought (Super Star Destroyer) and three Imperial-class Star Destroyers:

That said, one shot clearly shows six ships appearing in the “reveal” scene with Darth Vader near the beginning of the film:

Darth Vader’s “Death Squadron.”

Return of the Jedi (1983): Way Too Many Star Destroyers to Count On Screen

Not as clear cut as The Empire Strikes Back since what is accounted for in the story details and what is shown on screen is exponentially larger.

According to the Wookieepedia entry on the “Battle of Endor” as presented in Return of the Jedi, it involved one Executor-class Star Dreadnought (Super Star Destroyer) and five Imperial-class Star Destroyers:

Seems simple enough superficially, but here is a screenshot of the scene where the Rebel fleet breaks off the attack on Death Star II and is caught in “a trap” where they have to face off against seemingly the whole Imperial fleet:

Imperial fleet at the “Battle of Endor.”

I casually counted about 24 ships that seem to be Star Destroyers but I give up… There’s too many of them!

But seriously, the most amount of Star Destroyers—and pretty much anything that flies in space—in the whole original Star Wars trilogy can be seen in that final space battle at the end of Return of the Jedi.

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    In your Empire Strikes Back info, I think you can actually bump it up to five star destroyers and one super star destroyer. Watch this clip, youtube.com/watch?v=fjWxTbVI0cw at about the 1:28 minute mark and you can clearly see five destroyers and have the super slide in from the right. – Chris Dec 31 '15 at 5:05
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    I count 32-35 in your screenshot, plus the Executor SSD. However I wonder if any of those, or the five + SSD in ESB were added by Lucas' Specialized editions? – Dronz Dec 31 '15 at 6:41
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    That final screenshot does beg the question, how in hell did that fleet lose that battle, even without the Death Star 2. We can assume they either lost or withdrew because of the celebration going on on Endor at the end of the film... – Moo Jan 29 '16 at 11:30
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    @Moo or as a SD commander, as soon as your evil dictator is destroyed, you and the part of the fleet you command gtfo of the Endor system and start to carve out your own empire. That's what I figure would happen. – 1252748 Jan 25 '17 at 2:29
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    @1252748 - All those commanders had a thought along the lines of "Well... there goes the paycheck." No, seriously, though - according to the Legends EU, it's exactly as you said. Several admirals absconded with entire fleets to carve out their own little empires. The New Republic spent the next 30 years wiping them out. – Omegacron Jun 20 '17 at 20:07

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