Throughout both continuities, we see many times that stealing ships is exceptionally easy, as they appear to only rarely be locked, and to not require keys, passcodes, etc. to fly them.

A few examples:

  • In the Knights of the Old Republic series, the Ebon Hawk is infiltrated or broken into by a stowaway, the Handmaiden and a gang of criminals, respectively.
  • In The Phantom Menace, Anakin and R2-D2 are able to jump in a starfigher that apparently features a security system so weak that they accidentally fly it away.
  • In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars pilot movie, Anakin and Ashoka are easily able to take over The Twilight, granted the door was already open.
  • In the episode Twilight if the Apprentice, of Star Wars: Rebels, Chopper is able to enter and pilot the Eighth Brother's ship and

    Maul is able to steal a TIE Advanced.

  • In The Return of the Jedi, Luke is able to take an Imperial Shuttle and fly it away.

    (Anakin was dead at this point, so he wouldn't have been able to help.)

  • In The Force Awakens, Finn and Poe were able to steal an Elite TIE-Fighter (though this one was at least connected by a cable, it still apparently had no security systems more advanced than that of a pen at a bank). We also learn that the Millennium Falcon has been stolen four separate times since Return of the Jedi.

Why aren't ships in Star Wars locked? And why can just about anyone fly them? Wouldn't people like Han, who obviously cares immensely about his ship, add some advanced security systems, or at least make the ship require keys or something?

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    I guess the biggest hurdle would be requiring the knowledge how to even start the thing. This is seemingly not a problem in the SW universe, where any random scavenger can just hop into a completely unknown spaceship and instantly know how to start it, how to fly it, and how to maintain it. In real life, if you have no training on an aircraft type, you would have difficulties with just switching the engine on in an unfamiliar airplane, even if you are otherwise a professional pilot. And we are not even talking about spaceships.
    – vsz
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 6:09
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    Locks don't really help against people trying to steal your car. Or burgling your home. Their effect is mostly psychological - they prevent "honest people" from messing around. They may also help you get better insurance :P But any actual intruder will be able to bypass most practical locks very quickly with little effort. The limiter to car stealing is the ease with which you can turn stolen cars into money, and that's not getting any easier. Even for your personal use, it's only a matter of time before someone notices a dude parked a TIE fighter prototype in the local cantina...
    – Luaan
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 6:54
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    Probably, the rebellion's plan should have been stealing the death star instead of destroying it!
    – Turion
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 7:49
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    In the phantom menace that ship already had predetermined coordinates and R2-D2 probably had the codes need to start it seeing as these star fighters had been meant to have an astromech on its socket. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 15:32
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    There's a small counterpoint to a specific part of the premise of your question. Finn could gain access to a TIE Fighter. He could probably start it. But he couldn't fly it. That's why he rescued Poe. Finn needed Poe to fly the fighter.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 17:58

8 Answers 8


Many of your examples are military. In real life military, many vehicles do not require a key to start. They rely on the security of the base to prevent unauthorized usage. I'll try and find a link later but I read about an incident last year where a man somehow got into a military base and took a tank for a joy ride using the push button start.

Other things like construction equipment also typically don't require keys to start, so even civilian space ships could be considered more like construction equipment than like a car. The Star Wars car equivalent would be a land speeder which likely have stronger theft prevention since we see open top speeders parked on the streets in the movies.

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    "Won't start" security is a design flaw in a military craft, as it is an additional point of failure (lose the keys, have wrong keys, key port gets dirty, key management protocols, key detection system breaks) that can cost lives.
    – Yakk
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:14
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    Yes exactly, in a combat situation if the driver dies then someone else needs to be able to operate the vehicle in an emergency without searching his body (which may be inaccessible) for the keys.
    – Probst
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:41
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    When I was a young kid, I caused a momentary panic by starting a humvee that was on static display at some sort of independence day parade.
    – Deolater
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 18:16
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    The launch code for US nukes is "00000000". Keep it to yourself. Anyone who breaks into a secure nuclear facility can launch nukes by typing in that code. Don't let that knowledge fall into ISIS's hands.
    – emory
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 20:03
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    @emory That's amazing! I've got the same combination on my luggage!
    – IMSoP
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 8:58

Let's start with a real-world analogy...

From what I can recall of my experience learning to fly, all of the school's aircraft were parked unlocked with keys in. I never had to pick up a key to enter or start one up. I have to assume the area had sufficient control over access that securing the aircraft by locking them up and removing the keys would be unnecessary and a source of inconvenience. On the other hand, privately owned and unattended aircraft were always locked by their owners.

Now let's extend this to other "fleet craft" scenarios...

Presumably, fleet craft are always "attended" in some way (security patrols, under observation by a dispatcher, etc.) so locking them down would be an unnecessary precaution and an inconvenience, assuming all known avenues of infiltration are secured in some way.

In the Star Wars or any other story universe...

The typical scenario is that the infiltrator of a fleet craft finds some way to evade observation, or use The Force to cause the guard etc. to not notice the infiltrator until it's too late.

As for Han's ship, you could go with an in-universe explanation like: he's just like many real people who, for various reasons, don't lock their houses or cars - they don't expect anything to happen while it's left unattended; you could also go with an out-of-universe explanation: scenes depicting the encountering and defeating of a lock could disrupt the intended pacing of the movie.

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    Who would steal a hunk of junk anyway ? Oh wait xD
    – Pwassonne
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 21:43
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    It's entirely possible only Han or Chewie could start the engines due to specialized know-how from all the modifications.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 23:57
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    @Joshua - Spaceships that you have to push-start are the worst...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 3:16
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    "so locking them down would be an unnecessary precaution" - AIUI even military ground vehicles in real life don't tend to have keyed ignition.
    – Random832
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 6:45
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    Of course Han wouldn't lock the Falcon. Those five extra seconds could cost Han and Chewie their lives on any regular day of fleeing from angry criminals, law officers, or mobs!
    – jpmc26
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 8:27

What makes cars so difficult to steal?

Not all that much, physically. There's some decent security systems, but up until ~2000 all it took was some basic knowledge of wiring and circuits, or just a pry bar at the ignition.

The reason they aren't stolen more often is because of the relatively high difficulty of registering or selling said car after the fact - sure, you can chop it up for parts, or use it for a getaway, but you'll never come close to full market value for a stolen vehicle.

And our cars don't all have galactic wide locator beacons yet

Which, since it's hinted that all ships are broadcasting their signature and location when Han swoops in to intercept the Millennium Falcon in The Force Awakens, this even further perpetuates the cycle of why there's little reason to attempt theft - each ship can likely be located and reclaimed before the thief gets too far, and they would likely have little resale value the same way a stolen Ferrari won't fetch $400,000 like a clean titled one might.

This situation would make theft unlikely, especially from something like the Galactic Empire that can pursue, capture, and reclaim the vessel easily. So, why lock them?

Plus, they make for convenient plot devices when people need to escape, and aren't necessarily looking for resale value on the ship or have the skills and/or backing to avoid capture.

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    IMHO the best answer so far...
    – Bardo
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 15:31
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    "[Y]ou'll never come close to full market value for a stolen vehicle" You don't need to: it's not like you paid anything for it. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 3:31
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    @DavidRicherby True, but you took on potentially quite a lot of risk to get it.
    – user
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:23
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    The Falcon having a galactic wide locator beacon makes the scenes in Empire where it hides against the hull of a star destroyer pretty odd, and I'm sure Han is always going to be hiding from at least one person which makes it a bad idea in general. Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 7:22
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    If ships are broadcasting their signature and location, why couldn't Han find the MF when it was still docked on Jakku? Why did he have to ask who had it?
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 14:08

Imagine you have to hand out keys to X thousand troopers in an emergency AND afterwards, they have to find their fighter as well. Or the parking management. If you can board the first available fighter and start right away, you are simply able to react faster.


There is one underlying point to most of the cases you mentioned. It's not that Stormtroopers are bad shooters, it's just that every time you pay attention, they are up against opponents who are much better shots. Likewise, it's not that ships are that easy to steal, it's just that every time you pay attention, the thieves happen to have something going in their favour.

Most of the examples stated is a case of Grand Theft Auto:

  • In the KotOR example, the Ebon Hawk was stolen by a criminal gang. Given the prevalence of starships in the Star Wars galaxy, and the dangers of being marooned planetside when on the run from the law, shipjacking should be a common skill for any criminal.
  • In young Anakin's case, one can only say one thing: The Force was with him. Yes it's a lame excuse that George Lucas made too comedic, but in all seriousness that one time can only be said to be nothing less than that.
  • Jedi can be considered to be a form of special agent. As peacekeepers of the Republic, they are sent on a wide variety of missions that demand expertise in all sorts of non-Force-related skills, ranging from the art of war to mechanical understanding of starships and other machinery. Considering their frequent run-ins with the criminal underworld and the occasional undercover mission, knowledge of shipjacking should be part of their repertoire too.
  • Chopper is a rebel astromech droid and war veteran. Chopper had also been used frequently to infiltrate Imperial Star Destroyers - alone - to hack into their systems. Considering astromechs had been known to be capable of interfacing with friendly and hostile systems alike, it's probably not too difficult for one with Chopper's expertise and experience to shipjack even an Inquisitor's starship.
  • Maul is a former Sith Lord, and Sidious had trained him well. What else can I say?
  • The Death Star's hangar was supposed to be considered a secure location free of enemy presence (Luke was considered captive and alone), and being in the middle of a battle, it is likely starships may be unlocked for rapid access. Besides, during Luke's escape the general evacuation order had been issued, so nobody really bothered about an escaping Rebel - everyone knew what happened to the last Death Star, if an evacuation order was issued during a battle with Rebels, you better well heed it.
  • Finn is the best Stormtrooper in his batch, and was slated for possible entry to officer school. He either has, or is easily able to obtain access codes to a TIE Fighter. Poe is one of the best starfighter pilots in the galaxy - I wouldn't be surprised if he has learnt intel about First Order technology, or is simply a natural at recognising controls.
  • By the time Rey and Finn flew the Millennium Falcon, it had been stolen and re-stolen, changing hands so many times, nobody knew exactly what it is anymore. As a smuggler, I would guess that Han's modifications to the ship aren't meant to be overt - that means no special locking down of the ship beyond what a normal Corellian Freighter would have on the surface - it's all about the risk-reward ratio, after all.

Like I said, all of the examples you cited had some particular reason why normal ship locking aren't particularly effective. It may not be that ships are ridiculously easy to steal - it could simply be that the ones we've observed are cases where the thief has above average ability to bypass or break in, or the defences simply weren't live at the time.

If authorities/ship-owners really intend to, they do go to the extent of locking the ship down. In times like that, astromechs are also useful for cracking the codes.

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    Another thing to add to this: Ships, especially (relatively) larger vessels like the Millennium Falcon, often served as the home for the crew. At any given time, there's a good chance someone is on board and able to try to fight off a hijacker. In such cases, it'd be more like hijacking a mobile home than a car, without first checking that the owners weren't inside.
    – Marsh
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 21:34

In addition to the correct answer above, also consider the following reasons why they seem easy to steal in your examples.

No AAA in Space

One reason why ships in Star Wars might not have locked doors is that, if you lock yourself out of your spaceship in the middle of nowhere, you can't call AAA to come unlock it for you. You'd just die of starvation cursing yourself.

Stealing a Ship Would be Perilous

Another reason why people might feel OK leaving their ships unlocked would be that very few people would be willing to risk actually stealing a ship due to the inherent risks involved: ships in Star Wars are widely known to have built-in computers, long-range communications systems, dangerous and potentially rouge-like astromech droids, hidden tracking devices, and/or poison gas systems. (There's no reason they couldn't have integrated self-destruct systems like the Imperial Probe Droid had in The Empire Strikes Back, but if the owner can just shut off life support from remote or track you down and kill you, why bother?)

Also, your examples are mostly of highly-trained Jedi commandeering ships whilst in situations in which doing so was arguably their last resort. These are not average people waltzing into a vessel. These Jedi have lots of experience and training in all sorts of specialized operations that would decidedly lessen the risks involved with breaking into and stealing a random ship and successfully piloting it. The same might also be said about an organized criminal gang.

It's Just a Plot Device

That being said, I think what you are noticing may just be a classic example of deus ex machina, similar to the common trope where, in the movies and on TV, house keys are always under the doormat, and car keys are always behind the sun visor. In other words it's just a convenient plot device for the sake of the entertainment of viewers, and should probably not be interpreted as a statement about what the Star Wars universe is actually supposed to be like.

In other words, even though we don't actually see Anakin hotwire the vehicle he takes, is there any doubt in your mind that he could have hotwired it? Writers wants their stories to flow well on-screen and so they leave out parts like that (although I'm not sure how much it helped The Phantom Menace).

If I was GMing a Star Wars roleplay campaign, I would not let players use your examples as arguments for why they get to steal random ships, just like I would not let them use the bad aim of Stormtroopers in the movies as an excuse for why they should not have just gotten shot. This is really a trope and nothing more, IMHO.

  • It's not just a plot device; in industrial, racing, construction, military, etc, it's not uncommon to leave keys in equipment all the time and use push button start. Nobody wants to spend 30 minutes tracking down the crane operator who left his keys at the cafe.
    – deek
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 15:37
  • deek - I prefaced my answer with, "In addition to the correct answer above," which means I include the meaning you just said in my answer. That being said, several of the examples of easy theft (like the Millenium Falcon in Ep. 7 for example) do not fall in the category that you mention (industrial, racing, construction, military).
    – CommaToast
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 23:47

Most of the answers given are trying to compare modern era technology with interstellar era technology. Even today, pattern recognition technology can automate the recognition of people, it would stand to reason that by then a machine capable of moving faster than light would by default have the means to recognize and at the very least detain unwanted visitors.

The truth is far simpler. Star Wars is actually not set in an interstellar era. It is set in the 1950's, just with a bit more magic. You think that's off? The return of the Sith was set in WWI.

Technology determines what you can do and what problems you need to deal with. Those problems consequently change the way we perceive reality and think about life.

There is a significant difference between our world today and what it was in the 1940's, the issues we deal with now may have similarities but they are profoundly different challenges. For example, not to start a debate, but the entire issue of the migration of Middle Easterners to Europe was not even possible 30 years ago. Not unless you were dealing with an exteremely well organized military backed with heavy government funding. The resources and distribution methods simply did not exist to support that for a large number of unorganized, unarmed and untrained men and women.

TL/DR: Because 1960's cars in California generally left the keys in the ignition.

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    Hello and welcome to Scifi.SE. It would be great if you considered taking the tour. Although this is interesting, I don't see how it answers the question asked. And maybe you disgress a little too much at some point.
    – Kalissar
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 10:29
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    actually europe was accepting immigrants from the middle east and North Africa for quite awhile since they were colonies.
    – deek
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 15:36

Some industrial equipment have a push start and keys are often left in the ignition.

I'll also assume of these ships are still on and ready to fly off so they're ready to be stolen easily no different than a car in neutral.

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