At the end of Revenge of the Sith, Obi Wan and Yoda went into hiding. They thought they were not able to defeat the Sith and the Empire. They hoped that the newborn twins (Luke and Leia) will be able to someday.

Yoda was nearly a match for the emperor in Revenge of the Sith. In Return of the Jedi he was old and died.

Obi Wan beats Anakin in Revenge of the Sith and (as far as I know) Anakin was stronger than Darth Vader. So Obi Wan could surely beat Darth Vader shortly after Revenge of the Sith. In A New Hope Obi Wan was old and not able to beat Vader and died.

Luke (even after Yoda’s training) was not nearly able to oppose Vader (in The Empire Strikes Back). I do not know what happened between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that makes him better, but even in Return of the Jedi he barely beats Vader. He wasn't remotely a match for the Emperor, who was only killed due to the surprise attack from Vader.

The Empire was just born at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In Return of the Jedi it was consolidated and had stabilized over 20 years.

So my question is, weren't the chances of Obi Wan and Yoda at the end (or shortly after) Revenge of the Sith to take out the Emperor, Darth Vader and the Empire much, much greater than the chances of Luke when he (indirectly) finally did it in Return of the Jedi? We can even discuss if Luke contributed anything in taking out the Empire, the Emperor and Vader, because he wasn’t involved in the destruction of the Death Star II (over Endor)—that would have happened even without him—and would have killed Vader and the Emperor also.

So was this a great misjudgment from Obi Wan and Yoda that the baby twins, or at least one of them, years later will be a better match than themselves?

Bonus Question: If the sake of the whole galaxy is at stake and Obi Wan and Yoda became old and weak, why didn’t they start to train Luke earlier? Just because uncle Owen didn't like it? Or did they resign and give up over time and the coincidences in A New Hope just woke them up again?

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    I think you're assuming that RoTS Vader = RotJ Vader
    – Liath
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 11:48
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    I think that the 'Bonus Question' should probably be posted as a separate question. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 11:55
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    I'm not even comfortable saying Obi-Wan couldn't beat Vader in ANH. He gave up on purpose so he could mentor Luke.
    – user40790
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 17:16
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    How was he not involved in the destruction of the Death Star? He literally was the one who hit the target in ANH, and helped pave the way for them in ROTJ.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 18:50
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    @JakeGould Also, the OP asked This followup specifically for us I feel.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 17:57

4 Answers 4


I'm going to argue that Luke "defeated" the Emperor not through strength in the Force, not through skill in the Force, but by his unique positioning to stand at the intersection of the Light and Dark sides of the force and his unique relationship to Anakin which allowed him to influence Vader.

So the answer to your question is, Luke's chances were better because (hand-wave) it's not the battle you thought it was.

I'm going to start by co-opting @Mike.C.Ford's contention that Luke struggled with an attraction to the Dark Side - his failure of the test on Dagobah, his casual use of cruel methods when rescuing Han Solo, his hatred when fighting Vader. All these things are true. He definitely was dipping his toes in the same waters which had drowned his father Anakin and given birth to Darth Vader.

So let's compare there - Yoda and Obi-Wan had no such ambiguity. The Emperor would not be attracted to them; they would be opponents, not potential candidates. Any contact between those parties could only lead to conflict, with no quarter given or received. Only Luke would be allowed in the Emperor's presence long enough to be taunted and tempted. Advantage, Luke.

The Dark Side is - it must be said - attractive. The level of caution that the Jedi express about its temptations, the way it asserts itself even over people who know they should be fighting it, everything we know about it suggests it is both subtle and addictive. One does not simply walk away from the Dark Side. And yet Luke, tempted, alternately beaten and beckoned, on the very edge of succumbing, chose to reject it, was willing to die rather than convert. Was willing to assert, by example, that one can always choose to reject the Dark Side. Advantage, Luke.

Finally, as Anakin Skywalker's son, rejecting the Dark Side at that time and place exerted pressures on Darth Vader that no one else could exert. He simultaneously appealed to his father - not when he asked for help, but by refusing to hurt him - and suggested that it was still possible, even for Darth Vader, to reject the Dark Side and choose redemption via his actions. We saw how Anakin's relationship with Obi-Wan was conflicted by distrust and jealousy; there is no way Obi-Wan or Yoda could pull at his buried affections the way Anakin's long-lost Son could. Advantage, Luke.

The fact that Luke could put up a credible fight with the lightsaber was helpful; without that, he also would not have been attractive to the Emperor. But it was not his skill with the blade or his strength in the force that made Vader decide to pick up his master and throw him into the pit.

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    One does not simply walk into that reference. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 5:59
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    Great answer! I'm compelled to plug for my assertion that Luke's willingness to die rather than convert is the moment when he truly becomes a Jedi, and is the event promised in the title of the film. I can tell I'm going to be linking to this answer some time in the future as inevitably more questions about Luke in ROTJ are asked. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 13:52
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    @ToddWilcox Of course, another interpretation is that "Jedi" is being used in the collective — it's the return of the Jedi to the galaxy after being wiped out/in hiding.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 17:50
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    @ghoppe The second interpretation is the one I favor. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 18:17
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    And of course this ties back into the failure on Dagobah. - "Your weapons. You will not need them." - Luke was never able to win (After all - Anakin was the chosen one.) through skill at arms or mustering the force. He only had to bring Anakin back, and could only do that without weapons. As a son. To an Anakin who we all know loved family and the idea of family passionately. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:18

If the question is why didn't Obi-Wan and Yoda try to take out the Emperor & Vader themselves, I think this question provides enough explanation.

As for why Luke was able to defeat Vader at the end of ROTJ, it's because he was using the Dark Side of the force to defeat Vader.

The Emperor says it himself:

Good, good... let the hate flow through you

Luke uses plenty of dark side force techniques in ROTJ, including force-choking one of Jabba's guards; clearly he's falling to the dark side. At the point that he's fighting Vader the Emperor has manipulated him quite well to start using the dark side in order to get Luke to take up his father's place as his apprentice.

So as for whether Luke was better (i.e. more skilled/ better trained etc.) than Obi-Wan at the time he defeated Vader whereas Obi-Wan died, probably not. But he was undoubtedly stronger.

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    Using traditionally dark side abilities on occasion does not necessarily mean you are falling to the dark side.
    – TylerH
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 17:43
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    @TylerH Tell that to the Jedi.
    – user40790
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 19:50
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    @TylerH The thing he's continuously called out on, which makes everyone in the order suspicious of him?
    – user40790
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 0:04
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    It's worth noting, from an out of universe story perspective, that when ROTJ was in theaters, there wasn't yet a concept of "light side techniques" versus "dark side techniques". The only thing that seemed different between light side and dark side in terms of abilities or willingness to use them was the lightning. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 13:55
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    @ToddWilcox: even so, choking someone telekinetically is 1) clearly not a nice or necessary thing to do and 2) something we have by then come to associate with Vader, as a chilling and almost disdainful display of power (which Luke follows up on by brazenly threatening Jabba). So even without an explicit "force choking people is Dark Side" label, it's not a stretch to say we could see Luke acting more Dark than Light there. Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 15:00

(We can even discuss if Luke contributed anything in taking out the empire, emperor and Vader, because he wasn't involved in the destruction of the death star, that would have happened even without him and would have killed Vader and the Emperor also).

I have always assumed that if the Emperor weren't distracted by Luke, he'd have sensed the tide of battle turning against him and prevented the destruction of the Death Star. If nothing else, it would have been simple enough for he and Vader to pop back down to Endor and kick some rebel/Ewok rear themselves, preventing the shield from ever coming down.

Now, distraction wasn't Luke's intention, but it worked out. IMO we have to assume that Luke was at some level being guided by the Force.

  • Got any sources or all just conjecture? That would be kinda neat if Luke just being around was messing with the Emperor's head.
    – Pants
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 18:03
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    @Pants not so much messing with his head, as denying the opportunity. The emperor couldn't send Vader back down to Endor during the rebel attack, because he was needed to turn Luke to the dark side. No Vader, no way to pit father against son to turn the son. It does also rather nicely focus the emperor's attention on the throneroom, so less likely to send another battalion of stormtroopers into the meatgrinder. the emperor also wouldn't go personally, he's shown through all 6 movies to avoid fighting personally if at all possible.
    – Leliel
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 18:27
  • Ah, now I see what you were getting at. I'll gladly turn my downvote into an upvote if you edit the sentiment from your comment into the answer (right now my vote is locked until the answer is edited). I'm also having trouble parsing the bit in italics. What did you mean by it?
    – Pants
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 18:35
  • @Pants the "part in italics" was a quote from the question. Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 20:50
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    It's no longer canon, but IIRC Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire novel explained this: the Emperor and Vader used the Force to help manage the Empire's fleet. When the Emperor died, the fleet went into disarray and gave the rebels the opportunity to destroy the Death Star.
    – jamesdlin
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 1:26

First off...it's a movie. Saying that this person would beat that person because of how they did in a battle especially a battle using 1977 technology is ridiculous. Anakin was stronger the Obi-wan in ROTS...by far. Even Obi-wan said it. He lost because he got stuck over the lava and Obi-wan had the higher ground. It wouldn't have been much of a movie if Anakin simply crushed Obi-Wan. You can't look at the lightsaber battles that needed to be exciting and close and use that to say who would win or who would be stronger. The individual lightsaber battles had to be close or it would be boring. Did you see Duku pretty much even with Yoda in episode2, then Anakin crushed Duku in ROTS? You just have to look at the story that was laid out and not individual battles for the purpose of an exciting battle. The story is that Anakin/Darth Vader is the strongest with the force out of all of them. He was still young and reckless, but was the strongest and the emperor knew it. So, regardless of who won this battle or that battle, Vader was the strongest because that is what Lucas decided, which is why everyone says it...yoda, obi-wan, the emperor, etc. The lightsaber battles where there to tell a story and make for an exciting movie. Vader was the chosen one and fulfilled the prophecy as stated. It just wasn't known in what manner he would do it.Luke was not the chosen one...he was not created from the force like Anakin was.

  • There are a lot of things wrong with this answer. 1) Luke and Anakin had the same potential, as Lucas has repeatedly stated. That’s why the Emperor wanted to tempt Luke: he was the “original-model” Anakin.
    – Adamant
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 11:15
  • 2) Dooku was not even with Yoda; not even close. Yoda and Palpatine were about even, but Yoda was far more skilled than Dooku. He fended off Dooku with barely any effort: “Much to learn, you still have.”
    – Adamant
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 11:17
  • 3) Anakin was strongest, but not necessarily Vader (post-Mustafar, anyway). Vader’s power was diminished due to the injuries he had sustained.
    – Adamant
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 11:18
  • 4) Just because Anakin was the strongest, doesn’t mean he would win every fight. In particular, like any Force-user, his skill grew with time and training (up to a point). Vader has more training than Anakin.
    – Adamant
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 11:19

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