In Episode 3 Yoda fought Sidious and in the end, ran away. Why?

Did he realize that Sidious is stronger than him OR did he realize he is not meant to defeat him?

Wasn't Yoda able to tell how strong his enemies are, or more tell how strong the Force is?

  • 1
    Because if he didn't run away to Dagobah for about 20 years, the continuity of the Star Wars universe would be broken? Apr 27, 2017 at 10:12
  • Yoda realized that he cannot defeat Palpatine after their battle. Palpatine appeared too strong.
    – TimSparrow
    Apr 27, 2017 at 11:01
  • Yoda tried. That did not work. Perhaps that's when he invented his famous "there is no try" catchphrase.
    – void_ptr
    Jul 17, 2017 at 18:25

4 Answers 4


Actually the two of them at some point realized that Yoda was not powerful enough to defeat Sidious. That realization would make Sidious push it harder and harder, while Yoda came to the conclusion that he would be defeated.

We can see it in the movie, when Yoda needs to gather a lot of strength to reflect Sidious’ lightning, and after that he looks too tired. On the other hand, Sidious is laughing, basically just playing with Yoda and enjoying himself.

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It is also confirmed that Sidious realized Yoda's lack of strength by this quote from Matthew Stover's novelisation (emphasis mine):

The shadow could feel how much it cost the little green freak to bend back his lightnings into the cage of energy that enclosed them both; the creature had reached the limits of his strength. The shadow released its power for an instant, long enough only to whirl away through the air and alight upon one of the delegation pods as it flew past, and the creature leapt to follow.

When Bail Organa comes to pick him up, he says:

YODA: Failed I have.


Yoda knew he couldn't defeat the Sith. He didn't have the experience, the mindset, or the skill to beat the Sith. The novelisation shows us the moment that he realised this:

There came a turning point in the clash of the light against the dark.

It did not come from a flash of lightning or slash of energy blade


It came as the battle shifted from the holding office to the great Chancellor's Podium


It came when Yoda found himself alone against the dark.


Finally, he saw the truth.

This truth: that he, the avatar of light, Supreme Master of the Jedi Order, the fiercest, most implacable, most devastatingly powerful foe the darkness had ever known...

just -

didn't -

have it.

He'd never had it. He had lost before he started.

He had lost before he was born.

The Sith had changed. The Sith had grown, had adapted, had invested a thousand years' intensive study into every aspect of not only the Force but Jedi lore itself, in preparation for exactly this day. The Sith had remade themselves.

They had become new.

While the Jedi-

The Jedi had spent that same millennium training to re-fight the last war.

The new Sith could not be destroyed with a lightsaber; they could not be burned away by any touch of the Force. The brighter his light, the darker their shadow.

So even if Yoda had been able to kill Sidious, he would not have destroyed the Sith. The old Jedi way just wouldn't work to defeat these new Sith. They needed a new approach, one that he couldn't come up with while bashing away at Sidious with a lightsaber.

So he fled. He lived to train the Jedi who could defeat the Sith. He played the long game, just as the Sith had. And he lived to complete the training of Qui-Gon and the Force priestesses, to become "more powerful than [Vader] could possibly imagine".

  • To put aside novelization, if Yoda killed Sidious, Sith would be gone. There was no one left except burned and dying Vader.
    – rs.29
    Apr 27, 2017 at 19:52
  • 2
    Yoda had no way to be sure of that. He had no way of knowing that Obi-Wan had defeated Vader, or that Sidious had not scattered holocrons all over the galaxy. Yoda perceived through the Force that the Sith couldn't be defeated this way - they needed a New Hope.
    – Werrf
    Apr 27, 2017 at 20:20

Passages from the novel aren't canon anymore. So based on what we see in the movie only, he went away because troops were arriving, he no longer had his lightsaber and the impact of the fall was too great. Sidious was an excellent strategist and had all advantages despite being a coward. Had him not led them upwards and was near Yoda all along he would have been sliced in half. Yoda is too fast for him, that's why he tries to be distant all the time. Plus if not for the fall Yoda would have won.

Someone said Sidious kept laughing when Yoda held his lightning, no, seemed desperate when he saw Yoda could even hold his most powerful attack, and Yoda faced at him valiantly and was pushed away only by the impact of the power of the TWO, and both were violently repelled. Yoda fell far because he was lighter and too short to hold himself like Sidious did. He went away because the impact of the fall was great, plus clone troops were arriving.

Based on canonic feats Yoda and Sidious are equal at least. Legends feats never made sense at all (Sidious could destroy planets but in the movie all he did was lifting and throwing a few discs).

  • The party line is that the novels are canon where they agree (or build upon) what's seen on screen. They're non-canon where they diverge or disagree with the movies/TV. That would make Yoda's reasoning canon unless something happens to disagree with it
    – Valorum
    Dec 25, 2019 at 21:19

Yoda lost because he ran out of time. While he was strong enough to defeat Palpatine, the fight wasn’t going his way. Palpatine has the advantage in the arena they fought. Also, all Palpatine has to do was hold out long enough until his clone troops arrived.

  • Do you have any sources/evidence to back up your claims you could edit in?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 2, 2019 at 17:25

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