On Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi we see Darth Vader dying next to an Imperial shuttle as he speaks with Luke. Why didn't Luke use the Force to move Vader onto the shuttle? I assume he was capable of this since he moved C-3PO around with the Force earlier in the film.

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    Maybe he did; Luke got Vader's body into the shuttle in order to fly it to the Forest Moon for cremation. That happens off-screen, as it would likely represent a dramatic lapse of the tense rush-to-get-out flow. From a dramatic point of view it makes sense to say farewell to Vader (even redeemed) on the Death Star and to welcome Force-ghost Anakin on the Forest Moon.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 14:49
  • I'd imagine that moving a non-living droid takes less 'force power' than moving a living being. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 15:17
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    @DJSpicyDeluxe Citation needed!
    – Hans Olo
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 15:30
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    @Rebel-Scum I said 'I'd imagine.' I'd think my own word would be a proper citation for what I have imagined. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 15:45
  • Some circumstances call for the old-fashioned approach. I don't think this is too mysterious. Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 16:41

5 Answers 5


Probably because Luke was half dead from the Emperor nearly killing him with Force lightning.

EMPEROR: Now, young Skywalker...you will die.

Force Lightning

Luke was barely able to help Vader walk to the shuttle itself. I don't think using The Force was an option for that.

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    Not only was Luke injured, he suffered a variety of medical issues from Palpatine's attack for a while afterward, according to The Truce At Bakura. "Prolonged exposure to intense electrical fields (such as a sustained current of Force lightning) caused most humanoids to experience sudden and massive calcification of their skeletal system; the abrupt drop in blood minerals provoked muscular micro-seizures all over the victim's body." among other symptoms and Luke was confined to a hoverchair for days because even with bacta therapy, his condition would've worsened. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 17:59
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    Much better and more threatening line than screaming "UNLIMITED POWER" Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 9:17
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    Even when he moves C3P0, we see him close his eyes to focus, so it wasn't trivially easy for him. He wasn't at the level of, say, Yoda and Dooku in Episode 2 where he can just casually throw around stone pillars in the middle of a fight. Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 17:33
  • @SpaceWolf1701 I don't think that The Truce At Bakura is canon, anymore. IIRC the final battle of the first Rebellion was at Jakku, detailed in Lost Stars, by Claudia Gray.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 14:37
  • @nick012000 It's not, and the battle of Bakura was hardly the last battle of the Rebellion anyway, but for many years "Force lightning causes extreme long-lasting medical concerns" was canon and I thought it helpful to mention should Machavity wish to edit their answer. Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 15:36

Either Luke did use the Force to move Vader's body onto the shuttle, or he didn't need to. (Meaning he was physically strong enough to get Vader's body up the ramp and onto the shuttle.) Whichever way it happened, Luke obviously was able to get Vader's body onto the shuttle.

Note that in the scene on the Death Star II it wasn't Luke that stopped them from getting on the shuttle, it was Vader. He knew his death was imminent, and he wanted to properly say goodbye to Luke and to see him face to face for the first (and only) time. If Vader gets on the shuttle, there's a chance he dies before they land on the Forest Moon, and he never has a chance to say goodbye to Luke. (And to ask Luke to tell Leia that there was still some good in him.)

Luke also manages to get Vader's body off the shuttle and onto the funeral pyre he built. Again either he uses the Force or he doesn't need to. (My bet is on Luke at least using the Force to enhance his strength, since Vader's pretty big compared to him.)

  • It is pretty clear it is difficult to move him, and there is danger and risk in taking time to get Vader into the shuttle. youtube.com/watch?v=TNDwCsFzS8c
    – Jiminion
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 16:16
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    And yet it is indisputable that Luke, in fact, did get Vader onto the shuttle. Or are you arguing that Luke made a Vader effigy for the funeral pyre?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 16:20
  • Yes, but he didn't use the force. Even at the risk of his own life. He struggled to even get Vader to the door of the shuttle.
    – Jiminion
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 16:27
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    Once on Endor, there's plenty of people to move Vader's body off the shuttle.
    – Schwern
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 9:42
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    @Jiminion Luke's portrayed as a caring, possibly even sentimental, person. Given the choice between carrying your dad (assuming you have the strength) or picking him up with a forklift, most people would opt for the personal touch. If Luke can physically lift his dad, it's a good bet that's what he did.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 13:49

There’s two components to this as far as I can see:

  1. Dramatic license - it’s the writer’s privilege to be able to pick and choose what happens when in order to drive events or add weight to them. In this case seeing Luke nonchalantly skipping along while he casually floated his dad alongside him wouldn’t have been very dramatic.

  2. Unlike the sequel trilogy where the Force is portrayed as a toolkit of easily accessed tricks, even for the inexperienced, in the original trilogy every time we see Luke use the Force for substantive effect (think: light sabre retrieval in the Hoth ice cave and, as you point out, levitating 3-PO) we see him enter a state of meditation. True, we see him perform a light sabre retrieval with less focus and effort in Jedi, but this is consistent with his training on Dagobah and further experience with the technique, as compared to that moment on Hoth. The circumstances around his and Vader’s departure from Death Star II were hardly conducive to such meditation, and we’ve never (up to this point) seen Luke able to use Force levitation without entering that calm, focussed, meditative state, let alone whilst engaged in some other activity, even as basic as walking around.

Ultimately however, since it is never explained (i.e. portrayed) how or why he does or does not levitate Vader into the shuttle, any explanation either way can only ever be a subjective opinion.

It is my personal opinion (other opinions are available and just as valid) that what we see in Return of the Jedi is internally consistent with the portrayal of Lukes use of the Force in the previous 2 episodes and that this question only arises because of the INconsistency as now portrayed in episodes 7-9 (And to a lesser extent in episodes 1-3), where-in the Force is portrayed as nothing more problematic to wield than a trusty blaster at your side (altho at least in the case of the prequels this is arguably explained by the Force being wielded by fully trained and experienced Jedi).

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    +1 for the point about the meditative state Luke is usually in when using the Force
    – Longshanks
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 9:20
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    "we’ve never seen Luke able to multi-task a Force levitation with some other ability…" Except for the scene in ESB where he levitates a rock while doing a one-handed handstand and balancing Yoda on the soles of his feet… Although to be fair, he does lose it when getting distracted by R2 D2. Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 6:31
  • @MichaelMacAskill true. I perhaps should have said "haven't seen him use Force levitation without being in a calm, focussed, meditative state".
    – Deltics
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 12:31

Easiest answer: because it's a film, and it's far more dramatic a moment to show him struggling to drag his father than it would be to have him use the Force. Mind, they could have made his usage of the Force just as much of an exertion, but there's something more personal and tactile about him physically dragging Vader. It's an experience we, as an audience, can directly related to.

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    This is a decent out of universe potential for an answer but I think the question is asking for in universe reasons.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 15:25

According to the d6 Star Wars RPG (REUP edition, p163)

Telekinesis Alter Difficulty: Very Easy for objects weighing one kilogram or less; Easy for objects weighing one to ten kilograms; Moderate for objects 11 to 100 kilograms; Difficult for 101 kilograms to one metric ton; Very Difficult for 1,001 kilograms to ten metric tons; Heroic for objects weighing 10,001 kilograms to 100 metric tons.

Object may be moved at 10 meters per round; add +5 per additional 10 meters per round. The target must be in sight of the Jedi.

Increased difficulty if object isn’t moving in simple, straight- line movement: + 1 to +5 for gentle turns. + 6 to +10 for easy maneuvers. +11 to +25 or more for complex maneuvers, such as using a levitated lightsaber to attack. Modified by proximity. This power may be kept “up”

This would put Luke at a Moderate difficulty (11-15, Vader is 88.9kg) plus a modifier of +6 to +10 for maneuvering, he would likely be at a +2 (close but not touching) for proximity, and +5 if he's rushing (space station blowing up). As pointed out by others, he's been wounded, I would say "wounded twice" giving him a penalty of -2D (Luke has a 10D+2 during RotJ).

All said, Luke needs to roll a 24-28 on 8D+2. Assuming Vader is not resisting and wanting his son to get to safety. If he was, add Vader's Perception (3D+1) or Control (11D+1) roll to the difficulty.

  • Welcome to the site! We prefer answer that come from canon sources and while the game may offer so interesting statistics and numbers, I don't think dice rolls really apply to the film.
    – Skooba
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 14:25
  • How would you guess Vader is ~88 kilos? We know he has multiple transplants, machinery and an integrated suit of armor, he should be at least 100+ kgs placing him at Difficult.
    – svarog
    Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 12:02
  • "Roll a 24-28..." What sided dice is that, and how many?
    – Jiminion
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 14:27
  • @jiminion 8D6+2
    – Todd
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 2:38
  • @svarog, I used a Wired article. Potentially another +5 would be appropriate.
    – Todd
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 2:43

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