When Obi-Wan and 'Darth Vader' meet in episode three, Obi-Wan adopts a very defensive stance. He wears down his brilliant but impassioned opponent in this way ultimately leading to Anakin's defeat. Furthermore Obi-Wan is known for his mastery of the defensive lightsaber fighting style.

In the older films, where Obi-Wan fights him again the scene pans out like so:

  • Darth approaches Obi-Wan, red lightsaber 'drawn'. Starts to Smack Talk about how he is now a master.
  • Obi-Wan responds, then draws his blue lightsaber and lunges towards Darth.
  • Darth makes an easy riposte amidst further smack talk. Obi-wan continues to lead the combat striking first each time.
  • Darth goes on the offensive, and Obi-Wan is forced onto the defensive.
  • Obi-Wan gives his speech, spots Luke, gives a wry smile towards Vader and lets himself be killed/transcends into force-ghosthood.

You can see it in this video:

I'm not expecting Lucas to have foreseen the scene on Mustafar but, in-universe, is there an explanation? Is this just an old man leading when his strengths lay in defense?

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    In-universe, a guess might be that Obi-Wan has fought him before, he knows what he's up against, and is not taking any chances.
    – user8719
    Aug 21, 2013 at 22:55
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    Movies 1-3 kind of ruined this scene. It's such a brief and anti-climactic way to end a relationship built over an entire trilogy. Aug 21, 2013 at 23:22
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    @Anthony: I'd assumed he was referring to Obi-Wan and Anakin, but that relationship ended rather dramatically on Mustafar. And it just seems weird to refer to strong character development as having ruined anything. Aug 22, 2013 at 16:15
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    My memory is that at least part of Obi-Wan's purpose here is to distract Vader from the rest of the party as they escape. It would be more likely that Vader would look around and see the fugitives if he wasn't actively engaged. Aug 22, 2013 at 17:37
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    In the commentary track, Lucas says this battle is supposed to look like what it is - a fight between two old men (one of whom is mostly a robot) who are long past their prime. Obi Wan was trying to do two things- distract Vader and let Vader kill him in front of Luke. He had no intention of winning the fight or killing Vader, so his offensive stance is purely for appearance's sake. He needs to hurry the fight along, so he makes the first move.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 8, 2015 at 1:10

6 Answers 6


This has been ret-conned in at least one EU book (The Death Star, perhaps? I don't have the book to hand right know to check) as Obi-Wan deliberately fighting Vader in an out-of-character manner in order to catch him off-guard.

Nobody knew Obi-Wan's fighting style better than Vader, and given Obi-Wan's advanced age and years of seclusion, during which he only fought one opponent (Darth Krayt) who could go toe-to-toe with him in lightsaber combat, he felt it best to surprise the younger Sith Lord. Vader had ample and more recent experience with lightsaber combat due to his years of hunting rogue Jedi, and had also added Sith techniques which Obi-Wan may not have been familiar with.

If Obi-Wan continued to practice the lightsaber skills that Vader recognised from their time together, it is likely that Vader would find a weakness and exploit it. Even if Obi-Wan always intended to commit suicide-by-Sith, which is unclear, he still needed to buy enough time to allow Luke and the others to escape. Getting cut down quickly by a younger, stronger, more experienced Force-user who already knew all his tricks would not accomplish this.

  • Your answer clinches it as you reference EU! Thanks!
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 27, 2013 at 7:18
  • FYI - he also fought (and killed) Maul in Star Wars: Rebels
    – Derek
    Apr 29, 2017 at 1:33

From your video you can see Obi-Wan's intention was only to make sure that Luke and the others could get away with the Death Star plans. We can see from that the old Jedi master was successful in drawing Vader and the stormtroopers away long enough for the gang to make their escape. Go to about a 1:50 in to see all of this happen.


This is referenced in the film's official novelisation, as written by Alan Dean Foster George Lucas. The short answer is that by the point that Kenobi had turned on his lightsaber, he'd already accepted that a fight was inevitable and that Vader was a lost cause.

In essence, it really made no difference at that point who struck first. Kenobi simply saw an opportunity and took it:

The logic that had constituted the missing link in his brilliant pupil remained as absent as before. There would be no reasoning here, Kenobi knew. Igniting his saber, he assumed the pose of warrior-ready, a movement accomplished with the ease and elegance of a dancer. Rather roughly, Vader imitated the movement. Several minutes followed without motion as the two men remained staring at each other, as if waiting for some proper, as yet unspoken signal.

Kenobi blinked once, shook his head, and tried to clear his eyes, which had begun to water slightly. Sweat beaded up on his forehead, and his eyelids fluttered again. “Your powers are weak,” Vader noted emotionlessly. “Old man, you should never have come back. It will make your end less peaceful than you might have wished.” “You sense only a part of the force, Darth,” Kenobi murmured with the assurance of one to whom death is merely another sensation, like sleeping or making love or touching a candle. “As always, you perceive its reality as little as a utensil perceives the taste of food.” Executing a move of incredible swiftness for one so old, Kenobi lunged at the massive shape. Vader blocked the stab with equal speed, riposting with a counterslash that Kenobi barely parried. Another parry and Kenobi countered again, using this opportunity to move around the towering Dark Lord.


Good guys strike first in Star Wars.

They always have.

Seriously though, Obi-wan knew he wasn't going to win.

Vader: Obi-Wan is here. The Force is with him.

Tarkin: If you're right, he must not be allowed to escape.

Vader: Escape is not his plan. I must face him alone.

Obi-wan was up against the most powerful Jedi in the Galaxy. Ani may have been beaten a long time ago, but decades of experience and evil Emperor training have made the situation totally different.

Vader: When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.

Obi-wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.

Vader: Your powers are weak old man.

Obi-wan: You can't win. If you strike me down, I shall be more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Obi-wan doesn't disagree that Vadar is stronger or will win the battle; he just knows that winning the battle isn't the same as winning the war.

He knew he wasn't going to defeat Vadar in a duel. (Otherwise, he probably would have tried this earlier.) And if he knew that he wasn't going to win, attacking first was just a tactic to lose slower, so that Luke and company could escape without the galaxy's most powerful Dark Jedi on their heels.


Upon the Millennium Falcon being towed (by tractor beam) to the Death Star, Darth Vader detects the presence of Obi-Wan. Darth Vader tells the General Tarkin that he has felt the presence of Obi-Wan (his old master), and almost immediately reminds the General Tarkin that escape his not his plan and that he must face him alone. Darth Vader may not have known the intention of Obi-wan, but he had perceived through the force that escape was not one of them. Remember that the dark side clouds everything, and it Obi-Wan probably buried his intention to disable the tractor beam.

Obi-Wan knowing that Anakin (Vader) could easily see into the immediate future could forsee that a confrontation was inevitable, and in this instance, he took charge by calling the shots to ensure that Vader would respond in kind. Obi-Wan knew it was essential for the others to escape, therefore he became one with the force and quickly reminded Luke to run (and get out of there), and he deliberately moved towards the blast screen door way to attract the attention of the other storm troopers/guards.


One also must realize, that despite Kenobi being a Jedi (and hence on the "Light Side of the Force") there is still some darkness within him. He used his his pain and sorrow of seeing Qui Gon killed in front of him and transferred it to rage to slice Maul in half.

Certainly old Ben was haunted by his guilt of allowing Darth Vader to live. It was his duty to kill him, his feelings of attachment to Anakin led to his mercy. Having recently felt millions of souls cry out in pain, would have caused feelings of guilt. Guilt leads to anger. Obi Wan was trying to correct his mistake he made years ago through his mercy. He knew he was sacrificing him self, but deep down he wanted to end Vader.

This is why the idea of balance of the force is so important. (Anyone else notice they hypocracy Kenobi displayed when he said "only Sith Lords deal in absolutes") the dark side of the soul will always be there, as well as the altruistic side. The Force? It's neutral, it's just have to uses applies it. Those who have that kind of power need to learn to counter their feelings. Not suppress them. Anger is not bad. Anger tells you something is wrong. It's how you react to that feeling. If you suppress your anger, or try to avoid any situations where you will feel negative emotions (like avoiding attachments)

The Jedi and Sith are two sides of the same coin, the failure of both is the suppression of the other.

  • This is supposition, and is not supported by any material, in either the films or the EU. Obi-Wan is in fact shown to be the essence of the Jedi; he lives to serve. Jul 23, 2014 at 8:01

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