In Star Wars - Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke Skywalker goes to Cloud City, he pretty much

  • Falls (almost literally) into the trap set for him

  • Loses a duel against Darth Vader

  • Loses his (father's) lightsaber

  • Gets his hand crudely amputated


  • Is barely saved by those he came to rescue

So my question is: Did Luke actually accomplish anything by going to Cloud City? Did he possibly distract the Imperial forces and thereby help his friends escape? Did he help them in any way by trying to rescue them, or would it have been no worse (or even, better) if he had just stayed on Dagobah and kept training with Yoda?

  • 29
    Yoda did try to stop him.
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 14:57
  • 53
    He learned who is father is. The whole movie led up to that.
    – BBlake
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 16:58
  • 10
    He got some good Chinese food there.
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 19:26
  • 29
    The gift shop there is AMAZING.
    – Zoot
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 19:40
  • 11
    The question implies that he is supposed to accomplish something. Life is just a series of events; they don't all build to something. And storytelling is entertainment; it doesn't have to always result in accomplishments as long as the ride was entertaining.
    – Mufasa
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 6:16

9 Answers 9


Luke, No.

But R2-D2, which was Luke's companion when he came back from Dagobah, did a lot :

The droid stayed with Luke as he flew to Cloud City. After being separated from his master in the city, he was spotted by C-3PO, who was in a disassembled state and tied to Chewbacca's back. When Chewbacca, Leia, Lando and the droids escaped to the Falcon, R2-D2 helped to repair a heavily damaged C-3PO. He also played a part in the escape from Cloud City, slicing computer systems, providing smoke screen, and fixing the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive at the last minute, having learned that it was disabled from the city's computer, facilitating escape from the Empire.

So, if Luke had just stayed on Dagobah, R2-D2 would not had been here to help everybody escape from Cloud City.

  • 4
    Just more support for the theories put forth by the writer of "The New Sith" ani.me/zine/home/article/179
    – TehShrike
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 19:24
  • @TehShrike - This is amazing :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 23:21
  • @TehShrike: ... and also a dead link.
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 23:01
  • 5
    @bitmask: I'm pretty sure this is a copy of the relevant article: km-515.livejournal.com/746.html Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 1:58
  • 3
    If anything, Luke screwed up Lando's original plan to save everyone.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 18:51

In Luke's force vision he saw bad outcomes for both Han and Leia. By going to Cloud City he changed that vision, because Leia was ultimately able to escape with the help of Lando. If Luke hadn't shown up for the trap, something probably would have happened to Leia. Certainly if Vader wasn't preoccupied with waiting for Luke, he could have subdued their escape attempt.

LUKE: Han! Leia!
LUKE: I saw...I saw a city in the clouds.
YODA: Mmm. Friends you have there.
LUKE: They were in pain.
YODA: It is the future you see.
LUKE: Future? Will they die?
Yoda closes his eyes and lowers his head.
YODA: Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.
LUKE: I've got to go to them.
YODA: Decide you must how to serve them best. If you leave now, help them you could. But you would destroy all for which they have fought and suffered.

The future he would destroy is probably a future without Vader and the Emperor, as Yoda likely expected Luke to be killed by Vader. However, the future is always in motion.

Script reference

  • He can't be said to have changed Leia's outcome either way because all he intimated was that he saw them in pain. It is quite plausible, though not shown, that Chewbacca and Leia also were tormented in some manner.
    – horatio
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 18:33
  • 1
    The torture of Han, Leia and Chewie by Vader was nothing more than bait. He knew that Luke would respond to his friends' pain and would head directly for Cloud City. However, if he hadn't (perhaps because he didn't go to Dagobah), Han was still spoken for by Boba Fett, and Leia was a high-ranking member of the Alliance. Chewie would probably have been executed at Cloud City; Leia, either the same, or brought to the Emperor.
    – KeithS
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 20:46
  • 2
    I always thought Yoda said "difficult to see. Always emotion is the future". Didn't know it was "in motion" :D
    – Jared
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 5:49

Cloud City is an unmitigated disaster from Luke's POV. Well, almost unmitigated; he survives. As DampeS8N comments, Yoda tried to stop him. Yoda knew Luke wasn't ready to face Vader. Not skilled enough in the Force and not emotionally ready.

That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger, so the saying goes. It is absolutely true for Luke, however. IMVHO the Luke/Vader/Emperor thread is the best part of Jedi (or was, until Lucas decided to add the "noooo"s in. ahem). Luke grows considerably through surviving Cloud City.

I don't think it's easy to say that Luke not going would be better/worse. Ideally, Yoda wanted to train him as much as possible and then probably position him confront Vader and the Emperor. Could Luke have succeeded in that case? Sure. Would have have? I don't know. I don't know if entering into a likely final confrontation without knowing who Vader is would have gone well for Luke; I don't know if there was enough time to train and gain experience to be able to overcome that in one fell swoop. It's fun to think about though.

  • 5
    Luke could not have defeated the emperor on his own. Period. The only path to victory was Vader's redemption (the prophecy "he will bring balance to the force" came through but not in the messiahnic way they expected). Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 17:23
  • @mike, I don't see what that has to do with I wrote. I don't disagree Vader's redemption was key to defeating the Emperor; I didn't claim or suggest otherwise. I'm saying that if Luke enters into the final confrontation and then mid duel with Vader the Emperor says "that's your dad!", Luke might not have survived it, training be damned. Though I find it unlikely Yoda would have completed Luke's training without pointing him towards unearthing that critical fact.
    – peacedog
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 18:14
  • 3
    @Mike: What redemption? That's something that's always bugged me about Return of the Jedi. Vader's "noble" act of "redemption" was nothing more than preventing a man who was even more evil than he is from murdering his only son. In no system of morality that I'm familiar with does this come anywhere near making up for all the atrocities that he's committed, including the destruction of an entire inhabited world. That really destroys the ending for me. Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 4:08
  • 3
    @Mason: All of those people that Vader killed all died offscreen, so they don't count! On a serious note, there's one way in which Vader's act of redemption was real: He had to die to accomplish it. So I wouldn't say it was completely worthless.
    – jprete
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 13:58
  • @peacedog I don't think I was disagreeing with you. You asked if luke could have succeeded without first confronting and learning from vader who he was. I argue that no he couldn't have. He may very well have defeated Vader, but he could not have defeated palpatine without vader's help. Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 6:23

He showed that he valued his friends over completing his Jedi training and thus, supposedly he values them more than learning the powers he would need to defeat Vader. To me, this shows that he was on the right path, balancing the desires of his heart (Annakin's downfall) over the strict adherence to Jedi rules (Yoda's failure).

The Jedi Council of the Old Republic was blinded by their arrogance that they were all-knowing and all-powerful. Luke showed that he was willing to die for his friends, which I believe is the balanced path of the Force that had been lost.

  • The whole reason that Vader was torturing Luke's friends was so that Luke would have Force visions and know they were in trouble. If he just watched the visions and did nothing to help his friends, he wouldn't be very much of a hero. Plus he would probably go insane or at least get PTSD. The only value Luke's friends had to Vader was as bait for him. Vader would have continued the torture until they all died, one after another. The torture stopped when Luke came, and this gave Lando a chance to save everyone.
    – steveha
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 6:03

Luke literally accomplished Act Two. Star Wars is not only a trilogy, but a tragedy, even a tragic comedy, in a very traditional sense. ANH sets the premise and introduces the protagonist and other characters. Empire is the second act, in which the protagonist reaches his or her lowest point in a dramatic way. Jedi brings us the climax and conclusion.


Luke learned the truth about Darth Vader being his father. I don't know that there's any reason to think that Yoda or Obi-Wan were ever going to tell him, having kept it from him for so long.

And getting his hand cut off gave him empathy with his father at a key point during their confrontation. When Luke cuts off his father's hand, he stops, presumably because he realizes "like father, like son". If he'd just seen the wires sticking out, maybe he would have agreed with Obi-Wan, that his father was more machine than man, and not capable of repentance.


If Luke had stayed with Yoda, perhaps the princess and Chewbacca would have saved Han in time.

Precious moments are wasted while the bounty hunter is firing at Luke and the princess is warning him of the imminent trap. Shortly thereafter, Lando frees Chewbacca and the princess, but they arrive to the launch pad just moments to late. Had they not been tied up by Luke's presence, they would have had more time to catch up to the bounty hunter.

Luke also learns that Darth Vader is his father which Obi Wan and Yoda were trying to keep secret from him. This knowledge nearly prevents him from confronting Darth Vader later.

  • Bit of a mixed bag here. Luke was helpful and not helpful at the same time?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 21:34
  • Luke delaying the princess and Chewbacca was probably unhelpful in saving Han. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Luke had stayed with Yoda. He almost gave up when he found out Vader was his father, yet that knowledge is what is what saved him from the emperor.
    – pmagunia
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 22:29
  • I'm fairly sure that Yoda had insufficient time to teach Luke to become a master swordsman and jedi Master before he would have needed to confront Vader and the Emperor. Ironically, Luke's weakness was probably a major point in his father's decision to defend him.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 22:31

Not really. As Obi-Wan said to Luke on Dagobah when Yoda died "You accomplished little by rushing back prematurely. Luke then said "But I had to help my friends".. Obi-wan said "And did you help them?? It was they who had to save you"

Obi-Wan then further explained that that event was all part of his training. But as Yoda had come to learn to trust in the living force and allow life events to train Luke as he needed, Luke also had to learn this lesson the hard way. That is why Obi told him that it was part of his training.

If Luke had not gone to Cloud City, he would have had six months of solid training alone on Dagobah with Yoda, with Yoda giving him his full attention. Luke would have been even more powerful when he confronted Vader and the Emperor because of his natural talent, determination and his off the charts midi-chlorian count.

All Luke really did was to learn the discipline and maturity that he would have learned had he stayed on Dagoabah with Yoda, but learned it the hard and faster way but doing what his feelings told him instead of trusting in Yoda and Obi-wan. Though his feelings were understandable because Luke was orphaned twice and Leia and Han were his only "family" left, he later realized what a mistake it was to have left, especially given the fact that he was never able to complete his training with Yoda, which was somtehing that took him many, many years to fully be able to rectify.

Even though Luke did get the training manual from the crashed Chuuonthor ship, nothing can make up for personal one on one training with a Jedi Master of Yoda's skill, power, reputationa, knowledge, experience and teaching skill. Luke had to learn many things about the nature of the force, the galaxy, other threats out there and much more on his own, the hard way by leaving. These are all things that Yoda knew about and Yoda would have told them about all of them if he stayed to complete his training.

  • Yoda can be such an arrogant prick! What if he had let Annakin be on the Jedi council? Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 19:05
  • In the novels there was an additional plot element that explains why Anakin I was so desperate to be made a master. It wasn't just to satisfy his ego or vanity, it was because only Masters had full access to the Jedi archives and the Jedi holocrons. Anakin was led to believe that there were other techniques that could help him increase his powers to the point where he'd be able to save Padme and his mother. The council knew this of course and knew he wasn't ready for those techniques because of his emotional instability. This is a real reason why they denied him the Master rank Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 21:42
  • 1
    Wow. I had no idea. Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 0:14

Given that Lando aided in their escape and they managed to do just that.....Luke's arrival didn't do much. But serve as a lesson for what Yoda had duly warned; Do not take the easy way. By suspending his training he fought against a clearly superior opponent and lost. In Joseph Campbells Hero of a thousand faces, the struggle with Atonement; in which a greater understanding is achieved. Armed with this new knowledge and perception, the hero is resolved and ready for the more difficult part of the adventure. But one unanticipated benefit; after his defeat; upon This is the point of realization the villain is his father forced him to rethink his priorities. Ironically Luke armed with the knowledge of his parentage, gained one crucial aspect, the knowledge of manipulating his father to his good ambitions; subterfuge as opposed to direct confrontation, HAD Luke not learned the truth; he'd very well immerse himself with emphasis of revenge/hatred which would have led him down the path of the dark side.

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