Full disclosure: I don't know what the Imperial Academy is - in fact, until I read a question here today, I assumed that the "academy" Luke spoke of was a Rebel Alliance training academy. However, as I now know, it is called the Imperial Academy, and is obviously affiliated with the Empire, and Luke quite clearly says that he hates the Empire.

Look, I can't get involved. I've got work to do. It's not that I like the Empire; I hate it, but there's nothing I can do about it right now... It's all such a long way from here.
-Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope

So why does he want to join something he hates?

  • 20
    Step 1: Attend the Imperial Academy and learn how to fight (and how the Empire fights). Step 2: Defect and join the Rebels, using the skills and intelligence learned from the Imperial Academy.
    – Null
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:20
  • 3
    @Null - logical, to be sure, but is Luke smart enough to figure this out on his own? I'm not sure. :)
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:23
  • 3
    I'm not sure, either. That's the best explanation I can come up with (other than his general desire to get off Tatooine), and Wookieepedia doesn't offer any insight.
    – Null
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:27
  • 4
    He had friends going there; that could have motivated him.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:36
  • 3
    Moreover, he had friends going there specifically to rebel later.
    – user40790
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:14

7 Answers 7


First off, Luke is a dreamer. He wants adventure. He wants to get out and experience things.

From The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda: This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm? What he was doing. Hmm. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.

Then there's the fact that he's just plain lonely and bored.

From A New Hope:

Luke chuckled sardonically and assumed a mocking pose. “If there’s a bright center to this universe, you’re on the world farthest from it.”

Luke later describes Tatooine again.

From the novelization and original script of A New Hope (cut from the final versions of the movie)

Believe me, Tatooine is a big hunk of nothing.”

The conversation continues a bit later. His best friend Biggs has already left and joined the Academy. He's back visiting.

Luke looked away, embarrassed. “Things haven’t exactly been the same since you left, either, Biggs. It’s been so—” Luke hunted for the right word and finally finished helplessly, “— so quiet.” His gaze traveled across the sandy, deserted streets of Anchorhead. “It’s always been quiet, really.”

And it's not like Tatooine is exactly safe these days.

Again, from the novelization:

Luke snorted derisively. “Not likely. I had to withdraw my application.” He looked away, unable to meet his friend’s disbelieving stare. “I had to. There’s been a lot of unrest among the sandpeople since you left, Biggs. They’ve even raided the outskirts of Anchorhead.”

At this point, Luke feels trapped, maybe a bit abandoned. He wants to get out to do things like his friend Biggs.

Silence hung in the air of the dining room after Luke departed. Husband and wife ate mechanically. Eventually Aunt Beru stopped shoving her food around her plate, looked up, and pointed out earnestly, “Owen, you can’t keep him here forever. Most of his friends are gone, the people he grew up with. The Academy means so much to him.”

  • 7
    The novelization seems to contradict itself- it has been so quiet, but the Sand People are raiding major settlements? :). It sounds like Luke is making excuses.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:01
  • 1
    It's not clear how often it happens, and to people on Tatooine, it may seem like a fairly normal occurrence versus the excitement of something like going to the Imperial Academy.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:02
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    "There's been a lot of unrest among the Sand People since you left". This suggests that the unrest is more widespread and intense than usual, and that it began very recently (i.e., since Biggs left). "They've even raided the outskirts of Anchorhead". This too suggests that this is a new state of affairs in the region, and is particularly remarkable. We can assume that the Sand People avoided Anchorhead in the past.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:31
  • @WadCheber: I think it’s been quiet for Luke, because all his friends have gone. Then occasionally a horrible thing (i.e. Sand People raids) happens (and not, as far as I can see, to Luke). Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 9:13
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    You should also add confirmation from "Heir of the Jedi" new canon novel where he talks about how escaping Tatooine is a Big Deal Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 16:25

He had friends there.

The key piece here was that Biggs Darklighter, who was perhaps Luke's closest childhood friend, went there. What Academy was Luke trying to attend? led me to this quote from Wookieepedia:

As Biggs and Luke grew older, the two friends planned to attend the Imperial Academy together. They also planned on buying a starship after graduation and go into business together, though they did not have any specific plans as to what they would do.

Beru alludes to there being others there, as quoted in an answer to Why would Owen and Beru even consider allowing Luke to join the Imperial Academy? from the novelisation:

“Owen, you can’t keep him here forever. Most of his friends are gone, the people he grew up with. The Academy means so much to him.”

If all of your friends left to become pilots, and you were left on a hot, dry, desert planet with nothing to do but be a moisture farmer, what would you want?

Also, keep in mind that Luke's hatred of the Empire was fairly tame at that point. He hadn't witnessed the horrors of war that he would see later on.

  • 3
    Great answer, +1. But your closing hypothetical situation leaves out an important factor- Luke hates the Empire. Deciding to join an evil empire you hate is a big deal. It would almost be like a Jewish farmboy in occupied Poland joining the SS just to be with his buddies and escape the boredom of farm life. Boredom and loneliness are not sufficient reason to disregard your moral convictions and ally yourself with an evil regime that you despise.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:53
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    But the question you linked to gives us a little more insight- "BIGGS: I made some friends at the Academy. (He whispers) ...when our frigate goes to one of the central systems, we're going to jump ship and join the Alliance...". I don't know where this quote comes from, but it resolves the issue I brought up vert neatly.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:56
  • 1
    @WadCheber It's from the original script/novelization, and actually does not clear it up. In that conversation, Luke doesn't really care about the rebellion or the Empire. He believes that the planet is too far out in the Outer Rim to ever be affected.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:00
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    @WadCheber Keep in mind that Luke has spent his entire life as a farmer, living on the outskirts of a desert planet. Meeting two droids who know something about life outside the planet may literally be the most exciting thing that's ever happened to him. He could have been just as happy to find out they'd eaten at a McDonald's on Coruscant one time. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:46
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    Also one point: Even though the academy is called imperial academy and trains also stormtroopers (even according to the new canon thanks to rebels) it is a place where people from all types of backgrounds could come from (seen in rebels as those were not rich guys that came there) and from the poster (canon starwars.wikia.com): "You can find a career in space: Exploration, Starfleet, or Merchant Service. Choose from navigation, engineering, space medicine, contact/liaison, and more" so even if you ahte them they seem to give you the ability to get free education in these areas.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 17:59

There are a few reasons: (please note that I am working off of legends material. I'm not sure how much of this is currently canon.)

  1. He simply really enjoyed piloting. And at the time, if you wanted to learn how to pilot a spacecraft, you would either have to learn on your own or join the academy and be trained by skilled pilots.

  2. His best friend, Biggs Darklighter, Also wanted to join the academy. Biggs did join a year before the battle of yavin and later obviously defected to the rebels.

  3. Tatooine was a simple, heavily imperial controlled planet. Any news on rebellion was sure to be censored, and thus he wouldn't have any clue that they even existed. Had he known of the rebellion prior to meeting obi-wan, it's pretty safe to assume that his goal would have been to join the rebellion rather than the academy.


  • 3
    I thought Tatooine was controlled by the Hutts?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 21:56
  • 2
    The Hutts control the crime. Not exactly the same thing as controlling the planet.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:03
  • @phantom42 - From the Wookieepedia entry on Hutts: However, after the rescue and return of Rotta to Jabba on Tatooine in the Arkanis sector, the Hutts allowed the Republic to pass through the sector, a privilege denied to the CIS.[38] As the war continued to rage, the Hutts began to move in the shadows, gaining control of Tatooine, Gyndine and Toong'L.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:07
  • 1
    And yet there was still a larger New York and US government. They may control all the shady stuff that goes on in an area, but there's still a larger body - in this case, the Empire.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:17
  • 2
    @phantom42 I think the better analogy is to Sicily and Naples, where the Mafia held far more sway than the government of Italy. From Wikipedia's page on Tatooine- "crime lords[when?]. Since Tatooine was beyond the reach of the Galactic Republic, the Hutts presided over the lawless planet with little outside interference. When the Galactic Empire subsumed the Old Republic, the new regime established only a token presence on Tatooine, which left Jabba the Hutt’s reign unchallenged. Jabba remained the assumed ruler of Tatooine until his death in the Battle of Carkoon."
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:27

Luke hated the empire as much as a fifteen years old hates the police today. Yet I'm pretty sure sure a modern teenager in that case would join the police force if that were one's only solution to a life of adventure.


In A New Hope (ANH), it is established that the Empire has been abusing its power and that even the residents of a planet in the Outer Rim, like Tatooine, see the Empire as overbearing. Luke and his best friend, Biggs Darklighter, are both skilled pilots on Tatooine (and it is both explicitly and implicitly mentioned throughout ANH and its deleted scenes, such as shooting womp rats in a T-16, dealing with Han Solo for passage to Alderaan, the dog fight against the TIE Fighters in the Millenium Falcon, etc.). As HDE 226868's answer states, neither of them had any intention of actually joining the Empire.

In a deleted scene at Tosche Station, Biggs joins the Imperial Academy and finds a contact within the academy that gives him a good shot at joining up with the Rebel Alliance. Luke is clearly excited at the prospect, although his surprise means that if they had talked about such plans previously, Luke had only considered such an outcome as a fantasy.

ANH establishes Luke's love of piloting, and the deleted Tatooine scenes help establish him as a character who dreams of adventure and excitement while stuck in a backwater area like the Outer Rim. The Imperial Academy is his ticket to a life of adventure, and the deleted scenes make it fairly clear he's no fan of the Empire, but also show that he's not quite courageous enough to take that first step into becoming a rebel. Luke sort of lives vicariously through Biggs while he's stuck doing mundane and menial labor for Uncle Owen. It's not until adventure finds him that he eventually finds the courage to become a hero. Even then, he repeatedly tries to reject the call to adventure on Tatooine until he learns that he has nothing to go back to.

Here is the particular scene at Tosche Station about Biggs defecting to the Rebel Alliance:

  • 1
    Welcome to SFF:SE! This is the start of a good answer. You might want to indicate in writing exactly why Luke wanted to join the academy in your answer (perhaps cite something from the video clip or another primary source).
    – Praxis
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:46
  • @Praxis Hello and thank you for the feedback. I've edited my answer to hopefully conform to the SFF:SE standards. My apologies!
    – Travis
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 23:22
  • No need to apologize. Good edits --- you've definitely fleshed out the answer. Stick around and have fun on the site!
    – Praxis
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 23:26

I can answer this. In my youth I devoured WWII novels, especially nautical ones. All I ever wanted was to be a navy captain. I trained in sea cadets as a teen, went to college for political science to learn all the reasons why a military is justified and necessary, to defend freedom blah blah, finally graduated and got into the naval officer academy in my country for ten seconds before I had a back injury. In my time recuperating I took another college postgraduate course studying ..well..marxism? and finally challenged my beliefs, found they did not hold water in the face of human suffering, and became a pacifist. Now I engage in nonviolent civil resistance protests against the government.

Luke's immaturity and unquestioned childhood beliefs are perfectly understandable to me. I lived this.

  • Is there any evidence that Luke felt this way?
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 20:56

After the Emperor established the first Galactic Empire everyone cheered and thought it was the Emperor who brought peace to the galaxy. The Emperor did his best to hide his evil ways and look good to the Senate. Luke said he hated the Empire but it didn't have much ruling power over Tatooine and so he didn't know first hand how bad they really were. Only after he sees his aunt and uncle killed does he agree to go with Obi-Wan Kenobi to Alderaan only to find out the whole planet was destroyed by the Death Star. That's when he made up his mind to fight for the rebels.

(It's interesting how he didn't have to wrestle with the Dark Side like Anakin did as he saw its evil with his own eyes but to Anakin it was all gray until he became the evil he swore to destroy and ended up seeing the Jedi as evil.)

  • But, didn't the Empire dismiss the Senate? Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 11:37
  • @can-ned_food we didn't hear about the Senate being dissolved until the Death Star was up and running.
    – Verdan
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 13:54
  • Well, the story was based on both Caesarean Rome and Hilterian Germany, IIRC, and with neither of those was the respective Senate all too keen on their new Emperor or Führer (respectively). I meant that the Emperor (Palpatine) probably didn't deign to appear “good” to the Senate once he'd secured his position with the clone army behind him. Granted that I only know the movies I through VI, but I seem to remember that Palpatine wasn't so covert by the end of III. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 16:03

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