Are the Jedi the bad guys in Star Wars? During the tensest showdown in the Star Wars universe on the lava wastelands of Mustafar, Anakin Skywalker told Obi-Wan Kenobi “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.”
The argument that the Jedi are the real villains in Star Wars sounds much more convincing when the person arguing against them did not just slay dozens of children in the Jedi Temple in Coruscant.
This is neither a hit piece on the Jedi Order nor on those who criticize it. The information presented here will help you form a more informed opinion about the guardians of the Galactic Republic.
As a series, the Star Wars universe has hundreds of storylines that intersect only occasionally. Many take a measured approach to the Jedi, but these stories hold almost no weight next to the three main trilogies.
The origin myths of Star Wars are movies that tell the stories of Anakin Skywalker, his son Luke, and later Rey. In each movie, the story goes that the Jedi come in and save the galaxy from all evil.
Evil only triumphs when, for any reason, the Jedi fall. When this happens, the Jedi are martyrs, victims of a galaxy that is almost unworthy of their grace. A new Jedi must then rise and wash all the problems away.
There is criticism of the Jedi in the movies, but the core message is that having a Jedi is good; no Jedi is bad.
The mistakes of each fallen generation of Jedi go away once the new one emerges, a beacon of hope that can deliver the galaxy of its sins… until their mistakes plunge it into chaos again, restarting the cycle.
Galactic Evil Defined
Most people use Darth Sidious as the baseline. It is hard to argue that Sidious is not evil, but the equivalence of Sith and evil in the main saga is a Jedi construct.
Quoting the manifesto by the Rebel fighter Nemik: “the Imperial need for control is so desperate because it is so unnatural,” but is that so different from the Jedi need for submission?
What about the Republic, which stood up an army led by Jedi to prevent disillusioned systems from joining the rival separatist movement?
By the Clone Wars, the Jedi morphed into an army unit where Padawans deployed with their masters to bloody battlefields across the galaxy.
Many Jedi have tapped into the Dark Side when faced with adversity. This often came when someone they felt attached to was in danger. The original Sith believed that the Force could only truly be explored by those willing to wield the Dark Side. Is this not what these Jedi did?
Doomed to Fail: The Iterations of the Jedi Order
The Jedi Order has gone through multiple iterations over its long history. The only common thread to them is that each attempt failed.
The Original Jedi Order
It was embroiled in multiple conflicts throughout its millennia of existence. The Order outlasted the Old Republic it protected but again fell to the temptation of war.
After effectively becoming an arm of the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars, the Jedi Order collapsed when its soldiers turned against their commanders at the behest of Chancellor Palpatine.
The downfall of the Jedi Order, with its stained reputation due to the Clone Wars, left a power vacuum in Coruscant that allowed the Sith to rule the galaxy unchallenged for the first time.
As holders of immense power, the Jedi knights have always had an outsized influence on the galaxy.
The first effort to restore the Jedi Order came in 14 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) when former members Cere Junda and Cal Kestis worked to retrieve a Holocron containing the name of all Force-sensitive children known to the Order before its downfall.
Although Junda and Kestis found the Holocron, the threat posed by the Empire and the Sith made them destroy it to avoid jeopardizing the lives of the people on the list.
The Empire quickly became an empty shell after the defeat over Endor. With a resurgent New Republic came a new Jedi Order led by Luke Skywalker. The failures of the New Jedi Order created a warrior of Darkness that allowed the First Order to grow and eventually destroy the New Republic.
Following the Battle of Exegol, in which the Resistance defeated the First Order, Rey Skywalker moved to establish the Jedi Order again, hoping this attempt would not end like all the others.
Birds of a Feather
The Sith are irredeemable bad guys, according to the Jedi. The warriors of light in Coruscant conveniently omit how their foes came to be.
In the early days, members of the Jedi Order had begun studying and worshiping the Dark Side of the Force. The Jedi High Council expelled them, but many followed the outcasts to establish the Sith order in Moraband. Resentment between the two rival groups led to a century of fierce battles.
This first exodus became a pattern during most iterations of the Jedi Order. What do Anakin Skywalker, Count Dooku, Dagen Gerra, or Kylo Ren have in common?
Take a Seat, Young Skywalker
Every Star Wars fan can recite the tale of Anakin Skywalker by heart, but his fall requires close attention.
Despite being impulsive and reckless at times, Skywalker wanted to protect those he loved above all. His attempts to seek help within the Jedi Order fell on deaf ears after losing his mother to a brutal death at the hands of the Tusken raiders. This left the young Jedi desperate enough to consider the aid of a Sith lord in the hopes of saving his wife.
Skywalker was tempted by the darkness but still did his duty as a Jedi and informed the Jedi Council of the true identity of Chancellor Palpatine. It was only when Master Mace Windu refused to arrest the Sith Lord and opted for an extrajudicial execution that Anakin pledged allegiance to Darth Sidious.
Convinced that the Jedi’s true goal was power rather than the greater good, Skywalker rose as Darth Vader. He led the Great Jedi Purge, which brought down the Order and the Republic.
From Master to Separatist
Dooku was one of the most respected Jedi Masters of his time by the time he left the Order to return to Serenno. Before leaving, he had to witness a string of preventable tragedies that Coruscant refused to intervene in.
Master Sifo-Dyas received the premonition of a disastrous solar storm on the surface of Protobranch, but the Council forbade him from intervening. Against the orders of the Council, Dyas, Lene Kostana, and Dooku approached the Protobranch senator about the incoming storm. They lost trust in the Republic when it only expressed concerns about the resources at risk. The vision came to pass, killing most of the planet’s population.
The last straw for Dooku was when the Republic refused to assist his home world of Serenno against a coup by his brother Ramil with the help of Abyssin mercenaries. Dooku killed his brother and accepted his claim as leader of Serenno over his strained commitment to the Jedi and the Republic.
Resentment towards the apparatus in Coruscant pushed Dooku to promote the independence of outlying systems, eventually becoming the leader of the galactic separatist movement. Darth Sidious used his disillusionment as an opening to seduce Dooku to the Dark Side.
The Count used his wealth to help secretly create the clone army, a weapon born out of fears from his friend Syfo-Dyas that the Republic could not count on the Jedi to defend itself from emerging threats. This same army brought down the Jedi Order and the Republic itself.
Lost in Search of a Home
Dagen Gerra sought to establish a sustainable presence for the Jedi in the Outer Rim during the years of the High Republic’s expansion. He and Master Santari Khri spearheaded the effort to colonize the hidden planet of Tanalorr, where the Order and its pupils could thrive safely.
When Tanalorr came under attack by the Nihil raiders, Coruscant ordered a withdrawal from the outpost. Once Gerra refused to leave, convinced that Tanalorr was a priceless haven for the Jedi, other knights stood by the Order.
Dagan Gerra turned against the Jedi and killed those who tried to stop him from rescuing the secret planet before his close friend Master Khri wounded him and suspended him in a bacta tank for around two centuries.
After surviving Jedi knight Cal Kestis freed him during the imperial era, Gerra allied with a gang of raiders to pursue his dream of reclaiming Tanalorr and make up for the failings of the fallen Jedi Order.
Frightened Padawan, Violent Supreme Leader
Ben Solo, the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, studied under Luke Skywalker as part of the reborn Jedi Order after the fall of the Empire. Although a talented Padawan, his emotional stability left much to be desired.
Solo had resisted the temptations of the Knights of Ren cultists once. His Jedi Master sealed his fall to the Dark Side when he considered striking the Padawan down in his sleep following a troubling vision. The frightened apprentice evaded Skywalker and destroyed most of what had become of the new generation of Jedi.
The First Order took in Solo, where he became Kylo Ren, the understudy of Supreme Leader Snoke, fuelled by an obsession with dominating the galaxy in its entirety as his grandfather, Darth Vader, had attempted before. The rise of Kylo Ren was instrumental in the downfall of the New Republic.
These four examples were all members of the Jedi Order who turned to the Dark Side after feeling betrayed by the leaders they trusted implicitly. The rogue Jedi followed the Code to the best of their interpretations. They requested help from their superiors when other things clouded their vision.
They only chose to pursue their goals outside of the Order’s wishes when it turned its back on them. Can these Jedi be blamed? A common thread between the incidents that triggered their fall to the Dark Side is a goal to save the lives of strangers or even their own. The Jedi Order prioritized its own interests over that. Are they not the bad guys here?
At the end of the Hundred-Year Darkness, the Jedi Order relocated its headquarters to a new temple in the Core World of Coruscant and entered an alliance with the Galactic Republic. This partnership saw the Jedi use their powers to allow the Republic to govern its member systems peacefully.
This marriage of convenience gradually eroded the autonomy of the Jedi Order, leaving it a slave of the political elite in Coruscant.
Sporadic clashes in the High Republic era rarely threatened to disrupt the overall feeling of peace and stability, often at the expense of the reputation and lives of the Jedi who fought to maintain this.
During a mission to Dalna early in its republican settlement in 328 BBY, the Jedi clashed with the Path of the Open Hand cult. The group believed the Jedi to be a threat to the galaxy as it scouted Force-sensitive individuals to indoctrinate into its ranks, monopolizing this power.
The bloodbath in Dalna resulted in the death of scores of locals, Jedi knights, and Path members. The Jedi crawled away with a pyrrhic victory. The local population would forever resent the Order for bringing war to their planet.
For the thousand years of the High Republic, the Jedi remained unaware that the Sith had survived through Darth Bane and spent this time plotting their revenge.
The Jedi Order continued to serve the Galactic Republic despite its institutions reaching their lowest point since the beginning of the High Republic era. Outlying systems crumbled under heavy taxation with little to no investment from Coruscant, and senate lobbying stunned any attempt to reshape the situation.
Crime flourished on the Outer Rim, but the Jedi lacked the numbers to combat this effectively. Outlying worlds began to lose faith in the Jedi and the Republic, creating the perfect conditions for the rise of galactic separatism.
The main trilogies eulogize the Jedi as guardians of peace in the galaxy. This is only accurate to some periods in the High Republic era where there were few conflicts.
The most infamous conflict involving the Jedi during the Old Republic era was between the Force-wielding warriors and the people of Mandalore. Mandalorian society embraced a warrior cult backed by advanced technology.
The similarities between the Mandalorian and Jedi cultures were obvious, but the groups saw each other as existential threats. The Jedi emerged victorious after laying waste to Mandalore.
The thousand-year peace of the High Republic ended with the Republic battling the Confederacy of Independent Systems over systems in the Outer and Mid Rims. Under the threat of losing its sources of raw materials and trade routes, the Galactic Senate brought up the unspeakable: the Military Creation Act, a proposal to reestablish a republican military.
The Jedi became the leaders of the Grand Army of the Republic, with Masters and Knights turned into Jedi Generals and Padawans into Commanders. Yes, the Jedi used child soldiers during the Clone Wars.
For three years, the supposed keepers of peace led bloody campaigns to protect the interest of the Republic, often at the expense of the local population. The constant violence alienated both warriors and civilians.
Jedi Masters suffered heavy attrition on the battlefield, leaving the leadership of the Order in the hands of ever fewer people. The surviving Masters led the Jedi into extinction through their ideological biases.
Republic Serial Killers
For the self-proclaimed guardians of the Republic, the Jedi hold an incredible record: all three falls of the Galactic Republic happened because of negligence from the Jedi Order.
The Jedi obsession with the Mandalorian wars left the Republic poorly suited to defend against the resurgent Sith. The warriors of the Dark Side used this opening to raid and occupy Coruscant, destroying the Old Republic.
Sith infighting weakened the faction following this triumph, allowing the Jedi Order to strike back and achieve a decisive victory in 1032 BBY. Free from the burdens of wars with Mandalore or the Sith, the Jedi Order protected a reformed and democratic Galactic Republic, which only had a token military force.
The High Republic relied on the Jedi for protection. It only moved away from this as the separatist threat outgrew the capabilities of the Order. Much like during the fall of the Old Republic, the Jedi became too preoccupied with fighting to respond adequately to the Sith threat in Coruscant. After three years that left the reputation of the Jedi in ruins, Dooku was dead, the separatists were nearly defeated, but Darth Sidious was close to achieving his goal.
Three things ended this iteration of the galactic government: Master Mace Windu’s insistence on killing Chancellor Palpatine rather than taking him to trial, the clone army commissioned by Master Syfo-Dyas, and Knight Anakin Skywalker, who led the takeover of Coruscant as Palpatine proclaimed himself Emperor of the new Empire.
After the fall of the Empire, the New Republic emerged from the Rebel Alliance leadership. Political inertia allowed the rise of the First Order. The New Republic fell once more at the hands of a Jedi, this time Kylo Ren, who eventually rose to Supreme Leader of the First Order after his Master’s attempt on his life.
A Tale of Visions and Prophecies
The late years of the High Republic saw the Jedi Order ignore multiple red flags brought forth by its members. Even after Syfo-Dyas had correctly foreseen the disaster on Protobranch, the Council ignored his warning that a threat that the Jedi could not handle was incoming.
Instead of tabling his motion to rebuild a republican military, the Order expelled him from the Council. Dyas pursued the project in the shadows, which allowed the Sith to manipulate it after his death.
Not long after Dyas, Master Eno Cordova also shared his dark vision that the Order would fall much like the Zeffo did before them, a warning that once again fell on deaf ears. Cordova attempted to set up contingencies for this.
His plan did not come to fruition due to the overwhelming influence of the Empire and the sensible decision-making of a young Jedi on the run, Cal Kestis. Seeing how the Jedi Order brought destruction to the galaxy every time it was formed, perhaps this was for the best.
The Jedi ignored concrete, actionable visions predicting the demise of the Republic. At the same time, they blindly followed other predictions that provided little to no context or root in reality.
Qui-Gon Jinn let his belief in the prophecy of the Chosen One cloud his judgment, making an unstable and too old Anakin Skywalker understudy of Obi-Wan Kenobi, barely a Jedi Knight and unprepared to handle an apprentice this powerful. This eventually allowed Darth Sidious to bring down the Jedi Order and the Republic.
Luke Skywalker feared the fall of his Order. He went into his nephew and apprentice’s quarters to kill him rather than questioning or imprisoning him.
As a group strong with the Force, the Jedi often had the information available to prevent most catastrophes that befell them. They heard what they wanted to hear from this.
My Analysis: A Tale of Jedi Failures
Although the Jedi and its surviving members see themselves as the guardians of peace in the galaxy, a glance at history shows the opposite.
The Jedi Order brought about the fall of the Old Republic. Its obsession with defeating the Mandalorians in battle allowed the Sith to ravage Coruscant. The same Sith that only became a threat after pride led the Jedi Council to shun a member of the Order for wanting to study the full spectrum of the Force.
During the High Republic era, the Jedi became enforcers for the Galactic Senate rather than a credible institution to keep it in check. Arrogance and idealism blinded the Jedi to the Republic’s fall into corruption, sleepwalking into the Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars may never have happened had the Jedi Council listened to Sifo-Dyas, Eno Cordova, or Dooku. Dyas’ removal from the Council led him to secretly commission the clone army in Kamino. Alienating Dooku triggered his fall to the Sith and the rise of the Separatists. Ignoring Cordova prevented any contingency plans against this.
Qui-Gon Jinn’s obsession led Anakin Skywalker to the path of the Jedi. Despite knowing about his emotional instability, the Order did not provide adequate support even when Skywalker asked for help. This pushed the young Jedi towards Palpatine.
The Clone Wars saw the guardians of peace turn into Jedi Generals, leading the Grand Army of the Republic into battles for territory with little regard for the local population of the planets affected.
Despite all the warning signs, the Jedi were caught by surprise, blinded by their hollow idealism once the clone army executed the Great Jedi Purge.
During the imperial era, many surviving Jedi began using their skills for selfish interests. Other Jedi knights on the run from the Imperial Inquisition left behind a trail of innocent bodies as the Empire tracked them down.
Obi-Wan Kenobi took Luke Skywalker out of Tatooine and led him down the Jedi path, culminating in redeeming Anakin Skywalker and the fall of the Empire.
Much like his father, Luke did not receive the appropriate support from Master Kenobi or Yoda. He was thrust into a struggle well beyond his training and experience.
Luke Skywalker later fell for a romantic view of the old Jedi Order. He repeated its mistakes while trying to reestablish it. His first two apprentices left due to Luke’s insistence on them giving up personal attachments.
Like his predecessors during the High Republic, Luke failed to identify dangerous emotional patterns in Ben Solo after his Order had grown.
Solo became tempted by the Dark Side, and Luke made the final push to break him after considering killing his student. The former Padawan became Kylo Ren, later the leader of the First Order, and destroyed the New Republic.
The last apprentice under Luke was Rey, who only underwent minimal training before facing Kylo Ren and her origins. Rey defeated her foes, but can she bring back a Jedi Order that does not plunge the galaxy into darkness?
Question: Are the Jedi the bad guys of the Star Wars universe?
Answer: Maybe. The Jedi played a central role in most of the darkest episodes in the saga. They are partially responsible for the Clone Wars, the fall of the Old Republic, and the First Order.
Question: Were there evil Jedi in Star Wars?
Answer: Yes. Many Jedi knights used their powers in selfish ways or at the expense of others in blind faith in the Jedi Code. Darth Tyrannus and Darth Vader, two of the most fearsome Sith Lords, were respected Jedi knights during the High Republic.
Question: Is the Jedi Order a corrupt or evil organization?
Above all, the Jedi Order is irresponsible. An organization with such power capable of destabilizing the entire galaxy became subordinate to the corrupt Republic while having no safeguards against members going rogue. The biggest threat to the Jedi Order was the Jedi themselves.