What exactly are the Jedi, really? It's never spelled out in plain terms, but they seem to be some kind of monastic organization. Or maybe they represent some kind of religion. Or maybe they're soldier-warrior-sorcerers. We're never really sure. They're always presented as the force of good in the Star Wars universe, but then again, Darth Vader was once Anakin Skywalker, so we know they can be corrupted – and when they are, they spiral downhill big time.
Do they follow any specific rules? The Jedi Code is implied but not detailed in any of the movies in its entirety. For that, we can look to Dark Disciple, a 2015 novel by Christie Golden and part of the official Star Wars book series by Del Ray Publishing. It goes something like this:
There is no emotion, there is peace
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, only harmony
There is no death, there is the force.
Sure, it all sounds very noble and wonderful, but do the Jedi actually live up to their own words? There are many instances in the Star Wars movies when their actions have been questionable – at best. Quite frankly, sometimes they act like a bunch of rogue mercenaries who throw around their magic weapons whenever they feel like it. Whose side are they on, anyway?
15 Keepers Of The Peace, Not Soldiers – Not So Much
In Attack of the Clones, Mace Windu, Chancellor Palpatine, and Yoda are talking about the Senate vote, and Windu tells the Chancellor, "We're keepers of the peace, not soldiers." Fine words, that. But let's take a closer look. If you suffered through Phantom Menace, you'll recall that it begins with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan traveling to Naboo as ambassadors of the Chancellor to negotiate some kind of peace treaty between the Trade Federation and Queen Amidala. But when they arrive, Viceroy Gunray comes unglued at the fact that the negotiators are Jedi. Maybe he didn't get the peacekeeping memo? These guys brought their mind control tricks and lightsabers to "negotiate" and Qui Gon Jinn tells his padawan, "These Federation types are cowards. Negotiations will be short." That's the right attitude to have going into negotiations, right? They're not there to reason with the Trade Federation, they're there to intimidate, and the second that things go sideways, they slip into battle mode. Peacekeepers my a$$.
14 Mind Control Jerks
Are there any rules or guidelines on how Jedi are supposed to use mind control? In Episode IV, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells young Luke Skywalker, "The Force can have a strong influence over the weak-minded," by way of explanation as to how he got them past those Imperial guards on Tatooine. It's expedient, and they're in a pinch at the time, but the Jedi do seem to use mind tricks a lot. Over the course of the Star Wars films, Jedi use mind control to go through security checkpoints, get people out of prison, and extort parts for their spaceships. Qui-Gon Jinn uses mind control on Boss Nass to get a vehicle for free. Kenobi uses it on some random guy trying to sell him "death sticks" to get him to reconsider his path in life. But somehow, Jedi mind control doesn't work on junk salesmen, or robber baron Jabba the Hutt. So...if you're stupid, it's okay for the Jedi to take advantage of you? That's some kind of morality, dudes.
13 Some Jedi Are More Equal Than Others
Now, there's nothing in that Jedi code that really addresses the issue of equality, but you'd figure that all that stuff about serenity, peace, and harmony would pretty much cover it. You would, that is, until you saw any of the Jedi in action. Obi-Wan is apparently a species-ist who shows his immediate disdain for Gungans, who he calls a "pathetic life form," (although we hate Jar Jar too, admittedly). But, even within the Jedi ranks, apparently some lives are worth more than others. In Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan goes to Geonosis to snoop around – without telling anyone, or god forbid, actually checking with the government he's supposed to be serving – and gets himself caught. Without knowing that Anakin and Padme are on the way to help, the Jedi Council freaks out and sends every single Jedi available, including padawans, 212 in total, to go save him. Many of them die, all for the sake of Obi-Wan's recklessness.
12 Slave Labor
To wage their wars, the Jedi manufacture a genetically engineered army of soldier who are bred to be docile, take orders, and fight in battle. They only live to be about 40, and they're sent to the front lines at about age 10. If they try and leave the life of a clone slave-soldier, they're brought back to face punishment. And we're all cool with this? This is worse than Joseph Kony or any of those horrific war lords in the news – it goes a step beyond by actually breeding the army of child soldiers. For all the high minded talk they keep spouting, human rights apparently don't rank very highly on any Jedi's list of important things to keep in mind. The fact that they are used by the Jedi in the Clone Wars against the Confederacy of Independent Systems – which sounds awfully freedom loving, now that we think of it – is the icing on the cake.
Which side are the Jedi on, exactly, and what do they support politically? It's hard to tell. They supposedly support and help protect the Republic, and are subsequently turned into criminals by the new Empire under Palpatine and the new Darth Vader. So they support individual freedoms, the sovereignty of nations and all that, you'd be thinking, as opposed to the heavy-handed rule of an imperialist state. But what about the Clone Wars? "Begin, the Clone Wars have." First, we'll point out that the Clone Wars were started by Yoda without asking for the approval of the Senate. While the movies don't have much to say about what actually happened during the Clone Wars, the TV series makes it clear that the Jedi jump into the war to suppress the Separatists – who are only looking to be self-governed, after all – pretty enthusiastically. Anakin is an outright imperialist in his views, going by some of his conversations with Wilhuff Tarkin.
10 Casual Hypocrisy
The Jedi break their own rules so often it's hard to understand why they made up a code in the first place. Jedi aren't supposed to form personal attachments, and that means no romance, no marriage, no family. But of course, that's one of the first things that Anakin Skywalker – who begged to be trained as a Jedi – throws out the window. Then he keeps it all a big secret from everyone, although we kind've wonder why nobody saw a pregnant Padme and Anakin, who was crushing on her from the word go, and put two and two together. Then, when the Jedi High Council finally admits a representative of the Senate to their circle of power, Obi-Wan asks Anakin to spy on him on behalf of the Jedi. Here, even Anakin balks, telling Obi-Wan that it's against the Jedi Code. But then again, his next move was slaughtering younglings, so what does he know?
9 Baby Snatching Cultists
There's a lot of debate among fans of the Star Wars movies as to the nature of the whole deal with younglings. Are the Jedi just a bunch of baby snatchers? Or, as many claim, were they simply helping midichlorian-rich children to reach their full potential? Let's put it this way. They test children for midichlorians, and if their bodies are full of it, they take them away from their parents to live in a communal style. They're trained in combat – in fact we see a bunch of five year-olds in blind helmets learning how to use lightsabers. They're given a series of rigorous tests and a final rite of passage on the freezing cold planet Ilum. They are told about the Jedi Code, which says not to hook up with anyone – like that's ever worked! – and apparently their teachers pay no attention to normal human development through puberty. Then they're set loose on the world as Jedi Knights. We ask you, does this sound like a force for good, or a cult of fanatical quasi-military extremists?
8 Hereditary Elitism
Unless you were really paying attention to all the details, you might assume that the Force is something we can all touch in some way. After all, the Jedi use the light side of the Force to keep the universe in balance against the dark side favored by the Sith. It's universal, like god, or nature, or something like that. But if you're thinking that the Force is accessible to anyone, you'd be dead wrong. The Star Wars universe is no democracy. The high midichlorian count that puts you in touch with the Force is hereditary. It's like being royalty – or a Bush, for example. It's just another elitist system of separating the plebeians from the upper classes. It does explain why being a Jedi means never having to say you're sorry. Even Yoda admits they're arrogant. "Too sure of themselves they are. Even the older, more experienced ones."
7 Unelected, Coup-Staging Theocracy
In Revenge of the Sith, and in the midst of a deteriorating Republic, Palpatine is elected Chancellor and granted increased legislative powers to deal with the situation. Now, we may not like Trum.. sorry, Palpatine, but he was duly elected by the Senate. So what does the Jedi Council do? Their first meeting on the subject revolves around how to get rid of him. They consider leaking false stories to the press, then quickly move on to insurrection. "If he does not give up his emergency powers after the destruction of Grievous, then he must be forcibly removed from office," says Ki-Adi-Mundi. They consider taking over the Senate "to ensure a peaceful transition." Then when push comes to shove, they just charge in, lightsabers at the ready, in an attempt to kill him, even as Anakin tries to insist on a trial. As with their non-negotiating style, they seem incapable of considering anything other than rule by Force.
6 Grand Theft Speeder – Collateral Damage
If you're an elitist pseudo-warrior-monk, other people's property means less than nothing, apparently. At the beginning of Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan and Anakin are trying to hunt down the person who's trying to kill Amidala in Coruscant. Obi-Wan leaps off a building into the traffic, and then Anakin is pretty much forced to swipe somebody's XJ-6 airspeeder to catch up and save him. Does the owner get some kind of compensation for that? We'll also point out that this disregard extends to the lives of any unlucky proles who get caught up in Jedi operations, like the slaves and musicians on Jabba the Hutt's pleasure barge that Luke destroys in Return of the Jedi. Just collateral damage, right Luke?
5 And You Thought They Were Wise
For a group that has access to the Force and mind control, who guide the rule of the Republic, and which has no problem staging coups and starting wars, you'd think the Jedi would be right about at least most things, most of the time, and that their actions would be characterized by wisdom. But, seriously, who didn't know that Palpatine was Darth Sidious? The Jedi, that's who. The Jedi who can supposedly feel the Force, but couldn't feel that it was heading south to the dark side right in front of them. Back in the Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn warns the Council that Darth Maul must be a Sith, and they don't believe him. And, how is it that out of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader, not one of them sensed that Leia was another one of the high midichlorian count elite? Then there's that whole issue with Kamino in Attack of the Clones – why didn't the Jedi have any record of it? Kind've important to know where your clone army is being hatched, isn't it? And why would the Jedi Council insist that Anakin, who was already troubled, get close to Palpatine, who they were already suspicious of? It's almost like the whole plot of the Star Wars saga hinges on Jedi lapses of judgment or something.
4 Allied Only To Themselves
At the end of Revenge of the Sith, the Republic is swept aside and the Empire has begun. Anakin has completed his transformation into Darth Vader. Padme is dead and her twins are separated at birth to live in hiding. So what does our hero, Obi-Wan Kenobi do? He books it to Tatooine to live like some desert hermit. While the Resistance is struggling and could use his battle experience and knowledge of the enemy, Obi-Wan is like meh, I need some peace and quiet. Ditto Yoda, who can't get over the fact that he couldn't kick Darth Sidious' butt with the lightsaber, and exiles himself to Dagobah to nurse his Jedi ego for 20 years. When Kenobi does finally get back into the game, Leia's in danger, fighter pilots are dying, but the only one he actually helps is Luke, his padawan. Luke's decisions are also often questionable. While the rebels are engaged in a crucial dogfight, where is he? Trying to reconcile with Dad, for god's sake. These guys don't care about any cause; they only care about themselves.
3 Mass Murder, Meh
Luke Skywalker is one of the more likable Jedi. Not one of those brainwashed, robotic younglings, he had a chance to become a real person with feelings and morals before he got sucked into the Jedi class. He's earnest, sincere...and a mass murderer without a conscience. There had to be about a million people on the Death Star, and sure, it's a military target, but there is not a blink of an eye or a thought for all the suckers who were just enlisted Storm Troopers. What about the independent contractors? Like, he can't bring himself to off dear old Dad, even though he was a proven mass murderer himself, but cooks and janitors on the Death Star? No problem. He even celebrates as they explode into space dust.
2 Unnecessary Use Of Force
Who needs the courts and due process when you have an unelected warrior class with mind control, questionable loyalties, and an elitist ethos? The Jedi don't even have a non-lethal weapon. Unlike a blaster, there's no stun setting on a lightsaber, which can cut you into ribbons. And, they already have mind control, so why would lethal force even be an issue? A case in point: when Obi-Wan and Anakin are looking for Zam Wesell, the shape-shifting bounty hunter who tried to assassinate Queen Amidala, First, Anakin tries to kill her with his lightsaber when he jumps onto her speeder. Then, she runs into a busy nightclub to try and escape. After lecturing Anakin about the use of the Force, Obi-Wan gets rid of Anakin to stand at the bar and act as bait. His plan is to wait for her to sneak up on him, and then slice off her hand, which he does in short order. No interrogation? No making sure it's the right person or anything? And why not just use the Force to make her come with them and talk?
1 Young Anakin And Shmi Skywalker
We have to say it: Qui-Gon Jinn seems like kind've a dick, and a totally irresponsible child guardian too. In Phantom Menace, he, Obi-Wan, Jar Jar, R2D2, and Amidala end up on Tatooine, where they come across young Anakin and his mom Shmi. The fact they are living as slaves doesn't bother our noble Jedi one bit. In fact, he only gets interested in Anakin's fate when he senses that all-important high midichlorian count and realizes that the boy can serve a useful purpose in risking his life in a dangerous pod race so that they can get spare parts for their spaceship – and that's only after he tried mind control on Watto and it didn't work. Then, after separating Anakin from his mother – and nobody seems to care that she's remaining in a state of slavery – he brings the boy to a major battle with the obtuse advice, "Watch me and be mindful." He then promptly disappears into the fighting, leaving Anakin to stumble into the war zone alone.