Star Wars‘ Skywalker saga is an epic tale of good vs. evil that spans an entire galaxy. The films make it pretty clear who we’re supposed to root for: the protagonists are (almost) always on the side of the Jedi, the virtuous, monk-like sect of Force users. Their sworn enemies are the Sith, Force-sensitives drawn to the dark side of the Force. By literally defining them as “dark-” and “light-” side Force users, Star Wars makes its position on who’s good and who’s evil very clear.
The original trilogy pits young Jedi Luke Skywalker against the iconic villain Darth Vader, who he later discovers is his biological father, Anakin. The prequel trilogy follows a younger Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the former rises through the Jedi ranks and inevitably “falls” to the dark side of the Force. The sequel trilogy follows Rey, a Jedi who later discovers has a family connection to the Sith, and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, who was tempted by the dark side but eventually redeems himself. In other words, the whole light/dark side struggle is kind of the whole point of Star Wars.
However, despite the fact that the Jedi are supposed the good guys, they are actually the franchise’s biggest villains. Much of the evidence of this comes from the films of the prequel trilogy, as this is where the Jedi Council are shown at full power, but even throughout the subsequent entries into the Skywalker saga, the Jedi continue to serve as silent antagonists. Though it may sound sacrilegious to some, the Jedi are actually far, far worse than the Sith… from a certain point of view.
The Jedi’s Rules Make Very Little Sense (And They Also Break Them Whenever They Want)
The story of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace follows the young Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. An investigation of political turmoil on the planet of Naboo leads them to Tatooine, where they meet a young slave named Anakin Skywalker. Realizing that he’s not only Force-sensitive, but has the potential to be the most powerful Force user ever, Qui-Gon takes him to the Jedi Council. Concerned that he’s too old to learn the emotional discipline required of a light-side Force user, the Jedi refuse to train him. Qui-Gon ignores their concerns and begins training him anyway. That’s strike one for the Jedi.
When Qui-Gon dies, the Jedi relent and accept Anakin into their ranks. Their initial concerns prove to be entirely accurate: he’s reckless and emotional (everything a Jedi shouldn’t be), but they entertain his ways regardless just because he’s powerful. That’s strike two for the Jedi. The rules forbid emotional attachments, but it’s clear that both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were emotionally attached to Anakin, and the Jedi Council did nothing but enable them. Knowing the risk of training Anakin, they allowed it to happen (and continued his training after he started to display concerning behavior). So, by the end of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, the Jedi are on very shaky ground already, but their subtly villainous behavior (or ignorance, depending on your perspective) doesn’t end there.
“Only Sith Deal In Absolutes” – Except The Jedi Do Too, Apparently
It’s said that only the Sith deal in absolutes, but the Jedi exercise pretty extreme prejudice – a bit rich for those who try to claim the moral high ground. Those who “succumb” to the dark side of the Force are dubbed enemies of the Jedi immediately and are generally attacked on sight – including Luke’s willingness to kill his own nephew for suspecting he might be tempted by the dark side. Emotions of any kind are forbidden… except prejudice is generally an emotional reaction, further proving the Jedi’s hypocrisy.
What makes that standpoint worse is that Star Wars proves multiple times that the dark side itself does not corrupt (that just seems to be Darth Sidious). Both Darth Vader and Kylo Ren fall to the dark side only to later redeem themselves, so there is still hope for every Sith to come back to the Jedi’s way of thinking. This means that the Sith are actually more capable of change and growth than the Jedi, and that certainly tips the scales in the dark side’s favor. Strike three, Jedi.
What ultimately makes the Jedi secret villains is that their adherence to their quasi-religious dogma proved not just to be their own downfall, but the downfall of countless galactic freedoms. By having such strict rules and taboos about what Jedi are and aren’t allowed to do, they essentially forced Anakin’s shift to the dark side, allowing Palpatine’s rise to power. Not to mention that this all only happened after the Jedi broke these rules once for Anakin, only to then tell him how wrong he is for also breaking rules. The Jedi are by far Star Wars‘ biggest hypocrites, and they inadvertently made themselves the franchise’s biggest villains.