Even after more than four decades of dominating popular culture, Star Wars has proved itself to be just as relevant today as it was in yesteryear. The epic space opera has become so expansive and vast that it’s now resorted to telling the origin stories of its original beloved cast. But with Solo swinging into theaters soon and featuring, as far as the trailers show, no Jedi, Sith, or any force-wielding entities, it begins to throw into context the overarching power scale of the entire Star Wars universe.
The standard Jedi or Sith is already so much more powerful than the average human or alien that it become difficult to grade who among them is stronger than the others. The fact that the Force has always been a nebulous and poorly-defined concept, largely by design, doesn’t help the curve. So to make things a little easier for you to remember, here’s a list of the 20 most powerful Star Wars characters. Keep in mind, however, that the almighty overlords at the House of Mouse has declared most of the expanded universe to be non-canonical, leaving only the movies, cartoons, and comics as official lore, so this list will stick exclusively to those sources.
20 THE BENDU
How powerful is the inhuman neutral party known as the Bendu? So powerful that he had to be voiced by the iconic Tom Baker to get across just how otherworldly his strength was. An alien behemoth, the Bendu was large enough to tower over most humanoids, but he was so powerful with the Force that he never once had to resort to his physical strength. A generally peaceful entity, the Bendu refused to choose sides in the war and the Force, standing somewhere between Jedi and Sith in moral gray area, a position he defended with integrity. But just because he played a neutral didn’t mean he wasn’t equipped with an arsenal of Force powers.
In fact, his neutrality might have been the source of his abilities.
The Bendu was empathic, precognitive with alarming accuracy, and had direct control over nature around him, at one point even transforming his physical body into a giant thunderstorm that rained down on Imperials and Rebels alike. He was also one of the wisest figures in the Star Wars canon, often playing mentor and confidant to anyone seeking his immense knowledge and counsel. Through the Force, he was able to give Kanan a sight-like ability, destroyed a good portion of an invading Imperial navy, and could even fly. Even when the Bendu was struck down and wounded, he avoided being killed by simply vanishing into the air. Such is the power of neutrality.
19 GENERAL GRIEVOUS
One of the more underrepresented villains in the Star Wars canon, General Grievous also has a claim to being one of the deadliest. Appearing as a Separatist general mid-way through the Clone Wars, Grievous was obsessed with war and combat. So much so that he voluntarily implanted cybernetic enhancements in his body, allowing him to wield four lightsabers at once, all of which he’d taken from the corpses of dead Jedi he’d killed. Over the course of the Clone Wars, he amassed quite a collection, often prizing the reward for the kill over the significance such a death would mean to the war effort.
Apart from the physical power he wielded, he also commanded the droid army and had several tens of millions of robotic soldiers at his beck and call at all times. Even if he was unarmed, he had a legion of deadly machines at his back. He was a formidable fighter, having been taught the art of lightsaber combat by Count Dooku himself, and was only ever killed on a fluke. He was unarmed, wounded, and in retreat, yet he still drove his final opponent, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to the point of desperation, forcing him to rely on an uncivilized blaster to kill Grievous. Though his legacy did not last, he still deserves respect as one of the most prolific Jedi-killers of all time.
18 GRAND ADMIRAL THRAWN
What’s more impressive than using the Force to defeat your opponents and alter people’s minds? Defeating your opponents and altering people’s minds without the Force because you’re just that awesome. Thrawn was originally a Chiss holy warrior, trained to take out his enemies with unmitigated strategy and prejudice at any cost. He took to this role like a fish to water and became so adept at manipulation and assassination that he was able to take out an entire platoon of stormtroopers without being seen, allowed himself to be caught, and then convinced the Emperor himself that not only did he not deserve to be executed for his crimes, but that he had earned a place in the Imperial navy.
With his innate knowledge of how his enemies thought, Thrawn quickly rose through the ranks to become a Grand Admiral on the front lines of the Galactic Civil War.
He went one-on-one with Jedi several times during the war but even then didn’t consider a fight a challenge unless he was going up against several targets at once. He won almost every battle he fought thanks to his natural talent for staying several moves ahead of his opponent. Oh, and it turns out that all this time he was actually an undercover agent for the Chiss people, trying to judge the Empire’s worthiness. Because he’s so cool he might as well also be a spy.
17 ASAJJ VENTRESS
Sith, Jedi, slave, bounty hunter, assassin, spy, saboteur, priests, Asajj Ventress has done it all and then some, making her, if nothing else, one of the most resilient characters in the Star Wars universe. She was born into the Nightsister witch clan on the wartorn planet of Dathomir. She survived long enough to come under the tutelage of a Jedi master who was sent on a long-term mission to bring peace to the planet. He taught her the ways of the Force, hoping she would become a Jedi one day. But when he was killed by pirates, Ventress allowed herself to succumb to rage and grief, falling prey to the Dark Side.
This made her prime pickings for Count Dooku, who made her his resident assassin. Wielding dual lightsabers, she gained renown during the Clone Wars for her unpredictable fighting style. She regularly came into conflict with Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and when you form a pseudo rivalry with two of the most powerful Jedi of all time, it’s safe to consider yourself in the big leagues. However, when the Sith inevitably betrayed her, she went into business for herself, at one point even single-handedly saving the Jedi she used to have a blood feud with. Eventually, her willpower became so powerful that she could resist the temptations of the dark side even with her master and lover dragging her back into the fold.
16 DARTH PLAGUEIS THE WISE
Not much is known about Darth Plagueis except that he was Palpatine’s master, Palpatine ultimately killed him in accordance with Sith policy, and the man used the Force to induce virtual immortality, influencing midichlorians so precisely that he could physically stop death itself. That alone would qualify him as one of the strongest characters in the current Star Wars canon, but the man was also considered so powerful that he had only one true enemy: the Force itself. Darth Plagueis became obsessed with the idea that he’d grown too powerful and that the Force would one day betray him for abusing his control over life and death.
To preemptively counteract this hypothesized retribution, Darth Plagueis put aside all other tasks and decided to try and manipulate his own midichlorians.
All this to make himself unkillable, a task that would engulf the remainder of his life, mostly because it was not long after that when Palpatine, understandably worried that his master would become too powerful to kill, betrayed Darth Plagueis and slaughtered the Sith Lord, taking his place in the Sith hierarchy. Though he’s never physically shown in the entire series and is only mentioned by name, it’s clear from the reverence with which he is spoken just how unbelievably powerful his unnatural powers were.
15 KANAN JARRUS
It’s one thing to be a trained Force user who can be ridiculously powerful with years of practice, it’s quite another to be a full-fledged master with minimal training. Before he was Kanan Jarrus, Rebel Jedi, he was Caleb Dume, the prodigious Jedi Padawan to Master Depa Billaba. Despite having very little formal training by the time the Clone Wars rolled around, Caleb was thrown into the thick of combat and had to learn on the job. When Order 66 altered the course of the war, Billaba sacrificed herself to give Dume time to escape the clonetoopers. After meeting and learning from a renowned smuggler, he changed his identity to Kanan Jarrus and went underground, hiding his Jedi training for the better part of two decades.
It was only when he joined the Rebellion and met Ezra Bridger that he decided to return to the Jedi path. And despite being almost 20 years removed from his last training session, Kanan was still capable of taking on entire squadrons by himself. He even trained Ezra to become a not-to-shabby Jedi himself and undertook the trials to become an official Jedi Knight. His most impressive feat, however, was outside of combat. When he was blinded by Darth Maul, he had to learn to see things through his frayed connection to the Force and became hyper-sensory, able to fight better than he had with his sight.
14 COUNT DOOKU
Trained as both a Jedi and a Sith, the man known as Count Dooku had the best of both worlds. He was initially trained by Yoda, who imparted on him the ways of the Force. However, after rising through the Jedi ranks and training his own apprentice, Dooku became disillusioned with the corruption he saw all around him and left the order, reclaimed his lost title and fortune, and became the new apprentice of Darth Sidious, who gave him the equally laughable title of Darth Tyrannus. But Dooku was no joke. Even as a Jedi he was known as a brilliant and calculating strategist and his skill with a lightsaber was counted among the best.
As a Sith, he further developed his talents and acquired a whole new set of powers.
He was particularly adept at the vicious Force Lightning attacks and could redirect lightning with even more lightning. He was also capable of multi-tasking in combat, once dropping a pillar on the deposed bodies of Anakin and Obi-Wan while also going one-on-one with his former master, Yoda. Oh, and he won that fight, easily fending off three master Jedi in the span of ten minutes and taking an arm off Anakin for good measure.
The most impressive aspect of Rey’s power isn’t something she’s already accomplished, it’s the fact that she clearly hasn’t even come close to realizing her full potential. She spent her childhood in the rough planet of Jakku and survived from a young age to young adulthood, an impressive feat in and of itself. However, after spending only half a day in the presence of Han Solo, she was able to go one-on-one with a wounded Kylo Ren and won. This was deemed so impressive that she was elected to retrieve Luke Skywalker from his exile and train as his apprentice. And then, following a long weekend’s worth of lessons, she was able to beat him in combat, help kill Supreme Leader Snoke, and fought alongside Kylo to wipe out some of Snoke’s elite soldiers and personal guard.
And she still wasn’t done! She escaped from the destroyed Supremacy ship and rejoined Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon. From there, she single-handedly saved the Resistance by using her still-new connection to the Force to lift several tons of rocks out of a cave entrance, facilitating their escape. She’s shown incredible resilience despite her inexperience, able to prevent Kylo from reading her mind and learning both Force telekinesis and the Jedi Mind Trick with almost no training. And she still has at least one movie’s worth of exploits to develop in.
12 THE GRAND INQUISITOR
Oftentimes the most dangerous threats are the ones you never see coming. Such is the case of the Grand Inquisitor, whose real name is unknown. Originally a humble guard at the Jedi Temple, the Inquisitor was secretly a Sith agent in deep cover in the Jedi Order. He was so good at masking his dark aura that not even a citadel of the most powerful Jedi alive could tell he’d been turned. It’s suggested that it was this gift for disguise that allowed him to direct blame for the Temple Bombings towards Ahsoka Tano, eventually forcing her to leave the Jedi Order. After the rise of the Empire, he revealed himself as a Sith agent and was made Grand Inquisitor, tasked with hunting down the remainder of the Jedi Order following Order 66.
Armed with a squadron of Inquisitors and their signature spinning lightsabers, the Grand Inquisitor executed many surviving Jedi, including the respected Luminara Unduli.
In a display of pure cold, calculating strategy, he used the Jedi master’s remains to lure other Jedi into a trap, under the pretence that they were rescuing her. The Grand Inquisitor was also a formidable combatant, regularly coming into contact with trained and desperate Jedi and known for catching them off guard with his deadly lightsaber design and ruthless aggression.
11 DARTH MAUL
Audiences immediately knew that Darth Maul was nobody to mess with when he debuted the first non-standard lightsaber in Star Wars history, showing off his unique dual-bladed saber in his fight against Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He butchered Qui-Gon with capitalizing on his youthful energy and superior strategy, but was cut down by Obi-Wan when he got too cocky. He was presumed dead for over a decade before reemerging in the Clone Wars as something of a third party. With his brother Savage Oppress by his side and a fresh new pair of bionic legs, he proved that he was still more powerful than the average Jedi, killing several in his quest to kill his treacherous master. He even bested his would-be killer Obi-Wan by murdering his oldest friend.
However, despite his insane combat skills, he just couldn’t measure up to Darth Sidious, who promptly killed both his mother and brother. Maul disappeared for even more years before resurfacing in a Sith temple. Even after years of exile and obsession, he was able to fight off Inquisitors trained to hunt Jedi. For a long time, it seemed as if Maul was just unkillable, but then he met his fate at the hands of Obi-Wan, who displayed that while Maul had always been a powerful warrior, he had never taken time to grow as a person.
10 SUPREME LEADER SNOKE
It’s tempting to dismiss Snoke as something of a one-off. Built up as a new ultimate villain in The Force Awakens, he was killed fairly easily by Kylo Ren who cut him in half while the Supreme Leader was gloating over a victory he hadn’t confirmed yet. But that distracts from some of the legitimately incredible feats Snoke had accomplished up to that point.
First off, he built the Empire back up from virtually nothing, rebranding it under his own image in the process -- that takes no small level of control.
On top of that, while not technically a Sith, he does have access to some of their unique powers and is even shown as being more proficient in the use of Force Lightning than anyone in the series, capable of redirecting it at will and shooting it in a controlled burst. He also was able to manipulate others to a simply ridiculous degree, using the Force itself to join Rey and Kylo Ren without either of them questioning how it was possible. His use of more direct Force methods are equally impressive, capable of using telekinesis from long distances and even broke directly into Rey’s mind, a feat that Kylo found impossible. He may have gone out like a punk, but he certainly was formidable in his time.
9 AHSOKA TANO
When trying to become one of the greatest Jedi of all time, being apprenticed to a literal child of prophecy is a pretty good place to start. Ahsoka Tano was made Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice midway through the Clone Wars, much to his chagrin. However, he quickly learned to appreciate her spitfire attitude and began training her in earnest. Over the course of the remainder of the war, Ahsoka made a name for herself not just as Anakin’s apprentice, but as a valiant warrior who protected her soldiers and was more than willing to make the sacrifice play. She skirted death several times, often putting herself in harm’s way to protect others only to use her considerable wit, skill, and sometimes luck to escape. She was particularly adept at integrating her Force powers into her fights, a tricky task considering she was known to dual-wield in the Jar’Kai fashion.
She was so well practiced with two lightsabers that she was able to fend off both her master and her master’s master simultaneously and even took on the four-armed General Grievous alone and survived, and she was still only a teenager at the time. As an adult, she was able to beat multiple inquisitors at once with ease and she had become in tune enough with the Force to experience premonitions and visions at will. She was powerful enough that Ezra Bridger went through time to save her, knowing she might be the only one powerful enough to help him.
8 QUI-GON JINN
The purpose of any religion is ultimately to prepare its believers for the afterlife. Not much was known about the Jedi afterlife except that everyone would eventually return to become one with the living Force. But it was Qui-Gon Jinn, master to Obi-Wan Kenobi, who uncovered what that really meant. An independent and free-spirited Jedi, Qui-Gon discovered the ability to live beyond the living Force in the form of Force Ghosts, a secret he shared through visions with Master Yoda who in turn taught it to Obi-Wan. Even before his death, however, Qui-Gon was on the more powerful end of the Jedi spectrum. Obi-Wan openly states that his master could have been a respected member of the Jedi High Council if he had simply followed the code, but Qui-Gon wasn’t one for rules and legislation.
He was so in tuned with the Force that he more or less transcended the petty and arbitrary rules that the Jedi set for themselves.
He wasn’t a half-bad fighter either. Considering that the Sith hadn’t been seen in centuries, the Jedi had grown complicit in their training, to the point where even a Sith apprentice could go toe-to-toe with a Jedi master. But despite this, Obi-Wan managed to hold his own for the better part of two fights with Darth Maul, only falling after over 20 minutes of intense combat.
7 MACE WINDU
Mace Windu: the Jedi so awesome that they got Samuel L. Jackson to play him and Samuel L. Jackson found him so awesome that he insisted the writers expand on the character’s lore. Windu is known as the Jedi Temple’s resident lightsaber specialist and foremost combat expert. He is singlehandedly responsible for some of the most important Republic victories in the Clone Wars and was a brilliant strategist as well as a tactful Jedi. His official backstory is all the proof that’s needed to put him on this list. Turns out that his purple lightsaber blade (which Jackson himself proposed) signified that he walked a thin line between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force.
Windu was so proficient and enamored with combat that it risked tilting him towards the Dark Side. To compensate, he created his very own tempered fighting style that would compensate for his occasional burst of anger and animosity. He even came moments away from winning the war when he managed to beat Darth Sidious fairly in single combat, only failing to kill the Sith Lord due to Anakin’s untimely interference. Despite his lifelong frustration with the duplicity of the Jedi Code, Windu was one of the most revered Jedi in history and earned every song of praise that was raised in his name.
6 OBI-WAN KENOBI
If Obi-Wan Kenobi taught us anything, it’s that the key to becoming an immortal Force Ghost is to train two different chosen ones. Chronologically speaking, Obi-Wan started his path to greatness after witnessing the death of his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, and becoming the first Jedi in centuries to beat a Sith Lord. Granted, Darth Maul didn’t exactly die from the encounter, but the victory assured Obi-Wan’s ascension within the Jedi ranks. Over the next ten years, he cultivated a reputation as a reliable, steadfast Jedi and mentor to Anakin, himself developing a cult of personality based on his arrogance and battle prowess.
During the Clone Wars, he became a general in the Republic army, using his knack for clearheaded thinking to win several key victories.
This includes the safe rescue of Chancellor Palpatine and the defeat of the nigh-unkillable cyborg General Grievous. At the end of the war, he even managed to beat his apprentice, who had grown even more powerful as Darth Vader. While in his subsequent exile, he reached an enlightened state and even managed to finally kill Darth Maul before giving Luke Skywalker a scant few hours of training which would eventually lead him on the path to greatness himself. All for that sweet, sweet reward of being immortal.
5 KYLO REN
Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo, is something of an enigma at this point. He is undoubtedly powerful, as demonstrated when he killed his master without Snoke even realizing he was being betrayed, but his power is somewhat undercut by his immaturity. For example, he probably could have sensed Snoke’s involvement in connecting him with Rey through the Force, but he was so busy verbally sparring with her that he completely missed it. That being said, it’s clear that he’s more proficient with a lightsaber than anyone of his generation, having easily sliced up Finn and a room full of elite soldiers and only losing a fight to Rey because he was dealing with a blistering wound at the time.
Though he is fairly matched with Rey in terms of Force powers, being unable to completely overpower her mind and they tied in their tug of war match for Anakin’s old lightsaber. But his Force abilities do extend into unventured territory as far as Star Wars goes. Never forget, he was first introduced to audiences by catching a blaster bolt in midair. Not reflecting it off his palms as Vader had done, no. He literally caught it in the air and froze it in place while he interrogated Poe. It was the single coolest thing people had seen in a Star Wars movie in a long time and it took formidable Force powers to pull off a stunt like that.
4 LUKE SKYWALKER
The undeniable lynchpin of the Star Wars franchise, Luke Skywalker is inarguably one of the most powerful Jedi to ever live. After a measly few hours of training and with little indication as to the nature and limits of the Force, he was able to use it to accurately guide a torpedo into a meter-wide target while flying at high speed, blowing up the Death Star and saving the galaxy. And that was when he was still a kid. And it was only a few years later that he took on Darth Vader in the toughest fight the Sith Lord had had in years. It wasn’t long after that when his prowess with the Force was so strong that he was able to transcend the unspoken boundaries of Sith and Jedi Force powers, demonstrating his ability to use Force Choke among other things.
He was also a naturally gifted pilot, capable of piloting fighter ships with almost no formal training.
Even his father had had a childhood of pod racing to give him his piloting skills. His greatest feat though is also his most significant. Despite his failings as a teacher, Luke realized his capabilities as an icon and, when the Resistance needed hope the most, he sent an astral projection of himself across the galaxy to intimidate and stall Kylo Ren, who was so utterly convinced that his former mentor stood before him that he allowed the heroes to escape right under his nose.
In terms of pure Force powers, nobody in the Star Wars canon comes even close to matching the skill of the little green man himself, Master Yoda. Living long enough to teach four generations of Jedi masters (that we know of), Yoda was known as the go-to guy when it came to interpreting visions. He was so powerful with the Force that even in his old age, as a wizened and decrepit hermit, he was capable of lifting an entire starship with a wave of his fingers in one of the first major uses of Force Telekinesis that audiences were introduced to.
Even following his death and subsequent resurrection as a Force Ghost, he had enough of a connection to the living Force that he could call down a lightning strike on a precise target, something no living Jedi or Sith had been shown to be capable of before. He was no slouch with a lightsaber either, being shown as using a unique fighting style that incorporated lots of flips and acrobatics to compensate for his low physical stature. Perhaps more important than his powers, however, was his talent for diplomacy. Throughout the Clone Wars, he was crucial to the development of several major alliances within the Republic to shore up support for the war effort.
2 DARTH SIDIOUS/CHANCELLOR PALPATINE
Despite being one of the most physically powerful members of the Star Wars universe, Palpatine’s true strength is in his masterful planning and manipulation skills. Starting by betraying and murdering his own master, Darth Plagueis the Wise, Palpatine set in motion a grand scheme that would throw the galaxy into chaos, restore the Sith to power, and eventually place him in an emperor’s throne. And give the man credit, he had some close calls along the way and it didn’t quite work out in the end, but he pulled it off pretty nicely. From starting the Clone Wars to infecting Anakin Skywalker with fear and hate, he played all his cards perfectly to keep himself and his goals as safe as possible, something nobody else could have done.
And when things started to slip, Palpatine was more than prepared to get physical.
He easily slaughtered three Jedi masters when they came to confront him and, though he lost fairly to Mace Windu, he was able to capitalize on a distraction from Anakin to kill him. He was adept at the use of Force Lightning and was sadistic in his enjoyment of it. Ultimately, he was the truest villain Star Wars ever had, only ever losing his dream and his life due to Anakin’s abrupt and unforeseen change of heart.
1 DARTH VADER/ANAKIN SKYWALKER
Out of the entire Star Wars canon, nobody measures up to Darth Vader himself in terms of pure power. Discounting the fact that he’s the subject of a prophecy, he’s one of the most accomplished characters in the whole series. He has more kills to his name, both Jedi and Sith alike, than anyone else. Sure he’s taken his licks over the years, loosing his arm to Count Dooku, the rest of his body to Obi-Wan, and just about everything else to Palpatine’s machinations, but he’s also done feats with the Force that weren’t considered possible until he did them. He’s taken out scores of Jedi at once and once slaughtered half a planet by himself because Palpatine egged him on.
Before he was Vader, however, he was a powerful and respected Republic general in the Clone Wars, becoming one of the few Jedi who remained beloved throughout the entire war with his legendary battle skills. Even before he was that, he was just a slave kid on Tatooine who altered his fate by proving to a Jedi master that he was capable of quick thinking, improvising, and being resourceful by winning his universe’s equivalent of the Daytona 500. As a kid. And it was all uphill from there.