Yoda: The Best Benevolent Movie Alien, He Is

It’s Debate Day on Trope and Dagger! This week we’re discussing the best movie alien. We’ve split the debate into two categories: best benevolent alien, and best evil alien. Expect the evil alien debate next Friday! If you wish to become stupider for having read Aaron’s cockamamie blabber on this week’s subject, go here.

Aliens in movies hold a mirror up to our earthling sensibilities and reveal something about ourselves. Whether it’s inner clarity or a horrible truth, the otherworldliness of movie aliens allows us to step outside ourselves and consider our lives from a stranger’s point of view. The best movie aliens are guides that show us the way to happiness or enlightenment. No alien embodies these qualities better than Yoda.

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?

Spoilers ahoy! Although the likelihood of not having Star Wars spoiled for you is pretty slim at this point.

When Luke Skywalker first meets Yoda in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, he mistakes the diminutive green creature for a primitive species. Luke encounters Yoda rummaging through his belongings after arriving on Dagobah, and writes off Yoda as nothing more than a nuisance. But Yoda, knowing that Luke has come to Dagobah in search of him, strings the would-be Jedi along with a promise to lead him to the lair of the Jedi Master.

Yoda uses the opportunity to assess Luke’s aptitude as a Jedi. The deception lets Yoda see how Luke would behave when not in the presence of the venerated Grand Master of the Jedi Order. Yoda has no pride or shame, and has no qualms with being viewed as a buffoon. When Yoda first offers Luke help, the young Skywalker spurns it at first, saying that he’s looking for a “great warrior.” But Yoda replies, “Oh! Great warrior. Wars not make one great.” This is the first lesson for Luke in understanding what it means to be a Jedi.


Of course, Yoda eventually reveals himself to Luke, and the training begins. Luke is headstrong and impetuous, obsessed with becoming stronger and defeating Darth Vader. But Master Yoda counsels patience and circumspection, and crafts his lessons for Luke around humility and endurance rather than martial prowess.

Luke has come to Dagobah with a preconceived set of notions about how the Galaxy and the Force work. Part of Yoda’s job is to show Luke that the universe isn’t as simple as he thinks it is. He instructs Luke to unlearn what he has learned and start over fresh. Only by questioning his assumptions can Luke truly come to understand the Force.

One of the tasks Yoda sets for Luke is raising his X-Wing from the swamp using the Force. Luke is unable to do it, and complains that the X-Wing is too big. To prove to Luke that size matters not, he performs the feat himself. An incredulous Luke says, “I don’t believe it,” and Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.”


Yoda refuses to teach Luke offensive techniques. Though Jedi Knights fought to defend the galaxy, they did so only as a last resort. As Yoda says, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” Luke’s obsession with killing Vader will lead him to the Dark Side if he doesn’t let it go, a point driven home by Luke’s battle with the shade of Darth Vader in the Cave of the Dark Side. When Luke cuts down the shade, he sees his own face behind Vader’s black mask.

Perhaps Yoda’s greatest lesson for Luke, and for us, is to never waver in our confidence or resolve. It’s good to ask questions and consider a situation from every angle, but when the time comes to act, we must be swift and sure. For a Jedi, there is no room for wavering in a crisis, or worrying about one’s own abilities. “Try not,” says Yoda. “Do, or do not. There is no try.”


Yoda and the Force Ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi also work together to show Luke that death is nothing to fear, but merely one step in the universal cycle of life. “Luminous beings are we,” explains Yoda. “Not this crude matter.” Obi-Wan’s appearance as a ghost proves that becoming one with the Force is an essential part of a Jedi’s journey to enlightenment.

Headstrong Luke leaves Yoda before his training can be completed, anxious to save his friends and confront Vader. When Luke returns to Dagobah a year later, in Return of the Jedi, he’s come too late. Yoda is dying. But the old Grand Master recognizes that Luke has learned a great deal from his encounter with Vader in Cloud City. The loss of his hand and the shock of the knowledge that Vader is his father has taught Luke the value of Yoda’s lessons about humility and expecting the unexpected. Yoda tells Luke that his training is complete, but has one last bit of knowledge to impart: that all things must eventually end. “Twilight is upon me,” says Yoda, “and soon night must fall. That is the way of things…the way of the Force.”

When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.
When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.

Okay, so there’s also some stuff about how Yoda’s a master of lightsaber duels and leads armies of clone troopers into battle. Honestly I hate this crap because it flies in the face of what makes Yoda so great. Yoda isn’t a clone warlord or a supreme swordmaster. He’s a tiny, unimposing elf who’s completely devoted to the cause of peace and harmony. As far as I’m concerned, the Yoda of the prequels isn’t the same character, even if they went to great lengths to mimic Frank Oz’ puppeteering style.

The Yoda I love teaches Luke and the audience simultaneously. Yoda is like a short, green Lao Tzu, constantly dispensing universal wisdom that’s equally as applicable to our own lives as it is to Luke’s quest for galactic justice. Yoda has remained such a recognizable and beloved character for so long because he’s the opposite of what we picture when we think of a great hero. His message one of understanding. If we can remain humble while believing in ourselves, anything is possible. That’s what makes Yoda the best alien to ever appear on film.

28 thoughts on “Yoda: The Best Benevolent Movie Alien, He Is

  1. So this is the same Yoda that went into hiding while the fight against the emperor continued without him, right? Same Yoda that didn’t even actually want to train Luke in the first place? Pretty sure the rebel alliance could have used his help all those years they were struggling to fight Vader and the emperor. Not to call him a coward or anything, but he’s kind of a coward when you think about it.


      1. Running away and hiding does. Especially when you’re strong enough to help. Mathesar would never give up, never surrender. Yoda could have been a huge help to the Alliance, even finding and training new Jedi. Can’t do that hiding in a swamp.


          1. Does hiding in a swamp make you great? Yoda still thinks the emperor and Vader need to be stopped, he just isn’t willing to do much about it. “Yeah, Luke, you go handle that.”


            1. Until the prequels, I don’t think we were supposed to view Yoda as a warrior. He doesn’t even have a lightsaber with him on Dagobah. He knew, like Obi-Wan, that Luke needed to be the one to stop Vader, so he hid himself in Dagobah until Luke could find him.


              1. Not saying he had to be a warrior. He could teach, advise, FIND NEW JEDI. Even if Luke had to stop Vader, which I don’t remember anyone in the original trilogy saying that and he didn’t even want to train him when he did show up, he could have helped in other ways. But he didn’t. Yoda sucks.


                    1. No, saying that one of Vader’s kids had to kill him is the prequel prophecy nonsense. In the original trilogy they were the only hope because they were force sensitive and could be jedi. No talk of a prophecy or nothing like that.


                    2. Then why didn’t Obi-wan kill Vader in ANH? He and Yoda are definitely guiding Luke to be the one to face Vader. Yoda knows it has to be that way, but he’s reluctant because he loathes conflict and negative emotions.


                    3. He couldn’t kill Vader. As Vader said, now he is the master, and he was right. He was better than Kenobi at that point. Also, he was cut off from Luke and them, and if he didn’t end it quickly he knew that Luke would try and help and possibly cause everyone to die.
                      And I’m not arguing that they’re guiding him to fight Vader, they clearly are. But saying it has to be Luke to kill Vader is some prophecy prequel nonsense. He (besides Yoda) is the only “jedi” around anymore. Who else is gonna do it? Oh yeah, Leia could do it, the other last hope. Or Yoda maybe, if he weren’t cowering on Degobah.


                    4. Now you’re just speculating wildly and grasping at straws. Kenobi was at least a match for Vader. What prophecy in the prequels says that Luke will defeat Vader? The prequels were full of some stupid shit, but I don’t remember that. There was a prophecy of a Chosen One who would bring balance to the Force, but Vader fulfilled that by killing Palpatine. So I dunno what you’re even talking about.
                      Luke (or Leia) was meant to fight Vader, Obi-wan and Yoda knew this, it’s a theme that’s pervasive in the original trilogy.


                    5. No, you’re all over the place, man. If Kenobi could have killed Vader in ANH, why didn’t he? You said cuz Luke had to. Why did Luke have to if Kenobi could have? You say they were meant to, which implies some sort of prophecy nonsense like in the prequels. It’s only “pervasive that either Luke or Leia had to fight Vader” because they were force sensitive. Yoda refused to re-enter the fight and Kenobi let himself die because he was unable to defeat Vader and wanted Luke & co to run.


                    6. It had to do with the Force and karmic justice. Luke facing his father was the only way to redeem Vader, which was in turn the only way to destroy the Sith and the Emperor. We’ll never know if Obi-wan could have defeated Vader or not, because he chose to die to firhter Luke’s training. The prequels have nothing to do with it.


                    7. No, but saying that Kenobi knew he had to die for Luke to defeat Vader is some prequel-esque prophetic nonsense, which is what I was saying in the first place. I don’t think that either Kenobi nor Yoda saw any redemption possible in Vader, I think that was all Luke. He saw the good in Vader when no one else did. I think Kenobi and Yoda were both flawed characters, which endears them to me more. Yoda can be short-sighted and afraid yet still be wise, it’s OK. It makes him more realistic. If he knew everything then he wouldn’t be hiding in a swamp in the first place. He’s not divine. Nor is the force a justice machine. If it were, then the emperor would never had gotten into power in the first place.


                    8. You keep repeating the same nonsensical arguments and I feel like we’re going in circles. If you don’t get that Luke was destined to fight Vader from the original trilogy, or Yoda and Obi-wan believing he could be redeemed, then you’re too delusional for logic to even appeal to you.


                    9. Noone said he could be redeemed. Luke believed it, but that was all. Show me evidence otherwise, or a line from another character that indicates otherwise, and I’ll digress. Nobody says Luke was destined to fight Vader, they only say that he is their last hope, but there is another. Again, display evidence from the movies otherwise and I will digress. You are the one who apparently believes that both Kenobi and Yoda are infallible, which obviously isn’t true, but it doesn’t make them bad characters.


                    10. Obi-wan refers to Anakin as a great Jedi Knight who was killed by Darth Vader in ANH. He also tries to reason with Vader during their duel. That alone proves thay Obi-wan still had respect and hope for Anakin, despite what he’d become. I gratefully accept your admission that I win the argument.


                    11. He never describes him as a great jedi. A great pilot, but not great jedi. And he doesn’t try reasoning with Vader, he just calls him evil. Not once does he say “listen to reason, Anakin (or Darth)”, so I don’t know which duel you were watching. Seriously, have you seen the Star Wars movies?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    12. Obi-wan also describes Anakin as a “Jedi Knight,” “cunning warrior,” and “good friend.” He also says that Vader killed Anakin after being “seduced” by the dark side, implying that he views his friend as separate from the Sith Lord. He never says “don’t be evil,” but he does say “you can’t win,” implying that he hopes for Vader to realize the error of his ways. And if you actually watched the movie, you’d know he was at least matching Vader before he smiled at Luke and let himself he killed.


                    13. I saw an old man being toyed with by a much more competent opponent. Jedi Knight, cunning warrior, and good friend don’t mean “great Jedi”. That’s just inferring an old man’s reminiscing as something other than it is.
                      And him saying “you can’t win” doesn’t mean he’s trying to reason with him, it just means that he’s posturing for Vader. Kenobi’s cleary CLEARLY outmatched in ANH, and you wishing otherwise doesn’t make it so.


  2. And “you can’t win, Darth” was followed by “if you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” It wasn’t a plea for Vader to turn for good, but a “warning” against Vader killing Kenobi.


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