Subterfuge, Deception and Trickery in Star Wars
In re-watching the original film (aka "A New Hope") recently, I realized that Star Wars is collectively as much a story of sly strategies as it is courage and heroism.  That's largely because it's the tale of heroes who are underdogs in nearly every way: they're out-manned and out-gunned.  They're disorganized and constantly on the run or in hiding.  That said, the bad guys don't play on the up-and-up either.


The following are examples of lies and trickery in the original Star Wars trilogy.  (I plan to add the prequels to this list some other time, but right now I'm watching the originals with my kids.)  They include lies, disguises, ruses, feints, distractions, and surprises.

Note: I didn't include instances of honest persuasion (e.g., Luke convinces Han to help rescue Leia), nor do I classify hiding as trickery (e.g., R2 and 3PO locking themselves inside a shelter while the troopers searched door-to-door, Han flying into the asteroid field or inside of a cave, Luke ducking Vader in the Emperor's chambers, etc.) or since that don't involve deception or trickery.  I did include surprise attacks, however, even though that's a form of hiding, albeit a more strategic one.  I also didn't include examples of targeting weaknesses such as the thermal exhaust port on the Death Star or Luke going for the underside of an AT-AT with a lightsaber and grenade.


Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Leia hides the stolen Death Star plans in R2-D2 rather than in the ship's main computer to create plausible deniability.
  • Leia claims to be on a "diplomatic mission."
  • Vader: "Send a distress signal and then inform the senate that all aboard were killed!"
  • Jawas ambush R2 in the canyon.
  • R2 plays part of Leia's message, then pretends not to understand ("What message?  The one you're carrying inside your rusty innards!") in order to have his restraining bolt removed.
  • Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru pretend not to know much about Ben Kenobi, even claiming, "He died about the same time as your father."  (Later, Luke reveals more of the lies they told him: "No, my father didn't fight in the wars.  He was a navigator on a spice freighter.")
  • Surprise attack by one of the sand people who sneaks up to Luke, who thinks he's observing them unaware.
  • Ben scares off the sand people by pretending to be a ghost.
  • Ben pretends not to know R2 ("Can't seem to remember ever owning a droid.  Very interesting...").  (Admittedly, I think this was just a plot hole.)
  • Ben twists the history of Anakin/Vader, even going so far as to embellish it with, "Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it," and including the key line (later revealed to be true only in a metaphorical sense): "He betrayed and murdered your father."
  • Storm troopers strike Jawas/sand crawler, but disguise it as an attack by sand people: "They didn't.  But we are meant to think they did.  These tracks are side by side.  Sandpeople always ride single file to hide there numbers."
  • Ben mind-controls troopers: "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
  • Han pulls his blaster under the table with Greedo.
  • Leia lies and says Dantooine when Tarkin asks, "I grow tired of asking this.  So it'll be the last time.  Where is the Rebel base?"
  • "You're far too trusting."  Tarkin lies and destroys Alderan anyway.
  • "Let the wookie win" is a good survival strategy, even if it means lying by playing below your ability and losing the game.
  • "Boy, it's lucky you had these compartments."  Not only do they smuggle themselves, the heroes also falsify an entry in the log that they "abandoned ship right after takeoff."  Following that, they knock out the scanning crew, call the guards up into the ship (pretending to be the scanning crew), then steal the troopers' uniforms as disguises.  Luke then serves as a distraction (i.e., lying about a bad transmitter in his helmet) while the others break into a command center.
  • The heroes pretend to be transferring a prisoner (Chewie) to the detention area.  Afterward the lies continue as Han tries to throw command off the scent: "Uh... had a slight weapons malfunction.  But, uh,
  • everything's perfectly all right now," plus "We had a reactor leak here now.  Give us a few minutes to lock it down.  Large leak... very dangerous."
  • R2 and 3PO lock themselves in a closet.  When the troopers "free" them, 3PO feigns hysteria as he spins a tale about how they were locked in by "mad men."  With only one trooper guarding them, he later lies that, "All this excitement has overrun the circuits of my counterpart here.  If you don't mind, I'd like to take him down to maintenance."
  • Ben "throws" a sound to distract troopers standing guard near the tractor beam controls.  They interpret it as "out-gassing."
  • Han's feint: Charges screaming at storm troopers, leading them to believe they're out-numbered until they regroup.
  • Tarkin and Vader concoct the scheme to let the heroes escape with the plans so they can track them back to the rebel base.  "You're sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship?  I'm taking an awful risk, Vader.  This had better work."
  • Han's surprise return during the Death Star attack knocks out a TIE fighter and ultimately pulls Vader out of the fight.


The Empire Strikes Back
  • Chewie distracts the probe droid so Han can take a couple shots at it.
  • The Imperial forces attempt a surprise attack by coming out of light speed close to Hoth.
  • Famous deleted scene: While evacuating the base, C-3PO rips down a warning sign from a door behind which captured wampas are imprisoned.  When the Imperial troops enter the base, some are caught off guard by this ruse.
  • Yoda pretends to be a silly little creature in order to assess Luke's readiness for Jedi training, testing his patience, his reasons for wanting to be a Jedi, etc.
  • Han saves face by pretending to know what the Falcon needs, then (when he thinks 3PO isn't listening): "I think we'd better replace the negative power coupling."
  • The space slug pretends to be a cave in order to capture prey.  (Well, I'm assuming.)
  • Han's 2nd feint: "Sir, the odds of surviving a direct assault on an Imperial Star Destroyer..."  He turns the Falcon around and charges the Star Destroyer, only to hide in its blind spot.  The Imperials think he's jumped to hyperspace and eventually abandon their position thinking he's long gone.  The Falcon remains hidden until the heroes can drift away undetected with the "rest of the garbage."
  • Boba Fett anticipates Han's "garbage" escape strategy and adopts it himself.
  • Vader and the Imperials hide out on Cloud City (presumably in the Ugnaughts' robot factory that 3PO discovers) before the heroes arrive.
  • Lando poses as angry at Han when the latter arrives on Cloud City.  (This comes across as a joke, but it's also foreshadowing, of course.)  In fact, he's posing as Han's friend when he's really setting a trap under Vader's direction.
  • Vader tortures the heroes to make Luke believe that they are dying.
  • "No.  There is another."  Yoda and Ben have kept another secret from Luke.
  • "They must never again leave this city."  Vader plays by his own rules.  "That was never a condition of our agreement, nor was giving Han to this bounty hunter!"  And again, later, "Take the princess and the wookiee to my ship...  I am altering the deal.  Pray I don't alter it any further."
  • Vader has his troops parade the heroes through the halls of Cloud City to lure Luke directly into the carbon freeze chamber.
  • Lando and Lobot ambush the Imperials and rescue Leia, Chewie, and 3PO.
  • Multiple surprise attacks from Vader during the light saber battle: Appearing from nowhere, plus force-throwing objects at Luke.
  • The Imperial techs deactivate the Falcon's hyperdrive while the heroes are away.
  • R2 literally puts up a smokescreen so the heroes can avoid the storm troopers and make their way to the Falcon.


Return of the Jedi
  • The droids (or at least 3PO) have never been told the whereabouts/plans of Lando or Chewbacca (whom 3PO mentions on their way to Jabba's palace).
  • Luke tells Jabba he's giving him the droids as a gift.
  • Leia shows up in disguise as a bounty hunter with the "captured" Chewbacca in chains.
  • Lando is in disguise.
  • Jabba knows there's a rescue attempt afoot.  He and his crew waits and surprise Leia when she frees Han.
  • Luke mind-controls Bib Fortuna to gain entry to Jabba's throne room.
  • Jabba has a secret trap door that drops Luke into the Rancor pit.
  • R2 has Luke's lightsaber hidden inside him.  Launches it to him when Luke gives him the secret signal (a salute).
  • Spies bring the Rebellion information about the construction of the new Death Star.
  • The heroes use a captured Imperial shuttle with stolen security codes.
  • "I told you it was gonna work!"  Han lies again (running joke) about the ruse working after visibly being certain it wouldn't work.
  • Han and Chewie attempt to sneak up on a pair of biker scouts.
  • Biker scouts sneak up on Leia (One shoots from a distance to distract her).
  • The Ewoks set a trap than ensnares the heroes (especially Chewie).
  • C-3PO "impersonates a deity" under Luke's suggestion: "Threepio, tell them if they don't do as you wish, you'll become angry and use your magic."
  • Luke reveals to Leia that she's his sister/Vader is their father, but she doesn't tell Han when he confronts her about why she's upset.
  • Luke turns himself in to the Imperials, but says he's alone.  ("Although he denies it, I believe there may be more of them.")
  • The heroes learn of a secret entrance to the shield generator and so target that instead.
  • One of the Ewoks serves as a distraction, luring three biker scouts away from the bunker entrance.
  • Han lures the lone remaining biker scout away from his post into a group of armed Rebels.
  • The Emperor has set up a trap: "Your friends up there on the Sanctuary Moon are walking into a trap.  As is your Rebel fleet!  It was I who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator."
  • C-3PO acts as a lure for Imperial troops.  Once called away from the others, the Ewoks attack.
  • Lots of Ewok surprise attacks follow, including trip cords and other tactics.
  • The Emperor also lied about the Death Star main weapon.  "Now witness the firepower of this fully-armed and operational battle station."
  • Ewoks distract a scout walker driver so Chewie can yank him out when he opens the hatch.
  • Has uses the captured walker to disguised himself as an Imperial and lure the remaining forces out of the bunker, thereby capturing them and leaving the bunker unprotected.




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