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"But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression…the dark side of the Force are they, easily they flow… If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will…"
―Yoda — (audio) Listen (file info)[1]

Ancient symbol of the dark side of the Force

The dark side of the Force, also known as Bogan[2] or the shadow, was one of two ways of channeling the Force.[1] To tap into the power of the dark side was to indulge in raw emotions such as passion, anger, and hatred. The dark side was greed, the fear of change, and the inability to let go. By holding on to things, one became angry and hateful, which in turn led to suffering. Those who were unable to conquer their dark side were devoured by it.[3] The Sith were Force-sensitives well known for serving the will of the dark side and being the mortal enemies of the Jedi, who served the will of the light side of the Force.[4][5]

The dark side was associated with the night. As with the light side, it was an integral part of all living things, and as the shadow of the soul, the dark side had to be continually overcome by sentients to walk the path of the light; indulging in the dark side led to imbalance.[6] The dark side was not more powerful than the light side; it was an easier, albeit destructive, path. Failing to resist the temptation of darkness would allow the dark side to dominate one's destiny,[1] although redemption was always a possibility.[7]

Anakin Skywalker, gifted in the Force,[4] succumbed to the seduction of the dark side because of his refusal to let go of his attachments. Skywalker was attached to his mother and his wife, and the possibility of their deaths caused him to rebel against the natural course of life and the Force itself, seeking power in his fear of losing his loved ones and becoming a hateful, disfigured cyborg and an agent of evil.[3][8]


"It's called the dark side of the Force because it's secretive. That's all. The Sith kept their knowledge and identities hidden—in the dark, see? They thought it made it easier to impose order."
Lona Aphra to her daughter, Chelli Lona Aphra[9]

The dark side was often given into because it tempted its possible users; even the Son,[10] a Force wielder who embodied the dark side,[11] was unable to resist it.[10] Farmer Kaeden Larte, who had previously seen her friend Ahsoka Tano use the light side of the Force, felt as though the dark side was unnatural and wrong upon seeing the Sixth Brother use the Force choke ability.[12]

The dark side of the Force was defined as anger, fear, aggression[1] and a lust for power. It was stated that the Sith referred to the dark side as "dark" because it was secretive. The Sith kept their knowledge and identities secret because they believed it would make it easier for them to impose order.[9]

The essence of the dark side[]


"You've told me your existence has been nothing but pain and loss. Never feeling secure. Never having a home. You deserve so much, and I can get it for us. The life we'll be able to have together once—"
"What kind of life will that be, Quinlan? The kind where we're slaves to our hatred? Our rage? That's what the dark side made me. That's what it does. Nothing is ever enough. You get more, and more, but you're never happy. It's a trap baited with all the things you want most in life—and it's not worth living. I already left that behind."
Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress[13]

Having previously given into the dark side, Asajj Ventress knew it could never live up to its promises, as those who used it were never satisfied.

The dark side was selfishness and possession, interlocked with the fear of loss that gave rise to anger and hate and brought suffering to those on whom its power was unleashed and who embraced it alike. As noted by former Dark Acolyte Asajj Ventress, those who followed the dark side were never satisfied, always desiring more than what they gained.[13] In fact, Grand Master Yoda stated that giving into fear, anger and hate was a path to the dark side.[4] Yoda believed that, once one started down the dark path, it dominated their destiny forever.[1] Nevertheless, a return to the light side was always possible.[7][14]


"The beast is you and you are the beast. To deny it simply gives it power."
Serenity, to Yoda[6]

The dark side promised power, but it could also be a pathway to suffering.

The dark side was selfishness, fear, and aggressive feelings in all living things. However, beings were often tempted to deny and try to escape from this truth, imagining the dark side to be something external, something that is not the part of them, something that they can rid themselves of. Such hubris was easy to fall into—even Grand Master Yoda, who trained to conquer his darkness for hundreds of years, initially refused to recognize his own dark reflection. However, in denying this truth he only fed the dark side.[6]

In 19 BBY,[15] Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi confronted his former Padawan, the fallen Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, on the volcanic planet of Mustafar. Skywalker had turned to the dark side, creating the persona of the Sith Lord Darth Vader, and believed himself capable of overthrowing his Sith Master Darth Sidious.[3] The duel between Kenobi and Vader resulted in a stalemate,[16] although Vader refused to concede despite his former master gaining the high ground.[3] The dark side filled his senses with rage and hubris, causing Vader to ignore Kenobi's warning as he attempted another attack.[16] Vader was consequently disarmed by Kenobi's counterattack, losing the Skywalker lightsaber and his organic limbs in the process. As a result, he nearly burned to death on the banks of the lava river.[3]


"Rejoice for those around us who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is."
―Yoda, to Anakin Skywalker[3]

Anakin Skywalker's attachment to his wife, Padmé Amidala, was the catalyst for his conversion to the dark side.

Living beings tended to mistake attachment for love, whereas attachment was possession and as such, like everything of the dark side, had selfishness at its core. Since it was possession, it fed into the fear of loss, which was yet another face of greed. When attachment creeped onto love, it became pain just like Anakin Skywalker described it: love was haunted by the fear of loss and the fear of the pain that loss would bring about—thus, it was not love, but a prison, in which the loved and the lover were both prisoners.[17] Attachment led to jealousy and it was always followed by fear, which led to hate.[3]

Anakin Skywalker struggled to balance his life as a Jedi with the personal attachments he formed, in particular with Padmé Amidala whom he married despite the Jedi Code. Throughout the Clone Wars, Skywalker had faithfully served the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic. Ultimately, however, he was prepared to sacrifice the galaxy rather than lose Amidala.[18]

Greed for power[]

"Power! Unlimited power!"
―Darth Sidious[3]

Darth Sidious, who coveted unlimited power, ruled the galaxy as Emperor of the Galactic Empire.

The trap of the dark side was that whatever one selfishly gained through it, it was never enough. The Sith were butchering each other, victims of their own greed, which led to their defeat and near destruction during their wars against the Jedi.[19] Darth Sidious' ultimate desire was to use the powers of the dark side to alter the universe itself.[20] Anakin Skywalker, who initially only wanted the power to defeat death out of attachment to his wife, ultimately developed the desire to rule the galaxy and make things the way he want them to be.[3]

Although Jedi were taught to follow the light side of the Force, the dark side was seductive, and one had to be at calm, at peace, to be passive in order to have a clear mind and thus, a clear judgment, to be mindful of thoughts and feelings.[1] Thus, they could avoid falling to the dark side. Even a Jedi raised in the traditions of the Jedi Order for years could be corrupted by the lure of the dark side in certain situations.[3] Despite this, while the Jedi often described the dark side as a "quick and easy path,"[1] drawing upon its power did not come with ease or without cost to those who possessed strong compassion and were not used to drawing upon feelings such as hatred.[source?]

There were some dark side users who used it for benevolent motives, not just selfishness and greed. Darth Plagueis used it to immortalize the beings he loved,[3] Dooku wanted to use it to destroy the corrupt Republic and bring a just new galactic order,[8] the Son deceived himself saying he wanted the best for the galaxy,[21] and Anakin Skywalker before becoming Darth Vader wanted to save his wife by studying Plagueis.[3]

Dark side abilities[]


"The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural."
―Darth Sidious, to Anakin Skywalker[3]

Force lightning was an ability of the dark side that Sith Lords such as Darth Sidious mastered.

Relying on anger, fear, hatred, and bitterness, the dark side of the Force granted certain abilities that wielders of the light side had no access to, such as possession[22][23] and the ability to manipulate Force visions.[19] To use the dark side was to let anger and hatred for someone wash them away entirely, allowing the individual to be filled with anger and hate and the desire to cause pain and suffering.[24]

A Sith's devotion to pain could have specific reasons for existing, however. After Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, he was a pained man that tried to use more pain to soothe himself. The attempted remedy came from trying to hurt not only himself, but others, yet it failed to work.[25] In fact, even after spending years hating his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi,[26] his death only increased the loneliness he felt.[25]

Most dark side powers were purely offensive in nature, such as Force lightning. Dark side power could also be used to alter life and could, according to legend, be used to manipulate midi-chlorians to create life or keep someone from dying.[3] The dark-side historian and Sith cultist Yupe Tashu told Wedge Antilles on Akiva that some Sith Lords were able to siphon the Force from their captives in order to extend their own lives for centuries beyond their natural expiration.[27] Dark side abilities were considered by some to be "unnatural."[3]

Will and usage[]

"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate…leads to suffering."

The dark side tempted Luke Skywalker to kill his father, Darth Vader.

The Jedi emphasized that using the Force to hurt or destroy was of the dark side; although the Jedi sought to defend others by disarming the enemy, the line on how far they would go was always blurred, so it was crucial for them to keep their mind clear. Luke Skywalker was tempted by the dark side when he attacked his father in fear of losing his sister just like Anakin Skywalker pledged loyalty to Darth Sidious in fear of losing his love.[28] Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger drew upon his fear, anger and hate to summon a massive fyrnock to attack the Grand Inquisitor for fear of losing his friends.[29]

Dark presence[]

The power of the dark side was penetrating and pernicious. The Jedi Temple was built on top of an ancient Sith shrine and, unbeknownst to the Jedi, the power of the dark side seeped upwards through the Temple from the shrine, slowly weakening the Jedi over a millennium.[20]

The presence of the dark side emanated from the Cave of Evil on Dagobah.

If the presence of the dark side was significantly powerful, nearby Force-sensitives often feel the sensation of cold. This happened on several occasions to Ezra Bridger and Kanan Jarrus in the presence of Darth Vader, and also occurred when Luke sensed the dark energy emanating from the Cave of Evil on Dagobah.[1][30] Extensive use of the dark side could leave an entire planet corrupted by its energy. Dathomir was one such place that was heavily steeped in the dark side.[13] This could also resonate through physical objects physically associated with individuals with a strong dark side presence,[31] such as that of Darth Momin and his mask. Momin's mask corrupted nearby beings and turned them into mindless killers.[32]



"The dark side consumes. And there is no balance to be found in such a path."
―Qui-Gon Jinn[33]

Yoda had to overcome his dark side in order to learn the way of immortality.

The dark side of the Force was highly corrupting. According to Grand Master Yoda, the destiny of one who embraced the dark side would be forever dominated by it,[1] but redemption was never impossible, choices, actions, both selfless and selfish paved one's path to follow trough life. The Jedi knew that the dark side is fear, leading to anger, what leads to hatred, leading to suffering—mostly for the one who embraced the dark side. The Jedi conquered their dark side through patience, training and discipline, not giving it power over themselves.[6]


"The dark side does not serve us. We serve the dark side. If we glorify it through our acts and our work and our art, it gives us power. It gives us life. Even life eternal."
―Darth Momin, to Darth Vader[34] and devoted himself to creation through his given powers.[35]

The Sith were devotees of the dark side, using anger and hate to harness its power.

In contrast to the Jedi who adhered to the ways of the light side,[36] the Sith were devotees of the dark side of the Force. Desiring power at any cost, the Sith practiced the ways of hate, deception, and ambition to harness the energies of the dark side.[37]

Darth Sidious believed that the source of his dark side power was the universe beyond the edges of the known galaxy.[27] Darth Vader saw the dark side as strength and believed he embodied its power.[38]

Lord Momin saw the dark side of the Force as a higher power[34] Specifically, Momin believed in the creation of art that glorifies the dark side, which could, in his view, grant the artist eternal life.[34] Such extremist views led to Jedi and Sith holocron chroniclers' neglect of Momin.[35]

Knights of Ren[]

"You said you could sense the shadow in all of us—that's right. We've all got it. But you know your apprentice does too, right? Powerful. Can feel it. Better be careful, Jedi man."
―Ren, to Luke Skywalker[39]

The Knights of Ren were a new generation of dark-side followers led by Kylo Ren, the grandson of Darth Vader, but their true allegiance was to Darth Sidious.

The ability to use the dark side was a requirement to join the Knights of Ren.[40] As a condition, however, a potential recruit had to willingly kill someone as a form of sacrifice.[41]

The Knights of Ren were seven elite warriors[42]Ap'lek, Cardo, Kuruk, Ren, Trudgen, Ushar, and Vicrul—who roamed the galaxy as marauders, particularly the Unknown Regions where they attacked isolated communities on sparsely populated worlds. Although members of the Knights of Ren were Force-sensitive, they did not adhere to any Force-based religion.[43] Nevertheless, the Knights' source of power was the dark side of the Force. Referred to as the "shadow" by their leader,[39]

As dark-side wielders who thrived in a lawless environment,[43] the Knights of Ren held beliefs that were diametrically opposed to the traditions of the Jedi Order.[39] According to Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order, the Knights' disregard for rules granted them flexibility and the freedom to act as they pleased, whereas the Jedi, in Snoke's view, were rigid due to their code. Despite Snoke's perception of the Knights' strength,[41] Jedi Master Luke Skywalker observed that they lacked discipline and proper training,[39] and possessed only the most basic skills of the dark side.[43]

Ben Solo, the grandson of Anakin Skywalker and nephew to Luke Skywalker, ultimately joined the Knights of Ren following the destruction of his uncle's Jedi Temple.[43] Solo's connection to the dark side was sensed by Ren during their first encounter on Elphrona; the dark warrior encouraged Skywalker's apprentice to learn about the dark side by joining the Knights of Ren.[39] Intrigued by the Knights' philosophy and its emphasis on power,[43] Solo—overwhelmed by Ren's murder of his friend Tai—gave into the dark side and killed Ren during a fight,[41] adopting the mantle of Kylo Ren and becoming the master of the Knights of Ren.[43] While Kylo was neither a Jedi nor a Sith, both disciplines influenced Kylo's understanding of the Force.[44]

Behind the scenes[]

As George Lucas explained numerous times over the years, the dark side was greed, self-centeredness, fear, anger, hate, bitterness, possessiveness, not being able to let go of things—and thus, it was the opposite of the light side of the Force, which was compassion, caring about others, love, fairness, charity and hope. He stressed that the dark and light sides are not malevolent or benevolent in themselves, but one must stay on the light side to keep the Force in balance and do the right thing.[45][46][47][48][49]


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Kylo Ren was Darth Vader's grandson and the archetype of a new generation of dark side warriors.

Non-canon appearances[]


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars Rebels: Steps Into Shadow
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
  5. Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 TCW mini logo.jpg Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Destiny"
  7. 7.0 7.1 Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
  8. 8.0 8.1 Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones
  9. 9.0 9.1 Doctor Aphra (2016) 32
  10. 10.0 10.1 TCW mini logo.jpg Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Ghosts of Mortis"
  11. TCW mini logo.jpg Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Overlords"
  12. Ahsoka
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Dark Disciple
  14. Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker
  15. Star Wars: Galactic Atlas
  16. 16.0 16.1 StarWars-DatabankII.png Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Databank (backup link)
  17. TCW mini logo.jpg Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Overlords"
  18. Skywalker: A Family at War
  19. 19.0 19.1 TCW mini logo.jpg Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Sacrifice"
  20. 20.0 20.1 Tarkin
  21. TCW mini logo.jpg Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Altar of Mortis"
  22. Rebels-mini-logo.png Star Wars Rebels – "Visions and Voices"
  23. Darth Maul—Son of Dathomir 4
  24. TCW mini logo.jpg Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Witches of the Mist"
  25. 25.0 25.1 "There is Another"—From a Certain Point of View
  26. Star Wars Rebels: The Siege of Lothal
  27. 27.0 27.1 Aftermath
  28. The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I–III, 1999–2005
  29. Ezra's Duel with Danger
  30. Star Wars Rebels: The Siege of Lothal
  31. Darth Vader (2017) 24
  32. Lando 3
  33. Age of Republic - Qui-Gon Jinn 1
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 Darth Vader (2017) 22
  35. 35.0 35.1 Darth Vader (2017) 21
  36. StarWars-DatabankII.png Jedi Order in the Databank (backup link)
  37. StarWars-DatabankII.png Sith in the Databank (backup link)
  38. Darth Vader (2015) 20
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 The Rise of Kylo Ren 2
  40. The Rise of Kylo Ren 1
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 The Rise of Kylo Ren 4
  42. StarWars-DatabankII.png Knights of Ren in the Databank (backup link)
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 43.5 The Star Wars Book
  44. StarWars-DatabankII.png Kylo Ren in the Databank (backup link)
  45. Wired - Illusion 1999
  46. Sci-fi Online interview 2005 - George Lucas
  47. YouTube "George Lucas Expertly Explaining How the Force Works
  48. Time Magazine - The Empire Strikes Back!
  49. Time Magazine - "Of Myth And Men" 1999