Star Wars’ Oldest Stormtrooper Joke Completely Underestimates Darth Vader’s Forces

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Summary

  • Stormtroopers’ reputation as bad shots is a widespread misunderstanding, as they are actually highly skilled and deadly in combat, as shown in A New Hope.
  • In A New Hope, stormtroopers intentionally miss their shots on the Death Star in order to let the rebels escape and lead them to the rebel base on Yavin 4.
  • The decline of stormtroopers’ reputation as a threat is due to their portrayal as incompetent in recent Star Wars media, which is based on a misunderstanding of their true abilities.


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Star Wars‘s stormtroopers missing their shots has always been a cultural meme, but it’s not true at all when honestly looking at Darth Vader’s forces. Stormtroopers are the high-skilled forces of the Galactic Empire during its 23-year reign over the galaxy, but one might not know about their suggested skills. Based on the way they’ve been portrayed in many pieces of Star Wars media, stormtroopers don’t seem exactly “highly skilled” in combat or on the battlefield. Where did this idea of unskilled stormtroopers come from?

Darth Vader’s stormtroopers were the 501st Legion, the same group of clones that served under Anakin during the Clone Wars – but they’re known during the Empire’s reign as “Vader’s Fist”. For a group with a terrifying name and lore-testified terrifying reputation, their reputation among fans does not seem comparable. In recent years, particularly in episodes of The Mandalorian, Imperial stormtroopers have been shown as bad shots and bumbling fools that couldn’t hit a target if their lives depended on it. This idea completely ignores the way stormtroopers are viewed in-universe, but also totally ignores a very specific plot detail from the original Star Wars film, A New Hope.

Darth Vader’s Stormtroopers Were Aiming To Miss In A New Hope

Darth Vader walking onto the Rebel ship with Stormtroopers in Star Wars: A New Hope

In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi describes stormtroopers as immensely precise shots when examining the wreckage of the Jawa’s sandcrawler on Tatooine. The stormtroopers also demolish the rebel forces on the Tantive IV in the film’s opening scene. The film takes extra steps to legitimize the threat of the stormtroopers, though they’re still viewed as inept. Where this incompetence comes from is actually the sequences of the film taking place on the Death Star. The stormtroopers onboard the Death Star don’t seem to be very good at their jobs, when compared to the troopers seen on Tatooine and the Tantive IV. They miss, yet this is all according to Darth Vader’s plan.

The Imperial leaders have a very specific goal in A New Hope: Eliminate the Rebellion, destroy their base, and keep the Death Star as the dominant power in the galaxy. In order to do so, they need the location of the rebel base, which is on Yavin 4. To get this location, they allowed the rebels to escape the Death Star after placing a tracking device on the Millennium Falcon. In doing so, they tracked the Falcon back to Yavin 4, knowing exactly where to target the Death Star. The stormtroopers on the Death Star aren’t actually bad shots, they’re actually just very good at following orders. They missed so the rebels would escape and facilitate their ultimate victory, but history and the future of Star Wars hasn’t exactly seen them this way.

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The Stormtroopers’ Actions Show Just How Fanatical & Skilled They Are

Three Star Wars stormtroopers in a firefight. The centered one is firing a blaster, while one over their shoulder to the right is being hit by one.

It’s the opening scene of A New Hope that shows stormtroopers as they truly are. They’re deadly, highly trained troopers that are very competent, especially in closed spaces like the halls of a Corellian Corvette. But it’s the actions of the stormtroopers onboard the Death Star that show just how fanatical and dedicated they are to following the Empire. They are willing to miss their shots and let their very easy targets escape in order to further the Death Star’s reign of destruction. This reveals the effectiveness of stormtrooper recruitment and training and their willingness to follow orders, but it also indicates how the Empire is often very forward-thinking. This one plot detail makes a large part of A New Hope‘s story n intentional coverup by the Empire, with the stormtrooper as its pawns.

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Star Wars Has Turned Stormtroopers Into A Joke Based On A Misunderstanding

The Mandalorian's Boulder Stormtroopers during battle

In the years since the original trilogy, stormtroopers’ reputation among the general public has declined. They’re more commonly thought of as the stormtroopers that intentionally missed on the Death Star, or the admittedly hard-to-rationalize stormtroopers that get beaten up by Ewoks. As fans of Star Wars have become creators themselves, this has bled into the real continuity in places like The Mandalorian. There’s a particularly egregious example in season 1 “Chapter 8: Redemption”, where two scout troopers hilariously attempt to shoot a target and miss every time. This makes the Empire less of a threat canonically, rather than just being a little bit of a contrivance based around plot-armor or specific details.

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Not every modern Star Wars story has depicted stormtroopers like this, though. In particular, Andor has shown the white-clad soldiers as a terrifying symbol of power and oppression, treating them like Lucas did. There has also been an attempted explanation for stormtroopers’ really bad aim in Star Wars Rebels, which goes along with a line in A New Hope. The explanation is that the helmets are really hard to see out of, resulting in bad aim for the heroes. But no matter what, Star Wars characters are always going to be shot at by stormtroopers, and the stormtroopers can’t always hit the main characters.