Galactic Empire
Real-world information
First appearance

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Fictional information

Emperor Palpatine (IIIVI)

Notable members



19 BBY (Revenge of the Sith)



"The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away."
―Grand Moff Tarkin[src]

The Galactic Empire is one of the primary factions of the Star Wars Saga. It was first introduced in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and became the primary antagonistic force of the original trilogy. The prequel trilogy charted the rise of the Empire, with the government officially replacing the Galactic Republic in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The Empire has been featured in numerous Expanded Universe stories and will return to the screen in the upcoming television series Star Wars Rebels.

The Galactic Empire is depicted as a dictatorial regime based on "tyranny, hatred of nonhumans, brutal and lethal force, and, above all else, constant fear,"[1] going so far as destroying entire planets that stood in its way. The transformation of a democracy into a dictatorship is similar to the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire, with the Empire itself based heavily on the aesthetics and tactics of Nazi Germany.

It is not yet known whether or not the Empire will play a role in Star Wars Episode VII. The Expanded Universe showed that the Empire survived after the death of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, but it is unclear as to whether the Expanded Universe will be considered canon by the new films. It is possible, however, that the Empire could be shown in the spinoff films, as at least one of the standalone movies is rumored to take place in the Imperial era.

Historical overviewEdit


Palpatine and Padmé Amidala before the Galactic Senate.

In the Star Wars film and television saga, the Galactic Empire traces its origins to the machinations of Senator Palpatine of Naboo. Secretly Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith, Palpatine manipulated the Trade Federation into launching a blockade around his planet. Once the standoff erupted into a full scale invasion, the planet’s queen, Padmé Amidala, pleaded to the Galactic Senate for help. With the government bogged down in bureaucratic incompetence, Palpatine convinced the queen to call for a vote of no confidence against Supreme Chancellor Valorum, the leader of the Galactic Republic. Palpatine did so knowing that the crisis on Naboo would not only lead to his nomination for Supreme Chancellor, but that it would gain him enough sympathy in the Senate to be elected. After Padmé returned to Naboo and, with help from the Jedi Order, defeated the Federation invasion, Palpatine was elected Chancellor.[2]

Over the next decade, Palpatine took on a new Sith apprentice, Count Dooku, to replace his fallen apprentice Darth Maul; Maul had been presumed dead at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi during the final battle of the Naboo crisis. Palpatine and Dooku set a plan in motion to manipulate thousands of star systems into seceding from the Republic, threatening full-scale war across the galaxy. Meanwhile, the Republic discovered that a clone army had been created in its name on Kamino, an army that the Republic could use in order to defend itself against any potential Separatist threat. In order to use it, however, Palpatine needed to be granted sweeping emergency powers. Palpatine manipulated Representative Jar Jar Binks of Naboo into proposing the motion, which ultimately passed. The tensions soon erupted into the Clone Wars during the Battle of Geonosis, leading to three years of all-out war between the Jedi-led clone army of the Republic and the droid army of the Separatists.[3]


Palpatine used the Clone Wars to gain more power over the Republic.

The Clone Wars allowed Chancellor Palpatine to continue gaining power in the interest of security. For three years, Palpatine reduced the power and influence of the Jedi Order over military and governmental matters, and chipped away at the Galactic Constitution with numerous amendments. The powers of the Senate also began to diminish, as the Chancellor became increasingly dictatorial, yet the changes were met with popular support. Some in the Senate opposed the Chancellor’s efforts, however, but to no avail. All the while, Palpatine gained influence over Jedi Knight and General Anakin Skywalker, in order to groom the powerful Skywalker—who was believed to be the Chosen One who would destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force—as his eventual new apprentice.[4]

Towards the end of the war, Palpatine and Dooku arranged a fake kidnapping of the Chancellor during the Battle of Coruscant. Skywalker and Kenobi came to Palpatine’s rescue, leading to a confrontation between the Jedi and Dooku in which Skywalker killed the Count at the Chancellor’s demanding. With his apprentice dead, Palpatine began making stronger overtures towards Skywalker, who had begun having visions of Padmé, his pregnant wife, dying in childbirth. Palpatine revealed himself to Skywalker as the Dark Lord of the Sith and promised to use the powers of the dark side to save Padmé if Skywalker joined him. Skywalker rejected him at first and informed Jedi Master Mace Windu of Palpatine’s true identity, and Windu set off to confront the Chancellor. Skywalker had second thoughts, however, and rushed back to find Windu attempting to kill Palpatine. Knowing that he needed the Chancellor to save Padmé, Skywalker attacked Windu, who was then killed by the Chancellor. Skywalker pledged his loyalty to Palpatine and became Darth Vader, and was convinced that the Jedi posed a clear and present danger to the security of the Republic.[5]


Palpatine declares himself Emperor and gives rise to the Galactic Empire.

As Vader and the clone army began exterminating the Jedi Knights and the leaders of the Separatists, both of which were deemed traitors too dangerous to be left alive, Palpatine declared himself Emperor and reformed the Republic into the Galactic Empire. Vader was forced to confront Kenobi, his friend and former master, on Mustafar, where Padmé was mortally wounded by Vader's own hand. Palpatine, meanwhile, faced off against Jedi Master Yoda in the Galactic Senate chambers. Yoda fled the encounter, while Palpatine sensed that Vader was in danger—a danger that manifested itself when Vader was brutally burned and left for dead by Kenobi. The Emperor arrived in time, but Vader was forced to live inside a suit of armor for the rest of his life in order to survive. Nonetheless, he became a high ranking member of the Galactic Empire and the apprentice of the Emperor. Unknown to Vader, Padmé gave birth to twins before she died: Luke and Leia.[5]

The Empire spent the next two decades expanding its reach across the galaxy and hunting the surviving Jedi Knights. From the galactic core to the distant Outer Rim Territories, most of the galaxy fell under the iron-fisted rule of the Emperor. Some in the galaxy opposed the Empire and formed the Rebel Alliance, a small band of resistance fighters with some support in the Imperial Senate, most notably from Princess Leia of Alderaan, who was adopted by the planet’s ruling family. The Rebellion managed to steal a copy of the plans for the Death Star, a battle station capable of destroying an entire planet, and planned to use the schematics in order to find a weakness and destroy the superweapon. The Empire pursued the Rebels, led by Princess Leia, to Tatooine, where the princess smuggled the plans into the astro-droid R2-D2 and secretly sent him to the surface of Tatooine.[6]


The destruction of Alderaan.

Hoping to learn what she had done with the plans, Vader and his forces took Leia back to the Death Star, where she was tortured for information. The torture proved ineffective, however, leading Grand Moff Tarkin, the commander of the station, to threaten to use the Death Star to destroy Alderaan. Although Tarkin believed Leia when she supplied him with a false location for a Rebel base, the Grand Moff ordered the planet’s destruction anyway, showcasing the might of the Empire and what happened when planets resisted Imperial rule. Leia was soon rescued by Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, who brought her and the Death Star plans to the Rebel base on Yavin IV. From there, the Rebels launched an attack against the Death Star, which Luke was able to destroy.[6]

The Empire spent the next three years pursuing the Rebel Alliance, fully understanding how dangerous it was to Imperial rule after the destruction of the Death Star. Vader, meanwhile, learned that Luke was his son and furiously pursued him across the galaxy. The Empire discovered the hidden Rebel base on Hoth and launched an attack against the ice planet, leading to the Battle of Hoth. After a brief battle, the base was evacuated and the Rebel forces were able to escape from Hoth. Vader had hoped to capture Luke, but was unable to—yet he retained some hope of finding Luke by tracking Han and Leia, who escaped aboard the Millennium Falcon, to use them as bait.[7]


Vader speaks to Palpatine about the search for Luke Skywalker.

During the pursuit of the Millennium Falcon, Vader was contacted by the Emperor who informed his apprentice of the threat that Luke posed to the Empire—as well as the truth about Luke’s parentage. Vader, feigning surprise at Palpatine’s news, convinced the Emperor that Luke could be turned to the dark side of the Force. Vader finally captured Han and Leia on Cloud City, in the skies of the planet Bespin, and Luke walked into Vader’s trap. The two fought a lightsaber duel and Vader told Luke the truth, that Vader was his father, before Luke managed to escape and regroup with the Rebel fleet.[7]

One year later, the Empire had nearly completed construction on a second Death Star, with more firepower than the first, which was in orbit of the forest moon of Endor. Dissatisfied with construction delays, Emperor Palpatine personally arrived to oversee the final phases of construction, and had secretly allowed the Rebel Alliance to obtain the location of the Death Star. It was the Emperor’s intention to lure the Rebels into a trap and defeat the Rebellion once and for all. The Rebels launched an incursion onto Endor to destroy the Death Star’s shield generator, while a Rebel fleet attacked the Death Star in one final battle in space.[8]


The death of Emperor Palpatine.

While the Battle of Endor was waged, Luke turned himself over to Vader and was brought before the Emperor, with Luke hoping to redeem his father after having sensed the good still left in him. The Emperor attempted to seduce Luke to the dark side, beckoning him to give into his hatred. Luke lashed out in anger over the threat to the Rebel Alliance, leading to a final duel between Luke and his father. Luke overcame the dark side, however, and became a true Jedi Knight. As punishment, Palpatine unleashed a torrent of lightning from his fingertips against Luke. Unwilling to let his son die, Vader betrayed Palpatine and threw him down a reactor shaft, killing the Emperor. Redeemed by the love of his son, Anakin Skywalker brought balance to the Force and died aboard the Death Star. Only moments later, the Rebels destroyed the Death Star, crippling the Imperial war machine. Numerous planets including Tatooine, Naboo, Bespin, and Coruscant rose up against the Empire, while the Rebels celebrated the defeat of the Emperor on Endor.[8]

Note: In the Expanded Universe, the Galactic Empire continued on in various incarnations after Palpatine's death. It is not yet known if the Empire will continue to be a presence in Star Wars Episode VII, or if Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi marked its total defeat.

Involvement in upcoming projectsEdit

Star Wars RebelsEdit

Main article: Star Wars Rebels

The Inquisitor with stormtroopers.

Star Wars Episode VIIEdit

Main article: Star Wars Episode VII

Spinoff filmsEdit

Main article: Spinoff films

The spinoff films are standalone adventures, not connected to the episodes of the Skywalker saga, set in the Star Wars film era. Although no specific spinoff film has been announced yet, the two consistent rumors are that Han Solo and Boba Fett will receive their own standalone adventures.[9] Because the spinoff films are origin stories,[10] it is likely that the films—if true—will be set sometime during the Imperial era. The Han Solo film, for example, is rumored to focus on Han Solo's origins of a smuggler,[9] and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope revealed that the character had run-ins with the Empire before.[6] Whether the Empire will be a factor in the films remains to be seen.

Star Wars: BattlefrontEdit

Main article: Star Wars: Battlefront

Star Wars: Battlefront is an upcoming video game currently under development by DICE, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts. The game was first announced on June 10, 2013 at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), where it was revealed through a teaser trailer. The trailer showed a Rebel soldier running through the battlefield during the Battle of Hoth from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. As a Rebel speeder crashes, a giant Imperial AT-AT walker approaches.[11] The suggests the game will take place at least partially during the Imperial era.

Notable ImperialsEdit

Film and TV appearancesEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

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