↠ Why does Luke Skywalker wear black robes in Return of the Jedi?

Jul 31, 2021
Did you ever notice in the last half of Return of the Jedi that Luke Skywalker is fully dressed in black clothing?

It's a lot of black like a certain Sith Lord who has turned to the Dark Side...

Yes, Luke is dressed in black in Jedi by Lucas to deliberately show the viewer how close the character is to let his fear and hate overwhelm him.

He is surrounded by the dark side of the Force and he is basically on a razor's edge and could turn to the dark side of the Force with the slightest provocation.

And that of course was Emperor Shiv Palpatine's plan, to make him face Vader and try to turn him by forcing him to tap into his dark side to beat his father.

Luke Skywalker wears black clothes ROTJ

Luke suffers.

He suffers hate, for his father who cut his arm off

He suffers angst for Obi-Wan who lied to him about his true heritage.

He suffers the fear that his sister Leia will be Palpatine's next target.

He is angry. You saw him Force choke two of Jabba's Guards right? Angry.

And most of all, he fears that all will be lost.

But all turns out well after Vader throws the Emperor down the shaft that's an inexplicable safety hazard in his throne room!

So if Luke wins his fight against Vader and then turns his back on the Emperor's offer to join him, how do we really know that Luke is not joining the dark side?

Take a look at his black tunic costume.

Look at the fold that is now unbuttoned post the fight sequence with Darth Vader, what is that colour?

It's white.

It's the yang to black's yin.

Underneath all Luke's stresses about saving his father and the universe, he was always the good guy.

Always the boy who never got to Tosche Station to get his power converters.

He'd become a Jedi, like his father before him.

Nice symbolism George Lucas and director Richard Marquand!

This flap of white was a very subtle point and perhaps lost on many a viewer on first watching of the film.

This was indeed a subtle moment to demonstrate that on the inside, Luke was always the good guy.

In the long run it was not lost on many Star Wars fans, so when George Lucas got around to writing Revenge of the Sith with Johnathan Hales, he made an even better reference to light and dark:

light and dark star wars sith
Literal foreshadowing in Sith

Recall the scene where General Obi-Wan Kenobi is about to go hunt down that dastardly Grievous General robot chap. Obi-Wan and Anakin are making fond farewells and Obi says "Goodbye Old Friend".

It's the last time the two Jedi will indeed talk to each other as friends.

Look carefully at the lighting, Obi-Wan is in the light, Anakin in the dark.

Yin and Yang. 

Good guys and soon to be Bad Guys. 

Jedi and Sith.

While everyone piles on the hate, Star Wars purists should remember how good Lucas really is.

Sometimes it's not just about a big CGI extravaganza, it's about great film making.


  1. This was a revelation to me!

    1. It was to us as well, there's so many little things that Lucas and his writers put into these movies! The so called 'Ring Theory' shows there was a LOT of subtlety in themes throughout all six movies. http://www.inafarawaygalaxy.com/2015/01/the-star-wars-ring-theory-proves-once.html

  2. I always thought that Lucas's obsession with overplayed symbolism was one of his weaknesses. Oh, Anakin wears dark clothes.... because we need to be hit with a sledge to understand that the former dark lord of the sith has some conflict. Luke wears black, because, you guessed it, he's close to the DARK side! In my opinion, over the top visual cues are a crutch used when someones director abilities aren't capable of getting the job done.
    As a contrast, someone like Christopher Nolan with Harvey dent didn't need to overdo the symbolism to get the point across.

    Don't get me wrong, Star Wars is basically my favorite series ever, but the less Lucas has to do with any installment, the better it is. Lucas considered ANH a failure before it's launch (and was ridiculed by the actors on several occasions for terrible dialogue) and was jealous of war of the worlds which he considered to have better prospects.. And TESB and ROTJ were not directed by him.
    Lucas's original drafts are garbage as well- Star Wars succeeded IN SPITE of Lucas, not because of him. I'm happy to see Disney pulling from the original sources that helped Lucas instead of the man himself- Mcquaries original designs, Kasdan, ect.

  3. Luke wore black because he's basically a priest--as a Jedi--and Lucas at that time had no friggin' idea how else to dress him. I think it was clumsiness on their part to dress him that way. He's not that close to the dark side! Sheesh, this is an example of Lucas making the wrong wardrobe choice! At one point they considered giving Luke a typical brown burnoose robe, but they scrapped that.

  4. At first I also thought the same thing. But then I also thought how cool he looked in black, like he had achieved a black belt level of Jedi mastery. IN ANH, he wore white since he was young and fresh and inexperienced, like white belted martial arts students.

  5. Much of the promotional material leading up to ROTJ's release was the BIG question of whether Luke would turn. In fact, they used the scene of he and Darth exiting the elevator to bring that point home. Watching it for the first time, back then, no one knew if he would turn. It wasn't until the scene in the Emperors chamber that we realized he wouldn't. I'm certain that the unbuttoned shirt was intentional...subtle nod to the viewer that "it's okay, Luke is still a good guy". To me, this has always been one of the most genius moments in the entire series, emphasized by the Imperial March played solemnly on a piano when Vader dies. Cinematic perfection.

  6. Luke's outfit was apparently going to be the Jedi uniform. Old Ben's robes suitable for desert hermit more than Galaxy Marshal. It was messed up at Anakin's Force Ghost appearance at the end of ROTJ. It still would make sense for Tatooine farm boy redeemed to dress as a desert hermit like the Lars and Old Ben, but someone seems to have taken that idea for the desert robes to be the Jedi Uniform.

    I took Luke's outfit to be sort of like a Roman cassock (similar to what Neo wore in Matrix Reloaded). Black meaning not the dark side, but death to themselves and the mortal world. Would also be reminiscent of law enforcement.

    1. Those are some great points. Law Enforcement in black sounds like a military state of some kind. I think however given that Luke appeared to be making a sincere effort to save his father, he wouldn't be thinking about death to himself?


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