Star Wars spoilers ahead.
Killing people: It’s an important part of day-to-day life in the galaxy. But as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker shows, it can also be a great big hassle! It seems like electrocuting someone with Force lightning and throwing their body down a bottomless pit should be enough to kill them permanently, right? Yet look over your shoulder and there’s a Force ghost, a clone, or a lazy screenwriter, returning your nemesis from the dead—sometimes several movies after you thought you’d seen the last of them. But there’s no reason to turn to the Dark Side: Slate has put together this guide to killing your enemies in the Star Wars universe in ways that ensure they’ll stay dead, movie after movie after movie.
Before you go to great lengths to kill one of your Star Wars enemies, ask yourself one important question: Does my enemy have a name, and if so, do I know what it is? If the answer is no, you’re in luck: Unnamed people die in Star Wars by the billions, all the time! The easiest course of action is to get them press-ganged into the Imperial Navy: In six months tops, their ship will blow up or they’ll get shot with a laser and that will be that. Alternatively, you could ask some of your Imperial or First Order friends which planets they’re looking to blow up in the next couple of months and plan accordingly. Have you ever seen a Force ghost of someone who died on Hosnian Prime? Did you even remember that Hosnian Prime was a planet that got blown up in a Star Wars movie, much less have any idea who died there? Exactly.
But if your Star Wars enemy does have a name, even a weird one like “Qui-Gon,” killing them permanently gets much more complicated. Nearly 4 percent of dead Star Wars characters return from the grave in some form or another, if only to smile beatifically at a bunch of Ewoks singing “Yub Nub.” To figure out the most reliable ways of making sure a Star Wars character stays dead, we analyzed a massive amount of proprietary medical data, which we licensed from the Walt Disney Co. at staggering expense. Next, we cross-referenced this data against the actuarial tables at ListofDeaths.Fandom.com/wiki/StarWars, then asked expert statistician Nate Silver to take a close look at the numbers. After his lawyers told us to never contact him again, we skimmed an online Excel tutorial and made this chart. Here are the most common causes of death for Star Wars characters in the live-action features previous to Episode IX. (Droids have been removed from the data, because memory backups and interchangeable parts make “killing” a droid a temporary proposition, at best.)
As you can see, the most common cause of death in the Star Wars universe is “Ship Blew Up,” a condition that indiscriminately strikes down rebels and Imperials alike, regardless of age, species, or popularity with fans. “Ship Blew Up” has taken more than 106 Star Wars characters before their time, and that’s without even crunching the numbers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in which numerous Imperial admirals and friendly X-wing pilots barely have time to shout “No!” before blowing up in their ships. Once you add in the figures for “Podracer/Speeder Blew Up,” “Planet Blew Up,” and just plain old “Blew Up,” it’s clear that blowing up is both the easiest way to kill someone in Star Wars and the easiest way to discourage the authorities from looking into the matter too closely. Blowing your enemies up becomes even more appealing once you look at the data on the cause of death for Star Wars characters who turned out to only be temporarily dead:
That’s right: Fully 46 percent of the dead Star Wars characters who came back to life were “killed” by lightsabers, making it the least reliable method of killing a Star Wars enemy in the entire galaxy. A frankly shocking number of characters have been struck down by lightsabers only to become more powerful than you can possibly imagine—whether as Force ghosts; walking, talking memories; or just a bunch of chopped Snoke parts floating around in a cloning vat. (If you must kill your enemy with a lightsaber, note that beheading seems to stave off resurrection.)
But if lightsabers are unreliable, so-called bottomless pits are, in fact, bottomlessly disappointing. Several characters thrown into such pits have simply climbed back up! Others end up getting rescued by the Millennium Falcon. (The odds get a little better if the pit has a sarlacc in it.)
In stark contrast, over 11 movies, not one of the characters who blew up has been rescued by anyone—not Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod, not Stomeroni Starck, not Admiral Conan Antonio Motti—none of them! So whether you’re using thermal detonators or a Death Star, remember: The next time you need to kill one of your enemies in the Star Wars universe, blow them the hell up.
Unless Star Wars fans throw a tantrum over it, in which case they’ll be back and there’s nothing you can do about it.