Welcome to The StarWars.com 10, a feature where StarWars.com’s editorial staff huddles to discuss — in a committee — various topics relating to a galaxy far, far away. Today we’re looking at the most memorable quotes from the Emperor’s “little green friend.”
Yoda has become one of the biggest icons of Star Wars since his introduction in The Empire Strikes Back — in fact, he won this year’s This Is Madness tournament. While he’s popular for various reasons — his design, his power — it’s his personality and words of wisdom (often in his backwards speak) that resonate the most. For this list, we looked at Yoda’s lines from the Star Wars films, ranking them on quotability, relevance to Yoda as a character, and overall significance to the saga.
10. “When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.” Return of the Jedi
Yoda could be stern and strict, but he was also playful. When Luke returns to complete his training in Return of the Jedi, he finds that Yoda’s health has deteriorated. This classic line shows Yoda’s sense of humor, but also adds a layer to his ability as a teacher: he doesn’t want his student to feel burdened with the fact he’s dying.
9. “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” Attack of the Clones
In Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan is trying to locate the planet Kamino, which has been erased from all records in the Jedi Archives. When he approaches Yoda — in the middle of a lightsaber class with younglings — for help, Yoda turns to the students. And one of them nails it, saying that it’s missing because someone erased it. Yoda’s response, “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is,” shows that despite all he’s seen, he doesn’t exclude the thoughts and opinions of others, no matter their size or age, and that teachers can still learn from their students.
8. “That is why you fail.” The Empire Strikes Back
This is Yoda being brutally honest with Luke, who breathlessly says, “I don’t believe it,” after his Master raises an X-wing from the Dagobah swamp. It’s a definitive statement that comes from Yoda’s years and years of experience as a Jedi and a teacher, and it cuts through both to Luke and the audience.
7. “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” The Empire Strikes Back
One of Yoda’s key teachings to Luke on Dagobah, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack,” is core to the Jedi way and to the Star Wars saga. It’s hard to understand on its own — after all, Jedi have weapons and they use them frequently. But in Return of the Jedi, when Luke throws his lightsaber away instead of making the killing blow to his father, we see what Yoda meant. In that moment, Luke becomes a true Jedi, and it all goes back to this line.
6. “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.” The Empire Strikes Back
After Luke comes to Dagobah, Yoda initially withholds his true identity. He’s trying to get a sense of who Luke is as a person; Yoda understands that there’s a lot at risk in training Luke to be a Jedi, especially considering what happened with his father. And Yoda is not impressed — Luke is impatient and selfish. With “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things,” the Jedi Master makes clear that Luke must understand the significance and meaning of the journey he thinks he wants to make. It’s an important lesson for Luke and for audiences, because when Luke faces Vader at the film’s climax, we see the stakes involved in the life of a Jedi.
5. “Judge me by my size, do you?” The Empire Strikes Back
One of Yoda’s instructions to Luke is to “unlearn what you have learned” (another great line!). When Luke is tasked with raising his X-wing from the swamp, he complains that it’s too big, which frustrates Yoda — size matters not when it comes to the Force and to life. What’s amazing about this quote is that when Yoda says it, it’s not funny. It rings true, you believe him, and you see that he makes no excuses for himself — and does not want to hear any from his students.
4. “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” The Phantom Menace
This line became instantly memorable when it was featured in the trailer for The Phantom Menace, and it resonates as the core of Anakin Skywalker’s downfall. Yoda says this while evaluating a young Anakin for training, and he’s proven right. Ultimately, it’s a basic truth that Yoda conveys in a captivating way.
3. “Wars not make one great.” The Empire Strikes Back
Another line that works both in-context (“I’m looking for a great warrior,” Luke says to Yoda, which prompts this smart response) and standalone. It all filters into one of Yoda’s great lessons: aggression and violence do not make a Jedi or a person strong. The meaning behind this quote is strengthened when one sees that Yoda knows the reality of war and battle in the prequel era.
2. “Luminous beings are we…not this crude matter.” The Empire Strikes Back
Dave Filoni, supervising director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and executive producer of Star Wars Rebels, spoke to StarWars.com about the Sith. He said, “There’s such a big fear of death because they try to hold onto life. And I think that’s why they’re willing to basically mutilate themselves and live these cybernetic half-human lives.” Yoda’s lesson with this quote reflects the exact opposite of this mentality, and it’s essential to the saga. It speaks to the underlying difference between Jedi and Sith: being completely selfless, and recognizing that the Force binds all life and creation together.
1. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” The Empire Strikes Back
Yoda’s most memorable quote, bar none, and one of the greatest in all of Star Wars. This is another line from the X-wing sequence on Dagobah, and are the last instructions the Jedi Master gives Luke before he attempts to raise his fighter from the swamp. Within the scene, it was a lightning bolt of dialogue, another great nugget of undeniable wisdom that teaches Luke to have a more serious mind. Yoda had consistently tried to teach Luke to focus on the present, and essentially, to grow up. In this moment, with these words, he makes it clear. Outside of the film, the line has become a modern slogan — a reminder to commit oneself to something completely, win or lose.
That’s it. What do you think? Did we nail it? Are we out of our minds? Did we overlook something? Let us know in the comments below!