Pirates! Do we need their scum? The Star Wars franchise has had a long history of incorporating various sides of the criminal underworld, and The Mandalorian has featured some of the most notable outlaws in the saga thus far. While the terms “bounty hunter,” “smuggler,” “gangster,” and “mercenary” are now synonymous with the franchise, pirate movies have also been a heavy inspiration on the series. Season 3 of The Mandalorian introduces the new character Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie), a Pirate King who threatens Greef Karga’s (Carl Weathers) position of authority.
While characters like Jabba the Hutt or Han Solo may have indiscreetly been referred to as pirates, there are more legitimate examples of piracy in Star Wars animation, canon, and Legends projects. Considering the heavy inspiration of naval combat on Star Wars’ outer space battle sequences, having a band of outlaws that raids enemy vessels only makes sense. Here are some of the most memorable pirates within the franchise, ranked from least to most threatening.
Solo: A Star Wars Story gets a bad reputation, but the standalone film actually does a pretty great job at showing a small-scale adventure within the galaxy far, far away that isn’t connected to the force, the Jedi Order, or the Skywalkers. Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman) appears at first to be an enemy of Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca after her attack on Beckett’s (Woody Harrelson) crew of thieves with her pirate gang the Cloud-Riders. However, the Cloud-Riders ultimately prove to be a band of resistance fighters and precursors to the Rebel Alliance. Han ultimately decides to give them a hand after seeing that their cause is just.
A memorable recurring face throughout the seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Weequay pirate captain Hondo Ohnaka (Jim Cummings) steadily became one of the Jedi Order’s oddest allies. Hondo first tried to capture the dark lord Count Dooku (Corey Burton) in the first season, only to end up betraying Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor). Although Hondo later tried to raid a village of innocent villagers in the Season 2 episode “Bounty Hunters,” he ultimately came to the rescue of his former rivals by helping the people of Onderon smuggle weapons in their fight against the Separatists and aided Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) in training Jedi younglings. Hondo proved to be a generally good guy when he popped up in Rebels to show Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) how to be a “pirate Jedi.”
Although we haven’t seen much of the enigmatic pirate Phee Genoa (Wanda Sykes) yet in Season 2 of The Bad Batch, there’s no indication where her loyalties lie. Phee enlists the help of the Trandoshan Cid (Rhea Perlman) and the titular Bad Batch heroes in an attempt to recover a lost treasure, although the mission ends up being a little bit more dangerous than the clones had anticipated. While Phee certainly has her own selfish interests in mind, she hasn’t quite crossed the line into pure villainy yet.
The Weequay Droid Slavers
Unfortunately, not all of the Weequay pirates in The Clone Wars ended up being quite as friendly as Hondo; in fact, Hondo’s initial plan to hold Dooku captive and sell him for ransom ends up going awry after his own crew attempts to start a coup and betray him. Season 4 of The Clone Wars introduced a new crew of ruthless Weequay pirates that capture droids and pit them against each other in gladiatorial battles to the death. While R2-D2 and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are briefly held captive by them, the Weequay pirates are a little too incompetent to stop the droids from rebelling. While these pirates were certainly cruel, they failed to pose any serious threats to the heroes.
While the Star Wars animated series Resistance was generally aimed at younger fans, it did introduce some interesting new villains to the saga. The Quarren pirate chief Kragan Gorr (Gray Anthony Williams) leads a crew called “The Warbirds” that kidnapped New Republic hostages on behalf of the First Order. Similar to other Star Wars pirates, Kragan’s only motivation is greed; he’s ultimately betrayed by his former allies after learning that the Imperials are never to be trusted.
Black Sun/ Crimson Dawn
The villainous syndicate known as the “Black Sun” is one of the most well-documented criminal organizations in the Star Wars universe. The group first made their appearance in 1996 multimedia event Shadows of the Empire, which chronicled the events between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Billed as a “movie without a movie,” the Shadows of the Empire project included a novelization, comic book, video game, junior novel, toy line, poster, merchandising line, and even an original soundtrack. The Black Sun and their enigmatic leader, the Falleen crime lord Prince Xizor, attempt to capture Luke Skywalker in order to gain the favor of Emperor Palpatine and replace Darth Vader as the Sith Lord’s second-in-command.
The Black Sun was a major antagonist in several Star Wars Legends projects before they were reintroduced as the “Crimson Dawn” in The Clone Wars. The Falleen leaders were just as merciless as Xizor in raiding, ravaging, and corrupting enemy ships, but they agree to join Darth Maul’s (Sam Witwer) “Shadow Collective” alongside the Mandalorians of the Death Watch and the Pykes. Crimson Dawn continued to be one of the more dangerous factions in the Star Wars universe; they were mentioned in Solo and have been incorporated into the War of the Bounty Hunters storyline in the comics.
While the Star Wars galaxy has its fair share of selfish and petty pirates, none of these swashbucklers are quite as dangerous as the “Nihil.” The primary villains of The High Republic multimedia project utilized mysterious hyperspace routes known as the “Path” in order to disrupt the Galactic Republic’s attempts to expand into further regions of space. After causing a major disturbance and ravaging planet surfaces, these “space vikings” expanded their operations throughout the galaxy by pillaging and raiding innocent worlds under Republic control to their hearts’ content. The Nihil have continued to be a major thorn in the Jedi Order’s side as The High Republic continues.
The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney Plus with new episodes releasing every Wednesday.