Star Wars’ Most Malevolent Moffs: A Sliding Scale of Evil

Kim Taylor-Foster
TV Movies
TV Movies Disney Star Wars

Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon is the latest Moff to join Star Wars canon, in Season 1 of The Mandalorian. While his motives are yet to be revealed, Gideon has been set up as one of the most evil Moffs to sully the Star Wars galaxy. After all, it would take a special kind of evil to threaten the wellbeing of Baby Yoda, who is, by contrast, the sweetest and most adorable being in George Lucas’s space-opera universe since Return of the Jedi’s baby Ewok. Beating out porgs, fish nuns, Rotta the Hutt, and even Babu Frik. Okay, we’ll stop listing cute critters in Star Wars now, because it’s cruel, quite frankly, when what follows is a rundown of some of the franchise’s most despicable characters.

But first, what is a Moff? A role established during the reign of the First Galactic Empire, Moffs governed designated sectors. During the fifth year of Emperor Palpatine’s rule, there were a set number of twenty Moffs. This led to the creation of the superior Grand Moff position, the first of which was filled by the notorious Wilhuff Tarkin. A Grand Moff commanded an Oversector, or group of sectors. After the Empire fell following the Battle of Endor, the serving Moffs were left without official roles. Some went on to become warlords and were ultimately hunted by shock troopers like The Mandalorian’s Cara Dune.

It’s Gideon’s enigmatic nature and prominence in The Mandalorian that has prompted this examination of the galaxy’s other Moffs, in an attempt to determine how much pure evil goes hand-in-hand with the Imperial rank. Set up as the series’ villain and teased as having a greater role in Season 2 than he had in the first season, Gideon promises imminent revelations when the series returns on October 30 – not least whether he’s good, bad, or something in between. Certainly, that he sanctioned the tragic slaying of super-nice Ugnaught Kuiil is a pretty damning mark against him. But we’ll remain open-minded – we’ve forgiven others in Star Wars for worse. So, wasting no more time, let’s dive directly into Moff canon…

Grand Moff Valco Pandion

Valco Pandion
Grand Moff Pandion was thoroughly unpleasant.

This self-important hypocrite awarded himself the title of Grand Moff after the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader, betraying his thirst for power. He advocated strength and aggression when it came to politics, freely labelling others weak and cowardly. Despite this, Pandion swiftly abandoned the Malastare communications station he had previously been responsible for when it was attacked by the New Republic who sought to assassinate him for war crimes.

A member of the Imperial Future Council, Pandion attended a secret summit on the Outer Rim planet of Akiva to determine the future of the Empire. He was quick to temper and would use force if provoked, threatening, as he’s known to have done, to break financier Arsin Crassus‘s hand for banging on the table. Pandion also punched former Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus in the head three times when he made fun of his title.

Scale of Evil Grading: 1. A self-important hypocrite with anger issues; prone to violence.

Moff Bin Essada

Bin Essada
Bin Essada was basically a coward.

Moff Bin Essada was in charge of the Circarpous sector when Grand Moff Tarkin ordered an increase in production from all regional governors. In response, Essada demanded all resources be stripped from the planet Mimban. The Mimbanese people resisted the Imperial Military forces Essada sent to pacify them, and war broke out. Essada managed the conflict from the cosy confines of his offices on Gyndine, showing his true nature. What a weasel.

Scale of Evil Grading: 2. Essada was cowardly, stripping resources from a whole planet then dealing with the fallout from a safe distance.

Moff Ghadi

Moff Ghadi
Moff Ghadi was a slimeball. Ugh.

Ghadi governed the Tangenine sector in the Core Worlds, and was envious of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin’s lofty position. Ghadi resorted to blackmail and used the highly potent, and illicit, Polstine spice on the woman he blackmailed (Ahrinda Pryce) into turning against her boss. He also showed himself to be a xenophobe, taking a dislike to Chiss Imperial Officer Thrawn and unjustly blaming him for the Dromedar incident, in which insurgents escaped with stolen tibanna gas. He ultimately accepted an offer of illegally procured information in an attempt to get one over on Tarkin. It backfired when Pryce exposed him to the Grand Moff.

Scale of Evil Grading: 3. Ghadi not only engaged in blackmail, and abused an illegal substance, he was also underhand and xenophobic.

Moff Delian Mors

Mors was work shy, opting to delegate many of her duties towards the Outer Rim planet of Ryloth to her subordinate, the Imperial military colonel, Belkor Dray. She preferred instead to indulge her Spice addiction, and enjoy a life of luxury with Twi’lek slaves she called “servants” tending to her whims. However, we do have some empathy with Mors. She sadly lost her wife in a transport accident and was posted to Ryloth against her will, and it’s this chain of events that led to questionable behaviour. The kind of conduct that included shady dealings with the Hutts. Dray was arguably worse than Mors morally, as he plotted self-servingly to discredit and overthrow her. She ultimately executed him for treason.

Wookieepedia member Edseesghosts pegs Mors for the wickedest of all the Moffs, however: “She’s a pretty lazy Moff and she’s kind of the reason why the Free Ryloth Movement got as big as they did because of her obvious negligence. I’m surprised she was even granted a second chance after a failure like that.”

Scale of Evil Grading: 4. She was negligent of her duties, kept slaves, and pursued a hedonistic lifestyle involving drug abuse and shady dealings with gangsters; however, she went off the rails in response to losing her wife.

Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod

Jerjerrod was instrumental in some of the Empire's most heinous acts.

Jerjerrod was, like that other movie Moff, Tarkin, from a wealthy background. A skilled engineer and starship designer, Jerjerrod was recruited by the Empire, leading to him working on the first Death Star. He was eventually awarded a position as Imperial Moff, and put in charge of the construction of the second Death Star. While he told himself that the original superweapon would merely act as a deterrent and wouldn’t actually be used, suggesting a certain morality, Jerjerrod did nothing after being proven wrong when Tarkin blew up Alderaan to demonstrate the Death Star’s power. He also willingly fired the DS2’s superlaser on the Rebel fleet when authorized to do so. Just doing his job, sure – but one in which he was complicit in heinous acts and war crimes.

Scale of Evil Grading: 5. Jerjerrod was heavily involved in the building of superweapons and was complicit in war crimes.

Moff Ssaria

Ssaria refused to take responsibility for her actions.

The Imperial Moff responsible for governing the planet of Castell, Ssaria had a reputation as a hard taskmaster. Her brutal enforcement of the Emperor’s orders, and savage response to any challenge to Palpatine earned her the nicknames ‘The Fiend of Castell’ and ‘The Burning Moff’. A ‘Goose Stepper’ by any other name, she renounced herself of accountability for her actions, saying: “I am an extension of the Emperor’s will. My actions here simply execute his directives. The Emperor is the mind. I am his tool. Is a tool responsible if it is used to kill someone?” In this way, she aligned herself with Tarkin, Thrawn, and Vader.

But she couldn’t have been all bad – she had a fling with everybody’s (second) favourite roguish space pirate, Lando Calrissian, after the Battle of Yavin. Admittedly, he was using her for personal gain but would Lando hook up with a truly evil woman? We trust his judgement of character, don’t we?

Scale of Evil Grading: 6. She meted out violent retribution on the population if she deemed them disobedient or disloyal, and exonerated herself of any blame.

Moff Gideon

While the jury’s still out on the extent of Gideon’s malevolence, we do know some things about him that don’t exactly bathe him in a favourable light. Following the events of the Battle of Endor, Gideon took control of a remnant of the Empire on Nevarro. As we’ve already touched on, he ordered the capture and delivery of The Child – aka Baby Yoda — by any means necessary.

Before that, Gideon had taken part in the Great Purge of the Mandalorians, and faked his own execution for war crimes. We’ve seen him callously kill an officer for interrupting him – not generally regarded as the actions of a good guy despite what actor Giancarlo Esposito might say. Esposito told SlashFilm: “In a way, you might call [Gideon] an underworld character. You may also look at him as a savior, as someone who might bring back some order to the world after it’s all collapsed.”

Could there be some good in him? If his insistence on ‘dehumanizing’ Baby Yoda by calling him ‘the asset’, and his possession of the Darksaber as seen at the end of Season 1 are anything to go by, it’s doubtful. But Esposito hints otherwise.

“There may be some surprises because we have an Empire that’s fallen, and we have wardens of those Empires, of which Moff Gideon is one, but he’s a special warden because he happens to know more than any other,” Esposito told Indiewire. “And we don’t really quite know, does he want what he wants in terms of the Child? In essence, knowing what the Child is made of, to further humanity? Or does he want it to take control of all of humanity? We don’t quite know that yet.”

Scale of Evil Grading: 7. Gideon stops at nothing to get his hands on Baby Yoda, kills good people, and kills for trivial reasons; has Darksaber, seems mean.

Moff Ubrik Adelhard

Ubrik Adelhard was a vile Moff.

Ubrik Adelhard was a piece of work. It doesn’t always follow that stormtroopers are rotten to the core – look at Finn – but it does give an insight, in this guy’s case, into his vile roots. Adelhard began his Imperial career as a lowly stormtrooper, and rose through the ranks to secure his Moff position. He would go on to lie to the citizens of the Anoat sector he presided over about the Emperor’s demise following the Battle of Endor, falsifying reports of victory.

Not only that, but he also locked down the entire sector under the Iron Blockade, under the pretext that he was protecting the people. Actually, his motivation was to prevent them from discovering the truth that Palpatine was dead, and so he could weed out and kill those who opposed his actions or spoke out against the Empire. He had already shown his true colours prior to the Battle of Yavin, when he gassed the entire planet of Anoat because of rumours of dissidents.

Scale of Evil Grading: 8. A liar, he restricted his people’s freedom, killed dissenters, and enacted genocide.

Grand Moff Lozen Tolruck

As governor of Kashyyyk, Tolruk sent the indigenous Wookiee population to work in labor camps, chipping them with inhibitors to prevent them from escaping. After the Battle of Endor, he, like Ubrik Adelhard, locked down the territory and perpetuated the lie that Emperor Palpatine was alive.

Tolruk initially dismissed the threat posed by Han Solo and Chewbacca’s attempts to liberate the Wookiees, but then tortured captured New Republic soldier, Jom Barell, for information, gouging out one of his eyes and locking him in a cage. Later, Tolruck hunted down a Wookiee slave known as Subject 478-98, or Blackstripe, using a remotely controlled assassin probe and killed him, mainly for fun. After deciding once and for all that the rebel insurgency on Kashyyyk posed no real threat, Tolruck made a promise to hunt the perpetrators down himself – also for sport.

Speaking with Commandant Theodane Sardo, the man responsible for the breeding and export of Wookiees in one of the slave labor camps on Kashyyyk, the duo established that there was a decrease in demand for Wookiee slaves. Tolruck liked Sardo’s suggestion that they switch to farming the Wookiees for their meat, potentially crossbreeding them with another species. Tolruck ordered Sardo to look into it further. A merciless and sadistic psychopath, Tolruck could be described as the Star Wars universe’s Ramsay Bolton – and its most evil Moff…

Scale of Evil Grading: 9. Tolruck exhibited Game of Thrones-level sadism; he was a slave labor advocate and practitioner, and was happy to kill and sell Wookiees for meat.

Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin

But wait, there is another: Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. Perhaps the most well known of all Imperial officers, Tarkin could well also be the most fundamentally malignant. Tarkin was born into privilege and became an enforcer of the doctrine of fear. He believed that to maintain order and establish control, state terrorism was the answer. To rule by fear, according to Tarkin, was to enact displays of large-scale force in order to breed loyalty, keep people in check, and ensure security remained tight. The Emperor’s backing of the approach led to the Death Star’s expedited construction – the power of which Tarkin demonstrated when he authorized the destruction of Princess Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan. He thought nothing of wiping out billions in the explosion.

Wookieepedia member The House Always Wins VIII reckons Tarkin is one of the most evil characters in the whole of the Empire – worse even than Palpatine: “He was the principal author and proponent of (clears throat) THE TARKIN DOCTRINE. Which literally says that if you scare the crap out of your population, they won’t fight you. It’s this doctrine that led directly to the creation of bigger and more ISDs, The Death Stars and other superweapons, AT-ATs, and various other big scary stuff that was explicitly designed to follow “the rule of cool”, or at least, Tarkin’s perverted version of it. Not only is this literally Hitler levels of insane, it’s also drastically ineffective, and probably bolstered the fledgling Rebel Alliance’s numbers with disgruntled and angry citizens, and also left glaring weak spots in Imperial naval strategy which the Rebels exploited.

“Of course, writing a doctrine that Palpatine took to heart wasn’t enough. Tarkin also was a massive advocate for superweapons and massive Star Destroyers throughout his career, resulting in severe amounts of resources dumped into projects that ultimately hurt the Empire. He also was the man who ordered the destruction of Alderaan, which despite its Rebel ties, was still a very important world in the Imperial economy. All of this is also from a completely ordinary citizen. No Dark Side of the Force here. That’s what really sets him apart from Palpatine. Palpatine agreed with him every step of the way, but he had been a Sith almost his entire life. Tarkin was an ordinary citizen, who served the Republic, and later became a key figure of the Empire. And yet he was incredibly cruel and evil.”

Scale of Evil Grading: 10. Tarkin committed genocide, was an advocate of the Doctrine of Fear, and had a palpable love of superweapons, with no Dark Side to blame for his actions.

 The Good Guys

Hugh Quarshie as Panaka.

In case you were wondering, not all Moffs were bad to the bone. In amongst those who kept a relatively low profile, here’s a couple who fare better than many in Star Wars canon. Ryder Azadi, who governed the Lothal sector, helped the rebellion and sabotaged the Imperial war effort. He also possessed awesome ventriloquist skills, surely a must for any self-respecting Moff.

Quarsh Panaka, meanwhile, became a Moff after the Clone Wars, taking charge of the Chommell sector. Had he survived the terrorist attack on his chalet by Saw Gerrera, he would have given Leia up as Amidala’s daughter to the Emperor, so thankfully it never came to that. She had come to him wanting to discuss the working conditions of the spice miners when he realised who she was. Panaka was loyal to Palpatine, but ultimately a good, principled man, who wouldn’t fall for bribery.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.