Why Sith Lords Have Yellow Eyes in Star Wars (& Why Dooku Doesn’t)


  • The Sith’s yellow eyes reflect their emotions and serve as a visual cue for their dark intentions.
  • While most Sith embrace their demon-like appearance, some, like Count Dooku, don’t have yellow eyes because they are motivated by philosophical and political goals rather than rage and conquest.
  • Count Dooku’s betrayal of the Jedi is often justified, as he recognized the hypocrisy and corruption within the system.

The Sith are the great villains of the Star Wars universe. While they come in all shapes, sizes, and species, a few traits distinguish them from everyone else. Among those characteristics are an apparent love for dark clothing and red lightsabers. However, from a physical standpoint, the only real commonality between the Sith is the manifestation of yellow eyes.

To put it bluntly, most of the Sith look like they came out of a nightmare, and rightly so. Other than a redeemed Darth Vader, they portray unquestioned evil. They are the ones that the Jedi must stop to regain and maintain balance in the Force. Their selfishness, greed, and anger lead them to value things like ruthlessness, murder, and conquest. So, demonic-looking eyes are a fitting feature that sets the Sith apart from other beings. However, the reason for the color of the Sith’s eyes is more than skin-deep.

Updated September 15, 2023 by Jordan Iacobucci: Ahsoka is reinvigorating love for the Star Wars franchise by exploring some of its most complex characters. While not present in the new Disney+ series, longtime fan-favorite Count Dooku has recently become a new subject of fascination for viewers, especially after references to his complicated character in shows like Tales of the Jedi and The Bad Batch. As it seems, Dooku isn’t like most other Sith in several key ways.

Why Sith Eyes Are Yellow

Almost all Sith inStar Wars have the trademark yellow “Sith eyes.” However, besides being a visual cue for the audience, there is actually an in-universe reason for their fire-filled eyes. Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia says that as “windows to the soul, eyes reflect the emotions harnessed by the Sith. When rage and anger seethe inside a dark side user, their eyes may burn yellow with a fiery-red rim.” What that means is a Sith’s emotions will be shown through their eyes.

A Sith’s power level can also be determined when their “Sith eyes” are visible. Darth Sidious is the ultimate Sith in the current Star Wars canon. He orchestrated the fall of the Republic, the destruction of the Jedi, and even cheated death while being thrown down a reactor shaft. It’s easy to say that his eyes should always be yellow, but they are not. When the Emperor was still Chancellor Palpatine, he kept his flaming eyes hidden, appearing as any regular person would. This proves that a Sith can knowingly hide his evil appearance from those around him when necessary.

Other Sith don’t usually bother hiding their eye color from others. Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress, for example, generally embrace the Sith eyes in The Clone Wars. Since they are not as calculating as Darth Sidious, they do not conceal their vileness. They also probably possess more pure anger than any Sith in Star Wars, making it more difficult to hide the outward manifestation of their rage.

Originally, Maul wanted to destroy the Jedi, but after being maimed on Naboo, his focus turned to Obi-Wan and Darth Sidious. His injuries left him to live in a state of hate while questing for revenge. That way of life was shown through his eyes, and he taught his brother to behave in the same way. Consequently, they are constantly seething with a visible rage that communicates their desires to exact revenge and exert dominance.

Younger or less experienced Sith cannot hide their eyes from others because their dark side emotions are too new to control. For instance, a newly christened Darth Vader went back and forth between yellow and his normal eye color. The encyclopedia explains, “On Mustafar, Darth Vader’s eyes glow as he massacres the Separatist leaders, but return to normal when his wife Padme Amidala arrives.” Unlike Sidious, who can control his appearance, Anakin’s eyes simply communicate his current emotions. When he was angry at the Separatists, they were yellow. However, the sight of his lover brought him back from his rage.

Why Count Dooku Doesn’t Have Yellow Eyes

The most interesting exception to the yellow Sith eyes is Darth Tyranus, better known as Count Dooku. As apprentice to Darth Sidious for nearly a decade, he was a formidable opponent and powerful practitioner of the Dark Side. He defeated Obi-Wan and Anakin and was even a match for Yoda himself. While Dooku may be powerful enough to hide his Sith eyes, there is another reason for his unusual appearance.

Dooku’s eyes were never yellow because he did not have the same motivation and emotions as other Sith. He was an idealist who left the Jedi because he thought they had lost their way. He was displeased with the growing corruption in the Republic’s Senate and was therefore motivated by philosophical and political goals, not by Dark Side emotions like rage and conquest. It’s even possible that he thought that he would do some good in the galaxy by destroying the Republic and replacing it with the Confederacy of Independent Systems.

Of course, Sidious didn’t tell Dooku the full plan, so that didn’t work out too well for him. Regardless, Dooku’s eyes weren’t yellow because he wasn’t motivated by anger. He was merely a practical Dark Side user, so he does not have the usual Sith eye color.

Was Count Dooku Right All Along?

Interestingly, Star Wars has started to make it clear that Count Dooku was right to betray the Jedi. Once a powerful Jedi Master, Dooku began to see the hypocrisy of the order and his master, Yoda, in the years leading up to The Phantom Menace. After the death of Qui-Gon Jinn, his former pupil, Dooku finally gave up on the Jedi, realizing that they would never be the peacekeeping individuals they always claimed to be.

Tales of the Jedi perfectly demonstrates Dooku’s moral quandaries leading up to his turn–and it is difficult to disagree with him. He claimed the Jedi were hypocritical zealots who had become obsessed with their own power–and they were. He claimed that the Republic was corrupt–and it was. While Dooku’s answer to these problems was certainly the wrong one, it is difficult to deny that he was right in his observations. As such, Dooku’s story becomes even more heartbreaking, as he could have easily become the galaxy’s savior had he not been deceived by Darth Sidious. Instead, he was used as a pawn in Palpatine’s larger game, losing his life in service of the very corruption he’d sought to destroy.

Count Dooku is one of the most unique Sith in the Star Wars franchise, whose power doesn’t come from rage but from a deep desire to do the right thing for the galaxy. As misguided as he may have been, Dooku’s lack of Sith eyes only continue to show just how controlled he was in his usage of the Dark Side–which he genuinely believed would help him make the galaxy a better place.

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