The Empire makes up the main threat for the protagonists in almost every Star Wars film and over the years their organization has not only grown in power, but it has become more in-depth and crafted a deeper hierarchy.
While the Star Wars films don’t specifically detail the ranks within the Imperial system they are indeed present throughout the event, and thanks to the Star Wars expanded universe, we have a better idea of how they function. Both the Imperial Army and Navy are split into divisions with ranks assigned to members to detail their role within the organization. Just like characters in Star Wars have different looks, they also have different roles.
Here is a list of all the ranks we’ve seen throughout the series, however, these are not technically seen as cannon post Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm in 2012. Despite this, they’re the best information we have on the Imperial ranks to date and you can check out how they work below.
All Imperial Ranks
Midshipman / Officer Candidate
The lowest roles in the Imperial ranks, these two roles for the Navy and Army respectively represent trainees who have ambitions of eventually leading their own ship. These soldiers are above regular stormtroopers but below the other ranked roles.
Ensign / Second Lieutenant
Further on the road to leading their own crew, Ensign’s or Second Lieutenant’s is the title given to represent those members of the Imperial army who are on their way to manning their own ship or platoon.
A Sublieutenant is a role within the Imperial Navy that represents an ensign who is undergoing command training.
Lieutenant is a ranked used in the military or police given to low-ranking commissioned officers.
The captain is a title used to represent those within a leadership position within the Imperial Army.
A lieutenant Commander is an individual climbing the ranks but currently between the roles of Lieutenant and Commander. As the title implies, this soldier is the leader of other Lieutenant officers.
Typically, battalion commanders, Major is the role that can be achieved between Captain and Colonel.
A Lieutenant Colonel is a member of the Imperial Army who is responsible for the forces in the absence of the Colonel.
Commander is a Navy rank that describes the individual in command of their task force or group within the battlefield.
Captain / Colonel
The ranks of Captain and Colonel are similar and describe the individual in a leadership position as the head of either their Army or Navy outfit.
Captain of the Line / High Colonel
These two roles are similar to Captain / Colonel, however, they command superior positions and a larger force of soldiers.
Commodore / Brigadier
These two roles represent the members of the Imperial forces in charge of commanding multiple forces, in the case of the Navy, groups of ships, and the army Brigades.
Rear Admiral / Major Lieutenant
Again, as we step up in rank the commanding roles of the individual increase further with the main difference being the size of the forces they represent.
The next in command under the Admiral, if the Admiral is absent then the Vice Admiral will take control. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi we meet Vice Admiral Holdo who is likely the most prominent character with the rank of Vice-Admiral.
Admiral / General
Senior commanding positions of their representative sectors. The General is usually regarded as the leader of the army forces, while the Admiral is a flag officer responsible for the high-level military command of battle groups or fleets. You can’t speak of Admirals without mentioning Admiral Ackbar. The first person donning the role that we meet and likely the most beloved.
Fleet Admiral / High General
As the name suggests, a Fleet Admiral is the person responsible for commanding each of the Admirals ruling their own fleet. The High General is responsible for coordinating front-line corps and armies and has mostly a non-combat position. While we don’t see many Fleet Admiral’s within the films, the two most notable are Sartan and Jok Donassius. The role of High General is a Legends exclusive position.
High Admiral / Surface Marshal
The High Admiral is a position designated by the Moff and Grand Moff for their highest-level subordinate. Similarly, Surface Marshal is also given out by those with a Moff title. There aren’t many named characters who boast these roles within the films, furthermore, High Admiral is Legends only rank.
Moff is a select governor rank in the Sith Empire that is in command of the larger Imperial forces both Navy and Army. While newer to the Star Wars canon, the Mandolorian’s Moff Gideon is one of the most well-known characters to don the rank. Unlike many other Moffs, Gideon takes to the front lines to wield his newly acquired Dark Saber.
Grand Moff’s are those in charge of regions with multiple Moff ranked peers under their command. In Star Wars, the most notable of all the Grand Moff’s is the very first in history, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin who was promoted to the position by Emperor Palpatine during the original trilogy.
Grand Admiral / Grand General
These Grand Admiral and Grand General positions are the highest possible in the Imperial Ranks are report directly to the Emporer himself. They have executive control of their respective sector and there are no more than 12 of each at a time. Within the Star Wars films, Cassio Tagge was promoted to Grand General by Emporer Palpatine following the Battle of Yavin. The Grand Admiral, however, is a role that has only had named characters assume within the Legends cannon with the most notable person to hold this position, Malcor Brashin.