At the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader dies shortly after we get our first look at his unmasked face.
Many fans were initially surprised to see that he looked like an old man; they were even more surprised when the Prequel Trilogy came out and they realized that Anakin Skywalker was much younger than they would have expected him to be when he became Darth Vader.
So, just how old was the great Darth Vader when he died?
Snippet: Darth Vader was 45 years old at his time of death. This was 22 years after Anakin turned from the Jedi Order and became the infamous Sith Lord.
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How Old Was Darth Vader When He Died?
Though the redeemed Anakin Skywalker was just 45 years old when he had Luke remove his mask, there are several reasons why he looked much older.
When the movie was filmed, Vader was played by Sebastian Shaw during his scene without the mask. Shaw was in his upper 70s at the time; thus, the age of the actor affected not only Vader’s appearance but the sound of his voice as well.
Later, when the Prequels came out, an in-universe explanation for Vader’s aged appearance was added. Though Anakin Skywalker was still very young when he became Vader, he sustained massive injuries that greatly altered him.
He was burned and had his legs and one arm cut off as he dueled his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, on Mustafar.
Because of his injuries, he had to spend the rest of his life in his iconic black suit, which contained a life-support system. The years spent in this suit could have also affected his appearance over time.
The foreboding black suit is the only part of Vader we see for most of the Original Trilogy, except for one brief glimpse of the back of his head while he’s in his meditation chamber. And, of course, the classic unmasking scene at the end of ROTJ.
At the end of ROTJ, his life support suit had been destroyed by Force lightning and, knowing he would soon die, he asked Luke to remove his helmet and mask.
How Old Was Anakin When He Became Darth Vader?
As mentioned, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker was quite young when became the Sith Lord Darth Vader. This transformation happened when he was just 22 years old; and though he seemed to change sides rather suddenly, his betrayal of the Jedi was actually years in the making.
Anakin was first discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi when he was nine years old. Jinn was convinced he was the prophesied Chosen One who would bring balance to the Force, but Master Yoda believed he was too old to begin training.
After Jinn’s death, Kenobi was elevated from Padawan to Knight. The Jedi Council gave him the approval to train Anakin even though Yoda continued to express concern about the arrangement.
Anakin spent the next ten years as a Youngling and then Padawan before becoming a full-fledged Jedi Knight at the age of 19, right at the beginning of the Clone Wars. He secretly married Padme Amadala at this time, shortly after the death of his mother.
Though emotional attachments were forbidden for Jedi, both his love for Padme and the loss of his mother affected him greatly.
He spent the next three years as a Jedi General, training Padawan Ahsoka Tano, and fighting with great success for the Republic. But despite his outward accomplishments, he was filled with mental and emotional turmoil and often butted heads with members of the Jedi Council.
When he found out Padme was pregnant, he began experiencing nightmares of her dying in childbirth.
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Darth Sidious) convinced Anakin he could save Padme by turning to the dark side and led him to believe that the Jedi were the enemy. It was at this time that he betrayed the Jedi and became Palpatine’s apprentice, Darth Vader.
Anakin spent the next 23 years operating as Vader. Padme did die, as he feared, but not before giving birth to Luke and Leia. They were hidden from Vader, and he didn’t find out about them until many years later.
Is Darth Vader Really Dead?
Anakin Skywalker appears as a Force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi, after he appears to die in Luke’s arms. This begs the question, did he really die?
The answer is yes. Darth Vader along with Obi-Wan and Yoda, who also appear as Force ghosts, all technically died. Their physical bodies disappeared and their spirits were absorbed into the Force.
Anakin’s appearance as a Force ghost shows that his redemption was complete. He forsook the dark side and embraced the light side once again. Though his body was dead, his consciousness would live on in the Force.
Anakin Skywalker was 22 years old when he became Darth Vader and 45 when he died. The severe injuries he sustained on Mustafar permanently altered his appearance and made him look much older at the time of his death.
That said, when he died and became a Force ghost, he was no longer bound by these injuries and his appearance reverted to that of his younger self.