Darth Vader is undoubtedly one of the greatest movie villains of all time.
Regardless of how familiar you are with the Star Wars franchise, there’s a chance you’ve heard of the Sith Lord. Darth Vader began making a name for himself during his days as the Jedi Anakin Skywalker.
When he made the switch to the dark side of the Force, Anakin Skywalker shed his light side skin and became the infamous Dark Lord we know and love.
Normally, when there’s a villain as ruthless and stony-hearted as Darth Vader, that character doesn’t garner the love of many fans. But Darth Vader was a different case, and he quickly became a fan favorite.
This outpour of love landed the Sith at the top of many lists for the best villains in Hollywood. This raises the question of why Darth Vader is regarded so highly.
This is a fantastic question that will be answered in this article. Stay tuned as we dive in.
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What Makes Darth Vader a Great Villain?
When we consider what makes a good villain, the answer is usually as simple as being a worthy adversary for the hero. While this may be true for a good villain, a great villain has more depth to them.
Of course, Darth Vader is a great villain in that he is a complex being. There are layers to his personality that make him so complex that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why he is such a great villain.
Even so, there are a few stand-out traits that contribute to Darth Vader being crowned the greatest villain of all time. Without further ado, let’s get right into them.
1. Origin Story
One of the signature trademarks of a great villain is their origin story. Often dubbed the villain arc, this tells the public what made the character into the outlaw they’re known to be.
Darth Vader’s villain arc began at a very young age.
Born as Anakin Skywalker to his mother, Shmi Skywalker, on the desert planet Tatooine, the boy was subjected to a life of slavery.
Luckily, he was born with a gift many others could only dream of, which was his insanely high midi-chlorian count (20,000 per cell).
This allowed Anakin to join the Jedi Order as a Padawan, where he was determined to become the galaxy’s greatest Jedi so he could have a better life for himself and his mom.
Naturally, having been through what he had with his mom, Anakin loved her unconditionally and cared for her deeply. As heartwarming as this was, this attachment to his mother went against the highly restrictive Jedi Code.
Nevertheless, Anakin became one of the greatest Jedi, but he was not trusted by others in the Order (particularly Master Mace Windu). As such, Anakin was not promoted to Jedi Master, which he felt he deserved.
Working in the background was Chancellor Palpatine, who saw the dark potential in the young Knight. Once he took a liking to Anakin, he did everything in his power to bring him to the dark side.
The major push for Anakin was when his mother was brutally tortured on their home planet. In a panic, Anakin rushed home to hopefully save his mother’s life. Unfortunately, he was too late and could do nothing but hold Shmi as she took her dying breath.
Every decision Anakin made from that point onward was to protect those he held dearest. This primal urge to be a protector was only heightened when he met the love of his life, Padme Amidala.
Knowing that Anakin’s loved ones were the best way to get to him, Palpatine used this to manipulate the desperate man into thinking the dark side was the only way to do so.
Of course, Palatine could not be trusted, and Padme died regardless. In turn, her death was the event that ultimately broke Anakin, turning him into the cold-hearted Lord of darkness.
After losing everyone he held dear, Darth Vader was understandably filled with rage, hatred, self-loathing, and crippling depression. While this is reason enough to go on a rampage, Darth Vader’s beliefs stretched beyond that.
On the one hand, after realizing how truly advantageous and toxic the Emperor was, Darth Vader longed to become more powerful than him. This is something he could not accomplish, but more on that later.
On the other hand, Darth Vader also valued life, as shown by how desperately he tried to save Shmi and Padme. As a result, he only killed those who he felt truly deserved it.
Although it may seem as though he was mass murdering the innocent, Darth Vader probably thought he was doing the right thing. After all, no one ever thinks that they are the villain in their own narrative.
3. The Potential for Power
As we briefly touched on above, Anakin’s goal was always to be the most powerful, and that did not change when he joined the dark side.
In fact, Darth Vader wanted to become more powerful than his master (Emperor Palpatine). Due to extensive injuries, Darth Vader had to be constricted to a life support suit and pressurized mask.
This left him completely dependent on the Emperor and, by extension, the Galactic Empire. To make matters worse, Palpatine purposefully made the Sith Lord’s suit insanely painful.
This plunged Darth Vader into constant pain, discomfort, and sleep deprivation. Even though this made the Dark Lord angrier and more irritable (which meant he would be pushed deeper into the dark side), it all but ensured he would never surpass Palpatine.
Still, Lord Vader was one of the most powerful individuals in the entire galaxy. He had the intelligence to build his strength (both in the Force and swordsmanship), and to know which techniques would work with his suit, not against it.
What’s more, Vader was seemingly able to do the impossible when he would come up with creative solutions to his problems.
In addition, Darth Vader moved with such confidence on the battlefield that it’s easy to forget that he could’ve died by simply having his mask removed.
Darth Vader took on and often defeated any opponent regardless of their size, level of training, or Force connectivity.
If Lord Vader was this unquestionably awesome (even though a whiff of unpressurized air could kill him), it’s safe to say a full-powered Vader would have been a sight to behold.
4. A Menacing Outward Appearance
Just like most villains, Darth Vader’s appearance plays an integral role in the effect he has on people.
His all-black suit, cape, and mask, coupled with his iconic strained breathing and beautifully raspy voice, make Darth Vader stand out from the crowd.
Additionally, the way Vader carries himself makes it clear why he is such a threatening figure.
Everything from his tall stature to his bone-chilling composure just before going on a rampage showed that he was a force to be reckoned with.
It’s no question that Darth Vader has a tremendous influence on those around him in the galaxy, but his reach stretches far beyond that.
Star Wars is arguably the most well-known and impactful franchise out there. For generations, we have seen thousands of people (fans and non-fans alike) famously quoting and dressed as the Sith Lord.
As such, Darth Vader has, without a doubt, made his mark on our culture.
When it comes down to it, Darth Vader’s personality is greatly attributed to his being the best villain around.
Not only did the Sith Lord have exceptional character development, but he also had the potential to be the most powerful person in the entire galaxy.
All in all, Darth Vader is simply himself. He is unique and completely irreplaceable. Although some may disagree, Darth Vader encompasses what it takes to be a villain.
All these things add up to make him the greatest and most influential villain of any franchise.