For nearly 40 years, ever since he graced the screen for the first time in Star Wars: A New Hope, Darth Vader has been highly regarded as one of the greatest villains to ever grace the cinematic screen; arguably the greatest movie villain. Even for someone who is not a fan of the Star Wars franchise, it’s hard not to be attracted to the magnetic persona that is Darth Vader. From the first time we saw him in 1977 emerging from a smoky spacecraft corridor, the image of a darkly cloaked, heaving, practically asthmatic figure sent a shiver down all of our spines. That shiver would remain there for as long as we would watch the series. His appearance wasn’t the only reason why Darth Vader had us all shook.
The actions that Darth Vader has committed throughout the film franchise and its spin off media (whether it’s considered canon or not) has turned the character into someone that audiences love to hate and hate to love. His broody, stoic attitude mixed with a menacing presence made Vader an unpredictable force throughout the franchise. Even when you remember that he started off as a whiny brat in The Phantom Menace, Vader still manages to come off as one scary individual when we consider everything he’s done in the series. Whether he’s slicing someone with his lightsaber or choking them with the force, Vader has proven time and time again just how ruthless he can be. From brutal murders to unforgivable impulses, here are 15 of the most heinous acts committed by the scariest Sith Lord on this side of the galaxy, Darth Vader.
15. Killed Mace Windu
We’re going to start off this list with the first moment in the prequel series to solidify Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader. In Revenge of the Sith, Emperor Palpatine spends the first couple of acts enticing Anakin towards the Dark Side with promises that only someone on the Dark Side can protect Anakin’s wife, Padme. A conflicted Anakin reports to High Council Master Mace Windu that Palpatine secretly moonlights as Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Deeming Sidious too dangerous to keep alive for a trial, Windu tries to kill Sidious. Remembering Sidious’ promises that would ensure Padme’s safety, as well as his own visions foreseeing Padme’s death, Anakin goes turncoat. Not only does he subdue Windu’s attack on Sidious, he allows Sidious to kill Windu. Anakin may not have dealt the death blow, but he surely did not try to stop it from happening either. Plus, Anakin played more than a small part in the events that led to Windu’s murder. Due to Anakin’s loyalty to him, Sidious would reward Anakin with the title of Darth Vader.
14. Made His Son an Orphan
Darth Vader has always been notorious with spreading mass destruction to any and everything in his path. From the first film he was featured in, A New Hope, most of the carnage in that film had Vader’s name all over it. Either he was committing the massacres himself or he gave the order that allowed it to take place. In one case of the latter, Vader allowed a team of Stormtroopers to exterminate some land on Tatooine, the planet that Vader’s son Luke was raised on. Not only was Luke’s home wiped out, but so were the people who raised him, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Given that Darth Vader didn’t even know he had a son until Empire Strikes Back (or slightly after A New Hope if you’re including the comic book Darth Vader #6 as canon), this wasn’t a personal attack–apart from hunting down Obi Wan Kenobi–but that almost makes it worse. In the search for one, feeble old man, Vader had a huge fraction of a planet destroyed. Whether you consider it covering all bases or overzealous, it’s just downright ruthless.
13. Destroyed Several Rebel Squadrons
Darth Vader has always been portrayed as a powerful character in the films, but the limits to his strength were never truly tested. Therefore, on the big screen, the opportunity never presented itself for Vader to unleash the full extent of his power. That is until Marvel Comics released Vader Down Issue #6 where Vader took on 3 rebel alliance squadrons during the Battle of Yavin. This includes 30 Alliance Starfighters (22 X-Wing Starfighters and 8 Y-Wing Starfighter), 1 YT-1300 light freighter. Not even the Millennium Falcon could make it out of this battle unscathed. Vader wiped them all out and did so single-handedly. That is until Luke Skywalker was able to intervene and save the rest of the fleet. Only 2 X-Wings and 1 Y-Wing survived. Had Luke arrived any later or if he failed to make it there at all, there’s a good chance that none of those pilots would have been able to make it out of that fight alive.
12. Violently Beat Rush Clovis Out of Jealousy
Before he ruled over the Empire with an iron fist as Darth Vader, he was just a young padawan named Anakin Skywalker. While he had a long journey to go before he could earn the dubbing of Darth Vader, Anakin always harbored a dark side inside of him that would erupt like a volcano through his hot temper. One moment that showcases the hotheaded nature of Anakin comes from the sixth season of the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Rush Clovis, among many things, was Padme’s ex-boyfriend. This romance was a thing of the past as soon as Padme secretly married Anakin, but that didn’t stop Clovis from trying to rekindle an old flame. When Clovis tried to make a move on her, her husband happened to walk in and pulverized Clovis on sight. While Anakin did decide to throw away his lightsaber in favor of good ole fashioned fisticuffs, that didn’t stop him from applying a bit of Force choking on Clovis’ lungs. If Anakin didn’t come to his senses as Padme begged him to, he could’ve very well pummeled Clovis to death.
11. Let His Daughter’s Home Planet Get Destroyed
Remember when we covered how Darth Vader let his son, Luke’s, home get destroyed by Stormtroopers? Don’t think that his daughter, Leia’s, home was spared. In fact, the planet she was raised on, Alderaan, turned out to be worse off in retrospect. There was at least some of Luke’s home planet of Tatooine intact. Leia’s entire planet was obliterated. Keeping that in mind, the destruction of Alderaan wasn’t Vader’s idea and he didn’t even give the order to destroy it. It was Grand Moff Tarkin after demanding Leia to tell him where the location of the rebel base was. However, Vader only stood back and watched the destruction take place. If he wanted to, he could’ve overruled Tarkin’s order because, honestly, who is going to say no to Darth Vader? But he didn’t overrule Tarkin. Apparently, Vader really wanted to see some bloody space fireworks. Still, that isn’t the worse thing Vader ever did to his daughter.
10. Tortured His Daughter Leia
Remember that scene in A New Hope that gave every single one of us goosebumps just seeing it? The scene where Darth Vader–and a curious looking black ball trailing not too far behind him–entered Leia’s cell and told her “And now, your highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base.” As the black ball with its syringe needle attached hovered closer to Leia, she looked at this mysterious orb in horror. And so did we, fearing the unknown as to what exactly this ball was or what it was capable of. Clearly, an interrogation was taking place, but we didn’t know how far Vader or that ball could take it. Remember how terrifying that scene was? Prepare to be even more terrified to know that this ball, the aptly named IT-O Interrogator, would inject sensitive areas of the body (joints, neck, genitals, etc) with a mentally disabling chemical while the prisoner was conscious. Even though Darth Vader didn’t know at the time that he was doing this to his daughter, this is a pretty cold-blooded way to torture anyone.
9. Cut Off His Son’s Hand
As we mow through this list, you may have noticed that a lot of these entries have mentioned horrible things that Darth Vader did to his kids before he knew they were his kids. What makes this heinous act unique in comparison is that Vader DID know Luke was his son when he chopped his hand off after their saber duel from Empire Strikes Back.
Maybe Vader did it as a way to bond with his son. After all, sharing matching decapitated hands is an easy way to start a conversation at the dinner table, even if it deprives them of a father-son baseball catching session. Whatever the reason, Vader knew long in advance that Luke was his son and not only did that not stop Vader from letting up during their battle, Vader more or less went for a killshot by swinging at Luke’s limbs. And Vader, with the worst timing on the planet, chose afterwards to reveal to Luke his true heritage. Not only that, but Vader asked Luke to join him in ruling the galaxy and actually expected Luke to accept. Either Vader’s completely oblivious to how malicious his actions are or he’s just a complete jerk.
8. Killed Ahsoka (?)
That question mark is there because Ahsoka’s death is still up for debate until the next season of Star Wars: Rebels airs. For those not in the loop, Ahsoka was made Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars film and its television successor. From then on, Ahsoka has remained a critical part of canon within Star Wars media and an important ally to her Master Anakin. She reappeared in the Rebels series recently and in the season two finale found herself in a battle with Darth Vader, during which she learned Vader was in fact her former Master. In shock, Vader takes advantage and doesn’t back down; letting Ahsoka know that whatever was left of her former Master was long dead. When the temple they battled in fell to rubble, we only saw Vader leave the wreckage. With Ahsoka’s fate left ambiguous until further notice, it’s still pretty relentless on Vader’s behalf to not even bat an eyelash at the thought of killing a former apprentice and friend.
7. Killed Sidious/Palpatine
This entry is a two-fold one. The first heinous act we have to mention is a vicious one, but the only one on this list that was done for a genuinely good reason. And by good, we’re talking about the Light Side; Vader’s reversion to the Light Side. As he watched Darth Sidious electrocute his son Luke with force lightning at the end of Return of the Jedi, the former Light of Anakin Skywalker resurfaced to shine on the Dark Side of Darth Vader. Refusing to allow his son to die at the hands of the Emperor, Vader grabs Sidious and throws him down the reactor shaft of the Death Star.
It’s also worth noting that there’s an alternate universe spawned from the alternate ending of the Revenge of the Sith video game where Anakin wins his volcanic battle with Obi-Wan and afterwards kills Palpatine to takeover the galaxy himself. Even though it obviously isn’t canon, it’s pretty brutal to think of a universe where Anakin slaughtered Palpatine and overruled the Empire by himself.
6. Slaughtered Jedi Temple on Mustafar
Upon being rechristened as Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker’s first order from his new mentor Darth Sidious was to kill every Jedi and every Jedi commander in his path. Sidious made this order to tie up any and all loose ends that could be brought out from the politics that gave him the keys to the Senate to begin with. By ensuring that all of these leaders were out of the way following the Clone Wars and after he gained everything that he wanted, Sidious would guarantee that he could rule the galaxy without any casualties. The order called for Anakin to travel to Mustafar and slaughter the remaining Separatist leaders and boy, did he slaughter them. These leaders thought they could use Mustafar as a safe haven under the protection of some droids, but Vader managed to annihilate everything and everyone he saw on the planet. He did so with a cold heart and no mercy.
5. Killed His Master Obi-Wan
While the prequel series has been much criticized by hardcore Star Wars enthusiasts and casual movie fans alike, those films were able to add some emotional weight to the original trilogy. Audiences in 1977 first watched Darth Vader defeat and kill old Obi-Wan Kenobi during A New Hope. While the scene managed to provide a somber setting to see the death of a character that crowds grew to love throughout the film, when the prequels were released, we were able to see a genuine bond build between Kenobi and his apprentice. We watched the two build a friendship through their highs and lows and we watched them learn to care for each other as if they were brothers. Taking the entire franchise into consideration, re-watching the first Star Wars film and re-watching that duel between Vader and Kenobi only makes the moment all the more heartbreaking to see how cruel Anakin had become in later years.
4. Not Raising His Kids
This may be a bit of a reach because, again, Darth Vader did not know that he had any kids until later in the franchise. Vader learned about Luke just in time for Empire Strikes Back and he didn’t even know about Leia until the very end of Return of the Jedi. However, not being there for either of his kids still makes Vader an absentee father and a deadbeat dad; even if he never knew he had kids to be a deadbeat towards. Sure, Leia turned out all right, being a princess and all, but Luke was raised into poverty. Living on a farm isn’t a bad living, but it isn’t exactly a wealthy one. Not to mention the years of angst brought on by Luke wondering where his father was and why he wasn’t in his life. Or the late nights pondering if his father never loved him and if that was why he never raised him as a child. That kind of stress is weary on a child’s head and can bring on a whole round of daddy issues that can resonate well into adulthood. No wonder why he tried to nail his sister. Poor guy.
3. Raising Starkiller, but Not His Actual Kids
Again, we’ve established that Vader knew nothing about his kids until halfway through the original trilogy, but the fact that the only child who he did end up raising wasn’t even one of his biological children is a bitter irony. Designed for the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Starkiller (born Galen Marek) was the secret apprentice that Vader raised since his childhood after Vader abducted him. Described as a mix between Han Solo, Darth Maul, Indiana Jones, and of course Luke Skywalker, Starkiller was essentially a loyal subject to Vader for most of his life.
Imagine the shock and anger on Luke and Leia’s faces if they were to find out that their father was decent enough to raise someone named Starkiller, but not them. It doesn’t help that Vader wasn’t much of a father to Starkiller. Vader basically used Starkiller as a pawn in his grand plans and when his use for Vader was spent, the Sith Lord betrayed him. Starkiller survived, but Vader still tried to clone a better, more evil version of him.
2. Killed Younglings
The newly named Darth Vader’s carnage seemed to reign throughout the entirety of Revenge of the Sith. The film is chocked full of Darth Vader’s most dastardly deeds, but the following moment can be argued to be his most treacherous. This moment still sticks with many Star Wars fans as something that could very well be Darth Vader’s most horrifying sin. When Darth Sidious ordered his apprentice to kill everyone at the Jedi Temple, he literally meant everyone. Including all of the children. When the film was first released, theaters across the world gasped in utter shock to see Anakin unleash his lightsaber onto a room filled with younglings. It was the moment where most fans lost their sympathy for the young Anakin and it was the moment everyone knew that there was no turning back for him away from his allegiance to the Sith as Darth Vader. There was no mistaking he was now Darth Vader and evil to his core.
1. Abused/Killed Pregnant Wife Padme
Yes, Anakin did not know that his wife, Padme, was pregnant when he strangled her with the Force near the end of Revenge of the Sith. Yes, he did not strangle his wife with intent to kill her. But let me repeat. He STRANGLED his WIFE. When Padme traveled to Mustafar to convince Anakin to give up his evil ways, Obi-Wan stowed away on her ship without her knowledge. When Anakin saw his Master step off her ship, he accused his wife of betraying him and proceeded to hit Padme with the deadly Force choke. Might I add, regardless of if he knew or not, Padme was still pregnant when Anakin strangled her to unconsciousness. This proved to inadvertently kill Padme and she used her final breath to give birth to Luke and Leia. The film’s cheesy reason for her death was that Padme died of a “broken heart,” but we don’t need a doctor to tell us that Anakin strangling her wasn’t good for her health either. While he did not physically harm her, this still counts as domestic abuse and in a way would make Vader a wife beater.