Darth Vader has a unanimous reputation for being one of the most dastardly villains not only to ever step foot into the Star Wars franchise, but into cinema as a whole. He is best known as a character that has used The Force to his very whim in order to choke, slice, dice, and kill his way to the top of the Empire. Everything from his wicked ways, heinous acts, and nasally voice put fear in the hearts of several audiences over the course of 4 decades. For a guy who sounded like he was having an asthma attack 24/7, Darth Vader made for one bad dude. However, has anyone considered what merit Vader may have as a good guy? Not just in terms of the Jedi that he used to be before turning to the Dark Side, but as the dark helmeted Sith Lord he portrayed throughout the franchise.
One strong opinion shared between critics and audiences is that the best villains are those who think they are doing nothing wrong and their hateful deeds are committed with love and concern to make the world a better place. Many of us consider Darth Vader to be one of those villains but few of us look at his perspective through a heroic lens. If Darth Vader himself thinks of himself as a good guy, how drastically different do his actions look when we actually start to look at Darth Vader as a good guy? It’s not as crazy of a suggestion as it sounds. In fact, if one were to do this, some of Vader’s actions look rather heroic and with good intentions. We actually examined Vader’s actions with such a lens and were able to pull out 15 of his good-natured acts he committed in the Star Wars franchise.
15. Compassion for C-3PO
If there was ever any doubt that Darth Vader still had a shred of goodness and humanity hiding within him, that doubt was cast aside as soon as the Star Wars Tales 6 comic book hit the shelves. In the story “Thank the Maker,” taking place after C-3PO gets blasted away on Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader happens to run across the android’s broken remains and Vader is visibly heartbroken. Just as a refresher, The Phantom Menace showed us how a young Anakin Skywalker built the bot from scratch. Years later, even though Anakin turned into a dark shell of his former self, all of those fond memories still came flooding back and it was clear his heart was broken. Vader was too despondent to even respond to his fellow soldier when addressed. Whatever good lays beneath Vader rose to the surface in the form of remorse for his fallen former ally.
14. Using Darkness to Fight Darkness
While just his association with the Dark Side makes Darth Vader the very personification of evil, this evil is more on the surface than internal. Whatever evil Vader harbors inside can be said to be a means to combat the darkness that he opposes. In the novel Dark Lord: The Rise of the Darth Vader (which takes place shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith), it is revealed that Vader betrayed the Jedi only because they failed to recognize the full potential of his power. Not because he no longer agreed with their values, but out of spite. This suggests that there is a shred of Vader that is still good and harbors Jedi values and intentions while still on the Dark Side. This is supported further by Vader admitting his plans to eventually overthrow Palpatine and takeover the galaxy for himself. In that regard, Vader’s intentions are unintentionally good if only because he’s opposing the Dark Side from within; essentially, fighting fire with fire.
13. Actively Seeks Out His Son
While it has been assumed for years that Darth Vader didn’t know that he had a son until halfway through The Empire Strikes Back when he received the signal message from Darth Sidious, the latest Marvel comic book series, Darth Vader, changes that narrative by stating that Vader actually learned he had a son 3 years before The Empire Strikes Back during a post-A New Hope world. Immediately after learning this startling bit of information, Vader hires bounty hunters to find his son and bring the boy to him. Vader’s intentions are not malicious or vicious. He isn’t concerned with killing his son or anything like that. He simply wants to bring his son into his evil world to share it with his son as a means of bonding. Evil or not, that is pretty noble and touching. Some fathers go through extreme lengths to avoid raising their sons, but Vader actively tries for years to get a hold of his son in order to start a much overdue father-son bonding session.
12. Express Doubts About Luke’s Dark Path
If one were to base their Star Wars knowledge solely by what occurs in the films, one may take for granted that Darth Vader’s obsession with his son joining the Dark Side may be shrouded in darkness. In truth, Vader’s vision for Luke is not as dark as one may initially assume. At least if one were to take a gander at how the Sith Lord is depicted in the 1996 novel, Shadow of the Empire. In it, Vader is coming to grips with the fact that maybe Luke is not the best fit for the Dark Side. As much as he wants to rule the galaxy alongside his son, Vader knows that deep down, his son still harbors something good. He’s battling with his desire to conquer the world with his son and to let his son blossom as the good person that he is. While Vader’s remorse is not exactly an “act” per se, it does let us know that there is some good that still lies deep down in Vader.
11. Apologizes to Leia
Technically, this may be more in regards to Anakin Skywalker given the character of Darth Vader basically redeemed himself as a Jedi after completing his redemption arc at the end of Return of the Jedi, but I suppose it’s debatable whether or not we can still call him Darth Vader in death if he didn’t die as a villain. Plus, it’s a fictional character so let’s not overthink this thing. Anyway, anyone who’s seen the original trilogy knows that despite the two not sharing many scenes together, Vader was a dick to Princess Leia. Sure, he didn’t know Leia was his sister until Return, but he was still a dick regardless. Letting his daughter’s planet get blown up, whether he knew it was his daughter or not, was a dick move. In death, Vader realized this and in the novel The Truce at Bakura —set mere days after Return—appeared to her in ghost form to apologize. Even though Leia understandably blew him off and exiled Vader from her life—even though he was dead and can’t get any more exiled than that—it was pretty kindhearted of Vader to come all the way from the afterlife just to beg for forgiveness. For his sincerity, Leia eventually forgave her father in the follow-up novel, Tatooine Ghost.
10. Raise His Kids (in Jeffrey Brown’s Books)
Told you that canonization may be an issue with this one. Let us take a gander at something that is completely non-canon, but still incredibly entertaining. Jeffrey Brown’s books—titled Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess—depict a world where Vader decides to raise his children as a single parent following the death of Padme. Like most single fathers, Vader’s job isn’t easy, but he manages to try his best to empower, support, and teach his children while simultaneously trying to rule an empire. This would include playing catch with young Luke, watching young Leia mature into a rebellious teenager, and watching the latter have her first date with a smarmy Han Solo. Needless to say, Vader did not approve of Solo. While Vader did prove to be an overprotective father to both his children, he always did so out of love and always tried the best in his ability to care for them and support their decisions. That is, when Vader wasn’t freezing Leia’s would-be boyfriends in carbonite.
9. Saved His Apprentice
The plot of the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed concerns itself with Darth Vader taking up an apprentice of his own he named Starkiller behind Darth Sidious’ back. The idea of Vader going out of his way to instill years worth of knowledge and values could be considered a good act if not for the fact that Vader does this with intentions to train Starkiller to kill Sidious. The good act comes when Sidious is notified of Starkiller’s existence and connection to Vader. When ordered to kill his apprentice, Vader doesn’t. Instead, he merely pretends to kill Starkiller to appear loyal to Sidious. Still conspiring behind his Sith Master’s back, Vader keeps Starkiller alive and hidden so that he can form a rebellion against The Emperor to distract him. Of course, after the specifics of their plan are in place, Vader attempts to kill Starkiller again to keep power for himself, but it was good of him to spare Starkiller’s life the first time around.
No matter how hard he tries to block out the feelings which made Vader human and, above all else, a Jedi, the task proves easier said than done. Following the events of Revenge of the Sith and heading into the sequel novel Star Wars: Dark Lord – The Rise of Darth Vader, Vader is attempting to make a full transition from feeble goodie two-shoes Jedi to ruthless Sith Lord. However, remorse and regret hit him in a big way. In fact, he falls into a deep depression because in his efforts to save Padme, his turn to the Dark Side only got her killed. It isn’t a great start for someone on a path to becoming an ultimate bad guy and his whining and wallowing doesn’t do anything but irritate Palpatine. One could say that this the road to the Dark Side isn’t an easy road for any Sith Lord and all that matters is that he became ruthless in time. Or maybe Darth Vader wasn’t cut out for the Dark Side after all, as much as he proved to be good at it later on. Maybe under that big scary suit, he always was and always will be nothing but feeble goodie two-shoes Annie Skywalker.
7. Moral Standards
Even a Sith Lord has to have standards when it comes to certain situations. As evil as Darth Vader may be, one thing that he does draw the line at is smuggling. It is one of the many big reasons why him and Roan Shyrne do not see eye to eye in the novel Star Wars: Dark Lord – The Rise of Darth Vader. Shryne was a former Jedi Knight who prided himself on The Force and the cloth that he stood for. However, he quickly changed his prideful tune somewhere in between the events of Revenge of the Sith. When the onslaught of Order 66 took place, Shryne willingly gave up his life as a Jedi. He chucked away his lightsaber and joined his mother’s smuggling team. Even Vader feels disdain for Shryne’s decision. At one point, he looks down on Shryne by telling him his smuggler behavior is unbecoming of a Jedi. Vader may have done some horrific things, but even he has a line he won’t draw. No one purely evil can have moral standards towards anything, but Vader does. Maybe he isn’t as unapologetically evil as we all assumed.
6. His Sense of Humor
It is widely believed that the most telling sign of a good man is a man with a good sense of humor. Only evil bastards are serious sticklers who can’t even crack a smile. While we never see Vader crack a smile, we do see a rare moment of his unique brand of humor and that is saying something. During the Darth Vader comic book series, Vader is sent to the planet Shu-toren to negotiate resource shipments and is told that the planet’s people are well versed in their culture. Their culture happens to be extremely dance oriented and Vader would be seen as disrespectful to not fully embrace it. But that is exactly what he does. He refuses to dance and when one of the barons insists that he does, Vader uses the Force to hoist the baron in the air and spin him around while in the air before chucking him off to the side. “Do any others wish to be my partner?” he quips to the crowd. It’s a fun moment and a reminder that Vader isn’t a complete stick in the mud, even if he is cheeky in his humor.
5. Remembering Padme
Anyone curious as to why Darth Vader seems like such a grumpy old b*stard can look no further than the comic, Darth Vader issue #24. While at this point Vader has already been evil for years, it is in this comic book where he’s reached his absolute breaking point. While aboard Vader’s personal ship called the Executor, scientist traitor Cylo is able to shut down Vader’s cybernetic suit to the point that the Sith Lord is paralyzed and defenseless. This puts Vader in a trance that sees him imagine himself face to face with, of all people, Anakin Skywalker on the planet Mustafar. After recalling his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi on the volcanic planet, Vader battles and defeats Anakin with ease. Vader thinks he’s just rid the last shred of humanity within himself, but there lies one last layer he long forgot: Padme. Padme appears to Vader begging for him to stay with her. As badly as Vader may want to remain deep in memory with his lover, he is reminded of the terrible fate she suffered at his hands. This enrages Vader enough that he’s able to break free of his immobility and kill Cylo. This also lets us know that deep down, in whatever humanity he has left, he still cares for his former loved ones, like Padme, and regrets departing from them. There’s still some good beneath that black heap of armor.
4. Killed Palpatine
This is not referring to when Darth Vader killed Darth Sidious at the end of Return of the Jedi. While that certainly was a good deed on Vader’s part, this particular entry refers specifically to the ending of Revenge of the Sith. Well, the video game version of the movie of the same name. In the game’s non-canon alternate ending, Anakin Skywalker—still fresh from his brand new Darth Vader dubbing—kills Obi-Wan Kenobi during their volcanic battle and when he returns to the ship base of Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, Palpatine rewards Vader with a new lightsaber. Suddenly, to show his gratitude, Vader kills Palpatine in cold blood with that same lightsaber. Then, with Palpatine’s men frantically confused of what to do next, Vader boldly proclaims that the galaxy belongs to him now. Is it cruel for Vader to kill the Sith Lord that taught him every Dark Side thing he knows merely for sole ownership of the galaxy? Yeah, but considering Palpatine was a much bigger baddie than Vader, it’s a good act done in the vain of evil if you think about it.
3. Spared Luke
This one might be a stretch, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth analyzing for what it is. As we know, in The Empire Strikes Back, Vader and Luke had a saber duel and in their climax, Vader revealed the shocking revelation that he was actually Luke’s father. Vader then calmly asked his son if he was willing to rule the galaxy with Vader as father and son. In melodramatic fashion, his son declined the offer by falling off an air shaft bridge. By all principles, Vader should be pissed, but he isn’t. He even lets his son get away in hopes that he’ll eventually come around and embrace his long lost father. By the time Luke finally confronts Vader years later in Return of the Jedi, Vader still tries to convince his son to join him, even if it is to no avail. Also, let’s not forget that when the two do come to blows in Return, Luke strikes first, not Vader. Vader’s calm the whole time. It’s his bratty son who throws a hissy fit. All in all, Vader’s a pretty civil guy when you break it down.
2. Saved Luke
Whenever Star Wars fans try to think of a good deed that Darth Vader completed in the franchise, this is usually the first moment that comes to mind. After a brief fight with his own son left him with another decapitated hand, Vader finds himself on the sidelines watching helplessly as Luke gets electrocuted by Darth Sidious. For a moment, Vader’s conflicted between the love for his son and his loyalty to his master, but it isn’t too long before love conquers all and Vader saves his son’s life by chucking the Emperor down the Death Star’s reactor shaft. Vader’s honorable act left him electrocuted himself and he would later die from his wounds, but this sacrifice was not in vain. Not only did Vader save his son and rid the galaxy of an evil dictator, Vader’s final act redeemed the years he spent on the Dark Side. His redemption, however brief, brought Vader back to the Light.
1. Becoming Darth Vader
As much as we like to fondly remember Darth Vader as one cold blooded baddie, let us not forget that the whole reason that Anakin Skywalker turned to the dark side to begin with was for good intentions. As we saw in Revenge of the Sith, after being afflicted by cryptic visions foreshadowing Padme’s death, Anakin found himself in the clutches of Emperor Palpatine. Despite strong hints that Palpatine could be the Dark Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, Anakin developed a close-knit bond with the old man because he was sure that his teachings could help Anakin save Padme. That’s why Anakin prevented Mace Windu from killing Palpatine and why he inadvertently played a part in Palpatine killing the Jedi Master. While that isn’t anyone’s idea of a good deed, Anakin genuinely thought that by joining forces with a Sith Lord he could save his wife and perhaps other lives as well. So, in a weird way, Anakin joining the Dark Side was a good deed. Or at least a bad deed with good intentions.