I know. Many of you will have problems with this article. And there's every reason that you should. At least to some extent. Because when it comes to really cool Sith lords, Darth Vader is probably one of the coolest. But that doesn't make him one of the most powerful. And sure, you'll notice that he's killed one or two of the Sith on this list. But again, that doesn't mean that he was necessarily more powerful than them.
Besides, Vader's "coolness" rating has gone down quite a bit since what's-his-face played him in episodes one through three. And since they remastered Return of the Jedi to feature him in it (that was awful). And there are some supremely cooler Sith to pay attention to...and they're more powerful to boot.
Take Darth Bane, for example. He's the reason why there are only ever two Sith at a time. He wiped out the army of Sith users that existed in his day. And he slaughtered General Hoth and 99 other Jedi in one fell swoop! Or what about Darth Revan? Sure, he was good, then was evil, then was good again, but his power and skill are incredible. And you can't forget the biggies like Exar Kun and Freedon Nadd!
15 Marka Ragnos
"The chains of the grave cannot hold a Dark Lord of the Sith…" Marka Ragnos is not a Darth. But he is certainly a powerful Sith. Unfortunately, after living for over 100 years, Ragnos was killed, and other Sith began fighting for his throne. But his spirit remained and he stopped anyone who was not worthy. Trapped in his tomb in the Valley of the Dark Lords, Ragnos influenced a great many Sith. He is the one who crowned Exar Kun as the Dark Lord. His life as a Force ghost must ultimately be boring, but the influence that he has over the ways of the Force is very effective. So he sits, in his tomb, waiting for someone to bring him back to his true form. Some have made attempts, but they were ultimately too weak to get the job done.
14 Freedon Nadd
"Come to the dark side now, when it calls, or you will have failed. The dark side will forever shun you, the weak-minded fool who believed he had the right to wield its power!" Freedon Nadd was once a Jedi, but when he was turned to the dark side, he murdered his master and with his Force sorcery, forced a planet's inhabitants to their knees. For over 100 years Nadd ruled the planet until he physically died. But his spirit lived on and influenced a great many Sith (and Jedi). His spirit was eventually banished from the planet thanks to weaker Sith lords who could not protect the dark side, but his influence did far more than Vader's ever could. This is the Sith who appeared before Ulic Qel-Droma to tell him of his future as a great Sith warrior.
13 Darth Malak
"Savior, conqueror, hero, villain. You are all of these things, Revan... and yet you are nothing. In the end, you belong to neither the light nor the darkness. You will forever stand alone." Malak does have some issues. I mean, he lost the lower part of his jaw from a lightsabre strike by his own master. But he is perhaps one of the greatest generals and conquerors that the Sith or the Jedi have ever seen. His brutal tactics, coupled with the battle meditation of his own apprentice allowed him to lay waste to the Mandalorians and the Jedi Order in ways that neither could ever fully recover from. It's true that he was defeated by a now Jedi Revan, but ultimately it was his pride and power that got him killed.
12 Darth Revan
"Mercy, compassion, loyalty: all these things will prevent you from claiming what is rightfully yours. Those who follow the dark side must cast aside these conceits. Those who do not—those who try to walk the path of moderation—will fail, dragged down by their own weakness." What's interesting here is that Revan did kind of live a strange version of moderation. He spent his formative years as a Jedi knight, then became a Sith Lord, then was turned back to a Jedi. But he was the only one able to take down the conquering Darth Malak. It also helps a lot that his skill sets allowed for him to harness power from both the light and dark sides of the force. And this is the very Sith Lord who advised Darth Bane to truly exercise the infamous Rule of Two.
11 Darth Tyranus
"Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hatred leads to suffering. But what the Jedi failed to teach you, what I have learned, is how to persevere, to pass through suffering, and achieve ultimate power!" I know, some of you are thinking that Darth Tyranus (or Count Dooku) is very weak; killed by Anakin so easily. But there is much more to him than that garbage movie could ever show. For example, Tyranus is the reason the clone troopers were made, and he created the protocol for Order 66. He also took over complete star systems through both political deceit and brute force. He may not have been physically more powerful than Vader (though the crooked lightsabre is a whole new style to adopt), but his power of manipulation and conquest certainly was greater than Vader's.
10 Darth Bane
"I am Darth Bane, Dark Lord of the Sith. I will survive. At any cost." In my mind, Darth Bane is just the master. Physically imposing, incredibly well read in the history and sorcery of the dark side, and overwhelmingly skilled with a lightsabre. Darth Bane is basically the Sith version of a triple threat. He is also probably one of the longest reigning Sith lords without anyone even knowing it. At the end of his story arc in the Star Wars universe, he is supposedly killed by his apprentice. But he actually lives on, having transferred his essence into her. And I believe this is something he had done all the way up to Darth Sidious. And who knows...maybe even Luke Skywalker. After all, this is the Sith Lord who just couldn't give up his mantle because he noticed how weak all of his apprentices had been compared to him.
9 Darth Krayt
"I have been through death and conquered it. I have returned with my power multiplied. The dark side of the Force lives and manifests itself through me! I reach into the dark side now and send ripples through it to all who serve it—know that I live!" Now it's true that Vader was very effective in killing Jedi (though most of them were younglings), but Darth Krayt brought down the Jedi Order that followed in the wake of Order 66. Hunting down Cade Skywalker might have been a mistake for him, but his bigger mistake was assembling a Sith army. While having an army to do his bidding allowed him to live a longer life in stasis while exerting his evil will, this made the dark side weaker. This is why the Rule of Two exists.
8 Darth Sidious
"The Alliance... will die. As will your friends. Good, I can feel your anger. I am defenceless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!" It takes a pretty badass guy to just offer himself up for slaughter in order to win a new apprentice. Not to mention that Sidious has an incredible amount of knowledge in Force magic, political strategy, and lightsabre combat. He worked in the shadows, playing the long game forever! Essentially, he took Darth Bane's game and took it to the extreme. There are some (I am one of them) who believe that Darth Sidious is actually Darth Bane, thanks to Bane's ability to transfer his essence from his dying self to a new host.
7 Darth Nihilus
"He is a wound in the Force, more presence than flesh, and in his wake life dies… sacrificing itself to his hunger." That's the sort of thing that characters in the Star Wars universe had to say about Darth Nihilus! Basically, Nihilus is the most hungry force user in the history of the Star Wars universe. Being affected by an explosion of force power, he began craving the energy, which he then began draining from both Sith and Jedi alike. He even drained his own master of all her force. So much so that he broke her link with the force, ultimately banishing her from existence. I can't recall a time where Darth Vader was so vile or so hungry. Even in death, Darth Nihilus lived on through his armour, where his spirit was trapped.
6 Darth Maul
"I was apprentice to the most powerful being in the galaxy once. I was destined to become… so much more." I know what you're thinking. At least if you haven't watched The Clone Wars show. You're probably thinking that Darth Maul is cool, but ultimately pretty weak. After all, he gets cut in half by Obi Wan. But Darth Maul's role in the Star Wars universe is so much greater. Especially since he comes back with crazy mechanical spider legs, still wielding that double-sided lightsabre. Ultimately, he does die at the hands of Obi Wan, but not until many years later, after Maul tried to thwart Darth Sidious and Vader. Jealousy and vengeance consumed him as he thought it was his destiny to rule the Sith. Instead, he turned his back on the Sith and rested peacefully, knowing that the Sith were crumbling. Peaceful sleep is better than most Sith get!
5 Darth Plagueis
"Tell me what you regard as your greatest strength, so I will know how best to undermine you; tell me of your greatest fear, so I will know which I must force you to face; tell me what you cherish most, so I will know what to take from you; and tell me what you crave, so that I might deny you…" Darth Plagueis was the master of Darth Sidious! So you know he's got to have some mighty power. He taught everything he knew to Sidious...which was ultimately his downside, but still he did it. Plagueis was so gifted with the force that he could influence midi-chlorians to keep people alive! Basically, if it weren't for him being murdered in his sleep, he could live forever! Plagueis was so powerful that the only thing he feared was the Force striking back at him for harnessing it so effectively.
4 Ulic Qel-Droma
"You are puppets of tradition pretending to be important. The coming Golden Age has no place for you. Your Republic is an empty, self-indulgent diversion...signifying nothing.The lost glory of the Sith will turn all of your supposed accomplishments to dust!" This guy was just a regular Jedi...until his master was killed. Then he joined up (pretending to be a fallen Jedi) with a bad crowd. This bad crowd injected him with a rage-inducing poison which then led to him actually turning to the dark side. This guy struck terror into the hearts of everyone who crossed him. He led a campaign to destroy the Republic (as so many Sith do). He even killed his own brother! Now, that's the main reason he ended up losing. The Jedi were so disgusted by this that they used their power to unlink him from the Force, thereby taking away his powers. I wonder why they didn't do that in the first place (I'll never understand the Jedi), but there we are.
3 Darth Sion
"And now you run in search of the Jedi. They are all dead, save one—and one broken Jedi cannot stop the darkness that is to come." This guy is one of the most terrifying and awesome Sith lords out there. He served with Exar Kun, Darth Revan and Darth Malak, and even joined Darth Nihilus. How did he do all of this? How could he have survived all of this war while all of these Sith lords fell away? Sion used the dark side of the Force to pull himself away from the brink of death, time and again. It cost him agonizing pain and a decomposing body, but it was all held together by his power of the dark side. In his final battle, Sion was "killed" over and over again, but he would just keep getting up, able to remain immortal so long as the Force existed. Ultimately, he chose to let himself die.
2 Exar Kun
"I was the greatest Dark Lord of the Sith. I am Exar Kun." Exar Kun is probably one of the most badass Sith Lords to have ever lived. Why? Well, even as a Jedi knight he had a deep fascination with the ways of the dark side. When he was manipulated to come across the tomb of Freedon Nadd, he was given many teachings. Nadd's plan was to gravely injure Kun and then force him to take his spirit into him to survive. But instead, Kun banished Nadd's spirit and went on to be his own great Sith Lord. He wasted the Republic, killed the Supreme Chancellor, looted Jedi treasures, built an army of fallen Jedi so they would go and kill their former masters...even in the end, he chose to separate his spirit from his body so he could torment and influence people for thousands of years to come.
1 Darth Vitiate
"My life spans millennia. Legions have risen to test me. […] My ascendance is inevitable. A day, a year, a millennium—it matters not. I hold the patience of stone and the will of stars. Your striving is insignificant. Let your death be the same." Vitiate was known as the Immortal Emperor. After ruling a planet for 100 years and staying out of the conflict between the other Sith and the Jedi, he invited the remnants of the recently defeated Sith to his homeworld for safety. Instead, Darth Vitiate used his powers to drain the life of each and every living being on his planet in order to make himself immortal! I'm sorry, but Vader has got nothing on this guy. He continued to reign in all his evil glory for the next thousand years!