As we've extensively discussed on ComicBook.com, pop culture's heroes are usually only as good as their villains. Nowhere is that truer than in the Star Wars franchise, especially since the villains are often former heroes, and sometimes even future heroes. It's a weird, twist-filled adventure, and it makes for several of the most iconic bad guys in movies, comics, novels, video games, and pretty much any other form of entertainment they've been injected into. Here are five of the all-time best.
There's something so insidious about this character. Okay, awful puns aside, The Emperor, a.k.a. Senator/Chancellor Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious is a great villain not because he's powerful (he is) or because at times he's outright terrifying (that too). Really, he's a great villain for all the times he put on a smile instead of igniting a lightsaber. His machinations, through decades of planning, pit the galaxy against itself so he could eventually pick up the pieces. It wasn't just meticulous, it was masterful. There's a reason that characters like Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku), and even Anakin Skywalker as Darth Vader would bend the knee to this guy. But don't get us wrong, the moments where he ignited his lightsaber in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Lords of the Sith were amazing, and no one will ever forget the first time they saw that Force Lightning emit from the scary old man's fingertips.prevnext
Ah, one of those complicated cases we talked about in the intro! Remember? Okay, you skipped the intro, that's fine. This fan-favorite character is very interesting, as he completed the cycle (and may or may not have renewed it) of going from hero, to villain, and back to hero. What made this villain, the star of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic one of the all-time greats, though, is also the biggest spoiler possible for the game. If you're somehow 12 years behind your gameplaying and this is next on your docket, skip ahead, okay? Yes, you discover in the end that you're actually Revan, brainwashed into abandoning your Sith ways. It's a brilliant twist that shows just how easy it is to fall between the dark and the light, and really helps explore just what makes "evil" and "good" into more nebulous concepts than most people would like to believe. Whether his story is the ultimate redemption or the ultimate fall, Darth Revan is an infinitely interesting character from the old expanded universe, who we hope eventually makes it into the new official canon.prevnext
What, is this not the Mandalorian you're looking for? Sorry, young bounty hunter fan, but Death Watch, the villainous group of Mandos from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, took the jetpack-wearing awesomeness to a new level.
Led by Pre Vizsla, who wielded a stolen, ancient black "darksaber," this group of Mandalorians who believed they were of the "true warrior faith" sought to elevate their people into the conquerors they once were. They're presented in the show as terrorists and freedom fighters, as much as they are idealists and insurgents. In essence, they're the exact type of enemy the modern western world is seemingly constantly fighting. And that makes them horrific. The charismatic Vizsla is the kind of leader you can see attracting followers, even if he's equally awful. While Death Watch did eventually submit to Maul for a time, somewhat weakening their argument ("true" Mandalorians following a failed Sith Lord Zabrak? Come on, guys!), they did at least get some pretty awesome black and red armor out of the deal.prevnext
Brought into Star Wars canon by the final episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this expanded universe villain was unique in that he was at once a force for evil and the protagonist of his own trilogy of novels. His importance to the overall mythos of Star Wars can't be understated, as it is he who sets the Sith on the path that eventually led to Darth Sidious controlling Galaxy as Emperor… a mere thousand years before the Clone Wars.
This Sith Lord, the lone survivor of a massacre of the many Sith who lived alongside he and the powerful Jedi Order at his time, instituted the "Rule of Two." That rule's simplicity kept the Sith – and thus the Dark Side – in check, with only two members of the order at any one time: a Master to embody the power of the Dark Side, and an Apprentice to crave it. The future Emperor followed this rule a little loosely, of course, always seeking out a new Apprentice while still carrying his current one. His apprentices in turn sought out their own in hopes of overthrowing their Master. Darth Bane wouldn't have been happy. While his exact history from the original novels may not all be fully canonical now, it does hold a legacy that, in-universe, spawned the events of both Star Wars trilogies.prevnext
Was there any doubt that he'd top this list? We've discussed this at length before, after all. Darth Vader is imposing and scary from the second he steps on screen. Clad in black, with a deep booming voice and a strange mechanical breath, you know from the moment you see him that this man, this monster, is feared across the galaxy. Vader's command over the Force and a bright red lightsaber only underscore the fact. After years in the background, Vader has recently gotten his due once more across several media. In the comic book Darth Vader from Marvel Comics, he's been seen slaughtering sand people and recruiting a secret army. In the novel Lords of the Sith, he took down an entire squadron of fighters and force choked a pilot in another ship while flying upside-down above them Top Gun style. In Star Wars Rebels, Vader's power on the ground was undisputed when he lifted an AT-ST above his head after being caught in an explosion and apparently crushed, using the Force. And he did it again whe he showed his piloting prowess in a 1-on-many dog fight. The focus on making Darth Vader a terrifying, bad-ass villain once more is easy to encapsulate: It's because he's just the best villain ever, and you want to see how far he can take that title.prev