With a gaggle of new Star Wars villains to look forward to in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (such as Kylo Ren, General Hux, and Captain Phasma, it’s a good time to look back at previous Star Wars villains. Some of these villains are Sith Lords, some are intergalactic gangsters, and others are elite bounty hunters. What they all have in common is that they’re a step above your average bad guys. You really don’t want to cross paths with any of the villains on this list.
The villains on this list are from Star Wars films, TV series, comics, or novels that are considered by Lucasfilm to be canon. So no Admiral Thrawn or Darth Malek (sorry!). Characters like Darth Plagueis who are mentioned briefly in canonical materials but are now considered “Legends” are also not on this list.
Darth Vader is not only the first villain introduced in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, as played by David Prowse (with the voice of James Earl Jones), he is also one of the most dangerous – if not the most dangerous – villain in the Star Wars universe. Just the sound of his breath strikes fear in Vader’s enemies.
Once moving to the Dark Side of the Force, Vader begins as an apprentice of Darth Sidious, but becomes a powerful Sith Lord in his own right as he works to stamp out any embers of rebellion working against Palpatine and his Empire. Vader is certainly talented with his light saber, but rarely resorts to fighting with it. Instead, Vader is more likely to strangle you with a slightly raised finger or throw you across the room with a wave of his hand.
Grand Moff Tarkin
Tarkin isn’t a Sith Lord, but he’s the perfect right hand man for one. First introduced in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope as Darth Vader’s number 2, Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing) is closely tied to the Empire’s most destructive weapon: the Death Star. It is Tarkin who destroys Princess Leia’s homeland of Alderaan, and forces her to watch, as a means to pry the location of the rebel base from her.
While his arrogance leads to his death at the end of A New Hope, Tarkin’s ruthless campaign of terror can also be seen in several other Star Wars stories. Tarkin makes a brief appearance in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and he has large roles in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels as well as the novel Tarkin. When Domhnall Gleeson, who plays General Hux in the upcoming Episode VII, said, “I’m British, so I’m evil” at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year, many fans couldn’t help but think of Tarkin.
There are no Star Wars villains more cool than Boba Fett. Fett is a Mandalorian warrior known as one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy. He works for the likes of Jabba the Hutt and Darth Vader and was introduced to audiences in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. Fett was later inserted into the special addition of A New Hope, which further associated the character with the Hutt gangster.
Fett was the only unaltered clone made by the Kaminions and was raised by the basis for the clone army, his “father” Jango Fett (as seen in Episode II – Attack of the Clones). After seeing Jango perish in the Battle of Geonosis, Fett developed a grudge against the Jedi and started down the path that lead to his career as a bounty hunter.
Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, is a Sith Lord of extraordinary power. Palpatine – voiced by Clive Revill in the original cut of The Empire Strikes Back and played by Ian McDiarmid in Return of the Jedi and the prequels – also embodies the definition of patience, as his plot to destroy the Jedi and take control of the galaxy was many, many years in the making. Sidious is the evil that is right in front of you that you somehow can’t see. The man you think is a mentor, but is actually trying to destroy you.
Not only is Palpatine the mastermind behind Order 66, which led to the deaths of the majority of Jedi Knights, but he is also the man who turned the Jedi’s most powerful warrior, Anakin Skywalker, into the Sith Lord Darth Vader.
Jabba the Hutt
Jabba the Hutt is never going to beat anyone in foot race, but he is one giant slug you do not want to cross. Jabba the Hutt was first introduced to audiences in Return of the Jedi as the gangster that put Han Solo (who was in carbonite at the time) up on his wall after he failed to repay a debt. In the special edition of A New Hope, a Jabba scene was added, which foreshadows Solo’s future troubles with the big, greasy loan shark.
Jabba runs a crime syndicate on Tatooine that influences many planets in the Outer Rim, and he remains a powerful figure throughout the Clone Wars. Jabba also enjoys keeping slaves as entertainment, which ultimately leads to his downfall when he enslaves Princess Leia and encourages Lukle Skywalker to come retrieve her.
Why have a single light saber when you can have a double instead? Darth Maul is a Sith Lord trained by none other than Darth Sidious. Maul is a master in the ways of the dark side and a talented assassin. He is also a master in the martial arts-like fighting style Teräs Käsi.
Maul is the first major villain introduced in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (as played by Ray Park), where he is tasked with killing Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Ginn. The battle scenes between these three characters are the highlight of the film. Maul’s scary physical appearance (he has horns!) is matched equally by his ferocious fighting style. Maul doesn’t lose easily and, despite being cut in half in The Phantom Menace, he returns for more in The Clone Wars series. If you’re looking for an example of evil that won’t stop, look no further than this warrior, who killed children to get the attention of the man he sought to kill.
Count Dooku, also known as Darth Tyranus, is another Sith Lord under the direction of Darth Sidious. He is an example, along with Anakin Skywalker, of a talented Jedi Knight who seduced by the dark side of the force.
Dooku is a master of manipulation and a brutal warrior. He murders his old friend Sifo-Dyas in order to control the clone army being developed on Kamino, and he programmed General Grievous, the cyborg, to be a warrior under his direction. Dooku (played by Christopher Lee) makes appearances in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and plays a large role in The Clone Wars television show where he lead the Separatist movement.
General Grievous is one of several Star Wars villains that are part human (or in this case, Kaleesh) and part machine. As a Kaleesh warrior, Grievous might have been too talented for his own good as he catches the eye of Banking Clan leader San Hill, who plots an explosion that almost kills him in an attempt to remake him into a cyborg warrior.
Throughout the Clone Wars, Grievous commands the droid army under the eyes of Count Dooku. Grievous also plays a large role in Revenge of the Sith, battling the likes of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Grievous is not only a cunning military strategist, he is also a dangerous warrior. Aided by his metal body, Grievous uses four lightsabers at once to ferociously and mercilessly attack his foes in battle.
The only female on this list (hopefully Captain Phasma will be on the next film) Asajj Ventress is a delight to watch for fans of the dark side in The Clone Wars television series. Ventress is described as a Dark Jedi, one of those who has turned their back from the Jedi path. Ventress instead yearns to be a Sith Lord and seeks the approval of Count Dooku to prove her worthiness during the Clone Wars. Her great desire to be a Sith Lord accounts for the intensity and passion Ventress shows in battle. Ventress is so skilled in combat, many times using a double light saber, that she can easily hold her own against Jedi masters in combat.
Frequent mentioned as one of the best villains from The Clone Wars, Cad Bane is a bounty hunter you did not want to have coming for you. Bane, who wears a fedora-like hat (similar to Indiana Jones), is employed numerous times by the Empire, but his loyalty always rests with the highest bidder.
Bane takes advantage of other people’s wars and conflicts to make profits, and has been described as both a ruthless and fearsome mercenary. Bane uses a myriad of weapons in his work, which aid him in evading and, at times, killing Jedi Knights. In addition to being skilled at close combat, Bane is a strategist who always plans for a variety of possible outcomes to help ensure his survival.
The Inquisitor is a Pau’an trained by Darth Vader to hunt down and kill any Jedi Knights who survived Order 66. The Inquisitor is not a Sith Lord, but works closely with the Empire to destroy remaining Jedi in a methodical and calculated manner. The Inquisitor is tasked to destroy not only Jedi Knights but any children who were force sensitive and could possibly become Jedi with the right training.
In the television series Star Wars Rebels, the Inquisitor repeatedly hunts down Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger to try and kill them. The Inquisitor is a dangerous threat in combat as he wields a double bladed lightsaber that can spin like an airplane propeller.
The only villain on this list to not appear in a Star Wars film or television series, Count Vidian makes his only appearance in the novel A New Dawn. Evil does not always need a title such as Sith Lord or Inquisitor. Sometimes evil can be found in efficiency. Count Vidian is an efficiency expert employed by the Empire and he takes his job very seriously. He would just as soon destroy a ship filled with hundreds if it helps him meet a deadline or a goal faster. After suffering from a degenerative disease, Vidian remakes himself into a cyborg whose eyes can see directly into security cameras and whose armor makes him stronger than ever. Vidian is a villain who channels his need for power to overcome any form of adversity and this drive leads him to commit some truly heinous acts.
Of course, the Star Wars Universe is full of villains capable of committing truly evil acts, and some of them are more capable of damage than others. Did we miss anyone? Who is your favorite Star Wars villain? Let us know in the comments below!