Darth Vader is not only the central protagonist of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and central antagonist of the original trilogy – he is also one of the most iconic villains of all time. The Sith apprentice has a large fanbase and an even larger cultural capital; around the world, people know what Darth Vader looks like, sounds like, and acts like. His famous misquote, “Luke, I am your father!” is one of the most quoted lines in cinema.
Over his years, both as Anakin Skywalker and as the Sith Lord Darth Vader, it is estimated that Vader has killed around 60 times in the films and almost 400 times in the Darth Vader Marvel comics so far. Countless others have died at his hands, especially if the Jedi executed in Order 66 or the people killed on Alderaan are also included in his death toll.
Examining Star Wars canon, here is a collection of Darth Vader’s most sinister, dark, and sometimes downright creative acts of destruction and terror. These are the 15 Most Disturbing Acts Committed By Darth Vader:
15. Executed the Defenceless Count Dooku
In the opening scenes of Revenge of the Sith (2005), Chancellor Palpatine has been “kidnapped” by Count Dooku, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker go to rescue him. After Obi-Wan is knocked unconscious, Anakin gives into his hatred while duelling with the Count. He cuts off both of Dooku’s hands, leaving him defenceless. Catching Dooku’s lightsaber, Anakin holds both blades in an “X” close to the Count’s neck. After a moment’s hesitation, and at the command of Palpatine, Anakin Skywalker cuts off Dooku’s head. Anakin even acknowledges in the moment that executing Dooku in cold blood is not the way of the Jedi. Additionally, it may not even have been the wisest strategy, as the commander of the Separatists may have been more valuable to the Galactic Senate dead than alive. Still, this brutal death illustrates Anakin’s embrace of his anger and Palpatine’s influence, and it foreshadows his descent and future as the Sith apprentice.
14. Beat Rush Clovis
Even as Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader found his anger getting the best of him. Often when this would happen, he would lash out, either by Force pushing or Force choking someone who refused to cooperate with him. However, there is one example of this in The Clone Wars (2008) television show that stands out for its particular emotional cruelty. Rush Clovis is an old flame of Padmé Amidala’s who comes back into her life after she is secretly married to Anakin. When Clovis tries to kiss Amidala and Anakin sees, he throws Clovis, choking him using the Force, and beating him with his fists – all the while, Padmé begs him to stop. This is not only violence; it is domestic abuse that is rooted in jealousy and paranoia. Padmé later tells Anakin that he attacked Clovis because he did not trust Padmé and felt that he had to police her behavior.
13. Squashed the Free Ryloth Movement
The Galactic Empire did not take kindly to rebellion or planets who resisted their rule. One example of this violent dominance is Vader’s attack on the Twi’leks on Ryloth. When the “Free Ryloth” movement damaged the Star Destroyer Perilous, which had Darth Sidious and Darth Vader aboard, the Sith were ruthless in their retaliation. In response to this attack, the Sith Lords landed on the planet of Ryloth and attacked the Twi’lek forces. The Sith wanted to make sure that the seeds of rebellion would be stamped out. Vader not only killed the leaders of the “Free Ryloth” movement, but also the prisoners that were taken. The Sith also encountered a young Twi’lek girl named Drua and tricked her into leading them back to her village. There, Vader slaughtered a whole village of Twi’lek, who were all former Imperial slaves. There were no survivors, and the message was clear: cross the Galactic Empire, and you will be shown no mercy.
12. The Battle of Scarif
In what may have been the most talked about scene in Rogue One (2016), Darth Vader attacks the Rebel forces who have just stolen the Death Star plans from the planet of Scarif. The scene is in many ways reminiscient of a horror movie: the Rebel troops wait silently, shaking as they point their guns down the darkened hall. Darth Vader’s breathing is heard ominously before he is even visible, and then he appears, ignited by the red glow of his lightsaber. Using a combination of the Force, his saber, and brute strength, Vader takes on the whole group of Rebel troopers… and he makes it look easy.
While this act of violence is surely one of many that Darth Vader committed, director Gareth Edwards truly captures the terrorizing and overwhelming power of the Sith Lord. Vader was capable of taking on whole military units by himself, and showed no hesitation in dominating his opponents.
11. Used the Force to Pilot Cylo’s Ship Into a Star
Cylo, the cybernectically enhanced scientist who serves as one of Darth Vader’s major rivals in the Darth Vader Marvel comics, is killed multiple times by the Sith Lord. Cylo uses cloning technology to preserve his consciousness over multiple bodies; when one is killed, the next would be activated, coming to life in its place. When Vader attacks Cylo’s cloning facility, he ends up killing multiple copies of the cyborg in quick succession. In another particularly gruesome instance, Vader uses the Force to take control of Cylo’s whale-ship. Darth Vader is able to overpower the will of the creature and forces it to fly directly into a star while Cylo is still inside it. Cylo is not able to control his cybernetic animal, and so he can only watch from the bridge as he careens into a sun. Vader looks on as the ship-animal and its owner fly to their death.
10. Assassinated the royal family of Shu-Toran
On the planet Shu-Toran, the King plotted to kill Darth Vader; when Vader learned of this plan, he had the King and his two eldest children, Prince Monthan and Princess Hollian, killed by his two assassin droids, 0-0-0 (or Triple Zero) and BT-1. Vader, however, kept the youngest child, Princess Trios alive. He chopped off her hand when she tried to kill him with a blaster. This was no act of mercy. Instead, Vader decided to let the girl live so that he would have a pawn who could rule the planet for the Empire.
Darth Vader demanded absolute loyalty from the newly crowned queen of Shu-Toran. Vader, with a certain flair for the dramatic, gave Queen Trios a parting gift: a piece of rubble from the planet Alderaan. He warned her that planets who resist Imperial rule were destroyed, and left the young woman to mourn her dead brother, sister, and father.
9. Killed His Own Troops
For Darth Vader, failure was not an option. The Sith Lord did not allow for insubordination, questions, or defeat. Displeasing Darth Vader was often and death sentence, and Vader killed people often enough that he garnered a reputation among Imperial forces. One such example is the execution of Admiral Kendal Ozzel. Ozzel was in command of the Super Star Destroyer Executor, Darth Vader’s personal flag ship. At the Battle of Hoth, Ozzel jumped the fleet too close to the planet, which alerted the Rebel forces to the Imperial invasion. Ozzel was “relieved of command” by Vader and replaced by Admiral Firmus Piett, who commanded the Executor until its destruction at the Battle of Endor.
Another unlucky Imperial, Captain Lorth Needa, went to apologize personally to Darth Vader after losing sight of the Millennium Falcon at the Battle of Hoth. With a cruel sense of humor, Darth Vader choked him to death using the Force while quipping, “Apology accepted, Captain Needa.”
8. …including Twisting a Stormtrooper’s Head Around 180 degrees
Not only would Darth Vader kill his officers for severely disappointing him or making grave mistakes, he would also kill people for small inconveniences. In one instance in the Darth Vader comics, a stormtrooper interrupts Vader while he is not wearing his helmet. Darth Vader considers this a serious enough offense that he uses the Force to turn the stormtroopers head around, breaking his neck and killing him instantly. The method for this execution is cruel and the mangled outcome is grotesque. However, perhaps the most disturbing thing of all is that the “crime” that the stormtrooper commits is insignificant at best.
Of course, this is clearly a power tactic that Vader uses to perpetuate fear and awe. However, it almost seems like a miracle that any Imperial troop could stay alive around Darth Vader for an extended period of time, as the most minor offense could lead to a sudden and deadly execution.
7. Tortured Han, Leia, and Chewie
In A New Hope (1977), Darth Vader tortures Princess Leia in order to find the hidden location of the Rebel base. While this proves to be unsuccessful, it helps to solidify Darth Vader’s evil in the first film: he is willing to use torture to get what he wants. The Darth Vader Marvel comic books back up this “first impression”. In the comics, Vader has two torture droids 0-0-0 (Triple Zero) and BT-1 who kill, maim, and torture on his command.
In The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Darth Vader uses torture again, but this time in a stranger and arguably more disturbing way. He subjects his prisoners, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, to instruments of torture on Cloud City, but he does not interrogate them. This is because he is not trying to learn new information, but instead he is trying to send a message, through the Force, to Luke Skywalker. By torturing Luke’s friends, Vader hopes to lure Luke into a trap. He is willing to have Luke’s friends suffer in order to use them as bait.
6. Force choked his wife, Padmé Amidala
While Darth Vader’s temper and violence often went hand-in-hand, there is one incredibly disturbing moment in Revenge of the Sith where he takes out his rage on his pregnant wife, Senator Padmé Amidala. In a film that has its fair share of violence, this single moment stands out. After all, Vader seems to use his love for Padmé as a shield as he descends into the dark side of the Force. It’s because of her and the fear of losing her that he needs power. However, in this pivotal moment, it becomes clear that Darth Vader is fuelled by jealousy, anger, and a lust for power. He is willing to hurt or kill anyone who stands in his way, even the woman that he loves and the child(ren) that she carries. This is perhaps Darth Vader’s most disturbing betrayal of all, and reveals him to be the hypocrite that he is.
5. Eviscerated Rebel Forces in “Vader Down”
Between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader learns that Luke Skywalker, the young pilot who is responsible for the destruction of the Death Star, is his son. In Vader Down, Darth Vader takes on the Rebel forces on the planet Vrogas Vos while trying to track Luke down. Single-handedly, Vader destroys Blue, Yellow, and Gray Squadrons – each squadron is made up of 32 pilots, so Vader destroys almost 100 Rebel ships! He also fights members of Cyan Squadron, a tank, and multiple platoons of Rebel forces, which based on the comic panels appear to number in the hundreds. To put it simply, Vader is an unstoppable killing machine.
Vader Down illustrates Darth Vader’s raw power, and his ability to destroy anything and anyone that gets in the way of his objectives. As a comic, it captures a larger scope of destruction than any Star Wars film.
4. Betrayed Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi
When Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, he betrayed the Jedi Order and condemned the Jedi to death. Some of these deaths Vader carried out personally, while others he condoned or helped to execute. But perhaps the two most disturbing betrayals are personal ones. First, moments before Darth Sidious proclaimed that Anakin Skywalker had become Darth Vader, Anakin cut off Mace Windu’s hand, betraying him. In turn, Sidious killed Jedi Master Windu, a man who had known Anakin since he was a boy and had helped to raise him. Mace Windu had saved Anakin’s life countless times in the Clone Wars.
Worse still, Anakin also betrayed his Jedi master and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. After leaving Tatooine, Obi-Wan served as Anakin’s parental figure, older brother, and fiercest defender. After attempting to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader later squares off with his old master in A New Hope. He does not hesitate when given the opportunity to strike Obi-Wan down.
3. Slaughtered the Tusken Raiders
In The Attack of the Clones, Darth Vader’s mother, Shmi Skywalker, is kidnapped by Tusken Raiders; she dies from injuries that she has sustained while being held hostage. Upon discovering this, her son, Anakin, is furious. In response, he kills all of the Tusken Raiders: men, women, and children. It’s a violent massacre that is fuelled by his desire for revenge. Not only is it against the code of the Jedi, but it is also a brutal loss of life. Afterwards, he is haunted by his rage and confesses what he has done to his wife.
In the Darth Vader comics, the Sith Lord still carries a grudge against Tusken Raiders. While on Tatooine to conduct business with Boba Fett, Darth Vader kills another village of Tusken Raiders, even though they have no affiliation with the kidnapping or death of his mother. The Raiders fear Vader and build a shrine to him, as they believe he is some sort of vengeful god.
2. Pushed Dr. Aphra Out the Air Lock
Dr. Chelli Aphra is an archaeologist who worked for Darth Vader during the reign of the Galactic Empire. When Dr. Aphra began working for Vader, she had no illusions about the Sith Lord, knowing that he would kill her as soon as she was no longer useful to him. She told him that when he killed her, however, that he should do it with his lightsaber, and not by ejecting her into space (a fate that she had always had nightmares about).
When Vader discovered that Dr. Aphra had betrayed her and had been dealing with the Emperor behind his back, he decided that it was time to end her life. Knowing her deepest fear, he ejected his servant into the cold abyss as she begged him not to.
Of course, as it turns out, this was all part of a plan on Aphra’s part. She knew that he would only let her go if he believed she was dead, and that he would only believe she was dead if he killed her himself, and so she had devised this scheme all along. She planted the idea in the Sith Lord’s head and had her associates pick her up in space.
1. Killed the younglings
During Order 66 (the command from Emperor Palpatine to destroy all Jedi), Anakin Skywalker commits an atrocity that truly solidifies him as the Sith apprentice, Darth Vader. At the command of Darth Sidious, the newly christened Darth Vader goes to the Jedi Temple and kills everyone he can find. As it turns out, “everyone” includes the “younglings”, the children who lived in the temple and studied to be Jedi.
One of the younglings, recognizing Anakin as a Jedi Master, goes to him and says, “Master Skywalker. There are too many of them. What are we going to do?” Anakin remains emotionless and he ignites his lightsaber before the scene cuts away.
While the actual killing is not shown, this scene is one of the major reasons that Revenge of the Sith was the first Star Wars to be rated PG-13. It was too disturbing for the typical PG rating, and helped audiences understand just how twisted a character Darth Vader was.
What do you think the most disturbing thing Darth Vader has ever done? Start a conversation in the comments!