Listen, we all love the Jedi, dashing rogues, walking carpets, and sarcastic space princesses that make up the Star Wars universe’s roster of heroes. At the end of the day, we all want to see the side of good come out on top and maybe rejoice in their victory with an elaborate series of celebrations that were in no way inserted at the last minute in order to somehow justify the existence of the prequel trilogy.
Yet, more people seem to gravitate towards a great Star Wars villains. Does that speak to people’s inherent desire to act out our darkest impulses? Not really. It probably has more to do with the fact that there are some truly great villains in Star Wars lore. Among them, though, there is a reserved tier of true evil which few Star Wars villains can claim to occupy. These are the villains that make you actually feel kind of bad for being so fascinated by them. They may not always be the most thematically complex baddies in Star Wars mythology, but they are certainly the ones who set the bar for what being an evil Star Wars character truly means -- before they use that same bar to beat their enemies into submission.
These are the 15 Most Evil Characters In The Star Wars Universe.
15 Darth Nihilus
If you put aside that whole midi-chlorian thing – which is pleasantly easy to do – you’ll find that the Force is a pretty complicated concept. To some, it is a religion. Others see it as a source of power. Many view it as both. As for Knights of the Old Republic II's Darth Nihilus, he sees the Force as a twisted form of food.
Due to a childhood incident which left him too close to the fallout of a superweapon, Darth Nihilus has spent most of his life craving the Force. If he doesn’t suck the Force out of a person or place, he is left to suffer through some seriously dark memories. This hunger turned Nihilus into a kind of Force vampire, who would go so far as to absorb the essence of entire planets so long as it would suppress the hole that permanently occupies his soul. Nihilus is a living disturbance in the Force that echoes a scream of pain wherever he goes.
14 Darth Bane
Not only does Darth Bane have one of the greatest names in the entirety of the expanded Star Wars universe, but he’s one of the most important Sith Lords that ever lived. Like many great evil figures in Star Wars mythology, Bane wasn’t born into evil. In another life, he was a simple miner on an outer rim planet. However, a series of events led to him joining a Sith Academy and quickly becoming one of the most powerful young Sith in the galaxy.
Once that happened, there was no stopping Bane. Along with the usual string of murders and fear-inducing attacks, Bane is also the Sith Lord that saved the villainous race from irrelevance by introducing the “Rule of Two.” This is the rule that states that there must always be a Sith apprentice and a Sith master -- no more, no less. This rule triggered an eternal cycle of greed and betrayal that would lead to an escalating series of Sith successors.
13 Prince Xizor
Jabba the Hutt may be the most renowned syndicate leader in the Star Wars universe, but he’s certainly not the only organized crime boss out there. While Xizor didn’t receive the screen time that made Jabba such an infamous criminal, those who followed the Shadows of the Empire arc know that he is arguably the most powerful organized crime figure in all of Star Wars lore.
What makes Xizor so evil are his unpredictable methods. He was one of the first criminals to establish a close relationship with the Empire, but after Darth Vader destroyed his home following a disease outbreak, Xizor swore revenge. You may think this would result in him becoming a good guy, but you’d be wrong. Xizor’s revenge consisted of committing such actions as trying to kill Luke Skywalker before Vader could find him and helping the Empire build the second Death Star in order to gain favor with Palpatine. Everything that Xizor does is arranged in a way that ensures he will acquire more wealth and power.
12 Darth Vader
Ranking Darth Vader in terms of overall evil is a pretty tricky task. If you’re going off of the films alone, Anakin Skywalker’s descent into the dark side is largely portrayed as a story of loss and redemption. It’s difficult to view Vader as a figure of pure evil in the same way that the initial viewers of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back did. Now, he is mostly seen as a tragic figure.
However, there is no denying that Vader was a force of pure terror in his prime. Film fans will cite Vader’s betrayal of the Jedi Order and accompanying murder of children as his most evil deed, but the original Star Wars expanded universe contains some of Vader’s greatest horrors. The most famous Sith of them all, he was often on the frontlines of some of the Empire’s most unforgivable attacks, and he essentially became Sidious’ embodiment of fear. When Vader wasn’t hunting down the remaining Jedi, he was responsible for cleaning up any imperial mistakes and ensuring that those who spoke against the Emperor never had the chance to do so again.
11 Grand Admiral Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn is a deceivingly evil character. Actually, if he had served for the rebellion, he may very well be known as one of the most complex and fascinating heroes in all of Star Wars lore. Because Thrawn elected to serve the Empire, however, his entire personality is cast into a different light.
Thrawn is a brilliant military tactician whose ability to organize the perfect plan of attack stems from his ability to analyze every situation without emotional investment. Do not mistake his love of art and culture as a sign of goodness buried deep within. Thrawn only invests time in the things that will help him achieve a glorious victory. To that end, he has no patience for anyone who does not work as hard as he does. He has killed subordinates for their supposed lack of work ethic, and he can justify any horrific military action through victory.
10 Grand Moff Tarkin
Some young Star Wars fans used to question whether or not the members of the Empire knew they were evil. After all, surely there was no way that many people could so blindly serve a ruling body that regularly commits unspeakable acts of horrors. The truth is that the Empire was made up of those following orders and those who truly were devotees to the group’s cause. Grand Moff Tarkin is certainly an example of the latter.
Tarkin started his military career as a servant of the Republic, but soon became disgusted by the Jedi’s unwillingness to do whatever was necessary to win a war. Palpatine did what he could to foster these feelings of resentment and grow them into the ultimate military servant. By the time that the Empire was formed, Tarkin was convinced that he was on the one side that could bring peace to the galaxy. This is how he came to justify actions such as destroying entire planets as a show of military might.
9 Darth Malak
During the Mandalorian Wars, two young Jedi named Malak and Revan distinguished themselves as heroes of the Jedi Order. Malak was initially motivated by the Mandalorian’s destruction of his homeworld, and his thirst for vengeance inspired him to disobey direct orders so that he could hunt his enemies down wherever they roamed. Eventually, he and Revan traveled to the Unknown Regions of the galaxy in order to hunt down the remaining Mandalorians. While there, they became corrupted by ancient Sith Lords, and when they returned, they became the greatest threats the Jedi had ever known.
Malak may have been seen as Revan’s apprentice, but his desire to become Dark Lord eventually led to him killing Revan and committing unspeakable acts of horror. While his insecurity and jealousy haunted the villain to the end of his days, Malak's mistrust of himself inspired him to destroy entire planets and torture Jedi, all in the name of proving that he was a worthy Dark Lord whose power should never be questioned.
8 Armitage Hux
Whether or not you subscribe to the belief that The Force Awakens was an elaborate reimagining of A New Hope, it’s hard not to see the similarities between Armitage Hux and Grand Moff Tarkin. Both are humans who were seemingly born to be military leaders, and both have a particular disdain for those who would dare object to their methods, even if they so happen to be on the same side.
One could make the argument that Hux is an even more malicious person, however, due to the way that he so openly embraced the ideology of the Empire from the start. Hux was born into an imperial family and never lost faith, even when Palpatine and Vader fell. Instead, he managed to turn some already fearsome imperial troops into an even more merciless band of killers motivated by the belief that the only way to bring unity to the galaxy is to kill absolutely everyone who does not think like they do.
In a way, it’s hard to outright declare a bounty hunter to be good or evil. While these contracted killers often find themselves assisting evil people due to the nature of their particular skill set, the fact that bounty hunters are so often emotionally detached from their assignments makes their ruthlessly efficient murders the product of a different kind of evil. That said, Durge is an exception to the rule. Why? Well, because Durge is a straight-up madman.
Durge used his natural abilities and unnaturally enhanced battle armor to become one of the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunters. His obsession with killing Jango Fett led to him leading the armies of Count Dooku against the clones of Fett, which is about the time that Durge earned his other reputation as a being motivated almost entirely by pure bloodlust. The personal pleasure that Durge derives from murder and torture is far greater than his desire for wealth or professional accomplishments. He’s only happy when there is fresh death in the air.
6 Freedon Nadd
Like many eventual Dark Lords, Freedon Nadd began his life as a Jedi. But unlike many of the other Jedi turned Dark Lords we’ve seen on this list thus far, Nadd was not corrupted by some ancient dark presence or tortured into believing that the ways of the Sith were the way to go. Instead, Nadd just decided that the Jedi were holding him back, and that he would be better served locating a source of great dark power and acquiring as much energy as he could.
While the rebellion Nadd led against the Jedi and other forces of good certainly earned him a place among the most dangerous Dark Lords of all-time, the full extent of his evil wouldn’t reveal itself until after he had fallen. Nadd’s spirit lingered long after his death and aided in the corruption of some of the most promising young Jedi of the era. He was also known for emitting a cackling laugh whenever he accomplished some great evil deed, which isn’t something the great heroes of the galaxy typically do.
5 Darth Krayt
Darth Krayt was born a human named A’Sharad Hett. As the son of a Jedi Knight and a child who lived among the Tusken Raiders, he was seemingly destined to become a warrior. That destiny was accelerated when Hett’s father was killed. Soon thereafter, Hett became a general of the Republic and one of the most renowned frontline warriors of the Clone Wars. Even though he was one of the few Jedi to survive that war, he was soon captured and tortured by a race of aliens known as the Yuuzhan Vong. At the end of this ordeal, he emerged as the Dark Lord Krayt.
Once he broke bad, there was no stopping him. Krayt may very well be the greatest lightsaber duelist that ever lived, as well as a being of pure evil. He rose to the title of Emperor through the murder of his known and suspected enemies. Once on the throne, he enslaved and massacred entire populations to consolidate his power. His ultimate goal was to best death itself, in order ensure that his “power above all” philosophy lived on after he returned to the dust.
4 Exar Kun
Remember earlier when we mentioned that Freedon Nadd’s spirit went on to corrupt some promising young Jedi? Meet the most promising of the bunch. Exar Kun was an exceptionally bright and incredibly talented young Jedi who desired to learn as much as he could about the Sith simply because such knowledge was forbidden. During his search for the Sith ways, he encountered the spirit of Nadd who brought him to within an inch of his life and promised to heal him only when he embraced the dark side.
Never one to do anything half-heartedly, Kun decided to fully embrace the dark practices of the Force. His intelligence and natural abilities made him an inherently dangerous foe, but it was Kun’s fondness for falling deeper and deeper into the dark side so that he could learn all the Sith’s secrets which made him a great evil. The Jedi and civilians that Kun did not kill brutally often fell victim to the insanity his web of lies created. His actions sparked one of the greatest conflicts in Star Wars history and echoed through the ages.
3 The Grand Inquisitor
An inquisitor is generally not classified as either a Jedi or a Sith. They were a group of Force-sensitive agents who served the Galactic Empire by hunting down any Jedi which may have survived Order 66. As you might imagine, the Jedi that survived Order 66 were among some of the fiercest warriors in the galaxy. As such, the people that hunted them had to be pretty ruthless in their own right. Among them, none were more feared than the Grand Inquisitor.
The reason that the Grand Inquisitor was such an effective Jedi hunter is because he became obsessed with learning the Jedi’s methods, history, and fighting styles. He could stand toe-to-toe with any Jedi warrior, confident in the knowledge that he could come out on top. While the Inquisitor always preferred to recruit Jedi when possible, those that would not follow his lead were murdered. He was especially proficient at murdering Force-sensitive children. The only reason that the Inquisitor finally fell is because he was overwhelmed and allowed himself to be killed as to avoid the wrath of Vader.
Vitiate – also known as His Glorious Majesty and Immortal Master – went to great lengths later in his life to remove any existence of his early years. He reasoned that if people were able to associate him with humanity in any way, they may be more likely to defy him. Even from a young age, Vitiate was infamous for his cruelty and hatred of all those who surrounded him. He killed his entire family and then turned his sights on his peers in order to turn their pain into his amusement. After that, he got really nasty.
The one thing that Vitale seemed to fear was death. He refused to believe that he had to die, and he wasn’t even entirely convinced that he had to settle for being a spirit. Even the Sith were just tools in his grand scheme to rid the universe of all life in order to solidify his position as master of the Force. He was an exceptionally cruel (and exceptionally powerful) destroyer of hope.
1 Darth Sidious
What makes Darth Sidious the darkest character in all of Star Wars lore? That’s a fair question. In many ways, he’s a combination of the many great evils in Star Wars history. At a young age, he murdered his family solely for the honor of becoming Darth Plagueis’ apprentice. His training under Plagueis was basically glorified torture that Plaguis engineered to ensure Sidious did not become strong enough to murder him. Sidious survived this training and became something even more terrifying than a Dark Lord. He became a politician.
Sidious’ ability to influence is what really separates him. As a political figure who used his family name and vast wealth as weapons, he was able to put himself into a position where every piece he could ever need to assume complete control was within reach. As a Sith Lord, he oversaw the training of Darth Maul and Darth Vader; two of the most dangerous beings the Star Wars universe has ever known. He was always at the center of decades worth of galaxy-shaping evil activities.
Who do you think is the most evil being in the Star Wars universe? Let us know in the comments.