Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s December release date is edging closer, with anticipation beginning to rise. And while fans can’t wait to see Rey and Kylo Ren face off again, the movie’s decision to bring Sheev Palpatine back into the fold over 30 years on from his apparent death in Return of the Jedi is what has set tongues wagging among even the most critical of viewers.
How Palpatine will return is a mystery, but there’s no denying he’s the best bad guy in Star Wars history. With that in mind, we now take a look at his top 10 moments throughout the franchise so far, explaining our choices as we go along.
10 The Grooming Begins
Palpatine knew Anakin Skywalker was strong with the force when he meets his future apprentice during 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Anakin is just a child at this point, but having already excelled at Podracing and helping the Republic tackle the Trade Federation, he was certainly no ordinary boy. And Palpatine begins his charm offensive towards Jake Lloyd’s character during this film.
Right at the very end, Palpatine says "we will watch your career with great interest", suggesting he had his heart set on making the teenager his apprentice right from the very off. The fact he says it with a mischievous smile, too, shows that he was confident in being able to transform Anakin into an evil Sith Lord. The grooming begins.
9 Starting the Clone Wars
With Padme Amidala going into hiding during Attack of the Clones following two unsuccessful attempts on her life, it’s left to Jar Jar Binks to act as her eyes and ears within the Senate. While Jar Jar is admittedly kind, he leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to brains and, with him in charge, Palpatine’s plot against democracy is able to take off.
Jar Jar ends up giving Palpatine more powers and he uses those to commence the Clone Wars right at the very end of the movie. This allows him to continue pitching both the Republic and their enemy forces against each other, until the war would come to be a distraction while he carried out his dastardly plan to rule the galaxy.
8 Telling Anakin to Kill Count Dooku
At the start of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker is hellbent on rescuing Palpatine from the clutches of Count Dooku who, besides kidnapping his father figure, had chopped the Jedi’s hand off during a showdown on Geonosis during Attack of the Clones.
Anakin and Dooku face off again and, when Kenobi is taken out of the battle, Skywalker embraces the dark side and allows his rage and anger to guide him to victory. He stops short of murdering his enemy when he manages to cut both of Dooku’s hands off but Palpatine, menacingly, urges him to do the deed. He duly does and it’s another key moment in Anakin’s slide towards the dark side.
7 Murdering the Jedi
Prior to Revenge of the Sith, we’d never ever seen Palpatine engage an enemy in lightsaber combat. After all, being so powerful and having force lightning in his weapon's repertoire, why would he ever need to draw a crimson blade? Well, it turns out in the final chapter of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy he’s actually sublime at fighting as well.
When confronted by Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar, and Saesee Tiin he doesn’t flinch. And he slays Kisto, Kolar, and Tiin with minimal fuss, dispatching them as if they were younglings rather than established members of the Jedi council. He then proceeds to have a big duel with Windu and shows another of his best qualities...
6 Manipulating Anakin Skywalker
It looks as if Windu is going to murder Palpatine, despite it not being the Jedi way. Samuel L. Jackson’s character believes it’s too dangerous to leave a person with as much sway and influence as the Sith Lord live and is about to slice through the dark side user, before Anakin Skywalker steps in to lob his hand off.
Palpatine manipulates Anakin. He pretends to be a weak old man and references Skywalker’s marriage to Padme Amidala, a secret unknown by the Jedi. Ultimately, the conflicted Republic hero chooses to back the Sith Lord due to the fact he can save the person he loves most from dying and this is the scene where Darth Vader is figuratively born.
5 Battling Yoda
Palpatine is Emperor and a man very much on top when Yoda pays him a visit in his Senator’s office. The little green Jedi shows his discontent for the Sith Lord by mercilessly knocking out one his guards and proceeding to fight his enemy with the sake of the galaxy on the line.
And the Sith Lord loves it. He engages Yoda in a fight using both his lightsaber and force lightning, eventually overcoming his opponent and living to fight another day. He’s pure evil within the sequence, goading the Jedi and expressing a confidence that his new apprentice, Darth Vader, would go on to eclipse. His happiness is short-lived, however, when he senses Anakin's imminent downfall on the lava planet of Mustafar.
4 The Smile
Nothing points out someone's evil nature like smiling at the misfortune of others. And Emperor Palpatine does exactly that, allowing his lips to form a menacing grin when he informs Darth Vader that his wife Padme, despite his vow to save her life, had died following his sudden attack on her.
This scene gives us chills - and the theories that arose afterward are partly to blame. Some believe that Palpatine actually drained Padme’s life in order to ensure Anakin's survival, who had sustained a damaging defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar. Whether this is true has never been clarified, but the smile, whatever it means, is certainly a symbol of villainy.
3 Goading Luke Skywalker
For most of the original trilogy, Palpatine is rarely seen with Darth Vader. However, he is introduced in The Empire Strikes Back before returning for a prominent role during Return of the Jedi.
At this point, Palpatine tries to turn Luke Skywalker against his father. He wickedly goads Luke, telling him that his friends are destined to die on the planet of Endor where the Rebel Alliance is facing off against the Empire and their thousands of Stormtroopers. He also insists that it’s Luke’s destiny to take the same path as his father, lauding the fact he’s been able to keep Vader by his side for so long. While it doesn’t work, it’s certainly additional proof of his wicked ways.
2 His Death
While we know Emperor Palpatine will be in The Rise of Skywalker one way or another, he definitely seems dead at the time of writing. And his demise, suffered at the hands of Darth Vader during Return of the Jedi, ranks as one of the most iconic scenes in Star Wars history.
It’s the moment where Vader, arguably the most iconic character within the whole franchise, changes sides. For years he’d worked as Palpatine’s puppet but the sight of his master inflicting such pain and suffering on Luke is what ultimately convinces him to take action, throwing the cackling bad guy down the chute of the Death Star and restoring peace to the galaxy as a result.
1 His Laugh In The Trailer
Disney really, really needs Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to deliver when it releases later this year. The Last Jedi was good critically but was panned by audiences to such an extent that many viewers stayed away when Solo: A Star Wars Story hit theatres just mere months later. The common consensus among fans at this moment in time is that, if the final movie of the sequel trilogy flops, all three movies will be remembered as one, big, waste of time.
But Palpatine’s laugh heard at the end of The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer, has got people interested again. That distinctive cackle was so unexpected, but so welcome, that Disney may end up saving the sequel trilogy after all. Only time will tell.