The Star Wars saga is coming to an end with The Rise of Skywalker now just over a month away. Despite the mixed reception to The Last Jedi, fans seem on board with the blockbuster and willing to place their faith in JJ Abrams delivering a satisfying conclusion to a franchise that has so far spanned over 40 years, 10 movies and 100s of fascinating characters.
With that in mind, we now take a look at the best bad guys we’ve seen on-screen over the last four decades.
10 Supreme Leader Snoke
Supreme Leader Snoke was introduced in The Force Awakens and his disfigured face, villainous persona, and resemblances to Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader immediately had fans speculating. Who was he? Just who was this person who had turned Ben Solo to the dark side, just as the Emperor did with Anakin Skywalker all those years ago?
Well, we still don’t know our answer. Snoke had charisma and on-screen presence but was killed by Kylo without us getting an explanation. That’s why he doesn’t rank higher and, truth be told, Andy Serkis’ character is lucky to edge into this list over Krennic, Boba Fett, and Hux given how little we got of him. Still, we liked what we saw.
9 Darth Maul
Before the release of The Phantom Menace back in 1999, everybody was hyped to see what Darth Maul would be like. His action figures and other merchandise material all sold well with people intrigued to see what the bad guy of the prequel trilogy would be like compared to Darth Vader, the antagonist of the originals movies.
Well, he didn’t last long. Maul showed just how cool he was with some insane lightsaber skills, defeating Qui-Gon Jinn during a fiery showdown on Naboo, but was beaten by Obi-Wan Kenobi. George Lucas intended for the Sith Lord to stay dead, but he was brought back to the big screen by Disney for Solo: A Star Wars Story having previously popped up in The Clone Wars animated series. A case of what might have been.
8 Count Dooku
Something that made the abrupt end of Darth Maul relatively okay was the news that the amazing Christopher Lee would be portraying a villainous character named Count Dooku for 2002’s Attack of the Clones. Given Lee’s stock within Hollywood, it seemed a shrewd decision following the mixed backlash to the previous movie.
Lee is awesome in that blockbuster, showing Dooku to be an intriguing character who, while on a part of the dark side, also has flickers of light within. He’d probably be higher if he hadn’t been killed so easily by Anakin Skywalker during the early stages of Revenge of the Sith.
7 Jango Fett
While we loved Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, he was still overshadowed by another bad guy within Attack of the Clones. Of course, we’re referring to Bounty Hunter Jango Fett, who had a lot more time on the big screen compared to his son, Boba, during the original trilogy.
Jango was one of the best things about the second prequel movie. He’s an awesome fighter, as shown when he’s able to get away from Obi-Wan Kenobi on Kamino. He’s got cool weapons and a cool ship, too. It’s just a shame that he didn’t play a big part in the Geonosis battle at the end of the film, with Mace Windu mercilessly beheading him on the field of action before things really got going.
6 General Grievous
Even to this day, General Grievous still stands out as a brilliant villain. With his cyborg armor, coupled with the fact that he is able to wield four lightsabers at the same time, he looked as if he’d be a formidable opponent for the heroes of the galaxy to defeat.
Yet the small caveat with Grievous is that he isn’t in Revenge of the Sith for very long. The scenes he is in are extremely entertaining, such as his showdown with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker above the skies and his skirmish with Kenobi on Utapau, but he isn’t in the blockbuster as much as he should be.
5 Jabba The Hutt
A Star Wars bad guy doesn’t necessarily have to be in the thick of things all the way through, and Jabba the Hutt is a prime example of that. He makes a fleeting appearance in A New Hope, is absent from The Empire Strikes Back, but returns with a bang—or a thud—for Return of the Jedi in 1983.
He’s everything you want from a bad guy. He’s cold, calculating and takes great pleasure in the suffering of others. He openly laughs at Leia’s attempt to rescue Han Solo and goes one step further when he makes her his slave. Thankfully she gets the last laugh, using her shackles to choke Jabba to death before escaping his sail barge with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian in tow.
4 Grand Moff Tarkin
Here’s the man who is the very reason that Orson Krennic didn’t make the final cut of this list. Grand Moff Tarkin and his fellow Empire heavyweight would likely have been neck and neck if it wasn’t for Rogue One which, while it deployed some questionable use of CGI, enhanced Peter Cushing’s character even more.
Tarkin, in that movie, is abhorrent. He relishes taking over the Death Star controls and clearly enjoys sentencing Krennic to death on Scarif. In A New Hope, he’s even worse. He giddily uses the Death Star to destroy Leia Organa’s home planet of Alderaan, shocking Obi-Wan Kenobi with his evil. Thankfully for the good guys, they’re able to get their revenge by blowing up the first Death Star—with him on it.
3 Kylo Ren
Like many characters within the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Kylo Ren is rather divisive. His mood literally seems to change from one scene to the next, just like in The Last Jedi. One minute he’s calm and composed, killing Supreme Leader Snoke, the next he’s screaming in anger as he demands Luke Skywalker be murdered on Crait.
It’s because of that why Kylo comes in third. He’s genuinely fascinating to watch because you never know what you’re going to get. Even two movies into the sequel trilogy, Ben Solo comes across as conflicted, and it will be interesting to see what JJ Abrams decides to do with his character for The Rise of Skywalker.
2 2: Darth Vader
This was difficult. Choosing between Darth Vader and the Emperor as Star Wars’ ultimate villain is like choosing between chocolate and candy—you just love both equally as much. Yet, Vader has to take the silver medal here because, ultimately, his act of redemption costs him the top prize.
Vader is bad throughout pretty much all three of the original trilogy movies, murdering countless victims, and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake as he hunts down Luke Skywalker. He’d have taken the No. 1 spot if it weren't for the very end of Return of the Jedi when he sheds his evil identity to return to being Anakin Skywalker. If you’re to be the king bad guy, you can’t have one shred of light inside you.
1 Emperor Palpatine
And that’s why Emperor Palpatine comes top of the list. He’s back for The Rise of Skywalker, and we’re excited to see how Disney explains his absence from the previous two movies. Because, so far, he’s been villainous all the way through.
Take the prequels: he started his manipulation of Anakin Skywalker while the character was still Jake Lloyd, rather than Hayden Christensen. He then orders the death of every Jedi Knight around the galaxy and even subjects Anakin to torture when he ensures he’s fixed up after his fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi without any anesthetic.
In the originals, he’s a cackling, nasty individual. He would have succeeded in defeating the Rebel Alliance if it wasn’t for the late intervention of Vader. We can’t wait to see how he plans to bounce back...