Darth Vader is easily one of the most classic villains in pop culture, for both hardcore Star Wars fans and casual followers of the franchise.
His first appearance in A New Hope prompted many a fan to mimic his breathing. His latest spine-chilling cameo in Rogue One has inspired a new generation of young nerds to wave around a bright red lightsaber in the aisles of their local toy store.
With a pitch-black suit fully encasing him for much of the original trilogy, Darth Vader’s air of enigma captivates audiences until the shocking reveal at the end of Return of the Jedi, when he’s revealed to be a heavily scarred old man.
Many questions have been raised about his anatomy ever since, especially with the release of the prequel trilogy showing audiences Anakin’s body before the various injuries he sustained on Mustafar. Fortunately, as Lucas Arts expands, fans are getting more and more tie-in materials with information about their favorite galaxy far, far away, including books that provide insight into Vader’s menacing figure.
Although some of the facts revealed over the years have shown off awe-inspiring levels of technological creativity, some of them hammer home just how human this supervillain is. If you’re a little on the squeamish side, proceed with caution! The list includes some mentions of bodily functions that might make it hard for you to stomach your dinner. In addition, much of the information below is now regarded as part of Legends.
Here are 20 Crazy Facts Only Superfans Know About Darth Vader’s Body.
20 More Machine Than Man
Cylo is one of the scientists charged with saving Vader’s life after his unfortunate duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar. He himself is a hybrid of sorts, having grafts from multiple alien species along with several cybernetic additions to his body. He’s even achieved some semblance of immortality, creating a system that activates a new body with his personality when his last one perishes.
In the Star Wars: Darth Vader comic series, Cylo asserts that Vader is comprised mostly of machinery rather than his original organic flesh.
Since the scientist is a leading figure in the field who personally worked on Vader’s life support suit, it’s safe to say that his judgment of the state of Vader’s body is accurate. Plus, Obi-Wan evidently agrees with the sentiment in Return of the Jedi.
19 Vader Favors Jedi Prosthetics
Following Star Wars tradition, Anakin Skywalker loses his organic right arm in a fight with Dooku. As a result, he’s given a mechno-arm that allows him to register feeling.
After joining the dark side, Vader is given an upgraded prosthetic, which is then promptly lopped off by Tsui Choi.
Then he gets a replacement prosthetic. And then he loses it. And then he gets a replacement. And then he loses it again, this time to Luke Skywalker on Mimban. Of course, there’s also that iconic duel in Return of the Jedi.
Despite the many upgraded replacements he’s received, in Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Vader apparently favors his original mechno-arm he got as Anakin. It’s a custom-made piece which Anakin customizes as time goes on, allowing him to feel at ease with it.
18 The Glove of Darth Vader
After Vader loses his right hand to Luke during the Battle of Endor, his prosthesis falls down a shaft in Palpatine’s throne room. Since the Death Star is blown up afterward, it’s easy to assume that Vader’s hand is also destroyed in the destruction. However, according to The Glove of Darth Vader, the glove took on a lot of symbolic power and is scavenged from an ion deactivator.
As it turns out, the glove is pulled into a wormhole, allowing it to survive the wreckage of the Death Star.
Many fights over the glove ensue in the book, but perhaps most curiously, it’s all part of Palpatine’s grand plan. He’s revived himself and plans to use the glove to fortify his body and heal from his defeat on the Death Star.
17 His Body Is A Mix Of Parts
Vader receives many upgrades to his suit and his body as the years go by, and one of them is a little more sinister than a routine hardware scan and update.
In Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, a canonical comic, he destroys Arex, a Jedi training droid, to repair himself.
Vader first throws Arex off a mountain, and then gets thrown off of it himself by Jedi Master Infil’a. He lands near Arex, and realizes that the droid is still functioning despite the fall. Arex, being programmed to stand firmly with the Jedi, informs Vader that he’s been defeated by a Jedi. Naturally Vader crushes Arex in response, using its parts to fix the damage caused by the fall.
16 Yes, He Can Eat
The injuries Vader sustains on Mustafar are so serious that he needs his suit to stay alive. The only place where he can take off his helmet for extended periods of time is his meditation chamber, also known as a hyperbaric chamber.
Dark Lord:The Rise of Darth Vader confirms that he is still able to eat food with his mouth as long as he does it in the chamber so he can survive.
However, it’s not realistic for him to remove his helmet and retreat into his chamber every time his tummy growls. As a result, it’s more convenient for him to get the necessary nutrients via intravenous injection.
That said, in Princess Leia, Imperial Servant, Vader does have a reputation for claiming to never consume any food or drink.
15 Yes, He Produces Waste
Food and water are vital to human life, and as the popular children’s book reminds us, everyone poops. And that includes the mighty Darth Vader, even if it’s not something fans necessarily want to think about.
According to Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, the eponymous Dark Lord relies on catheters to urinate. As for his solid waste, he needs collection pouches. His suit also includes recyclers, an understandably vital feature since it’s not realistic to clean out his suit all the time.
Astronauts in our own galaxy already recycle their own urine to save resources in a cramped living space, so if it’s good enough for some of the brightest people in our world, it’s surely good enough for the Dark Lord himself.
14 He Has Full Control Over His Limbs
Just like how Anakin could feel through his original mechno-arm, Vader has full control over his prosthetic limbs thanks to some incredible technology.
In Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, his prostheses have modules that communicate with the damaged nerve endings in his organic limbs.
Scientists have implanted neural links in what remains of his organic limbs, allowing communication between Vader’s brain and his cybernetic limbs.
Vader does struggle in the suit, though. According to Star Wars Blueprints: The Ultimate Collection, the suit weighs 120 kilograms, or 265 pounds. Fortunately, the prostheses are made similarly to the human form, meaning Vader can twist and rotate his various joints as if he hadn’t been injured -- giving him one less thing to worry about.
13 It's Hard To Raise His Arms
Vader’s gait is a bit clunky due to his giant life support suit, and it’s not hard to imagine that his arms are a little restricted as well, even with all the technology the Sith have utilized for him.
Despite being a feared fighter, Vader has trouble lifting his arms over his head in Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, and avoids doing it unless absolutely necessary.
The inflexibility and sheer weight of the armor restricts his movements so much that he has needed to modify his fighting style since his Jedi days. Though he does wield his lightsaber with terrifying skill, he rarely actually lifts it all the way above his head as he did as Anakin.
12 He Can Still Shrug
Vader is notoriously stoic in the movies, a trait that has made him all the more intimidating to audiences. His vocoder renders his voice a deep baritone and his physical stillness makes our skin crawl. However, in the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope novelization, he’s able to shrug his shoulders.
Although neither the most awe-inspiring of sights nor the most vital of motions, it’s still funny to picture the Sith Lord shrugging his shoulders in his heavy black suit.
If anything, it allows him to express a greater range of emotions than fans would expect. It might undercut his authority a little, but only briefly— it’d be hard to laugh for long under Vader’s watch.
11 Superhuman Strength
Yes, Vader struggles under the weight of the suit itself, but luckily for him, it also provides a certain amount of augmented physical strength.
According to The New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology, the armor is interlaced with impulse generators to that stimulate Vader’s muscles and help with his physical agility and strength. Darth Vader: A 3-D Reconstruction Log states that Vader can even adjust the pistons in his forearms to grant him even greater upper body strength.
In fact, in his very first appearance in A New Hope, Vader lifts a fully-grown human man off the floor with just one arm, and there’s no indication that he’s channeling the Force to increase his physical strength.
10 The Suit Is Padded
Since Vader’s prostheses are skeletal, much like the mechno-arm he has as Anakin, there is padding in his suit to add definition to his features.
According to Darth Vader: A 3-D Reconstruction Log, apart from aesthetic purposes, the added padding also helps to conceal which parts of Vader are cybernetic.
Having a figure that most would regard as disproportionate could potentially undercut the stoic, intimidating aura that Vader has cultivated.
Hiding the extent of his prostheses helps to maintain an air of mystery.
In addition, the padding could help conceal any potential weakness from his enemies, who might plan a course of attack targeting specific features of his hybrid body. The padding isn’t just for looks—it also serves a practical purpose.
9 There Is Sith Alchemy Invovled
According to the in-universe book The Creation of Monsters, written by Palpatine and found in the real-life book Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, there’s some Sith alchemy incorporated into Vader’s creation.
Darth Vader: A 3-D Reconstruction Log mentions the rumor that parts of Vader’s suit are reinforced with alchemy by the dark side, using methods that are unknown to most.
The rumors spread across the Star Wars galaxy appear to be true, to a certain extent. He doesn’t specify which elements of Vader are the result of Sith alchemy, but Palpatine writes in the volume that Vader is not entirely alchemical, implying that there are elements of Sith alchemy involved in his transformation from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader.
8 Necrotic Flesh Must Be Cleaned Off
Having been burned severely by the lava on Mustafar, Anakin lost a lot of organic skin. As a result, he’s given synthskin during his recovery to replace the organic skin that’s damaged beyond repair during his duel with Obi-Wan.
In Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, it’s revealed that the sythskin is far from perfect: it apparently itches wildly.
Any necrotic flesh has to be scrubbed off of his body.
In our world, necrosis can be fatal if not dealt with accordingly. While the Star Wars universe has a myriad of technological advantages, it seems that they still have not developed a way to reverse necrosis, even with mystical abilities related to the Force.
7 A Neurotoxin For Pain Management
Anakin’s physical transformation into Darth Vader doesn’t just involve healing his injuries. During the reconstruction process, much of his body is also artificially augmented and reinforced, including parts of his original organic body. For example, Darth Vader: A 3-D Reconstruction Log reveals that his organic bones are reinforced.
Another noteworthy augmentation is the use of an artificial neurotoxin named Kouhunin. Apparently, there is a cartridge that injects this neurotoxin in order to help decrease Vader’s pain perception.
It’s no wonder then that Vader is able to continue to mow down his enemies even when his suit is severely compromised, like in his duel with Galen Marek. Similarly, in canon, Luke injures Vader during their fight on Bespin, making Vader cry out in pain, but he is still able to keep fighting.
6 He Can't Sleep Because Of His Breathing
One of Vader’s most recognizable features is his heavy wheezing breath, thanks to the suit that keeps him alive after his lungs are rendered damaged beyond repair on Mustafar.
It’s a sound that invokes terror and dread due to Vader’s reputation.
In one of the most memorable and spine-chilling scenes in Rogue One, the Rebels are stuck in a darkened hallway, and all they can hear is the alarm and the whoosh of Vader’s breathing before perishing at his hands.
The loud breathing has its downsides, though. In Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Vader is trouble resting and sleeping because of how loud and grating the sound of his breathing is to even his own ears.
5 He Also Has Ear Implants
Vader is so badly wounded from his duel with Obi-Wan that he relies on countless augmentations to keep in alive. Among the many reconstructive procedures is the addition of auditory implants directly into his inner ear, according to Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader.
His eardrums have been melted beyond any hope of repair on Mustafar, so the implants have to bypass the outer ear entirely. In Return of the Jedi, when Luke takes off Vader’s mask, the audience can also clearly see that his ears have also been affected despite attempts to rebuild the cartilage. Even if his eardrums had remained intact, he’d still have trouble gathering and directing sound towards the eardrums.
Unfortunately, the implants he receives are not of the highest quality.
4 His Hearing is pretty bad
Not only is Vader bothered by the sound of his own breathing, but to add salt to wound, his hearing isn’t even that good in the first place.
In Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, noises sound as if they’re underwater to Vader, and the auditory sensors register way too much background noise.
As a result, Vader would have trouble determining where the sounds are coming from, adding yet another disadvantage against him in combat.
Because the sensors are so sensitive, Vader is badgered by incessant feedback, and an odd echo is added to the noises. You’d think that Sith technology would have eliminated such major problems that inhibit Vader’s abilities.
3 The Suit Might Be Weakened On Purpose
Vader thinks so, too. In Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Vader suspects that Darth Sidious, aka Palpatine, designed such a heavily flawed suit on purpose in order to restrict Vader’s abilities.
However, in The Creation of Monsters, Palpatine does lament that Vader fails to live up to all the potential that he had seen in Anakin. Perhaps Palpatine really has done all he can, since he so deeply desires a powerful henchman by his side.
That said, Palpatine does add that he thinks it’s his own fault that Vader betrayed his master at the end of Return of the Jedi, and that he would gladly create Vader again.
Perhaps the second time around, Palpatine would use the suit to monitor Vader even more closely.
2 He Could've Gotten An Upgrade
Despite all the faults of the life support suit that encloses his body, Vader decides not to follow through with a major upgrade opportunity in Death Star, instead opting to continue with routine maintenance and minor updates to his original suit.
He could have had a brand new suit with better technology and greater comfort, but Vader concludes that the procedure is too risky and potentially fatal.
In order to put on the new suit, he’d have to get his prostheses removed and his life support systems disabled, putting him in a highly vulnerable state.
Given Vader’s distrust of even his own Sith Master, it makes sense that he’d be suspicious of anyone involved in a procedure that renders him so defenseless.
1 He Can Smell
Many of his bodily senses have been gravely affected by the wounds sustained on Mustafar, but one of them that remains is his sense of smell, as revealed in the short story In His Images, which can be found in of Vader: The Ultimate Guide.
Of course, the Sith aren’t content with the senses of the average human, especially not for one of their most prominent enforcers. In addition to lenses that allowed Vader to see infrared and ultraviolet light, the mask also houses a device that boosts Vader’s sense of smell.
Let’s hope his advanced olfactory abilities are more discriminating than his auditory ones. After all, the chaos that Vader leaves in his wake also entails some truly unsavory smells.
Do you know any other weird facts about Darth Vader from Star Wars? Tell us in the comments!