Ask anyone who the greatest villain of all time is and they’re likely to name Darth Vader almost immediately. Everything that makes him a great villain has been copied over and over again by writers for the last 40 years: his iconic costume, his shockingly evil actions, his ultimate redemption, and his blood relation to the hero. And yet, only a few movie villains (Thanos, Hannibal Lecter, Heath Ledger’s Joker) have even come close to topping Vader as the best. And no villain becomes great without a few unforgettable moments. So, here are Darth Vader’s 10 Greatest Moments, Ranked.
10 Boarding Tantive IV
Darth Vader is such an iconic villain that all he has to do is board a ship to give moviegoers an unforgettable moment. At the beginning of A New Hope, Tantive IV is under attack. C-3PO and R2-D2 are panicking, trying to find Princess Leia, and the Rebel troops are preparing for the Imperial assault. They face the first wave of Stormtroopers together, and then Darth Vader comes aboard the Rebel blockade runner. At this point, we don’t know who he is or what he wants, but we know that he’s definitely the bad guy and he definitely poses a threat.
9 Hiring bounty hunters to find the Millennium Falcon
Halfway through The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader hatches a plan to capture Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO and use them to lure in Luke. His plan was to then freeze Luke in carbonite and bring him to the Emperor. The plan wouldn’t work out exactly as he hoped – Han ended up in carbonite and Luke ended up getting away – but the first step introduced us to another fan-favorite Star Wars villain: Boba Fett. Vader hired Fett and a handful of other beloved bounty hunters to search the galaxy for the Millennium Falcon. According to the prequels, Fett knew the maneuver Han used to evade detection, because Obi-Wan used the same manuever to avoid his father Jango back in the day.
8 Getting advised by the Emperor
The first hint we got that there was someone even more evil than Darth Vader above him on the chain of command who’d been pulling the strings the entire time came in The Empire Strikes Back. The Emperor appeared on a hologram to Darth Vader, telling him that young Skywalker posed a threat to the Empire’s dominion of the galaxy. The recent sequel trilogy by Disney has tried to recreate the air of mystique created by this scene with Kylo Ren conversing with a giant hologram of Snoke, but they’ve failed, because they’ve simply ripped off this scene to far less effect.
7 Force-choking Admiral Motti
In an early scene in A New Hope, Darth Vader establishes himself as a formidable force to be reckoned with when Admiral Motti tries to question him. Vader chokes him with the Force, proving that he is not the kind of guy whose leadership you question. Whatever he says, goes.
Vader tells Motti, “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” which is easily one of the most memorable quotes in the entire saga. Any scene involving a bunch of Imperial officers tends to be boring and forgettable, because they’re narrow-minded bureaucrats and therefore not interesting to watch, but this one is iconic.
6 Looking at Luke with his own eyes
Very few movies manage to make you sad when the villain dies, but Return of the Jedi manages it. The first two movies in the original Star Wars trilogy build up Darth Vader as a terrifying and formidable villain who will stop at nothing to destroy our heroes. But when it comes down to it in the third movie, he achieves redemption, sacrificing himself to save Luke’s life. As Luke joins Vader’s side, with his dying breath, his father tells him, “Just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes.” He removes his mask and, as he passes away, gazes upon his heroic son.
5 Slaughtering a hallway full of Rebel troops
There’s no arguing that Rogue One is the best of Disney’s Star Wars movies thus far. It’s just familiar enough, and yet just fresh enough to distinguish itself as a worthwhile installment that honors the saga’s rich legacy. The new characters and their plot to steal the Death Star plans are great, but there’s also little debate that Darth Vader is the best thing in the movie. His final moments, as he boards the Rebel command ship and emerges from a cloud of red mist to decimate a platoon of Rebel troops, are instantly memorable. Tantive IV barely gets away with the Death Star plans.
4 Killing Obi-Wan
No one is advocating the death of Obi-Wan, but in terms of the plot and character development, it’s an incredible moment. This is one of the few things in the original trilogy that is actually improved by the context provided by the prequel trilogy. When Obi-Wan faces Darth Vader on the Death Star, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since their duel on Mustafar. Back then, Obi-Wan could’ve killed Anakin, but he spared his life just enough that he had to wear a head-to-toe robotic black suit to breathe. When Anakin had the upper hand this time as Darth Vader, he didn’t show the same mercy.
3 Becoming Darth Vader
At the end of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker completes his journey to the Dark Side by promising his allegiance to Palpatine, turning his back on the Jedi, and slaying all the younglings. Following his lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar, Anakin has no arms or legs, and his insides are being eaten up by lava.
So, Palpatine gets him on board his ship, where his medical droids put Anakin in a special suit that will keep him alive and well. Palpatine addresses Anakin as Darth Vader, and the most evil man in the galaxy, the most powerful Sith Lord that ever lived, is born.
2 Throwing the Emperor down a reactor core shaft
During the final battle sequence of Return of the Jedi, it becomes pretty obvious that Darth Vader has never been 100% evil. He was just being controlled by a smarter, even more evil guy the whole time: Emperor Palpatine. From the beginning, Luke could see the good in Vader. He knew the promising young Jedi he used to be was still in there somewhere. The heroic Anakin came back when the Emperor was torturing Luke with Force lightning and he couldn’t bear to see his son in such agony. So, he picked up the Emperor and threw him down a reactor core shaft, achieving redemption.
1 Telling Luke he’s his father
Towards the end of The Empire Strikes Back, in what is perhaps the greatest plot twist in the history of cinema, Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker that he is his biological father. Initially, Obi-Wan had told Luke that Vader killed his father, but that was a white lie to protect him from the truth. Until this twist, viewers have just assumed that Vader is just an evil villain. But the revelation that he’s Luke’s father humanizes him. We realize that this is just a regular guy with a family, so maybe there is hope for his redemption after all.