Emperor Palpatine is simply one of the greatest villains to ever grace the silver screen. Exceedingly manipulative, the power-hungry fiend rules his empire with an iron (and often electrified) fist, forcing even the proudest of people to grovel at his feet. Aside from all the cackling and Force lightning, Palpatine’s most defining feature is that he’s simply (and unashamedly) malicious and doesn't care about anyone or anything but himself. While that sounds like it might be one-dimensional or boring, the sheer joy that Palpatine has when doing wicked deeds makes him a fascinating character. He’s villainous for legitimately no reason at all. In fact, he had been a bad seed since birth.
Not only will we be showcasing his familial life, his callous attitude towards committing crimes, his brutal training, and the offensively monstrous training he inflicted on his own disciples, but the practically harsh steps he took toward developing his soulless, overly-selfish personality and his eventual career as a black-hearted politician.For our sources, we’re delving deep into both the new canon and the old expanded universe, otherwise known as Legends, so we can fully explore the mysterious past of Sheev Palpatine, and each and every suspicious dealing he took part in to engage in his bid for supreme power.
Before Death Stars, Darth Vaders, empires, clones, Trade Wars, and even Force lightning, Palpatine was just an incredibly bad person, and we’re counting down the worst of the worst with our list of 17 Wicked Things Palpatine Did Before Episode I.
17 Being Trained By Darth Plagueis
Sheev Palpatine was a troublesome person since the day he was born and his obsession with power drove him to research the mythic powers of the Sith. Eventually, his endless collecting and research would bear powerful fruits as the Sith Lord and Plagueis would train the soon-to-be Emperor in the ways of the Dark Side, unlocking his latent powers.
Naturally, Palpatine was merely using Plagueis for his own ends, plotting to overtake his master at the first chance he got, but before that moment arrived, Sheev would milk every last drop of information and theory from his teacher, making sure that he could truly be called a master himself.
16 Eliminating His Master
Palpatine faced harsh training from his master, Darth Plagueis. Focusing on intense dissociative manipulations, Plagueis put Sheev through dreadfully taxing situations, both physical and mental, but the youth seemed barely fazed by anything the Dark Lord threw at him.
As we said above, Palpatine was merely using Plagueis, and siphoning all of the information he could from him while waiting for the perfect time to strike. And strike he did. Without a second thought, Sheev Palpatine struck down Darth Plagueis, and prepared to use everything the fallen Lord had taught him for his own means of acquiring power. Much like almost every other relationship in Sheev’s life, the one between master and student was nothing more than parasitic and temporary.
15 Forming A Friendship With Tarkin
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin is one of Star Wars’ more iconic side characters. First seen as the chillingly cold commander of the Death Star and later brought back to life through CGI to reprise that role in Rogue One, Tarkin was known for his callous brutality and doctrine of fear.
A man like that was a perfect companion for the wretched Emperor Palpatine, and the future galactic ruler must have sensed this before his ascent to the throne as he was quick to forge a friendship and alliance with Tarkin well before either of them had acquired meaningful political might. Together, Tarkin and Palpatine committed unspeakable acts without batting an eyelash, and it’s all because Palpatine polluted the Grand Moff as quickly as he could.
14 Capturing Darth Maul
After the removal of Darth Plagueis, Sheev Palpatine, now known as Darth Sidious, sought out an apprentice of his own while putting in as many safety precautions as possible in order to prevent the “Rule of Two” from taking effect and ending his own life prematurely.
He visited Dathomir, a planet with strong ties to the Sith, in order to meet with Mother Talzin. Tricking her into believing that she would be his apprentice, he instead chose to take her son, the future Darth Maul, while he was still an infant. This apprentice would end up becoming one of the most iconic villains in the Star Wars saga, despite his minimal screen time.
13 Training Tactics Used On Darth Maul
In order for the infant Zabrak to become the fearsome Darth Maul, he needed to be trained and Darth Sidious, made sure the process would be exceedingly (and excessively) severe. The Zabrak race was known to have immense pain tolerance, and Palpatine was happy to put it to the test, but the extreme and intense training helped create a warrior that was not only exquisitely skilled, but exceptionally loyal.
Maul’s final trial involved the evasion of assassin droids, a lack of food, and a duel with his Master (that unknowingly took the ever-cognizant Palpatine by surprise), but in the end, a legend was born. Still though, the harsh tactics involved in training a teenager to be your perfect warrior serf is immensely despicable.
12 Converting Count Dooku
Darth Plagueis often went about in public with a disguise, where he went by the name of Hego Damask. It was in this guise that he helped Palpatine meet with then-Jedi Master Dooku. This first meeting wasn’t necessarily important, but it helped plant the seeds that would eventually convert Dooku and lead to the destruction of the Jedi Order and the Republic.
Palpatine sensed Dooku’s disenchantment with the Order, his political thoughts, and of course, generous resources, so the two would continue to meet and form a bond that would serve the Dark Lord of the Sith quite well. Eventually, Dooku would fall to the Dark Side with Sidious as his master, and the two would become one of the most complex and sinister schemes in the history of their galaxy.
11 Creating Anakin Skywalker
We’ll fully admit that this event is still debated within the Star Wars fandom, but we feel as though there is enough evidence to discuss it as if it were a confirmed fact, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
The act of creating life is far from a villainous one, but everything done by Sheev Palpatine is nothing short of manipulation. Using what he learned from his master (and his master’s obsession with eternal life), it’s not a stretch to believe he carried out the goal of literally creating “the chosen one.” One only needs to watch the scene where he describes the event in Episode III to confirm that he’s far too amused to have had no role.
10 Taking Over The Black Market
Before Sheev Palpatine had full command of the Dark Side, planet-eliminating battle stations, enormous armies, impossibly destructive fleets, and an entire galaxy at his fingertips, he was just a curious kid who had lusted for and sought out power at any chance he could get. His attention and interests were quickly turned toward the seemingly extinct Sith, and the boy used his tremendous financial resources to more-or-less abuse the black market and acquire every ancient artifact originating from the order he could find.
The more he bought, the more he researched and the more learned. With the black market under his financial might, there was seemingly nothing capable of stopping Sheev on his eventual path to the Dark Side.
9 Committing Countless Crimes With No Consequence
To say that Palpatine was “troubled” is to put the matter as lightly as conceivably possible. Indeed, from the very moment he was born, his father, Cosinga, had a feeling that something was off about the child. Despite this, the Palpatines were a prominent and well-off family, and they aimed to raise their son as such, sending him to prestigious academies for his education.
However, no matter what school it was, Sheev would be expelled due to acts that would have landed others in jail, but he was always bailed out thanks to his family name and their riches. Eventually, he would commit vehicular onslaughts using a speeder, and his father simply paid enough money to make things go away. This lack of consequence didn’t help the boy’s growing villainy, if anything, it only helped him discard what little humanity he had left.
8 Purging All Morality From Himself
After years of getting away with crimes and facing no punishment for any of his actions, Palpatine learned a dangerous and influencing lesson: money and power allowed him to get away with anything. Paired with feelings of infallibility and invincibility, Palpatine quickly took to the notion of being superior to everyone around him.
With these thoughts in mind, he purged all traditional morality from his life, going as far as telling Darth Vader that he didn’t consider himself sinful, but beyond morality as a whole. This is an absolutely scary thought, considering the countless acts that the Emperor would inflict upon the cosmos. Truly, he had become a remorseless monster, and didn’t dwell on that thought for a single moment.
7 Creating His Own Warped Code Of Ethics
As the Emperor, Sheev Palpatine, otherwise known as Darth Sidious, was known for his streaks of relentless and calculated brutality. Such acts of oppressive ruling often brought delight to the wicked old man, since he lacked any form of traditional morality. In fact, after purging what others would consider common decency, Palpatine crafted his own system of morality, a code of ethics in which he himself was the supreme being, and all others were below him.
Under this twisted system, as long as he and his machinations flourished, anything and everything was fine by him. This would be the pillar that he would base his entire plot for more power on, doing anything necessary, no matter how despicable, as long as it served him and gave him what he needed.
6 Taking Advantage Of Galactic Politics
This one seems like a no-brainer, but long before Trade Wars, Clone Wars, trillions of lost lives, the elimination of the Jedi, the disillusionment of the Senate, planetary destruction, and a reign of terror that would lead to the Galactic Civil War, Sheev Palpatine was undermining galactic politics on multiple levels, almost since the moment he became aware of what politics even were.
His major action was allowing he and his master’s choice for the King of Naboo to be crowned, but he was also keen on low-profile actions such as pretending to be a weak candidate during multiple elections in order to keep himself under the radar from those who might guess his true intentions. He would have a hand in many other political upsets, and they’d all serve the purpose of furthering his own cause.
5 Engineering Major Eliminations
While the undermining of galactic politics for Palpatine’s own selfish goals were often done with strategy and conventional methods, sometimes, the future Emperor would need to push for far more direct methods to manipulate certain outcomes in order to best serve him.
During his rise to the Galactic Senate, Palpatine put a bounty request against a rival who could theoretically impede his progress. After this was successfully carried out, Palpatine immediately filled the political void himself. Later, with the help of his equally conniving ally, Wilhuff Tarkin, the Trade Federation Directorate would be wiped out. This action would be key in setting up the looming crisis on Naboo, which was the first step in the actions leading to the formation of the Galactic Empire.
4 Perfecting The Art Of The Lie
Most, if not all, politicians lie. This has been a fact of life since the dawn of politics. This lack of truth is so historically rampant that we actually expect our elected officials to lie. The same lack of truth happens in the world of Star Wars’ politics as well, and Sheev Palpatine mastered the act long ago.
Despite his control of the Force and his penchant for violence, Emperor Palpatine was a politician, first and foremost, in every aspect of his life. Learning to expertly lie at a young age, Sheev infected many peers with his poisonous words, often conjuring up trust and sympathy where none existed; however, his mastery of the “art of the lie” was only one weapon in his strategic arsenal…
3 Manipulating Everyone And Everything To Serve Him
We’ve established that Emperor Palpatine, way back before the events of The Phantom Menace, was a political force to be reckoned with and one who freely used lies to further his own goals. While impressive, his greatest strength was his uncanny ability to manipulate everyone and everything in order to serve and push him towards ever-higher planes of power.
Darth Plagueis fell victim to this, as did Count Dooku, but so did countless politicians and even the populations of entire worlds, not to mention the Galactic Senate as a whole. As he honed and sharpened his dangerous manipulation skills, he would eventually manipulate two distinct political forces that would thrust the entire galaxy into a gigantic war that served literally no other purpose than to make himself the Emperor.
2 Wiping Out His Entire Family...
Sheev never truly got along with his family, and their lack of drive to acquire more influence or power enraged him to no end. He harbored increasingly vicious feelings toward his father for years, but he would later extend these desires to the entirety of his clan and carry out the deed in an explosive rage.
Cosinga had the family get on their yacht in an attempt to keep Sheev away from a critical election, and the two went at each other over it. Cosinga even went as far as to admit that he had wanted to slay Sheev, and this triggered the young Sith into using his command of the Dark Side to not only end his father, but his entire family, including their personal security team.
1 Getting Into Politics
What could be worse than wiping out one’s own family? Why, getting into politics, of course! If Palpatine’s father had slightly more drive with his own political career, it’s likely that Sheev would’ve been satisfied, growing up to be a normal, albeit immensely spoiled, person. Alas, that didn’t happen, and Palpatine entered the world of politics with the influence of the Dark Side behind him.
Already corrupt, the state and underbelly of galactic affairs allowed him to become evermore obsessed with increasing his personal power. Politics, mixed with his own warped desires, became a drug to him. If he had never gotten into this particular realm, the Star Wars galaxy may have been spared its years of unfathomable angst.
Which act do you consider Palpatine's most sinister? Tell us in the comments!