Ever since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace debuted (for better or worse), fans have endlessly debated on important question: which Sith Lord is cooler?
The original recipe Darth Vader, scourge of the Jedi, murderer of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and father to a pair of Force Sensitive galactic heroes? Or Darth Maul, the mysterious, titular Phantom Menace who strikes from the shadows, wields the coolest lightsaber in Star Wars history, and sports devilish red and black tattoos all over his body?
There’s no easy answer to this questions, but that hasn’t stopped fans from arguing the point back and forth over the years and years that have passed since Maul’s very brief appearance in a Star Wars movie. While the character is only a brief blip on the cinematic history of the franchise, Darth Maul has turned up in countless comics, video games, and TV shows, all helping to build up his legacy as a force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, of course, Darth Vader has continued to be the face of the franchise, appearing in some form or other (even if it’s just as a burnt mask) in every Star Wars movie to date (unless you count Caravan of Courage). Vader’s fame and notoriety have reached far over the years, and he is without a doubt the more recognizable character of the two.
However, fame isn’t everything, and while Darth Maul’s appearance in the movies is short and sweet, this also means that he’s not weighed down by a cinematic backstory that amounts to little more than character assassination.
With that in mind, here are the 15 Reasons Darth Maul Is Better Than Darth Vader.
15. Darth Maul Looks Cooler
There are few sights in Star Wars lore as instantly recognizable as Darth Vader. The imposing black mask is etched into the minds of fans across the world the moment he first appears on screen in the original Star Wars: A New Hope, and even his clunky, rattling breathing noise has passed into mainstream cultural legend.
That said, as iconic as Darth Vader might be, Darth Maul genuinely looks cooler. His red and black markings, glowing yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and pointed horns all create a far more eye-catching design.
Even when trying to conceal his face behind a hood, Maul’s striking appearance gleams out from underneath, making for some of the coolest visuals in The Phantom Menace (and let’s face it: the visuals are the best thing about that movie).
14. Darth Maul is Motivated By Revenge, Not Mommy Issues
One of the big downsides of the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films is the backstory that we get for Darth Vader. Once an imposing, terrifying monster who is “more machine now than man,” Vader has been reduced to a figure of ridicule, with many memes bouncing around among fans that center on the character’s hatred of sand, and horrendous insecurities surrounding his mother.
George Lucas attempted to make Vader a tragic figure by building up his family relationship, but all it did was make fans want to punch Anakin Skywalker for being so whiney.
By contrast, Darth Maul’s entire motivation is vengeance – a far more suitable desire for an evil villain. In The Phantom Menace, Maul is eager to at last have revenge on the Jedi, and when that doesn’t go his way, his subsequent appearances in animated TV shows Clone Wars and Rebels are defined by a desire for revenge on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Sidious.
13. Darth Maul is Far More Impressive in a Fight
Back before the prequel movies, it was easy to see Darth Vader as an exciting, dangerous adversary in a lightsaber fight – his battle with Obi Wan in A New Hope felt tense at the time, while his fights with Luke Skywalker, particularly in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke is hopelessly outmatched, show Vader as a force to be reckoned with.
Then, of course, that iconic scene in The Phantom Menace blew audiences away. Here, instead, we got a Sith Lord who was fast, agile, and very skilled with a double-sided lightsaber, and Vader’s slow, stumbling swordfighting quickly became obsolete in the eyes of many fans.
To this day, Maul’s lightsaber fight is one of the most impressive, well-choreographed fights in the Star Wars saga, and it’s safe to say that, without any bulky armor and machinery weighing him down, Maul is far more fun to watch flip and slash his way through a fight scene.
12. Maul Doesn’t Yell When Things Go Wrong
There are some times when it would be better for Vader to keep quiet rather than shouting emotionally when something goes wrong.
First came the scene in Revenge of the Sith where a newly built Vader cries out after learning of Padme’s death – just a single, drawn out “No!” was enough to put fans off the scene very quickly. Then, because he can’t stop meddling, George Lucas added a similar “No!” to the end of Return of the Jedi, because of symmetry… or something.
Darth Maul doesn’t get emotional in the same way. He doesn’t scream and shout every time something goes wrong. The most you’ll get is a quick breath of air as he’s sliced in half, before he tumbles wordlessly down a bottomless pit. It’s hard to argue with this stoic approach to villainy when Darth Vader is shouting and wailing every time he gets upset.
11. Double Bladed Lightsabers Are Awesome
Lightsabers are one of the coolest things about Star Wars. It’s hard not to love a glowing energy weapon that can cut through pretty much anything, and that hums and crackles with power the entire time it’s being used.
What’s cooler than one of these weapons? How about two, strapped together, which are whirled around like a deadly glowing laser staff.
It’s almost a shame that the moment of Maul’s lightsaber reveal was spoiled in the original trailer for The Phantom Menace – it’s hard to watch the movie, and every scene featuring Maul, without impatiently anticipating the next exciting moment that his weapon will be lit up in its entirety, as the Dark Lord takes on two Jedi at once.
10. Duel of the Fates is John Williams at his Best
A lot of elements of the prequel trilogy dipped in quality. The acting and writing certainly don’t compare favorably with the original Star Wars movies. One thing, though, that has never wavered throughout the franchise, is the incredible score provided by legendary composer John Williams.
If anything, the prequels’ music surpasses that which came before, as a more experienced Williams manages to produce a more nuanced, bittersweet score that sizzles with beauty and excitement.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than Duel of the Fates, perhaps the most famous piece of music from the prequels, and the ultimate lightsaber battle music. To this day, whenever two Star Wars fans pick up a pair of sticks or toy lightsabers, they’ll recite the staccato choir singing from Darth Maul’s most famous battle.
Yes, Lord Vader is flanked by the Imperial March, perhaps the most evil music ever committed to film since the Jaws soundtrack (another classic Williams composition). Vader’s theme tune, though, is little more than a celebration of evil, and it’s not exactly motivating and exhilarating.
9. Darth Maul’s History is a Mystery
One of the problems of being popular in the Star Wars universe is that, eventually, someone is going to explore your backstory, and it’s going to suck some of the fun out of a character.
The prequel trilogy is built around telling the story of the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, and suddenly, the dark, fierce, and terrifying villain of the original trilogy transforms into a whiny brat who complains too much.
Fans have almost universally expressed a hatred for the way young Darth Vader is portrayed in the Star Wars prequels, and there’s no denying that Maul’s history, while occasionally explored in expanded universe media, still maintains enough mystery and intrigue as to make the character feel far less annoying.
8. Liam Neeson is Harder to Kill than Sir Alec Guinness
Perhaps one good way to compare Vader and Maul is to look at the Jedi that they manage of defeat.
In A New Hope, Darth Vader successfully kills an aging Obi Wan Kenobi, in the least interesting lightsaber fight in the entire saga. After a very slow, drawn out duel in which neither party does much of interest, Vader finally succeeds in slicing off his former mentor’s head – but only because Kenobi decides to give up and embrace death, safe in the knowledge this this is actually a victory for the heroes.
On the other hand, Darth Maul takes on two Jedi in their prime at the same time, and after managing to trap Qui-Gon Jinn by himself, he delivers a fatal stab to the chest. He then almost beats a younger, more resourceful Obi-Wan Kenobi, and is only defeated because he underestimates the advantage that the high ground affords him (let’s not get into the logic behind the importance of high ground in this franchise).
7. Darth Maul Lets His Actions Do the Talking
Both Maul and Vader have phenomenal voice actors. There’s no other more iconic voice in the Star Wars universe (save perhaps for Chewbacca’s) than Vader, with James Earl Jones providing a dark, imposing voice that fills listeners with dread.
Meanwhile, Darth Maul is voiced by Peter Serafinowicz, who, while not as famous as Jones, still has one of the coolest, deepest voices in Hollywood – he didn’t get cast as the new Tick for no reason,
Of course, there’s a reason why Serafinowicz hasn’t gone on to be quite as notable as Jones in the years after his performance. Darth Maul is a Sith of few words, instead preferring to act than to stand around talking.
For a giant cyborg killing machine, Darth Vader certainly does run his mouth a lot, talking constantly while fighting rather than just getting on with the task at hand. Sure, James Earl Jones makes him sound cool, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be better for him to use his words sparingly and to get on with killing things more often, as the ending of Rogue One proves.
6. Darth Maul Has Better Robot Leg Fashion Sense
After getting both his legs severed by his former teacher, Darth Vader gets dressed up in black leather that completely hides how much of him is not robotic.
His new legs add a little to his height, making him more imposing than during his Hayden Christensen days, but otherwise he just looks like a biker with a cape.
When Darth Maul gets the lower half of his body replaced, he goes for something a little more eye-catching, with big spidery legs reminiscent of General Grievous; the better to make him look absolutely terrifying to any poor soul that gets in his way as he hunts down his enemies.
5. Maul Recovered From Fighting Obi Wan Without the Emperor’s Help
In the prequels, Obi Wan Kenobi is a pretty effective Sith-beating machine, but he lacks follow-through. The Jedi severs Maul at the waist and lets him drop down an enormous bottomless pit. Similarly, he burns Anakin alive, and figures he’ll just leave his former friend to die the slowest, most agonizing death possible.
Someone should probably have told Obi Wan that one of the most important tenants of Sith teachings is the secret to prolonging life through the Dark Side of the Force. Both Maul and Vader survive their initial fights with Obi Wan, and go on to live long, if somewhat angry, lives.
Following his defeat on Mustafar, Anakin is found by the Emperor, who takes his crispy body and augments it with cybernetic replacements – otherwise, Vader would have spent a long time face down in the dirt.
By contrast, the Clone Wars cartoon reveals that, following his defeat on Naboo, Maul manages to find his way, legless, to a trash compactor at the bottom of the pit he falls down, and is able to get himself fixed up and healed without the Emperor’s help.
4. The Death Watch Are Far More Effective Than Stormtroopers
You can judge a lot about a Sith by the kind of company they keep.
Darth Vader’s troops of choice, Imperial Stormtroopers, have become something of a joke by this point – they’re bumbling, weak minded fools who are terrible at shooting straight, and are easily defeated by a bunch of primitive teddy bears. Stormtroopers aren’t exactly helpful in a firefight, in spite of their Mandalorian heritage.
By contrast, Darth Maul is often flanked in the Clone Wars by the Death Watch, a group of oldschool Mandalorian soldiers who are far more effective in battle.
Combining the Death Watch with other groups of mercenaries and villains, Maul forms the Shadow Collective, a formidable group that is simply far more intimidating than a group of white-clad troops that literally can’t shoot straight to save their lives.
3. Darth Maul Isn’t Horribly Bothered by Sand
Much has been made in recent years of Darth Vader’s hatred of sand – something which he considers to be an effective pickup line.
Halfway through being told by Natalie Portman’s Padme all about her childhood experiences lying on a sandy beach, Anakin decides to start a long rant about how much he hates rough, coarse sand that “gets everywhere.”
Supposedly, George Lucas intended this to be charming, but in reality, it’s just spawned a series of memes suggesting that Darth Vader doesn’t get his hands dirty in Rogue One and A New Hope because he’s desperately trying to stay away from the desert.
Darth Maul, on the other hand, doesn’t have time to complain about sand – he’s far too busy getting things done. Upon learning that Queen Amidala has landed on Tatooine in The Phantom Menace, the Sith Lord is, if anything pleased – a small, sparse colony on the sandy planet makes it easier to search.
As a sandstorm approaches the ship (and as baby Darth Vader runs for shelter) Maul embraces the storm, using it as cover from which to attack Qui-Gon Jinn — Maul would never let something as trivial as a bit of sand get in the way of getting a job done.
2. Darth Maul Once Ruled the Mandalorians
Pretty much the only person to stand up to Darth Vader (and get away without being choked) is Boba Fett, the Mandalorian bounty hunter with a fondness for disintegration. While Lando Calrissian cowers every time the Dark Lord walks past, Fett stands his ground and challenges Vader over his risky use of Han Solo as a test subject for a carbonite freezing chamber. It’s safe to say that Mandalorians aren’t scared of most Sith.
This makes it all the more impressive, then, when Darth Maul defeats their leader, and, using the Shadow Collective, overthrows the government of Mandalore, allowing Maul to rule the entire planet.
Taking on any Mandalorian soldier is a challenge, but Maul manages not only to defeat their leader, but also keeps other upstarts from challenging him for leadership of the Death Watch, proving that he’s incredibly formidable as a warrior and as a leader.
1. Maul Once Fought Darth Sidious and Survived
In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader is finally inspired by his son Luke to attempt to atone for his many misdeeds by fighting back against the Emperor. In a moment when Darth Sidious is distracted, Vader grabs him and quickly throws him down one of the many bottomless pits that make the Death Star a health and safety nightmare.
By contrast, Darth Maul, aided by his brother, tackle the Emperor head on. Furious at having been abandoned on Naboo, Maul seeks revenge, and attacks in an attempt to get revenge. For a while it seems as if Maul might win, but Sidious ultimately beats him back and kills his brother.
That said, Maul survives the encounter – the same can’t be said for when Vader attempts to fight the Emperor. One quick, swift action of lifting Sidious over the edge of a railing might be enough to defeat him, but perhaps the Emperor was even wiser than people give him credit for.
If your signature skill is Force lightning, and you’re always cautious that your apprentice will one day try to overthrow you, it makes sense to ensure that he is wrapped in metal and machinery that keeps him alive.
Ultimately, both Darth Maul and Darth Vader are pretty cool characters. They’re both incredibly iconic within the Star Wars franchise, and have both won over plenty of fans for their incredible character designs, impressive fight scenes, and general air of menace.
Darth Vader is the franchise’s biggest darling by far, and is a lot of fun to watch in action. His clunky, slow movement, though, coupled with the infuriating backstory that his character has been given, make him feel less imposing and terrifying than his predecessor.
It’s a shame we’ve only ever had a brief taste of what Darth Maul is capable of – this classic character should never have been killed off so quickly in the prequel trilogy, even if he was ultimately replaced by Dracula himself in the form of Darth Tyrannus.
Perhaps it’s better that Maul’s role in the movies is short and sweet. After all, a little bit of this very impressive character is just as iconic and memorable as all of Darth Vader’s many appearances over the course of the franchise.
Besides, who knows what the future holds? Maybe Darth Maul will get his own anthology movie one day, and we’ll finally get to see more of the coolest villain in Star Wars cinematic history.
What do you think? Is Darth Maul better than Darth Vader, or do you disagree? Let us know in the comments!
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