Star Wars is a franchise about family, and about hope. But for there to be the need for hope, there must also be the existence of despair. And nothing creates despair better than a treacherous villain. The many different writers involved in the Star Wars saga have given us a bunch of great villains over the years, including some iconic, all-time great bad guys.
Let’s take a look at the 10 most important villains in Star Wars movie history, with apologies to a few that missed the cut: General Grievous, the underutilized Captain Phasma, and guys like Grand Admiral Thrawn that have yet to appear on the big screen.
10. Supreme Leader Snoke
If this ranking had been done after Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Supreme Leader Snoke likely would’ve been further up this list. He was mysterious, and that created intrigue. The guy was nothing but a giant hologram of a frail old man. He ran the First Order, which rose up from the ashes of the Empire, and seemingly was even more adept at controlling the galaxy than Emperor Palpatine.
Snoke was able to turn Kylo Ren to the dark side, controlling one of the most powerful Force users in history. He also made Luke Skywalker so ridden with guilt and despair that he disappeared, which is really a major power move. But Snoke’s death in The Last Jedi seals his fate toward the back end of this list.
Snoke got so arrogant that he let Ren cut him in half, and audiences were left to deal with the fact that they never truly learned anything about him or saw him do anything cool. As a villain, he was nothing more than a plot device.
Next: A brutal military officer
9. General Hux
Although General Hux was sometimes played for chuckles in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s actually a pretty good military strategist. Without the emotional Kylo Ren alongside, the rational and hate-fueled Hux probably would’ve crushed the Resistance long ago.
It was Hux that wanted to abandon the search for BB-8 and the map to Luke Skywalker, and instead focus on using Starkiller Base to destroy the New Republic. It was also Hux that caught the Resistance in their evacuation and then tracked them through hyperspace. Sure, he might be susceptible to the occasional prank call and “yo’ momma” joke. But Hux is quite the adept Star Wars villain.
Next: A disillusioned fallen Jedi
8. Count Dooku
Another villain that could be higher up this list if he had been used more properly is Count Dooku. Dooku’s whole official story, much of which has played out in media outside of the live-action movies, is actually really interesting. He’s a former Jedi Knight and the former master of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Dooku became disillusioned with the Jedi Order, and eventually became the apprentice of Darth Sidious.
His only appearances in the film saga are as the primary bad guy in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and the first act of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. He takes part in one of the cooler lightsaber duels in Star Wars history, first battling and defeating Obi-Wan and Anakin and later dueling with Yoda. You always got the feeling that Dooku wasn’t necessarily evil, just had some major ideological differences that put him down a dark path.
Next: The bounty hunter
7. Boba Fett
Unfortunately, Boba Fett started out much better than he ended. In that way, he’s kind of the Snoke of the original trilogy. Fett arrived midway through Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back as the bounty hunter chasing down Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon. He outsmarts Han, traps him at Cloud City, and ends up delivering his bounty to Jabba the Hutt.
Of course, Fett goes out like a punk in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He gets knocked in the jetpack, sending him hurtling into the mouth of the sarlacc. It has long been believed by most fans that Fett survived and found his way out, but no doubt his ending in Return of the Jedi was a downer. Even still, being able to out-wit Han Solo gets him some bonus points on the villain list.
Next: Han’s other enemy
6. Jabba the Hutt
Speaking of Jabba, he also makes this list for being one of the biggest bad guys in the galaxy. We only see him briefly in Star Wars: A New Hope, thanks to a Special Edition scene added in at Mos Eisley. when the scoundrel was unable to pay up on his debts, Jabba put a price on his head that resulted in Solo being frozen in carbonite and delivered to the crime boss’s palace on Tatooine.
Like so many villains, Jabba’s death is in large part due to his own arrogance. Luke Skywalker gave him every opportunity to bargain for the lives of Han, Leia, and Chewbacca. Instead, Jabba decided to opt for a massive public execution, and it ultimately backfired when Leia used his own chain to choke him to death. But Jabba is an important gangster on a Star Wars planet that is central to the plot of the saga.
Next: Another conflicted former Jedi
5. Kylo Ren
If there is one good thing about Snoke’s unfortunate wasting, it’s that it has allowed Kylo Ren to evolve into the true bad guy of the sequel trilogy. While he was once nothing more than a petulant child playing dress up, he’s now a petulant child running the First Order. Ren, the grandson of Anakin Skywalker, is perfect as a male member of the Skywalker bloodline. He’s angsty, he’s powerful, and he’s unpredictable.
Where the sequel trilogy goes with Kylo will determine his ultimate fate on this list. After The Force Awakens, it appeared as though there was a glimmer of hope that he could be redeemed — despite having murdered Han Solo in cold blood. But after The Last Jedi, it appears that Luke, Rey, and even his mother, Leia, had given up on Ren.
Next: He was so cool
4. Darth Maul
Star Wars villain Darth Maul gets ranked this high mainly on his potential because George Lucas made the unforgivable mistake of killing him off after limited screen time and one of the coolest lightsaber fights in Star Wars history. After his apparent death in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Maul was resurrected in canon in the cartoon Star Wars: The Clone Wars. His story was later played out and finished with the help of the Disney cartoon, Star Wars Rebels.
But despite having been brought back into canon and living a long life, Maul’s ninja-style fighting and double-bladed lightsaber were wasted on the big screen. That is, until Solo: A Star Wars Story introduced him as the true villain of the movie in brief cameo at the end. This alone doesn’t justify the ranking, of course, but once again there is potential for more Darth Maul. Maybe a stand-alone movie of his own?
Next: You may fire when ready
3. Grand Moff Tarkin
When George Lucas wrote and directed the original Star Wars, he had absolutely no idea whether he’d be getting a second movie or not. If he did, it was thought, it would probably be another low-budget film that probably wouldn’t feature Han Solo and would take place almost entirely on a remote planet. So there was no problem at the time that Lucas killed off Grand Moff Tarkin, expertly portrayed by legendary actor Peter Cushing, at the end of the movie.
Tarkin was cold and menacing, serving as the man in charge of the operation and the only one that seemed to command the respect of the terrifying Darth Vader. Ultimately, like so many others, his arrogance and wish to not evacuate the Death Star in its moment of triumph led to his death. But thanks to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the “uncanny valley” technology, Cushing was able to return to Star Wars long after his passing.
Next: The Dark Lord of the Sith
2. Darth Vader
All Star Wars fans would agree that Darth Vader is iconic. He’s the bad guy that movie franchises wish they had. A New Hope built him up as a demon behind a black mask. He was the guy that could pick up you and snap your neck in one hand, the guy with the red laser sword, and the guy who could get in a spaceship and blow up some rebels. And then, surprise! He was Luke Skywalkers dad, too.
The way the original Star Wars trilogy became less about a rebellion against fascist government and more about the redemption of Anakin Skywalker was genius on the part of George Lucas. Bonus points that, despite many complaints, we eventually got to see his fall from grace in the prequel trilogy. And of course, the cameo from Vader in Rogue One just adds to this all-time great villain’s legend.
Next: Unlimited power!
1. Darth Sidious
In Empire Strikes Back, there is one scene that clues the audience in on the man that is powerful enough to control Darth Vader — even making him take a knee and calling him “master.” That is Darth Sidious, or Emperor Palpatine. Although he’s only somewhat teased as a character in the original trilogy, the prequels serve both as the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Darth Sidious.
We see the many ways how Palpatine is working in the background, pulling strings in the Galactic Senate and tricking those who believe him to be an ally. If not for his trust in Vader, who was ultimately proven to be nothing more than Palpatine’s muscle, the Emperor may have gotten away with his grand scheme. As it stands, taking over the galaxy for around 20 years is pretty impressive.
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