The Star Wars galaxy is one of the richest, most creative franchises in cinematic history. Along the way, we've been introduced to a whole host of tremendous villains. Sometimes they wield the Force; sometimes they're just ordinary men and women whose ruthless genius makes them as terrifying as the most dangerous Sith Lord. But all of them are absolutely unforgettable. Here are our top five:
5. Count Dooku
Suave and cultured, Count Dooku of Serenno was a terrifying opponent. A gifted lightsaber duelist with tremendous power in the Force, Dooku became disillusioned with the Jedi and abandoned the Order. He reclaimed his wealth and family title, but became something of a recluse, forgotten by the galaxy. In reality, he had been recruited by Palpatine as his newest apprentice.
Dooku remained in the shadows for nearly a decade, overseeing the creation of a clone army that would be crucial to the Clone Wars. He allowed himself to be set up as leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, and became the figurehead of the Separatist movement. When war broke out on Geonosis, Dooku proved willing to duel even his old Master, Yoda.
Ultimately, Dooku was undone because of his own pride. He truly believed himself to be a superior Jedi, and couldn't conceive that Palpatine would seek to replace him. As a result, in the end Dooku walked like a lamb to the slaughter into a final, fatal duel with Anakin Skywalker. He died realizing once again that betrayal was the way of the Sith.
4. Darth Maul
When George Lucas returned to launch the Prequel Trilogy in 1999, he decided to create a new Sith Apprentice. The visual design of Darth Maul was remarkable, and proved an instant hit. Lucasfilm decided to tease the Sith apprentice liberally in the marketing, Unfortunately, Maul proved to play only a small part in The Phantom Menace, and the film ended with his death at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Maul's story wasn't over though. He was resurrected by George Lucas and Dave Filoni over the course of the Clone Wars animated series, and became a fierce enemy of both the Jedi and the Sith. Maul sought bloody and brutal revenge on all those he believed had wronged him, and his epic struggle against fate continued in everything from tie-in comics to novels.
Palpatine's ill-fated Apprentice returned in Star Wars Rebels, and he ultimately succeeded in tracking Obi-Wan Kenobi to his hermitage on Tatooine. It all came to a close in the stunning Season 3 episode "Twin Suns," which saw Maul and Kenobi engage in one final duel. Maul died in Kenobi's arms, finding peace in the knowledge that Kenobi was guarding the Chosen One, who he believed would avenge them both.
3. Grand Moff Tarkin
We were introduced to Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin back in the first Star Wars film, A New Hope. There, he was a ruthless military leader who could actually give Darth Vader pause. In one of the most chilling scenes in A New Hope, Tarkin forced Leia to reveal a Rebel base, and then fired the Death Star upon the peaceful planet of Alderaan. Thankfully for the galaxy, Tarkin was too confident, and died when Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star.
The Clone Wars animated series revealed that Tarkin was a soldier who had Palpatine's ear even before the fall of the Republic. Recent novels have revealed that he was part of a Special Weapons group that advised the then-Chancellor on potential military concerns, including the construction of the Death Star.
In Rogue One, Lucasfilm used revolutionary CGI technology to recreate Cushing's character, and showed how he wrested control of the Death Star away from Krennic.
Perhaps the most devious villain in cinematic history, Palpatine started out as a lowly senator from Naboo. A Machiavellian mastermind, the Sith Lord manipulated friend and enemy alike, and rose through the ranks to become Chancellor of the Republic. From there, he orchestrated the Clone Wars as the ultimate Jedi Trap. To quote Matt Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith:
The Clone Wars were the perfect Jedi trap. By fighting at all, the Jedi lost. With the Jedi Order overextended, spread thin across thegalaxy, each Jedi is alone, surrounded only by whatever clonetroops he, she, or it commands. War itself pours darkness intothe Force, deepening the cloud that limits Jedi perception. And the clones have no malice, no hatred, not the slightest ill intent that might give warning. They are only following orders. In this case, Order Sixty-Six.
When the dust settled from the Clone Wars, only Palpatine emerged triumphant. The Jedi had been slaughtered, with only a bare handful of survivors. What's more, the Chancellor had gained sufficient power to declare himself Emperor of the new Galactic Empire.
It would be decades before he was defeated.
1. Darth Vader
Was there ever any doubt about who would be top of the list? We were introduced to Darth Vader as the Empire's most terrifying warrior, who believed the power of the Death Star was nothing compared to the dark side of the Force. A New Hope left fans thrilled with the heavy-breathing warrior, who cut his mentor Obi-Wan down and almost shot Luke out of the skies.
Then came The Empire Strikes Back, which left fans shaken to learn that Luke was actually Vader's son. Matters came to a head in Return of the Jedi, where Vader ultimately proved unwilling to let the Emperor kill his son.
Vader's reputation has only been enhanced by Rogue One, which featured a breathtaking scene in which the Sith Lord cut through Rebels like they were paper. Meanwhile, the comics have seen Darth Vader star in two tremendous series, one penned by Kieron Gillen and the more recent by Charles Soule.
So there you have it, Star Wars fans! From the brutal powerhouse of Darth Bane to the Chosen One himself, these are our favorite Star Wars villains. You can always tell the state of a franchise by the quality of its villains, and this franchise has some of the best in the galaxy.