The Greatest 'Star Wars' Villains of All Time

Star Wars Villains


Here are the most notorious villains of the "Star Wars" universe, which of course includes villains such as Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Kylo Ren. We look forward to learning more about them in the upcoming film "The Last Jedi", which opens in theaters Dec. 13. [Why the Force Is Still Strong with 'Star Wars' Fans]

Emperor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious)


Fans of the original trilogy still shudder when they think about how much of a baddy Palpatine is, especially in "The Empire Strikes Back" (1983). One moment he's crooning to hero Luke Skywalker that it's time for the young man to "fulfill his destiny" and join Skywalker's father, Darth Vader, on the dark side of the Force. Then he's shooting deadly lightning bolts at Skywalker until an unhappy Vader switches sides and throws Palpatine down a huge shaft.

But "Star Wars" purists know that he's more than just a scary face at the end of "Return of the Jedi" (1983). In "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002), it was Palpatine (then known as Darth Sidious) who principally set off the Clone Wars. (The details are revealed in the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" series (2008).) And in "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005), it was Palpatine who persuaded the young Darth Vader (then known as Anakin Skywalker) to kill the Sith lord Count Dooku.

Supreme Leader Snoke


We still have a lot to learn about Supreme Leader Snoke, who first appeared in "The Force Awakens" (2015), but more should be revealed in the movie's sequel, "The Last Jedi" (2017).

We know that Snoke founded (and still leads) the evil First Order, and he's the one in charge of Kylo Ren and Gen. Hux. Snoke is the one giving the orders in that film — asking his subordinates to find the droid BB-8, who carries part of an important map leading to Luke Skywalker, and to destroy the home planet of the Resistance. He also promised Ren that he will complete Ren's training — whatever that means.

Darth Vader (aka Anakin Skywalker)


Darth Vader is one of those villains that transcends the "Star Wars" universe — even people who don't know much about the films often have heard about this fellow. But let's not forget that Vader wasn't all bad. His most famous act of compassion was saving his son, Luke, from the evil Emperor Palpatine. And Vader did grow up as a cute little podracer, as we saw in "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999). (The tragic fall from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader is covered in more detail in the sequel trilogy (Episodes I to III, 1999-2005) than we can cover in a short bio.)

Vader did have many cruel moments. He constantly kills crew members who make a mistake, often by choking them using the Force. He killed the beneficent Jedi and representative of the light side of the Force, Obi-Wan Kenobi (at least in the "flesh and blood" sense.) He deliberately tortured Jedi ally Han Solo to bring Luke Skywalker out of hiding, since Skywalker would detect a disturbance in the Force. And in an infamous scene, Vader even cut off Skywalker's right hand while trying to persuade Skywalker of the benefits of the Dark Side. Vader died at the end of "Return of the Jedi" (1983). [In a Cinema Far, Far Away: Hollywood's Star Wars Films]

Boba Fett


Boba Fett is a bounty hunter who just keeps popping up all over the place — he was seen in the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy and even the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." Fett is a crafty villain who is careful with his captures; famously, he is among the people who convinced Darth Vader not to kill the Jedi ally Han Solo, since Fett had more use for Solo alive so he could collect bounty.

Fett's most infamous maneuver was capturing the allies of Luke Skywalker (including Solo, Princess Leia Organa, the Wookie Chewbacca and the droid C-3PO) when they thought they were in a friend's house. But he also did shady dealings during the Clone Wars and hung around with the disgusting Jabba the Hutt when Hutt made a (failed) attempt to kill Skywalker and Solo in a Sarlacc pit.

Kylo Ren


Kylo Ren is one of the main bad guys in "The Force Awakens" (2015), and we'll see more action from him in "The Last Jedi" (2017). Some people call him "emo," referring to his dark, overly emotional attitude, but we have a feeling he's more ruthless than introspective. Ren's most shocking action in the movie was throwing his father, the hero Han Solo, down a shaft after running him through with a lightsaber.

From the little we've seen of him, Ren can use a lot of Force abilities — such as mind probing (which looks really painful) and stopping blaster bolts midair and holding them there. But Ren is also immature, which was shown in a scene where he lightsabered an instrument panel to bits after something didn't go to plan. He isn't the strongest fighter, as he was badly wounded in a fight with Rey at the end of the movie. But he survived and will be back in the next film.

Grand Moff Tarkin


Tarkin is an ice-cold villain who doesn't hesitate to literally blow up a world if he thinks it's necessary. It wasn't very far into "A New Hope" (1977) before he asked Princess Leia Organa for information, and then decided to blow up her planet Alderaan to demonstrate the power of The Death Star, a weapon that can destroy worlds. Ironically, Tarkin was destroyed by that same weapon when The Death Star blew up at the movie's end.

We were lucky enough to see Tarkin again in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (2016), as visual effects re-created the deceased Peter Cushing with performance-capture help from actor Guy Henry. Tarkin orders that the Rebel base be destroyed, which ended up killing many of the main protagonists. But his efforts were in vain because the plans for the Death Star still made it into Rebel hands.

Darth Maul


Darth Maul was one of the main arms of justice for Emperor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious). His back-story is well-covered in several parts of the "Star Wars" franchise, so we'll just pull out a few key facts.

In "The Clone Wars" (2008), Maul killed the residents of the planet Raydonia so that the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi would feel a disturbance in the Force and be lured over there, and he created the Shadow Collective, an underworld organization alliance. He also killed the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn in "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999) — but while Maul appears to die at the end of the film, he does come back in the animated "Star Wars Rebels."

Count Dooku


The Sith Lord Count Dooku has a turbulent history. He used to be a Jedi. He was the padawan (apprentice) of the legendary Yoda. Dooku's apprentice was Qui-Gon Jinn, who was, in turn, the master of the well-known Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi. But Dooku decided to voluntarily leave the light side of the Force, along with 19 other Jedi -- his impetus in part came from problems with the Galactic Senate, and also seeing the death of Qui-Gon Jinn.

In the prequel movies (1999-2005), some of Dooku's actions include badly wounding both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, capturing the son of Jabba the Hutt, and leading an attack on the planet Coruscant to try to destroy the Republic. (He fails and eventually dies.) Dooku also played a main role in the TV series "The Clone Wars" (2008). [ Are You a Jedi? Use the Force in Our 'Star Wars' Quiz!

General Hux

David James

Gen. Armitage Hux was one of the main villains in "The Force Awakens" (2015) and will likely appear in the next film of that series, "The Last Jedi" (2017).

Hux is a ruthless leader. He rallies the stormtroopers at one point in the film, talking about how Starkiller Base will kill the Republic. And, yes, he orders the troops to fire a laser from the base to start destroying a star. But he isn't afraid to admit fault, such as when BB-8, a droid with vital information Hux's allies need, successfully escapes a capture attempt.


Jonathan Olley

The stormtroopers are kind of a faceless enemy en masse in much of the "Star Wars" universe, but collectively they are a fearsome force. One of their most famous acts was hunting down and killing all of the Jedi that they could during and after the Clone Wars. But because they were weak individually, it was possible to influence them. "A New Hope" (1977) shows the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi persuading a stormtrooper to look the other way when some sought-after droids come within view: "These aren't the droids you're looking for," Kenobi says.

"The Last Jedi" (2017) will continue the adventures of Finn, a human who used to be stormtrooper FN-2187 (or Eight-Seven for short.) In "The Force Awakens," Finn abandoned the First Order and joined the Resistance. At first, he was motivated by the urge to escape, and at one point he almost abandons his newly found Resistance friends. But at the end of the first movie, he appears solidly on board with his new group and ready to fight the First Order again.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: