Written By Austin Hall (@ADWAustin)
The Star Wars saga represents the epitome of good vs. evil. I mean, they literally refer to it as the “Light Side” and the “Dark Side”, for crying out loud. One thing that is overlooked in media: the importance of a good villain. Without a worthy antagonist in your story, it doesn’t matter how interesting the good guy is. They don’t just need any threat, either — they need an interesting threat. In many cases, Star Wars has just that. Still, some aren’t as good as others, and even this powerhouse seriescan’t hit a home run every time. With that, I give you the good, bad, and ugly villains of Star Wars.
Villains That Missed the Cut:
Dryden Vos (Solo: A Star Wars Story) (played by Paul Bettany)
A pretty forgettable character in Solo that should have been played by Michael K. Williams. From that article alone, it certainly looks like he would have taken a more nuanced take, but what did we get? A run-of-the-mill gangster that we’ve already seen a million times. Vos is one-sided and no more than a plot device. It should go without saying that he is never scary or imposing at any point. Frankly, the main villain should have been Tobias Beckett, a “mentor” that turned on Han Solo, but only because he was looking out for #1. This shapes Solo in the later movies, and basically defines his character at the start of the Original Trilogy (OT), by the way. Sounds like a pretty good villain to me!
Captain Phasma (Episode VII and VIII) (played by Gwendoline Christie)
Captain Phasma was so underutilized, it should be a war crime. The character was hyped up as some kind of badass, but all she ends up doing is get caught by Finn and Old Man Solo who throw her into a trash compactor. In the next movie, she gets lit up again by Finn. We don’t know her story, goals, or reason for even being in the movie. Just the “You were always scum” quote. That could have been poignant if we actually knew anything about her and why she said it.
Now, on to the list!
9: Supreme Leader Snoke (Episode VII and VIII) (played by Andy Serkis)
Played up as the new Sheev Palpatine (we’ll get to him), he gets outsmarted by his own apprentice two movies in, due to his own hubris. He certainly is an imposing figure, even though he looks like a taller Gollum, and his demise is a cool scene, but why so soon? Snoke getting killed two movies in shows the audience that we don’t really need to worry about him. Especially since both the Prequels and the OT have a villain up to the very end. At least his voice was cool.
8: General Hux (Episode VII and VIII) (played by Domhnall Gleeson)
As Snoke played the Palpatine role in the Sequel Trilogy, Hux played the Grand Moff Tarkin role (you’ll hear from him too). In this version, he is tired, stressed, and quite vulnerable. Each scene is filled with the loads of bags under his eyes with a pale and greasy complexion. He gets thrown around like a ragdoll by Snoke, and choked by Kylo Ren (Classic Kylo). By the way, Hux clearly hates Ren, so who knows what’ll happen in Episode IX, but I wouldn’t count Hux out. I bet he has a trick or two up his sleeve.
7: Count Dooku (Episode II and III) (played by Christopher Lee)
Dooku provided a convincing foe to young Anakin Skywalker and long-haired Obi-Wan Kenobi. It was a hard task to pull off: have a villain come out of nowhere to be a believable force to be reckoned with. A simple electric hands battle with Yoda makes him a worthy foe that convincingly took out Anakin and Obi-Wan on his way to dueling with Yoda. Still, killing him off just a few minutes into the very next movie made it clear that he was a pretty last-minute choice, a mere fill-in for Jar Jar Binks’ lack of a heel turn.
6: Grand Moff Tarkin (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Episode IV) (played by Guy Henry and Peter Cushing)
The only one not afraid of Darth Vader, he was the first to tell him to stop choking some unfortunate underling that dared to question Vader’s power. Cunning and thoughtful, he becomes too cocksure for his own good, leading to his ultimate demise when he stays on the Death Star as it blows up, certain that events will be different. In Rogue One,he’s an animated version of the real thing, making him look as lifelike as possible. Yet somehow, in the film itself, his betrayal of Orson Krennic for his own personal gain just increases his villain credibility.
5: Orson Krennic (Rogue One) (played by Ben Mendelsohn)
An excellent addition to the SW saga. Finally, a villain with complexity! He had a clear goal and a reason for doing so: create the Death Star to rise in the ranks of the Empire. His narrow focus of that goal leads to a poetic death on a planet destroyed by his own glorious weapon. He was desperate in one scene and merciless in another, which just makes his characterization all the better. Above all, he’s human, and that’s on full display whether he’s being choked by Vader or arguing with Tarkin.
4: Darth Maul (Episode I, Solo) (played by Ray Park, Peter Serafinowicz and Sam Witwer)
The wielder of the double-bladed lightsaber. An agile warrior with very little backstory until Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where he’s on a mission to avenge himself from his folly at the hands of Kenobi. He has very few words in Episode I, but makes up for it with his traditional dark Sith attire, spiky red & black head, and an excellent grasp of the force. He appears briefly in Solo, mostly to announce to the audience “Hey! I’m still here!” but it’s cool to see him again all the same.
3: Kylo Ren (Episode VII and VIII) (played by Adam Driver)
Straight out of the mid-2000s emo scene, with Daddy and Mommy issues to boot, he’s the Darth Vader of the new age. Basically, he’s a more imposing version of Anakin before he turned, which makes him so dangerous and interesting. There are so many ways this could’ve gone wrong and it totally didn’t. Inside his mask, he is imposing and violent. Outside the mask, he is vulnerable, but patient. You never know exactly what he’s thinking, but still gives you hope for redemption in the end. It’s hard to forget his utter dismay in Crait, all alone as the Rebels escape. Who knows how Ren’s story will conclude: will he be reborn as Han and General Leia’s son, Ben? Or will he fall for the same darkness that overtook his grandfather? I can’t wait to see what happens.
2: Sheev Palpatine (Episode I, II, III, IV, V, VI, IX) (played by Ian McDiarmid)
The puppeteer of it all who’s always one step ahead of everyone. The man that never wanted to die — and didn’t. For decades, he has used his apprentices as pawns and personal protectors in his quest for immortality, and it’s plausible he’s achieved it. We have no idea why he’s back, or in what capacity for Episode IX. I’m sure he will continue his song and dance until someone kills him for good. Honestly, at this point, he may truly be immortal. All and all, he’s the smartest man in the room who cares only for himself: one of the worst types of villains. Did I mention he can shoot electricity out of his hands?https://giphy.com/embed/3o84sq21TxDH6PyYms/twitter/iframegif via GIPHY
1: Darth Vader (Episode III, Rogue One, IV, V, VI) (played by David Prowse, Bob Anderson, James Earl Jones, Hayden Christensen, Gene Bryant, Spencer Wilding, Daniel Naprous and Sebastian Shaw)
The Greatest Villain of All Time, and for once, that’s not hyperbole. Every bad guy from here to eternity will be compared to Vader: a hulking robot-man whose reputation was way worse than what we got in the OT until Rogue One, when he cut down Rebel soldiers without breaking a sweat. Rogue One truly was a wonderful addition to the saga, as we finally saw the almighty power that had been long mentioned in full display. As Anakin, he was desperate to prevent death. As Vader, he survives his entire body being burned to a crisp, alone and with no one else to admonish his most evil desires. Simply, he was terrifying.
So as you see, SW has plenty of interesting, terrifying, and complex villains, and next time, I’ll tell you about the good guys. Because, guess what? You need both villains and heroes to make a truly wonderful saga.