4. Emperor Palpatine
When Did They Die: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Who Were They: The Emperor of the Galactic Empire; Dark Lord of the Sith
How Did They Die: Dropped down a pit by Darth Vader in his own throne room on the second Death Star
The scene in which Palpatine attempts to turn Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side by encouraging him to kill his own father, Darth Vader, is intentionally echoed “later” (earlier, really) in Revenge of the Sith. Anakin has Count Dooku at his mercy and feels compelled to return him alive to Republic authorities. Only Palpatine’s intervention pushes the young Jedi over the edge, and Anakin took one step closer to becoming Darth Vader.
Luke resisted the urge his father had failed to resist all those years before. He was set to pay for his petulance with a lengthy bout of Force-lightning before Vader, perhaps recognizing the parallels between this situation and the one he was in decades before, intervened.
To Lucas’ considerable credit, that full-circle kind of storytelling is actually pretty great. It’s hard to appreciate over six movies, but there is some layered subtext and meaningful recurrences that connect the original trilogy with the prequels. Emperor Palpatine’s death is easily among the more satisfying of those connections.
Next: 3. Darth Vader