1. Darth Vader
Who else could it be?
Vader does not have the time to develop beyond the movies in the Legends universe. All he has is the films. Through those films, Vader became arguably the most known villain in cinema.
His persona in the original trilogy is brilliant. Everything about him is masterfully constructed for evil, subtly, and interest. Every detail about him is revealed at just the right moment, and there is such a depth of mystery and coolness to his outfit, his breathing, his voice, his origins, his face and every other element of his character.
My favorite Vader moments are in Return of the Jedi. We see him constantly battle between the light and dark, saying it’s too late for him to be good again and then threatening Leia later on. In the final moment, when Luke is being tormented, the close up on Vader’s mask says so much without any motion or words. You can even see his face, and yet you feel how conflicted he is watching his son suffer.
Of course, Revenge of the Sith Vader has to be discussed. The first time he wears the armor is of course really silly and-
What? Oh sorry about that. George Lucas’s directing got in my way for a second. Anyway, in Revenge of the Sith he, much like Palpatine, is much more radicalized in the pursuit of his goals. Darth Vader from the originals never seemed like the murder children type even though he was the main bad guy.
It shows the distinction between how film was viewed in that era. The audience didn’t necessarily need to think Vader was a horrible monster in the original films. As society has become desensitized to violence, it takes more and more evil to make a villain compelling. Remember, there was a time when the woman getting stabbed off-screen in Psycho was controversial.
I think in this case, that transition to more bombastic was actually a good thing. Hayden Christensen does a great job using his face and body to go along with those dead eyes and devil-may-care look. It really does feel like what we want from modern villains. Does it go against the spirit of the original character? Probably, but the truth is that the two versions of Vader were made for very different eras. I am mad at the prequels for a lot of things, but both of them had the perfect villain for their era of film.
Whether he’s the quietly mysterious and scary one from the prequels, or the loud, angry and lost one from Revenge, Darth Vader is without a doubt the best villain that has ever come out of the Star Wars universe to date.
Your move, Kylo Ren.