Vader, Palpatine and more: Ranking the best Star Wars villains


There’s no shortage of menacing villains in the Star Wars universe. From the films to the TV shows, there are plenty of antagonists who’ve proven to be worthy adversaries.

Sidious. Vader. Maul. Dooku. Ventress. Jabba. I could go on and on, but you know who the usual suspects are in Star Wars.

When Star Wars debuted in 1977, Darth Vader set a new standard for cinematic villains. The signature look, the menacing presence, the bone-chilling voice, the unquestioned authority – all things you look for in a modern movie adversary.

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When you step back and look at all of the antagonists who’ve graced the screen in the Star Wars franchise, there are so many that are loved by the fans. I’m attempting to narrow it down to the top 10.

Honorable mentions

General Grievous 

I wrote a big piece on how a General Grievous movie might surprise some fans. It’s safe to say that I stand by my reasons.

As an antagonist, Grievous may not have posed as much of a threat as some of his villainous counterparts, but he was a major threat nonetheless. Think about the battle with Obi-Wan or the countless fights in The Clone Wars. The abilities of this guy are on full display.

Jango Fett

Jango Fett’s disappointing demise took away from how good of a villain he was. When Attack of the Clones came out, and all the advertisements and posters featured Jango prominently, fans got excited for the new character. Maybe it was because of the Boba Fett connections, maybe it was due to them wanting another bounty hunter to secretly root for. Who knows?

When you look back at Jango’s fight with Obi-Wan on Kamino, the fact that he was able to give the Jedi master a run for his money was impressive to say the least. Fast forward to the “fight” with Mace Windu – not too impressive. Still, Jango was the template for the clones – and that’s saying something.

Savage Opress

Savage was, well…a savage. He took after his brother in terms of his brutish, athletic fighting style, which he used to mow down unsuspecting Jedi in TCW. Trained by Count Dooku himself, Savage moved on to look for Darth Maul; upon finding him, the Dathomirian took his brother to Mother Talzin, who proceeded to resurrect the fallen Sith Lord.

Teaming up with Maul, the two formed a deadly duo that wreaked havoc on the Republic. Savage is a bit underrated in my opinion – the man was able to hold his own against Darth Sidious (even if it was for like 5 minutes), and was able to rejuvenate Darth Maul’s life.

Kylo Ren

Kylo Ren is one of the most conflicted characters throughout Star Wars lore. It seems like he’s constantly teetering between both sides of the Force, but he has to get mentioned as an antagonist here for one simple reason: he killed Han Solo.

Enough said.


Talk about disappointing demises. When Snoke went down, I was crushed. I was so compelled by his character. Who is he? How powerful is he? Where did he come from? Alas, we may never know.

Still, Snoke could qualify as maybe the secondary antagonist of the sequel trilogy. He made a pretty menacing debut in The Force Awakens, and followed it up a little bit in The Last Jedi when he interrogated Rey.

Dryden Vos

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

Dryden was originally supposed to be played by Michael K. Williams, but the reshoot scheduled caused Paul Bettany to step into the role.

In Solo, the first time we see Dryden is when he kills a man. That’s quite a first impression for an audience. It gave us a feel of what Han and Chewie were going up against in the criminal underworld.

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

10) Grand Moff Tarkin

Tarkin’s cockiness cost him his life, but before that point, he seemed like a legitimate threat. The guy blew up Alderaan in front of Leia’s face for no reason other than to prove a point.

One thing I liked about Tarkin was that he never seemed like a subordinate to Vader. Just look at the nonchalant way he dismissed Vader’s “religion”. Tarkin never feared Vader, even though the guys that took his place in the proceeding movies were clearly afraid of him.

Tarkin’s younger days are presented in TCW, something that I didn’t know I wanted but was glad that I got it. Tarkin’s cool demeanor is also on display in Rebels, if only for a couple of episodes.

9) Asajj Ventress

Ventress is a bit underrated if you ask me. She’s from the same planet as Darth Maul and Savage, which is all you need to know to make her seem cool. Ventress is also extremely skilled in combat, as seen in both Clone Wars shows.

As a bonus point, she was able to take on Dooku in a duel (even if she was assisted by Savage).

8) Orson Krennic

Rogue One has to be the best movie that Disney has put out since acquiring Lucasfilm. There’s really no contest, either. One reason why: Director Orson Krennic. Krennic oversaw the construction of the Death Star, while also becoming one of its first victims.

As the main antagonist of Rogue One, Krennic made a great first impression when we first see him coming to take Galen Erso away. He was a menace the whole time, all the way up to when he makes a last-ditch effort to stop the Rebels.

Photo credit: Lucasfilm

7) Count Dooku

Dooku’s an interesting character. You could argue he was just a puppet in Sidious’s plan to conquer the galaxy, but you might also say he was just a disillusioned Jedi Master who fell to the Dark Side. Maybe he even had plans to overthrow the Emperor (then Chancellor), kind of like when Anakin floated the idea in Revenge of the Sith.

I’ve always liked Count Dooku, even if his death came pretty quick in Episode III. I loved him a lot more in the shows than I did in the movies, mostly because he always seemed one step ahead of the Jedi and the Republic. That alone made him worthy of a spot here.

6) Boba Fett

Some fans say Boba Fett is overrated. I kind of get why they say that, but I can’t help but marvel at the guy every time I watch Empire or Return of the Jedi. That armor. That imposing presence. The fact that he speaks about five words throughout the saga. He’s just a cool customer.

The first thing I wrote for Dork Side was a piece outlining some things I’d want to see in a Boba Fett movie. I’m pretty confident fans would be content with a film containing those aspects, even if you think he’s a bit overhyped. Boba gets a spot on this list almost solely because he delivered Han’s hibernating body to Jabba.

Photo Credit: [Star Wars: Return of the Jedi] Lucasfilm5) Jabba the Hutt

The big shot gangster.

There’s not much to explain here. Jabba was the foremost of the Hutt clan, ruled with an iron fist, and completely controlled the Tatooine underworld. He died a pretty brutal death, but that’s alright. Jabba still gets a spot in the top five here.

Photo Credit: [Star Wars Rebels] Lucasfilm, Cartoon Network4) Darth Maul

Maul is probably my favorite Star Wars character. Why? Just look at the guy. Trifle with him, I dare you.

I can remember watching that Clone Wars episode when Maul was brought back. It had teased it a little bit in prior episodes, but I never gave it much thought. Then, when Savage found him, it was amazing. Maul was back.

You might think I’ve got Maul pretty high on this list, but hear me out. He killed Qui-Gon. He killed Satine, Obi-Wan’s love interest. He nearly turned Ezra Bridger to the Dark Side. Need I say more?

Photo Credit: [Star Wars Rebels] Lucasfilm3) Grand Admiral Thrawn

I cheated a little here – I’m including what Thrawn did in Legends in addition to Rebels. I just had to, I’m too big of a fan Tim Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy.

Thrawn’s tactical genius and ability to outwit his opponents (most of the time) is second only to Darth Sidious himself. Also, he’s just a cool-looking character. Those red eyes, that blue skin – just cool. Thrawn’s introduction to canon was a moment a lot of fans had been waiting for, and I hope we get to see him on the big screen at some point in the near future.

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

2) Darth Vader

I wasn’t sure if Darth Vader should be included here. That might sound crazy, but I really think that he’s more of a tragic hero then a villain. Then I rewatched the Rogue One massacre – have mercy. I quickly changed my mind.

Vader might be the most iconic character in the history of cinema, let alone Star Wars. You can take your pick as to which moment of his proved his villainy the best (I am your father, killing Obi-Wan, killing the younglings, Order 66, etc.), but the Rogue One scene is all the evidence you need here.

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

1) Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious

This guy is the personification of evil in the Star Wars universe. An absolute madman–ruthless, cunning. intelligent, scheming, corrupting, what have you. Think of an evil-sounding adjective and you can apply to Palpatine.

This really wasn’t a hard choice. A while back, I put together a list of the best Palpatine moments in the saga. There were plenty to pick from, but I’m pretty confident in my list. Palpatine, Sidious, whatever you want to call him, it doesn’t really matter. The Dark Lord takes the cake, with no little to no competition.

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Did I miss any of your favorite Star Wars villains? Let us know in the comments.