Photo Credit: Lucasfilm
Appearances: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars Rebels
Defining Moment: Picking Luke over Palpatine
Darth Vader is not only one of the greatest characters in all of Star Wars, but also one of the greatest characters in cinematic history. His mere presence is intimidating and immediately changes the tone of any scene. As demonstrated on the big screen in the original trilogy films and Rogue One, Vader is a truly formidable and terrifying villain.
What makes him more compelling than other villains, though, is his inner turmoil and conflict. Vader is a tortured soul. Part of what makes Return of the Jedi such a fantastic film and a fitting conclusion to the original trilogy—and arguably to the prequel trilogy as well-manifests in how Vader finally confronts that inner agony and finds a way to make peace with it.
Part of what ultimately makes Vader the best Star Wars character is that his legacy is larger than life. Even without appearing—unless you count his charred mask—in the sequel trilogy films, he is still a major presence in the galaxy. Ben Solo’s descent into the dark side and his transformation into Kylo Ren are largely shaped by Darth Vader, from Leia and Han concealing the truth of Ben’s grandfather, to Ben trying to prove himself by finishing what Vader started. The legacy of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi also largely hinges on Vader, particularly Luke’s ability to bring his father back into the light.
Darth Vader is the linchpin that holds all the Skywalker saga films together, a character whose impact transcends his onscreen appearances and will make him forever complex and fascinating.