7. Ian McDiarmid as Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid was just 37 when he played the old decrepit, yet still incredibly powerful Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. Using makeup, he was made to look much older than he actually was, and his appearance was truly intimidating. But McDiarmid’s performance and distinct voice are what set the Emperor apart.
His disturbingly calm demeanor when confronted by Luke Skywalker was a sharp contrast to the evil audiences knew he was capable of. McDiarmid’s performance made Palpatine’s lack of concern over the threat of the rebels terrifying. This man was convinced that he was orchestrating everything that happened in the galaxy, and he couldn’t be thwarted.
McDiarmid, ironically much older when the prequel trilogy was made, returned to play a much younger Palpatine. This Palpatine was less conspicuously evil and more subtly manipulative than the Emperor he would one day become, and the performance was unsettling, especially when he was finally revealed to be the Sith Lord responsible for the plot to annihilate the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith. McDiarmid returned to portray the character once more in The Rise of Skywalker, this time much older than in the original trilogy and more evil, and more powerful, than audiences had ever seen him. And yet again, McDiarmid’s performance was unsettling, especially considering how nice the actor seems to be in real life.