Why does Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader in Star Wars?

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

In Star Wars, there are many tragic stories centering around its best characters. But the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader is one of the more fascinating ones in Star Wars lore.

When introduced in 1977’s Star Wars, people didn’t quite know what to make of Vader. Is he man? Is he machine? By the time The Empire Strikes Back came out, we realized a hard truth: that Vader was actually Luke’s father. Meaning the man behind the mask was just a regular person at some point. (Well, “regular” is putting it lightly. But we’ll get to that soon.)

When the last movie in the original trilogy came out, we finally got to see what Vader looked like without his helmet. There was a true man under there after all. And through his son, he was able to find redemption back to the Light, only moments before he died and became one with the Force.

So, just why did the man named Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader? Here’s what happened.

Darth Vader’s origin

In Star Wars’ prequel series (Episodes I-III), we get the backstory on Darth Vader, back when he was Anakin Skywalker. He was discovered to be a very gifted child (due to his high midi-chlorian count.) And though he was considered too old to join the Jedi Academy, he was reluctantly accepted because of his potential as the chosen one to bring balance to the Force.

Anakin continued his training at the Jedi Academy under Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and they became a formidable duo together. Though, Anakin was not a by-the-books Jedi. Oftentimes, he liked to do things his way, though he was still a powerful Jedi through and through.

As time went on, there were many reasons that showed why Anakin would grow discontent with the Jedi Order. The Clone Wars series explores that in-depth. But purely looking at the movies, we begin to see his fragility with the order leads him to be manipulated by Chancellor Palpatine, who is secretly organizing a massive coup within the Republic.

Palpatine is able to sway Anakin on his side. And when Anakin expresses that he is afraid of his secret love interest Padme dying (he saw a vision of her where that happens), the chancellor tells him of a path that is most unnatural that could save her. Through the Dark Side of the Force, Palpatine promises that Anakin will be able to save Padme. He’ll just have to go against everything he’s trained for in the Jedi Order.

Eventually, as Palpatine seizes power to become the Emperor, Anakin stays by his side. And by being on the Dark Side as a Sith, Darth Sidious (aka, Palpatine), bestows Anakin with a new name: Darth Vader. From there, the two go on a mission to rid the galaxy of all the Jedi — all while carrying out a terrifying regime throughout space. And Vader, as we know him, becomes the powerful dark figure that we see in the original trilogy.

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Really, there’s no one reason for why Anakin became Darth Vader. Ask any Star Wars fan, and they will tell you of the many different things that led him down the path to the Dark Side. But ultimately, Anakin’s mistrust in the Jedi and the Light led him down that path. And it would be years before he is redeemed again.