The 20 Greatest Darth Vader Moments
His real name is Anakin Skywalker, but we prefer calling him Darth Vader. His iconic status has made the character a synonym for evil in popular culture; psychiatrists have even considered him as a useful example to explain borderline personality disorder to medical students.
He’s not the most beloved character in Star Wars, but definitely is the central one in the whole saga. When we look back to the life of Darth Vader, it’s like reliving the galaxy tale with the dark force around.
Here’s a countdown of the 20 greatest Darth Vader moments in Star Wars movies.
20. No Mercy
The Moment: Leia tries to bluff her way out of being taken prisoner, but Vader isn’t taken in by her BS about being on a mercy mission [in A New Hope].
Why It’s So Great: Vader’s first dialogue scene introduces one of cinema’s greatest voices – the grave, authoritative tones of James Earl Jones accompanied by death-rattle heavy breathing.
19. Flying Lightsaber
The Moment: Luke thinks he’s got advantage during his duel with Vader. The latter casually throws his lightsaber to slice through the gantry and send Luke tumbling [in Return Of The Jedi].
Why It’s So Great: A sneaky move from a master swordsman.
18. The Eyes Have It
The Moment: Vader slaughters the Separatists, his eyes changing into flaming red as the Dark Side takes hold [in Revenge Of The Sith].
Why It’s So Great: How to suggest Anakin’s transition to the Dark Side without sticking a big black helmet on his head? A simple application of CGI.
17. Vader Gets Philosophical
The Moment: Grand Moff Tarkin is showing off about the Death Star, so Vader takes him down a peg by pointing out that “the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force” [in A New Hope].
Why It’s So Great: At the time, nobody knew what the Force was. Now we do know, and of course Vader was right.
16. First Blood
The Moment: The newly christened Vader gets his first mission: kill everyone in the Jedi Temple. Including the younglings [in Revenge Of The Sith].
Why It’s So Great: It doesn’t take long at all for Anakin to justify being called ‘dark father;’ there’s little in his career to rival this for chilling villainy.
15. Man Under The Mask
The Moment: Luke helps Anakin take off his helmet to allow father a first – and last – look at his son before he dies [in Return Of The Jedi].
Why It’s So Great: It’s the original trilogy’s guaranteed tear-jerker, as the Skywalkers are reunited only to be cruelly parted.
14. Promoting Piett
The Moment: After Admiral Ozzel makes a tactical blunder during the attack on Hoth, Vader takes swift executive action by killing him with a Force choke [in The Empire Strikes Back].
Why It’s So Great: Aside from the realization that Vader’s Force-choking power can cross space, it’s the cruel way Vader promotes Admiral Piett while Ozzel is still dying behind him.
13. Show Of Strength
The Moment: Vader scarcely bothers to interrogate Rebel Captain Antilles, before hoisting him off the floor by the neck and throttling him to death one-handed [in A New Hope].
Why It’s So Great: Vader’s first on-screen kill leaves little doubt that this guy means business – and he’s strong, too.
12. Funeral Pyre
The Moment: Vader’s funeral proves to be a private affair, with Luke joined only by the spirits of Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker himself, who doesn’t seem too perturbed by the low turnout [in Return Of The Jedi].
Why It’s So Great: A superb piece of visual imagery that brings closure to the whole Star Wars saga. Who would have guessed that a burning helmet could be so moving?
11. Skywalker Becomes Vader
The Moment: Anakin makes his choice and disarms Mace Windu so that Palpatine can kill him. His reward: a change of name [in Revenge Of The Sith].
Why It’s So Great: A betrayal that’s shocking even though it’s entirely expected, because Vader becomes Vader by cutting off Samuel L. Jackson’s hands. Even Tarantino never went that far.
10. Disarming Han
The Moment: Han Solo discovers that Darth Vader is on Cloud City and unleashes an instinctive blaster bolt, which Vader casually deflects before disarming Han from across the room [in The Empire Strikes Back].
Why It’s So Great: A superb dramatic reveal, as Vader demonstrates he has the upper hand. Only Vader could out-cool Han.
9. Disturbing Lack Of Faith
The Moment: Vader loses his composure under Admiral Motti’s jibes against the Force, so decides to teach him a lesson [in A New Hope].
Why It’s So Great: The ultra-chilly “I find your lack of faith disturbing” underlines Vader’s credentials as a powerful but crazy zealot. Presumably, Motti finds being mentally choked somewhat disturbing, too.
8. Vader vs Kenobi, The Rematch
The Moment: A long-awaited rematch, as Vader takes revenge on Kenobi aboard the Death Star… little realizing that Obi-Wan is sacrificing himself to facilitate Vader’s eventual defeat and redemption [in A New Hope].
Why It’s So Great: We’ll let Vader explain this one: “I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master.”
7. A New Look
The Moment: Nearly dead, Vader undergoes surgery and is fitted with his new protective armor [in Revenge Of The Sith].
Why It’s So Great: The less said about Vader’s subsequent howl of anguish, the better… but the actual reveal of the birth of Vader as we know and love him is spine-tingling.
6. Strong TIEs
The Moment: Vader flies into the battle for the Death Star, and clocks Luke’s potential: “the Force is strong with this one” [in A New Hope].
Why It’s So Great: Not only the first hint of a bond between Skywalkers, but check out Vader’s ride – a pimped-up TIE fighter. It’s well bling.
5. Duel Above The Clouds
The Moment: Vader and Luke clash in Cloud City, in a fierce duel punctuated by Vader’s attempts to lure Luke to the Dark Side [in The Empire Strikes Back].
Why It’s So Great: Notwithstanding the false dawn on Dagobah, this is the first on-screen meeting between Skywalkers… Fire up the lightsabers!
4. Making An Entrance
The Moment: Stormtroopers blast open a door to gain access to an escaping Rebel ship; through the smoke, Vader makes his first appearance on a cinema screen [in A New Hope].
Why It’s So Great: George Lucas needed something pretty awesome to follow his opening gambit with the overhead Star Destroyer. How about introducing his greatest character?
3. Vader vs Kenobi, Round 1
The Moment: Obi-Wan fights Vader in a vicious duel across the flaming hell of lava-filled Mustafar, which culminates in Vader a burnt, legless wreck [in Revenge Of The Sith].
Why It’s So Great: We all knew Vader needed a reason for his protective armor; what we didn’t expect was that he’d get it via the saga’s most intense, emotional action set-piece.
2. Sackable Offence
The Moment: Vader finally chooses between family and career by chucking Emperor Palpatine over a precipice towards certain death [in Return Of The Jedi].
Why It’s So Great: He took his precious time about it, but the villain has been redeemed and – finally – brought balance to the Force.
1. Dad Issues
The Moment: Vader reveals the truth to Luke – he didn’t kill Anakin. He is Anakin! [in The Empire Strikes Back].
Why It’s So Great: The moment on which the original trilogy hinges and, without which, there would be no prequels. But mainly it’s #1 because standing on a catwalk, dangling over a massive chasm, is an amazing place to deliver a bombshell.