Darth Vader

One of the Greatest Villains in History
December 17, 2008
One Of The Greatest Villains in Movie History

So I'm back to my villains articles. I was always fascinated with villains much more than with the heroes themselves.I did not side with them, but still found them to be the most interesting characters. The heroes are virtually us. We see through their eyes, they have the same principles, way of thinking and morals. We know their story and everything. With villains, they are always a dark mystery and a big unknown, an opposite side of what we are and the mysterious characters from the dark side. And they always looked cool as hell.

I was saving this character for a long time and finally decided to focus on what is considered by most, and who was described by the Rolling Stones Magazine as the "Greatest Villain in Movie History".

Again, I don't want to tell the story of Darth Vader - you can look it up on the internet with one click. I want to focus on how the villain was viewed by myself and many other movie fans, brushing his origins just a little.


The character of Darth Vader was born in 1976. I think its fascinating how a character that originally was just one of those 70's space Buck Rogers-ish evil movie character developed into such a powerful, iconic and incredibly complex character.

Vader was suppose to be a regular guy at first, an evil lord like someone from Flash Gordon. He would most likely look like the AT AT commanders. A guy in a helmet and uniform. The idea was that he had to have some breathing mask and suit so he could pass through space in the opening scenes of Star Wars when boarding from the Star Destroyer to Tantive IV. That's how it all started.

From such thing a completely new dimension was born - the mask added so much, because it was the fear of whats behind it that gets you. But the idea wasn't fully exploited yet. Not in the first movie

In the first movie, Star Wars (or as later renamed, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Vader is a bad menacing guy already but although he already seemed really cool and I absolutely loved the design, he wasn't anything that would really stick up yet.Darth Vader isn't the main bad guy. He is more of a background person and Governor Tarkin seems to be the main villain and brain. You can sense it in the scene when Tarkin kind of talks down on Vader about his plans "It'll better work!".
Note that even in the way the movie was filmed, it's Tarkin first and Vader in the background, not doing or saying much. He is basically more of an Imperial agent as described.

So Tarkin was the focus at first and Vader was one of those peculiar characters that graced all the 70's space movies. We knew from the beginning he is purely an evil guy and very powerful. I've read in many many places that his entrance is one of the best movie entrances/introductions ever.

And of course the power choke he did on Death Star was very memorable. But I believe it was barely a tease of the character and he was just a background and an addition.
So although Vader became an instant icon, I just didn't "feel it" after the first movie yet.
Also, I know I'll probably get lynched for that, but the first movie, albeit very good, didn't stick up for me from any other 70's space adventures like Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers, and I believe is the only Star Wars episode that is actually dated.


The first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back was couple of weeks or few months after seeing the first movie. It was late 80's and my Dad rented it for me, although it took me a while to remember which one was the first part since all those space movies seemed very similar.
Episode V was unlike any other sci-fi movie, that was just a timeless and epic story. It took my breath away, as I assume did for so many other young people and adults around the world. I was so taken by it and of course for the next few weeks I would draw Star Wars characters and play around with my action figures reenacting the scenes from V. The whole family watched it, my parents and two teenage sisters and everyone loved it. The characters were so well defined, and Luke was this really good boy that I could easily relate to.
Darth Vader on the other hand..
Here, he was the main villain this time, and presented as much more darker and powerful. Even his appearance had changed, as now he was a pure, shining blackness. The only lines you could see on him were reflected lights. And his voice wasn't android like, like it was in the first movie. Here it was deeper and more menacing, without the robot-ish echo. With his cape and cruelty featured extensively in the movie, he was pure evil. Choking his admirals mercilessly for their failures.
And I think the most appealing thing about him was the mystery - what was behind this mask? What kind of evil lurks there? A monster? what is it? Then in the middle of the movie we got a small tease that absolutely fired my imagination. I actually asked to rewind that scene about three times!

Yet another great aspect of this character was the whole "lord" vibe. Everyone referred to him as "my lord" which seemed pretty evil and mystical.

Of course, how would I not mention the breathing?! That didn't scare me, but thought it was super cool, and I could emulate the sound perfectly.
And the scene with the Emperor was pretty scary too, yet Vader still seemed much more evil than his equally mysterious master.
TESB was also the first episode that introduced the famous Darth Vader theme composed by the great John Williams, and that added a whole lot.
And by the end we find out that he is Luke's father! I wish I could, but I simply don't remember how I reacted to that scene or seeing that scene for the first time. Still, the character raised even more questions and was that much more exciting.
The way he fought with Luke without much effort, yet Luke was all sweaty, bloody and lost his hand. That showed the power of this guy.

Watching TESB for the first time also brings back the memory of how I didn't even wanted to go to sleep and I wanted to play Star Wars instead. I think I was 7 or 8 maybe. I used some action figures that I had and played Luke, Han and others, and used the VHS cover as the action figure for Vader.

I stared at that cover for hours

I kept bugging my parents to rent the third part, but we only had the movie nights during the weekends ( I had a cool and happy childhood) because only then I could stay up a little later. I just couldn't wait.

And here it was, the final part of the trilogy. It was cool to see Darth Vader in the opening scene, just as we know him - a shining black figure and the chilling musical theme.
In this movie the circle closes in. We get some answers, but all very partial. How, when what was never explained. We get to see the Emperor and get some answers about Vader from Obi-Wan's ghost. His real name was Anakin, which I always thought sounds a lot like Mannequin, and that he's now more machine than man. As Obi-Wan was recalling history, giving us those very tiny pieces of information, my imagination was all fired up. I was fascinated with Vader and that kind of info was simply something really cool, although it was what - 3 sentences? His name, the fact that he was a great pilot and that he turned evil. Not much, but still a lot for the 80's movies which had a cool way of not explaining things and leaving most of the stuff as a mystery.

The Emperor/Sith theme with the chant was very climatic and made the vibe so much darker when we've seen them both in the same room. You could just feel that darkness

By the end we finally had a big reveal- Darth Vader without the mask, and his real voice. His voice was nothing like what we knew. It was deep and menacing, it was all the mask. His real voice sounded like a voice of a sick elderly man.
And the look? terribly scarred person. It was so cool to see him without the mask, yet it wasn't as surprising because that's close to how I imagined him after seeing the back of his head in TESB.

After that I kept re watching the trilogy every few months like I think everyone else.

I was always fantasizing about Anakin's story. I always imagined it as being the same thing as with Luke, only that the Emperor succeeded in seducing Anakin. There wasn't much to base the story upon. Only three sentences from the movie, that's it. Virtually nothing about what happened. And the biggest question remained unanswered - why is Vader so injured? What happened to him that he's basically a leftovers of a human put into cyborg suit? I found out the answer from my friend who was a major Star Wars geek reading all those novels and expanding universe etc. The original script had Obi-Wan saying that Vader felt into lava after their battle. Why did they cut out such a crucial thing from the movie I have no clue.
The amount of injuries and mechanics built into his body is clearly visible in the scene where we see his skeleton after getting hit with the power lightning.
I imagined that everything was the same just the rebellion was the dominant force and Jedi were living everywhere and the Emperor attacked with his army. Then the Emperor captured Anakin and promised him the universe and got himself a new aid this way.

A decade later, the unthinkable happened. The prequels hit the theaters and whats amazing was that we were actually gonna get THREE movies, a whole trilogy, focusing on the villain! Now, that's has never been done before or after, but the fact that it was done to my favorite and such mysterious character was just beyond cool. Just like everyone, I was hyped like never before...

To be continued
More Articles From Achilles
7 years, 2 months ago
Darth Vader Is My Tenth Favorite Film Character Of All Time.
    12 years, 11 months ago
    Star Wars to me is one of the best scfi pictures out there. Theres quit a few but But Star Wars is number one. I saw Star Wars when it first come out i was seven, saw it at a drive-in movie. Nice article.
      12 years, 11 months ago
      let me start off by saying, very good article. probably my favorite bad guy of all time as well. i too felt like he had the best intro for a bad guy. when you heard that symphony music start up, you knew who it was. accompany that with the fact that he was mysterious with that mask and dressed all in black. and then with his mystical jedi powers as "Nlogan" refered to. i find it interesting to note that after turning to the dark side, he never really forgot who he was or where he came from as he continued with his jedi powers and light saber tactics. that is why i feel it was less of a struggle for him to turn back to the good side in return of the jedi (i must note that i love the play on words for this title seeing as how luke was the jedi returning after being beaten by his father-he is actually the jedi returning for his father. and yet anakin, the once young ambitious jedi, is now returning from the dark side.) i feel the entire starwars series is an excelant portrail of the rise and fall and then twisting re-rise of anakin skywalker. potentially the best movie series of all time. again great article.
        12 years, 11 months ago
        Give me a glass or some other concave item that will produce a mild echo, and I can do a kick-ass impersonation of Vader. :D

        Love the article. You say it's tbc. Keep up the good work.
          12 years, 11 months ago
          Darth Vader: "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force."
          Admiral Motti: "Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fortress..."
          Vader starts choking the crap out of Motti with an invisible neck pinch from across the room.
          Darth Vader: "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

          From that moment on I knew Vader was a bad ass. He totally solidified it when Han Solo comes in blazing in Empire Strikes Back and Vader blocks it with his hand then uses the force to take the blaster from him all nonchalantly. "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.” Yeah right!
            12 years, 11 months ago
            Lets not forget that James Earl Jones did the voice over for Darth Vader while David Prowse was the man who played Vader in the original trilogy, and that James Earl Jones did come back to reprise that iconic voice over in the last half of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

            Makes you feel very bad for Anakin when you later find out at the end of the story that he was actually the victim of the Emperor's master plan to get his ultimate revenge on the Jedi which also gave birth to the Galactic Empire to begin with, and also shows that no matter how far Anakin had fallen while pledging his many years of loyalty to the Emperor, no matter how many Jedi he had killed while being known as the Dark Lord of the Sith, that there was always a chance for redemption.

            It's all because of the tragic hero story that was wrote out for Anakin that makes me love him both as Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader :)
              12 years, 11 months ago
              Darth Vader was always my favorite villain. The Empire Strikes Back had the biggest impact on me of all the Star Wars movies probably because my Dad took me to see it in theaters when I was 5. I didn't know until years later that Vader's costume was based on the armor samurai wore. That would also explain the fact that Luke's clothes in Episode IV looked like a kimono. I also liked Vader's costume better in Episode V compared to the cheaper looking one in IV.
                12 years, 11 months ago
                well done! thumbs up from me.
                  12 years, 11 months ago
                  This was indeed a well-planned and thoughtful article.

                  I remember EXACTLY what my reaction was, after watching TESB in the theater (as a bonus, they showed ANH right before) ....I believed him completely. Got into an argument with a childhood friend outside the theater, which ended in a $10 bet.

                  Never got the money.
                    12 years, 11 months ago
                    Thanks fellow junkers! I had this article lying around collecting dust and wanted to do it in one piece but instead i went doing Killing Joke and split this one in half. I was always wondering about the perspective when you see the SW movies from Episode I, its a completely different experience
                      12 years, 11 months ago
                      Yes, unless you choose to show someone the Star Wars movies by release date and not in the order of episodes, it's a very different experience as far as how they see Vader I'm sure (as davidyck stated).
                        12 years, 11 months ago
                        Great part 1, Achilles. That's awesome that you used the VHS box as Vader, it had about as much articulation as the figures anyway. davidyck you make me feel old, but I envy your Star Wars perspective-that must be really weird.
                          12 years, 11 months ago
                          Hoju:"That's awesome that you used the VHS box as Vader, it had about as much articulation as the figures anyway" - LOL

                          And thanks C-Boss!
                            12 years, 11 months ago
                            as a kid i prefered the red "imperial guard" helmets to anakins.....however you can't deny the japenese influence on the vader helmet. very kabuki-esque.
                              12 years, 11 months ago
                              I agree, after you see the prequels, and then the original trilogy, you see the story more toward Vader, and Luke is really as his son, showing how much he is like him; great pilot, and seduced by the dark side by the Emperor. Great job, cant wait for the follow up
                                12 years, 11 months ago
                                ahhhhhh, vader, one of the most classic villians ever to grace the screen. i myself saw the prequels before the original trilogy so i couldent see vader the same way you did.im kind of mad at myself for watching the new ones first now (slaps head)
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