Star Wars Franchise Analysis: What Makes Darth Vader An Iconic Villain?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, lived a wise and impish child who eventually became the biggest threat in the entire galaxy…who also launched his son to die after telling him he’s his father. 

Well, you know the story: Darth Vader casually (yet compellingly) telling Luke he’s his father before letting him do a freefall to his death. Luke screaming from losing his hand and hearing the story, and miraculously surviving it. You know, all that sappy stuff. 

But, while Luke is interesting in his own might (and oddly resembling his father’s propensity for talking too much back when he was still Anakin), Darth Vader deserves his own spotlight. 

Indeed, there’s been too many interesting villains in media. There’s Ursula from the Little Mermaid, Cruella from, well, Cruella, and there’s HIM from the Powerpuff Girls, to name a few. All of them have the penchant for dressing up pretty, which makes Darth Vader fit the bill: one who has a taste for fashion and cruelty.

However, before you think of a Darth Vader doing musicals donning a pair of stilettos, ask this yourself first: “What makes him special?  Is it the suit?  Is it the lightsaber?  Is it the cape?”

Well, to help you decide, here’s a list of what makes Darth Vader an iconic villain:

Darth Vader Fears Death

Darth Vader Clones

For someone who’s set to kill, it’s quite unbelievable that Darth Vader fears death. In the series, it’s obvious that the reason he defects to the Sith is because of Palpatine’s promise of having him control death.  And, since he’s been afraid of losing Leia because of his visions, the betrayal has been a breeze.  

True enough, his trepidation of losing someone is rooted since he was a child. Being a slave in Tatooine with his mother, his fear of losing her is quite understandable. And, since Shmi did die because of the Tuskens, which he first saw in a force vision in Mortis, perhaps, Anakin also has feelings of guilt that contributed to his betrayal.

His fear of death makes him more human than anything else (despite losing some of his organic parts throughout the series). His response to this fear is something that most can relate to, regardless of the degree—the stakes, the sacrifices, and the extent of containing death.

In Darth Vader’s case, however, his response to his fear has mutated into something pathological and cyclical, trapping him in a void of guilt and purpose, in which he eventually loses his sense of self. By killing, he gains a distorted control over life. By deciding who gets to live, he gets to contain himself in the idea that he can decide when death comes. 

Luke Skywalker Is His Redemption

If you didn’t bawl your eyes out when Darth Vader died, then you probably might want to have your tear ducts checked, because that scene has the power to make everyone cry, including Neo from the Matrix

His last (and only) act of fatherly love hadn’t absolved him from his crimes, yes, but it provides such flavor and impact to his famous scene with Luke. You know, that one. 

Despite that, Darth Vader (which you should refer to as Anakin, in that scene) still chooses to redeem himself as his father, perhaps, also to give in to his guilt of betrayal against the Jedis and Padme. Regardless, Anakin has been granted of a bittersweet ending, since in his last moments, he’s with the person—the indirect reason—that even makes him defect to the Sith. 

This brings you to yet another human quality that Darth Vader possesses. He’s imperfect—he does commit mistakes (genocide is not just a mistake, however) and he redeems himself from it (which doesn’t really amount to redemption but, oh well). 

You’ve been to similar situations where you’ve done something wrong and felt pardoned from doing something good, yet completely unrelated act to your previous misconduct. That feeling of relief made you somehow let go of your guild. And, just like you, Darth Vader did, too. He even becomes a force ghost, indicating that he has, indeed, let go.

Darth Vader Looks Cool

Darth Vader Choke

It’s not a joke: Darth Vader looks awesome. Stormtroopers are a classic favorite in Halloween, but if you dress up as this Sith, you’re absolutely going to turn heads (no pun intended).

Unlike Darth Maul’s terrifying and tribal aesthetic or Darth Sidious’s sinister face, Darth Vader’s appeal lies in the subtlety and discreet feeling of eeriness from him. While Darth Maul’s appearance can make someone sprint from the get-go, Darth Vader’s can freeze someone on their tracks. 

Darth Vader Makes You Think Of Good And Evil

Star Wars Robots

If the barometer of good and evil are the current acts, then in a place where murder is considered bad and feeding a stray cat, good, then a murderer who’s feeding a cat is good. While there’s much to say about it, the relationship of good and evil is something that can’t be resolved from a simple conversation.

Be as it may, humans have the notion of associating villains to evil. Good guys are the heroes, while the bad ones are the villains. Consequences aside, what separates a villain from a hero?  Darth Vader from Luke Skywalker? 

Both have killed, regardless of reason—Darth Vader to fuel his hate, and Luke to further their cause. These two men have their own reasons, but between them, is it really okay to say that Darth Vader is evil? 

This isn’t to justify murder, neither absolve people from such crimes. Killing people is generally bad, but if you look at the reason why, will the act become less bad?  In Darth Vader’s case, he’s afraid of death and tries to control it so he won’t lose people he loves. His actions may be harmful, but they’re arguably from a place of concern. 

Although there can be countless of arguments about the true meaning of morality—of good and evil—it’s safe to say that Anakin is just another victim.

In A Nutshell

To set things straight and simple, Darth Vader is iconic because he lives in everyone. He’s sad and he’s afraid, and because of these two, he’s done many regrettable things. To this day, humans have been doing things because of negative emotions, resulting in regret and more negative ones, therefore becoming trapped to an endless cycle of sadness and regret. Perhaps, that makes you and Darth Vader humans. Regardless, ‘may the force be with you.’