There have been eight Star Wars movies so far, with the ninth (The Last Jedi) about to hit theatres. The epic franchise has given us dozens of heroes, from the classic like Luke or Rey, to the complicated heroes like Han or Jyn.
It’s also given us dozens of villains, from some of the scariest, most ruthless baddies the galaxy has ever seen to… some other ones. We’re taking a look at all the villains of the Star Wars Cinematic Universe (sorry, Clone Wars!) and ranking them from least impressive to most intimidating.
Appears in: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi
Played by: Gwendoline Christie
Can you say “colossal disappointment”? Captain Phasma was poised to be one of the most iconic Star Wars villains of all time. Before The Force Awakens was released, audiences were introduced to the concept of Captain Phasma and we were all loving it: a new villain, head commander of the First Order’s stormtroopers, who was gender bent from male to female in order to cast Game of Thrones fan favourite Gwendoline Christie in the part. On top of that, Phasma (which is a great name in and of itself) is decked out in a shiny and chrome stormtrooper uniform with a CAPE. She looked magnificent!
But that was just the concept. The execution? Captain Phasma barely did anything in the Force Awakens. Thankfully, the powers that be seem to be course-correcting. The trailer for The Last Jedi shows Phasma is ready to put up one hell of a fight, and there’s what seems to be an epic showdown with Finn. PLEASE give this shiny, majestic villainess the scenes she deserves!
Appears in: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi
Played by: Domhnall Gleeson
Phasma has nothing to do in The Force Awakens but is featured plenty in the Last Jedi trailer. Hux was featured prominently in The Force Awakens and is literally not even in the Last Jedi trailer. Seriously guys, what’s going on with the new villains? Did we have too many character designs, and not enough room to go around in the scripts?
General Hux was set up as a kind of foil to Kylo Ren, the straight-laced army general exasperated with all this Jedi nonsense who just wants to blow up some planets in peace. They’re the new odd couple! His deranged speech shows he’s a True Believer in this space Nazi garbage, and that will always be scarier and more dangerous than a confused, reckless kid like Kylo Ren — after Force Awakens, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Hux was going to be the bigger threat after all. After the Last Jedi trailer, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just dies in this one.
Appears in: A New Hope
Played by: Paul Blake/Maria De Aragon
Greedo’s claim to fame is the now infamous “Han shot first” debate, where George Lucas’ re-edits of the original trilogy sent fans into a serious rage. In the original version of A New Hope, Greedo is a bounty hunter working for Jabba the Hutt who has been hired to track down Han Solo. Greedo finds Han, but Han kills him with a concealed blaster before he can be apprehended. Lucas, years later, decided that was the wrong move. Han was supposed to be a hero, and heroes don’t shoot first! So the scene, as it now stands, has Greedo, a trained bounty hunter in close range, shoot first and miss.
With all that in mind, it’s not Greedo’s fault he’s such a lacklustre villain. But when you’re best known for a controversial re-write, you’re near the bottom of the barrel.
Appears in: Attack of the Clones
Played by: Temuera Morrison
Star Wars fans LOVE Boba Fett, even if he was a minor character in the original trilogy, so naturally they had to fold him into the prequels somehow. So we get Boba Fett’s “dad,” Jango!
Jango Fett is considered the best mercenary in the galaxy, and was chosen as the template for the Clone Army. The Republic cloned a million little Fett warriors, but with added tweaks like “follow orders” and “die for the cause.” The only one missing those ‘tweaks’ is baby Boba, who is an exact clone of his father. It’s a long, roundabout way of giving Boba Fett a backstory. Jango gets exciting fight scenes with jetpacks and blasters, but we all know he’s only here to prop up Boba’s story. Jango ultimately bites it at the end of Attack of the Clones, getting killed by Mace Windu in front of his son.
Jango’s actually a pretty cool character, and has some badass moments, but he often doesn’t feel like more than a reference or a nod to how beloved Boba had become.
Appears in: Rogue One
Played by: Ben Mendelsohn
Krennic, played by the always-awesome Ben Mendelsohn, is a reminder that the bad guys aren’t always intriguing badasses. Sometimes they’re just people in middle management, looking for a promotion.
Orson Krennic is Imperial weapons developer in charge of the construction of the Death Star. He’s not the mastermind behind the weapon, but still thinks he’s the head honcho. Throughout the film, he’s put in his place by Tarkin, who wrestles control of the project (and the credit) from Krennic, and then by Darth Vadar, who he mistakenly goes to for help. It’s the classic “my boss is being a jerk so I’ll go to HIS boss” move, and it backfires spectacularly.
In the end, Krennic is easily undone. He’s killed by the very weapon he had worked on, and the Empire carried on without him like he never happened. It’s a harsh ending befitting such a weak and ineffective villain.
Appears in: Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones
Played by: Jeremy Bulloch, Daniel Logan
If you’d never seen a Star Wars film, you’d be forgiven for thinking Boba Fett was a major player. He’s featured in merchandise everywhere, is always a popular Halloween costume, and shows up on many a “best Star Wars character” list. And with good reason: he’s cool! But when you actually watch the movies, you’ll see that Boba Fett… doesn’t do much. He has a handful of lines, not much bearing on the overall plot, and the lamest death ever: he accidentally falls into the alien Sarlacc’s mouth.
And yet, Boba Fett is one of the most popular Star Wars characters of all time! Both Darth Vader and Jabba the Hut talk to him with respect, proving he must be a fearsome enough for them to consider him on almost equal footing. Most curiously, Vader gives Boba Fett the instruction “You are free to use any methods necessary, but I want them alive. No disintegration.” No disintegration? Is he known for disintegrating people? Is this a thing that happens regularly? All this mystery just adds to his appeal.
Unfortunately, he probably won’t be mysterious for long. Disney has plans for a Boba Fett spin-off film, similar to the Han Solo film, that is currently sitting on a shelf somewhere. We’ll find out all about his life in between his dad dying in Attack of Clones to his adventures in the original trilogy.
Appears in: Revenge of the Sith
Played by: Matthew Wood
Does General Grevious serve a purpose other than looking cool? Granted, he does look cool. The scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi has to fight Grievous’ four arms all wielding light sabres is a great set piece, but other than that? Grevious is a side villain that doesn’t actually serve much of a purpose, narratively.
Grevious’ role in the Revenge of the Sith basically amounts to: capture good guys, they magically escape! Leave for a large chunk of the movie, then return for that aforementioned showdown and death. I’m sure they sold a lot of Grevious action figures, though.
Yes, he was given a lot more characterization and story lines in the Clone Wars animated series, but this list is movies only so he remains lacklustre.
Appears in: Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith
Played by: Christopher Lee
First of all, Christopher Lee is a gift. The late actor was able to take the role of Count Dooku and elevate it beyond what was on the page — I mean, he’s Christopher Lee, of course he did!
Dooku is a former Jedi that turned to the dark side who is instrumental to Anakin doing the same. He battles Anakin, Ob-Win and eventually Yoda, of all people, and Lee’s skills make each of them an epic fight scene — he’s done more onscreen sword fights than literally anyone, and can wield a lightsabre with the same menace and gusto. Unfortunately, Dooku doesn’t last long in the series and is eventually beheaded by Anakin. That grisly end, paired with the unfortunate name (Count Dooku? And Darth Tyranus is no better. Yikes all around) is what stops Dooku from really being one of the greats.
Supreme Leader Snoke
Appears in: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi
Played by: Andy Serkis
Snoke is sort of a tough character to judge: onscreen, he did essentially nothing. Snoke appeared as a giant hologram that the First Order all answer to, and their reverence (calling him “Supreme Leader”) is what gives him much of his presence. Snoke doesn’t really do anything, but the fact that Kylo Ren seems intimated by him and General Hux obeys his every word goes a long way.
We’re also told that Snoke is the one that recruited Kylo, and is manipulating him to the dark side. We’re not shown any of that, but you know there has to be something more there: future movies will almost certainly give us more information on who Snoke really is and what his master plan is going to be, but in the meantime he’s still a question mark. The fact that he managed to get the child of Leia and Han to turn to the dark side and kill his own father says he’s a pretty powerful villain, at least.
Grand Moff Tarkin
Appeared in: A New Hope, Rogue One
Played by: Peter Cushing, a CGI rendering of Peter Cushing
Grand Moff Tarkin is commander of the Death Star, so you know he’s bad news. The man blew up an entire planet! He destroyed Leia’s home planet of Alderaan in a power move, promising he’d spare it if she told him where the Rebel base was but then just blew it up anyway. It’s an ice cold move.
Speaking of ice cold moves, Rogue One offered more insight into how nasty of a character Tarkin was: he basically stole the Death Star out from under its creator, Krennic. The fact that Tarkin uses the Death Star to destroy Krennic (and Jyn and Cassian and basically everyone else in Rogue One) makes it all the more poignant that the Death Star eventually takes out Tarkin, too. All these men that want to cause destruction only get destroyed themselves.
Jabba the Hutt
Appears in: Return of the Jedi, Phantom Menace, A New Hope (re-release version only)
Played by: Ed Asner (voice)
For some reason, there are people (mostly on the internet) who think Jabba isn’t a bad guy, or isn’t really a villain. He’s a crime lord, but he has a son and watches pod races! He’s a regular guy! He’s loveable!
Listen, he’s more than just the space slug equivalent of a Tony Soprano. He’s a crime lord who made a fortune in trafficking and slavery. He’s like El Chapo, if El Chapo ever tried to have Han Solo killed. Jabba put a bounty on Han Solo’s head, enslaved Leia, tortures people, feeds prisoners to monsters.. just all around a gross dude. His death is the most satisfying of the series, as Leia uses her slave chains to choke him to death.
Is that the last we’ll see of Jabba? Probably not, as he’s also rumoured to have his own spin-off film. Look out for ‘The Godfather’ starring Jabba, coming soon.
Appears in: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi
Played by: Adam Driver
Is Kylo Ren a great villain? Maybe. Is he a great character? Definitely. Kylo is an unexpected choice for the series’ main antagonist. He’s not badass or intimidating, not all-powerful or controlling. He’s a sad, insecure kid with a chip on his shoulder. There’s no reason for him to turn to the dark side: his parents love him, his uncle was trying to train and support him as a Jedi, and he would have had a very safe and successful life as Ben Solo.
Instead, he became like so many angry young men who lash out at the world. Kylo is trying to look like that badass in control but inside he’s grappling with his choices and feeling like he can never live up to anyone’s expectations. It’s such a fascinating choice and hopefully will be built on in the next few films.
Also, he killed Han Solo. That alone moves you pretty far up the list.
Appeared in: The Phantom Menace
Played by: Pay Park
I know what you’re thinking: how can anything from The Phantom Menace rank highly on a ‘best’ list? Yes, that movie and the prequels as a whole are flawed at best, but there are a few items that really worked. Darth Maul and his double-edged lightsaber is one of them.
Maul uses that two-sided saber (sidenote: why does no one else have one of these? It’s so cool looking and practical!) to fight both Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi at the same time, in one of the best fight scenes of the whole series. He manages to take down Qui-Gon, but is then sliced in half by Obi-Wan. Seriously! Sliced in half! The whole thing is insane in the very best way. Darth Maul’s presence in the Star Wars universe may have been small, but he absolutely made the most of it. He’s a one-hit-wonder of villainy, but it’s a damn good hit.
Appeared in: Pretty much all of them
Played by: James Earl Jones (voice)
If you know anything about Star Wars, you know about Darth Vader. He’s one of the most well-known movie villains of all time, from his unique costume to his ruthless villainy. Vader’s raspy voice/breathing contraption and force-choke have become iconic moments in cinematic history.
Despite the media saturation, Vader still works as a villain. Look no further than 2016’s Rogue One, which took gave us a short sequence of Vader massacring his way down a hallway. Even though we’ve seen Vader kill a million times, learned his tragic backstory and had little kids dress as him for Halloween for decades, he still managed to be scary.
He’s an all-time great, and will likely maintain his place in history as one of the best movie villains. But he’s still not number one!
Appeared in: Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith
Played by: Ian McDiarmid
Palpatine is the face of all evil. In the prequels, he’s a seemingly likeable senator who is gathering power and influence to elect himself Emperor of the Galactic Empire. He starts wars, turns good guys bad, manipulates everyone and everything around him and is basically responsible for everything bad that happens in the entire series.
Palpatine is the worst person and the best villain for one simple reason: a soulless politician hungry for power, using fear to sow chaos and rise through the ranks and take over the world is possible. It’s a real evil, one that people can recognize (“He’s Palpatine-like” has become a common refrain for people watching politics).
Palaptine is the man behind the curtain, the person pulling the strings. That’s always going to be scarier than a guy in a cool mask or a killer-for-hire. His ability to control everything in a scary, realistic way is what make Palpatine the scariest and most effective villain of the whole Star Wars universe.
Who is your favourite Star Wars villain? Who would you rank as the baddest? Let us know!