Who is Darth Vader?
Darth Vader is a character from the Star Wars franchise, and perhaps one of the most iconic villains in cinema. In the original trilogy (episodes 4-6), he is the primary antagonist and a mysterious figure with dark secrets. In the prequels (episodes 1-3) he is known as Anakin Skywalker and is also a main character, though not always an antagonist. The first six films show his rise and fall. In fact, George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars stories and franchise, has referred to those films as ‘the tragedy of Darth Vader.’
Darth Vader, with his complex inner struggles and ties to the heroes of the films, has become one of the most popular and iconic villains of cinema. In fact, the American Film Institute ranks him as third among the greatest movie villains in 100 years of cinematic history. He comes behind only Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. Some people think he should rank even higher, partially because he also serves as a kind of tragic hero at the same time. It’s that complexity, along with his looming appearance, mechanical breathing, and resonant voice, that makes him such a compelling character.
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What is Darth Vader's Story?
Anakin Skywalker began as a slave on the planet Tatooine. He has a naturally high ability to use the Force and to manipulate mechanical principles and systems. More importantly, it is prophesied that he is the one who will bring balance to the Force. The evil Sith Palpatine lures him into bondage to the Dark Side of the Force and Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, Sith Lord.
Vader has a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar, the volcanic landscape a fitting backdrop to the rage and betrayal felt by the characters. Kenobi severely injures Vader and leaves him for dead, but Vader is saved and transformed into a cyborg. Vader rises to the position of chief enforcer for the Galactic Empire and to personally serve the evil plans of the emperor himself.
Vader is also the secret husband to Padmé Amidala and the father of twins Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa, who were hidden from him when still in their infancies. Vader is also, therefore, maternal grandfather to Kylo Ren, the son of Leia and Han Solo.
In the end, Vader saves his son, Luke Skywalker, by throwing Emperor Palpatine to his death, just before Vader himself succumbs to his injuries and dies.
How was Darth Vader the character created?
The first draft of the Star Wars story saw a tall, grim general called Darth Vader, and the overall feel and look of the character did not change much. The main protagonist was called Annakin Starkiller, and was the 16-year-old son of a warrior.
Lucas took his inspiration for the Sith from the SS soldiers who served Adolf Hitler. While working on the back story the The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas merged these two characters into one, and the stage for the tragedy of Darth Vader was set.
When the original 1977 film Star Wars showed massive success and popularity, Lucas hired Leigh Brackett, a science fiction author, to help him in writing the sequel. The two had a handwritten treatment of the story complete by November of 1977.
Brackett worked further on this and had Luke’s father appearing to him as a ghost, to guide him in his training. Lucas did not like the idea, however, but before he could discuss the script with Brackett, she died of cancer. Lucas decided to write the next draft of it himself, completing it on 1 April 1978. This draft included the very famous plot twist of Vader being Luke’s father. Lucas reported that this draft was much more enjoyable to write than that of the first film had been. The first film took him several years, whereas the second was comparatively swift in its completion. Lucas said he knew that Vader was Luke’s father even while writing the first film, despite there being no in-film evidence or foreshadowing of it in the first film itself.
The revelation of Luke’s parentage had major impacts on the story as a whole, to the point that some experts, such as author Michael Kaminski, argues in The Secret History of Star Wars that it is unlikely Lucas seriously considered this as a plot point prior to the 1978 writing of the second film. He argues that the storyline flows with the clear assumption that Luke’s father was a separate person from Darth Vader, and that Vader in fact killed the man himself. Whether or not this is true, the storyline of Vader killing Luke’s father being a coverup seems to work well, and sets up the audience for a high-impact revelation scene during the Luke vs Vader duel.
In the (new? old?) backstory, Anakin was the prodigy of his master, Obi-Wan, and had a child named Luke. Anakin was then seduced by the Dark Side by Palpatine. Anakin duels Obi-Wan on a volcano and is severely wounded and left for dead, but is saved and later emerges as Darth Vader. Obi-Wan hides Luke on Tatooine, to protect him from the Galactic Empire. Vader hunts and kills Jedi, becoming the most powerful opponent to the Jedi order and the Rebellion against the Empire.
Once Lucas had decided to produce a prequel trilogy, he revealed that the life of Anakin would be a tragic one. He would show the story of Anakin from his early childhood through to his dramatic death. The franchise was beginning to take on a momentum that went beyond that of a few linked films; it was becoming a saga, a world in which many stories would eventually be told in various book and film forms.
Lucas decided to make Anakin nine years old when he was taken from his mother, to make the separation more emotional (The Phantom Menace, 1999). The image of little Anakin casting Vader’s shadow drew in audiences who wanted to know the story of how that cute little boy became the iconic villain. The film introduced Anakin and the prophesy of his being the Chosen One to bring balance to the Force. Lucas still stated in 2005 that Anakin is the Chosen One, even after turning the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader.
. Lucas states in an interview recorded around the time of the third prequel, Revenge of the Sith (2005), that "Anakin is the Chosen One. Even when Anakin turns into Darth Vader, he is still the Chosen One."
Principle photography on the film was completed in 2003, but Lucas re-wrote Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side after that point. The original motivation was multifaceted, including the belief that the Jedi were actually trying to overthrow the Republic, which was of course not true. The new motivation for his turn to the Dark Side would be the desire to save his wife, Padmé Amidala. The changes were implemented through re-editing the principle footage and through filming new scenes during the pick-ups stage in 2004.
Further nuance to Anakin’s development was added through the animated The Clone Wars television series, in which the character Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s own Padawan! Through this relationship (according to Dave Filoni, Star Wars Rebels co-creator), Anakin develops more discipline and caution in this thoughts and actions, showing a more gradual development between the rash and passionate young man in Attack of the Clones (2002) to the more reserved Jedi Knight in Revenge of the Sith. It would also show some maturation in the relationship between Anakin and his own Master, Obi-Wan.
From the beginning, Filoni saw the final face-off between Vader and Ahsoka as a key part of the development of both the character and the broader storyline. Several endings were considered, inf act. In one, Vader kills Ahsoka as she opens his helmet to reveal his damaged face. An episode of Rebels contains a similar scene, with Ahsoka cutting open Vader’s helmet and him recognising her.
The original Darth Vader character plan did not include a helmet or breathing apparatus. Concept artist Ralph McQuarrie came up with the idea in 1975, during discussions with Lucas prior to filming. Since Lucas was heavily inspired by samurai movies, McQuarrie suggested an homage to those figures by way of a cape and armour similar to what would have been worn by the samurai, but updated and altered to fit in with the Star Wars world. He recalls "For Darth Vader, George just said he would like to have a very tall, dark fluttering figure that had a spooky feeling like it came in on the wind." The script also had Vader moving between spaceships, and so proposed some sort of space suit for the character. Lucas agreed. The final concept included a full-face mask, black armour, a breathing apparatus, and a flowing cape. The 1975 production painting of Darth Vader, by McQuarrie, shows him in a duel with Deak Starkiller (later to be changed and developed into the character of Luke Skywalker). Vader is wearing black armour, including an elongated, skull-like helmet, and a flowing cape. Little was changed from this early concept, and its popularity was obvious from the start.
What movies does Darth Vader appear in?
Vader has several cinematic credits, including the six main Star Wars films (episodes 1-6) and Rogue One. He is mentioned in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and his voice is heard in The Rise of Skywalker, both in the character of Anakin Skywalker, and Darth Vader. He is a main character in The Clone Wars and appears in other televisions series, and also in several video games, novels, comic books and other media.
Though James Earl Jones is the best known actor who played a part of the character, the iconic voice, he is not the only one to have brought the character to life. David Prowse was the actor in the big black suit for the original trilogy. Sebastian Shaw played him, unmasked, in Return of the Jedi, and also the Force Ghost of Anakin in the original release of the film. In episode one, Jake Lloyd played Anakin as a boy, and in the following two films of the trilogy, Hayden Christensen played Anakin as a young man. In the 2004 re-release of Return of the Jedi, Sebastian Shaw’s portrayal of the Force Ghost was replaced by Hayden Christiansen, as he had now become the better-known face of Anakin.
Darth Vader uses a red lightsaber. Learn more about what lightsaber colours mean here.
Darth Vader Quotes
"If You Will Not Turn To The Dark Side, Then Perhaps She Will!"
There was constant tension between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, each trying to turn the other from their current paths, Light Side and Dark Side. The Emperor sensed this and watch their conflict carefully, fanning the emotions and anger of each toward his own ends.
After Vader failed to turn Luke to the Dark Side, he used the Force to delve into his mind, finding there the knowledge that there was a sister, another child of Anakin Skywalker, who might also be turned to the Dark Side. By threatening to turn Leia to the Dark Side, he stirs up Luke’s anger and rage to the point that Luke teeters on the edge of Giving in fully to the hatred of the Dark Side.
"You Are Unwise To Lower Your Defences!"
The second duel between Luke and Vader revealed that Luke was no longer the Padawan that Vader first encountered. His skill had grown much, and he was now either the equal of Vader in fighting skill, or very close to it. While the fight raged in space around them, the two came to a near stalemate in their own, personal confrontation.
Knowing the equality of their fighting prowess, Luke tries another tactic, letting go of his hatred and opening up his guard to rely on the mercy of the Sith Lord who was also his father.
"The Emperor Will Show You The True Nature Of The Force. He Is Your Master Now."
After the duel on Cloud City, Vader seems to feel the stirrings of long-forgotten feelings of love and connection within himself and toward his son – feelings he would rather suppress. Luke senses this as well. The confrontation on Endor includes a lot of persuasion for Vader to return to the good man he once was.
Vader’s response was not what Luke had been hoping for, and the young Jedi is visibly shaken by the doom pronounced upon him by his father.
"You Don't Know The Power Of The Dark Side!"
Vader’s inner conflict is a powerful one, and there are moments when the dark figure seems on the verge of denouncing the Dark Side, but he repeatedly sways back toward his evil path. To Luke’s passionate pleas, Vader responds with this simple sentence. It is not until the moment of final decision, where either Luke dies, or lives, that Vader makes his definitive choice.
"Luke, I am your Father!"??
Actually, Darth Vader never says this exact line. In the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back. What he actually says, in response to Luke’s accusation that the Sith Lord killed Luke’s father, is ‘No, I am your father!’
Still an awesome line.