Scum and Villainy: a Rogues Gallery of 11 Star Wars Villains

By Published On: June 11, 2021Categories: Star Wars Characters0 Comments

We cheer for the good guys in any story, but it’s often the bad guys who are more interesting. Star Wars has given us some truly epic baddies, as well as some truly laughable twits. Let’s take a look at some of the dark highlights of the Star Wars saga.

Each one of our featured Star Wars villains will be assessed on three criteria, scored out of 10:

Badassery – How scary is this person, and how seriously do we take them?

Complexity – How much has this character been developed, and do they change?

Potential Realized – Has Star Wars made full use of this villain, or is there lots of room to grow?

Who are the bad guys in Star Wars?

First of all, how do we decide who makes this list? Because of space I tried to stick with the major Star Wars villains, but there are many other rogues out there.

Darth Vader

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The Star Wars villain who started it all. Striding onto our movie screens in 1977, Darth Vader owned A New Hope and then went on in The Empire Strikes Back to shock us all with his deadbeat dad past. We can safely argue that the first six Star Wars movies are all about Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader, and we see him travel a long and twisted path to redemption. But, looking back, we don’t actually see him do that much bad stuff – many thanks to the closing scene of Rogue One for giving us a glimpse of this Dark Side champion at his worst.

Badassery – 7

Complexity – 10

Potential Realized – 7

Emperor Palpatine

Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious | StarWars.com

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The villain behind the original villain, Palpatine cackled his way into our nightmares in Return of the Jedi, but then appeared as a kindly old man in Phantom Menace. Then he slithered his way into destroying the Republic in the rest of the Prequel trilogy. Oh, and came out of nowhere in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (And apparently Supreme Leader Snoke in The Last Jedi was just a science experiment?) But even if Lucasfilm fumbled Palpatine’ s return somewhat, they nailed his presence in his first four movies and in the animated series. Pretty awesome turnout.

Badassery – 10

Complexity – 5

Potential Realized – 8

Kylo Ren

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Ever since watching The Force Awakens, I just don’t know what to make of this guy. He never seems as bad as maybe he thinks he is. But perhaps that’s the whole point – he isn’t a new Darth Vader. He also seems more whiny than menacing, but again maybe that was the plan all along. He’s clearly conflicted, which is cool, but I like him better as a good guy than a bad guy, so how convincing a villain is he, really?

Badassery – 3

Complexity – 8

Potential Realized – 4

Is Kylo Ren a Darth?

Apparently not. Kylo Ren is a Dark Side Force-wielder, but he and Supreme Leader Snoke don’t talk about the Sith per se. Maybe if Kylo Ren had joined Emperor Palpatine at the end of Rise of Skywalker he might have received his Darth name… but did any of us really care by then?

Jabba the Hutt

Jabba the Hutt | StarWars.com

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Jabba was a great villain in that we only heard his name for the first two movies (A New Hope re-release notwithstanding) but we still feared him. When he was revealed in Return of the Jedi he lived up to all our expectations, and he continues to be a fan favorite in the Star Wars universe. He doesn’t really change much, but we love him just the way he is.

Badassery – 7

Complexity – 1

Potential Realized – 7

Dryden Vos

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Another titan of the criminal underworld, Dryden Vos can’t be more different from Jabba. Stylish, sophisticated and willing to get his hands dirty, we love Dryden because we see in him the worst qualities in the galaxy packaged up in the finest clothes and most charming smile. We think of Han Solo as the charming rogue, but next to Dryden Vos he’s just a grinning kid. My only regret about Dryden is that we only see him in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Badassery – 9

Complexity – 5

Potential Realized – 3

Bounty Hunter Family

No Star Wars movie would be complete without some mention of a bounty hunter, and while the galaxy offers many powerful villains to consider, let’s focus on the Fett family.

Jango Fett

Jango Fett | StarWars.com

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We meet Jango in Attack of the Clones, and thank goodness for that, because he’s just about the only good thing in the movie. He also gives his DNA to the entire clone army, so even though he dies his face lives on.

Badassery – 8

Complexity – 1

Potential Realized – 2

Boba Fett

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Boba Fett has been one of the most popular Star Wars villains since he captured Han Solo and sold him to Jabba the Hutt. He doesn’t actually get to do much in the original trilogy, but Star Wars: The Clone Wars builds this character’s complexity as we see him as a young man trying to survive in a hostile galaxy. Boba Fett has help from fellow bounty hunters like Aurra Sing, but there’s no doubting he succeeds on his own. His recent return in The Mandalorian is a triumph – thanks, Lucasfilm.

Badassery – 8

Complexity – 6

Potential Realized – 6

Darth Maul

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Another villain who wasn’t well-served by the Star Wars movies, Darth Maul came into his own thanks to Clone Wars and Rebels. If all we had was his appearance in Phantom Menace, Maul could have been ranked as one of those lost-opportunity characters included by Lucasfilm solely for cool scenery. But instead, we’ve enjoyed his ongoing battle with Obi Wan Kenobi, the apprenticeship of his brother Savage Opress, and his powerful criminal schemes. Far more than just an evil Sith lord with a snazzy dual lightsaber, Maul’s influence stretches across the entire galaxy. He might still be under the thumb of Darth Sidious, but as far as Star Wars villains go, Darth Maul is the whole package.

Badassery – 10

Complexity – 8

Potential Realized – 9

Count Dooku

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Perhaps as much as Maul, Count Dooku was not well-represented by his appearances in the Star Wars movies. He only comes to life in the animated TV series, where this Sith lord shows just what evil really is. Apprentice to Darth Sidious, Dooku is a deadly practitioner of the Force and fends off insolent Jedi characters like Obi Wan Kenobi countless times before finally being bested by Anakin Skywalker. The last expression on his face, the shock of betrayal by his dark master, is classic.

Badassery – 7

Complexity – 4

Potential Realized – 7

General Hux

General Hux | StarWars.com

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The greatest moment in the career of General Hux was certainly his Nuremburg-style speech to the First Order, just before the most powerful weapon in the universe fired before his eyes. He should have retired then. He might have avoided getting tooled by Poe Dameron in The Last Jedi, and then getting shot dead for treason in Rise of Skywalker. He went from a villain with serious potential to a comic foil faster than a Jedi force-blocking a hail of blaster fire with their lightsaber. Even General Grievous had more depth. And at least Captain Phasma could lead stormtroopers with panache.

Badassery – 2

Complexity – 3

Potential Realized – 2

Orson Krennic

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Rogue One is the best movie in the Star Wars universe (yes it is – I will fight you) and one of its best features is Orson Krennic, director of the Death Star project. He’s more well-rounded that most Imperial officers, driven by ambition, fuelled by a cunning intelligence and protected by his own elite squad of stormtroopers. True, he has anger management issues and tries too hard to go solo when Grand Moff Tarkin clearly wants a piece of the glory, but he’s one of the more convincing villains we ever meet.

Badassery – 7

Complexity – 4

Potential Realized – 9

Who is the biggest villain in Star Wars?

Well, Jabba obviously – that slug is huge.

But from a dramatic perspective, I think it’s obvious that Palpatine / Sidious is the only reason we’re all here. Without him the Republic would still be standing, young Anakin would still have his blue lightsaber and things would be pretty dull in the galaxy.

Who is the best villain in Star Wars?

But who is the best? Looking at our score of villains, Palpatine ranks third with 23 points. Darth Vader edges him out with 24. This seems appropriate, considering the first six movies center around these two characters and their shadows both fall across the Disney trilogy.

But one villain scores even higher: Darth Maul at 27. If you’ve never watched The Clone Wars or Rebels, please take this as a reason to do so. (Cartoons aren’t just for kids.) Of all Star Wars villains this Dark Side Force-wielder is the most badass, complex and fully realized.

Clone Wars First Look: "The Phantom Apprentice" | StarWars.com

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