Darth Vader is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise. He is a primary antagonist in the original trilogy, but, as Anakin Skywalker, is the main protagonist of the prequel trilogy. Star Wars creator George Lucas has collectively referred to the first six episodic films of the franchise as "the tragedy of Darth Vader."
|Star Wars character|
|First appearance||Star Wars (1977)|
|Last appearance||Rogue One (2016)|
|Created by||George Lucas|
|Full name||Anakin Skywalker|
|Species||Human, later Cyborg|
Originally a Jedi prophesied to bring balance to the Force, Anakin Skywalker is lured to the dark side of the Force by Palpatine, who is secretly a Sith Lord. After fighting a lightsaber battle with his former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi in which he is dismembered, Vader is transformed into a cyborg. He then serves the Galactic Empire as Darth Vader until he redeems himself by saving his son, Luke Skywalker, and killing Palpatine, sacrificing his own life in the process. He is also the father of Princess Leia Organa, the secret husband of Padmé Amidala, and grandfather of Kylo Ren, the main villain of the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
The character has been portrayed by numerous actors. His cinematic appearances span the first six Star Wars films, as well as Rogue One, and his character is referenced in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He also appears in numerous iterations of the Star Wars Expanded Universe including television series (most substantially The Clone Wars), video games, novels, literature and comic books.
Darth Vader has become one of the most iconic villains in popular culture, and has been listed among the greatest villains and fictional characters ever. The American Film Institute listed him as the third greatest movie villain in cinema history on 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains, behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. His role as a tragic hero in the prequel trilogy was met with positive reviews.
Creation and development
Concept and writing
In the first draft of The Star Wars, tall, grim general "Darth Vader" was already close in line with his final depiction, and the protagonist "Anikin Starkiller" had a role similar to Luke Skywalker's as the 16-year-old son of a respected warrior.
After the success of the original Star Wars (1977), series creator George Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write the sequel with him. They held story conferences and, by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment. The treatment is similar to the final film, except that Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke. Lucas was disappointed with the script, but Brackett died of cancer before he could discuss it with her. With no writer available, Lucas had to write the next draft himself. In this draft, he made use of a new plot twist: Vader claiming to be Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the year-long struggles writing the first film.
The new plot element of Luke's parentage had drastic effects on the series. Author Michael Kaminski claims and argues in his book that it is unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was a separate character from Luke's father. After writing the second and third drafts in which the plot point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the new backstory he had created: Anakin had been Obi-Wan Kenobi's brilliant student and had a child named Luke, but was swayed to the dark side by Palpatine. Anakin battled Obi-Wan on the site of a volcano and was badly wounded, but was then reborn as Vader. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan hid Luke on Tatooine while the Galactic Republic became the tyrannical Galactic Empire and Vader systematically hunted down and killed the Jedi. This change in character would provide a springboard to the "tragedy of Darth Vader" storyline that underlies the prequel trilogy.
After deciding to create the prequel trilogy, Lucas indicated the series would be a tragic one depicting Anakin's fall to the dark side. He also saw that the prequels could form the beginning of one long story that started with Anakin's childhood and ended with his death. This was the final step towards turning the film series into a "saga". For the first prequel, Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Lucas made Anakin nine years old instead of 12 to make the character's separation from his mother more poignant. Movie trailers focused on Anakin and a one-sheet poster showing him casting Vader's shadow informed otherwise unknowing audiences of the character's eventual fate. The movie ultimately achieved a primary goal of introducing audiences to Anakin.
Author Michael Kaminski, in The Secret History of Star Wars, offers evidence that issues in Anakin's fall to the dark side prompted Lucas to make massive story changes, first revising the opening sequence of the third prequel, Revenge of the Sith (2005), to have Palpatine kidnapped and his apprentice, Count Dooku, killed by Anakin in cold blood as the first act in the latter's turn towards the dark side. After principal photography was complete in 2003, Lucas made even more massive changes in Anakin's character, re-writing his entire turn to the dark side; Anakin's fall from grace would now be motivated by a desire to save his wife, Padmé Amidala, rather than the previous version in which that reason was one of several, including that he genuinely believed that the Jedi were plotting to take over the Republic. This fundamental re-write was accomplished both through editing the principal footage, and new and revised scenes filmed during pick-ups in 2004.
During production of the Clone Wars TV series, Ahsoka Tano was developed to illustrate how Anakin develops from the brash, undisciplined Padawan apprentice in Attack of the Clones (2002) to the more reserved Jedi Knight in Revenge of the Sith. Clone Wars supervising director and Rebels co-creator Dave Filoni said that giving Anakin responsibility for a Padawan was meant to place the character in a role that forced him to become more cautious and responsible. It would also give him insight into his relationship with Obi-Wan and depict how their relationship matured. Ahsoka and Anakin's relationship was seen as an essential story arc spanning both the animated film and Clone Wars television series. Filoni began thinking about the final confrontation between Ahsoka and Vader ever since he created the former; different iterations had different endings, including one in which Vader kills Ahsoka just as she slashes open his helmet to reveal Vader's scarred face.
The original design of Darth Vader's costume did not originally include a helmet. The idea that Vader should wear a breathing apparatus was first proposed by concept artist Ralph McQuarrie during preproduction discussions for Star Wars with George Lucas in 1975. McQuarrie stated that Lucas's artistic direction was to portray a malevolent figure in a cape with Samurai armor. "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." McQuarrie noted that the script indicated that Vader would travel between spaceships and needed to survive in the vacuum of space, and he proposed that Vader should wear some sort of space suit. Lucas agreed, and McQuarrie combined a full-face breathing mask with a Samurai helmet, thus creating one of the most iconic designs of space fantasy cinema. McQuarrie's 1975 production painting of Darth Vader engaged in a lightsaber duel with Deak Starkiller (a character prototype for Luke Skywalker) depicts Vader wearing black armor, a flowing cape and an elongated, skull-like mask and helmet. Its similarity to the final design of Vader's costume demonstrates that McQuarrie's earliest conception of Vader was so successful that very little needed to be changed for production.
Working from McQuarrie's designs, the costume designer John Mollo devised a costume that could be worn by an actor on-screen using a combination of clerical robes, a motorcycle suit, a German military helmet and a gas mask. The prop sculptor Brian Muir created the helmet and armour used in the film.
The sound of the respirator function of Vader's mask was created by Ben Burtt using modified recordings of scuba breathing apparatus used by divers. The sound effect is trademarked in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under Trademark #77419252 and is officially described in the documentation as "The sound of rhythmic mechanical human breathing created by breathing through a scuba tank regulator."
Commentators have often pointed to the influence of Akira Kurosawa's films such as The Hidden Fortress (1958) on George Lucas, and Vader's Samurai-inspired costume design is held up as a significant example of the Japanese influences on Star Wars.
Darth Vader was portrayed by bodybuilder David Prowse in the original film trilogy, and by stunt performer Bob Anderson during the character's intense lightsaber fight scenes. Lucas originally intended for Orson Welles to voice Vader (after dismissing using Prowse's own voice due to his English West Country accent, leading to the rest of the cast nicknaming him "Darth Farmer"). After deciding that Welles's voice would be too recognizable, he cast the lesser-known James Earl Jones instead. Jones initially felt his contributions to the films were too small to warrant recognition and his role was uncredited at his request until the release of Return of the Jedi (1983). When Jones was specifically asked if he had supplied Vader's voice for Revenge of the Sith—either newly or from a previous recording—Jones answered, "You'd have to ask Lucas about that. I don't know". Hayden Christensen and Gene Bryant alternately portray Vader in Revenge of the Sith. During the production of Revenge of the Sith, Christensen asked Lucas if a special Vader suit could be constructed to fit his own body, rather than have a different actor don one of the original sets of Vader armor worn by Prowse. Brock Peters provided the voice of Darth Vader in the NPR/USC radio series. Both Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous portrayed Vader in Rogue One (2016), with Jones reprising his role as the character's voice.
Vader's character has also been portrayed in several video games; in games such as Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire and Dark Forces, visual effects artist C. Andrew Nelson appears in short sequences in the Vader costume, voiced by Scott Lawrence. Matt Sloan, who appeared in the YouTube parody Chad Vader, provided the voice of Darth Vader in The Force Unleashed. As a result of his video game appearances, Nelson was cast to appear as Vader in brief sequences inserted into the 1998 special edition of The Empire Strikes Back, in which Vader is seen boarding his shuttle.
During production of Return of the Jedi, the casting crew sought an experienced actor for the role of Anakin Skywalker since his death was unquestionably the emotional climax of the film, and Sebastian Shaw was selected for the role. When Shaw arrived at the set for filming, he ran into his friend Ian McDiarmid, the actor playing the Emperor. When McDiarmid asked him what he was doing there, Shaw responded, "I don't know, dear boy, I think it's something to do with science-fiction." His presence during the filming was kept secret from all but the minimum cast and crew, and Shaw was contractually obliged not to discuss any film secrets with anyone, even his family. The unmasking scene, directed by Richard Marquand, was filmed in one day and required only a few takes, with no alteration from the original dialogue. Lucas personally directed Shaw for his appearance in the final scene of the film, in which he is a Force Ghost of Anakin. Shaw's image in this scene was replaced with that of Christensen in the 2004 DVD release. This last attempt to tie the prequel and original trilogies together proved to be possibly the most controversial change in the Star Wars re-releases. Shaw received more fan mail and autograph requests from Return of the Jedi than he had for any role in the rest of his career. He later reflected that he very much enjoyed his experience filming for Return of the Jedi and expressed particular surprise that an action figure was made of him from the film.
When The Phantom Menace was being produced, hundreds of actors were tested for the role of young Anakin before the producers settled on Jake Lloyd, who Lucas considered met his requirements of "a good actor, enthusiastic and very energetic". Producer Rick McCallum said that Lloyd was "smart, mischievous and loves anything mechanical—just like Anakin." During production of Attack of the Clones, casting director Robin Gurland reviewed about 1,500 other candidates for the role of the young Anakin before Lucas eventually selected Hayden Christensen for the role. When Revenge of the Sith was being produced, Christensen and Ewan McGregor began rehearsing their climactic lightsaber duel long before Lucas would shoot it. They trained extensively with stunt coordinator Nick Gillard to memorize and perform their duel together. As in the previous prequel film, McGregor and Christensen performed their own lightsaber fighting scenes without the use of stunt doubles.
Anakin has also been voiced by Mat Lucas for the 2003 micro-series Star Wars: Clone Wars, and by Matt Lanter in the CGI animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the television series of the same name and for Anakin's cameos in the animated series Star Wars Rebels. James Earl Jones reprised the voice role for Vader's appearances in Rebels. Both Lanter and Jones contributed their voices for the second-season finale of Rebels, at times with identical dialogue spoken by both actors blended together in different ways.
Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker appears in seven of the live-action Star Wars films, in the animated series The Clone Wars (including the film), Rebels, Forces of Destiny and in the Legends micro-series Clone Wars. He also has a main and recurring role in games, comics, books and the non-canon Star Wars Legends material.
Darth Vader first appears in Star Wars (later retitled as A New Hope) as a ruthless villain serving the Galactic Empire. He is tasked, along with Imperial Governor Grand Moff Tarkin, with recovering the secret technical plans for the Death Star, which were stolen by the Rebel Alliance. Vader captures and tortures Princess Leia Organa, who has hidden the plans inside the droid R2-D2 and sent it to find Vader's former Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi on the planet Tatooine. During Leia's rescue, Vader kills Obi-Wan in a lightsaber duel. Having placed a tracking device aboard the Millennium Falcon, Vader is able to track down the Rebels' base on the planet Yavin IV. During the Rebels' attack on the Death Star, Vader in his TIE fighter attempts to shoot down Luke Skywalker's X-wing fighter, but Han Solo intervenes and sends Vader's ship spiraling off course, allowing Luke to destroy the Death Star.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Vader becomes obsessed with finding Luke and leads the Imperial attack on the Rebel base on Hoth, but the Rebels escape. While conversing with Emperor Palpatine via hologram, Vader convinces him that Luke would be valuable to the Empire if he could be turned to the dark side of the Force. Vader hires a group of bounty hunters to follow Luke's friends, and negotiates with Bespin administrator Lando Calrissian to set a trap for them so that Luke will follow them. After Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO arrive, Vader tortures Han, freezes him in carbonite and gives him to the bounty hunter Boba Fett. When Luke arrives, Vader overpowers him in a lightsaber duel, severing his hand. Vader tells Luke that he is his father, and tries to persuade him to join forces and help him overthrow the Emperor. Horrified and incredulous, Luke escapes through an air shaft. Vader telepathically tells Luke that it is his destiny to join him.
In Return of the Jedi, Vader and the Emperor are supervising the second Death Star's construction. Unknown to Vader, the Emperor intends to replace him with Luke as his apprentice. Thinking that there is still good in his father, Luke surrenders to Vader and unsuccessfully tries to convince him to turn from the dark side. Vader takes Luke to the Death Star to meet the Emperor. While there, Palpatine tempts Luke to give in to his anger, which leads to Vader dueling with Luke once again. Realizing that Leia is Luke's twin sister, Vader threatens to turn her to the dark side if Luke will not submit. Furious, Luke overpowers Vader and severs his father's robotic hand. The Emperor entreats Luke to kill Vader and take his place. Luke refuses, however, and the Emperor tortures him with Force lightning. Unwilling to let his son die, Vader throws the Emperor down a reactor chute to his death, but Vader is mortally electrocuted in the process. At his last request, Luke removes the redeemed Anakin's mask. As he dies peacefully in Luke's arms, Vader tells him that there was still good in him after all. Luke escapes the Death Star with his father's body, and cremates it in a pyre. Anakin's spirit reunites with those of Obi-Wan and Yoda to watch over Luke and his friends as the Rebels celebrate the Death Star's destruction and the fall of the Empire.
Anakin first appears in the prequel trilogy in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which takes place 32 years before the original Star Wars, as a nine-year-old slave living on the planet Tatooine with his mother Shmi. Anakin was conceived without a father and he can foresee the future. Also a gifted pilot and mechanic, Anakin has built his own protocol droid, C-3PO. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn meets Anakin after making an emergency landing on Tatooine. Qui-Gon senses Anakin's strong connection to the Force and becomes convinced that the boy is the "Chosen One" of Jedi prophecy who will bring balance to the Force. After winning his freedom in a podrace, Anakin leaves for Coruscant to be trained as a Jedi, but is forced to leave Shmi behind. During the journey, Anakin forms a bond with Padmé Amidala, the young queen of Naboo. Qui-Gon asks the Jedi Council for permission to train Anakin, but they sense fear in the boy and refuse. Eventually, Anakin helps thwart the Trade Federation's invasion of Naboo by destroying their command ship. After Qui-Gon is killed in a lightsaber duel with Sith Lord Darth Maul, Obi-Wan promises to train Anakin, with the Council's reluctant approval. Palpatine, newly elected as the Galactic Republic’s Chancellor, later befriends Anakin and tells him that he will watch the boy's career "with great interest".
Anakin is Obi-Wan's Padawan apprentice in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which takes place 10 years after The Phantom Menace. Having rescued Padmé, who is now a senator, from an assassination attempt, Anakin travels with her to Naboo, where they fall in love. Sensing that Shmi is in pain, Anakin travels to Tatooine to rescue her. While there, Anakin learns she was kidnapped by the hostile Tusken Raiders, native to Tatooine. Anakin locates Shmi at the Tusken campsite, where she dies in his arms. Anakin, enraged, massacres the Tuskens and returns to the Lars homestead to bury Shmi. Anakin travels with Padmé to Geonosis to rescue Obi-Wan from Sith Lord Count Dooku, Qui-Gon's old master and leader of the Separatists, a conspiracy of star systems bent on seceding from the Galactic Republic. Dooku captures them, however, and sentences them to death. However, a cadre of Jedi arrives with the Kaminoan clone army to halt their executions. Obi-Wan and Anakin confront Dooku during the ensuing battle, but the Sith Lord beats them both in a lightsaber duel and severs Anakin's arm. Master Yoda intervenes and rescues the Jedi. By the end of the film, Anakin is fitted with a robotic arm and marries Padmé secretly.
In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, set three years after Attack of the Clones, Anakin is now a Jedi Knight and a hero of the Clone Wars. He and Obi-Wan lead a mission to rescue Palpatine from Separatist commander General Grievous on board his starship. The two Jedi battle Count Dooku, whom Anakin eventually executes on Palpatine's command. They rescue Palpatine and return to Coruscant. Anakin reunites with Padmé, who tells him she is pregnant. Although initially excited, Anakin has prophetic visions of Padmé dying in childbirth and his worry steadily grows, as they are similar to the visions he had of his mother before she died. Later, Palpatine reveals to Anakin that he is the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, saying that only he has the knowledge to save Padmé from dying. Anakin reports Palpatine's treachery to Jedi Master Mace Windu, who subdues him. Desperate to save Padmé, Anakin intervenes on the Palpatine's behalf, allowing him to kill Windu. Anakin pledges himself to the dark side and becomes Palpatine's new Sith apprentice, Darth Vader. Vader leads a band of clones to murder everyone at the Jedi Temple before he kills the remaining Separatist leaders hiding on the volcanic planet Mustafar. Padmé travels to Mustafar and implores Vader to abandon the dark side, but he refuses and asks her to help overthrow Palpatine so they can rule the galaxy together. Upon witnessing Obi-Wan present, Vader furiously chokes Padmé into unconsciousness, thinking that she brought Obi-Wan to kill him. Obi-Wan duels and defeats Vader, severing his arm and both of his legs, and leaves him at the bank of a lava river, where he is horribly burned. Palpatine finds Vader still alive and brings him to Coruscant, where his apprentice's mutilated body is treated and covered in the black armored suit first depicted in the original trilogy. Palpatine explains to Vader that he himself killed Padmé in his rage, devastating him and leaving him in pain. At the end of the film, Vader supervises the construction of the first Death Star alongside Palpatine and Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin.
The Clone Wars (film)
In the 2008 3D animated film The Clone Wars, Yoda assigns Ahsoka Tano as Anakin's Padawan apprentice to teach him a greater sense of responsibility, and Anakin is initially frustrated by this decision. Their early interactions are "playfully contentious", with Anakin calling her "Snips" for her "snippy" attitude and Ahsoka calling him "Skyguy" as a pun on his surname. After earning Anakin's respect during a dangerous mission, Ahsoka joins him on a quest to rescue Jabba the Hutt's infant son, Rotta. Her impetuousness both annoys and endears her to her master, and, by the end of the film, Anakin reveals a newfound affection for his apprentice.
Vader appears in the first anthology film Rogue One, played by Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous, with James Earl Jones once again voicing the character. In this film, Vader meets with Imperial weapons engineer Orson Krennic, who asks him for an audience with the Emperor regarding the Death Star which Krennic lost command of to Tarkin. Vader refuses, however, and uses the Force to choke him as a way of putting him in his place and orders him to ensure the Death Star project has not been compromised. At the end of the film, Vader boards the disabled Rebel flagship Profundity with a cadre of Imperial stormtroopers and kills several Rebel soldiers as he attempts to recover the plans. However, the Alderaanian blockade runner Tantive IV (which was docked with the Profundity) escapes with the plans, setting the stage for the events of A New Hope.
Prior to the hallway scene being filmed, during the finale for Rogue One it was planned that Orson Krennic would survive the Death Star's assault on Scarif and Vader would then murder him for failing to stop the theft of the Death Star plans. However this scene was cut from Rogue One due to the difficulty of explaining how Krennic survived the explosion the Death Star caused.
The Clone Wars (2008–2014)
Anakin is a lead character in all seasons of The Clone Wars. As a Jedi Knight, he goes on several missions with both Obi-Wan and Ahsoka throughout the war. While continuing to teach Ahsoka the ways of the Jedi, Anakin has developed a close bond with her and they take risks to protect or save one another. Some of Anakin's actions taken out of concern for Ahsoka violate the Jedi code, such as torturing prisoners who may know her location when she goes missing. During the third season, Anakin experiences a vision of his future as Darth Vader.
Darth Vader is a recurring character in the first season of Star Wars Rebels, which takes place 14 years after The Clone Wars concludes. Vader leads a squadron of Force-sensitive Imperial Inquisitors who are actively searching for and killing any remaining Jedi and Force-sensitive children. In the second-season premiere, Vader discovers that Ahsoka has joined the Rebel Alliance, and the Emperor orders him to hunt her down.
During their first confrontation in which Vader wipes out most of Phoenix Squadron's troops, Ahsoka is overwhelmed when she recognizes Anakin under "a layer of hate" in Darth Vader. Later in the season, Ahsoka has a vision in which Anakin blames her for allowing him to fall to the dark side. Vader makes a brief cameo at the end of "Shroud of Darkness" in which he is brought to the Jedi temple on Lothal. In the season finale, Ahsoka duels with her former master inside a Sith Temple, allowing her friends to escape Vader and the temple's destruction. As the episode concludes, Vader escapes from the temple's ruins. Filoni said that it was "an elected decision" not to feature Vader for the third season. Vader makes a final voiceless cameo in the late fourth-season episode "A World Between Worlds", as Ezra looks back in time to see the conclusion of his duel with Ahsoka before rescuing her from him. Shortly afterward, quotes from Vader are heard echoing in the void after Ezra says his name.
Forces of Destiny (2017–2018)
Anakin Skywalker is a recurring character in the 2D animated web series Star Wars Forces of Destiny. He appears in the episodes "The Padawan Path", "Teach You, I Will" and "Unexpected Company", voiced again by Matt Lanter.
In 2015, Marvel released a 25-issue series called Darth Vader (2015), which focused on the title character in the aftermath of the destruction of the Death Star, as well as his life after learning about the existence of his son. The series happens parallel to the comic book series Star Wars (2015) and has a cross-over titled Vader Down.
The five-issue mini-series Obi-Wan & Anakin, written by Charles Soule, depicts the lives of both Jedi between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. At New York Comic Con 2015, Dan Brooks of StarWars.com held an interview with Soule, who described the story as "pretty unexplored territory."
A second series, Darth Vader (2017), is also written by Charles Soule. It begins moments after Vader wakes up for the first time in his black suit at the end of the film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The series will focus on exploring the title character's emotional transformation upon learning of Padme's death, his adjustment to his mechanical suit, how he creates his red lightsaber, and how he hunts Jedi in the Inquisitor program shown in the animated series Star Wars Rebels.
Star Wars canon literature
Star Wars: Lords of the Sith was one of the first four canon novels to be released in 2014 and 2015. In Lords of the Sith, Vader and Palpatine find themselves hunted by revolutionaries on the Twi'lek planet Ryloth.
Virtual reality game
In the 2015 Star Wars Celebration, it was announced David S. Goyer is helping to develop a virtual reality game based on Darth Vader. It is said that the audience as "visitor" will be able to walk, pick up, push and open things, and might even have some effect in the story.
In April 2014, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded by Lucasfilm as "Legends" and declared non-canon to the franchise.
Clone Wars (2003–2005)
Anakin is a lead character in all three seasons of the Clone Wars microseries, which takes place four months after the conclusion of Attack of the Clones. Anakin becomes a Jedi Knight and is quickly promoted to a General of the Republic's Clone Army, due in part to Palpatine's influence. Among other missions, he fights a duel with Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress, helps Obi-Wan capture a Separatist-controlled fortress and rescues Jedi Master Saesee Tiin during a space battle. During the third season, Anakin frees the planet Nelvaan from Separatist control and sees a cryptic vision of his future as Darth Vader. In the season finale, Anakin and Obi-Wan go on a mission to rescue Palpatine from General Grievous, leading to the opening of Revenge of the Sith. Series creator and director Genndy Tartakovsky admitted that he was bothered that Lucasfilm declared Clone Wars non-canon, but said that he was proud of what he did and how much the microseries and the characters influenced later works.
Vader is featured prominently in novels set in the Star Wars universe. In the 1978 novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster, Vader meets Luke Skywalker for the first time and engages him in a lightsaber duel that ends with Luke cutting off Vader's arm and Vader falling into a deep pit. (In 1999's Vader's Quest, however, Vader encounters Luke for the first time after hiring a bounty hunter to find the pilot who destroyed the Death Star.) Shadows of the Empire (1996) reveals that Vader is conflicted about trying to turn his son to the dark side of the Force, and knows deep down that there is still some good in him.
Anakin Skywalker's redeemed spirit appears in The Truce at Bakura (1993), set a few days after the end of Return of the Jedi. He appears to Leia, imploring her forgiveness. Leia condemns him for his crimes and exiles him from her life. He promises that he will be there for her when she needs him, and disappears. In Tatooine Ghost (2003), Leia learns to forgive her father after learning about his childhood as a slave and his mother's traumatic death. In The Unifying Force (2003), Anakin tells his grandson Jacen Solo to "stand firm" in his battle with the Supreme Overlord of the Yuuzhan Vong.
Upon the release of the prequel films, the Expanded Universe grew to include novels about Vader's former life as Anakin Skywalker. Greg Bear's 2000 novel Rogue Planet and Jude Watson's Jedi Apprentice and Jedi Quest series chronicle Anakin's early missions with Obi-Wan, while James Luceno's 2005 novel Labyrinth of Evil, set during the Clone Wars, depicts Anakin battling Separatist commander General Grievous. In Luceno's Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (2005), set a few months after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Vader disavows his identity as Anakin Skywalker as he systematically pursues and kills the surviving Jedi and cements his position in the Empire. The novel reveals that Vader plans to eventually overthrow Palpatine and that he betrayed the Jedi because he resented their supposed failure to recognize his power.
In the Dark Nest trilogy (2005), Luke and Leia uncover old recordings of their parents in R2-D2's memory drive; for the first time, they see their own birth and their mother's death, as well as their father's corruption to the dark side. In Bloodlines (2006), Han and Leia's son Jacen – who has himself turned to the dark side – uses the Force to "watch" Darth Vader slaughter the children at the Jedi Temple.
Vader also appears in a series of tongue-in-cheek children's books by Jeffrey Brown. In Brown's series, a hapless Vader sets out to be a father to a young Luke and Leia, with some scenes portraying light-hearted versions of their darker film counterparts (for example, one scene shows Vader, Luke and Leia at the carbonite freezing chamber on Bespin, with Vader pronouncing the freezer adequate for making ice cream).
Anakin Skywalker is a major character in Dark Horse's Star Wars: Republic series (1998–2006).
Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker appear in a variety of video games such as the Lego Star Wars series and the Battlefront series. Vader plays a central role in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008). He is a playable character in the first level of the game, where he and his armies invade Kashyyyk to hunt down a Jedi who had survived the Order's destruction. Vader kills the Jedi and kidnaps the man's young Force-sensitive son, whom he raises as his secret apprentice, Starkiller. Vader sends Starkiller on various missions throughout the galaxy, with an ultimate goal to assassinate Palpatine so that Vader can rule the galaxy himself. Toward the end of the game, however, it is revealed that Vader isn't planning to overthrow Palpatine at all; he is merely using his apprentice to expose the Empire's enemies. At the game's climax, the player chooses between attacking Palpatine to help his Rebel friends escape the Death Star or killing Vader to become the Emperor's new apprentice. He also appears in the sequel Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II as the final boss. He, Starkiller and Yoda serve as guest characters for Soulcalibur IV (2008), with Vader available for the PlayStation 3 edition and downloadable content for the Xbox 360 edition.
In the Star Wars Holiday Special, a television special broadcast by CBS in 1978, features a brief appearance by Darth Vader, who appears on-screen speaking with Imperial officer "Chief Bast" in footage cut from the original 1977 film. The sequence is dubbed with new dialogue, performed by James Earl Jones. In the story, Vader colludes with Boba Fett to entrap the Rebels.
Darth Vader features in the 1981 radio drama adaptation of Star Wars, voiced by the actor Brock Peters. Vader makes his first appearance on the planet Ralltiir, where he treats Princess Leia Organa with suspicion. In later extended scenes, he is heard interrogating and torturing Leia on board his Star Destroyer and aboard the Death Star.
Vader appears in Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, where he is voiced by Jones. Vader is featured as a combatant in the popular series Death Battle, in which he is pitted against Marvel Comics villain Doctor Doom.
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker feels "smothered" by Obi-Wan Kenobi and is incapable of controlling his own life. By Revenge of the Sith, however, his "father-son" friction with his master has matured into a more equal, brotherly relationship. Once he becomes Darth Vader, each evil act he commits shatters any hope or connection towards his previous life, which makes it harder for him to return to the light, but he ultimately escapes the dark side and redeems himself by sacrificing his life to save his son, Luke Skywalker, and kill the Emperor in Return of the Jedi.
Eric Bui, a psychiatrist at University of Toulouse Hospital, argued at the 2007 American Psychiatric Association convention that Anakin Skywalker meets six of the nine diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD), one more than necessary for a diagnosis. He and a colleague, Rachel Rodgers, published their findings in a 2010 letter to the editor of the journal Psychiatry Research. Bui says he found Anakin Skywalker a useful example to explain BPD to medical students. In particular, Bui points to Anakin's abandonment issues and uncertainty over his identity. Anakin's mass murders of the Tusken Raiders in Attack of the Clones and the young Jedi in Revenge of the Sith count as two dissociative episodes, fulfilling another criterion. Bui hoped his paper would help raise awareness of the disorder, especially among teens.
Darth Vader's iconic status has made the character a synonym for evil in popular culture. For example, a three part series of episodes of the YouTube series Epic Rap Battles of History has Darth Vader facing off against Adolf Hitler. Psychiatrists have considered Vader to be a useful example for explaining borderline personality disorder to medical students. Anakin's origin story in The Phantom Menace has been compared to signifiers of African American racial identity, and his dissatisfaction with his life has been compared to Siddartha's before he became Gautama Buddha. A Mexican church advised Christians against seeing The Phantom Menace because it portrays Anakin as a Christ figure. The slime-mold beetle Agathidium vaderi is named after Vader, and several buildings across the globe are regularly compared to him. A grotesque of Darth Vader looms over the east face of the Washington National Cathedral's northwest tower. During the 2007–08 NHL season, Ottawa Senators goaltender Martin Gerber performed so well in an all-black mask that fans endearingly termed him "Darth Gerber". In 2015, a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Odessa, Ukraine, was converted into one of Darth Vader due to a law on decommunization.
Many commentators and comedians have also evoked his visage to satirize politicians and other public figures, and several American political figures have been unflatteringly compared to the character, including General George Custer, the subject of the acrylic painting Darth Custer by Native American artist Bunky Echohawk. In 2005, Al Gore referred to Tele-Communications Inc.'s John C. Malone as the "Darth Vader of cable", and political strategist Lee Atwater was known by his political enemies as "the Darth Vader of the Republican Party".
On June 22, 2006, US Vice President Dick Cheney referenced Darth Vader in an interview with CNN's John King. While discussing the George W. Bush administration's philosophy on gathering intelligence, Cheney said, "It means we need to be able to go after and capture or kill those people who are trying to kill Americans. That's not a pleasant business. It's a very serious business. And I suppose, sometimes, people look at my demeanor and say, 'Well, he's the Darth Vader of the administration.'"
Following this interview, many pop culture celebrities indeed referred to Cheney in this manner during and after his vice-presidency. On January 25, 2007, Jon Stewart put on a Darth Vader helmet to address Dick Cheney as a "kindred spirit" on The Daily Show. Cheney's wife, Lynne, presented Stewart with a Darth Vader action figure on her appearance on the show on October 10, 2007. Both Stewart and Stephen Colbert have occasionally referred to Cheney as "Darth Cheney". In the satirical cartoon show Lil' Bush, Dick Cheney's father is portrayed as being Darth Vader. At her presidential campaign event on September 19, 2007, Hillary Clinton also referred to Cheney as Darth Vader. At the 2008 Washington Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner, Cheney joked that his wife Lynne told him that the Vader comparison "humanizes" him. George Lucas told The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, however, that Cheney is more akin to Emperor Palpatine, and that a better stand-in for Vader would be George W. Bush. An issue of Newsweek referenced this quote, and compared Bush and Cheney to Vader and Palpatine, respectively, in a satirical article comparing politicians to various Star Wars and Star Trek characters.
Many films and television series have paid homage to Darth Vader. The 1982 compilation movie Cosmic Princess, compiled from parts of Space: 1999 episodes, contains several Star Wars references including a character named "Vader". Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985), dressed in a radiation suit, calls himself "Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan" to convince the past version of his father to ask his mother to a dance. Rick Moranis plays "Dark Helmet" in the Star Wars parody Spaceballs (1987). In Chasing Amy (1997), Hooper X speaks at a comic convention about Darth Vader being a metaphor for how poorly the science fiction genre treats black people; he is especially offended that Vader, the "blackest brother in the galaxy", reveals himself to be a "feeble, crusty old white man" at the end of Return of the Jedi. The character was also parodied in the Nickelodeon cartoon Rocko's Modern Life in the episode "Teed Off". On another Nickelodeon cartoon, Jimmy Neutron, Darth Vader's infamous line, "I am your father", was interpolated in the mini-episode "New Dog, Old Tricks". The line was also alluded to in Toy Story 2, which also introduces Emperor Zurg (a parody of Vader) to the Disney media franchise. The character of Dark Mayhem in The Thundermans is also a parody of Vader, especially in his original depiction, while his later appearances changed the character to a comical supervillain usually working with incompetent henchmen. The Final Fantasy IV character Golbez, who spent most of the game as the main antagonist, was stated by Takashi Tokita to be based on Vader, with his following a similar character arc.
The character has gained much positive reception as a classic film villain. Darth Vader ranked number two on Empire magazine's 2008 list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Premiere magazine also ranked Vader on their list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. On their list of the 100 Greatest Fictional Characters, Fandomania.com ranked Vader at number 6. Darth Vader was also the No. 1 supervillain on the Bravo series Ultimate Super Heroes, Vixens and Villains. Darth Vader was also ranked as No. 1 in IGN's list of top 100 Star Wars characters. Furthermore, Darth Vader's quote in The Empire Strikes Back – "No, I am your father" (often misquoted as "Luke, I am your father"), – is one of the most well known quotes in cinema history. The line was selected as one of the 400 nominees for the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, a list of the greatest American movie quotes. Vader received the Ultimate Villain recognition at the 2011 Scream Awards.
In 2009, Vader (or, more precisely, a reproduction of him conserved at the Smithsonian Institution) had a brief cameo in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, as he, along with an Oscar the Grouch prop replica, tries to join the army formed by (the reproductions of) Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, Al Capone and the fictional Pharaoh Kahmunrah, but they judge him only a futile robot, as he does not speak, but tries to Force-choke them, with a gesture they interpret as a sort of salute.
- Two men named Darth Vader were candidates at the 25 May 2014 Kiev mayoral election and the Odessa mayoral election of the same day. A man named Darth Vader earlier had submitted documents to be registered as a presidential candidate in the 25 May 2014 Ukrainian presidential election, but his registration was refused because his real identity could not be verified. In the 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election, Darth Vader and Star Wars characters such as Chewbacca, Padmé Amidala and Yoda ran for seats in the Ukrainian parliament. Candidates named Darth Vader reappeared in the 2015 Ukrainian local elections.
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