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The 16 best Star Wars villains of all time, ranked

Here are the best Star Wars villains from across the galaxy, including scary Sith lords, evil aliens, badass bounty hunters, and ruthless Imperial officers.

Who are the best Star Wars villains? While the Star Wars journey is full of incredible heroes, we wouldn’t be half as engrossed in the intergalactic space battles if it weren’t for the formidable foes they face along the way.

That’s because, the truth is, Star Wars is a pretty dangerous place. Whether it’s evil Jedi-killing Sith lords, nefarious bounty hunters, emotionless droids, or intimidating ISB officers, some of the best Star Wars characters are actually really, really nasty people.

So, after rewatching all of Star Wars in order (with movies and Star Wars series included), we’ve put together a list of the crème de la crème when it comes to the top Star Wars villains, looking at power, charisma, and overall evilness.

Diana Lee Inosanto as Morgan Elsbeth in Ahsoka

16. Morgan Elsbeth

Diana Lee Inosanto brought an incredible nuance to the Ahsoka cast with her portrayal of Morgan Elsbeth and was one of the best things about the new show. Elsbeth was at the heart of all the nefarious plans to give new life to the Empire and her determination allowed Thrawn to rise once more.

Not only that, but her duel with Ahsoka in the finale was one of the best duels we’ve seen in the whole galaxy, which is saying a lot. We sincerely hope we will get an Ahsoka season 2 release date, but it’s just a shame Elsbeth won’t be there.

Agent Kallus from Star Wars Rebels

15. Agent Kallus

Yes, we know he ends up being a good guy by the end of Star Wars Rebels, but when he’s bad (or pretending to be bad, at least), Agent Kallus is a pretty nasty man. His disdain and desire to hunt down the crew of the Ghost is formidable and even though he’s a double agent, he is very convincing when he is taking out members of the Rebellion.

It’s no coincidence that his name is basically callous but spelled differently because Kallus is truly despicable and does a great impression of someone serving the Galactic Empire for the majority of the show.

Best Star Wars villains: Ben Mendehlson as Orson Krennic in Rogue One

14. Orson Krennic

A high-ranking lieutenant of the Galactic Empire, Orson Krennic oversaw the creation of the Death Star: Palpatine and Vader’s ultimate weapon. He’s cruel, callous, and relentlessly ambitious, and acts as a brilliant villain throughout Rogue One: one of the best movies in the series. What’s not to like?

That ambition, and his desire to be noticed by Palpatine, means that he’s one of the few people who can stand up to Vader and live to tell the tale (he is killed, yes, but not by Vader’s hand). So much of his personality and distinctiveness as a villain is down to Ben Mendelsohn’s excellent performance, which is a common factor among the greatest Star Wars villains in the series. Oh, and he has the best outfit.

Best Star Wars villains: Kyle Soller as Syril Karn in Andor

13. Syril Karn

OK, so we did say this list would feature the Star Wars villains who are the most powerful, evil, and charismatic. Syril Karn doesn’t really fit this box (yes, he’s evil, just not in a cackling way) but he’s also the man who almost singlehandedly pushed Cassian Andor into joining the Rebellion. That’s what you call impact.

He’s also one of the most intriguing villains because he’s driven almost solely by his determination and his desperation to please authority. That takes him surprisingly far, despite the fact that he’s slimy and repugnant and has (almost) no friends or allies. We can’t wait to see where his arc goes in season 2.

Best Star Wars villains: Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke

12. Supreme Leader Snoke

When Snoke was first introduced in the Sequel Trilogy, we were tantalized by the prospect of what this new big bad could be capable of. Ultimately, he was yet another pawn in the long game played by Emperor Palpatine, but is utterly terrifying all the same.

The way Snoke sneers at his apprentice, Kylo Ren, and pits him and Hux against one another, is so intriguing. And, it makes it all the more satisfying when Kylo decides to split his master in two.

Best Star Wars villains: Christopher Lee as Count Dooku

11. Count Dooku

We love a spot of double-crossing and a hero-to-villain arc here at The Digital Fix, and Count Dooku well and truly spat in the face of the Jedi Order when he joined the Galactic Empire’s side. One of the oldest, most wise Jedi of all, and yet even he could be corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force – how exciting!

Dooku’s arc is made all the more fascinating if you watch the animated series, Tales of the Jedi, and see the first rumblings of his attraction to the Dark Side.

Best Star Wars villains: General Grievous

10. General Grievous

Say what you want about the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but no one can deny that General Grievous is a downright terrifying foe who I’d hate to face in combat. The cyborg is merciless, and with his four arms swinging about lightsabers, your adrenaline can’t help but spike when you watch him on screen.

Making his live-action debut in 2005’s Star Wars movie Revenge of the Sith, Grievous is one of the most stylish villains around, using flair in fights and scuttling around the battlefield like a deadly scorpion. He may not have a ton of screen time, but his iconic battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi is iconic and has led to his appearance in games and the Star Wars series, too. Sometimes, style over substance just works.

Best Star Wars villains: Ray Park as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace

9. Darth Maul

We couldn’t write this list without mentioning the Star Wars edge lord and style icon, Darth Maul, now, could we? If anyone had an appearance that screamed evil Sith lord, it was Maul with his demon-like features and horned red face. When he first appeared on the big screen in the ‘90s movie The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul immediately captured attention and gained a fanbase.

And since his debut, we’ve only grown to love this villain more as his backstory unfolded in spin-off movies and series. Maul was kidnapped as a child, molded, and trained into the ideal villain. He is fuelled by rage and revenge, making him a scary enemy since he doesn’t quit and uses any and all means to reach his goals.

Best Star Wars villains - Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels

8. Grand Admiral Thrawn

Grand Admiral Thrawn is not one of the most well-known Star Wars villains, but that doesn’t make him any less worthy of being on the list. The story of Thrawn, one of the leading Admirals in the Imperial Navy, is told through Star Wars novels, and this is where the character first picks up his army of fans.

Since then, Thrawn has been seen as the villain in the animated series Star Wars Rebels. He’s known for his cold, calculating take on villainy, and is one of the less aggressive and more cerebral Star Wars villains. He probably won’t be the person to pull the trigger himself, but you can bet he’ll be making plans and laying the traps. The character is set to make his live-action debut in the upcoming Star Wars series Ahsoka, which will follow his story in the downfall of the Empire.

Best Star Wars villains: Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon in The Mandalorian

7. Moff Gideon

It’s never a surprise to see Giancarlo Esposito on a best villains list, and he’s earned his place here, too. Moff Gideon has been the main antagonist so far in the hit sci-fi series The Mandalorian. He made his name through his bold plans to extract the blood of the highly Force sensitive Grogu (better known as Baby Yoda) and was even the owner of the Darksaber until it was taken from him by Din Djarin.

Gideon has proved himself to be a canny and cruel opponent, but unlike Thrawn, he’s more than happy to get into the thick of the fight, and he’s an impressive fighter, too. Moff Gideon is one of those all-around bad dudes who you simply don’t want to come across, which makes him an enthralling Mandalorian character.

Best Star Wars villains: Asajj Ventress

6. Asajj Ventress

As the disciple and apprentice of Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress proved that she was one of the most fun-to-watch villains around. Throughout the Clone Wars TV series, and in expanded lore, too, Asajj Ventress became one of the most compelling and complex characters in the entire galaxy.

Her flirtations with Obi-Wan Kenobi sparked life into the most typical of interactions, and her transition from an all-out baddie to a more morally unpredictable character marks her as one of the best of the best. Don’t let that fool you, though. If she wanted to kill you, don’t doubt that she could do it with ease.

Best Star Wars villains - Jabba the Hutt

5. Jabba the Hutt

The big, slimy, squishy crime lord is the epitome of greed and evil. Not only did this gruesome Star Wars alien treasure Han Solo‘s frozen body as a decoration, but he also enslaved Princess Leia and gave Luke Skywalker a run for his money when he dropped him down into the Rancor Pit. In fact, he ended up being one of Luke’s most challenging foes in the Star Wars movies despite barely being able to move. That’s quite an impressive feat.

When it comes down to it, Jabba is just gross. If we had to choose whether to be in a room with him or Darth Vader, we’d rather take our chances with the Sith.

Best Star Wars villains: Denise Gough as Dedra Meero in Andor

4. Dedra Meero

The TV series Andor season 1 introduced audiences to the truly excellent Dedra Meero. Played to absolute perfection by Andor cast member Denise Gough, Dedra Meero is an ISB officer whose entire goal is to hunt down a rebel known as Axis.

In her quest to do this, she targets Cassian Andor, specifically believing he can lead her to Axis. Along the way, we see how brutal she can be in pursuit of what she wants, and while it’s easy to initially root for her in the Star Wars series, that melts away as we watch her commit unspeakably awful acts in the name of the Empire. We can’t wait to see what she gets up to when the Andor season 2 release date comes around.

Best Star Wars villains - Darth Vader in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series

3. Darth Vader

What’s left to say about Darth Vader? Perhaps the most intimidating figure the galaxy has ever seen, Darth Vader wields his brutal might to terrifying effect, and his presence is felt across the entire Skywalker saga. He’s a Sith lord of enormous power, despite the limitations of his mechanical shell, and he knows how to use a lightsaber, that’s for sure.

Needless to say, it’s in the Original Trilogy of science fiction movies where the Star Wars character truly shines. From the very first moment, the audience sees that there is a movie villain who is completely unwilling to compromise or suffer fools. He uses the Force to choke his own officers when they disagree with him and slices through the Rebellion’s troops like a hot knife through blue butter. You do not want to get on the wrong side of Darth Vader – just ask the victims of Order 66 (oh wait).

Best Star Wars villains: Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin

2. Grand Moff Tarkin

Listen, few figures can stand next to Darth Vader without being choked in mid-air, especially those without any Force-related powers themselves. Played by Peter Cushing, Grand Moff Tarkin is one of the most imposing villains in Star Wars and helped kickstart the trend of engaging baddies in the IP when he made his big debut in 1977’s A New Hope.

He was Darth Vader’s right-hand man, in charge of the operations on the Death Star. It was also his order that led to the destruction of the planet Alderaan, so yeah, he is a cold-blooded killer. Since the ‘70s, Tarkin has become a Star Wars villain legend, appearing in animated series and receiving his own novel titled Tarkin in 2014. He is a firm believer in using fear as an oppression tool and has the respect of Vader, too. Basically, he is an S-tier baddie.

Best Star Wars villains: Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine

1. Emperor Palpatine

The Galaxy’s favorite dictator and the man who stood as the central villain for the whole Skywalker Saga, Palpatine, is a special kind of evil. Also known as Darth Sidious, Palpatine managed to restore the Sith, took full control of the Galaxy, and manipulated powerful souls such as Vader to do his bidding.

He is a power-hungry baddie who has become an icon of evil in pop culture, not just in Star Wars. Seldom do we see such an unapologetic psychopath whose lore and backstory just reinforce that his true nature is shady as hell. This lightning wielder is so scary that in our minds, he can stand next to some of the best horror movie villains of all time – like Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger.

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To spend more time with your favorite Star Wars movies, check out our guide to the Star Wars cast and everything that we know about the new Star Wars movies. Or, if you need a break from the Force, here are our lists of the best science fiction movies and we also have a handy guide breaking down all the new movies heading our way this year.