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Star Wars - Anakin Skywalker explained

He's Darth Vader, and he's the Chosen One. Anakin Skywalker is Star Wars' best character, and most significant too. Here's what you need to know on the ex Jedi.

Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen as different versions of Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars

Who is Anakin Skywalker? Across the nine movies, various spin-off series, and comic books, the one person that underpins the Star Wars universe as we know it is Anakin Skywalker — or, as some might know him, Darth Vader.

Star Wars is defined by Anakin Skywalker. Though we learn plenty about him in the Original Trilogy under the guise of Darth Vader, you’ll have to watch the Star Wars movies in order (starting with the prequels) to get his full story. Here, we see the best Star Wars character go from a Padawan to a hero, and then become one of the best movie villains of all time.

Several actors have played Anakin and Darth Vader over the years. Still, it is Star Wars cast member Hayden Christensen who has become synonymous with the character — especially after reprising his role in the Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka. Given his instrumental role in the franchise, here’s Anakin Skywalker explained — from beginning to end.

Who is Anakin Skywalker?

Anakin Skywalker was a legendary Jedi Knight and hero in the Clone Wars before turning to the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader. In the Star Wars timeline, the Prequel Trilogy tells the story of Anakin Skywalker before he became Darth Vader. He meets Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as a Force-sensitive child and is recruited into the Jedi Order and trained by Kenobi as Qui-Gon’s dying wish.

As explained in the book Darth Plagueis, Anakin was the product of a Force experiment conducted by Sith Lords Darth Plageius and Emperor Palpatine. The pair were trying to see if the Force could be used to revive the dead, but the Force went haywire in response, creating Anakin in Shmi in an act of immaculate conception. One way of looking at it is that Anakin’s father is quite literally the Force — but we’ll probably never know the precise, unambiguous truth for sure.

Nonetheless, under the training of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin becomes an exceptionally talented Jedi. He takes on an apprentice of his own during the Clone Wars, Ashoka Tano (who now has her own show on Disney Plus), and fights on the side of the High Republic along with the rest of the Jedi Order.

However, despite his exceptional strength and talent, his ambition, passion, and tendency to anger means that he doesn’t always play by the rules of the Jedi. For instance, he defies Jedi rules about celibacy and relationships and falls in love with and secretly marries Padme Amidala — the leader of Naboo. Palpatine manipulates Anakin’s concern for her safety, their relationship, and their future children in order to coax him toward the dark side of the Force.

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Why is Anakin Skywalker the Chosen One?

Anakin Skywalker was the prophesied Chosen One of the Jedi Order, which foretold that he would bring balance to the Force.

In Star Wars canon, the prophecy of the ‘Chosen One’ was established by ancient Jedi mystics and philosophers. In essence, this prophecy said that a deeply powerful, Force-sensitive being would one day bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith for good. The prophecy never specified who exactly this being would be, but they were described by Yoda as “a vessel of pure Force.”

Because of Anakin’s immaculate conception, high midi-chlorian count, and extraordinary strength with the Force, Qui-Gon Jinn believed that he was the being that the Prophecy was foretold, and so was determined to train him. The Jedi Council initially forbade Jinn from training Anakin, but Darth Maul then slew Jinn. In his dying moments, he made Obi-Wan promise to train Anakin, and Kenobi then made Anakin his Padawan with the blessing of the Jedi Council.

anakin skywalker explained: anakin in the phantom menace

Why does Anakin become Darth Vader?

Anakin becomes Darth Vader after betraying the Jedi and killing Mace Windu to save Palpatine, who be believes has the power to prevent the death of his wife Padme and save his future children Luke and Leia.

This villainous origin story was brewing long before he turned his back on the Jedi Order for good. Back when he was still a Padawan, during the events of Attack of the Clones, he returned to Tatooine and discovered that Tusken raiders had murdered his mother. Consumed by rage at that moment, he killed a whole Indigenous tribe — including women and children.

After the Clone Wars, during the events of Revenge of the Sith, he becomes increasingly disillusioned by the Jedi Order for not granting him the rank of Master. He also becomes plagued by nightmares of Padme’s death, and becomes close friends with Chancellor Palpatine. Palpatine, who is secretly Darth Sidious, slowly pushes Anakin towards the Dark Side by encouraging him to give in to his emotions, and convincing him that becoming a Sith Lord will allow him to use the Force to prevent people from dying.

Once Palpatine’s identity is revealed, he executes Order 66 and ultimately convinces Anakin to kill Mace Windu and succumb to the Dark Side completely. As part of carrying out Order 66, he kills all the Jedi younglings. He, Padme and Obi-Wan soon reunite, and she tries to appeal to Anakin, but he Force-chokes her. Obi-Wan and Anakin then fight to the death on the lava-filled planet Mustafar, with Obi-Wan ultimately getting the high ground and leaving Anakin for dead as he becomes consumed in the lava.

Anakin is severely injured, and becomes reliant on cybernetic implants and his armor which contains life support technology. This black, robotic armor includes a helmet which allows him to breathe.

anakin skywalker explained: anakin in revenge of the sith

How does Anakin bring balance to the Force?

As Darth Vader, Anakin brought balance to the Force by sacrificing himself to kill Palpatine and save Luke, as seen in Return of the Jedi.

In Return of the Jedi, Luke is close to joining the Dark Side and becoming Palpatine’s apprentice — but ultimately resists this, thereby earning the mantle of Jedi Knight. Furious at this decision, Palpatine overpowers Luke and is close to killing him with Force Lightning, but Luke, still believing Anakin is in there, begs Vader for help. It’s at this moment that Vader turns away from the Dark Side and becomes Anakin once again, as he sacrifices both himself and Palpatine in order to save Luke.

Thus, in his final moments, Anakin fulfils his destiny as the Chosen One by destroying the last of the Sith and bringing balance back to the Force. He dies a Jedi, becomes one with the Force, and joins Yoda and Obi-Wan as Force Ghosts.

To find out more about where Anakin fits into the Skywalker Saga, look at the Skywalker family tree. For more on Star Wars more broadly, check out our guide to the new Star Wars movies or learn about the best Star Wars movie you’ve never seen, and keep up to date with the Andor season 2 release date and The Mandalorian season 4 release date.

If you want the lowdown on Ahsoka and how Anakin fits in to that show, see what’s going on with the Ahsoka release schedule or the Ahsoka cast, and learn about the likes of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Baylan Skoll, Inquisitor Marrok, and the Pathway to Peridea.