Why Anakin Turned Evil: Did Star Wars' Darth Vader Really Come From A Bad Dream?

Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) is one of the most terrifying and intimidating villains of all time. But what makes Darth Vader more compelling than the rest of cinematic villainy is that he didn't begin as a villain. Instead, he began as Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), the most powerful hero in the galaxy before he crossed over to the dark side. A combination of manipulation and the fear and anger surrounding the death of his mother (Pernilla August) and wife (Natalie Portman) caused him to become the very thing he fought against.

While we only saw the villainous side of Darth Vader in the original trilogy, which set the stage for his installment into the halls of villainous history, the prequel trilogy gave us a deep dive into his fall to the dark side. And somehow, while George Lucas spent three films on Anakin's fall to the dark side, we still ended up with questions about the character and his path. Was he always evil? Was he simply trying to save his loved ones? Did he willingly succumb to evil, or was he manipulated?

These are questions that get pored over by "Star Wars" fans constantly. The fanbase is passionate and dedicated, so there is no shortage of theories, points, and counterpoints as to why Anakin destroyed the Jedi from the inside and switched to the Sith to serve Emporer Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

What caused Anakin to break and Darth Vader to emerge?

To understand why Anakin Skywalker would betray everything he knows to join the Sith and embrace the dark side, you have to understand his mindset. He spent his youth as a slave before being rescued by the Jedi, he was taken from his mother, and then he lost one father figure — Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). The death of his mother in "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" is the first time we see Anakin give in to his anger and hate, taking the lives of everyone responsible for her death, along with their families.

While he was spoiled as a Jedi and showed signs of entitlement during his training, he was ultimately an honorable man who became the most powerful hero in the order. It wasn't until he began having dreams that the woman he loved was destined to die that his downfall began. To save his wife, he proved to be willing and able to do horrible things.

However, it wasn't some kind of switch in his brain where he decided one day to join the Sith. Instead, there is evidence throughout the series that he was slowly being seduced by another force. Reddit user u/Demonic-STD said in the community r/StarWarsSpeculation, "Palpatine has been grooming Anakin since he was 9 and just got out of slavery. It wasn't a quick flip it was 13 years or Palpatine breaking this kid down so that he would fall." But did the Emperor have to plant the seeds of evil in his brain? Or were they always there?

Was Anakin Skywalker always evil?

How far would you go to save the people you love? That is the central question to the story arc of Anakin Skywalker. While he is told from a young age that he is the chosen one, his life before being a Jedi was hard due to being enslaved on Tatooine, and his life after was difficult due to not fitting in and experiencing loss on a personal scale. But by the time he becomes Darth Vader, shedding any semblance of good and fully embracing the Sith, he had already committed multiple devastatingly evil deeds.

In a Reddit post asking about Skywalker's journey to the dark side, u/TheKingsPeace said, "A lot of what Anakin did was influenced by being hurt as fear and confusion. But at some level he was consciously evil. He can't lead an attack on the Jedi temple and kill the younglings without being bad, and being Ok with being bad." This theory supports the idea that, while he may have been manipulated or pushed into doing terrible things, Anakin had to choose to pick up his lightsaber.

"Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" shows us that Anakin's primary motivation for working with the Sith was to learn the ability to reverse death. After losing his mother and having premonitions of Padmé dying, he decided he would do anything to save her and never feel that grief again. The question is, were his actions selfless to save the woman he loved, or selfish never to feel the pain of loss the way he did with his mother?

Star Wars theory: Emperor Palpatine caused Anakin's bad dream

Was the Sith Lord manipulating Anakin the entire time? Or was he simply an opportunistic man who found a possible powerful ally in the powerful young Jedi? In an attempt to see just how far Palpatine went to seduce Anakin, u/LittleItaly94 posed a question on Reddit: "Could Sidious have possibly used the Dark Side to influence Anakin's dreams of Padmé dying in childbirth to further push him towards the Dark Side?" Could he have been using the grief Anakin felt from his mother to leverage that trauma?

User u/rhoooo replied, "We know from what Yoda kept telling Luke that the future is always in motion and that how you choose to act will invariably shape it, so it's less a case of 'Anakin was doomed to walk the path that would lead to this' and more 'this is a very probable future and Anakin's fear at the prospect and his subsequent actions made it come to pass.'" Others commented with the point that Palpatine was able to use the dark side to cloud even Yoda's ability to see what was happening — but Anakin clearly saw a vision of Padmé's death, calling into question whether Palpatine was deceiving him the entire time.

Ultimately, to do evil acts, you have to have some evil in you. Regardless of how small that capacity for evil might have been when Anakin was a kid, Palpatine stoked his fires of rage expertly until he got the powerful ally he desired. Whether or not Anakin was always evil, by the time we met Darth Vader, he had already fully given himself to the dark side.