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Star Wars Villains That Are Way Scarier Than Darth Vader

The villains of "Star Wars" are arguably more famous than the heroes. When your poster child is Darth Vader, that's kind of inevitable. Though Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and so many other protagonists are widely known and beloved, there's always been something about the dark side that just produces memorable characters.

Almost 50 years out from the original release of "Star Wars," Darth Vader still reigns supreme as the greatest bad guy the franchise has ever seen. Dethroning him is an impossible task. The movies have given us plenty of other great villains like Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Kylo Ren, and of course, Emperor Palpatine himself, but none of them have had either the cultural impact or iconic moments of Vader.

That being said, there are a number of lesser-known antagonists in the "Star Wars" universe who can given Anakin Skywalker a run for his money, Some are forgotten baddies from the old Expanded Universe timeline, while others are canonical characters who just haven't gotten the same spotlight as the films' Sith Lords. Here are some "Star Wars" villains who are arguably even scarier and more powerful than Darth Vader himself.

Grand Admiral Thrawn

When discussing iconic villains outside of the core "Star Wars" movies, it's negligent not to mention Grand Admiral Thrawn. The stoic Chiss strategist helped resurrect "Star Wars" in the 1990s, with Timothy Zahn's beloved "Heir to the Empire" novels firing up interest in the Expanded Universe and keeping fans occupied while they waited for the prequels. Though he was briefly expunged from the canon after Disney took over the franchise, Thrawn returned in "Star Wars Rebels" and has become increasingly important to the modern timeline. He's the primary villain of the live-action "Ahsoka" show on Disney+, and for good reason.

In both his "Legends" and canon incarnations, Thrawn is a truly terrifying individual. Sure, he may not have the hulking black suit, murderous Force powers, or imposing red lightsaber that Darth Vader has, but in a way, that only makes him more intimidating. Aside from his bright red eyes and cold blue skin, he looks pretty normal. But that unassuming exterior hides one of the most brilliant and brutal minds in all of "Star Wars."

Though he shows hesitation at different points at taking innocent lives, Thrawn is usually willing to do anything necessary to achieve victory. As a grand admiral in the Empire, he believed that ruthless brutality was necessary to quell chaos in the galaxy. His "Legends" version is even more frightening than the new canon Thrawn, though Disney still has lots of places it could take the character.

Darth Caedus

Most "Star Wars Legends" characters have remained dormant since Disney took over, but that doesn't mean that their influence on the franchise hasn't been felt. The "Star Wars" sequel trilogy tells the story of Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa Skywalker, who grows strong in the Force but ultimately turns to the dark side. Anyone familiar with the "Legacy of the Force" novels from the old Expanded Universe will know that much of that arc is taken directly from a different character: Darth Caedus.

Born Jacen Solo, the son of Han and Leia, Darth Caedus is one of the most famous and powerful villains in the "Legends" timeline. He fights valiantly in the Yuuzhan Vong War but never truly recovers from the loss of his younger brother, Anakin Solo, or the extensive torture he suffers during the war. Jacen's fall to the dark side is one of the longest, most fully developed storylines in the entire Expanded Universe, culminating in a truly tragic climax.

In addition to being hugely important, Darth Caedus is downright terrifying and one of the most powerful Force users in all of "Star Wars." Few characters are ever able to match him in a lightsaber duel, and even his uncle Luke Skywalker, at the height of his powers, struggles immensely to defeat him. His Force powers are among the most outrageous in the history of the franchise: Caedus learns to basically ignore all pain, and at one point, even becomes one with the Force while still alive.

Mother Talzin

Stepping back into the modern "Star Wars" canon, we've got the shadowy leader of the Nightsisters of Dathomir, Mother Talzin. Talzin primarily appears as a secondary antagonist in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," where she aids her "children" Asajj Ventress, Savage Opress, and Maul in their various battles against Darth Sidious and Count Dooku. She also puts a lot of innocent people in danger through her various dark Force schemes of conquest.

Talzin may not be as overtly intimidating or good in a fight as Darth Vader or many other characters on this list. However, she makes the cut for slightly different reasons. Though she never directly wields a lightsaber (although she technically does when possessing the body of Count Dooku at one point) or takes over the Galactic Senate, her Force powers are beyond almost anyone else in the canon.

To be perfectly honest, Talzin's magical abilities are never fully explained, which is also what makes them so dangerous. Throughout "The Clone Wars," she demonstrates a mastery of the dark arts that allows for full mind control, the ability to cheat death through spiritual means, and the power to turn other life forms into incredibly powerful and violent soldiers. Darth Sidious himself considers her a direct rival, and he goes out of his way to deal with her in "The Clone Wars" after she makes herself known. If you've got Sheev knocking on your front door, you know you're doing something right (or, well, wrong).

Darth Malgus

The "Star Wars" Expanded Universe is filled with legendary Sith Lords. Darth Revan, Darth Malak, Darth Nihilus — the list goes on and on. And that's just naming characters from the "Knights of the Old Republic" games. Truthfully, any of these characters could justify having a spot on this list, but then we'd just have an Avengers-style team of ancient Sith Lords, leaving little room for anyone else.

Though villains like Revan and Nihilus may be more famous than "The Old Republic" foe Darth Malgus, their stories are also more complicated, which is part of their appeal. Malgus, on the other hand, is a true villain in every conceivable sense of the word. A brutal tactician and feared warrior, Malgus wrote the playbook Darth Vader uses when he sacks the Jedi Temple at the end of the Clone Wars. Malgus took over the stronghold (and pretty much all of Coruscant too) several thousand years earlier, wiping out numerous Jedi masters and effectively shattering the order.

Malgus was a force in the galaxy for years, putting Jedi and fellow Sith alike in their place and establishing himself as a dark Force boogeyman. Plus, just look at the guy. He's terrifying!


Most major dark Force villains in "Star Wars" are in some way aligned with the Sith. They may not all be joyful participants in the order, but they likely have Sith training, once served a Sith Lord, or were raised in a culture that drew inspiration from the famous dark side users. Abeloth, however, is something entirely different. Depending on how you look at her, she may be more of a manifestation of the dark side itself.

Hailing from the Expanded Universe, Abeloth is a dark "Star Wars" Force god and the main antagonist of the "Fate of the Jedi" novels — one of the last major "Legends" arcs released before Disney purchased Lucasfilm. She's a being of ancient myth. Her origin story is that she came to live with the Force Wielders of Mortis, who are themselves incredibly powerful and mysterious beings (one of whom is on this list). A mortal when she first came to dwell among them, Abeloth pursued dark powers to make herself eternal like them. This quest led her to become corrupted and dangerous, imprisoned and kept under lock and key by the Force Wielders themselves.

However, since the denizens of Mortis die during the Clone Wars, Abeloth eventually escapes, killing countless innocents and worming her way into the most powerful political position in the galaxy. It takes the combined efforts of Luke Skywalker and the Sith Lord Darth Krayt to bring her down, and even then, it's unclear if Abeloth is truly gone for good.

The Son

The dark side is more than just a cool goth aesthetic, but nobody told the Son that. Okay, fine, he's also crazy powerful: as one of the three Force Wielders of Mortis, also known simply as "The Ones," the Son is an ancient being of immense power whose very essence is intrinsically connected to the Force. And while his sister got to be part of the light side, the Son — through no choice of his own — was stuck with the dark.

The Mortis arc of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" shows just how terrifying the Son can be. Not only is he an incredibly powerful Force user in his own right, capable of high-level combat abilities and full-on transformation into a massive beast, but he can take over the minds of other people and twist them toward the dark. His father (appropriately called the Father) suggests that the Son escaping from Mortis could doom the entire galaxy. Fortunately, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka Tano manage to stop the Son before that happens.

Dagan Gera

Some of the characters on this list are beings of pure dark Force energy, leaders of powerful military legions, and ruthless murderers. Dagan Gera is none of those things. He's a former Jedi whose obsession and ego lead him down a dark path, eventually forgoing everything and everyone he once claimed to fight for.

When you first meet Dagan Gera in "Star Wars Jedi: Survivor," it's not unusual to just feel bad for the guy. During the High Republic era, hundreds of years before the original "Star Wars" trilogy, Dagan was one of the order's most powerful and respected knights. In the time since he was put into stasis, the entire Jedi Order was destroyed. However, these initial feelings of sympathy are quickly replaced by fear.

Dagan may not have the warlord persona of Darth Vader, but it's hard to watch him in motion and not feel unnerved. He looks, walks, and talks like a ghost — a clear reflection of his status as a man out of time. His icy eyes and cold, determined energy are imposing, to say the least, and that's without even getting into Dagan's power as a fighter. He pushes Cal Kestis to his limit with only one arm, and his skill at projecting illusions through the Force is beyond anything previously seen in the canon.

Darth Krayt

Darth Krayt certainly isn't the most famous villain from the "Star Wars Legends" timeline. He isn't Thrawn, or Revan, or Darth Caedus. But in a way, he's the most important villain in the entire Expanded Universe, as well as one of the most powerful.

Krayt's journey starts the way so many Sith stories do: being trained as a Jedi. Under his birth name of A'Sharad Hett, he was a young member of the order during the prequel era and fought alongside Anakin Skywalker in the Clone Wars. A'Sharad survives Order 66 and goes into hiding during the Imperial era, even crossing paths with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. But it's not until decades later that he becomes a proper player in the story.

A series of Sith encounters and brutal clashes with the Yuuzhan Vong lead Krayt down a path to the dark side. He becomes the leader of a secret Sith sect, briefly emerges to help Luke Skywalker defeat Abeloth, but then goes back into hiding. Through various bouts of stasis and a literal death and resurrection arc (yes, he's that strong in the dark side), Krayt lives far into the future, eventually crossing lightsabers with Luke and Anakin's distant descendant Cade Skywalker during the "Star Wars: Legacy" series. Beyond all that, Krayt is a true master of the Force and one of the main reasons that Jacen Solo turns to the dark side. Even Luke Skywalker comes to fear the so-called "Dark Man."

Shimrra Jamaane and Onimi

It's kind of cheating to put two different characters in the same spot on this list, but there's a good reason for it. To be honest, the Yuuzhan Vong as a whole species could have their own ranking here. In the entirety of "Star Wars," whether it's "Legends" or canon, there may not be a more horrifying foe. But in the interest of keeping things specific, we're focusing on two particular Yuuzhan Vong — Shimrra Jamaane, the Supreme Overlord during the Yuuzhan Vong War, and Onimi, the one actually pulling the strings of the war from the shadows.

In a way, these two characters are the same. Shimrra is the face, and Onimi is the mind. The plan to invade the "Star Wars" galaxy and assimilate it into the Vong's distorted, biohacked hellscape comes from Onimi, and the many warriors of these zealous conquerors put it into practice. The Yuuzhan Vong War is the single most devastating event in the Expanded Universe, wiping out countless lives and numerous beloved characters, including Chewbacca and Anakin Solo.

The Vong are horrifying to look at, they use torture as a standard method of breaking and corrupting prisoners, and with only a couple of exceptions, like Onimi, they have absolutely zero connection to the Force. Their presence is like that of an eldritch terror, only manifested in an entire army more similar to the Borg from "Star Trek." And no two Vong are more scary or powerful than Onimi and Shimrra Jamaane.

Darth Traya

"Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords" is a complicated game. The systems are complicated, the story is complicated, and the development cycle was complicated, to say the least, leading to a rushed launch and a game that many fans view as unfinished. At the same time, the game introduced several great characters, including the dark Sith Lord Darth Traya.

What sets Traya apart from the other Sith on this list, and even from her one-time allies Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus, is her utter disdain for the Force itself. Traya views the Force as a god of sorts — one that forces its will on every being in the galaxy, trapping them in its eternal plan. For this reason, she wants to free the galaxy from the influence of the Force — something that basically no other villain in all of "Star Wars" has ever attempted. The sheer scale of Traya's scheme puts her in a class by herself — a harbinger of destruction who truly believes that her way is the best for the galaxy.

Marchion Ro

We'd be remiss not to include a villain from the "High Republic" era of "Star Wars" on this list, and the obvious choice is Marchion Ro. The leader of the deadly marauder band known as the Nihil, Marchion Ro is directly responsible for causing the so-called "Great Hyperspace Disaster," which kicks off the main action of the "High Republic" arc and leads to widespread destruction and death across the galaxy.

Though he's ostensibly just a pirate, Ro devises a plan that puts the Jedi themselves on the back foot. His most terrifying weapons are the Nameless, ruthless monsters who naturally hunt down anyone strong in the Force. Quite literally boogeymen for the Jedi, the Nameless are used to great effect during Marchion Ro's conquests. He can't Force-choke you or shoot lightning out of his hands, but he shows just how powerful someone can become simply through strategy, determination, and fear. Ro causes more chaos than most Sith Lords ever have, earning him an easy spot on this list.

Darth Bane

In both "Legends" and the modern "Star Wars" canon, Darth Bane is the creator of the "Rule of Two" — the Sith doctrine that dictates there can only be one master and one apprentice of the order at any given time. However, the details between the two timelines vary to some degree. The Expanded Universe version of Bane is much more detailed, but the major beats of his story remain the same across both timelines. 

Roughly 1,000 years before the prequels, the Sith were wiped out by a combination of their war with the Jedi, constant infighting, and Bane's own efforts to eradicate them from within. Prior to Bane instituting the Rule of Two, the Sith were a sprawling order much like the Jedi. He believed that the only way for them to be strong enough to survive was to consolidate power in as few people as possible. The rule was designed from the beginning with this goal in mind: a master to wield the full brunt of the dark side and an apprentice to keep the master on their toes. The inherent tension between the two would ensure that the most powerful person possible would always be on top.

His importance to the history of "Star Wars" is enough to land him on a list of notable villains, but Bane is also intimidating enough in his own right to earn a spot here. Plenty of Sith have wiped out innocents and Jedi, but Bane wiped out the Sith themselves — except himself, of course — proving himself a true villain among villains.