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Darth Vader's Best And Worst Movie Lines

In 1977, a new villain in a black helmet, black cape, and black armor strutted through the corridor of a starship and into cinema history. More than 40 years later, Darth Vader still remains one of the ultimate movie bad guys, a villain so scary that even explaining his childhood with a series of prequel films has done nothing to diminish his impact in the original Star Wars trilogy. He's got the iconic outfit, the cool red sword, and of course, the voice to command the attention of movie audiences worldwide. He's also, thanks to creator George Lucas and his collaborators, got plenty of memorable movie lines. 

Even if you set aside the films in which he appeared only as Anakin Skywalker (which we're doing for the purposes of this list, sticking to armor-clad Vader only), Darth Vader has appeared in five live-action feature films since 1977, and he's had some great pieces of dialogue in all of them. Unfortunately, he's also had a few clunkers, so let's separate the good from the bad. Here are Darth Vader's best and worst movie lines.

Worst: Darth Vader's pun in Rogue One

Fans everywhere rejoiced when Lucasfilm revealed that James Earl Jones would return to voice Darth Vader for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and while Vader only appears in a couple of scenes in the film, it does feature some high points for the character. The glimpses of Vader at his castle on Mustafar are gorgeous, and that final scene in which he shows off his considerable Force powers remains a fan favorite. In the middle of that, though, there's a moment between Vader and Director Orson Krennic when the Sith Lord deploys his trademark Force choke, then decides to go for some fun by saying, "Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, director."

Yes, the wordplay was sitting right there out in the open, but it still feels a little unwieldy when it actually comes out of Vader's mouth in that moment. Vader can do comedy, but this isn't his best attempt at a laugh line.

Best: The Sith Lord's rage

Darth Vader's entrance in Star Wars back in 1977 remains one of the great villain moments in the history of cinema, not just because of how confidently he strolls onto that ship but because of what he does afterwards. Vader immediately establishes himself as a man you don't mess with, first by crushing the throat of a poor Rebel soldier and then by bellowing, "Commander, tear this ship apart until you've found those plans! And bring me the passengers, I want them alive!"

The transition from calm, wicked coolness to full-blown rage is a tremendously effective device. It shows us just how full of anger Vader can be right from the beginning, and it sets the stage for even more confrontations later on, where we know — thanks to this opening scene — that Vader could totally blow up again. The Sith Lord doesn't raise his voice very often, but when he does, it works, and this scene is why.

Worst: A Vader line that hasn't aged well

One Vader line that hasn't aged well in the greater context of Star Wars as an epic saga comes in the first film, during the meeting of Imperial officers on board the Death Star. While the officers brag about the space station being "the ultimate power in the universe," Vader scoffs at their arrogance.

"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed," he says. "The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force." 

The trouble is, while we've seen plenty of incredible Force feats since then, the ability to destroy a planet is still pretty significant when viewed in the greater context of the saga. Sure, Vader's trying to make a point that people shouldn't turn their backs on the Force just because the Jedi are gone, but it makes him look almost naive in retrospect. It doesn't ruin the moment, in part because some other lines help to elevate it, but it also shows how much the saga ultimately evolved.

Best: Man of faith

In 1977's Star Wars, there's a scene where the Imperial officers have gathered for a meeting on the Death Star, but far from being a boring board meeting, it allows Darth Vader to drop one of his most badass lines. As Admiral Motti mocks Vader's faith in the Force and prods him for his failure to stop the Rebellion, we get to see Vader's legendary Force choke ability for the first time. Unlike earlier in the film, when he's shouting at Stormtroopers to do his bidding, Vader simply raises one calm hand, watches the Admiral choke, and declares, "I find your lack of faith disturbing." 

In the context of the film, we didn't even know Vader could do a Force choke yet, and here he is, being so nonchalant about it that you'd think he's already killed 12 guys in the same way that afternoon. In fact, it's such an effective line that you're likely to hear it today, as Star Wars fans can't help but quote it.

Worst: Darth Vader tries trash talk

The great quirk of the Star Wars saga when taken as a whole is that it's a story constructed over decades, and when you look at the original trilogy in light of the prequel trilogy, you realize there's some information missing in those first films that makes them sometimes seem a little stilted now. This is particularly true of the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, which takes on an operatic tone of brother versus brother in the prequels, but doesn't quite have that same quality in 1977's Star Wars

This is evident in what Vader chooses to say to Obi-Wan when he meets him again for the first time in years. "When I left you I was but the learner, now I am the Master," Vader says, and in the process, he undercuts his own progress as a Jedi from the prequel films. That version of Anakin Skywalker would've never described himself as "but the learner" after the duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar, or even shortly before it, and as a result, this line doesn't hold up as well as it perhaps once did.

Best: Vader's mercy

Despite being a Dark Lord of the Sith who's full of rage, regret, and just plain loneliness, Darth Vader is capable of an often shocking level of self-aware comedy in the right moments, and a lot of that comedy comes from the sense that he's simply existing on another plane apart from the other characters he shares a scene with. Vader has no time for your petty Imperial Navy troubles, you see. He's much more concerned with the overall fate of the galaxy and his own station as a servant of the Dark Side, so if you come to him with something that another superior might merely berate you for, he's going to see you not as a peer but as a gnat buzzing around his head. 

This is particularly true in The Empire Strikes Back, when he spends much of the film surrounded by Imperial officers who just can't seem to track down the Millennium Falcon on his behalf. He becomes so frustrated that we don't even get to see him killing people right in front of us. He does it quickly and unceremoniously off camera, Force-choking an Imperial captain before simply saying, "Apology accepted, Captain Needa." It's a perfectly delivered line, and it works so well in part because we've already seen what happens to officers who disappoint him earlier in the film, thanks to the failure of Admiral Ozzel.

Worst: Vader's wisdom

Many Star Wars fans still struggle with certain aspects of Return of the Jedi, but it's hard to deny the epic, overwhelming, emotional heart of the film as it plays out in the third act, as Luke Skywalker fights to redeem his father even as he's forced to resist the allure of Emperor Palpatine. This all culminates in one more lightsaber duel between father and son, featuring plenty of taunts by Vader. Sadly, they're not all winners. 

At one point, when Luke is trying to prove his purity of spirit by refusing to fight his father, Vader responds, "You are unwise to lower your defenses." Now, Vader has a history of understatements in the original trilogy, and many of them work very well in the context of a scene, but with the emotional stakes so high at this moment, it takes just a little bit of air out of the dialogue. The film rebounds from it almost instantly, but you can still feel it.

Best: Darth Vader the dealmaker

One of the great appeals of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy is just how little we end up knowing about him. By the end of the first three films, we know about his relationship to Luke, Obi-Wan, and the Emperor, but what do we really know beyond that? He's a former good guy who turned bad, and now he's the baddest dude there is. This works in the films' favor when they convey him as someone who's so dangerous that no one will get in his way no matter what he does, because it leaves our imaginations open to figuring out just what he did to get so evil. 

This effect carries over particularly well into his dealings with Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back. Vader uses Lando's business as a bargaining chip to get in the door, and then just takes everything he wants anyway without regard to the original agreement. When Lando reminds Vader they had a deal, Vader simply replies, "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further." Lando can't do anything but swallow the lump in his throat, further cementing Vader's place as the baddest man in the galaxy.

Worst: That awful line from Revenge of the Sith

When it comes to horrible Darth Vader lines, we've got to talk about Revenge of the Sith and that dreadful thing Vader says when he's ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and descended entirely into the black-armored visage we all came to know in the original film. The line comes shortly after Vader has awakened, when the Emperor lies to him and tells him that he is responsible for the death of his own beloved Padme (who, in reality, was still clinging to life and giving birth to their twin children). When he learns that he's failed to save her, which was his chief motivation for joining the Sith in the first place, Vader simply screams "Nooooooo!"

This line certainly has its defenders, and in its own way, it's in keeping with the operatic tone of the prequel films. But for many fans, it remains one of the most cringe-worthy moments in the entire saga. It's easy to see why George Lucas thought this would be a larger-than-life moment of despair for Vader, but instead, it feels clunky and cliched.

Best: The truth comes out

You could make a dozen more films about Darth Vader, filling in the gaps in his life that the other movies didn't cover, and nothing he said in those films would even come close to the impact this line had. It's hard to imagine now, in the days when movie plot points often leak months for the release date, but the reveal that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father actually did land like an atom bomb on Star Wars fans in 1980. And to this day, if you've somehow managed to see The Empire Strikes Back for the first time without being spoiled, it still totally works.

Of course, the line is also famously misquoted time and time again by people who want to add the name "Luke" to the beginning of the sentence in an effort to better sum up the scene, but the original version still works best. It's the build to it, when Vader says, "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father." Then there's the malice in Luke's voice as he says, "He told me you killed him." And it's all followed by Vader's resigned declaration of a simple fact that he himself only recently became aware of: "No, I am your father." It's such an emotionally perfect moment, and it doesn't require any more embellishment.