Ways to defeat Darth Vader

One of the many cool things about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the way it helped re-establish Darth Vader as a galactic badass supreme. Star Wars fans waited through years of movies with subpar villains, ranging from the underdeveloped Darth Maul to the stunted emotions of Kylo Ren, to be rewarded with Rogue One's brief glimpse of Vader in his full, Force-wielding fury.

It helped explain why this character has managed to terrorize generations of Star Wars fans—so effectively that it may leave some wondering if it was realistic that anyone could ever realistically defeat Darth Vader, let alone his less-than-threatening son Luke Skywalker. But longterm Star Wars fans know Vader has more than a few weaknesses, and a little luck (or perhaps a little bit of the Force) can help even average Joes take out a Dark Lord of the Sith. How so? Read on to learn 11 different ways to triumph over Darth Vader himself.

Surprise and overpower him

While later movies, books, comics, and games helped establish the myth of Darth Vader as a nearly unstoppable warrior, the first Star Wars movie established one of the ways to defeat him. For all of his powers of clairvoyance, lightsabers, and TIE Fighters, it's quite possible to simply surprise and overpower Vader, particularly in space. This is exactly what happens when Han Solo and Chewbacca show up during the Death Star trench run and blow up one of Vader's copilots. This causes the other pilot to slam into Vader in panic, and possibly inadvertently saves the Dark Lord's life when his ship is sent careening away from the exploding super weapon.

Vader defenders might claim that this was more of a technical knockout, as having one of your own teammates accidentally bump you out of bounds isn't necessarily a judgment of your own abilities. Still, Vader is someone who can use the Force to read minds even while fighting, yet Han and Chewie were able to surprise him. And his need to personally oversee certain things makes him vulnerable to being surprised and overpowered—this badass Sith warrior would have been dead if his buddy had accidentally splatted them both into the trench instead of sending Vader to relative safety.

Exploit his emotional fighting

One of Vader's more understandable weaknesses is that he's a very emotional fighter. While his body may look cold and robotic, Vader is prone to getting pissed when he goes toe to toe with someone. To some degree, this gives him his power, as the Sith school of anger management pretty much begins and ends with your hatred making you powerful. This can be seen in the original trilogy, when he fights Luke Skywalker in Cloud City. At first, Vader is clearly playing with the clumsy young Jedi, testing his abilities and possibly hesitating to permanently hurt someone he planned to recruit. Eventually, though, Luke gets a lucky glancing blow against Vader—and Vader lops Luke's hand off.

It doesn't always work out, though. In Attack of the Clones, Count Dooku is able to take advantage of Anakin's impetuous anger and cut the young Jedi's arm off. When Anakin has his dramatic confrontation with Obi-Wan, he definitively loses in large part because Obi-Wan told him he couldn't win. Vader is, at his core, a somewhat sloppy and emotional fighter…and, ironically, this makes him vulnerable to other sloppy and emotional fighters.

Channel the Dark Side

For all its flaws, Return of the Jedi offers some really interesting scenes that parallel earlier moments from Star Wars. Part of Vader's fight with Luke in Return of the Jedi is meant to mirror that earlier fight in Cloud City. Here, instead of being the overconfident young man, Luke is the peaceful warrior, doing his best to not actually engage Vader, all while Vader taunts him. Kind of like when you put your robot suit on in the dark, though, Vader ends up hitting all of the wrong buttons when he threatens to turn Leia to the Dark Side. Luke suddenly cries out in rage, goes sickhouse on Vader, and cuts Vader's robotic hand off, showing more great parallel structure as Luke glances at his own robotic hand and realizes he's becoming his corrupted father.

All of this highlights that Vader is weak against others who cave in and channel their own Dark Side. Vader's own emotional brand of fighting means he'll always be weak when fighting against newer models of evil warrior. When you consider the sheer number of Jedi, Dark Jedi, and Sith introduced in the expanded universe, Vader's threat level diminishes considerably.

Power up with a Kyber crystal

One of the interesting side effects of Rogue One's success is that it brought the notion of Kyber crystals into mainstream Star Wars awareness. These are the crystals that power Jedi lightsabers and Death Star superlasers, and Rogue One shows that they're sometimes turned into jewelry worn by those who believe in the Force. Once upon a time, though, the crystals were written to be much more powerful—and gave Luke the edge to beat Vader far sooner than he otherwise would.

The early Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye has an interesting history, as Lucas commissioned Alan Dean Foster to write it as a low-budget sequel to Star Wars…something that could be turned into a movie on the cheap if the big-budget Star Wars wasn't a major hit. It centers on the quest for a "Kaiburr Crystal," and once Luke obtains it, he's able to successfully duel Darth Vader. He actually cuts Vader's arm off, deflects Force energy thrown by Vader, and otherwise dramatically ups his game. Vader ultimately loses by falling into a pit, but it's clear that a Jedi powered up by this special crystal would be able to take the Dark Lord out in a fight.

Use Force lightning

One of the ways to defeat Darth Vader was demonstrated quite handily onscreen by Emperor Palpatine. In a life filled with dismembered limbs and burning flesh, the actual fatal blow to Darth Vader came from the Force Lightning he absorbed when he picked up Emperor Palpatine, who'd decided to zap Luke with the Dark Side of the Force. While Vader is able to kill Palpatine with one hand, he soon dies. This isn't very surprising, as someone that's "more machine now than man" would be particularly vulnerable to the kind of lethal lightning that Palpatine was using. While the original trilogy was deliberately ambiguous about whether Palpatine was the only Sith who could do this, the prequels made it clear that this was an ability that could be taught to Dooku and other Force users. Basically, anyone who could use the Force and studied some Sith teachings in their downtime could kill Vader without even having to lift a lightsaber.

Use a Force ghost coach

When you're trying to figure out ways to defeat your mass-murdering father, it's always better with friends by your side. At least, that's what Luke Skywalker figures out, both onscreen and offscreen. One of the ways Luke survives his first encounter with Vader is by listening to Obi-Wan's ghost when it tells him to run away. Later, he successfully blows up the Death Star (and dodges Vader's TIE Fighter) because he has Obi-Wan as a voice in his head.

Some Star Wars literature takes this further, such as the aforementioned novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which has Obi-Wan giving Luke fighting tips against Vader even while they duel. And, of course, Obi-Wan's ghost and Yoda are both able to give Luke valuable info before he goes off and confronts Vader in the original trilogy. While this isn't the easiest method of defeating Vader, having access to his previous mentors and getting play-by-play coaching during fights is one of the best ways to come out on top.

Clone multiple Sith warriors

In a galaxy filled with Star Wars comics, one of the greatest was Star Wars Tales. Each giant-sized issue had multiple stories of varying canon, ranging from lighthearted court dramas about who shot first to serious explorations of madness and the Force. One issue featured the personification of fan debates across the world, as it pitted Darth Vader against Darth Maul.

How, exactly, did this happen? A group of so-called Dark Side prophets cloned Maul because they felt Vader wasn't fit to serve the Emperor, and so the former Jedi was going to have to fight for his right to grovel to Palpatine. The two have a tense battle Vader barely wins, and he's only able to do so by stabbing a lightsaber through his own body in order to defeat the resurrected Maul. While Vader was able to barely win this one-on-one fight, this reveals one of the ways to beat him might be to throw multiple clones at him. If Vader could just squeak out a victory against one Darth Maul, he'd clearly die when facing several of them.

Turn him to the Light Side

Not every way of defeating Darth Vader has to be fatal, of course. One was actually Luke's "Plan A" in the comics: to convert his father to the Light Side. While it was a dangerous gamble, this was the ploy that actually worked, as Palpatine could only be defeated by the redeemed Anakin Skywalker. Anakin, for his part, finally got to fulfill that "restore balance to the Force" prophecy thing, albeit after a lifetime of murdering. Fans of the Star Wars version of "what if," the Star Wars Infinities comics, got to see this play out more fully when Luke, along with Leia, were able to lure a still-living Vader to the Light Side, who then fully committed himself to the Rebel cause. Still, though, Vader's willingness to listen and to ultimately be persuaded by the arguments of the Light Side represents a weakness in him. In fact, this seems to be a central element to the character of Vader's grandson, Kylo Ren, in The Force Awakens, as the young warrior struggles with the idea that he, too, could be lured away from the Dark Side just as Vader once was.

Train a younger model

One of the more time-intensive ways of defeating Vader is to train and use another corrupted Jedi to take his place. This seemed to be Emperor Palpatine's plan in Return of the Jedi once he saw Luke was capable of defeating Darth Vader. At that point, Palpatine saw his long-term apprentice as yesterday's news and seemed like he wanted to offer Luke his father's old job. Star Wars video game players can also see this play out in one of the endings to the first Force Unleashed game. Like most Star Wars games, your character is given options that basically determine a "Light Side" or "Dark Side" ending. The "Dark Side" ending involves your character (who is, ironically, a young apprentice of Vader trained to kill the Emperor) killing Vader and ultimately taking his place by the Emperor's side. Both the canonical movies and non-canonical games show Vader can ultimately be defeated by capitalism—there's always a younger, hungrier person looking to take over someone else's job. Or in this case, the galaxy.

Use Ysalamiri

During the saga's many years away from screens, Timothy Zahn's Star Wars novels found fandom through the introduction of great characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade—and creatures that could help take out Darth Vader, the ysalamiri. These weird little creatures make bubbles around them where the Force simply doesn't exist. This means that a Jedi within this field is suddenly as weak and vulnerable as any human being. While Zahn's novels establish that Vader has been dead for several years before the Empire discovers what these creatures can do, they still represent a way of utterly nullifying the main thing that gives Vader his dramatic edge over opponents.

Shoot his castle from orbit

The final method of defeating Darth Vader was inadvertently shown to us in Rogue One. While Vader's presence in the movie had been teased in different advertisements, his very first appearance was rather surprising. Rather than walking around Star Destroyers in his intimidating armor, Vader apparently spends a lot of time inside a bacta tank on Mustafar, the very planet where he nearly died fighting Obi-Wan Kenobi. The bacta tank is inside a cool castle Vader commissioned, which seems less like practical architecture and more of a symbolic way of always having the high ground on Mustafar.

What does this mean for someone who wants to take Vader on? With the right weaponry and some good timing, you don't have to fight him at all—instead, you could simply fire on his castle from orbit. Vader looks very vulnerable while he's inside the tank, and he doesn't seem interested in reading his surroundings with the force since a lackey has to tell him when Director Krennic has shown up. While we don't see what the defenses are like around the planet, the truth is that all it would take is one turbolaser blast to Vader's castle while he's having his bathtime. Factor in the fact that the movie makes it seem like Vader only gets called on special occasions, and it seems like the Dark Lord is more vulnerable than we might have thought—and a tempting target.