The Star Wars franchise gave us some of the most iconic pop culture villains of this day and age. From Darth Vader to Darth Maul and Kylo Ren, there are many characters in the famous saga that will send chills down your spine. Others? Well, not so much. The thing with Star Wars is that it has a rich extended universe, featuring comics, cartoons, video games, novels, and more. In fact, the Star Wars universe is so rich, and has so many characters, that Villains Wiki lists 464 Star Wars villains!
Because of the sheer number of villains in the extended universe, and because not all Star Wars fans are familiar with the extended universe, I will limit this article to villains from the Star Wars movies, meaning that you won’t see characters like Asaj Ventress or Darth Revan in this list. After all, with a total of 10 movies (the original trilogy, the three prequels, two sequels, and two spin-offs, Rogue One and Solo), there are more than enough villains to talk about.
These villains were ranked according to several factors. One important thing to consider is scariness, of course, as well as ruthlessness. We also took into account villains’ body count, not to mention their cool factor and the way they met their eventual end. Finally, an important criterion in this ranking was the way these villains left (or didn’t leave) a lasting impression on pop culture. Here’s a ranking of 25 Star Wars villains from weakest to strongest!
25 The Droid Army (Prequels)
Spoiler alert: a lot of the villains near the bottom of this list are going to be from the prequels. You can’t just compare Count Dooku to Darth Vader or Darth Sidious! While the Star Wars prequels weren’t the worst movies ever made, the vast majority of fans agree they don’t hold a candle to the Original Trilogy. One of the many reasons for this was the “villainous” army of droids. I mean, they get destroyed by Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans. Neither efficient, funny, nor scary, these battle droids deserve their spot in last place.
24 Nute Gunray (Prequels)
Like the rest of his colleagues from the Confederation of Independent Systems, Nute Gunray is nothing but a pawn in the Sith’s hands.
His main claim to villainhood is his incredible cowardice, and he eventually falls to the hands of Darth Vader.
Moreover, Viceroy Nute Gunray’s accent is extremely problematic, as he and the rest of the of the Trade Federation have “distinctive stereotypically broken Asian-English accents” (uncyclopedia). A coward and a stereotype to boot, Nute Gunray doesn’t exactly shine among the pantheon of Star Wars villains.
23 Poggle The Lesser (Prequels)
The same can be said of Poggle the Lesser, the Archduke of Geonosis. While arguably much more villainous than Nute Gunray, as he saves the plans for the Separatist Council’s Death Star and gives them to Count Dooku, he’s still a pawn, used by the Sith for Darth Sidious’ nefarious schemes. Not all good villains are Sith, but it’s safe to say villains who are used as mere minions by other villains don’t pose quite as much of a threat as, say, Jabba the Hutt.
22 IG-88 (The Empire Strikes Back)
Be honest: did you remember IG-88, the bounty hunter droid from The Empire Strikes Back? Me neither, and that’s why he’s so far down on this list. He could have been an excellent villain: he’s a robot, ruthless and devoid of emotions, a skilled bounty hunter, his appearance is fearsome, etc.
He certainly ranks above the battle droids, but he’s sadly overshadowed by his fellow bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
If you do consider the extended Star Wars universe, however, IG-88 is given more of a role in the Clone Wars series—but this list is about the movies.
21 Count Dooku (Prequels)
Not all good villains are Sith, and not all Sith are good villains. Count Dooku, or Darth Tyranus, as he’s also known, is, to put it bluntly, rather uninteresting compared to his Sith Master, Darth Sidious—despite Christopher Lee's talent as an actor.
His Sith identity adds nothing to his character—or rather, it’s not explored well enough to add anything.
At the end of the day, much like Nute and Poggle the lesser, Dooku is a tool in Sidious’ plan, and his end is a mere step on the path that leads Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side.
20 General Tagge (A New Hope)
General Cassio Tagge is actually quite an important figure in the Galactic Empire. The son of a powerful family, he became the Grand General of the Imperial Army after the battle of Yavin and the destruction of the Empire’s Ultimate Weapon. He’s not afraid of challenging Vader and shows more intuition than most of the Empire’s generals, since, having warned his peers not to underestimate the Rebel Alliance, he survives the destruction of the Death Star. However, he’s still a very minor character in the original movies.
19 General Grievous (Prequels)
General Grievous is a textbook villain. Ruthless, fearsome, and motivated by pure hate, he truly is the stuff of nightmares. The only problem is, that’s kind of all there is to him. He’s scary. He’s a formidable opponent in battle.
His ability to split his arms and use four lightsabers at once is undeniably cool.
But, in the movies, he doesn’t have any real depth, which is a shame, because he had the potential to be an amazing villain—just look at him. He’s definitely not a character you’d want to meet, but he’s not quite as good as some of the other villains on this list.
18 The Rancor (Return Of The Jedi)
The Rancor, who first appears in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, is a spooky beast. Rancors as a species are scary enough, but they can’t be considered villainous. The one Jabba the Hutt keeps as a pet in the Palace Pit in Return of the Jedi, however, is an antagonist of the movie, and one of the many challenges Luke Skywalker and his allies face in their quest to stop the Empire. Unlike some of the villains mentioned before, his end isn’t a simple step in another villain’s larger plan.
17 Greedo (A New Hope)
Greedo wouldn’t have been this high on the list if he wasn’t such an iconic Star Wars character. His end at the hands of Han Solo sparked a controversy that’s still very much alive today: who shot first? In the original release, Han shoots Greedo. It gets more complicated, however, as, over the course of several re-releases, the scene is modified.The phrase Han shot first is famous among the Star Wars fandom, and actually served as a major plot point in Solo. He may not have a lot of screentime, but Greedo certainly made a lasting impression over the fandom.
16 Orson Krennic (Rogue One)
Orson Krennic is one of the men responsible for the construction of the Empire’s ultimate weapons. He’s given a backstory in the recent prequel Rogue One, where he serves as the main antagonist.
Ruthless and self-serving, Orson is a tough villain in the sense that he’s impossibly smart, and he uses it for bad.
Played with chilling accuracy by Ben Mendelsohn, he’s a fearsome opponent for Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, and, according to Inverse, “one of the most truly evil characters Star Wars has ever seen.”
15 Captain Phasma (The Force Awakens & The Last Jedi)
Much like General Grievous, Captain Phasma had the potential to be a tough villain. She certainly looks the part, with an armor that’s just as reminiscent of Darth Vader as ultimate Vader fanboy Kylo Ren’s mask. Which makes sense, since her armor was originally designed to be Kylo Ren’s outfit. For many fans, it was also refreshing to see a female villain in a powerful position, as the Star Wars universe is very heavily male-dominated, something which the recent Star Wars movies have tried to fix. Unfortunately for Phasma, however, her role in the films is very minor.
14 Supreme Leader Snoke (The Force Awakens & The Last Jedi)
Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious leader of the First Order in the Star Wars sequels, had a lot to live up to. How do you measure up to Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, who’s more or less villainy incarnate? Snoke actually does a pretty good job, at first.
He’s gross-looking, powerful with the Dark Side of the Force, and turns Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, against his own family.
However, fans were disappointed by his end at the hands of Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi, before much about him could even be revealed.
13 Kylo Ren (The Force Awakens & The Last Jedi)
Talking about having a lot to live up to…Kylo Ren worships his grandfather Darth Vader, but the question of whether or not he could one day measure up to him remains open. Some fans love him, some dismiss him as a spoiled teenager who constantly throws tantrums and lives in the shadow of his long-gone ancestor. Yes, in some ways, Kylo Ren is a bit ridiculous (just look at the many memes circulating online), but it’s undeniable he’s a fearsome, unpredictable opponent—and you have to admit his lightsaber is pretty cool.
12 General Armitage Hux (The Force Awakens & The Last Jedi)
Played by Domnhall Gleeson, General Hux is a powerful member of the First Order. Young, ambitious, and ruthless, Armitage Hux embodies hate, and takes his orders from none other than Supreme leader Snoke.
His merciless streak is pretty obvious in the films.
Hux is the one who convinces Snoke to use the newly-built Starkiller to destroy an entire planet. He’s Kylo Ren’s direct rival in the First Order, and, for those who cringed at Kylo’s tantrums, arguably a better villain.
11 Dryden Vos (Solo)
Dryden Vos, played by Avengers’ Paul Bettany, is one Solo’s antagonists. While Solo wasn’t a huge success with the public, it was acclaimed by critics (and by Harrison Ford himself), and it gave us some pretty good villains—Dryden Vos included. At the head of the crime syndicate Crimson Dawn, Vos presents himself as a man of wealth and taste, but don’t be fooled: he reveals his ruthless side quite early in the film. Not only is he a complex, powerful villain, but the implication of his relationship with Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke) is also spooky.
10 Beckett (Solo)
You’ll probably spend most of the movie wondering if Beckett is an anti-hero or a villain. He certainly is morally ambiguous, and he’s not a hero; after all, he’s a criminal, and he works for Crimson Dawn. At the same time, he’s on young Han Solo’s side for most of the movie and teaches him valuable lessons. However, at the end of the movie, he turns against Han—but he did warn him: “Assume everyone will betray you, and you will never be disappointed.” Beckett is a complex, interesting villain, and one of the best characters in Solo.
9 DJ (The Last Jedi)
Here’s another morally ambiguous character, one who also joined forces with the protagonists only to turn against them later. DJ, short for Don’t Join, is the codename of a slicer Finn meets in The Last Jedi. He probably wouldn’t be too happy to be on this list, as he notoriously refuses to associate with either side of the war: “Good guys, bad guys, made-up words,” he says. Thing is, that’s exactly what makes him such a good villain. His refusal to pick sides makes him an anomaly: as spectators, we want to root for him, which makes his betrayal gutting—even though it was predictable.
8 Grand Moff Tarkin (Original Trilogy)
Just like General Tagge, Tarkin was an important figure in the hierarchy of the Galactic Empire. He was a ruthless, cunning, ambitious individual, responsible for many, many tragedies. He has a slightly more significant role than Tagge in the movies, but he remains a relatively minor character. Why include him so high on this list, then?
Well, he gives orders to Darth Vader.
Vader, a powerful Sith apprentice and the most feared man in the Empire. We’re willing to bet not too many villains cited here would dare to do the same thing.
7 Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
Darth Maul is probably one of the best characters of the Star Wars prequels. He was Darth Sidious’ apprentice before Vader and had the characteristics of a great villain. Nothing quite screams bad guy like horns, crimson skin, and orange eyes.
With his double-ended red lightsaber, Maul quickly became a fan-favorite, and one of the most iconic Star Wars villains.
His appearance at the end of Solo shocked audiences, who can’t wait to see more of him on the big screen.
6 Jango Fett (Prequels)
Jango Fett might have been higher on this list if he hadn’t been introduced in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which many fans regard as the worst Star Wars movie ever made. LucasArts took popular antagonist Boba Fett, and gave him a “father” who’s really the man he was cloned from, and the source of the entire clone army. He’s also not great as a bounty hunter, as his attempts on Padmé Amidala’s life fail. However, he still remains a fearsome opponent and overall a pretty cool villain.
5 Boba Fett (Original Trilogy)
Boba Fett is, without a doubt, the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, and one of the Star Wars franchise’s most iconic villains. Considering the Star Wars universe features quite a bit of bounty hunters, that’s no small feat. Boba Fett is ruthless, and generally much more successful in his missions than his father was. In the movies, he associates with the Empire and with Vader himself. Not to mention, he’s got a jet-pack, and who doesn’t love a villain with a jet-pack?
4 Jabba The Hutt (Original Trilogy)
Why put what’s essentially a giant, power-hungry slug in fourth place? Well, for several reasons. First of all, Jabba, a crime-lord based on Tatooine, is slimy in more ways than one. His treatment of women, and of his subordinates, is beyond despicable.
Secondly, just like Boba Fett, Darth Maul, or Darth Vader, he’s quite an iconic villain.
And finally, he’s consistently in the protagonists’ way: he displays Solo in carbonite in his Palace (briefly) enslaves Leia, tries to feed Luke to the Rancor…
3 Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Prequels & Original Trilogy)
The Emperor, or Darth Sidious, is not only an extremely powerful Sith Lord, but he’s also the mastermind behind most of the plotting mentioned in this list. He’s the man in the shadows pulling the strings, but also, thanks to the Dark Side of the Force, a formidable opponent in battle. He wields the Force expertly and uses Sith Lightning with ruthless precision. This could have put him in the top spot, but he’s not quite as complex or as iconic as, for instance, Darth Vader.
2 Darth Vader (Original Trilogy)
He had to be at the top, of course. Darth Vader is the quintessential Star Wars villain. Even for people who know nothing about Star Wars, Darth Vader is an incredibly memorable villain.
He’s up there with Voldemort, the Joker, Thanos, Keyser Söze, Cersei Lannister, and the rest of them.
USA today even lists him as the most popular movie villain of all time. Darth Vader is tough, cunning, consumed by rage, merciless…the list goes on. He will forever be remembered for his voice, his mask, and his famous lines, such as “No. I am your father.”
1 The Stormtroopers/Clones/First Order Stormtroopers (All Movies)
Who could be stronger or more memorable than Darth Vader himself? Well… Vader’s army, to start with. The Stormtroopers are a force to be reckoned with; not only are they the muscle of the Galactic Empire, but they’re also one of the most iconic parts of the Star Wars saga.
And as for the fear factor… what could be spookier than an army of identical indoctrinated soldiers, all frightfully loyal to their cause?
There’s a reason the sequels also include Stormtroopers and the prequels give them a nod via the clone army. It just wouldn’t be Star Wars without them.