While Star Wars has always been a tale of heroism, full of courageous adventurers and noble warriors, it’s impossible to overlook the franchise’s villains. From despicable Sith Lords to conniving Imperial officers, Star Wars is home to some of sci-fi greatest antagonists. The Empire in particular has boasted many memorable bad guys over the years, both in the movies and the Expanded Universe.
Rogue One, the latest addition to the Star Wars film franchise, introduces yet another villain to the ranks of the Empire: Director Krennic, the man in charge of the Death Star project. This imposing figure, clad in his white officer’s uniform and cape, will stop at nothing to show the rebel scum the Empire’s true military might.
With the Empire’s return to the big screen imminent, we thought it a good time to take a look back at the most dastardly members of the Galactic Empire. Without further ado, here are the 10 Imperial villains you love to hate:
We have to begin with the leader of the Empire himself. Sheev Palpatine rose to the top through manipulation and intimidation, striking at his foes from the shadows and picking off his enemies one by one. Through his political machinations during the Clone Wars, Palpatine declared himself the absolute ruler of the galaxy and slaughtered the Jedi Order. This ruthless dictator was secretly a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious, a master of the dark side. With his unlimited power, Palpatine covered the galaxy in darkness for many decades. The Emperor would undoubtedly be the greatest Sith villain of all time if it weren’t for his apprentice…
He’s not only the greatest Star Wars villain of all time, Darth Vader might just be the greatest movie villain ever. Period. In the early days of the Empire, Lord Vader was a true incarnation of evil as he hunted down the Jedi and slaughtered his former brothers, but behind the terrifying black armor were the remains of a fallen Republic hero. The impressionable and cocky Anakin Skywalker was manipulated by Palpatine into betraying his friends and becoming the Sith Lord’s apprentice in order to save his wife, Padme, from her inevitable death. Anakin, once prophesized to bring balance to the Force, fell to the dark side, but there was still some good left in him when it came to sacrificing himself to save his son, Luke, from the Emperor. While many would undoubtedly say that he deserves no pity, Darth Vader is arguably the most tragic character of the Star Wars saga.
Grand Moff Tarkin
On the other hand, Grand Moff Tarkin’s thirst for power was unmatched among the upper echelons of the Empire. Tarkin was a ruthless tactician and a murderer, which is perhaps why the Emperor put him in charge of the Death Star, the Empire’s most dangerous weapon. With it, he destroyed the planet Alderaan, a key member of the Rebel Alliance and sought to do the same to Yavin IV, the location of the Rebel base. Tarkin was known to be merciless with both the Rebels and any who opposed him within the Imperial ranks. While still a governor in the early days of the Empire, Tarkin played a key role in destroying the career of Vice Admiral Dodd Rancit, an Imperial officer vying for the title of Grand Moff and the Emperor’s favor.
One of the most intriguing villains of the modern era of Star Wars is undoubtedly the Grand Inquisitor, a Jedi hunter who worked for the Empire during the Jedi Purge. While a mysterious villain in his first appearances on the Rebels animated series, it was later revealed that this bloodthirsty assassin had once been a Jedi Temple Guard who was corrupted by the dark side after the fall of the Jedi. Under the command of Darth Vader, the Grand Inquisitor sought only to destroy the remaining Jedi still hiding in the galaxy. This Inquisitor was actually the leader of a whole group of hunters known as the Inquisitorius. The Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister were among his ranks.
Cylo was the Empire’s very own mad scientist who used his research to create cybernatically-enhanced agents that could one day replace Darth Vader as the Emperor’s apprentice. Among his creations were the wannabe-Jedi twins Morit and Aiolin Astarte, the genius Tulon Voidgazer, and the General Grievous-inspired Commander Karbin. Cylo enhanced himself as well, seemingly becoming immortal by cybernetically fusing himself with a system capable of assuming a different body upon the previous one’s death. He also grafted parts from other alien species onto his own body, which explains why one of his eyes belonged to a Rodian. Cylo is a very unique Star Wars villain, using weird science in his attempt to become the Emperor’s right hand man.
A career Imperial officer, Rae Sloane joined the Imperial Navy at the age of 19, rising from cadet to captain of a Star Destroyer by the age of 30. By the waning days of the Empire after the Battle of Endor, Sloane served as Grand Admiral aboard the Ravager, the last remaining Super Star Destroyer in the Imperial Fleet. While she served a commanding officer who hid in the shadows, Sloane was the face of the Imperial military to the greedy bureaucrats who bickered about the future of the Empire and its many riches. Sloane outsmarted all that stood in her way and remained a cunning adversary for the New Republic in the final days of the Empire.
The man in charge for the security of the Death Star project, Director Krennic was a master of manipulation and hoped to rise to the highest ranks of the Empire and gain the Emperor’s favor. As director of the Advanced Weapons Research division of the Imperial Military, Krennic convinced several brilliant scientists, including kyber crystal expert Galen Erso, to work on the superweapon that would guarrantee the Empire’s dominion over the entire galaxy. Greed and a thirst for recognition fueled this calculating villain, who thought only of himself.
As an agent of the Imperial Security Bureau, Kallus was on the Empire’s greatest acolytes, suppressing rebellion on several worlds, including the cleansing (genocide) of the planet Lasan, before being tasked with eliminating the rebels operating on Lothal. While he was initially a devoted believer in the established order, he eventually became disillusioned with the Empire, especially after he began working with the ruthless Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Grand Admiral Thrawn
While his original introduction in the Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire was retconned out of continuity, Grand Admiral Thrawn returned to canon as a villain in Star Wars Rebels. Thrawn was a brilliant military strategist who used his enemies’ culture, art, and philosophy against them in battle, and showed an unusual respect for his foes. Thrawn was known among his colleagues for his cool and calm demeanor that was at once polite and unsettling.
Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax operated in the shadows in the days after the Battle of Endor. Believed to be dead, Rax manipulated the remaining leaders of the shattered Empire into a battle above the planet Akiva in order to quell his competition. Rax, who considered himself a visionary, established a Shadow Council to run the Imperial remnant from behind the scenes and proclaimed himself Counselor to the Empire, the organization’s de facto leader. He was the man responsible for the Battle of Jakku, the place where the Empire suffered its final defeat.