He was given the "Ultimate Villain" award at the 2011 Scream Awards. The American Film Institute listed Vader as the third greatest movie villain in cinema history. Since they started it, how does he compare with other great cinematic villains?
Let's break it down.
1. Darth Vader Was Clueless
A great villain like Shakespeare's Iago is a master planner. Death Vader was not. Iago devised a plan to destroy Othello by making him believe that his wife, Desdemona was having an affair. Pretty evil.
Vader is different though. All the evil plans in the Star Wars films are set in motion and organized by others. In fact, at times Vader seems clueless as to why things are happening.
In the first Star Wars film it was Gran Moff Tarkin that committed the most horrific act: killing billions of people on Alderaan. In the other films, including the prequels, the Emperor is behind every evil thing he does.
If anything, Darth Vader was an easily manipulated fool. Not exactly a great trait for a villain.
2. Darth Vader Was Sadistic...Our Was He?
Destroying a planet. Killing kids. Torturing women. Chokin' people out. Truly a sadistic freak. Or was he?
Hannibal Lector, who's listed as number one, is sadistic. He kills and eats people.
What about Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from Dune. That was a sadist. Not only did he install plugs into his underling's hearts so he could easily kill them, he had a smile on his face while he was floating around doing back flips.
Then there's Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? She was torturing and lobotomizing people for fun.
Darth Vader was a mean guy, but he didn't enjoy hurting people. That's the key to a good villain.
3. Darth Vader's Not A Hustler
Some of the best villains have the motivation of money or power. They go after it with a vengeance like Jay Z in space. Darth Vader wasn't interested in money. He spent it freely and did nothing with it.
We never saw Darth Vader cruising around in his Mercedes Benz with a "Mo' Money Mo' Power" necklace. He could have made some money on the side by breaking into bank vaults or by shaking down planets. He could have said, "It would be a shame if someone destroyed your little planet with a Death Star" and made billions.
So, it goes back to reason one. What was his motivation? Power? He talked about it, but if he really wanted power he would have thrown Palpatine down an elevator shaft a long time ago. He could have even done it easily.
When the Emperor came to check out the Death Star in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi he could have said, "Now we're really proud of this next thing. You have to lean waaaaay over this rail to get a good look at it though." One push and Vader would have been top dog. But, he didn't do it.
Great villains are motivated by money or power and Darth Vader wasn't enough of a hustler to become a great villain.
4. Darth Vader's Scary Looking, But That's Not Enough
So, why do people say Vader's a great villain? We're left with only one explanation: He's scary looking. He is too. His skull-like mask, long cape and booming deep voice is scary. Concept designer Ralph McQuarrie did a great job designing him.
Well, if that's the standard for a great villain, then someone is a great hero because he's handsome. A-Team's Face, played by the sexiest man alive Bradley Cooper, becomes the greatest hero ever.
Yes, Vader's costume and voice are intimidating, but underneath it he's nobody. He's more like Curly from The Three Stooges.
The Wicked Witch of the West, listed as number four below Vader, is scarier looking than Vader. Green skin. Evil cackle. Chilling.
Is Vader scarier than Norman Bates from Psycho or even the shark Bruce from Jaws? To this day, people still avoid taking showers or going into the ocean because of those two.
No one says, "I'm not going into space. Darth Vader might be there!"
So, while Darth Vader is awesome and definitely one of my favorites, he's an idiot who never tried to hurt anybody, make any money or look scary enough to be the greatest villain ever.
What do you think? Is Star Wars Darth Vader the worst villain ever? Let me know in the comments.
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