1. He looks the part. Vader’s brilliant outfit is a beautiful example of fashion meets practicality. Clad head to toe in black, all pieces of his outfit—from his cape to the points of his helmet—create the perfect image of a domineering villain. His uniform also functions as a piece of healthcare equipment, keeping him alive underneath. Vader only has—and only needs—one outfit. It is powerful, makes a statement, and helps his battered body stay strong.
2. He sounds nefarious. All he needs to do is take one breath, and we know that we are in the presence of evil. His voice, too, is tyrannical and sinister—a powerful intonation of the dominance he maintains. Few villains are recognizable by their theme songs. Like the Jaws shark, Vader’s music is an instant signal to the audience of his imminent presence. Powerful and commanding, the sounds of Vader mirror his character.
3. He is a master of combat. Anakin demonstrates his piloting skills in The Phantom Menace, and from then on, he has also continued to impress with his lightsaber prowess—both on the attack and on the defense. Vader’s bulldozing of rebels at the end of Rogue One is one of the best scenes of artistic villainy in all of the Star Wars films.
4. He is fearless. Of course, fear is the path to the dark side, but he has been afraid since he was a child. Young Anakin experiences the emotions that ultimately make him into a dark villain. Since he has already been through these emotions and transitioned as a result, he has released his fear. Instead of fearing the threat of the rebels, he stays calm and cool and just initiates attacks. Vader does what he wants. You’re afraid of some asteroids? Get over it and fly through them.
5. He is ruthless. As the first mark of his transformation from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader, he kills the Jedi younglings. Much later, Vader slays his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, without any hesitation. And he has no regrets afterwards. He also chokes his own men if they defy him or are incapable of accomplishing required tasks. His ruthlessness makes him an unstoppable force.
6. He is philosophical. This is a Jedi thing. Vader has an understanding about the dark side and its power. He tells Luke it is his destiny to join him, not as a manipulative tool, but because he actually feels this way. Vader’s deep connection with the dark side of the Force prevents him from seeing how strongly Luke is tied to the good side. Vader’s resistance of his own goodness, overpowered by the fear, anger, and hatred that led him astray, makes him assume that the dark side will always overcome the light. He truly believes this and has followed this philosophy ever since he submitted to the darkness.
7. He is productive. Vader is very resourceful, eliminating those who can’t get the job done, and surrounding himself with productive people who attend to his commands. He also has commanded an impressive fleet and overseen the construction of two Death Stars. He has the technology to destroy planets and the resources to successfully track individuals. And the Force also helps him to sense the presence of other Jedi, making him more knowledgeable than others and better able to prepare against threats.
8. He has powerful influence. Vader commands great armies and stretches his empire across the galaxy. He also makes his own rules, and no one can stop him. He negotiates with Lando in The Empire Strikes Back only to change the terms as he pleases. And there is nothing Lando can do about it, because Vader holds all the power. Vader’s imperial power stays relevant to viewers, because anxieties and fears regarding the potential for oppressive power— its ruthlessness and destructiveness—are not limited to just one time period. Vader is representative of such power that shows no concern for individuals or communities.
9. He has a powerful legacy. Vader tries to have a relationship with his son—he even wants them to rule the galaxy together. So, it may be as imperial rulers of the dark side, but at least they would be together. And when that plan doesn’t work out, he sacrifices his own life so Luke can live on. While he may not follow in Vader’s dark path, Luke embodies the goodness that Anakin lost. But Vader’s legacy as a villain is not lost. Eventually, darkness in his honor is developed and cultivated once again in his family. Kylo Ren turns to his grandfather’s charred, disfigured mask for guidance in The Force Awakens, and declares, “I will finish what you started.”
10. He’s actually kind of a hero. Despite being the villain of the trilogy, there is someone worse than Vader. The Emperor is an even larger and more dangerous threat to humanity in the galaxy far, far away. This man-machine has been utterly ruthless, but he ends up giving up not only his life, but also killing the Emperor and, with that, helping bring down the entire Empire. The rebels even recognize Vader as one of the heroes of Return of the Jedi, which is why his ghost is welcome at the party at the end.
Audiences watch in awe when Darth Vader comes on screen. He is classic and relevant, good and evil, strong and weak. He continues to embody infamous perfection, making him an immortal icon of villainy.