Courtesy of Lucasfilm - Snoke from The Last Jedi

STAR WARS is full of bad people for the sole reason of the story needing a villain. A good villain should be relatable, have complex emotions, and stir controversy among fans. The STAR WARS franchise has always had interesting villains, but they begin to lose their appeal when looking at their complexity. All characters should have a relatable trait to them from the audience’s perspective. It makes them more interesting than what they already are.

STAR WARS has a problem with its villains; they are all really bland. Every main villain in the franchise is severely lacking in complexity, which makes it hard to like after a while. In recent movies, specifically THE LAST JEDI, the villains have gained some layers, unlike previous movies. Kylo Ren struggles with which side he belongs on by struggling to kill his mother. Leia was closer to Ben than Han was so his hardship to kill her made him relatable to the viewer. It would take some serious events for me to kill my mother and father.

If Kylo had seamlessly been able to kill both his parents in seconds then his character would have been severely questioned. What made him feel that way toward his parents? How could he kill his parents so easily? Questions like these are important to ask because it reveals what might be missing from characters. With that said, below are the top five two-dimensional villains in the STAR WARS franchise.

Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

5. Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader

Anakin Skywalker has the longest arc in all of the STAR WARS’ movies, which gives more time to develop his character and backstory. However, his complexity wavers at times. His anger toward the Tusken Raiders for killing his mother is understandable, but his swift actions of killing all of them is an unnatural one. At that point in the timeline, the audience only knew Anakin was too old to begin training as a Jedi. For the movie, it seems that is the only plausible cause in his killing.

The reason for Anakin turning to the dark side is also relatable; he wanted to save the women he loved the most. I would do anything for the love of my life. Despite that desire, he ends up killing his loved one because she leads Obi-Wan to him. Anakin’s anger towards Padme does not truly make sense considering he is doing everything he can to save her. Why does he have to turn to the dark side to really save Padme? These are questions Anakin should be asking himself rather than what the audience should be asking.

A question like that would give Anakin an internal struggle. Internal struggles are easily relatable because people have them all the time. What is right and what is wrong? That question should never be answered easily and yet in STAR WARS, it is.

Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

4. Darth Maul

In THE PHANTOM MENACE, Darth Maul does almost zero speaking. He fights at the very end, kills Qui-Gon, and then gets himself cut-in-half. His movie arc is super short, but he comes back later on in STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS and REBELS. At first, his motivations were out of anger. Palpatine has taught this sith to hate the Jedi no matter what. Hate is what fuels Maul to his actions which are not necessarily reflective of the audience. Humans can be fueled by hate. We see that in society today, but getting to that point takes a lot. Hate is a simple motivator, but reaching that point is where it gets complex.

We see nothing of where Maul’s hate comes from, other than possibly Palpatine making his complexity flat. It isn’t until Maul returns to the animated shows where he gains one more level of complexity, but even then it is shallow. His revenge against Obi-Wan is what drives him on in the show. He wants to kill the Jedi who ruined his life. Revenge is based off hate, so little has been added to his character’s dimensions. If Maul had been humanized in some way then he might not be on this list. Instead, he is only driven by the motives Palpatine set before the first movie, making him a bland villain with a sick ass lightsaber.

Darth Maul in The Clone Wars
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

3. General Grievous

The cyborg general is a cool villain concept, but that can’t save him from his blandness. Grievous motives are actually not shared within the one movie he is in which makes him worse than any other character on this list. However, his motive and story arc in the comics and show put him at number three. General Grievous was a species known as Kaleesh before he became the bucket of bolts he is in REVENGE OF THE SITH. During the clone wars, Grievous goes through a series of accidents causing his body to falter. He assisted the Separatists in the Clone Wars because the Republic was the cause of his accidents.

Count Dooku was the one to turn him into a four-armed cyborg and teach him lightsaber combat. Grievous’ motives before his accidents are unknown, but afterward, they are solely to enact revenge on the Republic. Revenge is a simple and cliche motivator. General Grievous’ motivation and background are not given room in the third movie. However, the animated TV series does take a dive into his person. Grievous had hoped for force abilities, but Dooku was unsuccessful through his attempts to grant them to the Kaleesh cyborg. If fans were able to see the struggle the general had with this failure then he may not have been on this list.

General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

2. Count Dooku

Here is another villain to add to the list of little time to develop. Count Dooku, the former apprentice of Yoda, is not given a lot of screen time. Dooku is introduced into ATTACK OF THE CLONES where we receive little knowledge about him. His presence doesn’t make a lot of sense in the series. The little we do get is solely due to power. Palpatine offered Dooku power over the galaxy and that is what persuaded him to the dark side. Having a character crave power doesn’t work unless they have a reason to crave power.

Dooku could have gained power in the Jedi temple on the high council. Why did that not satisfy his power craving? If the movies would have expanded upon what happened to Count Dooku in his past, then the craving for power would make a lot of sense. Dooku could have been born a poor boy and aspired to have some kind of power. This isn’t the case though because Dooku was born into a wealthy family who already had a lot of power. Why crave more than what you already have? It’s decisions like these that give characters a baffling fault in their motivations.

1. Emperor Palpatine and Snoke

Emperor Palpatine and Snoke serve the same purpose in their respective movies, which essentially makes them the same character. Even though Snoke’s background is unknown, their desires for power are the same. Both of these masterminds are craving to rule the galaxy with an iron fist. Wanting to rule the galaxy just because is not a good villain trait. Give them faults. Give them background. Make their emotions and motivations complex and human. Villians like these only serve to help the plot rather than create diverse characters.

Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Palpatine was a character that fans knew little about before the prequels. Snoke is in the same boat as he is now and it’s mysterious like these that hinder the development of good villains. Palpatine and Snoke’s motivation for power is a shallow craving many audience members cannot relate to. Allowing villains to connect to the audience in complex ways such as emotions, family dynamics, and struggling actions gives them a relatability the viewers need.

Moving Forward with STAR WARS Villains

Finn, Han Solo, Cassian Andor, Jyn Erso, and Lando Calrissian are all heroes who have conflicting feelings the audience can relate to. All of these characters waver on the side they’re on or do not believe in sides. Dives into their past and present emotions make them likable and relatable heroes. Villains are just as important as them because they are the challenge in the plot. The complex challenge is significantly better than the one that can be beaten in a matter of moves. Add detailed backgrounds, add conflicting emotions, add internal conflict, and you will have yourself one hell of a STAR WARS villain.

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