Darth Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith. More machine than man, twisted and evil, he is one of the greatest villains in cinematic history, in one of the most legendary franchises of all time. Darth Vader truly is a terrifying figure, combining the worst aspects of a faceless, implacable monster and evil sorcerer into one skull-faced package, complete with a bone-rattling baritone voice and eery, spine-chilling breathing. But before he was Darth Vader, he was Anakin Skywalker, one of the greatest Jedi of all time. The Chosen One destined to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force, Anakin was a hero general during the Clone Wars. His tragic fall and eventual redemption is at the center of Star Wars.
Naturally, Star Wars' greatest villain and one of its greatest heroes is one bad motherlover. That is to say, he's really good at fighting and doesn't lose often. But every so often, there comes along someone fighting a little smarter, a little harder, or is just straight up better. And that someone just wrecks Vader's day. Unfortunately for this list, it doesn't happen a whole lot. So expect plenty of technicalities and almosts. There will also be a few instances from the old Expanded Universe. Be sure to complain in the comments about half this list being non-canon, and the other half not really counting. We will definitely listen to those complaints, and take them under advisement the next time we write a list about all the people who have kicked Vader's can.
15 THE KESSEL EIGHT
In the very early days following Vader's fall, the Jedi Purge, and the rise of the Empire, there were still a lot of Jedi running around who had escaped Order 66. Among them were a group of eight Jedi Masters who banded together to lure Palpatine's menacing new henchman into an ambush.
While Vader maintained the upper hand for much of the fight, he was eventually driven back and nearly put down for good after dispatching five of the eight masters. It was only the timely arrival of the 501st Legion that saved Vader, and allowed him to take care of the remainder of the Jedi.
14 HAN SOLO
We can hear the wheels in your head turning even now, trying to think of when Han Solo beat Darth Vader in a fight. We know it's been a while, but join us as we go back to the very beginning, Star Wars: A New Hope.
You of course remember the climactic trench run, with Vader closing in on Luke as he races to launch his proton torpedo payload into the Death Star. "The Force is strong with this one" is echoing in your head right now. But then! Han comes racing in in the Millennium Falcon, blasting Vader's TIE fighter and send him spinning off into space.
13 DARTH MAUL
This is our first "almost" of the list (well, we think so, but it could be argued the others are "almost" as well). Back before Disney bought the Star Wars license, there was a comic book series called Star Wars Tales. Well before Darth Maul would rampage back onto the screen in The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Solo, he would first return in an issue of Tales.
In it, Maul has been cloned by a religious order called the Prophets of the Dark Side. They pit him against Vader, hoping to usurp Palpatine after Vader's demise. Maul very nearly defeated Vader, with Vader only surviving by stabbing through himself into Maul with his lightsaber.
12 THE SON
One of the most mysterious aspects of the Force introduced in The Clone Wars animated series was the Ones. A race of massively powerful Force-wielders, the Ones seemed to represent the Force itself, with a dark Son, a light Daughter, and a neutral Father balancing the two.
Anakin encountered them during the Clone Wars, crash landing on their planet of Mortis. The Son hoped to corrupt Anakin, and use him to usurp the Father, and spread his darkness to the galaxy. The Son's massive Force power allowed him to easily overwhelm Anakin, physically and mentally. Anakin managed to end the Son permanently after the Father took his own life and the Son's power with it.
11 CELESTE MORNE
Again going back to the pre-Disney comics, there were four major series, dealing with four greatly separate time periods. The first, Knights of the Old Republic, took place 4000 years before A New Hope. Then there was Dark Times, taking place in the immediate aftermath of Revenge of the Sith. Rebellion, naturally, dealt with the Rebellion, in between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Finally, there was Legacy, looking a hundred years into the future of Star Wars. So naturally, they did a crossover, called Vector.
Vector dealt with Celeste Morne, an ancient Jedi, Celeste Morne, possessed by an even more ancient Sith Lord. They eventually found themselves confronting Darth Vader, thousands of years from home. While Vader started with the upper hand due to the Jedi not wanting to use the Sith's power, he was eventually beaten back by the sheer power of the Sith spirit.
10 GALEN MAREK
Once again we go back to the rise of the Empire and the birth of the Rebellion. In the last throes of the Jedi Purge, Darth Vader tracked down a Jedi on the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk. Although he dispatched the Jedi with little difficulty, he then discovered the Jedi's son, who was immensely powerful in the Force.
Vader took the child, Galen Marek, and trained him as a secret apprentice. Eventually, Marek split from Vader and joined the burgeoning Rebellion. He would then confront Vader once again, and absolutely rock his world. While he did not permanently end Vader, he certainly had the capability to do so, and was only stopped by Palpatine's personal intervention.
9 COUNT DOOKU
Well before Anakin was Darth Vader, and even before he was one of the greatest Jedi to fight in the Clone Wars, he was just a headstrong Padawan... a headstrong Padawan with two arms. But in the opening hours of the Clone Wars, Count Dooku changed all that.
Dooku, a former Jedi and master lightsaber duelist, had betrayed the Republic, leading the Confederacy of Independent Systems into civil war. Secretly, he was serving Darth Sidious, who in turn was secretly Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, playing both ends to manipulate himself into power. Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi confronted Dooku, who easily defeated both of them, taking Anakin's arm and handing him his first real defeat in the process.
8 SAVAGE OPRESS
With the Clone Wars at their peak, Dooku and the Confederacy were desperately seeking new leadership to combat the power of the Jedi generals. On the planet Dathomir, Dooku found potential in Darth Maul's long-lost brother, the hilariously named Savage Opress.
Savage was a powerful fighter, and strong in the Force. He would frequently come into conflict with the Jedi, even managing to snuff out several of them. He eventually had a run-in with Anakin and Obi-Wan. Although he didn't have quite as decisive a victory as others on this list, he still managed to overpower the two Jedi and escape them.
In the waning days of the Jedi Purge, with few, if any, Jedi left to hunt and wipe out, Vader found himself growing bored with no challenge left in his life. In order to combat this, and keep himself sharp, he asked Wilhuff Tarkin to hunt him down. Tarkin hired a number of bounty hunters, and armed them with slugthrowers (think regular old Earth guns) to specifically combat Vader's lightsaber.
Eventually, the hunt came down to just Vader and Tarkin, alone on a flat plain in the middle of a storm. Tarkin fell to his knees before Vader. Vader, suddenly finding himself as the highest thing on the plain, was struck by lightning. Although it took a lot of luck, Tarkin did manage to defeat Vader.
6 KIRAK INFIL'A
Immediately following Anakin's transformation into Vader, he found himself without a lightsaber. Palpatine informed him that in order to obtain a true Sith's kyber crystal, he would need to rip one from a Jedi's lightsaber who he had defeated himself, and corrupt it... literally "bleeding" it to make it red.
Vader hunted down Kirak Infil'a, a Jedi Master who had held to the Jedi's pacifistic code and refused to participate in the Clone Wars. Thus, he had escaped Order 66 by being nowhere near it. Infil'a utterly destroyed Vader in their first confrontation, literally shattering his cybernetic limbs and scattering them across the battlefield.
5 OBI-WAN KENOBI
Before Darth Vader became the cyborg monstrosity of the original trilogy, he had one final confrontation with his Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The two were evenly matched, battling back and forth across the lava plains of Mustafar. Anakin's natural power augmented by the power of the dark side very nearly handed him victory.
But it was not to be. Anakin's overconfidence became his downfall, as he tried an utterly ridiculous maneuver to defeat Obi-Wan by leaping over his head, we guess? Obi-Wan dismembered him, and left him to burn to death on Mustafar, which was honestly kind of a jerk move.
4 FERREN BARR
Time for technicalities! In the early days of the Empire, there were still a good number of Jedi running around making mischief. The Rebellion had not yet been born, but the seeds were slowly and surely being planted. One of the first was Vader's mission to Mon Cala, homeworld of Admiral Ackbar.
There, he faced Jedi Padawan Ferren Barr. The Jedi had orchestrated an uprising on the planet, forcing the Empire to respond with overwhelming force. While Vader handily defeated the Padawan, Barr had seen a vision of Mon Cala ships fighting for a great rebellion decades in the future. This vision would come to pass with the Mon Cala fleet, led by Admiral Ackbar, joining the Rebel Alliance, and proving key to the Empire's defeat at Endor.
3 DARTH SIDIOUS
Darth Vader's master, Darth Sidious, is the end-all, be-all villain of Star Wars. Orchestrator of the Clone Wars, rule of the Empire, and general jerkface, Sheev Palpatine is responsible for basically every bad thing in the timeline of the first six movies. The fall of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Darth Vader is no exception.
While Sidious never physically defeated Vader, or even fought him, Sidious did mentally break Anakin. One could easily argue that Sidious served Anakin the greatest defeat of all, defeating his will and morality so thoroughly that he became one of the greatest monsters in galactic history.
2 LUKE SKYWALKER
What would Star Wars be without Luke Skywalker? Not much, we'll tell you that. Starting out as a whiny farmboy, Luke developed over the course of three movies into a true hero and Jedi Knight. His training was finally complete when he confronted Darth Vader, his father, aboard the second Death Star above Endor.
Vader kept Luke on his back foot for much of the fight. He eventually pushed too far and drove Luke over the edge. Luke briefly succumbed to his anger, and beat Vader down, leaving him gasping for breath. But Luke's true victory came ideologically. Seeing his father beaten before him, he rejected the dark side and Palpatine, casting aside his lightsaber. Proudly, he proclaimed, "I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
1 ANAKIN SKYWALKER
Luke defeated Vader physically, and rejected his temptations in order to defeat him mentally. Only one person could defeat Darth Vader once and for all. The spirit of Anakin Skywalker, long dormant, finally rose and overcame the dark side. While his body failed him, Anakin rose once again and defeated the Sith once and for all.
Both Sidious and Vader met their ends that day, at the hands of Anakin Skywalker. Although some might argue this is a technicality, there's no denying that Anakin overcame his Vader personality and redeemed himself. Vader is gone, and Anakin gets to be a Force ghost.