Perhaps the two most popular characters to come out of the Star Wars franchise are Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. As father and son, it seems fitting for them to reign supreme over a property that has produced a litany of films, comics, novels, and television series. Just like in the Original Star Wars Trilogy, though, we naturally bring these two into battle all the time. We saw them fight, sure, but who was the better Jedi, the better pilot, and who was right in their very different quests to make a name for themselves in a galaxy far, far away.
Anakin Skywalker came into the galaxy as the most powerful Force-sensitive child anyone had ever seen. All that power obviously led to the question of his corruptibility, and in the end, it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. He ultimately went against everything he was taught, destroyed the Jedi, and joined the Dark Side of the Force. On the other hand, Luke was introduced as the unlikely hero who had to fight just to get off his own planet. He may have benefitted from having his father as a cautionary tale, but Luke managed to make his own decisions and come out on top. Here are 15 things Luke Skywalker did that Darth Vader never could.
15 HELD ONTO HIS SENSE OF MORALITY
When Anakin Skywalker failed to save his mother from the Tusken Raiders, he lashed out in anger and killed them all. It went against everything he had been taught to believe, and it was the start of his ultimate fall to the Dark Side of the Force. His relationship with Palpatine only hastened his descent as Anakin embraced fascism, forgot about his teachings, and killed a bunch of kids.
Luke, on the other hand, never had a crisis like that because he was far more well adjusted than his father. When his aunt and uncle were murdered, he didn’t lash out, he learned to move on. He was briefly tempted by the Dark Side, but managed to bring himself back, and when his Jedi Order was destroyed, he didn’t go on a murder spree like his dad. Luke knew how to hold himself together.
14 GAINED THE TRUST OF YODA
If you remember back in the Prequel Trilogy, Yoda did not trust Anakin Skywalker and did not know what the future held for him. The Jedi Council decided that he was too old and could not undergo the training to become a member of the order. It was only Qui-Gon Jinn who believed in the kid and had Obi-Wan Kenobi promise to train him in the Force.
Years later, after that all worked out horribly wrong, Yoda wanted nothing to do with training Luke Skywalker. It was only through his relentless dedication that he earned the trust of the old Jedi Master and got him to continue his training. In the end, Yoda looked to Luke as a friend, which was not something he shared with Anakin even before his fall.
13 HIT HIS TARGET
Sure, we can probably call Anakin Skywalker the better starpilot, considering he managed to do a good deal of damage to the Confederacy as a child. However, Luke has his own skills as a pilot and proves to be extremely gifted at shooting incredibly small targets while traveling at high speeds. Luke may have gotten help from the Force, but he had to focus it in order to use it.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader is supposed to be the best pilot in the galaxy and the most powerful force user probably ever, and he can’t seem to hit one X-Wing. During the dogfight over the Death Star in A New Hope, Vader has Luke’s ship dead to rights, and yet he manages to miss his chance thanks to the timely intervention of Han Solo. Maybe a better Force user would have been able to dodge and shoot.
12 ADMITTED WHEN HE WAS WRONG
As Anakin Skywalker fell to the Dark Side of the Force, he became increasingly unstable and paranoid. He accused Obi-Wan Kenobi of many things that were not true and began to spout off a diatribe about the Jedi that wasn’t exactly based in any sort of reality. Instead of seeing reason and maybe apologizing for his mistakes, Anakin doubled down on them and turned evil.
Luke, on the other hand, managed to admit when he was wrong. After the downfall of his Jedi Order, he became determined to see the Jedi come to an end once and for all. He believed it was better for the galaxy if they were gone. In The Last Jedi, Rey managed to convince him that there was still hope left in the galaxy, that the Jedi were still needed, and the Resistance could still win.
11 HARNESSED THE POWER OF A BLACK HOLE
Though this level of power was never seen in any of the movies, author Michael A. Stackpole told the story of how Luke Skywalker manipulated a black hole in the 2000 novel The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide I: Onslaught. During the Battle of Dantooine, the New Republic and the Jedi took on the Chazrach invasion, but it wasn’t until Luke used his power that the fighting came to an end.
Faced with an enemy who could generate its own black holes, Luke used their power against them. He used the Force to push the black hole and managed to suck up the leaders of the attack, leaving the soldiers without a leader. Darth Vader, for all his power, never quite managed to do something so amazing on that kind of a cosmic scale.
10 FOUND A TRUE SUCCESSOR
Anakin Skywalker took his fair share of apprentices, but he never truly managed to find that person who would succeed him. Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars was never going to follow him to the Dark Side, and Starkiller from The Force Unleashed ultimately rebelled. It wasn’t until he was long dead that his grandson, Ben Solo, decided to follow in his footsteps and become the next Darth Vader.
Luke Skywalker also had this problem, since Ben was likely seen as his successor until he destroyed the entire Jedi Order. In the end, Luke finally found and accepted his true successor in Rey during the events of The Last Jedi. Convinced the Jedi would die with him, he ultimately realized that Rey was worthy to carry on his legacy and he gladly becomes one with the Force.
9 HELD ONTO MORE BODY PARTS
To put things bluntly, Luke Skywalker was far better at keeping himself in one piece than Anakin Skywalker ultimately proved. Over the span of his turn to the Dark Side of the Force, the elder Skywalker slowly lost his humanity, both on the inside and the outside. He lost all four of his limbs over the course of the Prequel Trilogy and was burned beyond recognition.
Meanwhile, Luke had it pretty easy. Sure, he lost a hand in battle with his father, but that was it. He managed to see his mechanical hand as a warning of how close he truly has come to following down the same path his father took. He ultimately rejects this fate and manages to keep the rest of his body parts intact.
8 CREATED A FORCE DUPLICATE
The Last Jedi introduced one of the most surprising force powers into the film franchise — the ability to create a duplicate out of the Force. This ability set the stage of a key moment in the film and proved to be a valuable skill to the Resistance. Faced with the group's imminent decimation, Luke Skywalker was able to buy them valuable time using this technique.
The ability to create a doppelganger was established in various forms of Star Wars media, with several other Jedi shown to be capable of performing this trick. The Sith had their own version of this power, called a force Phantom, which allowed them to make duplicates of other people. As powerful as Darth Vader was in the use of the Force, he never managed to figure this one out.
7 STOOD UP TO THE EMPEROR
The evil Emperor Palpatine manipulated Anakin and Luke Skywalker across two different Star Wars trilogies. However, in the end, only Luke was able to resist his temptations and truly stand up to his machinations. Palpatine managed to turn Anakin over to the Dark Side of the Force by playing off his emotions and personal feelings for Padme.
Years later, when Luke showed himself to the galaxy, the Emperor saw this as an opportunity to dispose of Darth Vader and get himself a new apprentice. He tried to get Luke to kill his father and take his place, and he very nearly managed to do it. In the end, though, Luke saw through the manipulation and even managed to get his father to rebel against his master.
6 DIDN’T ABANDON HIS FRIENDS
In a surprising twist, George Lucas decided to include the droids C3PO and R2D2 in the Prequel Trilogy. Even more amazing was the fact that Anakin Skywalker apparently built a protocol droid as a child. Given his friendship with these two when he was younger, it’s amazing he has no care for them later on when he becomes Darth Vader.
Luke, meanwhile, never abandons his friends like his father once did. R2D2 stuck by him during the worst of times as Ben Solo destroyed his new Jedi Order. Even when Luke decided to go into exile, he did it in the hopes that it would keep his friends and loved ones safe. This also says nothing about the fact that Anakin completely turned on Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke’s dad was just an all around bad friend.
5 REMEMBERED AS A HERO
In the battle between the Rebellion and the Empire, there were many heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict. During the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker was a young Jedi who fought bravely but seemed to get lost in the shadow of his master and the rest of the Jedi forces. When he turned to the Dark Side, he was forever known as a villain by the New Republic.
While Vader was likely a hero in the eyes of the Empire, and certainly in the eyes of his grandson, his betrayal and assassination of the Emperor probably didn’t make him look very good. Luke, meanwhile blew up the Death Star, stopped the Sith, and got a medal for it all. He was remembered as a hero because everyone knew the Rebellion would have failed without him.
4 BREATHE ON HIS OWN
Okay, let’s be serious now, Luke did a much better job keeping himself intact than his father ever hoped for. Anakin messed up so badly that not only did he lose all of his limbs, but he also ended up losing the power of his lungs. See, apparently when you engage in a fight to the death on a planet filled with lava, you end up catching fire if you lose.
Anakin suffered burns to most of his body during his fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the damage he suffered required him to be hooked up to a breathing apparatus for the rest of his life. Luke never suffered any kind of injury like that because he knew better than to try something stupid when his opponent had the high ground. It was fitting that Darth Vader would eventually die when his breathing suit stopped working.
3 FOUND TRUE PEACE
Both Luke and Anakin went through their own crises during their time as Jedi, but only the son managed to find true peace in the end. After the destruction of his new Jedi order, Luke secluded himself and became disenchanted with the future of the universe. Rey helped him see the light and convince him there was still hope. He then surrendered himself peacefully to the Force, ready for the future to come.
Darth Vader had no such peace at the end of things. Luke finally brought him back from the Dark Side of the Force, but it was too little too late. He died soon after without any chance to really redeem himself. Sure, he was a force ghost with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, but did anyone forgive him? Did he come to terms with everything he had done?
2 PROTECTED HIS LOVED ONES
If you wait long enough, neither Anakin nor Luke had a good track record keeping their loved ones safe. Anakin’s descent into the Dark Side of the Force caused him to completely lose it to the point that he saw Padme as his enemy. He force choked her, while she was pregnant with their children, and it resulting in her death during childbirth.
While Luke never seemingly had a girlfriend (canonically), we don’t know what would have happened if he was in the same situation. Though his nephew Ben Solo ultimately fell to the Dark Side, he refused to do any harm to him, even though he had the opportunity. This decision didn’t go over very well for his family. In the end, his brother-in-law Han Solo died and Leia was sucked out into space.
1 BEAT DARTH VADER
In a literal sense, it was Luke Skywalker who ended up victorious over Darth Vader. Yes, Luke wanted to ultimately save his father, but he also beat the snot out of him before he managed to do it. Enraged over Vader’s threats against his family and friends, Luke gave into his fear and anger for a second and beat him down to the ground, severing one of his hands.
Anakin Skywalker never managed to beat his darker side, which is obviously manifested in the physical world as Darth Vader. He gave into his fear and anger, and unlike Luke, couldn’t pull himself back. In the end he became more machine than man, and became a monstrous reflection of the evil he felt on the inside. Anakin may have been redeemed in the end, but that was really Luke’s doing.