They’re the baddest of bad guys in a galaxy far, far away. They’re the dark disciples of the Force. For centuries they’ve plagued the galaxy with their slavish devotion to their sadism, lust for power and unquenchable rage. They are the Sith, and for over a thousand generations they have been the scourge of the guardians of peace and justice who oppose them. To a Sith, peace is a lie and only through strength can the bonds of morality and compassion be broken, and true power attained. They dress almost uniformly in black and scythe down their enemies with red lightsabers. In fact, the recent Darth Vader comics have explained that their lightsabers are red because the Sith pour their pain and rage into the crystals until they “bleed”.
Across the centuries, we’ve seen many fascinating and memorable characters choose the path of the Dark Side and wield their red light sabers. Although some have been consigned to the continuity trash can that is the “Legends” canon, they’ve all given us stories worthy of remembrance across various media… or at the very least given us a cool and threatening visual. Here we have ranked 20 in accordance with their menacing appearances from least to most…
20. DARTH BANDON
Those who played the original Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic on XBox and PC back in 2003, probably remember a tense struggle with this mid tier boss. He pops up fairly frequently in the game, and acts as the second-in-command to the game’s big bad Darth Malak. While he’s as vindictive and malicious as you’d expect from a Sith, and a fairly challenging boss battle his appearance is among the least fearsome we’ve seen in a Sith Lord.
Sure his armor is pretty cool and you even get to wear it upon defeating him.
But there’s not much to make him stand shoulder to shoulder with the more fearsome Dark Lords. The bald head and beard combo make him look more like a bartender at a biker hangout than a master of the dark arts. Heck, his eyes aren’t even yellow!
19. DARTH TALON
If this tattooed Twi’lek Sith looks familiar to you, it’s probably because she’s a firm favorite on the cosplay circuit. Her cool appearance, intricate tattoos and… minimalist approach to couture make her a fun costume for cosplayers seeking a challenge. Most of her appearances take place in the Star Wars: Legacy comics written by Suicide Squad veteran John Ostrander, a non-canonical series that took place over a century after the events of the original Star Wars trilogy.
This evil Sith lady left (as her name would suggest) a string of severed appendages in her wake in her rampage across the galaxy and even trained Luke Skywalker’s descendent, Cade Skywalker in the dark arts. She’s a fierce combatant and blindly loyal to her master, Darth Krayt.
18. DARTH TRAYA
Star Wars KOTOR II: The Sith Lords was even more epic and expansive than its predecessor. Unfortunately, for all its ambition, it was somewhat less satisfying than the original game. The plot was just a little less tight, the characters just a little less memorable and the gameplay just a little too stagnant to live up to the lofty expectations of the first game’s fans.
Nonetheless, the character of Kreia was one of the best parts of the game.
She was once a Sith by the name of Darth Traya, but turned to the light and serves as your mentor throughout the game. But old habits die hard and the game’s climax requires you to face off against her in an epic showdown. With her pallid skin, jet lipstick and black, sightless eyes, the newly reborn Darth Traya is a fearsome sight to behold.
17. DARTH TYRANUS
There may never never be an on-screen villain as prolific and iconic as Sir Christopher Lee CBE. The late, great actor appeared in over a hundred films and still holds the record for most sword fights a single actor has committed to film. And that’s not even the only world record he still holds, according to Guinness. Of course, since Mr. Lee was in his late 70s at the time of filming Attack of the Clones most of his sword fighting as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus was done by a double.
Nonetheless, Sir Christopher brought his trademark brand of affable menace to the prequel trilogy and remains the highlight in a mixed bag of a film. Fans of the Clone Wars animated series, however, will know that the films are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this highly underrated character.
16. DARTH NIHILUS
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Even when they’re yellow and burning with hate and rage, at least they convey something resembling humanity.
The most haunting thing about Darth Nihilus’ appearance is the absence of eyes behind that ghostly and vaguely Spirited Away-esque mask.
Darth Nihilus is one of the triumvirate of villains in KOTOR II and, like his peers, his devotion to the Dark Side has left him twisted and deformed. In fact, what we see in the game is not his physical form at all, but his spirit encased within his armor, robes and mask. Although he is the least compelling of the game’s villains in terms of character his haunting presence and ghostly appearance are truly unsettling.
15. DARTH BANE
It was Darth Bane who formed the infamous Sith rule of two, after recognizing that it was infighting as much as the Jedi which nearly destroyed the Sith Order. But while Lord Bane’s exploits have been chronicled exhaustively in the Expanded Universe, he has had only one canonical appearance. Still, it was enough to make fans sit up and take notice.
In the Clone Wars animated series, Yoda ventures on a journey of self discovery which takes him to the Sith world of Morraband (formerly known as Korriban). He is met with the spirit of Lord Bane who is encased in samurai influenced armor and leaking fearsome fiery light. A stark contrast to the serene blue hued Force Ghosts we’re used to. We can only hope that we see more of this striking and menacing character in future canonical projects.
14. DARTH JADUS
There’s a reason why the shower scene in Psycho is one of the most enduringly disturbing moments in cinema history. The scene shows us a fairly grisly act..without ever showing us anything at all. This is because Hitchcock understood that what the mind can conjure is infinitely more powerful than anything you can show on the screen.
Perhaps this is why so many Sith are masked and heavily armored.
When it comes to Darth Jadus from the MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic his inscrutable appearance, clad in an armored shell lends a great deal to his menace and mystique. While Darth Vader at least had eye lenses and a grille that vaguely resembled a mouth, Jadus has only an ovoid shell of a helmet with a glowing cyclopean eye and breathing vents.
13. DARTH PLAGUEIS
We’ve all heard the tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise. The Sith legend is recounted to a troubled Anakin Skywalker by Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. By sharing this yarn the Supreme Chancellor seeks to turn his young friend to the Dark Side and, of course, he succeeds. Unfortunately, this is the only canonical reference to the character (though he is mentioned here and there in the canonical novel, Tarkin). Nonetheless the novel Darth Plagueis by James Luceno is well worth a read.
There’s something about Plagueis’ tall, slender Muun appearance combined with those baleful yellow eyes and those dual red sabers that’s both frightful and disturbing to behold. Of course, if the character is revisited later on in the official canon he may well look completely different.
12. ASAJJ VENTRESS
Okay, okay, we know that Asajj Ventress isn’t technically a Sith. She’s Count Dooku’s pet assassin and a Dark Side adept Night Sister with a long standing grudge against the Jedi (and Obi-Wan Kenobi in particular). The character was awesome even when she was introduced in the now non-canonical Clone Wars shorts from 2003-2004. But her revival in the later Clone Wars animated series made her so cool, so compelling and so densely layered that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave her out.
Her bald head, serpentine features, icy blue eyes and facial tattoos make her such a visually interesting and intimidating character.
11. THE GRAND INQUISITOR
Little is known about the Pau’an known as The Grand Inquisitor other than the fact that he was once a guard of the Jedi archive and turned to the Dark Side of the Force. In the wake of Order 66 he was instrumental in helping to hunt down not just the remaining Jedi, but Force sensitive children throughout the galaxy.
The Grand Inquisitor, who terrorizes the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars: Rebels is an eerie master stroke of character design from his leering death’s head visage streaked with red, to his double-ended spinning lightsaber. While, like Asajj Ventress, he is a not a Sith by name, his devotion to the Dark Side is more than evident. Plus, he’s voiced by the one and only Jason Isaacs, so what’s not to love?
10. DARTH MALAK
Revan and Malak were once Jedi who were seeking nothing more than ancient knowledge. But what they found was an ancient and corrupting power that became so intoxicating that it turned them to the Dark Side. Twisted by hatred and injury, Darth Malak is the fearsome big bad of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. He strikes a menacing figure with his hairless head streaked with tattoos and lower jaw masked by a high metallic collar.
But it’s what lies beneath that’s truly fearsome.
Later in the game it is revealed that Lord Malak’s lower jaw has been completely severed (by a lightsaber strike from his former friend Darth Revan). He is only able to speak through a robotic implant in his larynx. He’s a sleekly menacing and well designed character and everything you want from a final boss in an RPG.
9. DARTH SIDIOUS
All who quake beneath the heel of the Galactic Empire know their oppressor as Emperor Palpatine, but only a select few know him by his other name: Darth Sidious. When the Emperor first appeared in Return of the Jedi, fans were awed and aghast at the galactic dictator’s appearance. His pallid skin and flowing black robes recalled Death in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal while actor Ian McDiarmid brought a decrepit, cackling malice to the character.
The nature of Palpatine’s ghastly appearance was the source of much debate among fans. Was he scarred? Did he have some alien heritage? Was he just really, really old? It would not be until the release of Revenge of The Sith in 2005 that fans would finally learned the truth behind the face that struck fear into the entire galaxy.
8. DARTH SION
Like many of his Sith brethren, Darth Sion was forged in pain, rage and hatred. Many Sith are scarred and deformed in some way, but few have been as utterly ravaged by battle as Darth Sion. Just looking at him is painful. What little of his body has not been replaced by machinery is broken, scarred and cracked.
It’s pretty frightening when he fixes that sightless eye on you from the ravaged mess that is his face.
Lord Sion is one of the triumvirate of villains in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, and is established from the outset as a terrifying and malevolent presence. He may not be the biggest of bads in the game, but he is a fearsome bad guy with a terrifying and disturbing aesthetic.
7. DARTH MARR
Darth Marr, along with Darth Jadus is a member of the Dark Council and one of the antagonists of Star Wars: The Old Republic. While many other Sith may favor the subtler dark arts of the Force, Lord Marr is first and foremost a warrior. He’s a military strategist and devastatingly adept with a lightsaber, but perhaps his greatest weapon is his formidable and menacing appearance.
Let’s face it, if you saw Marr’s imposing figure striding towards you on the battlefield, you’d drop your weapon and pray for a quick death. The ornate and inscrutable mask, the bukly and imposing armor and the network of tubes that look for all the world like glistening muscle tissue make him a uniquely scary villain…and in the world of Star Wars, that’s saying something.
6. SAVAGE OPRESS
Yeah, the Star Wars mythology has never erred on the side of subtlety when it comes to naming characters, but then again, there’s nothing subtle about Savage Opress. He’s an instrument of sheer blunt force; his ferocity and rage a stark contrast to the quiet and restrained malice of his brother Darth Maul.
The Dathomiri Nightbrother never took a Darth but he is a Sith in all but name, and a devastating power to be reckoned with.
He wields a double-ended lightsaber with power and savagery, as opposed to his brother’s practiced grace, he’s hulking and brutish as well as cruel and vindictive. But best of all, he’s voiced by Clancy Brown who’s lent his voice to many great villains from Lex Luthor to Surtur.
5. DARTH KRAYT
Unfortunately, Darth Krayt is one of the many Lords of the Sith who’s been relegated to the Legends canon. But while as of 2014 he never officially existed, he remains a beautifully designed and impressively scary character with a devoted following among the fan base. Choosing his Sith moniker in honor of the fearsome Krayt dragon, Lord Krayt was often referred to as “The Dragon of the Sith”.
His clearly dragon-inspired armor evokes some of literature’s more horrifying villains from Sauron to Dracula, and it looks even more terrifying when illuminated with the burning red glow of his lightsaber. His life’s story as chronicled in the Legends comics Star Wars: Republic is well worth a read. He was one of the only Jedi to survive Order 66 and his fall to the Dark is fascinating and involving.
4. DARTH REVAN
The tale of Darth Revan is what keeps the narrative of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic going. As we get to know more and more about this enigmatic, shadowy figure we are slowly led towards one of the coolest plot twists in gaming history. Thought long dead at the start of the game, we learn that not only is the Dark Lord alive…we’ve actually been playing as him/her all along.
As the player, it’s up to us to decide whether to redeem Revan or take him/her back down the dark path.
3. DARTH VADER
What can we say about the most iconic and beloved screen villain in cinema history? We’ve been in love with Darth Vader for over 40 years, from the moment we saw him board the Tantive IV in A New Hope to when we last saw him scything down rebels in Rogue One. But why is it that we have such an abiding love for this dark clad space samurai?
Surely, his look plays a part. That glistening black armor gleams with mystique and menace while his mask gives us the vaguest hint at what may lie beneath. But while we may come for the cool appearance we stay for the tragedy and complexity of Anakin Skywalker. He shows us that even the most feared and despised man in the galaxy is not without redemption or hope.
2. DARTH MALGUS
Star Wars The Old Republic‘s big bad is such a visually perfect representation of a Sith, it’s clear that he was designed by a devoted fan. He shares Emperor Palpatine’s pallid skin, hooded robes and baleful yellow eyes.
In addition to all of that, he also uses a cybernetic respirator like Darth Vader, which hides his hideous scarring from the galaxy.
He wields two red lightsabers with devastating efficiency, speed and brutality and the MMO has given him a rich and detailed backstory that’s well worth exploring not just within the game but also in the 2011 novel The Old Republic: Deceived. It’s telling that legions of people still play the MMO in order to pit their skills against this dark menace. Whether we’ll ever see him on the big screen remains to be seen, but he’s certainly among the most feared and beloved on the non-canonical Sith Lords.
1. DARTH MAUL
Around 1997 when rumors were abound of a new trilogy of Star Wars prequels, many fans were left wondering how George Lucas and co. could create a more iconic and intimidating villain than Darth Vader. Few believed that it could be done, but when they first got their look at Darth Maul, even the most skeptical fans were won over by the discrete menace of the new Sith Lord.
Widely regarded as the best thing about The Phantom Menace, Maul’s combination of calm restraint, martial arts prowess and intriguingly creepy design had fans clamoring for more for over a decade. Fortunately, they got their wish when The Clone Wars and Rebels animated shows added even more depth (and, yes, even pathos) to this legendary character.
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