From the moment his hulking black form strolled through the smoke-clogged hallways of the Tantive V, his heavy masked breathing echoing in packed auditoriums across the country, Darth Vader cemented himself as one of the greatest iconic villains of all time. Almost 50 years later, his heir apparent Kylo Ren trudged down the gangplank of his shuttle, hoping to capture the same moment. His character would be forever shadowed by the Dark Lord of the Sith by the family bonds that unite them. Comparisons between the two are not only inevitable, they are completely necessary to understand them in the greater context of the saga. Both are powerful Dark Side users, with a penchant for a black silhouette and helmet, and have an allegiance to a governing power bent on galactic domination. They were also both servants to a mentor consumed by their lust for power, so much so that it eroded the very fibre of their physical being. When given the chance, these powerful men of the Dark Side overthrew their masters, and sought to cut the shackles of bondage that made them their attack dogs.
And that is where the similarities end, for where one died being redeemed in the Light Side of the Force, the other goes on to take their place as Supreme Leader of the First Order. Ruling the galaxy is but one of the things Kylo Ren can do that Darth Vader can’t. Though they had similar personal trajectories, they are deeply divided by many accomplishments (and pitfalls) that make them each unique in their contributions to the Star Wars Universe.
20 KYLO REN: BE MASTER OF THE KNIGHTS OF REN
Just as Vader is a Sith Lord, something Kylo Ren can never be, Kylo is Master of the Knights of Ren, a cohort that presumably didn’t exist in Vader’s time. Little is known about the group of warriors, other than that they may be Force sensitive and wear garb and helmets similar to Kylo’s. More is to be revealed in Episode IX.
Vader commanded his own personal legion of stormtroopers, the 501st, which became known as “Vader’s Fist”. He could often be seen leading them on ground assaults, such as in the attack of the Rebel Base on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.
19 DARTH VADER: SURVIVE THE VACUUM OF SPACE
Aside from looking incredibly intimidating, Vader’s suits serves quite a lot of functions and comes with a lot of useful gadgetry. It acts as a life support system (which he cannot survive outside of), and gives him several essential features like anti-gravity boots (to adhere to the hull of spacecraft) and the ability to survive the cold vacuum of space. His built in respirator and steady flow of oxygen allow him to exist outside of a pressurized spaceship for hours, perhaps even days.
Kylo doesn’t wear a suit and thus, can’t survive the vacuum of space. Granted, he may be able to pull a Mary Poppins maneuver like his mother and last for a few minutes, but we’re counting on him being too unfocused.
18 KYLO REN: TAKE HIS HELMET OFF
For the same reason that Vader’s suit is essential in keeping him alive, he also can never remove it or by default, his helmet. He must have it attached at all times, allowing for the respiratory tubing to supply properly calibrated air flow to his lungs. Kylo Ren simply wears a helmet in hero worship to Vader, as well as to appear visually intimidating.
That being said, Kylo has the liberty to remove his helmet whenever he wishes (such as for an abrupt, albeit necessary, character arc). This means that he can also breathe unassisted, enjoy whatever solid foods he wants, and even kiss someone.
17 DARTH VADER: CONTROL HIS EMOTIONS
A salient difference between Darth Vader and Kylo Ren is that where one is focused, deliberate, and controlled with his emotions, the other is reckless, brash, and uncoordinated. When he was Anakin Skywalker, Vader echoed Kylo Ren’s posturing angst, but as he grew more disciplined with the Dark Side and trained by Darth Sidious, he learned to focus all of his anger and his hatred and channel it properly.
Because Kylo Ren cannot control his emotions, he risks becoming consumed by them. He is prone to frenetic outbursts, and tantrums that make him look weak, foolish, and naive in front of his subordinates who should respect and fear him.
16 KYLO REN: FREEZE A BLASTER BOLT IN MID-AIR
One of audience’s introductions to Kylo Ren and his unique Force abilities was during a raid on Jakku, when his stormtroopers had captured Rebel pilot Poe Dameron. He halted a blaster bolt in mid-air with the Force, leaving it frozen in time save for a light hum and crackle of energy.
In the film canon of Vader appearances, he has never exhibited this power. He has stopped a blaster bolt with his hand and deflected it with his lightsaber, but never demonstrated his power with the Dark Side in such a showstopping way. It therefore made it all the more impressive when Kylo Ren did it, considering whom he was trying to mimic in every other way.
15 DARTH VADER: DUEL
Though the choreography of the lightsaber duels in the original Star Wars movies leaves something to be desired as far as Vader’s movements are concerned, the prequels inform us he was an accomplished swordsman. His skills combined with the discipline he acquired after years of being confined to his suit of armor made him economic in his maneuvers, but no less devastating.
Kylo Ren was bested by a former stormtrooper that had never picked up a lightsaber before, and a neophyte Jedi-in-training who was ten years his junior. Both had no formal training, and if it came to a duel between him and Vader, the Dark Lord would bat him around like a kitten does a ball of yarn.
14 KYLO REN: END HIS FATHER
One of the strangest things the Star Wars prequels did was introduce the concept of immaculate space conception. Shmi Skywalker was somehow miraculously impregnated on Tatooine nine years before The Phantom Menace, and while it’s been heavily implied Emperor Palpatine had something to do with that (via the manipulation of midichlorians) in Revenge of the Sith, for our purposes Anakin Skywalker had no father, and thus Darth Vader had no father to kill.
By contrast, Kylo Ren very much did have a father to kill. He was the son of Han Solo, famed cargo smuggler turned hero of the Rebel Alliance. In order to truly commit himself to the Dark Side, he drove his lightsaber through Solo’s heart in The Force Awakens.
13 DARTH VADER: FIX ANYTHING MECHANICAL
It was firmly established in The Phantom Menace that Anakin Skywalker was not only an accomplished pilot, but he was also a bit of a gear-head. He was nine years old but spent more time working on his podracer than a middle aged man on his hotrod in the garage. He also built C-3PO to help his mom around a house, a protocol droid programmed with over six million forms of communication and an encyclopedic knowledge of the galaxy’s cultural customs. As Darth Vader, he could serve as his suit’s own mechanic, replacing parts as needed.
Kylo, by contrast, is never shown to have any aptitude for fixing things, let alone making them. His lightsaber is a perfect example of mediocrity, if not outright disappointment.
12 KYLO REN: RULE THE GALAXY
The Empire Strikes Back shows the famous scene where Darth Vader reveals himself to be Luke Skywalker’s father. Afterwards, he tells Luke that the Emperor has seen that he can destroy him, and that they should capitalize on this to rule the galaxy together. Luke refuses of course, and Vader never gets his chance -- though the Emperor does die in the next film, Vader is mortally wounded as well.
Kylo Ren on the other hand, disposes of his mentor, Supreme Leader Snoke, even after asking Rey to join him in galactic domination. He becomes the next Supreme Leader himself, and commands the entirety of the First Order. He may be able to accomplish what his grandfather could not.
11 DARTH VADER: FIND REDEMPTION IN THE LIGHT SIDE
In Return of the Jedi, Luke senses the “good” that still resides in his father. Despite the fact that Vader has been a Sith Lord for over 20 years, there has been a deep seeded conflict within him about his failure to the Jedi Order, his wife, and his children. When he lies mortally wounded at the end, he confirms Luke’s suspicions, telling him that he was “right”. He becomes one with The Force, redeemed through the Light Side in his final moments.
In The Last Jedi, after Kylo Ren kills Snoke in his throne room and battles by Rey’s side to defeat his Praetorian Guard, he is not turned good. He turns on her and rejects her offer to help him be redeemed.
10 KYLO REN: BREAK LUKE’S SPIRIT
Ever since he discovered his son existed, Vader wasted no time in trying to turn him to the Dark Side. He tried several times between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to break his spirit in the hopes that it would make him vulnerable to persuasion. To some degree, it could be seen as the only way the Sith Lord felt he could be close to him.
Perhaps because of those traumatic encounters and the history of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker was deeply troubled by Kylo Ren’s betrayal. Not only did he destroy the Jedi Temple, he may have killed Luke’s students. It forced the Jedi Master to turn his back on the Jedi Order.
9 DARTH VADER: BECOME A DARK LORD OF THE SITH
Though Supreme Leader Snoke was Kylo Ren’s mentor and the person who effectively lured him to the Dark Side of the Force, the pair did not make up the last remaining Sith despite the Rule of Two. The last two remaining Sith died with Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Vader was made a Sith when Palpatine granted him the title of “Darth”, and trained him as his new apprentice after Obi-Wan had left him for dead on Mustafar.
Unless Kylo Ren encountered a Sith Master, he couldn’t become a Sith. He can’t declare himself on simply because he wants to be one, given the Sith are a specific organization of Dark Side users with a specific set of customs and traditions.
8 KYLO REN: COMMUNICATE THROUGH SPACE
Revealing another interesting use of the Force, Kylo Ren and Rey begin a strong telepathic connection over vast distances of space in The Last Jedi. The connection is so strong they can often feel sensory stimulation from each other’s environments, and seemingly reach out and touch each other if they concentrate hard enough.
This is later attributed to Snoke’s doing, but even after he’s dead they maintained a strong connection. Vader was able to speak to Luke telepathically after Return of the Jedi, but they needed to be relatively close by one another, such as on nearby ships or on the same planet surface.
7 DARTH VADER: LIVE IN HIS OWN CASTLE
In Rogue One, we finally get to see Darth Vader’s personal residence, his black castle built on the lava planet Mustafar. The site holds personal significance for him; it was where he dueled his former Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, watched his wife almost die in front of him, and was taken by Emperor Palpatine to become his apprentice. It is built on a foundation strong with the Dark Side of the Force.
Kylo Ren was never with Snoke and the First Order long enough to warrant such an impressive estate or control of its resources. He was an agent of Snoke’s, but not his Sith apprentice, and he held no bureaucratic authority.
6 KYLO REN: HAVE A FAMILY
Darth Vader was born a slave boy on the remote desert planet of Tatooine. His mother became miraculously pregnant with him having no idea who his father was. She was separated from him when he left to train with Obi-Wan Kenobi and become a Jedi. She died ten years later, and Anakin would grow up to never have a family of his own that he would be a part of.
Kylo Ren, by contrast, was the son of two very loving parents and had a pleasant childhood. There is also still a chance for him to have his own family one day, even as a Dark Side user.
5 DARTH VADER: HAVE AN APPRENTICE
Technically forbidden to have an apprentice while he still served under Emperor Palpatine, as it would have violated the Rule of Two, Vader nevertheless was known to have apprentices in secret. It was very in keeping with Sith customs, where the apprentice is often known to assassinate their master and assume their title. Before he was a Sith Lord, Vader had a Jedi Apprentice named Ahsoka Tano, whom he trained during the Clone Wars when he was still Anakin Skywalker.
Kylo Ren isn’t a Sith, and thus can never have an apprentice. The only way it would be possible is if he returned to the Light Side and became a Jedi again, which doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.
4 KYLO REN: FREEZE SOMEONE IN PLACE
So far, we’ve seen Kylo Ren freeze Rey in place several times, as well as various subordinates around him (including General Hux). They are immobilized via the Dark Side, with seemingly very little effort on his part, as he is able to walk around them easily and carry on a conversation. It can also end in them lapsing into unconsciousness.
By contrast, Vader never froze anyone in place, though it would certainly have been handy for him to do so (such as when Luke shot out of the carbon freezing chamber at the most inconvenient time). He may have deemed it unnecessary in favor of Force Choking them.
3 DARTH VADER: SURVIVE WITHOUT SEVERAL LIMBS
When Obi-Wan Kenobi tracked his apprentice to Mustafar, he knew the outcome wasn’t favorable. After their duel, he left Anakin a husk of a man, practically burned to death and with three out of four limbs cut off. But Anakin had a will to survive, and when he was rebuilt as Darth Vader, he channeled that hatred into righteous fury. Not even a shockwave to the chest could damage his systems once his armor was in place.
Kylo Ren was psychologically destroyed by Rey giving him a scar on the cheek. He could no sooner survive losing a finger than he could losing his entire arm. And without a suit of armor, he’s helplessly exposed, and too inexperienced to be.
2 KYLO REN: PULL PEOPLE WITH THE FORCE
Besides freezing people in place and rendering them Force popsicles in mid-air, Kylo Ren has been known to pull people towards him with the Dark Side. Drag, is more the appropriate term, as often they’re dropped to the floor face first. We know he was taught this by Snoke, as it was done to him more than once by his former mentor.
Vader never demonstrated this ability with a person, only with inanimate objects, such as yanking Han Solo’s blaster out of his hand. One would think if he were able, he would have pulled Luke back up from when he threw himself off of Cloud City.
1 DARTH VADER: WIELD SITH RELICS
As a Dark Lord of the Sith, it’s possible for Vader to be in possession of certain Sith artifacts. The Sith have been known to practice Alchemy, of which Palpatine was particularly fond. The gauntlet on Vader’s right hand is a Sith relic that works as a focusing point for his Dark Side abilities; he often favors it to Force Choke people.
Seeing as how he isn’t a Sith, Kylo Ren will never be able to wield a Sith relic in its true form. As a Dark Side user he may be able to get some raw use out of it, but he would not be able to focus it.