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The 30 Greatest Star Wars Characters
From Admiral Ackbar to... Yoda - we count down Lucas' best creations

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13. DARTH SIDIOUS

Darth Sidious

Forget Vader - Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine is the true villain of the saga. It is he who meticulously plans the events that allow a humble Senator from Naboo to become first Supreme Chancellor of the known universe and, ultimately, unimpeachable Emperor.

It is he who orchestrates the Clone Wars and the whittling away of the Jedi, before the hammer-blow of Order 66 and the final cull. And, if you want some hyperbole (the Emperor loves hyperbole), it is he who is the most evil character in movie history.

Yet it's entirely possible that Palpatine would have been just another power-crazed bad guy had it not been for Lucas' decision to replace Clive Revill, who voiced the role in the original version of The Empire Strikes Back (the face was provided by an elderly woman; and the eyes by, of all things, a chimp), with Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid for Return Of The Jedi.

McDiarmid injected the character - whom Lucas modelled on various despots, including Hitler - with elements of Othello's Iago, creating a coldly calculating character who persuades everyone of his noble intentions while working to destroy them. His fake bonhomie and subtle insincerity renders his rise to power entirely plausible - the Darth Plagueis speech in Episode III is possibly the finest piece of acting in the entire franchise.

But when the veil drops away, and McDiarmid gets to cut loose as Darth Sidious in Revenge Of The Sith and the Emperor in Jedi, subtlety takes an early bath. Snarling and sneering for all he's worth, helped by a generous smattering of the best lines, McDiarmid's turn as the Emperor is a go-for-broke depiction of pure malevolence that has deservedly become something of a cultural icon.

In the Expanded Universe, Palpatine has been brought back to life a number of times, via some handy clone bodies - an honour afforded no-one else, not even Vader. But then again, when you're so evil that Darth Vader is your bitch, perhaps special treatment is in order.

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Your Comments

1 RE: I Agree
To paraphrase Palpatine, likeable is a point of view. More

Posted by Litshttam on Wednesday July 9, 2014, 20:47

2 I don't agree.
'George Lucas's 30 worst creations'...? Nah, it's just going to be slagging him off, for the sake of it... AGAIN! Its really good to see more appreciation (and fairness) in articles towards George. Just check out 'The Guardian online', they take every opportunity to slag Star Wars off, including loads of unqualified opinions and non-truths. The film critic even started a recent post saying 'Star Wars isn't known for its creativity...' - its farcical. As a character from another space franchise said "...its easier to destroy than create". More

Posted by Funk_Knight on Thursday July 3, 2014, 10:17

3 I don't agree.
'George Lucas's 30 worst creations'...? Nah, it's just going to be slagging him off, for the sake of it... AGAIN! Its really good to see more appreciation (and fairness) in articles towards George. Just check out 'The Guardian online', they take every opportunity to slag Star Wars off, including loads of unqualified opinions and non-truths. The film critic even started a recent post saying 'Star Wars isn't known for its creativity...' - its farcical. As a character from another space franchise said "...its easier to destroy than create". More

Posted by Funk_Knight on Thursday July 3, 2014, 10:17

4 I Agree
A WORST Star Wars Characters list will be more interesting. Jar Jar obviously would be No. 1. Though I also agree he had a good character arc (But that doesn't make him likable) More

Posted by Darren47 on Wednesday July 2, 2014, 23:50

5 RE: Binks' Arc Is Actually One Of The Best In The Saga
Or Boris Johnson. Or Bush Jr. Take your pick, really. More

Posted by Litshttam on Wednesday July 2, 2014, 22:04

6 RE: Binks' Arc Is Actually One Of The Best In The Saga
L: Litshttam Jar Jar Binks starts off as mythic-archetype - the fool / jester the hero meets by the roadside - and becomes a commentary on the nepotism in politics; his befriending of Padmé Amidala in The Phantom Menace leads to his appointment as Gungan-representative in the senate by Attack Of The Clones. The unfit-for-purpose-but-sincere plonker inadvertently starts the Clone Wars, too, falling for the Hegelian-machinations of Palpatine hook, line and sinker. Sure, Yoda he ain't, but I like him. o, Jar Jar Binks is... Tony Blair? (How wude.) More

Posted by chris kilby on Wednesday July 2, 2014, 12:45

7 RE: Predictable...
L: GrizBe I'd much rather see the 30 worst / dumbest Star Wars characters. We all know Jar Jar would top that, but it'd be more fun then this. ax Rebo? Droopy McCool? More

Posted by chris kilby on Wednesday July 2, 2014, 12:44

8 30 Greatest Characters?
Loads of these were generic 'Stormtrooper', 'Scout Trooper', 'Jawa' etc, not actual characters. Also, Anakin/ Darth Vader, whether you like it or not, is the same dude! Also Ben and Obi-Wan. I've seen several top Star Wars character lists, this is the worst attempt I've seen. More

Posted by AyannaNyx on Wednesday July 2, 2014, 01:26

9 Binks' Arc Is Actually One Of The Best In The Saga
Jar Jar Binks starts off as mythic-archetype - the fool / jester the hero meets by the roadside - and becomes a commentary on the nepotism in politics; his befriending of Padmé Amidala in The Phantom Menace leads to his appointment as Gungan-representative in the senate by Attack Of The Clones. The unfit-for-purpose-but-sincere plonker inadvertently starts the Clone Wars, too, falling for the Hegelian-machinations of Palpatine hook, line and sinker. Sure, Yoda he ain't, but I like him. More

Posted by Litshttam on Tuesday July 1, 2014, 13:38

10 Predictable...
I'd much rather see the 30 worst / dumbest Star Wars characters. We all know Jar Jar would top that, but it'd be more fun then this. More

Posted by GrizBe on Tuesday July 1, 2014, 11:13


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