Let’s be honest, most of us like well-developed villains who are the “yin and yang” of the protagonists. In fact, some have managed to to overshadow the good guys— just ask the fanbase!
Without a doubt, two of the most iconic antagonists in pop culture are Darth Vader, the legendary Sith who struck terror in the galaxy, and Lord Voldemort, the darkest wizard of all time.
They both have similar features. Nevertheless, between these fellows, and hypothetically speaking, who is the most complex bad guy?
Let’s start with the villains’ lineage. Both characters come from a powerful family in their respective universes. For one thing, Darth Vader (formerly Anakin Skywalker) grew up a humble child. Both he and his mother were servants on the planet Tatooine.
Yet, who’d have thought that the young Anakin would turn out to be the one destined to bring balance to The Force? According to the Jedi prophecy, said child would be “born of no father”. The latter meant that Vader was conceived by The Force.
To be more specific, he was created in the womb of his mother, Shmi, by midi-chlorians, microscopic creatures that connect all living things with the Force.
On the other hand, we have Lord Voldemort or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”. The most dangerous wizard also has a mighty family tree. Born as a half-blood, Tom Marvolo Riddle came from a very ancient wizarding family from his mother’s side: The Gaunts.
But his connection to magic doesn’t end there, as Voldemort’s most notorious ancestor is Salazar Slytherin, a formidable pure-blood wizard and one of the four founders of Hogwarts.
Winner: Darth Vader. Both have an impressive ancestry, making them dangerous villains who are feared in their respective worlds, and with whom many would not want to face. Although, it has to be noted that Vader’s origin could be described as an “almighty birth”.
Embracing the dark side
Under the Jedi training, Anakin Skywalker became one of the strongest Force-users in galactic history.
While he was both caring and compassionate, his fear of losing his beloved would ultimately led him to his downfall. An immense rage started to develop inside Anakin after the death of his mother and the leaving of his padawan, Ahsoka Tano.
Skywalker succumbed to the dark side by being manipulated by The Emperor, who promised him the power to save Padmé Amidala, his secret wife. Yet, Anakin would be the cause of her death.
From there, Anakin would cease to exist, and the dreaded Sith Lord, Darth Vader, would emerge.
It could be said that Tom Riddle was “born evil”. First, Voldemort inherited the Gaunts’s genes, who were known for being violent and unstable people. Furthermore, his birth wasn’t based on love—the fact that his mother used a potion on his father, who immediately left her after being released from the spell, isn’t a good way to raise a child.
After the death of his mother, Tom grew up in a Muggle orphanage, an environment in which he never felt identified (though it didn’t help that he bullied his fellows). He always felt that he was a special child, which turned out to be true once he learned about the magical world.
Being a student at Hogwarts, and from Slytherin house, he became the most talented scholar. However, despite being prominent, Riddle became cruel and manipulative.
Following his thirst for power and glory, Tom would turn to the dark arts with the goal of becoming the most powerful wizard of all time.
He would no longer be Tom, and the Wizarding World would know him as Lord Voldemort.
Winner: Tie. These two villains had a well-developed backstory that perfectly explain why they took the path of the dark side.
In Star Wars, one of the most powerful weapons are lightsabers, used both offensively and defensively. A lightsaber could cut through anything. The only way to block a lightsaber attack is with a weapon made of the same energy, such as an electro-staff, some rare metal, or with another lightsaber.
Meanwhile, the most valuable item of any witch or wizard is their wand, the object through which they channel their magic. Each wand consists of a specific type of wood with a magical core. And this item is unique for no two existing wands are exactly alike.
The wand chooses the wizard that matches its personality. And, when such connection is strong and its owner is talented, tremendous things can be done: from blocking an opponent’s attack, levitating and attracting objects, appearing in other places, or even ending their opponent’s life with the forbidden spell “Avada Kedavra”.
Winner: Voldemort. Even if a lightsaber is an outstanding weapon, a wand has the advantage of allowing its owner to use a vast number of spells (including one that could destroy the saber).
Powers and abilities
As a Sith Lord, Vader brought fear to the galaxy by being one of the greatest lightsaber warriors and most powerful Force users.
The Force is an energy field that connects all living things in the galaxy, and its Force power could be used by those sensitive to it.
The more mastery you have of the Force, the more control and abilities you can acquire. In Vader’s case, he managed to increase his physical strength, perform telekinesis (like throwing heavy objects or Force Choke using only two fingers), create energy fields, use telepathy, heal his wounds, and so much more.
Magic is an artisanal knowledge through which one has the capacity for physical alterations of all kinds, always subject to the laws of nature. using spells and magical instruments.
Among his vast abilities, Voldemort has shown great mastery of lethal spells, perform necromancy, magically navigate through a person’s mind, fly without the need for a broomstick, and even separate his soul (a.k.a. using seven Horcruxes) with the goal of becoming invincible.
Winner: Tie. Both antagonists have powers that are at the height of the other. While Voldemort can block the Sith’s telepathy, Vader can deflect deadly spells by using The Force. Without a doubt, this would be a fight that many would like to see.
What’s a great villain without some loyal henchmen to carry out the dirty jobs? Voldemort has an extensive army. Yet, the most notorious ones are the Death Eaters. These were lethal and feared wizards and witches, such as Bellatrix, Lestrange, the Malfoys, Antonin Dolohov, and the treacherous Wormtail.
Vader also has a battalion of his own, being this the Imperial Army. The most distinguishable are the stormtroopers, highly trained soldiers (although surprisingly sometimes their shots miss the target), the TIE Fighter pilots, and the zealous Admiral Piett.
Winner: Darth Vader. Even if Voldemort’s army has the advantage of being professional wizards of the dark arts, they’re outnumbered by the Empire’s fleet, with heavy artillery and technology that has conquered the galaxy as well as overthrown the Jedi.
Prophecy and death
Fate had plans for Vader and Voldemort. The two baddies were linked to a prophecy. While the Sith was supposedly to be “the chosen one” to defeat the dark side, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” was going to be defeated by “a chosen one”.
In the end, these forecast became real— but the outcomes for each villain were quite different.
Even if Darth Vader didn’t fulfill his prophecy as Anakin, in a way, he was able to accomplish it when the Sith broke free from Darth Sidious’s influence on him, sacrificing himself to destroy The Emperor and save his son, Luke Skywalker.
Contrarily, in the Battle of Hogwarts, after the destruction of the seven Horcruxes, Harry Potter (the chosen one) managed to defeat Voldemort, managing to surpass the dark wizard’s ambition.
Winner: Darth Vader. While Voldemort perished by letting himself be carried away by his desire for power, Darth Vader had his redemption with an honorable death, achieving the “eternal life” through The Force.
Images from: Warner Bros. Pictures, 20th Century Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures