Annlyel begins a new series focussing on the defining moments of the heroes and villains of the Star Wars universe.
Every major character in Star Wars has a moment that defines their character. Whether it’s Rey’s unwillingness to sell BB-8 to Unkar Plutt in The Force Awakens or Luke Skywalker’s decision to learn to become a Jedi after the death of his uncle and aunt, these moments send a message to the audience about the hero (or heroine) immediately.
And that’s why I’ve started this new series focusing on the defining moments of Star Wars‘ most important heroes and heroines, which only seems fitting considering that these characters’ decisions and storylines will come full circle in the Skywalker saga finale at the end of the year, The Rise of Skywalker.
Now, why did I decide to start this series with Anakin Skywalker you may ask. Well, Anakin Skywalker is truly the father of this entire story. The prequel trilogy focused on his descent from Jedi Knight to feared Sith lord. The original trilogy centered around his storyline as the renown galactic menace, Darth Vader, and his internal struggle with his inner Anakin. And even the sequel trilogy still bodes his presence through his grandson, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, who idolizes the darker side of his grandfather.
In this post, I will take a closer look at the moments that took Anakin Skywalker from hero to zero. These moments will focus solely on the movies and stray away from the cartoons considering that my knowledge of the cartoons is much slimmer than the actual films.
On that note, here are Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s defining moments.
1. Winning The Boonta Eve Podrace
Nearly every major hero or heroine’s story begins when they’re young adults but Anakin’s journey began when he was nine-years-old. The Boota Eve Podrace was a defining moment for the young hero because, one, it showed his fearlessness. Two, it highlighted his stunning piloting ability, harking back to the moment when Obi-Wan tells a young Luke about his father being one of the greatest star pilots in the galaxy. Three, it revealed his remarkable affinity with the Force. And four, if he hadn’t won that race he would’ve remained on Tatooine and wouldn’t have gone to become one of the greatest Jedi in history…and eventually Darth Vader.
2. Destroying the Trade Federation Ship
Anakin had already displayed how abnormally gifted he was at such a young age but his resumé as a whiz kid only grew when he singlehandedly saved Naboo from the Trade Federation’s deadly occupation. And think about it. He hadn’t even gotten into the double digits of his age yet! Amazing.
3. The First Kiss
I’m not a huge fan in the slightest of Anakin and Padme’s love story but it was a defining chapter in Anakin’s life. I mean if it wasn’t for that first kiss the two shared at Padme’s paradise retreat on Naboo Luke and Leia would’ve never come to fruition so…
4. Shmi’s Death
Throughout Attack of the Clones, Anakin was plagued with nightmares of his mother dying and it haunted him during the first half of the movie. When he eventually couldn’t handle it anymore and went to rescue her it was too late. He would have to watch his beloved mother die in his arms. It was a turning point for him because it was the first time (at least that we know of) that he allowed darkness to consume him and fill with him the deadly rage of a Sith.
The loss of his mother also shook his trust in his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, thus the Jedi, creating the portal for Emperor Palpatine to weasel into his life as the “only person” who cared about the young Skywalker. In plainest terms, Shmi’s death was the beginning of the end.
5. Losing His Arm
In a not-that-great duel with Count Dooku Anakin gets his arm lopped off. This was a defining moment for the young padawan because it was the beginning of his robotic form taking place. At the time he had no idea that he would basically become a cyborg but when you watch the movies you see this horrifying transformation slowly taking place. *shudder*
6. The Wedding
Anakin and Padme got married because they were deeply in love, blah blah blah, and while their love story could’ve been much, much better I can’t ignore that this is a very important aspect of his story so here it is as his sixth defining moment.
7. An Impactful Conversation
One of the most chilling and riveting scenes in the prequels because of its subtle but immense importance to the fall of Anakin Skywalker is the scene when Anakin goes to speak with Palpatine at the opera. By the time of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s feelings for the Jedi have become more conflicted.
The Jedi Council have asked him to spy on a man that was essentially a grandfather to him. He had also been dealing with nightmares of his wife, Padme, dying in childbirth. And with Yoda telling him to let go of anything he feared to lose (which you know he wasn’t going to do) his love for the Jedi’s philosophies was dwindling rapidly. Palpatine, sensing Anakin’s growing dislike for the Jedi and the fear of losing his wife, took that as the perfect opportunity to slowly begin creating the man who would become Darth Vader. Anakin, blinded by his trust for the old man, lets Palpatine tell him a haunting story of a Dark Side legend without getting the ultimate spidey-sense that there was something wrong! And to make it worse Palpatine tells him a tale of Darth Plagueis who, of course, could prevent people from dying. Man he went straight for the juggernaut! This is the last nail in the coffin of Anakin’s fall from the Jedi Order and while he doesn’t know it Palpatine surely does.
8. The Choice
Anakin Skywalker, after learning that the man he had grown to trust and love was a Sith Lord, tells Master Mace Windu of the horrifying truth. He wants to help Windu bring Emperor Palpatine to justice but Master Windu orders him to wait in the Jedi Council until he and his Jedi buddies return.
It reaffirms the seed with Anakin Skywalker that he can’t trust the Jedi. In his mind, the Jedi treat him like garbage while Palpatine seems to actually understand his wants, desires, and his fears. Sitting in the Jedi Council he has a choice to make. Sit on his butt (like he’s supposed to) and wait patiently for the Jedis’ return or take matters into his own hands. He chooses the latter. Bad idea.
9. Becoming Darth Vader
Mace Windu was handling Emperor Palpatine pretty well. In fact, Palpatine had been defeated and Windu was about to arrest him. And then Anakin showed up! Oh, it’s one of the most maddening scenes in the entire franchise. I get upset literally every time I watch it. After Palpatine goes full lightning-man on the Jedi Master it becomes apparent to Windu that the Sith Lord is way too dangerous to be left alive. Anakin had two choices. Allow Mace Windu to rid the galaxy of Palpatine’s evil once and for all (it would’ve been so easy) or kill the Jedi Master and ultimately become an agent of evil. Of course, we know what happened. Anakin fell for the Palpatine bait, was titled Darth Vader, and the rest is history.
Anakin didn’t have to turn to the Dark Side but he did. He didn’t have to choke Padme half to death but he did. He didn’t have to try to kill Obi-Wan, his mentor! his best friend! but. He. Did. And he didn’t have to ignore Obi-Wan’s simple warning, “I’ve got the high ground” but he did and he faced the consequence for it. It wasn’t the most epic way I would’ve imagined Anakin becoming the machine man but it is what it is.
11. Darth Vader Is Born
Palpatine hurriedly took Anakin to a medic bay on Coruscant where the medical droids gave him his iconic black suit. His transformation was finally complete and Palpatine was so thrilled about it. Unfortunately, the momentous scene was ruined by Darth Vader infamously crying out, “Noooooo!” but whatever. The prequels messed Darth Vader’s legend up royally.
I wish Disney had made the prequels part of the Legends canon so they could remake those three movies but unfortunately, that will never happen.
12. Darth Vader “Defeats” Obi-Wan
Seeing Obi-Wan as an old man brought back all of those old demons for Darth Vader and he was hellbent on revenge. In a duel upon the first Death Star they fought to the death but this time Darth Vader supposedly won. In his mind, he had finally rid himself of the last of the Jedi but he had no idea how wrong he was.
13. I Have a Son!
Darth Vader thought, when Padme had died, that he had lost her unborn child. Over twenty years later, however, he learns that the most important rebel he was trying to find was actually his son. Think about that surprise. He was clearly astonished and excited, in a Darth Vader sort of way. He had thought that he was the last of the Skywalkers and then he finds out that he has a child and that the child is Force-sensitive! That was a great day for Darth Vader.
14. Telling Luke the Truth
From Luke’s point of view discovering Darth Vader was his father was a nightmare but for Vader in that situation he was desperate. Here was his son, his own flesh and blood, afraid of him and fighting against him. He didn’t want to hurt him. He was the last link he had to that other side of himself that he had forgotten about. When Luke fell to the bottom of Cloud City you couldn’t see it due to his mask but you could tell he was very, very disappointed. At that moment he had lost himself all over again.
This was the beginning of Darth Vader’s redemption and would eventually lead him to renounce the Dark Side and becoming Anakin Skywalker once again.
15. Defeating the Emperor
Like I said before, losing Luke on Bespin was the beginning of Darth Vader’s redemption and that’s why this moment ended up transpiring the way it did. He had captured Luke, Palpatine was trying to convert him to the Dark Side, but when Luke proved to be stronger than Sidious anticipated he decided to stop playing around and kill him.
As Darth Vader watched his master electrocute Luke nearly to death all of his mistakes were flashing before his eyes. Here he was again, having to make a fateful choice that would change the course of the galaxy. This time, however, it was his son who would be killed. One thing you can’t take away from Vader is his love for his family. Palpatine forgot about that one, very important aspect of Anakin Skywalker. He had lost his mother, he lost Padme, he wasn’t about to lose his son too. He made the right decision, choosing to kill Sidious, but it would come with a deadly price.
16. Revealing the Man Beneath the Mask
Darth Vader was no more and Anakin was reborn with his final breaths. It is an impactful moment seeing the old man that he had become and the pure joyful pride upon his face as he looks at his son with his own eyes. He thought he would never be lifted from the terrible curse he had been under for over twenty years but his son’s faith in him allowed him to become Anakin again.
It’s a beautiful moment and the perfect ending to his story.
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Annlyel James is a prolific Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. She is passionate about Star Wars and Marvel but loves a wide variety of movie genres. Follow her on Twitter @annlyeljames where she channels the Force frequently!