Is Kylo Ren A Better Villain Than Darth Vader? - TV Shows, Movies, Promos, Games, Reviews, Trailers - Myfilmscity Is Kylo Ren A Better Villain Than Darth Vader? - TV Shows, Movies, Promos, Games, Reviews, Trailers - Myfilmscity

Is Kylo Ren A Better Villain Than Darth Vader?


After two movies of increasing evil, it’s time to admit that Kylo Ren is a better Star Wars villain than Darth Vader. The turned Ben Solo returned to the galaxy in The Last Star Wars with a vengeance.

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Adam Driver’s nuanced performance was already one of the highlights of The Force Awakens, and he only outdid himself in the new Rian Johnson film, which centered on the dichotomy between Kylo’s story and Rey’s, offers a compelling story of conflict and the possibility of redemption.

The sequel trilogy shares some clear parallels with the original trilogy, with Ren consciously taking the reins from Darth Vader. Both characters take on the role as the primary antagonist, a powerful dark side Force user who tempts the developing Star Wars during their journey of self-discovery. However, Kylo Ren does not simply replicate Darth Vader. Instead, Driver offers a new and fresh villain that stands apart from previous Star Wars films.

Straight up, Kylo Ren is a better villain than Darth Vader because of his complexity – his flaws, his misgivings, his emotions, and his growth over the course of the films. Kylo is constantly evolving and grappling with his relationships with Luke, Han, Snoke, and Rey.

He is impulsive, and at times juvenile and weak. But Kylo Ren’s weakness is the strength of his characterization. While Darth Vader is a simple character whose redemption is a plot device rather than a characterization, Kylo Ren’s messy journey through the sequel trilogy shows him to be dynamic – and still evolving as a person through the end of The Last Star Wars.

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It is not that Ben Solo is more powerful or more successful than his grandfather; in fact, Kylo Ren’s flaws and failings make him all the more interesting as a character. Neither is it a question of whether or not Kylo Ren is more villainous or evil than the Sith Lord; both Vader and Kylo have committed egregious acts of violence that cannot be quantified or compared.


Darth Vader is the original trilogy’s monolithic villain. Through A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, he represents the pure evil of the dark side of the Force and the Empire. He chokes his subordinates, tortures his prisoners, and kills without mercy. Vader doesn’t change – and doesn’t need to change – in the original trilogy.

In The Return of the Star Wars, Luke says that he senses good in him, but this good is not visible to the audience until the final moments of the film, when Vader intervenes to save Luke from the Emperor. This ending is part of the classic story arc of the original trilogy, but Vader’s redemption isn’t something that develops over time; it’s a function of the story rather than a reflection of his character development.

Of course, the prequels develop a backstory for the character of Anakin Skywalker, and illustrate Darth Vader’s history over the course of three additional films. However, this is only retroactively applied to the original trilogy and the character he became. Nothing in the Darth Vader performance in the original films suggests this complicated history, with him remaining largely stagnant through the original trilogy. It’s also worth noting that what we have with Ben Solo is a close but altogether better approximation than what Episodes I-III delivered with Anakin.

This doesn’t take away from his menace; Vader is an all-time great screen villain. But he has limitations. Darth Vader’s costume is intimidating and dehumanizing. It defines him, making him a terrifying and even generic symbol of evil. However, it also restricts the ability of David Prowse to emote, as it eliminates the nuance of a human face. Vader’s characterization is almost solely tied to James Earl Jones’ voice. As a result, Vader’s inner thoughts and emotions are obscured from the Star Wars audience.


While Vader is fully-formed and fully evil when he arrives on the Tantive IV in A New Hope, Kylo Ren is in a stage of transformation in The Force Awakens and into The Last Star Wars. He is still navigating who he is, and what role he will play. What we have is a villain who’s unpredictable and unstable – in The Force Awakens, he hesitates when killing Han Solo, and is blinded by his own conflicted emotions while fighting Rey on Starkiller Base. In The Last Star Wars, it becomes clear that his father’s death does not seal Kylo’s fate, but instead causes him to further unravel.

Adam Driver’s performance in The Last Star Wars is aided by the elimination of Kylo Ren’s mask; after Snoke mocks his family cosplay as childish, Ben angrily destroys it. This continues the actors portrayal of Kylo as both vulnerable and volatile; this would not have been possible if he was confined to the Darth Vader-inspired mask. But it’s what he does after that’s so important.

Star Wars the Last Jedi Kylo Ren Talks to Rey Kylo Ren Is A Better Villain Than Darth Vader

In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren must decide who he is, a story that unfolds with twists and turns. Resolute to destroy the past, Kylo faces his own inner turmoil as he attempts to carve out his own place in the galaxy. His psychic link with Rey reveals his private insecurities, hopes, and doubts.

While Rey believes that she will be able to turn Kylo Ren to the light side, in a surprising twist, he kills Supreme Leader Snoke only to choose to lead the First Order himself. We gradually discover that Kylo is purely power-hungry, selfish, and ambitious; he has no interest in redemption, and sees Rey as a powerful ally who can advance his goal of ruling over the galaxy. By killing Snoke and taking his place, Kylo accomplishes something that Darth Vader never did.

Yet the emotion lurking underneath keeps him perversely relatable. Once Supreme Leader, Kylo gives up the chance to destroy the Resistance once and for all out of a personal obsession with killing Luke Skywalker. This gives us someone broken as well as evil, and in the final film of the sequel trilogy, Kylo will have to navigate his conflicting emotions and doubts while leading the First Order. Where he ends up after Episode IX (and note survival is unlikely) will ultimately define the character, but even if redemption does come it doesn’t take away from where we’ve gone so far. It’s a journey that’s clear, painful, and above all emotional.

Kylo Ren may not be as effective of a villain as Darth Vader, but The Last Jedi proves that he is the most compelling and complex villain in the Star Wars canon. The only question now is if he can be saved.


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