Star Wars (various movies, comics, cartoons, and video games 1980-now)
All these villains talk about conquering the world or the galaxy, but this guy actually did it. Palpatine AKA Darth Sidious schemed his way into being voted into a position of absolute power by concealing his true face and intentions for several decades… Not to mention, he’s arguably THE most powerful Sith lord that ever existed in the Star Wars universe (mainstream or extended). He’s pure evil. If you ask a majority of the diehard Star Wars fans out there, they will tell you that the “prequels” (Episodes I-III) are a terrible disappointment for a number of reasons. While I agree that the films made a mockery of what could have been an epic background telling of the more popularized villain, Darth Vader, if you put those details aside to pay attention to what Darth Sidious puts into motion and ultimately grasps at the end of Episode III, it’s really quite amazing.
Before the storyline depicted in the films , many details of Palpatine’s origin have been laid out in the extended Star Wars universe. He was born on the planet of Naboo, to a family of politicians, which is not uncommon because all citizens of Naboo are required to enlist into politics around the time of adolescence for a brief period of time. After living a spoiled childhood under the roof of an abusive father with whom Palpatine constantly disagreed with politically, he rejected his given name only to be addressed by his family surname. His first name was never truly revealed. Additionally he took an interest in ancient Sith artifacts and used his family’s vast wealth to collect various texts and runes in secrecy. He made a habit out of going to prestigious schools, being expelled by random acts of defiance, then having his father pay to cover his lengthy would-be criminal record through bribes to preserve the family name. As a young man, Palpatine even crashed a speeder and killed two pedestrians, which he held no guilt or remorse over. The incident even gave him a sense of invulnerability believing himself untouchable.
After catching the attention of Darth Plagueis (the only remaining Sith lord at the time) by political connections, Palpatine was recruited to become his spy and eventually Plagueis’ apprentice after being influenced to kill his entire family finally giving into the hate that had fueled him all along. After Plagueis covered up the murders through his civilian disguise he began Palpatine’s Sith training as Darth Sidious unknowning that Palpatine was already well versed in some techniques thanks to his artifact collection. The first year of his training was spent on the frozen planet of Mygeeto, where Plagueis used the intense cold to hone Sidious’ determination, hate, and survival skills. Plagueis had schemed to use Palpatine as a hidden Sith lord corrupting politics as he himself attempted to learn the secret of immortality while guiding Palpatine’s direction. While under Plagueis’ apprenticeship, Palpatine was given a baby Zabrak who he would later train to become his own apprentice, Darth Maul. Essentially Maul was like Palpatine’s own son who was brutally trained beyond breaking points at his merciless hands but was ultimately diehard and loyal to him. While training Maul, Palpatine furthered his career into becoming a mild mannered galactic Senator with a smile that the public adored and continued to gain allies in the form of politicians, military officers, and even some Jedi.
Upon moving his personal belongings into his quarters on Coruscant, Palpatine hid his Sith artifacts and light saber within various art sculptures throughout his residence and they would remain there for several decades. During the period of time that Episode I took place, Sidious used his disguise to instigate an attack on Naboo using the Trade Federation in a scheme to usurp Chancellor Vallorum in order to springboard himself within the Senate. After a bunch of political backstabbing mumbo jumbo and countless deaths on Naboo Palpatine was able to get the Senate to boot out Vallorum and become the new Chancellor. On the night before his inevitable election, Palpatine struck out against his master, Plagueis, by getting him drunk and blasting him with force lightning in his sleep. While killing Plagueis, Palpatine delightfully mocked him announcing that he had been manipulating his master for years and that he had no intentions of sharing his power. Here Sidious instilled a new Sith doctrine of the Rule of One, which decreased the emphasis of apprentices (using them only as pawns) to ensure that he would not be overthrown like so many other Sith masters before him.
After the loss of Darth Maul, Palpatine turned his focus to Anakin Skywalker, who came to the attention of Plagueis as a force anomaly before his death, but sought out the manipulation of his political confidant, Jedi Master Count Dooku, viewing a youth to train full-time to be too much of a burden with his new position as Supreme Chancellor. Dooku had resigned from the Jedi Council after the death of his apprentice Qui-Gon Jinn (who was killed by Sidious’ apprentice, Maul) and became bitter towards their passive ways essentially blaming them for Jinn’s death (a bit ridiculous…). Together Dooku and Palpatine enacted Darth Plagueis’s master plan of creating a civil war which would thin the herd of Jedi across the galaxy and eventually lead to the Republic being completely overthrown to his will. In order to do so they commissioned the cloners of the planet Kamino to create a clone army based off the genetics of the Mandalorian bounty hunter, Jango Fett. Thus began the grandplan to use a legion of clone stormtroopers to fight off the immediate threat of Seperatists (which were a united front against the Republic all manipulated by Palpatine himself as well) in order to cement Sidious as the Galactic Emperor.
Fast forward through decades of seemingly endless droid, clone, and Jedi death because of a war that he orchestrated throughout the galaxy, Palpatine was able to do just that. After sewing seeds of mistrust about the Jedi Council to Anakin Skywalker and promising him the power to save his loved one from a death he had forseen, Palpatine finally revealed himself as the dark lord behind everything. Instead of taking Palpatine down directly like a responsible Jedi, Anakin alerts Mace Windu. With the Jedi forces spread thin throughout the galaxy, Windu takes a team of 3 other Jedi Masters to arrest/kill Palpatine fearing that he would be too dangerous to be left alive. Palpatine immediately disposes of the the 3 Masters and plays weak to Mace Windu’s mercy in order to influence Anakin into helping him kill Windu in a heat of the moment decision. With Anakin now pledging his loyalty in becoming Palpatine’s new apprentice, Palpatine gives the order for his clone troopers to wipe out the Jedi that they had been aiding for an entire war in one fell swoop. He then sends Anakin as “Darth Vader” to wipe out the leaders of the Seperatist movement, thus eliminating all the different factions playing a part in the Clone Wars and transforming the Republic into his Empire. (I know the prequels were weak… but Darth Sidious’ rise to power is undeniably awesome).
Sidious even used his malformed face that he received from backlash from his force lightning attack against Mace Windu as a rallying gesture of “taking a punch for the people” against a rebellious Jedi attack (though it has been disputed that his face had been like that for a long time because of Sith techniques weakening his body and he merely dropped an illusion technique in order to appear weak forcing Anakin to act). Another testament to his deceitfulness is that he gained this power of absolute control by a democratic VOTE at the promise of establishing peace and security. His Empire would rule over the galaxy for 25 years, while instilling terror with the planet destroying Death Star, seemingly infinite storm troopers, and apprentice, Darth Vader (who had plotted to kill his master for years but never quite got around to it… out of fear). The dude was scarey…
Eventually Vader was able to kill Sidious while he was attempting to recruit/kill Vader’s son, Luke, to become his new apprentice… but that wasn’t the end of him. Sidious was such a master of the dark side of the force that he had learned to transfer his essence into other bodies and did so into a slew of reserve clone bodies. Beyond the movies, Sidious demonstrated his most impressive feat by ripping the time-space continuum creating a “hyperspace wormhole” through his harnessed hate and anger. With this technique he could conjure a “force storm” while standing on a planet and controlling it to destroy planets or armadas in deep space. Holy. Shit.
The many details of Darth Sidious’ 1,000 year lifespan are robust and would take a book to describe in full. I will say though; according to the extended Star Wars universe, Sidious did eventually turn the original hero of the franchise, Luke Skywalker, to the dark side as his apprentice. So kudos to Darth Sidious. Aside from that he has every single bad quality you could ask for in a villain and he’s remarkably patient for how much sick pleasure he gets from torturing and killing people. It must have been agony for him to act like a cheerful gooby Senator. Not to mention he could conceal himself from being sensed as a Sith lord while standing in the same room as Master Jedi’s such as Mace Windu and Yoda… In other words, he clouded the minds of the most powerful Jedi with relative ease.