The Eyes Have It
Most Impressive: Vader slaughters the Separatists, his eyes changing into flaming red as the Dark Side takes hold [in Revenge Of The Sith ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: How to suggest Anakin's transition to the Dark Side without sticking a big black helmet on his head? A simple (and, by Lucas' standards, subtle) application of CGI.
Face To Face
Most Impressive: Vader tracks Luke Skywalker to the planet of Jazbina, where father and son meet face to face for the first time [in comic mini-series Vader’s Quest ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: Luke doesn’t find out daddy’s identity until The Empire Strikes Back but, as this post- A New Hope story confirms, Vader knew about his boy for much longer.
Most Impressive: Vader executes a bungling officer but doesn't forget to acknowledge the contrition of the corpse at his feet. "Apology accepted, Captain Needa" [in The Empire Strikes Back ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: Proof that, somewhere along the line, Vader has developed a ghoulish sense of humour. Whiny Anakin certainly never knew how to deliver a punchline like this.
Most Impressive: Young Anakin is brought before the Jedi Council, and instantly causes an argument as to his suitability for training [in The Phantom Menace ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: One of Episode 1 ’s few genuinely spine-tingling pieces of foreshadowing, as Yoda takes one look at the future Sith and concludes, “Clouded, this boy’s future is.”
Most Impressive: Luke's thoughts betray him, as Vader figures out that his son has a twin sister [in Return Of The Jedi ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: A smart character beat amidst the spiralling last-act action, which adds emotional heft to the Skywalkers' Freudian fight.
Memories Of Goldenrod
Most Impressive: Faced with the blasted remains of C-3PO on Cloud City, Vader recalls how he once rebuilt the droid on Tatooine [in Thank The Maker , comic story from Star Wars Tales 6 ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: Does a Sith Lord dream? This elegant piece of ret-conning inserts prequel flashbacks into the events of The Empire Strikes Back to suggest the hidden humanity buried under the mask.
Glimpse Beneath The Helmet
Most Impressive: We catch a fleeting glimpse of a bald, burnt head as Admiral Piett interrupts Vader at rest [in The Empire Strikes Back ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: The audience’s first proof that there’s an actual man underneath the armour…unless you’re unlucky enough to have caught the prequels first.
Vader Gets Philosophical
Most Impressive: Grand Moff Tarkin is showing off about the Death Star, so Vader takes him down a peg by pointing out that “the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force" [in A New Hope ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: At the time, nobody knew what the Force was. Now we do know, and of course Vader was right.
Boba And The Bounty Hunters
Most Impressive: Vader outsources the hunt for Han Solo to a crew of hardened mercenaries, including Boba Fett. Remember, though, "no disintegrations!" [in The Empire Strikes Back ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: Put simply, strong leadership. After seeing his own officers make a hash of things, Vader takes a decisive (and, as it turns out, correct) initiative to hire professionals to get the job done.
Vader vs Luke: The Original Duel
Most Impressive: On the planet Minbam, Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader and the two duel for the first time… with surprising results [in novel Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye ].
Why The Force Is Strong With This One: Before The Empire Strikes Back moved the goalposts, this first showdown sees Luke severing Vader’s arm…only for the latter to simply switch his duelling hand. Hardcore.