Darth Vader and Darth Sidious are the two most powerful Sith shown in Lucas’ original Star Wars canon, which includes Episodes I do VI. One is the Master, the other is the apprentice. But, did the student surpass the master? This article is going to explore the question of whether is Darth Vader stronger than Darth Sidious.
Darth Vader is not stronger than Darth Sidious. The latter is without a doubt the most powerful Sith Lord in the original movie canon. Vader had the potential to become the strongest, but he never achieved his full power, something the Emperor was well aware of.
Now that we’ve covered the basics it’s time to analyze the powers of Darth Vader and Darth Sidious so let’s go.
Darth Vader vs. Darth Sidious: Who Would Win & Why?
Before we give a definitive answer to this question, we have to explain something about the Star Wars canon. Before Disney bought Lucasfilm, the Star Wars canon had the film-based main continuity and an expanded universe which included comics, books, video games, and other works.
Still, despite Lucas having authorized all the works of the expanded universe and having worked closely with the authors, his own vision was presented and in a way concluded in the first six Star Wars movies (Episodes I do VI). So, in order to answer this question, we are going to consider only Lucas and his own personal vision, i.e., the six movies, while the expanded universe will be consulted only as an additional argument where needed. Now, let us begin.
Since this analysis involves several aspects, we are going to divide it into sections so it’s easier for you to follow. The first section is going to deal with their midi-chlorian count. For those of you who don’t know it, midi-chlorians are intelligent microscopic beings that live in symbiosis with the cells of other life forms in the Galaxy and are responsible for enabling a being to detect and use the Force.
The general rule is as follows – the more midi-chlorians one has in his cells, the more powerful he can become when the Force is concerned.
Before Anakin Skywalker, the highest midi-chlorian count recorded was that of Master Yoda, although the exact number was never revealed. When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan landed on Tatooine and met Anakin and his mother, Qui-Gon measured Anakin’s count and was stunned – it was over 20,000 per cell! This is an all-time record in the franchise and, as confirmed by the two Jedi themselves back on Tatooine, higher than even Yoda’s.
It’s even presumed that Anakin was “created” by the midi-chlorians themselves, but this has never been officially confirmed. Be that as it may, we all know that Anakin Skywalker was destined to bring balance to the force, but ultimately betrayed the Jedi and became Darth Vader. So, the first guy on our list has the highest midi-chlorian count ever recorded. Let us see where Sidious stands.
The exact midi-chlorian count of Darth Sidious was never revealed, but we can safely assume that he likewise, had a very high midi-chlorian count. During the battle with Yoda in Revenge of the Sith, Sidious expresses his belief that Anakin would surpass both of them in terms of power. This confirms that Sidious had a similar midi-chlorian count to Yoda, but lower than Anakin’s, although – as is suggested – not by much.
Darth Vader does “win” in this category, but as we shall see very soon – this turned out to be far from being the decisive factor.
This aspect demands that we expand our sources and dive into the expanded universe since we don’t have much to work on in the movies, at least when Sidious is concerned.
As far as Darth Vader is concerned, we can state that he is very skilled with the lightsaber and is certainly one of the best duelists in the franchise. Still, on several occasions, he has proven himself a lesser foe when faced with skilled duelists. One such occasion was his and Obi-Wan’s duel against Count Dooku – who worked for Darth Sidious – during which he lost his arm.
Anakin had absolutely no chance against the skilled Sith Lord, while Yoda – who came later – had no trouble fighting him. Anakin would later get his revenge, but would at the same time lose against his at the moment former Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi while fighting on Mustafar. Anakin, who had become Darth Vader by then, almost died in the duel but was ultimately rescued and placed in his famous suit by Sidious.
Later on, he did kill Obi-Wan, but it was pretty clear that his former Master, then known as Ben Kenobi, sacrificed himself to save Luke Skywalker. Vader could not defeat Luke during their initial duels, although he did show more skill than the young Jedi at the time. To conclude – while Darth Vader certainly is skilled with the lightsaber and is one of the better duelists in the franchise, he was not able to keep up with the best duelists when it was truly needed.
In the movies, we’ve seen Sidious fight on two occasions – against Mace Windu and against Yoda. While he may look fragile, Sidious is actually very skilled with the lightsaber and is considered to be one of the best duelists in the franchise. Still, most of his duels have been shown in the expanded universe, so you have to explore these works to find out more.
What we do know is that he was trained by the legendary Darth Plagueis, who himself was a brilliant swordsman, although he detested using the weapon. Sidious has had several memorable duels in the expanded universe, killing a plethora of great duelists without much trouble. When faced with Mace Windu, who is considered to be the best duelist among the Jedi, Sidious was able to put up a fight, even gaining the upper hand at one point, before eventually being disarmed by Windu.
We all know what happened then – Anakin’s betrayal – and that is the sole reason why Sidious survived his battle against Windu. Later, he fought Yoda and although he held out for a while, the Jedi Grandmaster was able to disarm him.
So, who is the better duelist? We’d have to say it’s Sidious. Vader is definitely good and is extremely talented, but he was on many occasions too lazy to practice his skills, which is why he was never able to defeat the best duelists out there. Palpatine, on the other hand, demonstrated his skills on several occasions in the expanded universe and has proven able to hold his ground against the best duelists in the movies.
This is where things become interesting, although – as you will soon see – the winner here is also pretty obvious. Both Darth Vader and Darth Sidious are exceptional Force users and their skills are truly amazing. Darth Vader is, due to his high midi-chlorian count, naturally talented, while Darth Sidious spent years and decades studying and exploring the Force so he could achieve unlimited power.
As demonstrated both in the movies and the expanded universe, Darth Vader was an exceptional Force user. His extremely high midi-chlorian count allowed him to perform great things with the Force. While he had a lot of power as Anakin, it was not until he was taught the ways of the Dark Side by Palpatine that he truly unlocked a big part of his potential.
He was able to stop laser blasts with the Force, use the infamous “Force choke” just by observing someone on a screen, stop an AT-AT from crushing him, and augment his physical powers via the Force. We’ve said above that Palpatine thought Vader would surpass both Yoda and himself and it was evident on several occasions that Palpatine feared Vader’s full potential, but luckily for him – he was aware Vader would never reach it.
But, as powerful as Vader might have been, Sidious was always more powerful. All sources agree – Darth Sidious is without a doubt the most powerful Sith Lord in the history of the Sith Order. Both external sources and the characters in the universe agree on this. Darth Sidious’ power-lust is enormous and practically unlimited, which is why he studied all those esoteric, mystical and unnatural aspects of the Force.
He had embraced the full potential of the Dark Side, which allowed him to achieve unfathomable power. The list of his powers would be too long, so we’re not going to analyze each of them individually, but we can state that he was on par with Grandmaster Yoda, who was known as the most powerful Force user in the Galaxy. A lot of this comes from him being the apprentice of Darth Plagueis, who discovered previously unknown ways of manipulating the Force.
Plagueis trained Sidious to perfection, which was the reason for his demise in the end, since Sidious is an excellent manipulator who cares only for himself. This is why he did not care for either Maul or Dooku, and although he did “care” for Vader, he was always careful not to allow his apprentice to surpass him. He did state otherwise, though, but the sequel trilogy revealed that Sidious always had a backup plan which involved him having total control over the whole Galaxy.
He was smart enough to now allow Vader to reach his full potential and even, as the expanded universe revealed, made arrangements so that he could keep Vader under control if needed. Sidious did fear Vader’s potential, but that is exactly why he made sure he would never reach his peak.
As you can see, the “winner” in this category is also fairly obvious – Darth Sidious. Despite Vader being a very powerful Force user and naturally gifted, he could never match Sidious’ training and in-depth knowledge of the Force, which he used to control the strings in all of the nine movies from the main continuity.
Our text merits a brief conclusion, although the answer to our main question should be fairly obvious by now. Darth Vader is not stronger than Darth Sidious. Unlike in the case of Sidious and Plagueis, where the Apprentice surpassed the Master, Sidious never allowed that to happen to him. All of his skills, both with the lightsaber and the Force, show that he was truly the most powerful Sith in the whole history of the Sith Order, similar to what Yoda is to the Jedi.