Darth Vader is the principal villain of George Lucas's Star wars saga. Originally, he was Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker who was swayed to the Dark Side of the Force by Emperor Palpatine. The character was ranked as the third greatest villain in American film history by the American Film Institute. With his "skull/samurai" helmet and imposing appearance, the character has entered the English lexicon to refer to anyone perceived as evil or diabolical. In recent times, the character has become synonomous with dictatorial rule.
Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader has been portrayed by several actors throughout the films, as well as television series. In the Original Trilogy, he was played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones. In Return of the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker is played by Sebastian Shaw when Luke removes Vader's helmet, as well as Anakin's Force Ghost in the original 1983 version of the film. In Episode I, Jake Lloyd played Anakin as a ten year old boy. In Episode II and Episode III, Hayden Christensen played Anakin as well as Darth Vader, he also appears as Anakin's Force Ghost in the 2004 release of Return of the Jedi.
In episodes IV, V, and VI, Vader serves the Emperor Palpatine. He oversaw constrction of both Death Stars. At the end of Episode VI, his dying act is his redemption from the Dark Side, with the help of his son, Luke Skywalker.
In the prequel trilogy, Vader starts as an innocent young child of about eight (Anakin Skywalker). As he grows, he begins to be seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. When he has a vision that his mother is being tortured, and later when he sees her die, he kills an entire camp of Tusken Raiders. Later, when he has a vision about his wife, Padme, dying in childbirth, he turns to the Dark Side to try to save her. Ironically, his Force choke (Episode III) ends up being part of what killed her.