Somehow, nearly a half century after the first film was released, Star Wars is still going strong.
The fanbase behind the franchise may, in fact, be stronger than ever, thanks to recent additions to the canon. Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi were both near-instant hits upon their release, and enduring Star Wars classics continue to rack up fans with each new generation.
The characters from Star Wars are instantly recognizable, thanks to years of pop culture relevance. Many of the series’ favorites — like Luke, Leia, and Han — appear frequently during Halloween celebrations and themed parties, and Darth Vader persists as one of media’s most recognizable and captivating villains.
Vader has been a vital part of the Star Wars formula for decades — the raspy, automated sound of his respirator foreshadows his evil actions. He passed his dark knowledge on to several young learners over the years, seeking to eventually gain control over the Sith and unseat his vicious master.
In the main film canon, Darth Vader has very few apprentices, but in the broad, expansive universe of Star Wars content, his apprentice count rivals that of his master, Darth Sidious. We’re sticking as close to canon as possible, but there are quite a few names on this list that even die-hard Star Wars fans may not recognize.
Vader has never been known as an overly stable person — even back when he was Anakin — so its no surprise that his chosen apprentices are similarly unhinged. One of his earliest apprentices was a green-skinned S’kytri named Kharys. She and Anakin met during the Clone Wars, and he later returned as Vader to train her in the Dark Side of the Force. He was successful, turning Kharys into a formidable servant of the Empire.
Vader’s dark influence on Kharys eventually saw the vicious S’kytri return to her planet to begin her tenure as brutal dictator. She ruled as a tyrant for years, before finally being unseated by Luke Skywalker himself. While most fans won’t recognize her from mainstream Star Wars media, hardcore fans who enjoyed the Marvel run of Star Wars comics know her well. She made her debut in the very first issue, which was released in 1979.
Of all Vader’s apprentices, Lumiya has perhaps the most in common with her Master. Physically at least. That’s because, following a lengthy mission aimed at killing or at least disgracing Luke Skywalker in the eyes of his fellow Rebels, Lumiya ended up with a set of cybernetic enhancements that mirror Vader’s own.
A loyal and capable agent of the Galactic Empire turned Dark Lady of the Sith, Lumiya doesn’t show up in any of the mainstream Star Wars releases, but she’s a mainstay in the Star Wars run of comics. Following Vader and Palpatine’s deaths on Endor, Lumiya becomes the new Mistress of the Sith, leading her dark forces in a campaign against Luke and the remainder of the Rebel Alliance. Her efforts are ultimately unsuccessful, but Lumiya still managed to leave a lasting mark on the Sith.
Another apprentice that never appears in main canon, Starkiller is the protagonist and playable character in 2008’s Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game. The game provides a background and origin story for the inception of the Galactic Civil War and the formation of the Rebel Alliance, and introduces Starkiller as one of Vader’s most powerful secret apprentices.
Also known as Galen Marek, Starkiller is a uniquely talented Force user whose mind is twisted by Vader from a young age. Despite this, he ultimately turns against his former master, defeating him in combat — yes, you read that right — and, depending on player choice, even killing him at the end of the first Force Unleashed game. Of course, Vader recovers from his brief bout of death by the time the second game comes around, but his defeat at the hands of his former apprentice proves how powerful Starkiller truly is.
Fun trivia: Luke’s name was almost “Luke Starkiller,” but George Lucas changed his mind and ultimately went with “Skywalker.”
Following the success of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, another Vader apprentice debuted in the game’s sequel. A clone of the first game’s Starkiller, Subject 1138 is initially considered a “failure” in Darth Vader’s attempt to create the perfect apprentice, particularly after he is proven to retain some of Starkiller’s memories. After realizing that Vader will inevitably betray him too, Subject 1138 makes his escape, and eventually (reluctantly) joins the Rebels.
Set a year before the events of A New Hope, the game sees Subject 1138 lean on Starkiller’s memories to shape himself into a whole person, which generally only succeeds in making the two characters feel like the same person. They are technically different people, however, despite their similarities, and both count as Vader Apprentices — albeit short-lived ones.
Vader’s fourth official apprentice is a former Stormtrooper turned Sith learner. He was in the beginning stages of learning about the Dark Side of the Force — prepped to challenge Lumiya for the honor of Vader’s Shadow Hand — when Vader and Sidious fell during their stand-off with Luke on Endor. This saw Lumiya rise to the rank of Mistress of the Sith, and maneuvered Flint into position as her apprentice.
Like Lumiya, Flint doesn’t crop up in any of the current or even recent Star Wars media, instead making his mark on the 80s run of Star Wars comics. While his tenure as a Vader apprentice is ultimately quite short, he lasted far longer under Lumiya, before ultimately turning his back on the Dark Side and his former Imperial allies.
A far more recent addition to Star Wars lore than those introduced in the 1980s run of comics, Rillao is one of Vader’s many failed attempts at taking on a new apprentice. The Sith Lord attempted to train both her and her husband, Hethrir, in the Dark Side of the Force, but Rillao’s talent in healing put her at stark odds with the way of the Dark Side.
Despite his best efforts, Vader could not completely turn Rillao to the Dark Side. Particularly following the conception of her and Hethrir’s child, Rillao realized the fault in her and her partner’s actions, and fled in hopes of raising her son without Vader’s dark influence.
Mate to Rillao and father to Tigris, Hethrir is a Firrerreo who’s seen mentions across Star Wars extended media, in particular the run of books published through the 90s. A capable warrior, Hethrir was handpicked by Vader during the Galactic Empire’s prime. He foresaw the Empire’s eventual fall, however, and thus positioned himself to maintain power even following his former master’s death.
Long after Palpatine and Vader fell on Endor, Hethrir was causing issues for the galaxy’s greatest heroes. He formed an army out of abducted and indoctrinated Force-sensitives, and once even captured the children of Leia Organa and Han Solo.
A Padawan learner turned Sith apprentice, Antinnis Tremayne takes after his master in more ways than one. After being captured during the Clone Wars and thus surviving the Jedi purge, Tremayne was situated as one of the founding members of the Inquisitorius, a team of Jedi-hunting Force-sensitives that fans of Disney Plus’ Obi-Wan Kenobi are becoming well acquainted with. Like Vader, he sports a number of cybernetic enhancements that make this job easier, but unlike his master, Tremayne is known as a singularly talented interrogator.
One of the Inquisitorius’ most capable members, Tremayne was vital in the continued location and capture — or slaughter — of the remaining Jedi. Following the collapse of the Empire, he stuck with his Sith ways and joined forces with Hethrir in an attempt to keep the Empire alive, but ultimately failed. He’s a mainstay in the Evasive Action webstrip and Star Wars Adventure Journal.
Special mention — Ahsoka Tano
She’s not an Apprentice — and yes, we recognize that Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are technically “different” people — but we can’t ignore the man behind the mask’s very first youthful learner. Back when he still went by Skywalker, the Sith’s dark servant had a young Padawan learner by the name of Ahsoka Tano, a Togruta who eventually grew into a powerful and compassionate Force user.
Ahsoka’s story has thus far largely been restricted to the animated Star Wars offerings, but the character recently made her live-action debut in Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian. Rosario Dawson, who played Ahsoka in Mando, will reprise the role in her own upcoming standalone series, aptly titled Ahsoka. While she never learned from Vader himself, Ahsoka was hugely shaped by her time fighting alongside Anakin in the Clone Wars, and her former master left an indelible mark on this Star Wars fan favorite.