Sheev Palpatine wears many hats in the Star Wars canon. He’s been a humble senator from Naboo, a meek politician thrust into the position of Republic chancellor, and the all-powerful ruler of the first Galactic Empire. Throughout it all, Palpatine has been consistently portrayed as the Star Wars universe’s ultimate antagonist – a personification of pure evil able to bend people to his will through fear, duplicity, and manipulation.
Whether you refer to him as Palpatine, the Chancellor, Darth Sidious, or simply the Emperor, Palpatine has been a recurring villain within Star Wars since his introduction in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. Following his initial appearance in that film, he’s taken on a more substantial role in George Lucas’s universe, serving as the master to powerful Sith like Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and Count Dooku, as well as the mastermind who skillfully orchestrated the eradication of the Jedi and the fall of the Republic.
As the main antagonist of the Star Wars universe, Palpatine has appeared in an endless variety of Star Wars-related media over the years. From his initial training period under Darth Plagueis to his eventual demise on Exegol, here are Palpatine’s main chronological appearances in Star Wars.
The complete linear history of Palpatine
From his early days as a senator to his years as the Dark Lord of the Sith, Palpatine lived quite an eventful life, using dubious political maneuvering and his knowledge of the Force to seize control of the galaxy. To boil the most important moments of Palpatine’s life down, here is a guide to each of his major appearances in the Star Wars saga:
- Darth Maul (Cullen Bunn)
- The Phantom Menace
- Tales of the Jedi
- Attack of the Clones
- The Clone Wars (film)
- The Clone Wars (series)
- Revenge of the Sith
- The Bad Batch
- Darth Vader (Charles Soule)
- Star Wars: Lords of the Sith
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Thrawn (novel)
- Darth Vader(Kieron Gillen)
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
- Battlefront II
- The Rise of Kylo Ren (Charles Soule)
- The Rise of Skywalker
Given the sheer length of the above list, it may be helpful to know the key biographical elements of Palpatine’s life in a more comprehensive manner. With that in mind, we decided to detail Palpatine’s life and career below.
Darth Maul (Cullen Bunn)
According to Star Wars: Timelines, Palpatine was born on Naboo in 84 BBY, some 50 years prior to the events of The Phantom Menace. In 52 BBY, Palpatine joined the Republic Senate as a representative of his homeworld. During his early life, he also met and learned the ways of the Sith under his eventual master, Darth Plagueis.
Around 40 BBY, Palpatine – now a powerful Sith under the moniker of Darth Sidious – ventures to the planet Dathomir in search of a new apprentice. Initially considering the Nightsister Mother Talzin as a potentially powerful right-hand enforcer, Sidious instead chooses her infant son.
Impressed by the boy’s fiery temper, Palpatine trains the young Zabrak in the ways of the Sith, dubbing him Darth Maul. Maul’s training continues for the next several years, helping him become a merciless and skilled Sith warrior in his own right.
The Phantom Menace
In 32 BBY, Palpatine contacts the Trade Federation, coercing the corporation’s spineless leader, Nute Gunray, into launching an invasion of Naboo. Watching as a shadowy observer, Palpatine provides useful advice to Gunray and his forces as they seize control of his homeworld, using the tumultuous situation to advance his own political agenda.
Taking advantage of the Senate’s inability to deal with intergalactic conflict, Palpatine convinces Naboo’s monarch, Queen Amidala, to cast a vote of no confidence in the Republic’s reigning chancellor, Finis Valorum. With their former leader ousted from power, Palpatine orders Gunray to escalate his siege on Naboo, hastening the electoral process and ensuring he wins the coveted seat of Supreme Chancellor.
Though successful in securing his seat in office, Palpatine’s deft maneuvering comes at a cost. Losing his apprentice, Darth Maul, Palpatine’s plans are temporarily disrupted. However, it isn’t long before Palpatine takes notice of the nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker, quickly laying out designs to turn the young Jedi to the Dark Side in the years to come.
Tales of the Jedi
After the death of Qui-Gon Jinn and the grievous injury dealt to Maul on Naboo, Palpatine begins searching for a new apprentice to assume Maul’s place by his side. Sensing Jedi Master Count Dooku’s frustrations with the Jedi Order, Palpatine begins to slowly poison Dooku’s mind, turning him against his allies in the Order.
In 26 BBY, a suspicious Master Yaddle witnesses Dooku conversing in secret with Sidious. Stepping out from hiding, Yaddle tries to convince Dooku to return to the Order. Dooku, having already fallen to the Dark Side and made up his mind to ally with Sidious, instead turns on Yaddle, killing his former friend and formally proving himself to his new master.
Attack of the Clones
In 22 BBY, Palpatine lays out the next step in his grand scheme to seize power away from the Republic. Working closely with Dooku, the two Sith Lords hire an assassin to target Naboo’s former queen, Padmé Amidala. At the same time, Dooku – acting on Palpatine’s orders – begins to foment a revolt of planets throughout the galaxy, creating increased anxiety over the potential for war in the Senate.
Working in secrecy, Palpatine begins to escalate the growing tensions between the Republic and this new Separatist movement. As the potential for war becomes more and more likely, Palpatine invokes emergency powers to retain his seat as chancellor, increasing his administration’s powers significantly.
With this newfound influence in office, Palpatine orders the creation of a Clone Army to defend the Republic. This culminates in the first battle of the Clone Wars, where the Clones and the Jedi are victorious over the Separatists’ Droid Army on Geonosis, completing another phase of Palpatine’s plans for total galactic supremacy.
The Clone Wars (film)
Several months into the Clone Wars, Palpatine once again organizes plans to foment galaxy-wide discontent with the Republic. In particular, he orders Dooku to frame the Jedi for the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt’s infant son, straining relations between the Huttese crime syndicates and the Republic. When the Jedi successfully rescue the young Hutt, Dooku reports the mission’s failure to Palpatine. Unconcerned by this relatively small set-back, Palpatine reassures his apprentice that the war is still very much unfolding in their favor.
The Clone Wars (series)
For the next several years, Palpatine continues to exert his influence as supreme chancellor, accruing more power from his administrative position as head of the Republic. As he cements his reign, he also deftly influences both sides of the Clone Wars, as well as developing his friendship with Anakin Skywalker.
Halfway through the war, Palpatine begins to sense Asajj Ventress’s burgeoning power in the Force. Afraid of a potential betrayal on Dooku’s part, Palpatine orders his apprentice to kill his disciple. Barely surviving, Ventress recruits Zabrak Nightbrother, Savage Opress, to her cause, although the Dathomirian warrior soon turns against his would-be master. Nursing the physically and mentally impaired Maul back to health, the two brothers quickly seize control of several criminal organizations, forming their own faction known as the Shadow Collective.
Chastened by Maul’s progress and growing influence, Palpatine personally duels Maul and Oppress on Mandalore, killing the latter and forcing his former apprentice back into servitude as his pawn. Shortly afterward, Palpatine also manages to silence any rumors of Order 66 from getting out after the Clone troopers Fives becomes aware of the plot.
Revenge of the Sith
In 19 BBY, the Clone Wars draws towards its eventual conclusion. With the end of the war in sight, Palpatine doubles down on his efforts to recruit Anakin Skywalker to his side, seeing him as the key to destroying the Jedi. Orchestrating his own capture at the hands of General Grievous, Palpatine emboldens Anakin to kill Dooku, putting him one step closer to the Dark Side.
As the Republic prepares a final offensive on the remaining Separatist forces, the Jedi grow increasingly suspicious of Palpatine, having grown concerned with the political influence the chancellor has mustered during the height of the war. Assigning Anakin to spy on the Chancellor, Palpatine instead turns the tables on the Jedi, exploiting Anakin’s frustrations with the Order and his own fears of losing Padmé to convince him to join the Dark Side.
Revealing his own identity as Darth Sidious, Anakin initially tries to inform the Jedi of the Chancellor’s motivations. Realizing he needs Palpatine to guarantee Padmé’s survival, Anakin stops Mace Windu from killing the Chancellor – although not before Palpatine physical appearance is left permanently altered in his battle with Windu. With his identity now known to Anakin, Palpatine awards Anakin the Sith title of Darth Vader, ordering him to lead an assault on the Jedi Temple and formally activating Order 66.
Framing the Jedi as power-hungry traitors, Palpatine appears before the Senate to announce himself as their new emperor. With the Jedi and Separatists now mostly eliminated, Yoda confronts Palpatine in his office, nearly killing the Sith Lord before their duel ends in a stalemate. Rescuing Vader after his disastrous duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar, Palpatine outfits Vader in a suit of black armor, alleging that Vader’s anger caused Padmé’s death.
The Bad Batch
With the Clone Wars over and the Separatists and Jedi eliminated, Palpatine appears in a galaxy-wide holographic broadcast, announcing the reorganization of the Republic into the Galactic Empire. While most Republic supporters – including the Clone Army – receive this news enthusiastically, others appear concerned by this sudden shift in power, as well as Palpatine’s ascension to the position of emperor.
Darth Vader (Charles Soule)
Immediately after the fall of the Jedi in 19 BBY, Palpatine oversees the transition from the Republic into the Empire. At the same time, he continues to develop Vader’s own fall to the Dark Side, ensuring his new apprentice’s complete undying loyalty to his new master.
As Vader completes his journey into becoming a Sith, elements of Anakin Skywalker’s mysterious birth are revealed. In particular, it’s hinted that Palpatine’s influence of midi-chlorians resulted in Anakin’s birth by Shmi, making him, in essence, the closest thing Anakin has to a father, although they are not paternally related by blood.
Star Wars: Lords of the Sith
In 14 BBY, Palpatine sets his sights on acquiring Ryloth, a planet rich in spice and whose population will provide a valuable labor source for future Imperial operations. Traveling to the planet with Vader, Palpatine and his apprentice are left on their own after their shuttle is shot down. Overcoming their personal animosity and distrust of one another, the two Sith Lords manage to overcome the planet’s insurgents, formally capturing Ryloth.
With the Empire now in total control of the galaxy, Darth Vader continues his relentless pursuit of Obi-Wan. Meeting him in combat on two separate occasions, Vader manages Obi-Wan to slip through his grasp, reporting his resolve to locate his former master to Palpatine. Hearing this, Palpatine quietly threatens Vader to let his personal vendetta against Kenobi go, focusing his efforts instead on building up the Empire. Sensing the double meaning behind Palpatine’s words, Vader reluctantly forgoes his search for Obi-Wan.
In 15 BBY, the disgraced Chiss warrior Thrawn joins the Empire. Using his prodigious tactical mind, Thrawn quickly rises through the ranks of Imperial command, earning an audience with the Emperor himself. Impressed by Thrawn’s preternatural intelligence and military proficiency, Palpatine congratulates Thrawn on his success thus far, introducing him to his apprentice, Darth Vader, for the first time.
In the 15 years after the fall of the Jedi, the Emperor manages to use fear and intimidation to keep the galaxy in line, allowing him to grow his empire into a complete totalitarian regime. By 5 BBY, organized bands of rebels start to resist the Empire’s growing might, launching sabotage missions against Imperial facilities across the galaxy.
Realizing the danger of a widespread resistance front, Palpatine attempts to wipe out these small Rebel cells before they can get out of hand. After learning of Rebel Ezra Bridger’s ability to access alternate dimensions, Palpatine initially tries to manipulate Ezra into joining him, appearing in the guise of a kindly old man to win the boy over. When Ezra refuses, Palpatine appears as his true wizened self, nearly killing Ezra before the young Jedi can escape.
Darth Vader (Kieron Gillen)
Furious at the loss of the Death Star at the Rebellion's hands, the Emperor orders Vader to crush the Alliance and end the Galactic Civil War in its infancy. Tracking the pilot responsible for the Death Star’s destruction, Vader learns the identity of the pilot is none other than Luke Skywalker. Realizing the Emperor had lied to him about Padmé’s death, Vader lays out plans to turn Luke to the Dark Side, using him to overthrow the Emperor and install themselves as the new rulers of the galaxy.
The Empire Strikes Back
In 3 ABY, Vader closes in on the Rebel forces on Hoth, nearly destroying the last remnants of the Rebellion and avenging the loss of the Death Star, chasing after Luke in particular to fulfill Vader’s plans to betray the Emperor. Recognizing the value Luke places in friendship, Vader pursues the Millennium Falcon across space, believing that once he’s captured Luke’s friends, it will only be a matter of time before Luke arrives to rescue them.
Interested in Vader’s personal handling of the situation, the Emperor intuits Luke’s identity as the child of Anakin Skywalker, contacting Vader mid-pursuit to inform him of his suspicions. Initially viewing Luke as a threat that must be dealt with, Vader convinces Palpatine to spare Luke’s life and instead convert him to the Dark Side. While Vader’s attempts to sway Luke prove unsuccessful, Palpatine entertains the notion of Luke as his new apprentice far more seriously.
Return of the Jedi
In 4 ABY, the Empire finalizes construction of the Death Star II, believing that – once finally built – it will be powerful enough to turn the tide of the Civil War in their favor. Arriving at the Death Star, Palpatine reunites with Vader, the two of them content with the battle station’s progress. Working in secrecy, Palpatine feeds the Rebellion information about the shield generator on Endor, tricking them into an ambush that he hopes will crush the Alliance for good.
Arriving on Endor, Luke allows himself to be captured by the Empire, believing his resolve and inner love for his father will be enough to turn Vader back to the Light Side. Brought before the Emperor, Palpatine taunts Luke’s youthful idealism, exploiting his emotions in order to get him to embrace the Dark Side. His constant mockery eventually works, triggering a duel between Vader and Luke.
Briefly giving into his emotions, Luke disables Vader, to Palpatine’s utter delight. As Palpatine attempts to goad Luke into murdering Vader, Luke spares his father’s life, asserting that he will never fall to the Dark Side. Infuriated, Palpatine slowly electrocutes Luke, nearly killing him before Vader intervenes, throwing his Sith master into a reactor shaft and seemingly killing him for the first time.
With their leader dead and a lack of central coordination affecting their operations, the Empire chaotically tries to rebound from their loss on Endor. Covering all potential outcomes of the war when he was still alive, Palpatine laid out a contingency plan in the event of his death in the form of Operation: Cinder. This operation is meant as a retaliatory strike on the Empire’s part, laying waste to several planets (including Naboo) to avenge his death, ensuring the destruction of Palpatine’s enemies as a last-ditch effort to end the Civil War in a final state of chaos.
The Rise of Kylo Ren (Charles Soule)
How exactly Palpatine managed to survive – or resurrect himself – after his apparent death on the Death Star II has yet to be revealed. However, in the years following the Galactic Civil War, a weakened Palpatine once again works from the shadows to rebuild his empire, setting the foundation for what would eventually become known as the First Order.
Shortly after the birth of Ben Solo in 5 ABY, Palpatine used Ben’s strong connection to the Force to communicate with him psychically, feeding his fears and uncertainty while also appealing to him as a friend (although he was sure to never reveal his true identity).
In 28 ABY, Ben turns on his Jedi master, Luke, turning to the Dark Side and destroying his uncle’s new Jedi Order. Through his puppet avatar, Snoke, Palpatine continued to groom Ben (now known as Kylo Ren) into becoming his apprentice, watching him develop into an influential leader within the First Order.
The Rise of Skywalker
In 35 ABY – three decades after his presumed death – Palpatine sends out a galaxy-wide message announcing his return. After Kylo manages to track the Sith Lord to Exegol, a physically weakened Palpatine recruits Kylo to his cause, revealing his role in Kylo’s fall to the Dark Side and his advancement to Supreme Leader of the First Order. With his secret army, the Final Order, at his disposal, Palpatine orders Kylo to kill Rey, who Palpatine reveals is his granddaughter through his estranged son (whom Palpatine later killed).
Confronting Palpatine on Exegol, Rey refuses to strike him down and allow his spirit to pass into her body. Joined by a redeemed Ben Solo, the two attempt to best Palpatine in combat. Sensing the strength of their Force dyad, Palpatine uses their connection to strengthen his body. With the spirits of all the Jedi communicating to her through the Force, Rey manages to reverse Palpatine’s Force lightning, turning it against the Sith Lord and destroying the former Emperor for good.