Star Wars’ Darth Vader Father Twist, Explained

Summary

  • There are many great moments in Star Wars, but only a handful have stood the test of time, like Darth Vader’s reveal that he was Luke’s father.
  • Many factors went in to what made the scene so perfect, but it was evident from the moment the scene ended that it wasn’t the act of one person that made it work.
  • Darth Vader’s big twist has proven its importance both through its longevity and the impact it had on the larger canon going forward.


There are many scenes in the original Star Wars trilogy that fans could talk about at length. From the debate over whether it was Han who shot first, or the moment when Luke defies the Emperor’s will and passes his final trial to become a Jedi Knight, or even the moment that started it all with Leia beseeching Obi-Wan’s help via hologram. The franchise has provided some of the most memorable and quotable moments in film history, but one moment supersedes all of them: The moment Darth Vader revealed that he was, in fact, Luke Skywalker’s father.

It’s a moment that still sends chills down the spines of many, the shock value of the moment not having worn off even decades after the movie’s first premiere. That is an impressive feat, considering that most people could answer the question, “Who is Luke Skywalker’s father?” The two characters have been inextricably linked in the minds of the public, yet the moment is still one of the most powerful within Star Wars’ long history.


The Moment That Changed the Galaxy Far, Far Away

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As many fans will explain, Luke knowingly went to save his friends in Cloud City after witnessing a vision of their suffering at the Empire’s hand. There, he encountered Darth Vader, and a prolonged lightsaber duel ensued between the two of them. Unfortunately for Luke, this was during the beginning of his formal Jedi training. As a result, it became painfully obvious that he was completely outmatched by the Dark Lord of the Sith.

As the fight continued through the bowels of the city, Luke sustained more and more damage, slowly becoming exhausted before being cornered by Vader, who promptly severed his hand to disarm him. Vader then offered for Luke to join him so that they could overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy together. When Luke refused, Vader played his trump card, Revealing that he was, in fact, Anakin Skywalker and that together they could rule as a family.

Luke was horrified by this revelation, wishing beyond anything it wasn’t true, but his senses confirmed this to be the reality. In one moment, the monster that had stalked him for years, the very embodiment of everything he despised, suddenly became his closest living family member. Yet, Luke still chose to reject him and the dark side of the Force, pursuing the path of a Jedi, even if it meant he might die.

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The moment has been played countless times since then, and practically everyone in the world knows the truth of Vader’s relation to Luke at this point. Yet, people replay the moment anyway, wanting to watch as Luke learned the horrific truth of his family’s legacy and the damage they have done to the galaxy as a whole. So the question stands: What makes this moment so powerful that even after the initial impact of the moment passes, fans still consider this one of Star Wars’ greatest scenes, if not the greatest?

The acting is a key factor in this. Though Darth Vader is not able to emote due to being confined in his suit, James Earl Jones’ masterful voice work as Vader encapsulates the moment when Darth Vader is about to reveal his greatest secret, something he has despised about himself for so many years, in the hopes that it will return his family to him. Contrasting this with Mark Hamill’s facial expressions as the shock and horror of the revelation settle over Luke, and it creates a spine-tingling performance that still captivates the audience to this day.

More than that, though, the moment has staying power because it suddenly shifts the dynamic of the conflict. Before Vader uttered that one line, he and the Empire were this faceless enemy, the embodiment of evil. It was a totalitarian enemy that was only to be despised and fought. There was no complexity to the battle. The Rebels were the good guys, and the Empire the bad guys. From an outside perspective, the blatant evil of the Empire would almost feel cartoonish had it not had the backdrop of an army.

Star Wars’ Darkest Moment Also Had a Ray of Hope

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By telling Luke of their familial relationship, Vader changed the landscape of the conflict. It was no longer a moral conflict between good and evil; it wasn’t even an ideological conflict between the Jedi and Sith. Instead, it had become a conflict between father and son, parent and child who didn’t know either still existed, and now their first true meeting was one that involved bloodshed between the two.

Imagine being Luke at this moment. For three years of his life, Vader was the phantom that haunted him, a representation of every evil he fought and despised. To be told that this was his father, a man whom he’d never met but idolized, someone he thought of as this great hero, it shattered Luke’s entire perspective on reality. He could no longer believe that the Jedi were infallible, and if his own father could fall so far, then what hope did he have?

Luke could have fallen in a different way right then by joining his father against the Emperor. Despite everything that had happened, how thoroughly he had lost, his dismemberment, and the revelation of his father’s true identity, Luke still refused to join the dark side. He chose to continue down the path of a Jedi, something his father failed to do. At that moment of utter despair, Luke made his own hope and, in doing so, would one day save the galaxy. For all these reasons, this moment will always work, whether viewers are aware of the twist going into the scene or not.

Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back movie poster

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

After the Rebels are overpowered by the Empire, Luke Skywalker begins his Jedi training with Yoda, while his friends are pursued across the galaxy by Darth Vader and bounty hunter Boba Fett.

Release Date
May 21, 1980

Director
Irvin Kershner

Cast
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, James Earl Jones, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, David Prowse

Rating
PG

Runtime
124

Main Genre
Science Fiction

Studio
20th Century Fox

Franchise
Star Wars

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