Over the past forty-plus years, the Star Wars franchise has produced many great villains, from powerful Sith Lords to tragic fallen Jedi to criminals of the most despicable degree. Maul is one such villain who fans in 1999 could never have predicted would become one of the most adored, fleshed-out villains in the entire franchise.
Darth Vader will forever be the most iconic and memorable villain to come out of Star Wars. However, there are many arguments and reasons that, when put together, make a great case for why Maul is the best villain to come out of the franchise.
10 Character Design & Voice Performances
Even back when The Phantom Menace came out, fans heralded the design of Maul. He was immediately badass and memorable with his red skin and black tattoos, yellowing horns, intimidating scowl, and an, at the time, unique double-bladed lightsaber for good measure.
Ray Park’s physical performance of the character in The Phantom Menace, Solo, and a part of The Clone Wars has always been flawless, adding so much to the character. The vocal performance of Sam Witwer throughout that time is also legendary. The way Maul speaks, screams, and even grunts throughout The Clone Wars and Rebels is interesting, one of the best performances of any Star Wars villain.
9 His Lust For Revenge
Maul pretty much lives off hate, anger, and revenge. He is so desperate, so obsessed with revenge that it is jarring. He survives his body being cut in half out of pure, white-hot hatred and a lust for vengeance.
While revenge is a prominent theme for villains, Maul’s is next level. It actually fuels him, keeps him surviving against impossible odds. It is not mindless revenge either; it is focused. He does not just jump in to try and kill Sidious, he does not try and burst through the Jedi Temple to get to Kenobi, he is calculated, and he is, to a degree, sickening.
8 Infinitely Badass, But Also Layered & Complex
A lot of villains in pop culture can be so painfully one-dimensional. Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace was just that, cool-looking with a badass lightsaber and great fighting skills, but there was no meat on the bones of his character.
Maul, as fans know him now, though, is not only one of the most badass Star Wars characters of all time, he is a layered villain with nuances and complexities. The best villains are those who have more to them, who fans can understand to a degree, and through his time in animation and the extended canon, that is what Maul has become, a magnificent blend of badassery and subtlety.
7 Combination Of Animalistic Power & Genius Manipulation
When Maul is in action seeking vengeance and fighting for his life, he is an animal. He is rabid with raw strength and speed, explosive power, and a vicious array of offense.
However, while a lot of villains can be either brawn or brains, Maul is a combination of the two. Maul is a master manipulator, able to puppeteer even the smartest individuals, bring down governments, to devise plans that shock the likes of Jedi. He does not just have a scary physical presence, but he has a level of intelligence that puts him above many other villains.
Few villains in Star Wars have gotten to fill as many typically evil roles as Maul has. His evolution throughout the franchise both in terms of his character depth and capacity in the franchise, is awesome.
Maul has been a Sith Assassin/Apprentice, the ruler of Mandalore, a pirate-level criminal, and the ruler of a criminal empire. He has evolved from a secondary villain to one of the most prominent and significant in Star Wars, which is something no other villain has done to the same degree thus far.
5 Adds to The Stories Of Other Characters
Maul is not just a character whose story is individually wonderful. He also has many different relationships and dynamics that change the course of other characters’ stories and pretty much always improve them.
The likes of Savage Oppress, Mother Talzin, and Pre Viszla had short-lived but great dynamics with the Dathomirian. Then there is Ahsoka Tano, Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, Darth Sidious, Satine Kryze, Bo-Katan, Qi’ra, the Shadow Collective, the Mandalorian Super Commandos, and more whose stories have been affected by Maul in a narratively positive way. Maul has many an ally and many great rivals, and they are all of high quality.
4 Lightsaber Battles
Darth Vader has a great catalog of lightsaber duels, Sidious has a few great ones, too, Dooku has a couple that are underappreciated, and Kylo Ren’s battles with Rey range from good to amazing. In animation, though, there is nobody with a better battle resumé than Maul.
His duel with Ahsoka in the Siege of Mandalore surpasses most movie duels, going right up there with Luke vs. Vader, the Battle of the Heroes, and the Duel of the Fates, another unbelievable duel involving Maul. His duel with Savage vs. Sidious is another jaw-dropper. There are then fantastic smaller battles with the likes of Obi-Wan and Ventress, Obi-Wan and Adi Galia, and Ahsoka and Kanan, before his poetically perfect duel vs. Obi-Wan in “Twin Suns.” Vader is the only villain who truly challenges Maul’s variety of on-screen lightsaber duels.
3 His Life Is A Tragedy
There is no villain as tragic as Darth Vader or whose story is made so utterly incredible because of said tragedy like him. However, Maul’s life is still tragic, and thrown in with everything else, makes him a contender with Vader.
Maul was taken as a child and taught nothing but hatred, vitriol, and murderous, chaotic violence. Maul never had anything but negative influences in his life. All he knew was anger and revenge. Of course, this does not justify his actions, far from it. But look no further than when he begs for death after being captured by Ahsoka, the clones, and Bo-Katan in “The Phantom Menace” to see just how tragic Maul’s character is deep down.
2 Everything He Appears In Is Made Better Because Of Him
For years Maul’s appearance in The Phantom Menace and the Duel of the Fates has been called the best part of The Phantom Menace. This pretty much kicked off the trend of everything being improved by Maul.
Despite initial skepticism, Maul made The Clone Wars so much better. Nearly every episode he is involved in is one of the show’s best. He adds so much to seasons 4, 5, and 7. Then there is Rebels, whose already beautiful season 2 finale is improved by his return. His subsequent journey in season 3 is arguably the best part about that season too. He added a whole new layer of fascination to Solo, and while even Vader has a couple of lackluster appearances. Maul has none.
1 His Rivalry With Obi-Wan
There is no Maul without Obi-Wan Kenobi. Star Wars is full of phenomenal rivalries, but there are none on the level of Maul vs. Obi-Wan. It is one of the most brilliantly crafted journeys in Star Wars.
Starting in The Phantom Menace with the death of Qui-Gon and the believed death of Maul, the two go at it time and time again, creating fireworks every time. The killing of Adi Galia, the initial shock of his return, and, of course, the murder of Satine Kryze are all elements of the pain caused for Obi-Wan by Maul, who feels justified in his conquest to torture and decimate Obi-Wan. Their duels are always a spectacle, their verbal altercations always cause goosebumps, and that final battle in “Twin Suns” is a must-see for every fan. It is one of the best five-minute periods any Star Wars fan will experience.