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Villain Overview
You may fire when ready.
~ Grand Moff Tarkin ordering the firing of the Death Star's superlaser at planets.
Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!
~ Tarkin dismisses his lieutenant's plea to evacuate Death Star, after the latter deduces Death Star indeed does have a weakness in which Rebels attempt to exploit

Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, also referred to as Governor Tarkin or better known as Grand Moff Tarkin, is a major antagonist in the Star Wars franchise. He is the commander of the Death Star, the Galactic Empire's dwarf planet-sized doomsday weapon. 

He is the main antagonist of the first film of the original trilogy A New Hope, a cameo character in the last film of the prequel trilogy Revenge of the Sith, an anti-hero in the 2008 TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the secondary antagonist of both the 2014 television series Star Wars Rebels and the 2016 stand-alone film Rogue One.

He was an Imperial governor and in charge of the Imperial military battle station known as the Death Star. He acted as Darth Vader's superior and attempted to use the Death Star to destroy the Rebel Alliance and keep the galaxy in line through fear and force. He was killed by Luke Skywalker when he destroyed the Death Star while Tarkin was on it.


  • He was portrayed by the late Peter Cushing in A New Hope, which also played Dr. Victor Frankenstein.
  • In Revenge of the Sith, the producers considered using CGI or existing footage to re-create Tarkin, but decided the technology was not advanced enough to make Tarkin look convincing. So instead Tarkin was portrayed by Wayne Pygram.
  • In Rogue One, he was portrayed by Guy Henry, with CGI being used to superimpose Cushing's face over Henry.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, he was voiced by Stephen Stanton.
  • In Star Wars: Empire at Dawn, he was voiced by the late Paul Darrow.


Chronology in order:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Tarkin first met Darth Vader as his past self Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. Prior to the Empire's formation, Tarkin was an officer of the Republic Military who held the rank of Captain in the Republic Navy. He fought in the Clone Wars and was eventually captured by the Separatists along with Even Piell and other Republic Navy personnel in 20 BBY.

Revenge of the Sith

After the Clone Wars, he is briefly seen along with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, supervising the construction of the Death Star on board of an Imperial Star Destroyer.

Star Wars Rebels

Some years later during the era of the Empire, Tarkin became Grand Moff and traveled to the planet Lothal to find a way to hunt the rebels of the planet.

Rogue One


Tarkin in Rogue One.

Sometime later, after Imperial Director Orson Krennic has succeeded in building the Death Star, Tarkin arrived on the station to have its powers demonstrated to him. Nearing the planet Jedha, Krennic offers to use the Death Star to destroy the entire moon. However, Tarkin tells him to merely use a low-powered blast on the planet's capital Jedha City. After the Death Star used a single ignition blast to annihilate the capital and the nearby area, an impressed Tarkin reveals to Krennic that he will be taking command of the station as of now, using the security breach under Krennic's command as a pretext to remove Krennic from his position. He also tells Krennic to spread the story that Jedha City was destroyed in a mining accident, as he does not want the Senate to find out about the Death Star.

When the Imperial base on Scarif (where all information on the Death Star is stored) is attacked by rebels, Tarkin orders the jump to hyperspace, just as Rebel maverick Jyn Erso (the protagonist of the film) managed to retrieve the plans and send them to the nearby Rebel fleet before confronting Krennic. Arriving in the moment of the Rebels' moment of triumph, Tarkin activates the Death Star to destroy the Imperial base on Scarif in order to prevent any information leak, which ultimately kills all the remaining Rebels and Imperial forces (including Jyn and Krennic). Despite having destroyed the base, Tarkin is furious to hear that the plans have fallen to Rebel hands thanks to Jyn's efforts.

A New Hope

Shortly after the plans are sent to the rebels, Grand Moff Tarkin is determined to get them back. He appears with Darth Vader, at a meeting of the joint chiefs where General Tagge and Admiral Motti were arguing over the theft of the plans by the Rebellion. Tarkin announced to the joint chiefs that Emperor Palpatine had just dissolved the Senate and left the power to all regional governors of the systems, and that fear of the Death Star would keep the population in line.

When Vader warned the chiefs about the station's power being insignificant compared to the Force, Motti mocked Vader for his scorer’s ways. Vader responded by using the Force to choke Motti. Seeing that Vader fully intended to kill Motti, Tarkin ordered Vader to let him go, Vader did as he wished. Tarkin put an end to the pointless bickering, saying that Lord Vader would retrieve the plans and that the Death Star would crush the Rebellion.

Tarkin and Lord Vader held Leia Organa captive on board the Death Star. They attempted to interrogate her to reveal the location of the Rebel Base. After Leia told him the base was on the planet of Dantooine, Tarkin decides to destroy the princess's home planet Alderaan anyway, and then deal with her "rebel friends" later. This makes him cross the Moral Event Horizon like he's driving a spaceship into it.

After the truth is revealed that the rebel base was not at Dantooine, Tarkin planned to have Leia Organa killed. However, after the Millennium Falcon had landed on one of the Death Star bays, Vader convinced Tarkin to wait as he feels the presence of his old master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Tarkin reassures him that the Jedi are extinct, despite Vader informing that Obi-Wan and many other Jedi survived Order 66. Tarkin demands that Obi-Wan can't be allowed to escape, to which Vader assures him that Obi-Wan isn't planning to escape and that he must face him alone.

After Princess Leia is rescued by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo while Obi-Wan sacrifices himself to let them escape, Tarkin has the Death Star follow the Millennium Falcon thanks to a signal beacon planted on the Millennium Falcon before they escaped. They go to the Yavin system, where he plots with Vader the destruction of the Rebel base on Yavin IV once in range.

During the Battle of Yavin, Chief Bast learned from his subordinates that they analyzed the attack and found there could be a danger. Bast suggested Tarkin evacuate but Tarkin refuses, confident that the Death Star will annihilate the Rebel base with success. However Bast's warning is proven correct, Luke uses the Force to guide his proton torpedoes to the exhaust port in order to destroy the Death Star, killing Tarkin and all remaining Imperial personnel on board while Vader escapes in his TIE Advanced x1 after being sent spiraling away by one his wingmen.


Following his death with the destruction of the Death Star, a large hole emerged within the Imperial High Command as Tarkin was one of many high-ranking and professional generals and officers of the Imperial Military to have perished in the space station's destruction. Tarkin's death leads to the rise of Cassio Tagge as Grand General who instituted new policies that were meant to make up for the loss of the battle station. Tagge referred to the Death Star as "Tarkin's folly" and saw to divert resources away from costly battle stations towards constructing more new capital ships. Darth Vader, who was blamed for the station's destruction, had honored Tarkin posthumously for his vision and was opposed to Tagge's policies and more practical methods.

Tarkin would be reviled by the Rebel Alliance and later the New Republic as a vile war criminal who was one of the worst people in the Imperial regime. His actions with the destruction of Alderaan were used by the rebellion as propaganda to rally for more support and the planet's destruction unintentionally rallied more to the rebel cause. Thirty years later, the Galactic Empire was succeeded by the First Order and Tarkin would be honored as a heroic figure with his name being placed on the insignias of majors in the First Order military along with other Imperial Military leaders who were labeled heroes of the Galactic Civil War


Tarkin was an extremely manipulative, relentless, calculating, intense, sly, and ruthless man and was known for his sharp memory. He never forgot a favor or a slight and he even was capable of recalling people from meetings that took place over a decade before, including he had only met them once. For example, when Cienna Ree greeted him in the Death Star, he was easily able to recognize her from the encounter he had with her when she was a child.

After Princess Leia has been captured by the Empire and has been brought onto the Death Star, Tarkin manages to convince her to tell him the location of the rebel base, threatening Leia's home planet Alderaan. However, after finding out the base location Tarkin activates the Death Star nonetheless, destroying Alderaan and killing billions. He then has the Death Star take a course on Yavin 4 where he intends to wipe out the rebels once and for all. However, before he can reach his goal the Death Star is blown up by rebel fighters, with Tarkin being one of the casualties.


Darth Vader

Tarkin and Anakin developed a mutual respect for each other due to the fact both were hardliners, and Anakin was the only Jedi to whom Tarkin showed any form of respect, regarding them as an archaic sect whose code kept them from doing what was necessary to win the Clone Wars. This became strained after Anakin's padawan Ahsoka Tano was framed by Barriss Offee for the bombing of the Jedi Temple and murder of a conspirator in the custody of the Republic military. Anakin saw right away that Ahsoka had been framed and had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Tarkin refused to even see this and viciously and relentlessly prosecuted Ahsoka, despite the fact that the evidence against was only circumstantial.

After Anakin became Darth Vader, Tarkin was the first to meet the newborn Sith Lord. Tarkin first met Vader after the Emperor placed him in charge of the Construction of the first Death Star. They began working together after some lost Jedi were traced to Kashyyyk. Tarkin urged Vader to let the Jedi land on the world so they could use their presence as a pretext to invade the planet and enslave the Wookies so they could be used to help construct the Death Star. Tarkin was impressed by Vader's leadership during the Subjugation of Kashyyyk and asked the Emperor if he could call on Vader's services when he needed them.

Although Tarkin had a good working relationship with Vader, whom he found efficient and considered an ally in the Imperial hierarchy, he was also unsettled by Vader's supernatural powers and mysterious nature and disliked it when Palpatine used Vader as a check on Tarkin himself. Although Tarkin mutually respected Vader, he secretly did not trust or personally like him, possibly because Vader relied heavily on the Force. Tarkin was one of the few people who knew that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader were the same people.

Darth Sidious

Tarkin swore his loyalty to Chancellor Palpatine during the Clone Wars even going as far as to want to give important information to him after being rescued from the Citadel. After the war had ended with the execution of Order 66, the destruction of the Jedi Order, and the dissolution of the Galactic Republic, Tarkin became a high ranking officer within the newly formed Galactic Empire and was present with Sidious and Vader on a Star Destroyer along with other members of the Imperial Military. Tarkin carried out Palpatine's demands without question during the early rebellions against the Empire and later the Galactic Civil War and was in support of his policies such as the dissolution of the Imperial Senate. 


  • Tarkin is sometimes regarded as the main antagonist of A New Hope. Despite people commonly viewing Vader as the main antagonist of the movie, Tarkin is actually significantly more relevant to the plot, and also more dangerous (since he commands the Death Star). Also, Peter Cushing, the actor who played the character, got high billing behind Mark Hamill (Luke), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia).
  • Peter Cushing got along quite well with both Vader's actor David Prowse and Princess Leia's actress Carrie Fisher. Fisher later said she found it difficult to act as though she hated Tarkin due to how much she liked Cushing.
  • Tarkin was promoted as the main antagonist of Rogue One, but that role was taken to Krennic since he has a more prominent role in the movie and poses a more immediate threat to the film's protagonists for most of the movie. However Krennic was as evil as Tarkin.
  • It’s questionable when Tarkin crosses the MEH: In addition to his most notorious act of ordering the Death Star to destroy Alderaan and kill billions of innocent civilians (which in itself is enough to render him Pure Evil) he also tested the Death Star by destroying the entire city of Jedha and killing its entire population and later destroying the entire Scarif facility despite the act killing thousands of loyal Imperials.
  • The scene where Tarkin interrogates Princess Leia for the whereabouts of the rebel base was later parodied in the Pixar film Toy Story when Sid Phillips burns Woody's head.
  • Despite his respect for Palpatine, Tarkin does not seem to care about Palpatine's fate and is more eager to gain the Empire for himself than to serve Palpatine. (In fact, Palpatine made sure to play Vader and Tarkin against each other to some degree, in order to keep either one from commandeering the Death Star and using it against him.)
  • Tarkin's evil is regarded with close respect to Palpatine, and despite far smaller screentime, his destruction of Alderaan is regarded as one of the worst actions of the saga. 
  • Tarkin is easily one of the most dangerous villains in Star Wars because, despite not being as physically or mystically powerful as Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine, he has control over the first Death Star, allowing him to destroy entire planets and even the Rebel Alliance in one shot.
  • In Revenge of the Sith Lucas briefly considered using CGI and existing footage of Cushing to recreate Tarkin before deciding the footage wasn't good enough nor was the technology quite advanced enough yet. He instead cast a heavily made up Wayne Pygram as Tarkin due to Pygram's strong resemblance to Cushing. In 2016 director Gareth Edwards felt the technology had advanced far enough to use CGI to superimpose Cushing's face over Tarkin actor Guy Henry's face in the film Rogue One. Cushing's family was heavily involved in the recreation of CGI Tarkin and provided input to Rogue One producers.
  • Tarkin is one of the few Star Wars antagonists to have killed main characters (he is responsible for the death of Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor), despite the fact that he is not a Sith nor a Force handler.
  • General Hux is his counterpart in the sequel trilogy.
  • After Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader, Tarkin suspected Skywalker had become Vader but had never been able to confirm it. (even though he was right)
  • He is often compared to Gihren Zabi from the Gundam franchise, given their shared Machiavellian tactics and usage of superweapons to crush dissent. Interestingly, Gihren's usage of the Sovereign of Zeon as a figurehead mirrors an earlier plan in Star Wars for the Emperor to be a figurehead for the Imperial Moffs.


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