Whether it is in Andor‘s recent exploration of fascism and opposition to it or in Tales of the Jedi’s look at Count Dooku’s fall, so much of Star Wars has Sheev Palpatine at its heart, even if the iconic villain does not appear on the screen. That is a testament to his genius, which can be seen brilliantly through various of his best quotes.
From evil statements as the Emperor to dark moments as Darth Sidious to intelligent remarks as the innocent Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Star Wars’ most powerful villain is also its smartest, and he has the quotes to prove it.
“One Shudders To Think Where The Galaxy Would Be Without The Jedi.”
– Star Wars: The Clone Wars, 4.18 ‘Crisis On Naboo’
One of Sidious’s most impressive feats was hiding his true identity from the Galaxy – especially the Jedi whom he constantly outsmarted in Star Wars – which makes this quote so great and so genius.
Sidious is mocking them, and they do not even know it. They believe he values their role in the Galaxy when, in reality, he will destroy them, and he knows it. He can say these things knowing he is good enough to evade suspicion, which is impressive.
“I Do Not Wish To Rule Over A Galaxy Of The Dead.”
– Darth Vader (2017)
One of Sidious’ many talents is his ability to keep people in line using his skills in manipulation and his general wisdom, something seen brilliantly in this Darth Vader panel as he keeps his apprentice in check.
Alongside cruelly calling himself and Vader better than everyone else in the Galaxy, Sidious teaches Vader not to get too consumed by a lust for violence and that there must be a Galaxy to rule over. It is a fascinating exchange as Sidious’ true intentions in keeping Vader less violent is up for interpretation, but that further proves his intelligence.
“For The Empire To Live, Darth Vader Had To Live.”
– Darth Vader (2015)
It is hard not to be impressed by Sidious’ long-term planning, as well as his ability to improvise whenever something goes wrong. He pretty much explains his own genius to Vader here, revealing that he chose Vader as the best option to continue the Sith’s legacy.
By detailing how he found other candidates that were not quite good enough but who served smaller purposes, Sidious proves himself as someone with all of his bases covered. He recognized in the end that Vader, despite his new shortcomings, was the best option for the Empire and the Sith to live on.
“There Is Only One Plan, One Great Design Which Shall Govern The Universe – Mine.”
– Son Of Dathomir (2014)
Sidious never got to where he got unopposed. Many in the Galaxy had their own grand schemes, from criminals to those like Maul. He dealt with all of them and recognized every threat to him.
In the Son of Dathomir comic, Sidious clarifies to Grievous that his plan is the only one. There are others who will challenge him, but they do not have his genius, ambition, or power. They could never suspect him, never mind stop him, but he could easily snuff them out and even use them for his own purpose – as he attempts to do with Maul after their fight on Mandalore, one of the best lightsaber duels in Star Wars.
“Everything That Has Transpired Has Done So According To My Design.”
– Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Sidious may have been blind to Luke’s ability to pull Anakin out of the depths of Vader, but that cannot completely undo the acts of intelligence he performs up to that point.
Everything from the shield generator being operational to Luke being aboard the Death Star to Luke and Vader duking it out were all orchestrated by him. He may have lost in the end, but he was flawless in his planning and imposing with his intellect until that final act.
“I Will Make It Legal.”
– Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
While Palpatine has a slew of quotes that pretty directly showcase how competent of a Star Wars villain he is, some quotes, like this, are simple statements only impressive because of their implications.
Palpatine will make it legal. He did it not through brute strength or force but through political power that he has amassed with effort and intelligence. No other villain in the Skywalker saga could achieve a feat close to this, nor could they garner so much power as a double agent. He can do what he wants because he has been smart enough to get into the right positions of power.
“Perhaps Your Feelings For Your Old Master Have Left You Weakened If Your Past Cannot Be Overcome…”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi ‘Part VI’
Darth Sidious only had a brief appearance via a hologram in Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it was a mighty one that explained why Vader did not continue the hunt for Kenobi. Sidious had him wrapped around his wrinkly finger.
With this line, Sidious once more displays his incomparable skill in manipulation. He keeps Vader in line, not allowing him to pursue personal issues but rather focusing on the issues Sidious wants him to. Vader may be the second most powerful villain in the Skywalker saga. The first, though, is his master, and his master knows exactly how to keep him in check, something which only adds to how sad Anakin/Vader’s story is in Star Wars.
“My Boy, I Have Been Every Voice, You Have Every Heard, Inside Your Head.”
– Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (2019)
As ridiculous as the explanation for Sidious’ return was in Rise of Skywalker, his return at all was, in canon, impressive and not something anyone with a lesser intelligence could have achieved.
A crucial element to his return to power was Kylo Ren, whom Sidious admits to manipulating here through the likes of Snoke and Vader. How he rules over Ben Solo’s life is akin to what he did to Anakin, and his seduction and intelligence are just as impressive the second time around.
“For Now, We Must Adhere To The Principles Of Our Democracy. We Must Let The Wheels Of The Senate Turn.”
– The Clone Wars, 3.11 ‘Pursuit Of Peace’
One of the most entertaining and simultaneously toughest parts of The Clone Wars is watching the genius of Palpatine at play. He knew the right move to play at the right time, which is spectacular. This may be the best example of that.
After an impressive and unforeseen speech from Padmé began to sway public opinion away from what Palpatine had hoped, he did not act rashly and did not rush into anything. He allowed the democracy he ruled over to work. The patience he displays here ultimately pays off. A lesser villain would have done something stupid, but Palpatine could accept this issue was not in his control then, so he let it breathe. Palpatine let the Senate work for him rather than forcing the issue.
“Did You Ever Hear The Tragedy Of Darth Plagueis The Wise?”
– Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
One of the most memed and most iconic scenes in Star Wars history is also one of the greatest displays of intelligence in the Skywalker saga as Sidious tells his future apprentice about his past Master.
With this speech, Palpatine not only tells audiences about how he overthrew Darth Plagueis at the most opportune time, but it also acts as a brilliant piece of manipulation. This moment is when he had Anakin locked in. With the promise of being able to save Padmé, Anakin was all his, and the rest was history.