Who Played the Emperor in Each Star Wars Movie?

Star Wars is an epic space opera that has captured the hearts of millions of fans around the world. The franchise has been around for over four decades, and throughout that time, we’ve seen numerous characters come and go.

One of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars universe is undoubtedly the Emperor. The Emperor is the ultimate villain, a dark lord of the Sith who seeks to rule the galaxy with his iron fist.

Over the years, we’ve seen several actors take on the role of the Emperor in various Star Wars movies. In this article, we’ll take a look at each actor who played this iconic character in each movie.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

In ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, we get our first glimpse of Emperor Palpatine, who was played by Clive Revill. However, his appearance was later replaced by Ian McDiarmid for continuity reasons when he also portrayed Palpatine in Episode VI: Return of The Jedi.

Episode VI: Return of The Jedi (1983)

In ‘Return of The Jedi’, Ian McDiarmid made his debut as Emperor Palpatine. He played this role brilliantly and continued to do so in subsequent movies. It’s worth noting that McDiarmid also reprised his role as Palpatine in ‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’ which concluded both Skywalker and Palpatine’s journey.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

In ‘The Phantom Menace’, we see a much younger version of Palpatine before he became known as Darth Sidious. In this movie, he was played by actor Ian McDiarmid once again.

Episode II: Attack of The Clones (2002) & Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (2005)

Ian McDiarmid continued to play Palpatine in both ‘Attack of The Clones’ and ‘Revenge of The Sith’. These movies showed the transformation of Palpatine into Darth Sidious, which was a pivotal moment in the Star Wars franchise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

In ‘Rogue One’, we see a brief cameo appearance of Darth Sidious, who was voiced by actor Sam Witwer. While he didn’t physically portray the character, his voice was enough to give us chills down our spines.

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

As mentioned earlier, Ian McDiarmid reprised his role as Emperor Palpatine in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. This movie marked the end of the Skywalker saga and brought back one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history for one final showdown.


In conclusion, several actors have taken on the role of Emperor Palpatine in various Star Wars movies. However, it’s safe to say that Ian McDiarmid’s portrayal is undoubtedly the most iconic.

He brought depth and complexity to this character that made him stand out from other villains in cinema history. Regardless of who played the Emperor in each movie, it’s clear that this character will continue to be an integral part of the Star Wars universe for years to come.